In the book The Tiger Rising by Kate Dicamillo, the main character Rob uses a suitcase to hold in his emotions since the passing of his mother. It so happened that it would be a book that I would later use in my classroom of 4th graders in a quest to understand character analysis. However, as I look back, there were many parallels between Rob’s suitcase and my own.
After a weekend of digesting the diagnosis of Sawyer, I carried on with my life. The problem is that I slowly came to the realization that my suitcase wasn’t just one, it appeared that I had multiple cases of luggage with me that he built up since Sawyer had been born. It wasn’t depression, it was the thirst for exile to help me cope with what may come my way.
I was far from a private person. I often enjoyed sharing what was going on in my life until we were noticing that Sawyer had been different. I didn’t even notice I had done this until that first drive to school when memories flooded my 30 minute commute. I remember sharing so much less of Sawyer than the other children. When friends or family asked how he was, I would give a generic answer. Truth be told, I wasn’t embarrassed, I just wanted zero part in others trying to tell me that he would be fine.
For me, I just didn’t think that a boy who ripped pages out of a magazine repetitively, or couldn’t walk until 2 years old, or had any words to speak would be fine. I wasn’t one to think that he would wake up one morning, run downstairs, and play like other kids.
This hurt me because I couldn’t fix it. The once high energy, passionate, and engaged individual had morphed more into a loner. I would enjoy putting my phone on silent, keeping my ear buds on in the gym even if they weren’t working, and find ways to avoid social gatherings at all cost.
Pictures can be the biggest fraud that the eyes can see. In a still shot, my smile looked the same. It was possible that even in the mirror, I just couldn’t see what was happening.
I don’t know how it looked? People may have assumed that I was just busy being a dad? They could have thought that I had become the guy who woke up with the birds, lifted weights, taught 4th grade, had a wife, three kids, and a mortgage? They were partially correct. Unfortunately, I had become a different person as I fought to understand my son and find myself in the process.
My suitcase was full.