What Do You Say?

The Blind Leading The Blind by Manoucheri

There’s a line that I seem to be getting more and more lately . . . more a type of comment than a direct quote.  I may write about my wife and my kids and our harrowing adventures here on this blog every night, but I don’t walk around all day wearing my heart on my sleeve and asking people to look at the poor guy who lost his wife like he’s the latest panda imported from China.  In fact, there are a number of people inside the building where I work who have no idea what I’ve been through and I’m perfectly OK with that.

You have to understand, there’s an unintentional stigma that seems to attach itself to me that I just don’t get, but can empathize with.  When I first returned to work nobody knew what to say.  There’s nothing that comes close to expressing your concern or sorrow for someone like me.  You can’t ignore it, either, though.  So you end up either re-living the events that led up to where you are or you end up the leper an island unto himself.  “Don’t mind him, he’s just the guy who lost his wife!”

Now, though, it’s been nearly 11 months and I’m in a new position, new station, new part of my life.  I’m not over things, you never get over this.  In fact, people who think you can are obviously people who’ve never suffered a big loss.  I see it all the time: romantic comedies, television dramas, movies, all the people have the same pattern.  You lose the one you love, you dwell on it, you enter the “stages of grief” and then come out on the other side saying that “time heals all wounds” and you fall in love all over again like the person you lost is relegated to a box in your mind and you’ve found another person with the same magical, electric connection to your life that your spouse did.  Sorry, the wound doesn’t heal.  That’s the part people don’t seem to get.  I’m not saying I’m the same, depressed, crying, wreck of  a person I was 11 months ago.  That’s not true.  But the wound isn’t healing.  It’s still there.  The difference – and this isn’t semantics folks, it’s a big difference – is that you learn to live with it.  You see a person that resembles your wife and you forget that she’s gone and embarrassingly start looking in the dollar section when you realize you’re approaching a stranger who doesn’t know you from Adam because your body moves in spite of your mind.

There’s another phenomenon, though, that seems to pop up that I hadn’t thought  about.  People who see you raising your children, alone, and reacting to that.  Without knowing Andrea or who she was they know me or have met me and then hear that I’m raising four kids as a widower.  You can tell when the information hits them, you really can.  There’s a pause when they start to comprehend the number of children, the gears inside their skull starting to loosen and turn and then the look of cognition hits and you see one of two things: fear or concern.  (sometimes it’s substituted with being impressed, but that’s not often)

Often, it’s followed by “Oh, my God, this must just be so HARD!”  Another favorite, “oh, you poor thing!”  Better still, “I am so amazed, you’re caring for them all by yourself . . . ” usually followed by some sort of look or statement of amazement that I, a solitary, poor example of the male of the species have to re-wire my brain in order to be able to cook, clean, care and have any kind of empathy for small clone-like pieces of myself.

If I sound annoyed, I don’t mean to.  It’s just that I find it very humorous that there’s any amazement or fear at all.  I love my children.  I loved them before this all happened, I love them all the more after.  They are amazing human beings, full of the best pieces (and some of the worst) of their parents, grandparents, and some other relatives I obviously haven’t met because for the life of me I can’t figure out where the habits came from.

Understand, when the kids were born I wasn’t rolling over, nudging Andrea to get up and feed them, and rolling back to sleep.  When Abbi was born, I held her all the time.  I changed her first diaper.  I fed her every other feeding.  I took pictures, I played ball, I took care of her on Mondays alone and had “Abbi/Daddy Day.”  When Hannah was born she caught RSV and Andrea had a post-op infection that nearly killed her.  I woke up every 2 hours, gave her albuterol treatments, fed her, changed her, then put her to bed and helped Andrea get up, use the restroom, clean her stitches, get back to bed and then started the RSV treatments all over again.

