Turning on to Bear Lake Circle has never been the same since April 22. The familiar road with it's familiar turns and road signs... with landmarks and oak trees. It used to be such relief... to get home after a long day... to climb up the carpeted stairs and go into our room. Hug John and lay down and talk about our day. Now when I pull in the driveway I feel eerie. I feel like a stranger in a land I no longer know... but has a dark past. I pass John's tree. Planted a few weeks after his death. I enter the house to happy greetings from the family I have loved for six years. This is my second family. They will always be my family. I am surronded by love and hugs. I hug John's mom first... then his brother in law... hold tight to his dad's embrace... and then get smothered by his twin nephews, James and Matthew. These are the memories I remember now. The warm fuzzy feelings I used to get when I entered the door. Then I stare around the house. I always check for changes. Did they take anything down? Did they add a new picture? What is different? I walk up the stairs. Holding the banister... the same banister I gripped on to when I knew something wasn't right that day. The stairs are covered in plastic. This is different. They are remodeling the master bedroom bathroom. It looks good.. and updated. It no longer looks the way it used to. It doesn't reflect the images I saved in my head. I walk down the hall again. I open the door to the guest room where John took his last breath. It's changed. A LOT. It's now filled with two small pint size beds for James and Matthew. It's whimsical and child themed. Their old bedroom now the official guest bedroom. Complete with the same furniture and alarm clock. I don't open the closet. I want to. But I refuse. John's clothes are waiting for me in there.. waiting for me to touch them... go through them and make a choice. But no choices will be made tonight.
I go through my routine. We eat dinner. We laugh and embrace memories of John. I can speak freely of him here. His nephews are still very much aware that he lived and they remember him. I want them to always remember him.... but realize one day... they won't know him as a person.... but as a picture. It breaks my heart. I give the boys baths. I sing to them as I soak my feet in the tub. Jim wrestles with them to get them clean and I get splashed. Typical boys. They pick out their pajamas and brush their teeth. Now it's time for bed. I lay next to Matthew and he whispers to me "I like you Autumn. I like your toes. Next time paint your fingernails."
What can I say? From the moment they started to speak they became OBSESSED with my feet and toes. It's something that Annie doesnt like to admit. It's quite hilarious.
We turn off the lights. The two little 3 year olds fall asleep. In the room where my fiance died.
I go back down the stairs and I watch TV with John's parents. This was ritual when I lived with them before... especially on nights where John had late shifts.
The visit is overwhelming and uplifting. I am surronded by my family that loves me unconditionlally. When they say they will always love me I believe them. I know it. I know I am always welcome and will always be part of the family. I would never want to lose that. As much as it hurts to go back to those memories sometimes... I know how important it is to keep close to them. Because they are part of my life. forever.
I stand in the drive way with John's dad.
This is our usual goodbye.
It's a long process. We hug... cry... hug some more... cry...
We encourage each other. He encourages me more. He tells me how proud he is of me. He doesn't understand how weak I am. I am a survivor. I survive. I can do nothing to be proud of. I wake up and pretend my life is ok and then I go home and contemplate where my life is going. Then I go to sleep and repeat. But John's dad loves me. He always takes care of me and makes sure I am ok. He always wants to leave on a positive note. This time it was the phrase "cereal milk." John always thought he had the best idea to create cereal milk to sell. He thought he was brilliant. I always thought he was nuts. Cause to me.... that was the worst part of eating cereal. S
I come home and Annie visits. We sit. We talk. We get in deep conversations and then we find room to laugh. There always has to be that time to laugh. The point is that the Seays will ALWAYS be my family. I may never get to share their last name. But I am a Seay. I will be there for holidays. They will be there to watch me grow as a person and support me through my trials and tribulations as well as achievements and milestones. This bond didn't happen instantaneously. In fact, it took me years to fit in to the family. I wasn't accepted right away. It took time. And it was well worth the wait. How lucky to be conneced to such a loving, giving, dedicated family. I will never untie the rope that connects us. It will always be there. Tight and strong. A bond to last a lifetime.