Look Both Ways

“We are going to make it through this because we are all crazy enough to believe we can.”

Those are the words I opened 2017 with. I was rocking my daughter in my lap as she cried. Life, on that day, was full of uncertainty for all of us. We had just suffered a significant family trauma and our hearts and minds were wrenching in fear about the uncertain future.

While we had not suffered a death, it felt like we had. 2017 was a year where we had to get used to one less voice in the house. It was a year where the memory of certain faces and names brought forth a flood of hurt that none of us could contain. I was kept awake nights by the sound of sorrow running down the upstairs hallway and spilling over the stairs.

“Marriages don’t survive these things,” a counselor told us in March. “The grief is too big. What has happened to your family is irrecoverable. You’ll all make it- you just probably won’t make it together.” It was the bluntness we had asked for and the bleakness we had come to expect. As the words filled the room, his hand found mine and squeezed- a silent reminder of our unusual love story- how we have always thrived together in spite of speculation.

That night, I looked at him across the table and wondered what life would be like by New Year’s Day. I felt something change in our family as we ate together that night. Nobody talked about it, but lost in the noise of “Pass the carrots, please,” and “I think I did well on my Science test,” there was a flipping of a page- a whole new chapter began. Now that New Year’s Day has passed, I can look back at that day and know that we were not heading into the thick of a dark plot. We were coming out of it.

As we do, Nate and I absorbed ourselves into our work in the weeks that followed. This has always been our way of avoiding discomfort. He made leaps and bounds in his career this year. He got a significant raise and the company he works for did quite well. While that was not his doing, he did his part. He has learned a lot about the industry over the year. He’s gained useful knowledge about his job and come to a place of comfort with his position where he now feels confident enough to consider future advancement opportunities. He’s formed better and stronger bonds with his co-workers and he likes what he does.

I doubled my contract load over the year. The business is expanding and doing well and, soon, I will no longer just work from a tiny office. I will have an entire publishing studio. Renovations are underway as we speak.

And he and I? We are just as happy and smitten as always. If anything, the connection we have always had has only grown in the wake of what happened. At a time when we were told that too many couples point fingers at each other, we locked ours together and leaned into each other until we could stand up again. We are doing well.

The children, too, have grown stronger and happier. Jade is making progress every day. She is a happy child and a strong child that is learning to manage her feelings appropriately. Somehow, in the whirlwind, she managed to learn to respect her own strength. When what happened happened, I described her as my little torn butterfly. I was wrong.

Jade does not see her torn wings. She only sees her ability to stretch them and position them and fly headlong into the storm in spite of them. She is powerful beyond measure and every day she learns to use that power for good.

Meredith has gained friends, too. She has gained a lot of insight about who she is and not just who she wants to be or what she thinks will make her popular. Meredith has learned that a true friend is more valuable than a million who are not. She has learned to be a friend to herself and she has learned the power of forgiveness.

Hallie changed by claiming her independence. She no longer looks to me or her sister for social cues. She has become her own person and she is a good person. The days of panic attacks and shyness are behind her now. She can do anything she wants- and she does.

We lost Babe. She was fifteen and it was time to say goodbye. She got us through it all, then she quietly slipped away. After years of complaining about her hair all over my clothes, her bad breath, her knack for tripping me as I carried laundry baskets, and otherwise- I was the one she picked to be with her at the end. When it was time to lie down and go, she waited for everyone else to leave. I cradled her in my arms at the vet as we waited for him to help her go on and I cried and told her I loved her, even if she was always putting me in impossible situations. She smiled at me- confirmation that she was, indeed, getting in the last word by leaving me to break the news.

So, yes. She won the war.

Our biggest surprise, though, happened in August when we were asked by a family friend to adopt her child. In spite of all we had been through, she looked at us and saw the people she wanted to raise her baby. He’s due in a matter of weeks now. The pages are turning again.

As they always do.

Only this New Year, looking forward to “The End” felt a lot more like “Happily Ever After.”

I hope yours did, too.