He’s Even Gone From My Pantry

He’s not entirely gone, but he’s going.

Before being widowed, I had some idea of what it would be like if it were to happen.  Am I the only one who indulges in these morbid fantasies?  I don’t think I am, because it happens so often in movies.  Other people must sometimes also think, “what if the unthinkable happens?  What would that be like?”

You know that half of the bed will be empty.

You know his spot on the sofa will be taken over.

You know his chair at the dinner table will go unused.

You know your life will change so dramatically that you won’t be able to understand it.

You don’t know all of the tiny things that will change, reflecting his absence in tiny ways.

I have just today realized that you can see his absence by viewing the contents of our pantry.  Of my pantry.

(This isn’t a euphemism.)

Our pantry used to be full of canned chili.  He loved chili in all of its forms, but I rarely made it so our pantry was stocked with chunky chili, smooth chili, with and without beans, hot and mild.

We also owned an inordinate amount of hot sauce.  And different types of French and Russian salad dressings.  And chips.  There were always corn chips in our pantry.  And candy.  He had a sweet tooth.  We had white bread.

I made Frito Chili Pie last night, with the last of our canned chili.  I donated much of it to a food drive.  I was the only person who ate it.  The kids don’t like chili.  They don’t like chili dogs, or chili on spaghetti.  They just don’t like it.  So all those cans of chili are gone.  Likewise the cans upon cans of different types of beans — maple beans, ranch style beans, baked beans.

I tossed most of the hot sauces.  I’ve gotten old and prone to heartburn.

I made a conscious decision to only buy chips sometimes, to go with a specific meal or event.  I can’t say no to chips, so it’s best they not do the asking.

I did not make a conscious decision to stop buying sweets.  I just never think about it.  The kids have had to ask me to buy candy, or the makings of root beer floats.  Poor guys.

I switched us all to entirely whole wheat bread, and nobody complained.

All those maple beans have been replaced with plain pinto beans, vegetarian refried beans, and garbanzo beans.

The pantry is filling up with whole grains.  Trey and I always did high protein diets together.  He got the best results from them.  Now, however, I am returning to a more plant based diet, and the jars of various grains now replenished in the pantry reflect that.

The French and Russian dressings are gone.  Blech.

There is no Spam.  There is tuna.  There is no ramen.  There is penne.

The fridge is the same.  American cheese has been replaced with provolone.  Steak has been replaced with hamburger.  Heinz ketchup has been replaced with Hunts.  Spicy barbecue sauce has been replaced with the honey variety.

It sounds like small changes, but every time I open the pantry I see his absence.  It does not distress me much, but it serves as a reminder with every meal that the whole of our life is changed.

Sick Kids and the Widow

This is more of a general parenting rant than a widow rant.  It is true, however, that I am not just a widow.  It is also true that this situation is complicated by my new status as a single parent.

My kids are sick, and so am I.

First K got sick, over the weekend.  He was worst on Saturday and a bit better on Sunday.  I planned to send the kids to school Monday, but he had been up hacking and coughing most of the night.  Plus his brother seemed to be getting sick so I kept them both home for an extra day of rest.

By “rest,” I mean “almost twelve straight hours of Minecraft while I try to work and to recover the house from all the birthday mess.”

I told them they were definitely going to school today.

Then at midnight last night, H woke up crying and screaming because his nose was so stuffy he couldn’t breathe and his throat hurt so bad when he coughed.  He came to my bed.

This morning I woke to the sound of him still snuffling uncomfortably, miserably fighting to stay asleep.  I was also snuffly and felt like my head could explode at any minute.  I knew K was well enough to go to school, but . . .

I didn’t want to pull H out of bed to get dressed and get in the car so we could take K to school.  This is where single parenting comes in.  When Trey was alive, one of us would have stayed home while the other dropped K off at school.  Now, I did think of calling my folks to come and stay with H while he slept.

But here’s the thing about help from others:  you need so much of it, when you’re widowed, when you’re unexpectedly single.  Every day it seems I’m asking my parents for help.  So when you can get by without asking for yet another thing, you try.

Plus I did not particularly feel like getting up either.

I had this wild parent fantasy that if I called both kids out sick that we would snuggle up in the bed together, sleep until ten, then move to the sofa downstairs with a box of kleenex, some blankets and Netflix.  So I called both boys out sick.

What was I thinking?!?!?  Am I a total noob at this parenting thing?

H was already up and out of bed by the time I finished calling the school.  He is definitely sick and I’m glad I kept him home, but if he was going to get out of bed anyway I would have brought K to school.  I thought about hauling them all out to the car right then, but by that point it was getting pretty late and would have been a rush.

So we stayed home.  One perfectly healthy kid and his sick and cranky (but not sleepy) brother.  Plus their sick mom.

