One of the things that we have to do after losing a child is find a new definition of who we are. I was primarily Paul’s Dad, especially after Paige left for college. I need to find a new identity to move forward. Suddenly Kathie and I are “empty nesters” and have to figure out what we want to be now. I would bet all empty nest parents feel some of this. It is not that I am not still Paul’s Dad, but I need to figure out what else I want to be, and I have some newly free time to work on it.
I miss the time with Paul, especially when it was just the two of us. Burping and farting jokes always started us laughing. Music was his thing, he loved singing and finding a good song on the car radio. Sometimes I would turn a girlie pop song on the radio just to watch him roll his eyes, even though neither of us would actually change the channel. The last thing he tuned my car hard drive to was Cheap Trick, a band I knew that I liked, but hadn’t listened to in a long time. He made me listen to, and appreciate them again. Dream Police.
We would watch games together on TV. From a pretty young age, he knew more about sports than I did. He always knew the records, the uniform number of every player, and how many home runs or touchdowns they had. He could bring me up to speed on whatever game he was watching so I knew the talking points for the next day around the water cooler. I had too short of an attention span for that while watching most games. If I left the room for a minute he would switch to Hannah Montana or iCarly, mostly to get under my skin, I think.
Kathie was with Paul all day, so when I had the chance to steal him for a weekend, I did. We would find something to do together, even if it was just hockey or grocery shopping and cooking. I really enjoyed talking about Paul with people. When I did, sometimes they would offer something. People were often very kind to us. It was like magic, they would hear his story and ask if he liked the Brewers, had ever skied, or some other thing. One particularly memorable trip last summer, a business friend of mine offered to take us on his boat salmon fishing on Lake Michigan. He said we had to be ready, because if they were biting one day, we had to go on short notice. It was a late night adventure, and Paul was a young man who liked his routines, but this was a big deal. Well, my friend called, we went, and of course we caught a metric ton of salmon, laughed and had great night on the water. That is how it worked for Paul. Everybody on the boat will remember that night forever.
So now, adventures are a little harder to find and we have time alone. It is not all bad to be alone, I always liked some alone time. What is missing is the obvious mission. Before, I had a sense of purpose to make Paul’s life as rich and normal as possible. It was my predetermined assignment. It is well known that happiness ultimately comes from having a larger purpose in life. Paul was a purpose that was gifted to me – I never asked for it, but he showed up and demanded it. Having a worthwhile purpose to spend time on each day is the best part of having any kid, but especially a kid with special needs. I have lots of choices for a new purpose, I stalk them, and I have found some things that interest me. But none of them could be as fun as hanging with my best friend Paul.