Tag Archives: Mother’s Day

The Different Paces

Andrea and Abbi . . . during the Pharmacy School era

The Different Paces

I hadn’t expected the day to be quite so hard.

That’s a harsh, abrupt statement, but it’s true.  Mother’s Day, for us, isn’t normally quite so hard, at least I didn’t think so. Today, though, was a reminder just how wrong you can be.  You can think things are moving along at one pace and realize…you’re not the one setting the pace for everyone.  We all move at different speeds.

We all grieve and recover at different speeds, too.

Since Andrea, my wife, passed away four years ago I have visited her at the cemetery.  This isn’t for everyone, I know it, and I don’t pretend it should be. I know people in my own family and some in the kids’ extended family that refuse to ever go to the cemetery, it just has too many terrible memories for them.

But I go.

It’s been the habit over holidays, birthdays, and the most particular one, my anniversary…which is also the anniversary of her passing.  It’s not an easy day, even this far into the story.

Today was no different.  It’s Mother’s Day.  I can’t tell you what motivates me, maybe it’s just the love that will always be there, perhaps it’s routine or maybe it’s just respect.  Maybe it’s something driven into me from years of studying history and respect for those who came before us but I always bring her flowers.

My daughter asked me, “are you going to visit Mom today?”  I wasn’t going to lie.
“Yes,” I told her. “It would probably be a good idea.”

There was a protracted silence.

“Can I go with you if you do?”
Her brother chimed in immediately after, though a bit more quietly: “can I go too?”

The day had a lot ahead of it. We had trips to the hardware store and my son had some money burning a hold in his pocket so we were at a videogame store, too.  But we stopped and got flowers for Andrea.

The kids had never asked to go with me before and I wasn’t going to force them to go. I just didn’t think it was right. For them, in particular, their mom isn’t there in the ground. She is inside them. When they smile, when they sing – badly, in particular – when they dance in crazy fashion…their Mom is there. They said it would be okay so I assumed it would be okay.

Cemetery 2

The boys split up the red roses, their Mom’s favorite – or maybe just the ones I always gave her, not sure which.  My daughter put the mix in there, with some sterling silver ones…the same flower I wore during our wedding.  I snapped a couple photos thinking I’d post here because they were so brave and so amazing to want to do this.

cemetery 1

But just seconds after I snapped this I noticed it. You might, too, the look on the middle boy’s face.

This is the point right before the dam broke.

I go here, I contend with the loss and I foist the routine each day and I’ve come to terms with this for the most part.  I don’t have the moments where the loss still overwhelms me to that point.  Sure, there are moments.  When a woman at work leaves a trail of perfume that is the same scent Andrea wore, I’m thrown for a loop.  When something comes from left field, like a line from a movie or a food or a picture you never remembered…that hits you.

But the kids were not here.

My son couldn’t take it any more.  It is proof, yet again, that I may be observant but not observant enough.  I saw the glass form on the bottom of his eyelid and then the gates burst forth. His sister grabbed him, more, I think, because she wanted to cry, too, and she didn’t want it to seem like she was.  Comforting her brother was a good excuse.

I kissed the top of his head, commenting that I got more of a mouthful of his sister’s hair than his scalp and he laughed.

This is still fresh for them.  For weeks society has told them to love and cherish and remember to tell their Mom that they love her on Mother’s Day.  I think that was part of wanting to come to the cemetery…it just was hollow to know that they could say it…and while all their classmates and friends got tears of love and joy and soft hugs…they felt nothing but the breeze on their cheek up on the hill, underneath a crepe Myrtle tree.

I was reminded that while I dealt with many of these issues, mine are different issues. I don’t have a wife, sure…they don’t have a Mom.

We left…I took them home, we ate lunch…and I did the only thing that works: the routine. Stability. We ate, cleaned, folded laundry, and then went to the park after dinner.  We tackled each other, played football, and then I had them up and in bed.

I read a chapter from their current book and hugged them a little tighter tonight.

We don’t ignore the day. They called their grandma and their aunt and celebrated like everyone else. I don’t regret going up to her grave, either.

But I regret that I hadn’t noticed they need more time, if they are ever ready to come up there.  Days like this are when they miss her the most…it’s my job to know that. I didn’t handle that job so well today.

But tomorrow…tomorrow we go at it again.

Another Park, Another Sunday

At the park with the kids
At the park with the kids

I have the hardest time with this particular day.  For the most part, I like to treat Mother’s Day like it’s Sunday.  That’s it.  Sunday.  I know that seems silly, maybe a bit naive.  Reality is, though, my main goal is to try and head off as many reminders that they’re missing their mother as I can.  It may have been two years already but that doesn’t change that my kids all have been dealing with losing their mother in far different ways.

