Thursday, August 26, 2010

Five years (The most important thing I will ever do)

[I started writing this two weeks ago, so it could actually be five years and two weeks...but just pretend it was then and we will all be cool, OK?]

In the course of everyone's life, there are moments...days, hours, minutes...that remain as fresh in the mind as when they occurred. Whether traumatic, joyous, shocking, alarming, exciting or otherwise noteworthy, these moments...these defining moments...stay with you. They leave an indelible print on the mind and the soul, changing you, for better or for worse, in a way you may have never seen coming.

Often, they blindside you; a sudden death, terrible news, a shock break-up. Sometimes, you may not even recognize them when they happen; only hindsight shows them in their true light. Other times, there is plenty of advance warning; weddings and babies and graduations and such.

I had plenty of warning. For three months I knew it was a possibility, and for at least a month I knew exactly how it would go down. The time helped get the planning out of the way, but it also contributed to the anxiety. A month's worth of worrying. A month's worth of fear. A month's worth of sweaty, sleepless nights, stomach pains and edginess.

I didn't really even wonder if I could do it...I almost knew that I couldn't. The questions seemed so daunting and so unanswerable. Emotionally and financially I was capable of taking care of myself...barely...but a psychologically damaged, homesick 10 year-old orphan? The absurdity of it all was completely apparent. I can't even tell you that I know what made me decide to even try, other than maybe a heavy feeling that I absolutely had to. That not doing it would have been easier but would have ended up being so much harder. Not fair to me, and not fair to her. And fuck the rest of them.

So when the day came, it was almost exactly as I imagined it. I drank too much the night before, partially in hopes it would help me sleep. Which didn't work. I spent most of the night staring at the alarm clock, thinking of the 1,001 reasons why this was an incredibly stupid idea. Who did I think I was and why did I think this would work? But staying was just as bad, and at least going was different.

I stared at the clock until the alarm went off at 5:30. Getting out of bed before that would have accomplished nothing. It was a blistering hot August, and the morning was already oppressive. But I was shivering. I picked at an English muffin in the dawn light, my stomach tied in too many knots to fit any food. I had packed the car the evening before as a means of calming my nerves, which just meant nothing to do in the morning to accomplish the same feat.

At 6:00, I woke her up...although she wasn't sleeping, either. She dressed immediately and ate even less than I had. A more controlled person would have tried to calm her nerves, but I was way beyond that point...this was just gonna be hard no matter what.

She said good-bye. I didn't. I couldn't. My composure was stretched as thin as it could be. I couldn't even watch her say good-bye without a complete collapse. One friendly face, knowing my state of mind, was in the driveway at 6:15 to send me off. One last hug and whispered message that it would all be OK and to call her as much as I needed to on the way and once I got there. I couldn't even say thank you out loud. Fortunately I didn't have to. She knew me, and knows me, well enough to understand what I was thinking. A single word would have burst the dam and allowed the tears to flow.

Tears of...what...of fear? I think so. Not sadness. Of hope and possibility. And terror.

I could barely turn the key in the ignition. I was shaking harder than was healthy to drive a car. To drive a car for an entire day. I know that she was standing on the porch waving to us. I couldn't look. It was all too much. I was having trouble breathing, and trouble operating the pedals.

I was OK as we got started. She wasn't talking much, which is unusual and worrisome. But she fell asleep when we got to the highway. To this day, she sleeps in cars better than anyone I know. And it always reminds me of that moment. Thankful that she could rest. Thankful that there would be no awkward silence. Thankful that I didn't have to try and talk through a cracking voice.

Thankful that I could finally cry. And cry. And cry. Silently, but heavily. The tears poured out for nearly and hour, I think.

And then they stopped. Eyes bloodshot, cheeks salt-stained, it was time to face the future. Crying wasn't gonna do me any good after that, so it didn't make any sense to keep it up.

It was a whole new world.

And oh, what a world.


steffi2282 said...

That's a great post. I loved reading it.
And see how everything turned out. Ít was the best and the right decision!

A said...

Oh, what a world indeed! Absolutely loved this.

pinksundrops said...

This sounds like a birth story. It's amazing what you've done. I love hearing about Munchkin's life through your beyond your years mature eyes.

Ys said...

Such a lovely post :) I'm glad it all worked out so well for you both.

Lisa said...

now I have tears swimming in my eyes.. that's beautiful. I hope one day you'll show her some of your posts about her

Lpeg said...

This is a beautiful post. And you're right - one of the most important things you've ever done. You're an amazing big sister, and Munchkin is so lucky to have you.

Kathleen said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. Obviously it means a lot to me as I start my own similar journey and you are my inspiration that my brother and I can make it out of this experience in one piece (and hopefully for the better). It is something really unique to do and I'm so glad to have you to look up to!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you took her in. I think you needed each other.