I Don’t Know How To Do This

Four years ago, I wrote a post that began with the words “I don’t know how to do this.” My husband and I had just split up, and I was agonizing over my new reality of being a single mom. I was mourning the loss of a marriage that we had both hoped would last forever, and I was terrified.

As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. My ex, whom I’ve often referred to here as The Big Guy, never truly allowed me to struggle as a single mom.  He was always a great dad; I don’t think I ever realized that until weren’t together any more. As strange as it may seem, we became better co-parents when we stopped being spouses.

We also became better friends. Over the past four years, we’ve had more conversations and shared more “inside jokes” than we ever did during our eighteen years under the same roof.

Today, I have to repeat myself, because Heaven has gained an angel in Carhartts and faded flannel.

I don’t know how  to do this.

Last week, we lost The Big Guy to complications of the flu. The Flu! How can anything so ridiculous possibly be real? He used to drive a race car, for God’s sake. He was a volunteer firefighter for more than a decade. This was a man who used to take chances and risks that would make my blood run cold, but would just laugh at me when I told him to be careful.

I don’t know how to do this.

My children have had to grow up over the past two weeks in a way that no parent wants to witness. Because The Big Guy and I were no longer together, responsibilities and decisions fell upon the shoulders of his oldest child, our twenty year-old daughter. I’ve said for years that she is more of an adult than I am, and she has stepped up and proved me right by displaying a level of maturity that makes me ache for her.

The nineteen year-old has also grown in so many ways. He is mourning,  of course,  but he is doing so with his father’s trademark sense of humor. My quiet, sarcastic little boy has become a warm and nurturing man who looks out for all of us and always finds a way to make us smile with some funny memory of his dad.

And our baby. Rooster turned ten just a few days after losing his father. He has cried so much that I’ve worried he might get sick. But each time, he finishes crying and then moves on to laughter or a quick  game of basketball while sharing stories about his daddy. He’s hurting, but  he’s adapting.

They are grieving, but they are grieving as a unit. The three of them are so close that I know, deep down, that I have nothing to fear for them. They’re going to be okay because they have each other. Well, each other and their father’s strength,  humor, and courage.

But I don’t know how to do this

I’m not talking about being a single mom. I can figure that part out, especially since the older two are here to help me. If I’m going to be completely honest, I know my daughter will probably continue to run the show with more maturity than I will ever have. Things are going to be rocky for a while, and there will be a tremendous learning curve, but we’ll get through.

No, I don’t know how I’m going to move on without The Big Guy. He was my ex; we hadn’t been a couple for more than four years. But he was my friend. We still talked almost every day. We had inside jokes and a shared history that spanned more than twenty years. We created three people together– three amazing, beautiful, incredible people who made us both so much better than either one of  us ever were on our own.

He had a girlfriend who never left his side during those final days in the hospital. His family referred to her as “the love of his life,” and I believe they were right. He was so very happy with her, happy in a way he never was with me, that I couldn’t hold that against her. During the time they were together, she was good to our kids and always treated me with respect, so I truly, genuinely like her.

Crazy, huh?

My heart is breaking for her. So few people in life actually find real love, but I believe she and The Big Guy truly did. As much as I am hurting right now,  I know her pain is even deeper.

And I am hurting. I’ve lost my friend. I’ve lost the father of my children. I’ve lost a person who was a significant part of my life for more than half my time here on Earth.

I’ve lost my Big Guy.  My crooked-toothed, flannel-wearing, warm-hearted Big Guy. And somehow, incredibly, life is going to have to go on as though the world hasn’t just lost a truly good  human being.

I just don’t know how to do this.

Weekend Coffee Share: Perfect Circle

If we were having coffee this morning, it would have to be an iced coffee, with lots of milk and a splash of hazelnut. It’s a hot day already, with humidity at almost 100%, and I think we’d all be happier with something cold to drink.

I’ve been thinking about circles this week. Not just any circles, though. Those circles in some long-ago math class that I coasted through with a barely-passing grade, where the rings overlap and mark off a small segment of shared ground. I don’t remember what that little bit of shared ground is called, but I wonder if my old math teacher would be proud of the fact that I’m applying math to real life.

There’s been a lot of overlap in my life recently. Circles have been crisscrossing where I least expect it. Meandering lines have suddenly doubled back to form circles in surprising places.

Circle 1. At my first professional job as an adult back in the 1980’s, there was a very sweet lady named Donna who always looked out for me and helped me settle into the department. It turned out that she knew my father. Small world, right? That world got smaller yesterday, when I met her son, who turned out to be the pastor at my brother-in-law’s church.

Circle 2. At about the same time I was working with Donna, I started going to a big church in another town, where I became really active in a singles Bible study group. It ended badly for me in a way that really soured the taste of organized religion for me.