I have elected to not keep alcohol in the house since Trey died, mainly because I find it difficult to resist a nightcap, and then I get all sad about drinking alone.  But after the kids’ party I got a bottle of bourbon.  So it’s sitting on the shelf, and I keep thinking of it longingly.  My head is pounding.  My eyeballs feel like there is sand in them.  My nose and eyes are leaking nonstop.  I want to wrap up in a blanket, sip some warm bourbon, and binge watch Supernatural.  Or at least to wrap up in a blanket with my kids, sip some orange juice and binge watch something of their choosing.

Instead I’m making lunch, fetching juice, refereeing arguments, putting away groceries, feeding the dog, doing laundry, and trying to put in a solid half day of work.

It’s such a cliche.  When everyone is sick, mom takes care of them.  When mom is sick, she still takes care of everyone else.  Granted, I’m doing it in a very minimal fashion.  So far today the kids have watched Captain Underpants and about a hundred episodes of the Thundermans, and have been on their tablets for about an hour now with half an hour left to go.

I’d better get to work!

Birthday Party – I laughed, I cried. In front of the other moms.

My boys turned eight years old a couple of weeks ago.  This month has been a bit of a roller coaster, as I suppose you would expect.  Their first day of school also happened this month, and I haven’t yet had the stones to write about it.

Here it comes.  This post will most likely be too long to read, and will encompass the start of school as well as our Month Long Birthday EXTRAVAGANZA!  Are you in it with me?  Here we go.

At the end of school last year, I was so excited for summer to begin.  I thought that once I was freed from the daily grind of mornings and lunches and rides to and from school, I would be able to take control of my life and of my schedule.  I would be able to get more work done, take care of the house better, and of course spend more time with my kids.

I don’t have to tell you it does NOT work that way.  I must have been suffering from some sort of temporary insanity caused by wishful thinking.

It was a wonderful summer, full of late mornings watching Teen Titans Go in bed together, late nights playing XBox and two family trips.  It was much needed, but it was not particularly productive.  So as school approached, I was glad.  I was not glad in the traditional wine-drinking mom “yippee the kids will be out of my hair and occupied for part of the day” kind of way.  I was glad because once again, possibly delusional again, I believe this is when I will be able to take charge of our household schedule.

In the days leading up to the first day of school, I went on a special one-on-one outing with each of the kids.  I bought back to school clothes and shoes (I pre-ordered the supplies from the PTA last year.)  I bought Starbucks cards for the kids’ teachers, and wrote each one an introductory email explaining that my boys have therapy once a week and if the time does not work for their class schedule to let me know, and also to let me know if they notice any behavior in class that I should have the therapists address.  The teachers, of course, know that my husband died last February.  I set up schedules for homework and nighttime and morning routines.  I set up a new chore chart and star chart.  I stocked the fridge with school lunch items, bought new backpacks and lunches, and ordered new coats and jackets.  I did this all on my own.

Honestly, it’s not that different.  Trey  was not much of a ‘planner’ or ‘preparer’ (except for his disaster prepping – eyeroll.)  I would have taken care of most of this on my own even if he were still alive.  I felt good.  I felt optimistic for the school year and confident of my ability to make this work.  I took the kids to school the first day, using our schedule and star chart.  We did not have to rush or scramble, and we were not up against the tardy bell.  After school I picked them up.  They hung up their backpacks and helped unload the dishwasher to earn tablet time.  I started cooking dinner.

Then I was punched in the stomach.

This routine we are setting up — it doesn’t include Trey.  He’s not just gone now or for this first day of school.  He is going to be gone for all of the days of school.  There is no bargaining for who will be making dinner.  There is no talking each other into or out of ordering a pizza.  This is it.  This is my routine every night.  Helping the kids with homework, making dinner, washing dishes.  Alone.  This is it.

So then I’m crying by the sink again, which for a short while was no longer my favorite hobby.

Three days after the first day of school came the boys’ birthday.  For the first year ever, I managed to talk them into having their party a couple of weeks later.  I couldn’t figure how to get invitations out in time to have a party right after the start of school, and I didn’t think anyone would be up for attending a party at that time.  But I did want to mark their actual birthday.  At first we were going to meet the grandparents for some free Denny’s birthday goodness.  But naturally I am overcompensating for their dad being gone so instead we went on a Pirate Cruise.

Because what says, “I’m sorry we are having your birthday without your father being in the world” like a pirate cruise?

We went with my parents.  It was a lot of fun and I only cried a bit later that night.

