To the Moms who are doing double duty and to the Dads who are now both Mom and Dad to their children,
Know that I recognize you single and solo Moms and Dads. I am in awe of you. And, I stand with you, on Mother’s Day, and especially on all the ordinary days in between. This isn’t easy stuff, but you are here doing it. You persist when sometimes you want to give up – this is a big feat.
I am widowed, but I am not a solo parent. My situation is different. My boy’s Dad is alive; but, he does not live in my home because we are divorced. I have no idea how hard it is to grieve as a widow while also coping with the grief of my children because this is not my experience. My children still have their Dad. And, yes, I also have a former spouse who is available to help me do heavy lifting if it is necessary. I’m very grateful for what my boys and I still have. I know we are lucky. This said, without Mike I do feel the pressure of running a household on my own. Where there was once a division of labour, now there is not. Sure, the kids can help out, but most decisions, chores and responsibilities fall under my charge every day.
Being a single parent is not how I imagined my life. I never thought I would get divorced and I certainly never imagined I’d be widowed at the tender age of 42. But, this is what happened. This is the life I have. I do the best I can and I think after all this time, I am finally starting to find my way in this alternate life.
I have been thinking about all the jobs the boys and I inherited when Mike died. Things like: buying a lawn mower, mowing the actual lawn, then killing the moss on the lawn, trimming the cedar hedges, climbing ladders to change pot lights (10 foot ceilings – you are super overrated), changing the plastic string thing on the weed eater (I dislike super strongly that these strings come in so many different colors and in a variety of thread thicknesses), recycling, plumbing, (by no choice of my own I am now savvy about toilet flappers), getting rid of a wasp nest (sounds scary, but it was kind of lack lustre really), fixing the dishwasher (common sense for the win – I didn’t even need to YouTube it) buying new tires (and promptly running over two nails, on two separate occasions – that was just lovely), killing big spiders (so gross. I recommend using the blade of an old hockey stick – hopefully you have one without a big curve) and then there’s the barbecuing. The boys and I have now learned how to bbq a perfectly good medium rare steak relying on what we could remember of Mike’s techniques. Phew. We are making headway in some areas.
When Mike was alive I was not responsible for ANY of these jobs. And, I will say it before I am accused of it – I was spoiled. And, Mike liked it that way. And, so did I. Learning all these new things has been fairly challenging, but also somewhat fun too. Well, not the spider killing… that was horrifying.
In spite of Mike’s sudden death, I manage a well run home – on the days that I’m not underwhelmed, or overwhelmed and frazzled. And, I have maintained a respectable career while continuing to raise my children with as much love as my broken heart can give them. So, yeah, by the standards of suburbia, I am holding my own. And, this is no small feat. The fact that I’m still standing assures me that, on some level, I am more than capable of handling the new tasks I’ve inherited with his death.
I very well might be losing focus here – another “perk” of widowhood. Anyhow, I think my point is that all these jobs did not normally fall under my charge. When he was alive, Mike generously did these things for us.
When he died, he was in the processing of teaching the boys how to do many of these tasks. Mike thought he had time. And, then time ran out. Death robbed us overnight. And, I find this ironic because Mike was a police officer. He was supposed to protect us from the injustices of life. But, sometimes things just aren’t fair. And, lousy things happen to good people; and, then, they are forced to somehow gather themselves and limp forward.
By no fault of their own, the boys weren’t finished learning. Mike’s life ended before he was done teaching them the basic skills and essential lessons of manhood. Yes, their Dad does a good job of teaching my boys the things they need to know; but, when Mike died they lost a bonus person in their lives. Mike always told my boys, “your Dad is number one”. He never tried to be their father. His intention was to lend a hand and help teach the boys some things. Mike wanted to show the boys how to: use a chainsaw, build a fence, go hunting, clean a gun, construct a shed, hitch up the trailer, back up the trailer into a camping spot and how to set up and take down the trailer from camp. He wanted to teach them to build a fire, use a pressure washer, make meatloaf and plant a garden. He had all sorts of things planned out for our little family. But, Mike ran out of time. He died before he could do most of these things with the boys.
About a year ago, my oldest son asked me how he was going to learn to hitch up a trailer now, and I couldn’t answer him. I just shook my head and shrugged. I am really not sure how he will learn this skill. A lot of opportunities died with Mike. It is sad. Mike did get to build my youngest son a makeshift fort out of bedsheets, hockey sticks and duct tape – that is a blog for another time.
Mike died, but I see his signature imprinted on us, in a variety of ways and I’m grateful for this. Mike lives on in the way my oldest son carefully gathers up an extension cord by carefully gathering the loose ends by wrapping them around his elbow and collecting them in his palm; and, when there is no more cord left, he connects the plug together just like he was taught – by a man who wasn’t his Dad. Daily, Mike lives on in us – in these small, significant ways. And, to me that’s a big deal.
So, now, here we are, just the three of us, left with a handful of half taught lessons and an assortment of roughshod skills. Whether we are prepared or not, we must do all these unfamiliar things – without Mike’s guidance and support. And, we are making due by relying on the memory of Mike’s teachings. And, when our memory of bygone lessons fail us – we improvise. And, luckily we can call on those who are still alive to help us.
Living without Mike is the hardest thing I have ever done, but I’m doing it. And, still, after 3.5 years, it remains beyond difficult for me to fill Mike’s shoes; but I have to try because we can’t eat chicken forever – summer days call for steaks on the barbecue.
With a hopeful heart,