France Awaits

My parents called last Sunday.

Dad: “We want to take you and Frank on a river cruise through France.”

Me: …silence.

Mom: “Why aren’t you jumping up and down?”

Me, after a moment’s hesitation: “It’s that plane thing. I’ll let you know by the end of the day.”

WTF, you ask? Why did I not give an immediate YES to a river cruise through France? I hate to fly. I don’t just hate it, it’s the one thing that can blow my cool. It’s not flying. I’m not afraid of being in the air or anything. It’s being squished, belted into fourteen inches of chair-space with no place to put my legs for eight hours. Eight hours packed in like sardines. And being an overseas flight–in the dark. It’s enough to get me hyperventilating just thinking about it.

My amazing stepson gave me a standing offer a while back–if I ever wanted to fly, he’d get me an upgrade to business class. I called him. It’s all set. My own bed! My own cubby! Restaurant quality meal, including an ice-cream sundae if I want it, movies. This, I can do. I called my parents and told them we’re in.


Why wasn’t I feeling it? I’ve never been to France or flown first class. A river cruise through the country, then a few days on the Riviera, in Cannes? Two weeks in Europe? Of course I’m excited. Something kept niggling at me, and it manifested in a single thought and instant shame–We never could have done this before Chris died.

Ker-pow. Right to the gut. Like the fear of finding him dead no longer hangs over me, so too has the fear of traveling too distantly lifted. And that makes me feel terrible in ways I can’t describe.

There was a brief time when I thought he was ok–really ok. I wrote about it here on this blog only a few months prior to his death. I believed he was going to finally start living the life he worked so hard to have. I believed we would no longer live anticipating the next catastrophe. Through earlier years, we’d learned not to travel too far. Frank and I had to drive home through the night more than once because he was in crisis. It hadn’t happened in a long while, but until he moved out and seemed to be on his way in his own life, we were prepared for that mad dash if ever we did go away.

Friends tease us for always going to the same restaurant in town every weekend. Well, first of all, we love it. If I’m going out to eat, the food has to be better than I can make it. They treat us like family there. But that’s not the only reason we went there most Saturdays since it first opened. It’s close. Chris spent too many lonely weekends home alone. We had to walk that line between being with him and keeping our date nights–for us, yes, but also so he didn’t have the guilt of ruining our evenings alongside the loneliness. I’m not sure we succeeded in that, because while we did go out, the cell phone sat on the table with us, just in case. I always found a reason to text him. Did he want us to bring food home for him? How about dessert? And instead of going to the movies afterwards, which is what we’d always done before, we’d come home and watch a movie with him.

My life, our lives, revolved around Chris. There were things we didn’t do because we didn’t want to leave him. That was a rock and a hard place, because leaving him left him vulnerable and lonelier than ever, but sticking close made him feel bad. There was no right choice, so we made the one we could live with. During the ten months prior to his death, Frank and I learned to let go of that fear. He was fine. Happy. Social. He enjoyed the freedom of being home alone. Then he moved out and “empty nest” became a thing of beauty I truly loved.

Empty nest has a totally different meaning for me now. I can’t love it any more. It implies things I can’t even think about, and hurts too deep down in my soul. But I do have to find a way to let go of the life that existed before Chris died. All of it. It’s gone. I have to learn to live without his smile, his hugs, hearing him sing his heart out. And I have to find it in me to embrace the peace that comes of knowing not only is he free of all that mental and physical pain, so am I.


Filed under Family

17 responses to “France Awaits

  1. Mark Nelson

    Go. Look forward. Enjoy the trip. This time, I suspect Chris will come with you, giving that little extra lift on the plane’s wings, or the association that comes from sights and sounds new yet old– and therefore fodder for the next tale. Do it.


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      I was thinking about you when writing this post, and how you got me through my trip back to KC a few years ago. Whew! What would I have done without your poetry and naughty limericks?

      We’re going, and I’m really, really excited. This was a new epiphany, one that hit me kinda hard, but–here I am. Still standing, right? Love you.


  2. Kim

    Beautifully said, Terri-Lynne. This makes so much sense to me. Love you!


