Tomorrow is 10 months since I lost my sweet boy. Its hard to believe its been that long, but yet, it feels just like yesterday. 10 months without seeing his freckled face. 10 months without him trying to explain Minecraft to me. 10 months without having someone to explore with. 10 months without feeling whole. 10 months without knowing who I am.
In 12 days, Peyton would be starting high school. For the first time, he would be a student where I worked. This was always something I looked forward to, although I can’t say that he did. (I grew up with my mom working at my school and it was a blessing and a curse.) I was so ready to share this adventure of high school with him and had already picked out his freshman English teacher. He was anxious to get involved in tech theater and FFA. We were both looking forward to all the things high school has to offer while our long term gaze was on the future. But it is not to be.
Now, as I sit at my desk in my classroom trying to prepare for my students, all I feel is empty. I’ve always been excited to start the school year. I’ve done this lots of times; this makes the 22nd year. But never have I had to put on a pretend happy face. This year, my heart just isn’t in it. I can’t bear to see the freshmen coming into the school on the first day and know that Peyton should be among them. How will I stop myself from looking for his face in the hallways? He should be here. He should get to have this experience – this right of passage.
As the first day of school grows closer, I find myself becoming more and more nervous and apprehensive. I know I’ll get through it, somehow. Something I’ve learned about parents who’ve lost children to suicide is that we are masters of disguise. We’re really good at putting on a smile and telling everyone we’re ok, when inside we’re as fragile as a newborn kitten. I have several of his pictures hanging on the wall next to my desk and I have a “Weekly Kindness Challenge” poster ready to be laminated for my bulletin board. Peyton will be with me in spirit, I know that. On August 24th, I’ll put on a smile and welcome my kids into our world of American literature and I will be sincere. American lit is my favorite thing to teach and I truly love taking my kids on this adventure. But, I also know that the last bell of the day won’t come early enough. Then, I can take off the mask and crawl home to recover and try to do it again the next day, and the next day, and the next.