The next weekend, we went to visit my uncle who lives about three hours away.  His town has a fair and rodeo, and we go every year to see him and attend the fair.  This year was weird without Trey.  It was weird largely because it was kind of nice.  Bless his heart, he really tried to be a good sport about it, and he never said this out loud, but I have been going to fairs with him for years and the truth is: he hates fairs.  Hated fairs, I mean.  In past years, the kids would go up with my folks, and then Trey and I would join the next day, close to the end of the day so we could spend an hour at the fair.  He hated the walking and the smells and how much everything costed.  I love the ridiculous food, the pig races, the world’s largest whatever.  So going to the fair without him was kind of nice in a way.  I went when my folks did, and spent the entire day with the kids getting their faces painted and spending too much money on bounce houses and unwinnable games.

And then K decided he wanted to go on a ride called the Storm Trooper.  I thought he would be too scared, and didn’t want to let him do it.  Something I always tell myself, however, is to not let fear keep you from doing things.  So I let him go.  I’m too fat to ride those rides so my mom rode with him.  He loved it.  I could see him scared at first, and then laughing and loving it the whole time.  I was so glad I let him go, and I was so horribly sad that Trey wasn’t there to see it.

I didn’t cry.

This weekend was their birthday party.  We did bubble soccer, something we did a couple of years ago and it was a big hit.  The kids wanted Minecraft themed cakes and decorations, and then had extremely specific requests for their cakes.

Now, I bake exactly once a year — on the birthday.  I still remember cakes that my mom made for me, so it is important to me that I make the cakes for my kids’ birthday.  I reserved the bubble soccer place a month ahead of time.  I started baking a week ahead of time.  I burned up the Pinterest boards making cakes and cupcakes and decorations.  This was going to be the best birthday ever.

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Today we arrived, and it went well at first.  But, see, K has been sick for a couple of days now.  He hasn’t had a fever, but he hasn’t felt well.  He’s had a runny nose and he fell asleep yesterday afternoon.  I thought about postponing, but for a multitude of reasons decided not to do that.  (I did warn the other parents, in case they wanted to stay away from the germs.)

So when he fell down early on and twisted his ankle, he was already feeling kind of cranky and this just ended it for him.  He tried to stay in the fun, but he was pretty much a little ball of screaming crying anger.  Normally when he gets like this, he just needs some time alone but I could not figure out how to give that to him in this case.  I took him to the room where the cakes were set up.  That’s when he unleashed on me:

“This is the worst birthday ever!”

“We’ve had seven birthdays and this is the only one that is terrible!”

“This is a waste of a whole birthday! I won’t have another for an entire year!”

I know he’s a kid and kids lash out, but I was already fragile and I just crumpled.  I kept my cool, told him I was going outside for a bit and asked if he needed me to get anything before I left.  He said he wanted to lay down in the car for a while, and I thought, well duh that’s a great idea.  I can’t believe that didn’t occur to me.

This is when my dad stepped in.  Seeing my barely controlled anguish, he offered to take K to his car to lay down and have some cooldown time.  I gratefully accepted his offer, and found a quiet corner of the building in which to have a complete breakdown.

I went outside and sobbed.  I wanted so much for this birthday to be amazing and wonderful and special, and somehow I had managed to ruin it for him.  He would always remember this first birthday as being terrible and I couldn’t do anything to fix it.  He was hurting and it made me hurt and I couldn’t handle it.  So I let myself cry for just a couple of minutes, then pulled myself together (I thought) and went back in.

One of the other moms — one who knows I’m recently widowed — was in the lobby on the phone.  She saw my face.

I guess I wasn’t as stealth as I thought I was.

She immediatly hung up, stood up, and hugged me.  “I can’t imagine how hard this is for you.”  I started crying again.  I couldn’t think of anything to say.  I just cried.

I pulled myself together again – or so I thought.

We went back inside, where my other boy was having a grand time.  One of the other moms there is also a widow — she’s just over two years out.  She saw me and immediately asked if I was okay.

I started to say yes, I’m fine.

We all do that.  We all say we are fine.

WE ARE NOT FINE.  WE ARE NOT OKAY.  NOTHING IS FINE.  “Fine” just means “I managed to generally function like a human being today, despite this pervasive wrongness that I carry.”

I didn’t say I was fine.  I looked at her, she had asked if I was okay, and I said, “No.”

She said, “Of course you’re not.”

More hugging.

More crying.

So now I’m just openly widow-crying in front of everyone.  All this work to make it seem like we are moving forward okay and that we are doing “as well as can be expected” is gone.  I’m a blubbering widow-y mess.

I did manage to pull myself together in time to call the kids to the party room for pizza and cake.  K came in, refreshed from his time alone, and was able to laugh and play and have fun for the rest of the party.  Everyone said it was a huge success, and I’m glad everyone had a good time.  I’m especially glad that K was able to reign it in and have fun for the second half.  I’m super proud of him.  That’s not easy to do.

I had fun, too.  I talked with the other moms about chore charts and allowances.  It was good.

