Some days I think I've hit the sweet spot. I love my job, and I'm finally starting to get pretty good at it. Quinn's at an awesome age where he still thinks I'm cool and wants to hang out with me. Somehow projects get done, people get fed, and life happens. We laugh and make plans for the future. Life seems so manageable, even good.
Other days, something happens, often something so insignificant it's hardly worth retelling, and I become immediately aware of how vulnerable we are, just the two of us. Those days I'm reminded why widows and orphans are so dear to the Lord, why he takes care of them. I've had an unusual number of those days recently.
Quinn and I were walking in a parking lot today. I shooed him out of the way of an oncoming car, and his first response was, "Well, if it had hit us, at least it would have hit me first, so I wouldn't be an orphan." Wow. Sometimes I forget how constant his sense of loss is. He's been trying to get me to join the "watch dog" program at his school, but it's a program for dads and he doesn't seem to understand why I can't take him.
A couple days ago I passed by a mom in a wheelchair on the side of the road and her son, about Quinn's age. He was holding a sign that said she had recently been diagnosed with something. I couldn't read what, but by the time I pulled over to help them, someone else had already stopped. Talk about hitting a little too close to home. Considering I had already started bawling, it was probably a good thing someone else was helping them. I drove on home and cried for another hour, barely managing to pull myself together before Quinn got home.
Maybe it's because we're approaching three years, maybe it's because Quinn is older and so much more aware of his dad's absence, but this has been a really difficult season. I joke that one of my only parenting goals is to not become a Flannery O'Connor short story. She has lots of particularly disturbing stories about dysfunctional single moms and their sons. I've taken her off my reading list until Quinn grows up to be a normal functioning adult.
Still, I wonder why this season has been particularly marked by a profound awareness of loss, both for Quinn and me. The only thing I've come up with so far is longing. Rightly experienced grief cultivates a longing for truth, justice, hope, beauty - for life as we were created to live it, in perfect communion with God and each other. And that kind of longing is working changes in my affections that fifteen years of self-discipline and self-effort haven't been able to touch. For that at least, I am thankful.