My life has changed dramatically since October 8th. I am living what many survivors call the New Normal. Since Peyton's death, I am not worried about my life going back to the way it used to be, because I know that it never will. Instead, what I have to do is to learn to live with a hole in my heart that wasn't there before. I have to get used to the idea that my son will not be an active part of my life. He will still play a role, but I no longer get to look forward to hearing about his first day of high school, or seeing him on stage in a play, or taking him to rent a tux for prom, or visiting colleges, or watching him cross the stage at any graduation. There will be no wedding day, there will be no first house, and sadly, there will be no grandchildren, or any one to carry on the family name.
So what is this new normal for some one that has experienced my kind of loss? It all starts in the morning, usually after a night of restless sleep. I have been able to ween myself off of ambien, and have started taking melatonin, although I have to be physically exhausted in order to fall asleep. That usually means reading or watching tv until I can no longer keep my eyes open. Once the alarm rings, I have a split second debate as to whether or not I want to hit snooze. If I do, it means nine more minutes of restless semi-sleep, if not, then I drag myself from bed to begin my day. It starts with 90mg of duloxetine, an antidepressant. Then a shower, maybe shave if I am motivated, but usually not. I get dressed, kiss my wife good bye, head to the kitchen where I pour my coffee, hopefully remember to grab my lunch and a couple of bananas for breakfast, and then off to work.
Fortunately, the drive to work is short, at least mileage wise. I park in the same place I have parked for at least the last five years, head in through the same door, into the same office, go though the same routine, and then head up to my class room. Once in there, I sit at the computer and look at the lesson plans. I can't remember from day to day what we are supposed to do in class. If I am lucky, I opened up all the necessary programs and windows on the computer the night before. If not, it becomes a frantic search to find them before the bell rings and I have to abandon the room to the teacher that uses it first period. I usually spend my first conference period trying to make sure that I have everything ready to go, and hope that this is the day I haven't forgotten anything. You have to understand that one of the unfortunate side effects of the grieving process is problems with short term memory. I am always forgetting things. I know it drives my wife crazy, and is even worse for me. It could be something I had printed out and left on my desk in the coaches office, or to have entered grades, or what it is we are doing. Once class begins, I find myself relying on muscle memory. I have taught American Lit in one form or another for 12 out of the 24 years I have been teaching, so the knowledge is there for me to rely on.
Classes can be tough. I teach mainly on level kids. That means that I could have anything from a brilliant GT student, to a child with learning disabilities, an over achiever, or an underachiever. I have some of the same type of bullies in my classes that tormented my son over the edge. I have others who have gifts that they are pissing away, and all I want to do is grab them and slap them around. I want to shout "You have opportunities that my son never will! Quit being a little dumbass and take advantage of what you are given!" Unfortunately, the administration tends to frown on that.
By the time sixth period ends, I am usually spent, but I still have one more class, and that is track. It is strange, I love coaching track, but at this point, I don't care. I think about all the meets and practices and camps that Peyton used to go to with me just to be close, and it just brings back bad memories. I used to love practice and meets, but now they are just one more thing I have to do before I can go home and melt into my surroundings.
I just want everything to be over with so I can go to bed, get up the next day and do it again. I have gone from living my life to existing. It isn't how I imagined it going. I used to look forward to all the days that I would have Peyton. Christmas, Spring Break, our long time together in the summer going to the movies or the book store. Everything is day to day. I have good days and bad. Some times that bad is not that bad, nor the good that good. Others can be a train wreck.
So many things trigger a flood of emotions. I never know when the next outburst will be. It is not fun going throuhg your day hoping that the next song you hear or picture you see won't start the water works. Even going some place we had never been together can be a trigger. The other day we were in San Antonio, and all I could think is that I should have taken Peyton there. We could have gone to Fiesta Texas or Six Flags. I could have dragged him through the Alamo or down the River. Now I will never be able to. Regrets flood in, and guilt takes over. Even sitting here typing this I start to mist up as I think of the many things we will never do.
This past Monday I went into Houston for a new tattoo from Lana Gooding. She is the same artist that put the wings on the tattoo I got for Peyton when he moved to Round Rock. Before she began, I had her put a small semicolon on my right wrist. For those that are wondering why, check out the Semicolon Project . I wanted a permanent reminder that I could always look at. Sometimes I need a reminder that as the author of my life, I need to keep writing.
There are still good things in my life. My wife Lisa and daughter Emmy keep my spirits up. Playing with my corgi Earl provides some fun, and as always, I can still escape into a book. I've talked to other survivors, and they all say the same thing, it doesn't get easier, you learn to live with it. I guess I need to learn to live with this new normal.