Oddly enough, one of the people from that group has ended up being a part of my life now, decades later and lots of miles away. She has quietly taught me more about forgiveness and compassion than I ever learned sitting on a pew anywhere.

Last week, another person from that church contacted me, more than twenty years since our last meeting. She said she had sampled one of my books and didn’t see God in it, and wanted to know what caused this. Her words were kind on the surface, but the unspoken judgement and implied recrimination hit me like a physical blow.

Circle 3. My ex-husband and I have been apart for more than two years, but we both laughed together on Wednesday when we realized that it was our twentieth wedding anniversary. Since our divorce isn’t actually final yet, we found a bit of humor in the fact that we can technically say we made it twenty years. He and I always shared the same peculiar sense of humor; even when things fell apart for us, that is the one thing we still have in common.

Circle 4. Most of my family is gone now, and I sometimes feel terribly alone. There just aren’t a lot of cousins or relatives in the area. I feel disconnected from the world somehow, like a hot-air balloon tethered to the earth by only a few strings, and those strings are being cut one by one. When I was married, the greatest gift my husband ever gave me was his family — brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles . . . all strings that helped tie me back to the earth. Connections.

Losing my marriage was like cutting all of those strings.

Those random circles all came together yesterday at a small memorial service on the shore of a little inland lake. A gentle breeze worked its way through the branches of the maple trees and tiny waves tickled the sandy shore as we gathered around the table that held flowers and a few small items. There were pictures of a tiny baby boy, born too early into a world that wasn’t ready for him.

I rode to the memorial with my ex-husband and stood with his family; they are my family, too, regardless of our divorce. His niece — our niece — was supported by a circle of those who love her, while Donna’s son, the pastor, officiated at the memorial for our first “great.”

God was there, too. In the words of the sermon, of course, and in the passages that were read from the Bible. But more than that, He was the one bit of shared ground, the one intersection of all those circles.

I can’t worship a God who thunders from a pulpit.

I believe that God is in the kindness and love shown in each of those circles. In Donna looking out for her younger co-worker while raising her son to be a spiritual leader. In my old church friend who teaches by example and not by judgement. In my ex and his family, who still accept me as one of them and hold onto those strings that connect me to this earth.

And yes, He was in little Logan during his few minutes of life in his mother’s arms, as hard as that is to believe through her grief.

So now it’s Sunday morning. Some folks are getting ready for church, and some of them may think less of me because I am sitting here chatting with friends over an iced coffee rather than heading out to a house of worship.

But for me, God isn’t just in a house of worship. He’s not in judgement and recrimination. He’s all around me in everything that we do, but most of all, he is in that little bit of shared ground, that place where all the circles of life intersect and bring us all together just when we need each other the most.

Image result for bible verse about kindness and compassion

 

Mother’s Day

This week’s Finish the Sentence Friday is a rough one for me.  I wasn’t really sure about doing it, but I’ve missed the last couple of Fridays, so I don’t really have a choice.

This one might hurt a little.

 

Dear Mom:

I’m supposed to write a letter to you for Mother’s Day.  I think this is where I’m supposed to talk about how much I miss you, and lament the fact that you aren’t a part of your grandchildren’s lives.

Screw that.

You were a Drama Queen, and we both know it.  When your cancer came back that last time and we all had to face the fact that this was going to be your final battle, it was a given that you were going to leave us in the most memorable way and on the most symbolic day possible.  Since you were heavily into your religious phase at that point, we were all placing our bets on Easter.

It never crossed my mind that you’d die on Mother’s Day.  That was a little cruel, even for you.

Yes, I’m angry.  Twenty-seven years later, I am still pissed off at you for dying on Mother’ Day.  I mean, Mother’s Day was always going to be hard without you anyway, but to mourn the anniversary of your death and miss you on Mother’s Day on the same day is really a double-whammy I could have done without.  It’s not fair.

So I’m being selfish.  Damn it, I want my own Mother’s Day.  I want my Mom.  I want to know what it’s like to have an adult relationship with the woman who brought me into this world.  I want to have someone in my life that I can turn to when I have questions:  “Was I as stubborn as my daughter is?”  “Did I talk as much as my son does?”  “Do my kids look anything like I did at that age?”

Did you love me anywhere near as much as I love them?

Do you miss me, just a little?

I’m sure you are watching from above.  You have to be.  You’re up in Heaven, finally getting along with Dad and his sisters.  You’re reunited with your own little brother, and I know you find the time every day to wrap your arms around your niece Randee just to hear her call you “Aunt Kay.”  God, how you loved spoiling that little girl!

You have to be in Heaven, Mom.  If there’s no Heaven, then you are simply gone, and I can’t accept that.

I think you would have liked my husband.  You probably would have urged us to end the marriage sooner than we did, but you’d be here for me right now when I so desperately need you.  I don’t know how I’m going to survive this divorce without someone to lean on.  I don’t know how I can be a single mom without my own mom in my corner.