Some handle it better than others, too.

But that’s not the way the world is set up.  It’s funny how that is, too.  The boys’ class, in particular, has been making Mother’s Day presents for awhile.  I don’t say this claiming the class should avoid it because my two boys don’t have a Mom . . . but my sons, being only 10, did have to ask the teacher what they were supposed to do . . . “we don’t have a Mom any more,” they told them.  In the end they decided to split their duties and one made a book for his Aunt, Andrea’s sister, and the other for Andrea’s Mom.

Hannah, my middle child, decided she was going to take a totally different tactic, which I loved: she mad her Dad a Mother’s Day card.

“This is totally weird, I know, but HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, DAD!” it said.

It was so quirky, funny, and just so . . . us . . . that I had to smile.
“I love it, Hannah,” I told her.  Her older sister even laughed out loud and told her it was perfect.

It’s not that I want to say that I deserve anything on Mother’s Day, I don’t, I didn’t carry them.  I didn’t suffer the pain of childbirth.  I didn’t go through all that.

But I see the dichotomy of it being more than a bit unfair, particularly in my situation.

The kids and their cousins
The kids and their cousins

The “Mother’s Day Tea” that the school has every year has a policy: the kids whose Moms don’t come don’t get to attend.  That seemed a bit unfair to me.  I get it . . . some Moms work, or can’t or hell…maybe they’re just nasty.  I don’t know.  But even then . . . should that be the kid’s fault?  Should they have to sit in the Extended Day Program room and watch Cinderella while the other kids eat biscotti or brownies and hobnob around?  I was saved, yet again this year, by the Mom of one of Hannah’s best friends when she asked if she could play surrogate Mom to the kids.  That way they all got to have the experience.

But then . . . what about Dad?  You know what I get?  “Donuts with Dad.”  Not that I don’t like a good fattening treat now and then, but Mom gets a “high tea” with a full plate and all that and Dad gets donuts that have been out all morning during the school book fair.  That’s right, we get to eat donuts, burnt coffee, and get lobbied by our children to buy tons of more books and school items during the morning that lasts 20-30 minutes in a chaotic rush of screaming children hopped up on sugar.

That’s fair.

I may sound bitter, but I’m not.  I understand that most houses are set up this way, even if there’s a divorce or what have you.

But we’re not a typical family.  We’ve never been anything typical, as a matter of fact.  I’ve always cooked.  I changed diapers.  I took the kids to the hospital.  I’ve tried my best to be sturdy and strong when the kids needed it.  I’ve learned more about the female menstrual cycle than I ever knew.  I know what brands of tampons to buy.  I know what foods to cook.  I know chocolate helps mood swings.  I know that I have to measure my kid’s boobs for a fancy dress, even though that’s not too comfortable a subject to broach, or the dress won’t zip up.  I cook.  I clean.

But in the end, it’s not a complaint.  I love them all – every – single – one – and differently.

So it was another Sunday. I took the kids to see their Grandma, who is not well now, and they swam in the pool with their cousins.  They ate watermelon and had a piece of cake and it was like any other visit to their cousin’s house.

But for me . . . it was a great mother’s day, because I actually got a card.  I’m not perfect, but I’m doing some of the mothering right.  To me, Hannah’s card proves it.

Motherless Children

The kids and their Mom . . . not long before she passed away

Motherless Children by Eric Clapton from the LP 461 Ocean Boulevard

It’s a heartless kind of title, I suppose, but it’s succinct, I’ll give it that, and it fits the song I’ve attached.

It’s also the thought that’s weighed, a bit artificially, on my mind in the last couple days.  After the insanity of the weekend, where we watched my oldest daughter grow up before my eyes and become one of the most beautiful young women I’ve known, having gone to the prom.  After I’d gotten through the events of the concert and the prom that ate up our Friday and Saturday nights I noticed her Facebook post saying: “Black Keys, prom and the Avengers movie – best weekend of my life!”  It made me breathe a little bit and I thought the opportunity to take a breath and re-assess my week might be prudent.

I was wrong.

Taking a breath actually just put me a few more steps behind.

