A few days ago, while talking my son out of a dark mood and into a dim but less grim one, it occurred to me that among the many losses of this virus and its quarantine, my child will also lose something important. He plays chess, and it’s his last year to compete in tournaments in this division before he moves up to have matches against high schoolers. These were the last trophies to likely come his way for a while. But, the tournament on his 14th birthday is cancelled, as is the one at the end of the school year. We just suddenly flip the switch for next year, leap-frogging past two rare opportunities for him to shine.
I know it’s a small-scale loss compared to so many others, but it is a transition that’s missing, leaving us on footing that’s less sure. There is some unfulfilled longing in him, and there is some heartbreak in me. I mourn this chance to watch him walk in confidence. He so often stands still, hangs back, and observes life with relative disinterest, but in tournaments, he stands tall, moves regally, and enjoys success with a smile. Maybe he will have that again in the future, but I miss it in the now.
He has lost that, and I have lost my place of confidence as well. Right now, school is an area of life where I feel like I am tap-dancing on quicksand. Will I see my students again in the classroom, or will they just drift into the void of emergency virtual instruction then eventually come back together as the students of someone else? I have so many questions about how this year will end, but my Magic 8-Ball keeps advising me to ask again later. So, I wait, because it’s the only option I have. I cannot force answers from a conclusion that has not yet been written.
The reality is, there isn’t always a conclusion.
Sometimes things just dissolve, disappear. It can happen like the sun burning off morning’s fog, revealing truth, or it can happen like an ice cube melting away- solidity going liquid, surety of what is seen drifting into loss and invisibility. What once was just isn’t anymore.
I’ve been learning this life lesson for a long time. I should note there is a big difference between the ongoing, present-tense practice of learning and the rearview mirror perspective of looking back at what’s been learned. I’m still learning.
It started when my dad was in the last years of his life. He often didn’t recognize me for who I was. Dementia and a strong resemblance I bear to his cousin in younger years stole that from our relationship.
It’s hard to show up to a place and not know if you will be known by your own father. It’s hard to approach that, again and again, open to whatever happens. It’s also hard to be recognized, because every time you walk away, you know it might be for the last time. You just never know.
It was a long six years of walking in uncertainty, and it felt a lot like what I am living right now.
I sit here today and wait, poised with pen in hand, watching for resolution and conclusion– certainty, understanding. I want to hold it tight, capture it in words, bring finality and closure to this NOW, so that NEXT can get started and feel like normal. I don’t want to fade from one thing to the next with no sense of transition, no understanding of how or why we got there.
I hate goodbyes, but I hate not saying them even more.
It’s especially hard when denied the opportunity.