  3. Dee

    I’m so happy for you and Frank, enjoy yourselves and have a wonderful time. You both deserve it!!!!! Love you guys❤️❤️❤️❤️


  4. Georgia Pizzarelli

    Chris will enjoy your journey. Get the accommodations you need to feel comfortable and sit back and enjoy. I think alike but Ron has taught me to adventure. Love to Frank. Facebook me and see how much I got out of my comfort zone. Love you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, Terri. Now that you wrote it, I see everything you’ve said. It’s a great insight. You’re brave to write it, brave to share. Enjoy your fabulous trip! It’s something both you and Frank deserve.


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      I don’t feel brave, really. I feel this stuff and writing it down is the only way to get it out of my head. I do it publicly because if I kept it to myself, it’s as good as keeping it inside, you know?

      I won’t say it’s cowardly. Modesty is for suckers and all, but I have to acknowledge that I’m open about things for ME more than anything.

      Thank you, darling. We will enjoy this trip (I think we might stay in Paris a few extra days instead of going to Spain. The cruise doesn’t really incorporate Paris, and I’ve never been, so…)


  6. Elizabeth

    My good friend who lives in Paris just lost his mother in law and is heart broken. Because of it, however, we may get to see each other in London next week because I will be there with my mom (whom he knows and loves) and he will be passing through for the funeral. I said I would be sorry it was under such sad circumstances but how excited I would be to see him. He agreed and said that he and his wife (they are very religious) have been taking solace in a line from Romans that says “all things work together for the good.” Chris’ death was most certainly not good but that doesn’t mean that some good might ultimately follow it. Like an uninhibited, worry-free cruise to Spain and France.


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      I’ve always said I love a funeral. It brings together those who haven’t seen one another in far too long. When it’s an older person, it’s easier. They’ve lived their lives. When it’s a young person–like Chris and Brian–it’s a little harder. But I have to admit, there was a certain joy at Christofer’s memorial service, seeing old friends of his from grade school through college, boys who hadn’t seen one another in years, get together and laugh, reminisce and even cry over their friend. It was beautiful.

      We’re going to enjoy the hell out of the cruise. Promise.


  7. Terri, Your commentary is so thoughtful and eye opening. It is the best example of what fear of flying is, that I have ever read. Wishing you and Frank the best of trips.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Colette

    I can’t pretend to know the loss you feel, but I do understand the way you feel with not wanting to leave your child because of what crisis may come up even if your 15 minutes away, we live with that everyday and people keep telling us relax, go have fun, but when you don’t know where or what or whom your child is with and what they are doing can be crippling, fearing always for the worse, and sometimes getting that call that your daughter was beat up and having her so drunk she can’t even tell you what happened or when exactly it happened…depression and anxiety can make people do horrible things to themselves thinking they are helping themselves, self medicating themselves, if only they could see themselves the way we see them, they would understand we love and except them for the unique people they are.
    With all that said…happy is a different place now, and Chris will always be with you…so go love, enjoy and embrace what you can and know you have done everything in your power to protect, something’s are just out of our hands…


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      Well-intentioned friends don’t know the pain they cause when they tell us to relax, don’t let our child’s issues keep us back. Few of them have ever held their kid through the night, making sure he kept breathing. They’ve never had to call the EMTs or rush him to the hospital. They’ve never had to visit him in a psych ward and hope it was the right thing to do. They watch us circle around our kids like pioneers in a wagon train with confusion, with disdain. How can we let our child’s “choices” dictate our lives? Let them go! They’re going to do what they’re going to do. They don’t know, and I swear on every star in the sky, I’d rather they continue to be completely baffled by us than understand.


  9. stregheria13

    Go and enjoy yourself. Bring a little something of Chris’s with you so he’ll be there with you and Frank. Snuggle down in the first class bed and let yourself soak in Paris and the French countryside. You both deserve it 💕


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      I like that idea, Deb. I’m going to bring something of him with me. I know he’ll be there anyway, because there is no way he’d sit for us going to France without him. 🙂


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