On New Year’s Eve, I thought about the many resolutions I’d made in the past either to do something extra or to give something up. I know, New Year’s Eve was almost four months ago, but time both slogs on and slips by, so here I am, still thinking about my New Year’s resolution.

In the past, I’ve made resolutions to do extra things like relearn Farsi, write a certain number of words every day, or give up something that would be hard to give up, like caffeine. I liked setting goals and doing hard things. Funny what I thought of as a hard thing just a short while ago.

The past year has been all about hard things, so making a resolution seemed out of the question. But in the midst of all the hard things, I kept feeling like I did need to make a specific resolution: I needed to resolve to do normal things.

Literally, my resolution was do normal things. Do things like go to book club, keep up with friends, respond to text messages, make dental appointments, and return dishes. I still have a pile of dishes in my mudroom that I need to return to friends who’ve brought us meals. I’ve returned a lot of things, but there are still things sitting in my mudroom. I got stuck.

I want to return these things and make dental appointments and see my friends. I want to do normal things. Feel normal things.

And here it is, almost April, and I’ve only gone to book club once.

So, obviously, I haven’t done a great job of keeping my resolution. If you’re still waiting for your serving bowl or your cookie sheets, I’m so sorry.

I finally made dental appointments, so this week, Madeline and I went to a new dentist for our cleanings. I was completely unprepared for how emotional I would feel about going to a new dentist. Seriously, I just thought we’d get our teeth cleaned and be on our way. I didn’t think for a second that I’d feel the way I did. I spent the entire appointment fighting back tears and hating every minute. We’d had the best dentist in the world for sixteen years. I’d spent countless hours in Dr. Gasper’s office. He took such good care of our family. But on this day, Madeline and I were in “stalls” next to each other in a strange place. (We felt like cattle being herded along.) No one knew our names. When the hygienist was finished with my cleaning, I heard her ask her coworker if the dad would be next. Her coworker said she didn’t know but thought so. She looked to the chair I was sitting in and asked, “Will Dad be next?” I couldn’t help it; a tear slipped down my cheek, and I just shook my head.

In addition to the huge, heavy, terrible loss, there are so many collateral losses, too. We loved our old dentist. We knew everyone in the office and the entire staff knew us all by name. Being there in the new dentist’s office was the exclamation point on the fact that there won’t be a normal anymore.

How could anything be normal? Ken’s gone. Without him, nothing is normal. Imagine waking up one morning to discover that north isn’t north anymore. You can’t make a compass point north if it’s not there.

I think I believed that if I did normal things, I’d feel normal again. But that’s not how it works.

So (four months after the fact) I’m going to reword my New Year’s resolution. Do things.

Just do things.

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