The only episode I am ashamed of is when Andrea got pregnant with the twins.  We had gone through so many tests because we didn’t think it possible for her to get pregnant again.  Initially they thought she had a form of illness in her uterus that might lead to cancer if not treated.  I went through weeks of worrying that I was going to lose my wife only to be told “good news!  She’s just pregnant . . . oh, and it’s twins!”  I wasn’t happy, I was freaked out and instead of hiding that I told my wife, my best friend, how freaked out I was.  I never, ever, said anything about NOT keeping the babies, nor would I have.  I just had to come to terms with not only the fact that Andrea wasn’t sick, she was pregnant and we have to have two of them!  She hated me, and I don’t use that term loosely, truly hated me for awhile for my reaction.  I couldn’t help it, but I could have hid it, been more supportive.

But when the boys were born I wasn’t that way.  I changed diapers, helped start the routine, helped care for them, fed them, gave Andrea a break when she needed one from breast feeding.

So when people look at me in amazement like I’ve just reached Everest’s summit, I cannot understand their amazement.  Yes, for the love of God, I am raising four kids.  Yes, dammit, they’re doing OK and I haven’t killed them.  And yes, please, God, don’t look so surprised that I’m doing it.  I mean, what else was there to be done?  It’s not like I fell into a corner, lost it, put all four in a bag and dropped them into the river.  I loved them all, dearly.  Andrea melted with every single one of them whenever she looked at them.  I see her in them.  How could I ever do anything else?

But what do you say when they give you that amazement?  I have to admit . . . there’s a part of me that likes it.  I play into it.  After all, I know that it’s not easy, if it was, it wouldn’t be worth it.  But it’s not work to me.

But let’s just keep that our little secret!

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2 thoughts on “What Do You Say?”

  1. It is understandable that you feel like everyone’s reaction as not connecting to the reality of your experience, some things have changed dramatically and some things are funder-mentally the same, such as your love for your children and your need to care for them, although i am sure that these relationships have deepened due to your shared loss, and the shift to single parent hood, naturally changes the family dynamics. Like everything this can have positives to, well at least they have for me. I think you are right though the pain does not always heal, and sometimes it is a big burden to carry, other days the new life that you have created with the children could lighten the load as you re`create the story, add to it new dreams for the future, together. I don’t try to understand what it is that makes you sad, how can i ?, i do understand the comments about ‘how do you do it’ or ‘ your attractive, you will move on….will you have more children?’ these comments started very early on as my husband did not die, he chose to leave without notice five days after my daughter was born and without explanation overnight he was gone. Most often these comments are made to comfort the speaker. i was allowed to grieve , but not for him as that inspired anger in others…and i was angry also. Anyway my point is the children and i have a very different life now, five years on. My confidence and skill as a mother has improved tenfold, i care for myself on the bad days, i now know when they are and what to do, like on my daughters birthday i always cry allot, and on mine too, but that is it now, i don’t cry every night in the shower so the kids cant hear ….I will never be the same, nor will the children, but i am proud to say what we have now is o.k by me….most of the time, and it is o.k that it took a long while to get to here, that is normal. One thing that has stood out for me is that the feelings have their own process, its like layers of feelings, with a different tint each time. People naturally get over it all very fast, i never really talk about it now, although it still really hurts on some days. It is nice to hear you write, and if you don’t mind me saying what your feeling sounds very normal and understandable under the circumstances…i wish you well.

    1. What a heartfelt and insightful way to put things. You are right, of course, the words of many seeking to comfort are usually comforting themselves and not thinking of me or the kids with their comments. That gets very frustrating.

      But yes, I do like the life we have created now. I still wake each morning disappointed when I realize the space next to me on the bed is empty. I truly did have my best friend with me and that is just really hard to overcome when you spend years together to suddenly be very alone yet in a full house. My kids are amazing and insightful and brilliant. They don’t read this blog and they don’t see my troubled moments because I want them to at least believe I have a grasp on what I am doing.

      I cannot imagine being abandoned with no word or recourse but I can guess considering we feel a similar loss. I would be angry beyond telling though I can tell you seem to have a far more productive view of things which is truly quite amazing.

      Thank you for your kind words. I write because it lets me say the things I would to another adult when the evening comes and I an alone, but if I can get one or two of those same people who don’t realize they are hurting others to make themselves feel better so much the better.

      I hope you gain continued strength and insight as you continue forward. Thank you again for such an insightful set of comments.

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