Sunday, June 19, 2016

Being a Widow on Father's Day

This day never gets easier.

I scroll facebook and I see
that my children and I are not alone.
So many families missing dads on
Father's Day.

We are lucky.
Dave was here,
and fought to stay,
as long as he could.
He left a legacy that we will
always remember.
He was honest and kind and caring.
He was full of faith and joy and love.
His example leads us through every day
without him.
Missing him never goes away.

I want to give a "shout-out"
to all those moms who do double duty.
Who work hard to be the best mom that they can,
and try to fill the empty space left by a dad
who is no longer here.

For the last almost 11 years,
and often in the years before that
when Dave was so sick,
I tried to do what I could.
"There is no way to be a perfect mother, 
but a million ways to be a good one."

I worked two jobs.  Sometimes three.
A few times, even four.
To make sure my kids could stay in their childhood home,
to try to provide some safety, stability and security
in a world that was so topsy-turvy for them.

I learned to change the oil in my car.
I burned out a furnace, replaced it and learned to maintain it.
I put gas in my own car.
I bought groceries.
I drove a million miles.
I unclogged toilets and garbage disposals.
I installed light fixtures and fixed broken things.
I put in new floors and painted and took down a deck.
I negotiated with car salesmen.

I learned how to oil a mitt and break it in.
I learned how to put together football pads.
I learned which cleats to buy.  And to buy a cup, if you know what I mean.
I learned how to console a boy when his team lost the game.
I learned to keep my mouth shut when I disagreed with a coach.
I learned about football, basketball, baseball, volleyball and track.
I learned how to find fields and stadiums in strange towns.
I learned to use a chop saw and a drill and to make a mitered cut.

I sat on every set of bleachers in the PNW, cheering for two.
I took kids to practice.
I made lunches.  And dinners.  And got take-out way too often.
I helped with homework and projects.
I hosted team parties and after-prom ice cream socials.
I signed them up for team camps and ballet.
I drove them to the movies.
I taught them to drive.
I let their friends stay here whenever they needed to.
I cleaned the house and made them do their share.
I watched dance recitals and concerts.
I sat in emergency rooms, over and over.
I went to IEP meetings and parent-teacher conferences.
I went to plays and performances.
I changed bandages, took temperatures, gave medicine and cleaned up puke.
I watched MRIs, EEGs, IVs, EKGs and blood draws.
I set rules and checked up on them.
I explained the birds and the bees and blue balls and circumcision and STIs and menstruation.
I taught them about consent and rape and birth control.
I talked to them about how to love other people.
I was honest about the lure of drugs and alcohol.  And the cost.
I listened and listened.
We talked about friendship and relationships.
We talked about boundaries and self-care.
We talked about feelings and emotions and connection to others.
We talked about faith and God.
And the death penalty and taxes and working hard and praying
and broken hearts and death and abortion and abuse
and education and poverty and literature and meaning
and responsibility and honesty and making amends.
About racism and sexism and other -isms and how to examine your own biases.
We had every hard conversation you can imagine.

I also yelled.  And cried.
Sometimes even screamed.
I sometimes slept through dinner.
I sometimes forgot things.
Important things.
I was impatient.
I was absorbed in my own pain.
I was too intense.
I was focused on the wrong things.
I was full of fear and doubt.
I was a mess much of the time.

But through it all,
I respected them, believing that they would grow to respect themselves,
which makes respecting others possible.
We laughed and we cried.
We argued and we hugged.
I loved them every day.
And when they slept at night,
I went into their rooms to listen to them breathing,
safe and sound.

All without Dave.
I didn't think I could do it.
I was sure I couldn't.
But I knew I had to try.
I did my best every day.
And many days, it was far from adequate.
But my children are forgiving.
And they have memories of who their father was,
which guides them in the face of my failures.

I did what I could and
covered the rest in prayer.

A mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.
-- Agatha Christie

So, to all the moms out there,
going it alone,
whether because of
Just do your best.
It's enough.
It has to be.
It's all you can do.
Love your kids with all that you've got.
And let them know.
Together, you'll survive.
You'll make it.
It's not as good as it should have been,
but it's still good.  Damn good.