Now I’m sitting at my computer bawling.  I had Amazon Now deliver a small bottle of bourbon and I’m quickly getting blotto and am about to watch Donnie Darko.

Thank you for listening.

Battle Bots of Love

The kids’ birthday is coming up so naturally I’m pushing forward as if everything is normal, you know, calling twelve different venues to find a place to have the party and Pinterest-ing like crazy for cake and decoration ideas.

Then I am punched in the stomach.

Last year we held the birthday at a robotics place called Robot Roundabout.  It was awesome.  They had a lot of different kinds of robots to play with, but the big attraction was the Battle Bot cage.

Inside the little arena are two bots.  Each bot has a spike on the front and balloon on the back.  I’m sure you can do the math on that one.  Well, the second Trey and I saw that, we were like, “You and me, bud!  As soon as these kids have all had a turn, you are going down!”

Sure enough once the kids had all had a turn and were happily eating pizza and cake, Trey and I raced to the Battle Arena.  The guy running the place was thrilled.  We battled and hollered and smack talked and the kids cheered and then my balloon got punctured.  But it was a slow leak!  The judge’s determination was that I was still in play until it fully deflated.  I chased Trey around and popped his balloon before mine ran out of air and I whooped and did a victory dance and it was so awesome.

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Trey and Korben Battle Bots for H&K’s Seventh Birthday at Robot Roundabout

Afterward the guy who runs the place said that he always asks the parents to have a go at the battle bots because it’s fun for the birthday kids to see his parents battle.  He said that he usually has to work to talk them into it, and we were the first couple he’d ever seen that ran over to it and wanted to play and had so much fun.

We were so confused.  How could anybody not want immediately to kick their significant other’s ass at battle bots?  We told him that if he would let us, we’d kick all those kids out of there and just play the two of us for the next hour.  Who wouldn’t want to play robots with their best friend?

Do you see why I’m bawling?

Not Just Grieving

I’m grieving, but that’s not all I am doing.

This is not the post about how I’m also holding together a life and kids and managing day-to-day existence.  I’m doing all of that, too, but that is not what I mean.

Specifically with regards to my husband’s death, I am doing more than grieving.  We all do, I assume.  All widows and widowers.

We all have to find our place in the world.

Trey and I started dating in High School.  We got married as I was graduating college.  We have always been together.  I have never been a single adult.  And I don’t mean ‘single’ in the sense of being unattached or available.  I have never been a single, as opposed to being half of a pair.

My relationship with my kids, and their relationship to each other, is different now.  We are trying to redefine how we work together as a family.  It is not easy.  It is not simple.  It is not that I am now “being both mother and father” the way people say.  As a single mom, I’m not the same mom I was, with added responsibilities.  It’s different.  It’s completely different and I’m still trying to figure it out.  I’m examining what is important to me as a parent, and what issues can be let go.  I’m making determinations on our new schedule and new disciplinary recourses.  (Just wait until your father gets home is no longer a valid response to their shenanigans.)

I am also redefining my relationship with myself.  This is even harder.  Who am I without him?  I saw a movie by myself.  I got a tattoo.

By the way, apparently all GenX widows get tattoos.  I know two other women who have recently lost significant others, and we all have tattoos now.  So there’s that.

I was the shy background player, the soccer mom wallflower.  Now I’m the woman with the fish tattoo driving the neon jeep.  I want to be more than I was.  I want to be active and fun.  I’m not sure what that looks like, though.

So if you see me on Facebook or in town, and it looks like I am unphased by my situation– if it looks like I’m going on outings and pretending that everything is okay — please understand there is more to it than that.  I’m trying to stretch my wings and find my place in the world.  There is less of me now that he is gone, but in a way there is more of me, too.  I am the sole driver in my life and I’m trying to draw up a map.

Six Month Whatever-Versary

Today is the six month anniversary of Trey’s death.  Except it’s not an anniversary, because Anni- means Year.  It drives me crazy when people talk about a one month or a two week anniversary.  Is there a word for a month-versary?  Honestly, I’m not in the mood to learn vocabulary today so I’m not going to look it up.

Six months ago today I left work, drove to my parents’ house to pick up the kids, arrived home and found my husband dead in the living room.

Six months ago today my life fractured.

I can still see the future we were going to have.  I can still see us attending our kids’ graduation.  I see us arguing over what Junior High they should attend.  I see us at the third grade neon glow party.  I see us watching the upcoming Justice League movie together.  I can see it clearly in my mind.

It doesn’t matter how hard I look, however, I cannot make it real.  That future is lost.

What did I do today?

Well, I went ahead and dropped the kids off with my folks like I usually do on Tuesdays.  A client wanted to talk to me, and I was anticipating needing the time to work.  I snuggled with them for too long and had to fight the urge to throw a conniption fit when they dawdled getting dressed.  I let K wear his clothes from yesterday.  I just couldn’t fight about it.

