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Not to belabor the point or anything, Acclaimed Traveling Youth Circus, but if it's all the same to you, could you please stop coming to town on the day my father died?  It's getting kind of old.

If I hadn't already written it, I'd write that post today.  The feelings are the same, though thankfully somewhat muted.  I think it's getting better.

Last year I couldn't watch the performers without wanting to wave my arms in panic and shout, "Watch out, Hyperflexible Tween!  Duuuuck!  Here comes Deeeaaaaaaath!"  Not in the literal sense; they seemed adequately belayed.  But in the metaphorical: they are all so young, crackling with vitality.  They're unfazed by their mistakes; they pick up that juggling club or that unicycle or that Spangled Throwing Moppet and go on with the act.  They've mastered that performer's bravado, and, God, I just eat it up.  Watching their faces, smiling and intent, it's possible to imagine that sadness hasn't touched them yet.  And it will if it hasn't already, of course, so last year I sat there tense, worried on their behalf.  This year that feeling was fleeting.  I recognized several troupers this time, kids I've seen each summer for years now.  They're all getting better and growing up.  They're all going to be okay.

Mostly, I am, too.  This year I cried a few times, discrete, instead of for three hours straight. This year my kids were just who they are instead of bittersweet reminders.  This year I forgot the tickets we'd held the year my dad died en route, and how I'd frantically tried to give them away as he lay in the hospital dying.  I only just remembered them now.

I wonder if the day will come when I watch the circus with simple careless enjoyment.  I don't know if I'm not far out enough yet, or if I've somehow escaped the horrible moment where you think of a loved one and realize the memory is fading, where you helplessly notice he's slipping farther away.  That fresh burst of grief hasn't come.  I have to assume it will.  It wouldn't surprise me one bit if it comes while I sit there in the stands.