Last First Day

My youngest on her first day of kindergarten

Me newly 45, with her father nearing 50, we laughed about how we’d be the same age as some kindergartener’s grandparents. I teased him about how he’d surely be crying more than me (he usually did) and he told the story for the millionth time about bawling in front of his eldest daughter’s kindergarten locker, tears triggered by the very fact that such a small kid had a full-sized locker.

It would have been his fourth time having a kindergarten first day, and my second, but it would also have been the first and last time that we would do it together. My first first day with my son was lonely, and I so badly wanted that to be redeemed by this one. I wanted this last first day to the be the best first day, a glowing memory I could hold in my healed heart as one of those moments where all is right with the world.

These milestones are always emotional, for both parent and child, but grief compounds that. I have learned to prepare, giving myself extra time afterward and putting my support team on standby. And it was okay. It really was. The littlest Broady Grund was nervous, but went right in with only one hug and kiss, and without any tears. The biggest living Broady Grund (me) was nervous too, and only shed a few tears on the walk home. And while writing this.

Today is not what I imagined, and in some ways not what I wanted. But in other ways, I am intensely proud of us on this last first day. The little one told me a few weeks ago that she doesn’t even miss her daddy much anymore, which both broke my heart and was a testament to how fully I have filled that gap in her life. I have the best friends and partner I could hope for, and along with them comes every resource needed for this complicated life.

Yes, it was still lonely as I watched her go in the kindergarten door this morning, but I was far from alone. No, it was not what I dreamed, but grief has not damaged my imagination permanently. New dreams are being birthed all the time, for all the Broady Grunds, shadowed with sorrow but bright around the edges with possibility.

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