My doctor was afraid to ask if “that’s all” when I described the roller coaster the last four years have been. It’s enough to make me feel that my head and my heart might explode when I list it: I went to Kenya, I dated someone I expected I’d marry; we broke up. I finished grad school, I went to Hawai’i, came home with lupus and a very near miss on cancer. I spent 6 months in treatment; the second 6 months I would have spent in Hawaii had it all gone according to plan. I got out of treatment, our house flooded and we lost so much. My sister sustained a devastating injury and went on home school, our mom got hurt. I adopted my dog and we got 2 kittens. My spiritual home and safe place—Little Portion—announced they were closing, my beloved godmother died entirely unexpectedly. I spent all day trying to figure out how to tell my mother that her best friend and the godmother to her daughters was dead. I did most of the notifications for our church. Little Portion did close. The first Christmas after the closure and the death of my godmother, the only person I wanted to talk to was gone and the only place I wanted to be no longer existed. I don’t have words to express two such unfathomable losses occurring in less than 6 months’ time. I was in shock for months, and when I finally cried, I nearly drowned in the shower.
I didn’t know what I’d do when I came back from Hawai’i and went into treatment. I didn’t know how I’d get through treatment. My body remembers every trauma my mind wants to forget, and even now, I am not allowed to forget. I don’t know how to navigate a world in which I will get married and have children who will not know my father and my godmother. Who will not learn to ask, “Are you being goofy?” to determine whether or not an adult is being serious, and who will not then collapse into laughter with my godmother, and who will learn complex math and teach it to their grandfather, wondering if he is pretending that they are smarter than he is as I did when I was a child. I always anticipated that my father would not live to see me grown–the odds were astronomical–but there was always a hope I might be proven wrong. My father wasn’t the sort of person one expected to die. But I could not see a world in which my Aunt Mary would not see my wedding, and meet my children. The weekend after she died, I kept thinking about sitting in the diner with her when I was 16, her telling me that when I got married, I could wear her ring, which was her mother’s ring before her, and that it would be my something old. I kept imagining that day, whenever it may come, and trying to picture my mom and my friends helping me to get ready, but all I saw was the empty space she wouldn’t occupy.
It has never moved beyond surreal that I will marry someone who has never met my father. It is unfathomable that I will marry someone who has not received my godmother’s seal of approval. I didn’t have the kind of relationship with my father that the other girls had with theirs, but for the good, the bad, the indifferent, he is my father. Nothing changes that. And I desperately want his approval.
I never saw most of what has come to pass coming, and I’m not sure if that’s a blessing or a curse. I am learning how to live in a world that I could not picture before I found myself inhabiting it. I do not want to live in this particular world, with no Little Portion, with no Aunt Mary, with lupus complicating things and constantly wondering in the back of my mind if what I’ve found now with my body is too good to be true. In the meantime, I am contemplating the universe and redecorating my room, un-boxing books and wall decorations with knives in my heart along the way. The gifts she bought me when I was confirmed in one box, a photo collage from my first trip to see her in Utah in another; cards from two years working at summer camp, along with my dreams of being a missionary in a third. This life isn’t the one I’d envisioned for myself, but it’s the one I have. And I am trying to make peace with that.