some might call in synchronicity – the phenomenon where a couple of events that have no actual relation seem to be coming together in some more meaningful context to the person who is experiencing them. at the time i just felt like the universe had it out for me.
i guess i should back up a little.
it all came together in the course of about a week. first was the weekend college visit…a private, catholic university to which kelsey had been accepted. to her it was a huge honor and a great opportunity, therefore we felt that we should look into it. so the three of us spent the weekend in the big city touring the campus and getting a feel for the curriculum. there was so much that was good about this college, but for me, all i could see was that my girl would be 1000 miles away.
the next week back at school, kelsey had been invited to be a group leader for that semester’s kairos retreat (a spiritual retreat for students) and she was to leave on thursday afternoon right after school. also that week i got an email from kelsey’s counselor, the one who nominated her to be a leader, and she was requesting that i write a little letter and share with kelsey a little bit about my own faith. which at the time felt colossally bogus seeing as how my arms were starting to buckle from the weight of my shield…a shield that seemed to be in constant use lately, defending myself from the flaming arrows that seemed to be coming at me from every direction.
so on wednesday, after procrastinating for two days, i sat at my desk at work trying to write a letter about faith. a little later that morning i get a phone call from my mom who was calling to see how the college visit went, so i preceded to share the details of our trip. and like clockwork, the tears began to fall. somehow the conversation went from kelsey’s college visit to yet another replay of my existential meltdown.
thursday morning i said goodbye to my girl as she left for school and wished her luck on her retreat. i tried to put on my happy face for her, but on the inside i was a raw mess of nerves and emotion. later, as i rode the elevator up to my floor at work, instead of music, all i heard was my same pathetic, ridiculous playlist stuck on repeat – “who am i? what is my purpose? where did the time go? what am i going to do when kelsey leaves for college? what if she wants to go away to school? i don’t know if i can do this.”
and so at my desk with all of my baggage is where my sweet friend carolyne found me. as promised, she brought with her a gift she had knitted for a friend. so carolyne sat down across from me in the extra chair in my cube and then she pulled out a pair of tiny little babies booties. they were the sweetest thing…made of the softest pale green yarn. utterly precious in every detail. i held them in my hands for a minute imagining how thrilled the new mom would be to have them. and then as i handed them back to carolyne, the tears began to fall. the harder i tried to hold them in, the more they came.
you just have to know carolyne. she and her sweet british accent. one of the kindest, most compassionate souls i’ve ever met. and she just came over and hugged me in the middle of my ugly cry. not sure which one of us was more thankful when another friend stopped by and made us all laugh.
later that day, after finally managing to get ahold of myself to get my work done, i started packing up to go home. my part-time schedule allowed me be home when kelsey got home from school. and so like every other day, i left work around 2:30 and came straight home.
when i got inside, i set my stuff down and started picking up the kitchen a little. i got a little concerned around 3:15 because kelsey hadn’t come home yet. but about the time i went to text her, i remembered that she wasn’t coming home after school.
and so standing there in the kitchen, leaning against the countertop…once again, the tears falling….i looked over at the bar where kelsey normally sat and did her homework. i thought about how nearly every single aspect of my day-to-day life revolved around my daughter. from the time i got up to the time i went to bed. she was my whole world. but this time, instead of thinking about my pain…i thought about how much pressure that must have been on her. and i then i began to feel, to understand, the weight of what kelsey had confided in me a few months earlier.
it was the week before school started. kelsey had been gone a lot hanging out with her friends. one night after she got home…it was late in the evening…i was sitting out back. she came over and sat down next to me. we started talking about getting ready for school to start. she was sharing with me some of her hopes for senior year.
although she didn’t actually come out and say it, i could tell she was gently trying to let me know that she was feeling the pull. she was ready to start spreading her wings a bit more. but i already knew it…i was already feeling it.
kelsey looked at me and said, “i just want to get out there more. experience more. have some fun and color outside the lines a little more. not be so worried about making straight A’s all the time.” and i replied, “listen sweetie. i’ve known this day has been coming for a long time…and it’s ok. the one thing you need to know is that daddy and i do not expect you to be perfect. our love for you is not conditional on how ‘good’ you are.”
kelsey sat there for a minute….quietly….she was looking off in the distance with a pensive look on her face. and then finally she turned to me and said, “it’s just that i always felt so bad that you and daddy couldn’t have any more children. and i’ve always wanted to be the best kid i could for you.”
there it was…the one thing. my purpose in life. my whole world. and i had laid this huge burden on her. unknowingly, but yet… still….here she was carrying a burden she was never meant to carry.
at then end of that late-night conversation, i told kelsey in no uncertain terms that it was not her responsibility to be ‘good’ to make up for all the unborn children we didn’t have. that i had gotten over the pain of not having more kids.
but standing there in my kitchen on a raw, gray winter afternoon…in that moment…all of those painful memories came flooding in. years of regret and guilt and shame came crashing down around me. and now this pain…the only thing i ever wanted in life, the only thing i ever really cared about being good at…how could i have done this to her?