We've lost our way a bit. It’s happened before. The path seems clear. The reasoning sound. The direction laid out. The change looms on the horizon and one begins the one step at a time journey toward another enormous change. You make a few initial plans. Have the conversations. You research shipping the dog and the furniture back home. You talk through the timing. The way is sure and clear.
Then something happens. Or lots of somethings. An event at school means hours spent with other families. You suddenly feel a part. Welcome. You can imagine a life. One without a change in direction. One in which you stay put. You start to picture your children being teenagers with their children. It feels safe. You wouldn't mind their children around the house as friends and maybe girlfriends. You feel you could call on these parents to do the teenage journey with you. You could call them after the party or before. You could count on them to help you look after your fellas and you'd love to help them look after theirs.
You volunteer as a parent helper on the class bushwalk. You smile when you realize you still can't say that one without giggling. This one hasn't slipped into your vernacular just as “walk” didn't in England. You still say “hike.” Hiking along you realize you know the names of each child in the class and almost every name of each of their parents. You like this type of life. A life where you know people. A life where you're finally not new.
You take a camping weekend away with one son. Two old ladies set up camp next to you. They hike in the mornings. Canoe in the afternoons. Boss each other about and pour each other wine as they cook dinner. Laughing and telling stories. They tell you some of them. Stories about bringing their children here to this same spot. Then bringing their grandchildren, and continuing year after year until the numbers dwindled to just the two of them. You smile and a thought accidentally occurs. One of those heart thoughts that comes into full bloom before your mind reminds your heart of the logical details at play. “That'll be me and Suse,” you think.
Then it accidentally happens again. Except Suse thinks it this time. You're all on what has become the annual Easter Camping Extravaganza. Ten days of tents and walks along the ocean and cooking over the fire. She walks to the toilets (you have learned to finally call them that after 7 years even though it still sometimes sounds funny when it comes out). Some teenagers had helped their folks set up camp and were happily throwing a frisbee about before it got too dark. She mentions how fun that would be when ours were all big.
You stand at the rugby game with the other moms and they cheer your boy and you cheer theirs and you laugh and all gasp at the tackle and are they all alright and remember last year when that big kid landed on my son’s head and he took it on as his personal mission to tackle that kid every single time and wonder if there’s a weight limit next year for the under 12s? Next year. Next year we won’t be here.
Some of these thoughts—the “somethings”—that make us lose our way are simple sentimentality. We can logic them away. Talk it through quick and set ourselves back on the path. Except sometimes you just can’t logic away the pain. The pain that comes when you realize you can't picture your son’s friends in the new life. The one you're going to. You don't know who they'll be. You don't know their names. Will you know their moms and dads? Will you like them? Will they like you? Will they squeeze you tight after a weekend spent working on a fundraiser at the school and tell you they can’t wait to see you in the week? Will the girls and boys all mix together in happy friendship where you're going? Will the teachers at the new school be as helpful and fantastic as the ones have been here? What will it be like to be in high school without the great leveler you've come to love in school uniforms? Will the rugby coaches be as great as these ones? The parents as fun and laid back? The boys as encouraging to one another on the field?
One day you overhear the middle son’s friends ask him whether he'll be back, after he goes away? “Yes, but Caid. You'll be back, right?” they ask him in their 10-year-old innocence. His answer stings. Hurts somewhere deep inside. “No,” he says. “I won't be back. Hopefully I can come and visit. But I won't be BACK.” Just like that something inside unlocks and a grief begins you'd hoped could wait just a few more months. A few more blissful months of feeling settled. Included. Welcomed. Sure.
Sure. Suddenly my sure—my sure wobbles. I lose my way. Can we do it again? Can my sweet boys? Will they have the resilience to pick up this one last time? Start again? Dig in? Make friends? Find the new haunts? The new house? The new walks and hikes and just-an-hour-away drives? The camping spots we'll go to year after year? The friends who will want to go with us? Will there be a girlfriend there who I'll some day, years into the future look at across a picnic table at our favorite camping spot and laugh and boss and tell stories of years and years of memories with?
My sure is wobbling. I've lost my way. I know all of the logic. Each pro and each con. I still see the logical reasoning that says that in just a few short months we leave again. Across the world again. To a new life. To new friends, and this time to old ones too. In a place we've been before. But my sure. My sure is wobbling. I feel afraid and I don't quite know the way this time through the grief.