Growing up an only child, my family was like a three-legged stool. For the most part, we balanced. My parents did their thing (golf, Friday nights out), Dad and I were buddies (spending a lot of time together since we were both on a school schedule), and Mom and I had our connections (primarily books and crafts).
When my mom died, Dad and I had to figure out how to get this new two-legged stool to work. And we did. We each found external things to help prop us up. Dad became more involved in the after school activities at his school, and I met my husband and got married. Dad and I found a comfortable way to lean on each other while primarily engaging in our new lives.
That worked and evolved over 20 years. He dated, he retired, he joined a book group, he met weekly with other retirees. I found work I enjoyed, spent time with my husband, obsessively pursued many hobbies and had a baby. Our lives looked different, but our "lean" was what it always had been - strong, encouraging, dependable, available.
Then Dad got sick and things started to change. We talked regularly, but mostly about his illness and treatment. Sometimes a month went by before I told him the latest news. I guess I tried to let him lean a little more and tried to hold up my end on my own. Less than a year later, he was gone.
Now, I feel lopsided. Twenty years is a long time to lean in one particular direction. I feel as though I have been holding up a wall, and that wall is gone. I am precariously perched. The only things keeping me from toppling over are the external connections I've built that helped me keep up my end of the two-legged stool.
That "lean" defined so much of who I am, I feel quite lost sometimes without it. Most days I can keep my balance, but other times I feel like I am about to topple over. I'm having to learn to lean in a whole new way, and some days I am more successful than others.