In other words, it was like every other Tuesday.

I dropped the kids off and rushed to my counseling appointment, for which I was 20 minutes late.

It was just a coincidence that I had an appointment today.  But it was a happy coincidence.  I only recently started seeing someone.  I believe this was our third appointment.  I still feel like I’m not sure how it helps to just talk to someone, but it does help so I’m doing it.  I enjoy our sessions.

I felt . . . normal.  I’ve felt normal for a while now.  I get sad and I get lonely.  I am sometimes shocked when the reality hits that this is permanent.  Overall, however, I go about my daily routine and function as a human.

I am not a fan of the phrase “the new normal,” but I suppose it applies.

Today was no different.  I felt normal, but that in itself felt odd.

I arrived home after my appointment to find a card in my mailbox.  A real card, with a handwritten note.  My best friend from high school, my maid of honor, knew this was coming up and she sent me a beautiful and supportive card.  It was exactly what I needed, at exactly the right time.  I sat on my kitchen floor and wept.

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I don’t remember when I last cried about Trey.  It feels like forever ago, but so does his death.  It feels like forever ago and it also feels like it happened last week.  Grief time is weird.  If I had to guess, I’d say it’s been two or three weeks since I really cried.  I needed it.

Then I realized I could not find my wallet and the next couple of hours were consumed with finding it.  And with cleaning that gross sticky spot that I had not known was under my sofa until I accidentally stuck my hair in it while looking for my wallet.

I found my wallet and headed to the grocery store to buy supplies for our celebration of Trey’s life.

Kit Kats, M&Ms, Tootsie Rolls, Tootsie Pops, Hershey’s Kisses.

Yesterday I told the kids that today would be six months.  K, who speaks like a small adult, said, “It doesn’t feel like that long.  It feels almost like it was yesterday.”

I asked what they wanted to do to mark the day.  We discussed going to the beach where we scattered his ashes, but that is a full day trip and none of us were up for it.  None of us felt like making a big deal out of it.  It’s already a big deal without us adding to the drama.

The kids’ idea?  Buy a “mother lode” of candy.

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A Mother Lode of Candy

Trey had quite the sweet tooth.  I have always claimed to not have that much of a sweet tooth, but the truth is I drink my sweet in the form of sodas and in the form of coffee drinks that are essentially liquid cake.  In any case, a couple of months ago it was brought to my attention that with Trey gone our house is devoid of candy.  I did not intentionally cut candy out of our home.  When I make a grocery list, I just don’t think about adding candy to it.  Trey always did, though.  “Pick up some Kit-Kats” he would say.  Or, if he went to the store unsupervised, he’d come home with half a cart full of candy.  So it makes sense to commemorate him with candy — although I suspect it was a bit of a ploy on the part of my kiddos.

No matter the true motivation, I obliged.  Today I hit the store and filled a basket with candy.  I also bought some flowers for the dining table, some tater tots for tomorrow’s casserole, and marshmallows because I have a huge box of rice krispies burning a hole in my pocket.

And I wept.

I cried in the car the whole way there.

Car crying was my favorite form of self expression in the first couple of months.  I haven’t done that in a while.  I sobbed the whole way to the store, sniffled my way through the aisles and hitched my breath during checkout.  I’m sure I looked like some sort of sad housewife cliche.  Here I am, an overweight white woman in sweat shorts and T-shirt, sticky stuff in my hair, purchasing candy and tater tots and flowers and Moscato.  (I also bought a bottle of Moscato, of which I am currently partaking, as my own private six month tribute.)

I came home and proceeded to set up my new phone.

My phone broke a while back and my new one came in today.  That feels particularly harsh of the universe.  Trey worked in cellular/telecom since 2001.  He handled all of this.  I have never ever had to set up my own phone.  It was more complicated than I expected.  I had nobody to ask and nobody to help.  Just me and a phone that somehow uses a different charger than every other device in my home and nobody to complain to about that.  It was unreasonably heart breaking to handle this myself, but I did it.  I got my new phone set up.

Then it was time to pick up the kids, and get back to the regular routine.  I cooked dinner while they played tablets.  They ate candy.  We had dinner, watched 2 cartoons, brushed teeth, read a story and they went to bed.  Now here I am, spilling my guts to the ether.

That is what happens in my life when I reach the six month anniversary of the day I stopped being a wife and became a widow.

Literally Dreaming of His Return

This is the second time I’ve dreamed that Trey returned.

This is not a dream where he simply still lives.  I have those every so often, but they are comforting rather than unsettling.

In this dream, the full reality of my life exists.  He died, we had a funeral, I have been sorting through our stuff and painting our house in some sort of weird ‘nesting’ reaction to grief.

And then he walks in the door.  As if nothing happened.

