"Well," I finally replied, "why don't you start here?" I pointed to a spot on his dry-erase board. "Then we'll see what happens and go from there?"
I haven't the heart to tell stories of late. I compose posts as I move through my days - sometimes happy, often sad - but I find I'm just holding it together and fear that if I examine anything too closely, I'll see that it's ragged around the edges with cracks spreading rapidly through the interior. And having not the strength to repair it, my hope is to ignore - inasmuch as that's possible - until I regain my balance.
"Will you hold my hand?" I asked Little One as we sat on the bleachers at the drag races and I began to cry. She nodded worriedly, lacing her fingers through mine and leaning against my side, our sweat-slick arms sticking together as grief wafted over me like smoke from tires.
"You dad loved everything about this," Mom had said quietly. And because I hadn't liked much of anything about it, I didn't really remember it well. But - sitting there in the bright sunshine and sparing breeze on that Saturday afternoon - I listened to the engines rev and roar, inhaled the fumes of burning rubber, gasoline and nitrous fuels and watched the cars speed in straight lines. And the urge to turn to my dad and comment - to watch his rapt attention and easy grin - was so powerful that I was lost in a pain so intense that I can't find words to describe it.
We left his ashes along the return strip. The cars turn around at the end after racing one way and either drive or are towed back home for rest and repair and the next round. So we walked to a spot outside the fence and in sight of the finish line and I handed out the small bags I'd filled that morning.
Brother went first before Smallest asked for her turn. I filled the gap between their lines of pale powder, taking deep breaths while Little One carefully placed hers, insisting that Mom take the final bag and pour it so that we formed a line there at the grass. We stood for a moment, staring downward, before returning to the car and moving back toward my house.
"I really don't," I finally noted, tiring of my nodding in absent agreement and hoping discussions would end faster. "I loved my job and presentations were part of that. So I did enjoy them and I tried hard to deliver good ones. But it's not breaking my heart to walk away."
In a funny twist though, what could be my last major presentation was done via webcast in a studio - with teleprompters and three cameras and all the lighting and sound personnel. It was a little bizarre, but a nice distraction for that particular day. It didn't hurt to be concerned with what camera to speak to rather than what in the world I was trying to do with my life now.
I had discussions with the three potential bosses and picked the one that's most different. It's still not completely clear that I'll get what I want, but Adam has pulled some strings and tried to clear the way for my escape. But until then, I'm trying to find energy to do what I've done in my current - somewhat nebulous role.
It's unpleasant. But not painfully so.
It was lovely - they're charming and beautiful and I'm so glad they're around. And it feels like home to have a small family party - to grill and smell the lemon Ajax as we do dishes.
"The house smells wrong," Mom told me tearfully when we arrived back here last Sunday though. Brother had moved in and had parties, made messes, ruined items that weren't his. But we've cleaned up and taken turns lecturing and trying to offer some understanding. And I've made it perhaps-too-clear that he is not living here or staying here or driving Dad's cars.
Admittedly though, in trying to help, I've crossed the line as well. I wept while cleaning out one of Daddy's drawers in an attempt to put away his Army medals. Mom frowned in disapproval. I reorganized the linen closet after removing some of his clutter. Mom snapped at me - just a little - when I lost her toothpaste. So I'm leaving things alone - trying to create a stable, safe place - until she's ready for something different.
"I can't do it," Ethan said after I'd suggested he try something - anything - with his little red marker. I made my most thoughtful face and tried fruitlessly to remember how I'd learned to write the number 2.
"Aunt Katie?" Smallest One's teacher called from her position in the front of the room. "Put your hand over his and show him."
"Oh," I breathed, leaning down over little Ethan and curling my fingers around his smaller hand. "Let's start here," I said softly, "and curve around and down and then come back."
He grinned up at me, ridiculously proud and I cuddled him for a second.
I sighed when we left, admiring a lunchbox with a Nickelodeon boy band on it and waving at some children and offering my hand for too-hard high fives to others. We gathered up the birthday treat trash and made our retreat while I wished I had someone to take my hand and show me how to do this. How to go on while making Dad's memory matter but not being incapacitated by grief.
In the absence of that, however, I'll just keep trying something and going from there.