The death of the kids' dad happened three and a half years ago, but the lingering effects, the ones you aren't prepared to handle after you think you've already handled it all, never seem to fucking go away. A few weeks ago Brandon, my boy with endless happiness, found himself hurting, missing his dad. He wished he was here so he would have someone with which to commiserate during the most dreaded years in a child's life: puberty. His body is betraying him with a voice that cracks with nearly every word he speaks; he is changing into a man, and as much as I try to be there for him, he needs his dad to guide him through all the shit.
While I can't specifically relate to what he's going through, I can and am here to listen, to hug him while we both shed tears for the gaping hole that has left him feeling empty and sad. We watched some old home movies so that he could see the face and hear the voice of Dad from a time before alcohol wrapped its debilitating grip around every one of our lives. It didn't solve the problem, but it filled the hole just enough that it allowed him the opportunity to go on with his day in a slightly better place than he was before, and sometimes that's the best we can ask for.
Dave's death has left me vulnerable and scared, my mortality always lingering in the back of my thoughts like a predator silently watching its prey. A few months ago I underwent a breast biopsy for a lump that was found. A month later I underwent a procedure that removed precancerous cells from my cervix. The biopsy came back benign and all of the precancerous cells were removed from my body, but that thought, that predator, is always watching from afar, almost as if it is waiting for me to make a false move so that it can strike and take me down, making orphans of my children as if to spite us all.
This past weekend I stayed the night in Colorado Springs to work on a short film I'm in. One of the last things that Brandon said to me as I said my goodbyes, was "Come back alive." The predator lurks in their minds as well, coming out to hunt when I'm gone for longer than a day.
We can and have healed from Dave's death, but it will never release its hold on us. There will forever be the gaping hole, whether it's in the form of heartache, or it's in the form of fear. How we react is of utmost importance - we can choose to let it consume us and take us down, or we can face it head-on, filling it with something as simple as happy memories, or as serious as keeping extra alert on the road so that we can make it back alive and keep the predator at bay.