The last time I dreamed this, it was a month or so after his death.  At that time, I had gotten rid of his underwear and some of his work clothes and papers.  I dreamed he came down the stairs and I was crying with relief, “I was sure you were dead!  What was all of that?”  To which he responded, “Where are my clean underwear?”

This sounds hilarious, but in the dream it was distressing because I was afraid that he would feel like I was tossing out his stuff too soon after his death.  Like, “Good Riddance to You!  I’m moving on!”  He was confused about why I would have thought he was dead, and I explained about finding him in the living room and the whole experience.

This time, the dream crushed me.  In the dream, just like in real life, it was coming up on six months and he waltzes in the door like it is all normal.  I freak smooth out.  I’m crying and screaming, and he is calm and amused.  I start yelling, “This isn’t okay!  You died!  I held your cold hand!  We all did CPR!  The medical examiner came!  You can NOT come back and act like this is normal!”

I asked him where he had been, and how he could explain all of this.  He told me just to trust him, that he was back, and that I didn’t need to know where he’d been.  He looks around and sees the closet and the cabinets, and remarks on how they’d been cleaned out.  He is again confused that so much of his stuff is missing.  By now I have very few of his clothes left, and sold his speakers.  I explain that he was dead.  We’d scattered his ashes.

In the dream, I was afraid he would find out I’d gotten rid of a box full of his hats. He had an issue with hats.  I believe this is a common trait among men.  I must have three boxes full of his hats.

In the dream I was afraid and confused and angry.  I was so angry at him for acting like everything was normal when I had been through so much.Picture 055

The Little Things That Kill

You think you will be destroyed by the enormity of the situation.
By the knowledge that he will never see his kids graduate or marry.
That he will never be a grandfather.
That you will not grow old together.

This, however, you can survive.

It is the little things that crush you.
The little things rob you of your breath and sting your eyes.

Requesting a table for three.

Sorting laundry without his clothes.

The stockpile of hot sauce that only he liked.

Feeding his cat.

The unused passenger seat in the car.

Getting rid of things we kept out of habit.

Keeping that hideous Scarface poster he loved.

Moving the lamp to my side of the bed.

Helping the kids with their math.

Baking cookies using his recipe.

The empty half of the dining table.

Taking the kids on their first plane ride with my dad instead of with theirs.

Leaving his token in the box when we play board games.

Putting away the Cards Against Humanity we used to play in the evenings.

Watching our favorite shows in silence, alone.

Coming home from the store.

Fourth of July fireworks.

Watching previews for movies we were going to see together, movies that still have not come out because it was so recently that we were sitting together planning our summer.
It’s the daily details that get you, not the grand plans.
We miss you.

The Monkey’s Paw

Well, I have pretty much everything I’ve been wanting for the past couple of years, and all I had to do was lose my husband.

I swear I didn’t wish on a monkey’s paw to be able to be a stay at home mom again.  I didn’t encounter any shady genie types and request to be able to work from home.  I never bargained with a leprechaun to allow me to quit the job I hated and end the commute I hated even more.

Here I am.

We moved here two years ago, when the kids were five and starting kindergarten.  I thought I was supposed to go back to the typical work force once the kids were in school so I got a job and we moved.  I spent the next two years filled with regret, often crying and battling depression.  I loved being a stay at home mom, and could never adjust to working full time with all that entails.  Sometimes he would comfort me, reminding me of all the reasons we moved to a place where we could no longer be a single income household.  Other times, he was exasperated with me, pointing out that I was crying because I had to have a job like most people do.

I wanted to be more involved with my kids’ lives.

But not like this.

Because of a combination of life insurance, etc. and the lessening of household expenses with one less person, I was able to quit my job.  I re-opened my home business and am working for myself.  I drive my kids to school every day.  I help them with their homework.  We eat supper together.  I volunteer at their school and attend daytime events with them.  I bring them to playdates at the park.

All of these were things I missed, about which I regularly cried and moped.

Now I have this all back, but I have nobody to share it with.

I am so lonely.

He is gone.

Most days, it’s strange — it feels normal.  Even though every detail of my life has changed, something about the rhythm is the same.  Wake, pack backpacks, work, get kids, dinner, dishes.  I am in a routine and it feels simply like he is not here.

For much of our marriage, we worked dissimilar schedules.  He worked evenings and weekends, while I worked a standard 9-5.  It has only been the past couple of years that we have had the same hours off together.  It therefore does not always feel odd to not have him around.

Then the anvil drops on my head.  He is not coming back.  I’m not going to tell him about the awesome thing his son said to the neighbor.  He is not going to scold me for dyeing shirts in the kitchen sink.  He will not listen to the new audiobook released by our favorite author, nor will he see any of the movies currently in theaters.

I will never hear his laugh.

I will never drink a beer with him on a hot afternoon.

