“We’re not going to the lake this year. We’ve cancelled the trip to Clearwater*,” my husband tells me last night over a late supper. My heart instantly breaks. “What? Why?” (First stage of grief … denial). “Laura*, there’s just too much to do around the farm.” “There will always be work to do on the farm, Matt*.” (Second stage of grief, bargaining). Tears well up as the words sink in … we’ve cancelled the trip to Clearwater. Overhearing us, Big M questions us and immediately starts crying, vocalizing how upset she is that she won’t get to spend time with her cousin “D” or her Uncle “L” and Aunty “D”. She attempts to find comfort in the fact that at least the four of us will still be going, but we soon shatter that dream too. She crumples with sadness. And frankly, I want to just crumple beside her; I am overwhelmed with sadness. I feel hurt; the lump in my throat builds for the loss associated with this bad news. I feel angry (another stage of grief), betrayed … why hadn’t someone told me earlier, when was this decision made, why wasn’t I consulted?
Going to Clearwater Lake was an annual tradition that my husband and his family started and maintained when he was a child (probably 20+ years). Once we met, I was fortunate enough to go along several years in a row. Unfortunately, a few years back, the trip was cancelled, and the cancellation stuck. In 2014, I was given new hope because we ventured back again. This time, we got to bring our children who were three and one at the time. My husband’s brother and his wife also got to bring their almost one-year old daughter; my husband’s aunt and uncle decided to join us as well. I was overjoyed that this long-standing tradition had been reignited. We left our 2014 trip with plans to come back again next year.
I wouldn’t be able to count the number of times in the last year I have heard Big M reminisce about her time at Clearwater Lake with her grandma and her grandpa, her sister, her little cousin, her aunts, and her uncles. And in recent times, it’s probably been even more prominent as she recalls last year’s events and anticipates another adventure this year to the same place, with the same people (plus her new baby cousin “H”). Children NEED traditions, and the loss of this one truly breaks my heart. I mourn for the loss of that special time my children get to spend on the boat with grandpa, grandma, and a great uncle or aunt. I mourn for the loss of all the extra hugs they get to squeeze in that week. I mourn for the loss of Big M’s excitement at catching yet another fish. And what about Little M? She hasn’t even had that opportunity yet.
Big M won’t get to show off her new swimming talent at the beach to these people that mean so much to her, she won’t get to ride her bike with them or go for walks, no Trouble games with Uncle T while Mommy and Daddy go out on the boat, no pool time with her little cousin “D”. I mourn the loss of that special time in the afternoons when the kids are asleep that I get to spend with my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and my husband’s aunt, playing cards or just catching up. Seems there’s never enough time for that in our day to day lives. I mourn for the loss of our journey as a family … the getting ready and the trip itself. I also mourn for my husband who truly loves fishing and getting out on the boat; there will be no fishing again this year for him … no special time with his dad, his brother, and his uncle doing something he absolutely loves. There will be no sharing of one of his true passions with his daughters this year.
I also mourn the loss of a vacation from my responsibilities, which generally leads to more quality time with my kids. At home, I often feel overwhelmed with a never-ending list of things to do … something to clean, something to put away, a meal to prepare, a bag to pack … the list goes on and on. Yet, despite the fact that it’s a ton of work to get ready for a vacation, the vacation itself is generally a break from my long list of duties and an opportunity to rest and truly focus on my kids … play in the sand, go for a bike ride, splash in the pool, or swing at the park.
Perhaps the thing I mourn the most though is the loss of the time my kids get to spend with their dad. It’s probably become pretty clear in these blog posts that my husband is a pretty busy guy, and without these week-long “breaks” from daily life, we just don’t get that quality we’re all yearning for. Hours and hours of Daddy/husband time will be lost because this trip has been cancelled. And perhaps that is what I am mourning the most. Already, this summer, we have a week scheduled in the city where the girls will not see their dad. Any of the things we do together … splash parks, swimming, regular parks, ice cream, shopping, etc., we will do without their Dad. In August, the girls and I are flying to BC to visit their uncle, aunt, and baby cousin. Their dad will not be there. He will not see the wonder in their eyes as they watch the planes come in, he will not witness their excitement with finding sea shells on the ocean floor, he will not relish in their delight to play with their first little boy cousin. And upon our return from BC? It will be back to school, back to daycare, and harvest.
Too often, it is just me and the girls. And now, instead of a week full of family, full of fun, full of excitement, we will be home … and let’s face it, it’s hard to make home “memorable” or “exciting.” And even so, no matter what we do at home, their Dad will not be there. As I try to brainstorm ways of making the week we were supposed to be at Clearwater an equally memorable one for my kids, I am forced to face the harsh reality that there is no way that I can. I can’t fix this one for them. There’s just no way I can replicate five full days of fun with mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, and cousins without actually being with all of those people. And for that I feel like a total failure 😦 I guess this is another normal stage of grief … so far, I am far from the final stage of acceptance … how does one truly accept a loss like this one?
* Names have been changed.