If you’ve ever felt trapped in your own home (Hello! … to probably all of you reading this newsletter) and got out to take a quick road trip by yourself during this pandemic, you’ve probably benefited more from it than you know. This past week has been a topsy-turvy one. However, it has not been one I couldn’t get through without a few short breaths and prayers to God to remind me I am still alive — still “movin’ and groovin’” and making this thing called life work for me.
After only visiting my mom, cousins, and a few friends and teammates here and there throughout this pandemic, I ventured out to a small town about 45 minutes away from where I live. Perhaps you’ve heard of Mount Airy, North Carolina, the birthplace of Andy Griffith? Many have stated the town is the blueprint for Mayberry on the Andy Griffith show. And let me just tell you — you know you’re in the country when a tractor pulls out in front of you to take over the road — never mind the fact you were there first.
Excuse me, Mr. Man on the tractor, please have at the entire highway strip — my pleasure — I do like my life.
During the trip there, I also saw a man riding an ATV 4-wheeler on the highway. No harm, no foul, homie. Please do you on this highway — on your 4-wheeler. I was in a zone, listening to Wale via Pandora, and neither one of these people was going to kill my vibe. I had one thought in mind — make it to my friend/co-worker’s home in one piece, and make it there in one piece, I did.
Friendship — what a beautiful thing.
I pulled up the rock-covered road to my friend Sarah’s place, put my car in park, got out, and embraced her for what felt like at least two minutes. I had not seen her in a year and eight months. I then hugged her mom, whom I probably haven’t seen in just over two years — then her dad, and then I gave my full attention to her sweet Golden Retriever puppy, Lily.
Dogs are amazing beings. If they instantly take to you, this says more about you than it does the dog. And I was truly happy to make Lily’s acquaintance. The excitement she had for me during our first meeting matched how Jernee reacts when I come back home to her. I was putty in her paws, and I believe she knew this.
After I settled into loving Lily a bit, we ordered food, went to pick it up, and came back to my friend’s place to eat, chat, and enjoy each other’s company. I love being able to communicate with people freely — love it when there’s no filter and everyone can be expressive. Sarah and I have always been this way — at work — and outside of work. Her mom is just the same — salt of the earth people who do not bite their tongues, but have enormous hearts, too. It is in the hospitality offered. It is in the words spoken. It is in the love that is felt.
We then toured the city, which did not take long. We drove “Downtown” so I could see some of the major sites, the Andy Griffith mural, an old theatre, and plenty of people outside taking advantage of the beautiful weather today lent us. I am truly wary of crowds even more than I was before the pandemic, so this tour was in my friend’s car as we cruised her city without the hustle and bustle of the craziness a Saturday around hundreds of people can bring. I still like my space and I don’t want many people around me.
Time flew by so quickly, I headed back home to be with my own little monster. The trip was well-deserved and definitely long overdue. I needed it.
It comes and goes. I understand now.
I had a moment of wanting to text Chrissy some photos or send her a brief note that said, “Look, cousin! Look at what I’m finally doing,” and it’s almost as if I have to reset my brain every time this happens to me. I know I cannot talk to her anymore. I know I cannot send text messages to her phone number that I simply cannot bring myself to delete from my phone. I know there will never be another hug, kiss, or trip to Florida to bask in her presence. My mind knows this. It does.
My heart cannot catch up. It can’t. But I am still giving myself grace. I am still being gentle with myself. There are better days ahead and getting to them consistently again will take time. It will. I am patient with myself. I owe it to myself to be as patient as I am being — it is necessary.
But I understand now how grief can come tapping at your shoulder when you least expect it. I wave hello to it — offer it some coffee, break out the good china, and allow it to sit for a moment with me. I will play some music for it, cook it a good meal, take it for a walk, but I refuse … at this point now to allow it to drag me down. Could it be Chrissy speaking through me? I know it is. And I am listening.
You must go on adventures to find out where you truly belong. — Sue Fitzmaurice
Welcome to The Grieving Room. I am here. You are here. We are not alone in this.