I will never tell him again that our dog stands up just like Rory Calhoun.

But everything else in my life is falling into place, and the guilt is extreme.  Like somehow that horrible thing happened so these good things could happen.  It’s not a fiar trade though.  It’s not and I can’t handle this.  I can’t handle going to help at the kids’ school knowing that I can only do it because he is dead.  I can’t deal with parking my car in the garage because now there is room for it.  I can’t face my clients knowing that I would still be in my toxic job if he were still alive.

I can’t enjoy these things.  I won’t enjoy them.  Maybe if I reject all of this, somehow the universe will realize its error and reverse this.

I know that doesn’t make sense.  I know it in my head, but my heart can’t bear the weight of happiness or even of contentedness.

Cherish These Times cannot always be the answer (alt title: why some other mom bloggers can kiss my butt)

This is specifically about kids sleeping in your bed, but I’m sure it can be applied to other situations.

“Just cherish this time. It won’t last forever.”  This is RARELY, if ever, a workable solution.   At best, it is a mantra to be used as a coping mechanism.  Too often it is an admonishment, verging on shaming.  Whenever a parent has difficulty with his/her children, at the edge of frustration and at wit’s end, and reaches out to the fellow parenting community, the response that comes back is to stop complaining and be grateful.

Sheesh.

Here is some background about our sleeping situation.  When my boys were babies, it was of utmost importance to me that they learn to fall asleep in their own beds.  I knew many people who wound up in an unintentional family bed situation, which is stressful for the parents as well as for the kids who don’t have the skills to fall asleep on their own.  To this end, I spent many nights on the floor of the kids’ room.  We wound up putting a small sofa in that room so I could be near the kids to comfort them while allowing them to remain in their beds.  I fought that battle every night, all while people told me that I should let the kids sleep in my bed and cherish that time.  There was nothing wrong with me.  I was not a cold hearted person who did not want to snuggle.  I believed (and still do) that it was the best for them to develop that skill.  All their lives, they could come to our bed in the night if they woke, but the initial go-to-sleep had to be in their own beds.

Then it all changed.  Enter widowhood, single mother-hood, and parenting two kids who have experienced a trauma.

They now sleep in my bed every night.  I resisted at first, encouraging them to fall asleep in their own beds, even promising to wake them and bring them to my bed later in the night.  At this point, however, I have given in.  They go straight to my bed.  Both of them.  Every.  Single. Night.

I cannot get a decent night’s sleep.  I wake twisted and sweaty, with an elbow in my face, a knee in my gut, a dog on my pillow and cats chasing my feet.  No matter how many blankets I put on my bed, I still must battle throughout the night for the right to cover my toes.  I have to sleep in the middle of the bed to prevent a war between the littles.  This means that anything requiring access to the side table, such as turning the lamp off, checking the alarm and/or clock, etc. requires acrobatics while I hover over a sleeping child, both tangled in the blankets, to reach my glass of water without waking anyone.

Nighttime is already rough for the widow.  I can no longer go to bed nestled in the crook of Trey’s arm.  I can’t put my arm around his chest, listen to him breathe, let the day’s stresses release in the safety of his touch.  I also do not have the consolation prize of getting an entire bed to myself.  I don’t get to cozy into bed, burrito myself up in the blankets and read until I fall asleep.  Instead, I get extended Mommy duties.  Mommy duties that last all night and into the morning to start the next day again.

I have accepted all of this.  I know the kids need me.  I’m the grown up.  I will not stamp my feet and insist on keeping my own bed sacred.

Sharing my bed is no longer enough, however.  Now after bed time the kids come downstairs repeatedly, taking turns to ask when I am coming to bed.

They do not just want to be in my bed.  They want me to come to bed when they do.

I can’t.  I just can’t.  I know this could help them sleep and it would help them feel safe and secure, but I just can’t go to bed when they do.  I have things I need to do in the evenings.  I review my daily to-do list and mentally split it into tasks that need to be done after the kids go to bed.  I absolutely need that time in the evenings.  I sought answers in the interwebs, and wound up on several mom-blogs.  What advice did I get?

“Cherish this time!  It’s so valuable!  Your children are your most important priority, so make that time for them! This is your chance for dedicated one-on-one time with your child!”

Suck it.  That doesn’t help.  I actually need time in the evenings.  I actually have things I need to do.  My kids are my priority, but that doesn’t mean nothing else exists.

One of the blogs was promising.  She began the article by talking about one of her kid’s repeated requests for her to stay with him at night.  She listed her reasons for not joining their children at bedtime as being things like needing to tend the other kids, needing time to eat dinner with her husband, needing to finish up some work before the next day.  These all are legitimate concerns.  Finally a mom who understands and  hopefully has a solution that helps her kids but also allows her the time she needs.  Instead, her article then went on to outline her epiphany that this is the best time in our lives and that when your child asks you to come to bed with him, you should make the time to prioritize that over your other tasks.