Sunday night I had finally gotten to the point of emptying out the boys’ backpacks and going through the homework and the pieces of artwork.  Inside every week is a note telling us what’s coming for the week.  There, in the family newsletter, was the notice that they’d set the date of May 8th . . . tomorrow . . . for the Mother’s Day Tea.  Now, don’t get me started on the mere fact that the Moms get a full Mass with a High Tea to follow and the Dads get “doughnuts with Dad” where I eat stale doughnuts during the Scholastic book fair and get pummeled with requests for books and pencils and crap and end up leaving the event having spent more money than doughnuts I’ve eaten and gastrically paid for later in the day.

Then my kids inform me that if they don’t have someone to take them to the Mother’s Day Tea they have to stay in the classroom.

I’m not trying to be one of those politically-correct, change the world, “make it Earl Grey with your Parents Day!” kind of guy.  But to exclude my kids because they didn’t have a Mom seemed a bit harsh to me.  To add insult to injury, when I said I’d go in Andrea’s stead, they all told me, unequivocally, “NO!”  I see why, of course.  I’d be the only Dad there.  Last year, we were so wounded and bleeding that I couldn’t remember that their Aunt and Grandmother (Andrea’s Mom) had gone with them.  But this year, their Grandma is just too sick and their Aunt has her own children she needs to mother.  I wasn’t going to ask.  I was going to buck up, embarrass my kids, and completely ridicule myself and go have tea with a bunch of kids.  Just because.  My sons in particular didn’t need to be reminded, yet again, that they’re different or excluded because they don’t have a Mom or a healthy Grandma who lives close by.

My consternation ended when the phone rang just before bed.  Hannah, my middle daughter, has a best friend – a boy, but not a boyfriend – whose Mom thinks the world of her.  Hannah’s friend came home and asked his Mom if, since she was coming to the Tea with him, she would “adopt” Hannah for the day.  He wanted Hannah to sit with them and to be part of their family.  The boy’s Mom called me tonight and asked if I’d be OK with it.  She’d recently lost her Mom, and hard as it was to face the first Mother’s Day without her, she was going to do this for her son and really wanted to do it for Hannah.  She offered to help for the boys as well.

I said yes, by the way.

This woman seems to get it, like so many others don’t.  Sure, if your Mom works and just can’t come it’s no big deal if you’re left behind in the classroom to read.  If you’ve lost your Mom suddenly to pneumonia in the hospital and she’s never coming to one of these events again, it’s another bitter reminder that you’re a Motherless Child.  She has had a hard time, being so close to her Mom for so long.  She describes it as I’ve often described it here: a wave.  Not grief, but memories, sights, smells, and firing synapses hit at such a rapid fire succession that it overwhelms you.  It’s like standing in the ocean minding your own business when an undertow grabs you suddenly and pulls you under.  You can fight and get back to the surface, or you can give yourself to the wave.  Which is better?  Fighting makes you angry, bitter, and exhausted.  Giving in brings you sadness, grief, and despair, but eventually the wave dissipates and lets you go so you end up at the surface again.  The days and weeks after I lost Andrea I fought, miserably, and ended up worse off than when I started.  Now I let the wave wash over me and let me go when it’s finished.  It leads to happiness with the memories and tears with the loss, but there’s little I could do otherwise.

So I told her I’d be honored to have her be my kids’ surrogate.  I couldn’t stand, even though my son, Noah, wanted to skip the tea, to have them sitting there to be bitterly reminded again and again what they’ve lost.  It just wasn’t fair.  I knew that they didn’t know this Mom as well as they could, but it was better than being left without everyone else in a room to be reminded.

It’s in the middle of that exhaustion that I realized we had an amazing family friend – someone who’s picked up my son and taken them to her house, played with them all, had us over on Christmas Eve, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before.  My sons are friends with their sons.  They are from the Midwest as well and they are, quite frankly, some of the nicest people I’ve ever known.

I realize now that I am living the statements I’ve made here before: I’m surviving because I have others to help me survive.  It’s not a “village”, I hate that phrase.  It’s necessary survival.  I’m lucky that I have people I admire and love and care for that also care for me and my kids.  Without them we’d all still be alone in a room – me sleepless on the couch (well, more than I am) and my kids alone at a classroom desk.

Nobody treats you like a mother will . . . but this weekend has taught me that it’s not the treatment, it’s the feeling.  If Andrea was here, she might never have done this, she would have been sad, broken down, even a bit mortified that this was happening and what we did.

But she’s not here.

It’s the desire to make sure that they succeed, where I may not or have not, that’s important.

We have the foundation and the ideas.  We have friends and surrogate Moms that can bridge the gap, not fill it, in our souls.  But it’s the ideas and decisions that are important, and it reinforces what I’ve said a thousand times before: we’re stronger together than we are apart.