2008 was a pretty bad year for our family.
Up to that point, I had thought Hubby and I were pretty strong -- both individually and as a couple. But we were ill-prepared for the Category 5 s***storm the universe sent our way that year. Some of it -- Hubby's injury, Sweetpea's diagnosis -- is public knowledge. Other things are still too personal, too raw to share in a forum like this one.
At the end of 2008 we were still standing but in rough shape: branches and power lines down, debris everywhere ... and that was the stuff we could see. Other damage was less obvious -- the cracks in the foundation, old structural flaws further strained by the storm. Then, in January 2009, Hubby was laid off. So we hunkered down in our battered house, weathering the latest threat and praying for clear skies.
At least, this is the story I see now, looking back. We couldn't always see it while we were in it. We were too busy putting a brave face on things, reassuring the kids, telling everyone else (and each other) we were "just fine." And that was part of the problem. We weren't fine -- and we lacked the skills we needed to process that, to deal with it head on, together. We came close to falling apart.
This isn't the story I was thinking about as we planned for my sabbatical. But we're definitely using much of the time and energy it offers to process and recover from the events of 2008 (and the resulting damage). It's not easy. It involves taking a flashlight into the darkest corners of the attic, the dank basement, and honestly assessing what we find. Then doing the sweaty, back-breaking work of rebuilding: ourselves, our marriage, our family.
Lately I've been working on printing old photos and assembling them into albums. I have literally hundreds of pictures taken during 2008 that never made it any farther than a folder on my computer. As I'm looking through each of these folders, I am reminded that even in the midst of a very bad year, we had some very good times. These pictures shine a light on our family's strengths.
One of my favorite things to do with the kids is to flip through one of our many photo albums, reliving those good times. We've been doing a lot of that lately, as new volumes are added to the shelf.
It's true that the worst parts of our years aren't captured in those albums. The depression and despair we felt at times, the impatience and intolerance we sometimes showed ourselves, each other, and our children are notably absent. I suppose there's a chance that we're still shielding them from the whole picture, giving them only half the story. But I suspect they remember the bad stuff well enough on their own. When they ask about it, I will do my best to tell them the truth.
At the same time I hope these happy memories, carefully preserved in a shelf full of albums, will remind us all there is light even in our darkest moments. Maybe this knowledge will help keep our family going when the inevitable next storm hits. Maybe, thanks to the hard work we're doing now, we'll weather that one a little better.