Events over the Christmas break have started me thinking about how reality and how we think we will react to life's swings of the pendulum are always different.
Several years ago, after my father died, my sister and I decided we were going to go back to the family's old country and reestablish our connection with our father's family. I was enthusiastic and pushed down all my concerns about going to the airport alone, flying more than twenty-six hours by myself and meeting family members we hadn't even known existed. Waiting in an empty terminal for four hours for my sister to arrive, having not slept since I had left home; traveling about the country in trains, subways, and ferries as we visited different parts of the country, including the small island our grandmother was born and raised on; and building relationships with, essentially, strangers was both more daunting and more amazing than I ever could have imagined.
Making that journey had been an important goal to achieve as our father's death had been unexpected. Certainly, he wasn't in the best of health, but he wasn't ill or senile and was quite ambulatory though largely blind due to diabetes. We had needed that future adventure to save for and plan while we coped with losing such a special man.
So I had an idea what my husband was going to go through when we were told to expect his father to pass sometime before Christmas. Sure we were expecting it. Sure he had long since forgotten who each of us were, and certainly, my husband was convinced he was prepared for the loss. I knew he wasn't. Even with having been through it already, I wasn't ready to lose yet another special man.
The call came a week before Christmas; the funeral preceded Christmas by two days. We held a solemn family gathering with his close-knit family. There were times my husband and daughter showed that they were handling the loss well, and other times when it would creep over their false calm and tear them apart.
We're never as ready as we think we are because we can't really imagine what we'll be experiencing when we get caught up by the big events in life.
This would not be my blog if I didn't make a connection to writing. When we design our characters we need to keep in mind that they may think they're ready to deal with what is being thrown their way, but they aren't. It doesn't matter if it is the big climax scene or just a little event leading up to greater stress: running out of gas heading to a picnic or a dishwasher leak. It is never as bad, good, funny, sad or exciting as they expect it to be. And they never are ready.