I know in an earlier post I shared my phobia about grocery stores and Costco. Add “back to school” to the list. Today would have been the first day of Frick’s senior year, his first day at school as center snare drummer for the marching band, the first day of his last year at home before he went off to be amazing at Fresno State. But that’s not what we have been prepping for this year. It’s also not what we have chosen to focus on. Instead, we’ve turned our attention to our other amazing son, Gavin, aka Frack, but Frick is never far from our thoughts.
You would assume that back to school shopping might be an easy task. I did. I walked into Target this past week, prepared to just pick up a couple of things. I walked in the doors and “back to school” assaulted me from every direction. I looked at pencils, pens, and paper and thought about how I didn’t need to buy any because we had plenty from when Dan recently organized Frick’s room. Then, the tears came. I didn’t get more than 300 feet into the store before I turned around and walked right back out–not prepared for a solo ride just yet.
Last week dragged on. Thankfully, Mimi and Barry were here to accompany us to a few stores to pick up essentials. I do okay when I’m not alone. Later in the week, after they had left, I didn’t want to be at home alone, so I went to the mall on a mission to find a specific gift for Gav’s grieving buddy, Max. I walked through the shoe department at Nordstroms, trying to look interested. I walked the thoroughfare between storefronts, window “shopping,” code for wandering aimlessly. I didn’t find what I was looking for: no specific gift; no peace of mind; no last-minute necessities for our family. Instead I walked away feeling like there was nothing in the entire building that I could buy that would prepare anyone in my family for the coming weeks. It’s all just…stuff–unimportant stuff.
Thankfully, I was able to get Gavin in to see a counselor last week. They talked while I sat nearby for moral support. They rehearsed how Gavin might answer questions about his brother when he returned to school and how he might feel walking by the band room or running into Noah’s friends. We talked about why mom and dad thought counseling might be good for a while. We talked about the grief process and defense mechanisms, which is when I had my “rationalization” epiphany. While Gav didn’t say it out loud, I think it was helpful and I did see him open up to the counselor, if only a little.
So this morning was *the* morning. We have a tradition in our family to take a “back to school” picture of the boys in front of the house. We’ve done it almost every year since the kids started school. This morning, we started a new tradition to avoid the obvious hole in the picture—selfies with mom and dad. We are set. We have practiced. We are prepared, or as prepared as we are going to be. I feel confident that while the day will be unimaginably tough for Gav, that he will not fall apart and he knows where to go if he does.
As a mother, nothing can prepare you for this—supporting your remaining child with a smile on your face when your heart is absolutely crushed. But I won’t spend today thinking about what Frick might have been. He was already something wonderful. He was smart—SO smart. He was compassionate underneath his tough exterior. He was a brilliantly talented drummer. He was an amazing big brother and friend. And he didn’t not care what anyone thought of him. He knew who he was and he went about everything he did with confidence (and where he lacked confidence, he was open enough with us to talk about it, which was a true gift).
Instead, I will spend the day comforted that Noah will watch over Gav and that Gav has two outstanding friends that will protect him today. I will spend the day knowing how proud we all are of our little Frack for facing this day with confidence, and that he will be okay until I can squeeze him when he gets home this afternoon. Happy First Day of School to the kids of Oakmont High School. Seniors, enjoy every second of your last year! Live your life to the absolute fullest and have a killer marching band season! It’s what’s Noah would want.