I’ve been asked a number of times – and this is the most typical question for me: “how do you do it?”
You have to bear in mind, too, that this question encompasses a lot of ground. It’s the catch-all for a lot of people. It’s an easy question to cover everything:
How do you raise 4 kids alone?
How do you do have the time to work and raise kids alone?
How do you adjust to not having your wife?
How do you raise kids without their Mom?
The answer’s almost the same for each of the questions
I don’t get a lot of sleep
It takes a lot of time and effort
You just do it . . .
Those answers, by the way, are interchangeable. How do you adjust to being alone? I don’t get a lot of sleep. With difficulty. It takes a lot of effort . . . and you just . . . do it.
How do you raise 4 kids alone, or without their Mom? With difficulty, it takes a lot of effort and I don’t get a lot of sleep. You just do it.
Feel free to play Mad Libs with the answers and the questions as you best see fit.
Understand, if you’d asked me that question on March 27th – the day after she died, I would have told you I couldn’t do it. Looking at the data from the last year I’ve read through some of my early posts and you can see where I struggled. I can see that so much of my life had her touch and influence on them still. Today, though, I realized that the things I predicted for this came true: each little memory or touch of her spirit that faded took small pieces of her away with them.
So does that depress me? Not really. I guess you have to look at it like a scar on the pieces of your spirit or your soul. I used the analogy, and I think it’s still apt, that she tore a piece of me away when she left. I think that’s true. What will never happen is letting the marks left by the wound go away. They won’t, but that’s okay. The wound will scar a lot, like the scars on my arms and legs from when I was burned as a kid. (Whole other story, but yes…I have scars on my arms and legs) Probably 90% of the time I never even notice them. When somebody asks about them now I can tell them what happened, but the pain was when I was a toddler. I have vague recollections of the pain as the burns healed but it’s not something I remember with regret or sorrow.
This is the same in an emotional sense. I found each memory, be it something we did together or something I brought to our marriage, brings a painful twinge like she’d stolen away with them like a thief. Songs I’d brought with me to our relationship, books I’d read, movies we’d watched . . . all of them hurt.
Today, though, I noticed something, though it was a small thing. Each night, as I drifted off to bed in the last year, I told her good night, like I did every night in our marriage. I realized last night I wasn’t doing it any more. It’s not a conscious thing, I didn’t make a decision one night to say “enough!” I just didn’t do it one night . . . and the next . . . and the next. I don’t know how long it’s been, I just know I haven’t done it. I tried tonight and it felt awkward and forced.
Does it bother me? A little. Does it hurt? Not any more. Sure…there are things that make that part of myself hurt all over again. I doubt there will ever be a time that it won’t, but . . . does it color every part of our lives like before? No. It doesn’t.
Part of it is just forward motion. She stopped making the journey nearly two years ago and we had to keep going. Also, and this may sound a bit harsh, but she hasn’t had to deal with the havoc her death caused. How do I do it without her? Because I have to do it without her. She doesn’t have to get the notes in the lunch box when her son loses his temper and gets angry. She doesn’t have to tell the counselor all the details of the last year that have sparked such anger in her son. She didn’t have to race her other son to get x-rays when he broke his wrist. She didn’t have to deal with her daughter neglecting her grades or her oldest daughter struggling socially at a new school. Those are all things I had to deal with on my own, without her, and no guidebook or presence to bounce ideas off. I did, though, and while I could have looked to the sky and screamed “what the hell do I do?!” asking her for help . . . it didn’t come.
So I took some of those things back. At a community fundraiser I sang the song we danced to at our wedding: Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight, even though I was loathe to do it. You can hear my voice crack a little in the recording toward the end, too. But I did it. I took the song back from her. She still gets to have it, but I can hear it again without wanting to tear my hair out. I watched Sleepless in Seattle – her favorite Rom-Com – with my daughter. Not because I was torturing myself, but because it’s now a new memory, not just the spark of an old one.
My life, my relationships, my friendships . . . they aren’t always influenced by her, or her death, or what we’ve been through. Sure, I know we struggle and I know we don’t always get it right. I know I can’t do it all or afford it all and I need help . . . a lot. That’s certainly a result of losing my wife. But I still get it done. Not always perfect, and it’s certainly not always pretty. But we’re moving forward. I have friends and work and people that I can talk to and interact with and while they knew Andrea intimately . . . I know them, too, and I don’t look at them as a tie to those days any more. They’re part of how I live today.
So how do I do it? I just do. And then I move on.