Seriously?  Is she suggesting that one should not have dinner with their spouse, tend to the siblings, or complete work that needs to be done by the next day? Keep in mind that the reason the work is unfinished is probably in part due to putting it off in favor of family time earlier in the day.  Also keep in mind that I wish I had spent more time making my husband I priority instead of always pushing him to second fiddle. None of these things are important?

It sounds so simple — cherish this time together and remember it won’t last forever.  Cherish your time now, while you can.
Cherish the now.  Hmmm….  Let’s have a quick peek at what my ‘now’ looks like.
Now, I am struggling to be a single mom after the death of my husband three months ago.  Our whole dynamic is different, and I’m setting the structure under which our abbreviated family will work in the future.
Now, I have twin seven year old boys. If it is after bed time and I am speaking with one boy, the other soon wails, “Why does HE get to stay up and talk to you while I have to be in BED?” I therefore do not get this prized one-on-one time that I am supposed to be appreciating.
Now, I remember all those nights I slept on their bedroom floor, because I felt like it is important for a child to be able to fall asleep in his own bed.  I feel like I am losing everything I fought for in those early years.

Now, I cannot read in bed to fall asleep because it disturbs the sleep of my two little men.

Now, right now, at eleven at night, my to-do list includes making lunches for tomorrow, sorting socks, cleaning the toilets, registering my business with the SBA, researching code requirements for three work projects, and writing letters to my husband’s doctors asking for forgiveness on his final bills.  Yes, I can wait until tomorrow to do all of these things, but tomorrow has its own to-do list.  Plus work.  Eventually something has to give.  I have to be able to make time to take care of our lives.

Yes, it would be wonderful to cherish this evening routine with them.  To read a story and then all snuggle up and go to sleep together at 8:30.
But here’s the reality.  I do need to make lunches and snacks for the next day. I need to make sure there are library books in backpacks and food in the dog’s dish. I need to wash the dishes, fold socks and, yes, get caught up on work. It is easy to say that none of this is as important as time with your kids, but this has to be done sometime. If the kids’ request was 1-2 nights a week it would be an easier matter, but  is every single night. When am I supposed to take care of these things?  Part of making your kids a priority is making sure that their life is running smoothly.

Not to mention, God help me for saying this, but I do need time to myself. As moms, and especially as single moms, we are always told to take care of ourselves. I am always being told that I need to make time to ‘veg out’ or to go to a salon, or see a movie or even to drop the kids off with family for a weekend.  I don’t want to drop my kids off for a weekend.  I do want some time after they go to bed to unwind, to watch Supernatural, to paint my nails.  When I protest that I don’t have that small getaway, I am met with the argument that I should be grateful for my kids while they are young and take advantage of all the time I can so I don’t miss it.  What are you talking about?  When am I supposed to ‘take care of myself’ if I am on active Mom duty 24-7 including while I sleep?  My fellow moms are accusing me of not taking advantage of time I could spend with my kids?  Really?

It hurts. It really hurts to get this from the other moms.  There is nothing wrong with me. I believe that. I do cherish my time together with my kids. I quit my job and found a more flexible working situation so I could spend more time with them. Who are you to suggest that I am not cherishing our time?  That I am not taking full advantage?  I take them everywhere and love every minute of it.  I love them, and I love their snuggles and I love being with them.

But Jesus.  I need two hours to myself at night.  I need it 4-5 nights a week.  I’m just asking for a couple of hours.  I promise I won’t take it for granted.  I’ll pick up the floors and run the dishwasher.  I will get tomorrow’s backpacks ready and tomorrow’s work staged.  I will, sometimes, watch something that the kids can’t watch or may do a ‘spa evening’ with face mask and nail polish.

Or maybe I’ll spend the entire time crying, remembering my husband as I curl up in his spot on the sofa.

Or maybe I will stare at the wall and be empty for a while.

These are things I need to do.  I need them for my sanity and to keep our lives from falling apart.  I need the ‘after bedtime’ time.  The suggestion to ignore everything else, the implication that I somehow do not care enough or am not ‘cherishing’ enough if I need this time to myself is belittling and damaging.

2017-05-30 00.55.37Let me take a moment to apologize to the mom blogger on whose post I wrote a lengthy and not-entirely-positive comment.  I will not post a link to her site here, as I am not being super complimentary.  Overall, however, it is a good blog and if you are out there and are reading this, I hope that I was not disrespectful or harsh.  If you do want a nod to your site, let me know.  Also, that comment and this post have come about as a result of seeing several blogs with the same issue.  I finally decided to say something.

By the way — the solution I have found is to go to bed with my kids, and hope they fall asleep first so I can get up and finish my evening.