I find it interesting that reaching a certain age holds more significance than other ages. For me, turning 20 was important. I was no longer a teenager and somehow felt more grown-up.
Things quickly fell into place when I moved to Bend, Oregon. I found a great job working for someone who would end up being a life-long friend, I had a nice apartment and best of all I had a fun convertible sports car.
I was a bonafide adult, or at least I thought so.
Turning 21 was a milestone birthday I was looking forward to celebrating, but I had no idea that year would be filled with a mix of sorrow and joy. My brother, Johnny unexpectedly died five days after my 21st birthday; and that devastating loss was almost more than I could bear.
Just a few months after his death, I walked down the aisle with the man I would be married to for 18 years. Looking back now, I would say I must have been an emotional mess inside. I went from my deepest sorrow to joy and celebration in just three months.
The next few years were a roller coaster ride of emotions.
We moved from Oregon to Arizona so my husband could go to graduate school. While he was busy studying in the evenings and on the weekends, I was alone. I grew up surrounded by people and those three years in Arizona were the loneliest in my life.
Then as the roller coaster headed back up, the greatest gift came when I was 24.
My first son was born the end of the year in 1983, and I immersed myself into motherhood. I knew from the time I was young I wanted to be a mother, but nothing truly prepared me for the overwhelming joy I felt when I held my child in my arms.
I cooked and cleaned and raised our boys like a true 1960’s housewife and loved every minute of it.
Each day the three of us would do just about everything together. I would take them everywhere with me and answer the constant streams of questions they never seem to run out of.
There were many hours spent on the floor putting together legos or sending Hotwheels flying down the loop-de-loop racetracks we built.
They helped me in the kitchen and out in the garden and on weekends our little family would go on hikes or sled down hills or ride bikes.
My husband and I taught them how to ski from the time they could walk, and despite the fact that their father and I were not connecting with each other we made sure to connect as a family.
Even though I was happy and loved my life, there was a sadness inside me that never fully went away.
When I was 29, eight years after my brother’s death, I walked into the cemetery where his ashes were and took them home with me. I had no idea why I needed to bring his ashes home with me, I just knew I did.
What I learned: It’s okay to be sad.