The weaving together of the old with the new is the most bittersweet part of grieving. It's what you want but it's also what hurts. I experience these moments daily- wanting to smile and cry at the same time. Things that bring joy also bring heartache.
Being blessed enough to have such a loving relationship with Andie's family that we all still go to dinner on Friday nights just like we did when Andie was here, but now there is someone else there with me. And they have welcomed him in with open arms as if he was their own and has always been the one there. It is all I could ever hope for. To be able to feel comfortable moving forward and not hurting them in the process...but I do hurt for them. I hurt for his mother who must look across the table at times and wonder what the hell happened in her life to have lost her son and is now accepting seeing someone else walk me and her grandkids to the car at the end of the evening. I watch his brother who every now and then makes a facial expression or moves in such a way that for half a second I think it's actually Andie...and I wonder how he feels joking and talking in a brotherly way with this man just as he would with have with Andie. I think of his father who now invites my boyfriend to go fishing with him...the thing he and Andie loved to do together, and I wonder how he handles being alone on the water for hours with someone who is not his son. I wonder if they feel it too...the bittersweet of the weaving. The pain being replaced slowly by happy moments, only to be reminded of why it all hurt in the first place.
Wanting the girls to have a father and seeing them develop that kind of relationship with someone who is not their father...it's beautiful and painful all at the same time. They are opening their hearts to love him in their own time. They were tentative at first...always comfortable with him but still always wanting me at the end of the day when it was time to cuddle. Always wanting me to tuck them in bed. Now they lay their heads on his chest in the evening and let him take them to bed. Not always, but sometimes...as though they're testing out if it's okay to let someone else love them besides me.
To be truthful, we were all tentative. Sometimes we still are, but it is settling into a familiar life now making my old life feel ever more distant. In the beginning he was respectful to not overstep his bounds and let me do the parenting and correcting. Now he is comfortable with stepping in and parenting them...loving them when they need it, and scolding them when they need that too. And I'm okay with letting him. In the beginning I was hesitant to give up that control. It was hard to let someone else take part in that role as I have always done it alone. But now if feels good to have someone on my side, tag teaming the difficult moments with me.
They ask where he is while he's at work and get excited when he comes home. Running to hug him and screaming his name with delight...just as I would imagine they would do with their daddy. Giving him kisses and telling him they love him before he leaves for work and again in the evenings before they trot off to bed. Then immediately walking to their dad's picture and saying goodnight to him and kissing his picture. They have room in their hearts for both of them just as I do, but it's so bittersweet to watch it play out with them. Knowing one day their father will just be someone they've heard stories about but have no emotional tie to because they don't really remember him. And this man will be the one they think of as their father figure. The one they will actually run to, seek advice from, and love.
It takes time...the weaving. And it seems tedious when you're in the middle of it, as though it will never actually all fit together just so. But then you look back and realize it's happening and you're farther along than you thought you were. There's snags along the way and it's not perfect, but it works. And it's becoming the warm blanket that gives you comfort when the cold moments of grief start to seep in.