Lou and I left yesterday for a short cruise to celebrate his parents’ 45th wedding anniversary. Lou and I, his sister Debi and Rich, and Mom and Dad – no kids.
Gavin ran out the door with a huge grin as we pulled away, turning to give us a butt shake. I had mixed emotions knowing how happy he was to see us go!! Sometimes I worry that he was passed around so much as a baby that he’s a natural independent and I tear up over visions of him moving halfway around the world someday. But then I remember kissing him goodnight and yelling up to him, “I love you more!” as he’s heading up the stairs, only for him to run back down to say sternly, “Let’s not argue about this right now, Mommy. I love YOU more!” Then we play a game where whoever says it last loves the other person more, and I make sure we end at the same time. “It’s a tie! I guess we both love each other the same.” He needs me J.
Off we went, leaving from NYC and zipping up to Canada, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. We have all been under a tremendous amount of stress lately (on top of the ever-present loss that we still feel daily), and after less than 24 hours of over-eating, over-drinking and enjoying just being together, I sit with the morning cup of coffee that was delivered to my door and I feel spoiled and blessed. I love my family.
On September 3, it will be nine years that Lou and I have been married. On our very first anniversary, I woke up to our wedding song playing in the kitchen. Lou had made ham and eggs, sunny-side-up sitting on top of heart-shaped toast with fresh fruit and red roses adorning our kitchen table. He served me like I was a princess before presenting me with an anniversary present – tickets for a 10-day Mediterranean Cruise leaving a few days later. I know, right? He’s pretty amazing.
This is the only other cruise I’ve ever been on, and I am enjoying all of the memories coming back. Eight years ago, Lou and I embarked on our most extravagant vacation with the exception of our honeymoon. We knew we would start a family soon, so we broke the bank to experience European travels together and indulge in the good life before pregnancy and babies would change everything. Change everything it did, for certain, but I wouldn’t trade a thing. Of course, minus cancer. I would obviously trade anything (and I truly mean ANYTHING) to make cancer go away and to get my son back.
I remember how careful I was with my wedding band and engagement ring during that first cruise. Putting them in the safe in the room whenever I was heading to the pool or if we were disembarking for the day. Now those rings are a part of me – my ring finger perfectly and permanently indented because I never take them off. I don’t even feel them anymore and I don’t think twice about losing them because they can’t possibly fall off. Like a rope around a tree trunk, I have grown around them both physically and emotionally.
This morning I smiled at my reflection - me in my comfy cotton PJs and nerdy glasses – and I thought about how I packed a dozen silky nightgowns for my last cruise. How I went shopping for a new “cruise wardrobe” beforehand and packed different accessories for every outfit. Back then I was preparing for the experience, today it’s all about the escape. For this trip, I have my “I carry your heart” locket with Ty’s picture in it and some PRET*TY bracelets. What more do I need?
I spent more time preparing Gavin’s things and writing notes about how he likes his chicken nuggets extra crunchy, and how he prefers comfy long pants and long sleeves, even when it’s 90 degrees outside (he’s a weirdo, that kid). I stressed out shopping at various stores to get all of his back-to-school supplies from the supply list before we left (I didn’t even know there was such a thing until a couple of days ago). I can’t even tell you how difficult that has been. Back-to-school is harder than Christmas. Much. My emotions have been running so high and I have been in pain for so many reasons. I imagine what backpack I would be buying for Ty as I pick out one for Gavin. Gavin is getting so big so fast and I just want my babies back – both of them. I overheard his friend saying “You wish you had a brother so you wouldn’t have to ride the bus alone.” That is an understatement, little friend. How right you are.
I packed for myself the morning we were leaving and put little thought into what I should bring. I just wanted to get the hell out of the house. I could feel the excitement rising as we pulled away, and now that we are actually here, I am at peace. Sitting on this balcony with my computer on my lap and nothing but ocean on every side, I am reminded how small and unimportant I am. That reality has allowed my everyday worries to float right out from under my skin and into the open water. I hope I can leave them there for a long time.
Last night I watched the bright pink and orange sun disappear on the horizon and I convinced myself, yet again, that Heaven is real. That God made that beautiful sunset and that when I myself get swept away at the end of this crazy, painful and beautiful life, I will finally understand. And Ty will be there waiting for me, and we will live together in the beauty of that sunset and I will never, ever, ever let him go again. I have no fear because I know that what waits for me is only pure love and light and I can’t wait. I promise that I will take care of Gavin and make the most of this life until then, but there is an incredible sense of peace and comfort that comes with the true acceptance that there is so much more to this life than what we experience every day. And I have faith that the happiness that awaits us is so incredible it is beyond our greatest imagination. If it turns out I’m wrong and there is absolutely nothing after this, at least I’m living the rest of this life filled with hope rather than despair.
It has been 8 years since that European cruise. Lou and I have been through so much in those 8 years. We are completely different people, and we are so lucky that we have grown more in love and more alike instead of the opposite. The first time we returned to our room to find our towels in the shape of a swan or a monkey we took pictures and thought, “This is so great, how do they do that!” Last night we found a puppy on our bed and silently let out an unimpressed “been there, done that” sigh. It’s a little sad how quickly a new experience can become old! Of course we are still thoroughly enjoying our time here. For us, escaping has always been a healing withdrawal and I couldn’t wait to get away from the back-to-school frenzy for a few days. I feel miles away from it all, both literally and figuratively.
Vacation is good. Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad. Happy almost anniversary, Lou. I couldn’t imagine living this life without you. I hope Gavin takes us on a cruise for our 45th wedding anniversary. Or maybe our 35th ;)