What She Said Shocked Me, What I said In Response Brought Her To Tears…

I volunteered to help with an event for my son’s class at school today. Afterwards I was visiting with another parent and she asked if I was from California. “Born in Austin, but grew up in Northern California.” I answered, wondering if she knew or cared about the difference between NorCal and SoCal.

“Me too.” She responded.

Oh, this might actually be interesting. “Where?”

When “Grass Valley” left her lips, you could have picked my mouth up off the floor. “No way!” Was all I could muster in response.

“Why?” She probed.

“I graduated from Nevada Union High.” I was grinning now. Joyfully shocked to be in the presence of someone who not only knew Grass Valley, but understood that living back on Retrac Way off Lime Kiln Road meant I lived in the sticks!

“Bear River!” She pointed to herself.

“That’s where my sister graduated! Wait, did you go to Magnolia Intermediate then?”

“Yep!”

“Unbelievable! We grew up in the same town, went to the same Jr. High and you and my sister went to the same high school and elementary school as well!”

With that exchange, we were off to the races, talking about rural, foothill life from a backwater corner of California. As we relived memories and shared how we each made it to Texas, recent history cropped up and in the rapid fire course of catching up, I told her about Kristi’s illness and subesquent death. She was stunned. Tears immediately flooded her eyes and the conversation halted abruptly until she could gather her composure. I consoled her and assured her that her emotion was appreciated in that it was heartfelt.

I didn’t realize she didn’t know our circumstance. I can’t keep track of who knows and who doesn’t anymore. But when I come across someone who doesn’t know, it of course brings it all back to the front. And there it’s stayed for the rest of the day. I left the school and went to take care of some shopping. As I slipped the key in the ignition, the thought, “She’s not here anymore.” went through my head. That’s why you’re going shopping. That’s why you were at the school this morning. That’s why your kids are in school. And so it rolls.

I remember the shock and fog of the first few months. All those thoughts cascading through my brain would threaten to overwhelm my emotional control and I’d be on the brink of shutdown. I’d clinch my eyes tightly but the tears would flow anyway. How was I going to do this? Could I do it? Training was a real salvation in those days. I could let my emotions and brain rest while I pushed my physical limits.

Today, I have to say that by the time I got into the store, I was focused on finding what I needed and getting home before the kids. Its the new normal. It still feels different, its not even a two year old normal. Every day I’m reminded of the new normal. In ways big and small. I can’t escape it. But here it is. And I realize I have license to decide what to do with this normal. Waste it with “what ifs” or “only ifs”? Or live it. The agency to act is mine. I choose life.

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