I realized on the way home from the reunion that I hadn't written in quite a while. In some ways I take that as a good sign. I went to the Bair family reunion last weekend. I was terrified. Terrified that it would be so hard I wouldn't be able to do it, wouldn't be able to stay. Terrified that it would be awkward, uncomfortable, that no one would really like me, that I didn't really belong. Terrified that I would see his face everywhere and wouldn't be able to stop crying.
And I did cry as I drove into his hometown, but when I got to his niece's house I was okay. Somehow, I don't know how or why, I slid into something that felt like normal. I felt so happy to be in the middle of this big loving family. I felt real gladness to see his sisters and all the nieces and nephews and little ones. I love hearing the stories and catching up on everyone's life. I felt like maybe, just maybe, I belonged.
One of the nieces told me that she felt her Uncle David's presence shortly after he died. Just stopping by to say goodbye. And she told me that she had always thought David was simply a kind of sad personality, but that after I came into his life he was truly happy. That he was completely different, there was joy in him. What a gift she gave me. I know he brought me peace, and joy, and grace. I believe I did the same for him, but now that he is gone sometimes I become afraid that I imagined it. I am so very grateful for the stories that help me know it was true.
One of the biggest comforts for me is to know that I made his life happy for the five years we had. I never quite understood that saying about how when you really love someone all you want for them is their happiness. Now I do. I've been thinking a lot lately of how I changed, things I gave up to be with David. I don't regret any of it. I gained so much. But now I am trying to re-examine my life. What do I want to keep? What do I let go of? What do I take back into my life? It's an odd and interesting place to be.
On the ride up and back I turned the stereo in the car up really loud and sang along with the Allman Brothers Band, Alabama and a few others that David did not like, at a sound level that he really would not have liked. I also chewed gum, something he hated. In fact, it might have been one of our only fights...about me chewing gum. I recognized a small part of who I am that I let fall away. Not a big deal, to set it aside or pick it back up again. But an example, a remembering. I suppose we are always in process, wondering who we are and picking and choosing paths to follow but now it feels different. A forced reckoning, an odd gift. I'm not very comfortable with it but I recognize it as the opportunity it is. To combine the birthright gifts I brought into this world with the gifts loving David gave me, creating someone new and hopefully just a bit better.