That corner is pretty damned lonely, Mom.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day.  Your grandkids will make me breakfast and we will have a good day, just the four of us.  I’ll probably tell a few funny stories about you, make them laugh.  We’ll call their other grandmother and wish her a happy Mother’s Day.  I think you would like her, by the way.   You probably wouldn’t get along very well because she is every bit as determined and strong-willed as you were.  But you’d like her.  Even more than that, I know you’d respect her.

She’s been the best mother-in-law I could have had.  I call her “Mom.”  I don’t do it to hurt you, and I hope you can forgive me for loving her as much as I do.  She’s been a great mom for the past eighteen years.

I’ve been blessed in my life to have two amazing mothers.  I’ve lost you both now; you to breast cancer and her to the divorce from her son.  I’ll have to call her “Jean” now, instead of “Mom,” just like I have had to start calling her son “Ken” instead of “Honey.”

Mom, I never appreciated how strong you were.  You were a single mom before it became fashionable.  You worked a dead-end job that you hated, and you had to know that your second husband was an asshole.  You knew what his son was too, I think; there was a reason why you kept convincing him to move out, wasn’t there?  I’m so sorry I doubted you.

I think of you all the time, not just on Mother’s Day.    I’m a single mom, just like you, and I am so afraid that I’m not going to do it as well as you did.  I wish you were here to tell me what to do and how to do it.  I don’t want to be the grown-up all the time.

I want my Mommy.

I want to spend Mother’s Day with my children, and I want to enjoy it for what it is:  my day.  Not yours.  Just once, I want Mother’s Day to be Mother’s Day, not The Day My Mother Died.

This year, can you give me that gift?  For just this one day, just this one time, stay out of my thoughts.  Let me have a Happy Mother’s Day.  For Once.

Well, That Happened

I woke up this morning determined to write something happy for a change.  After a long series of depressing, soul-baring posts, I vowed to blog about something a bit cheerier before my followers all end up in need of anti-depressants.  Today, I promised, I would write in response to the Daily Prompt, no matter what it was.

So here’s todays’s Daily Prompt:

Unexpectedly, you lose your job (or a loved one, or something or someone important to you).  What do you do next?

Really?!

Seriously, come on, guys.

How in the hell am I supposed to put an upbeat twist on that?  I can talk about loss.  Sometimes I feel like all I ever talk about is losing people and things.  In less than three years, I have lost my job, my career, my mobility, my marriage, my home, my self-esteem and at times, my will to live.

Okay, so, what do I do next?  Survive, apparently.  I’m going to play with today’s topic a little bit and turn it into “What did you do next?”

  1.  I got mad.  In each case, with each loss, I got really pissed off.  At the Van Buren County Road Commission, at my husband, at life, at God.
  2. I cried.  A lot.
  3. I talked about it.  And talked.  And wrote.  And talked and wrote some more.  I talked about writing about it.  I wrote about talking about it.  I watched people’s eyes glaze over and still talked about it some more.
  4. I ate a lot.
  5. I cried some more.
  6. I threw up a lot.
  7. I laughed.  At some really inappropriate things during some very awkward moments.  I made stupid, tasteless jokes about my situation, and I laughed until I cried.  Then I laughed at myself for crying, and I thanked God for the sense of humor that is my source of strength.
  8. I made plans, and I swallowed my pride long enough to call on my friends for help with those plans.  Like my mom used to say, there comes a time when one must “shit or get off the pot”.
  9. I took the high road whenever possible.  Hurt like hell sometimes, but I did it.
  10. I repeated 1-9, in no particular order.  Over and over and over.

I had all kinds of quotes I wanted to use here.  Brainy stuff.  Deep, philosophical stuff.  Goethe, Frost, Tennyson.  I even had a great one from Dolly Parton.  But the best thing anyone has ever said about dealing with loss comes from Dr. Seuss:

Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.

Yup.  I’d say that sums it all up pretty well.  Smiles, everyone. Smiles.

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/daily-prompt-unexpected/

Space

It’s 2:39 and I can’t go to sleep

There’s too much space.

How can someone so big be so small?

Balanced, hugging the pillow

You make eye contact with the wall

While I count each turn of the ceiling fan.

The space between us holds so much

We sleep wounded and wake up afraid

Share morning coffee and a kiss

With a good-bye and I-love-you.

We survive our day dreading our night

To lay in silence once more

Connecting with walls and ceiling fans

With too much space between us.

It’s 2:39 and I can’t go to sleep

Because of all that space.

Heaven

Daily Prompt:   National Poetry Writing Month is nearly at at end. To celebrate it, try your hand at some verse.

 

 

For your sake I hope it’s always 6 a.m. in Heaven

so you can walk the marina at dawn when the only sound is the

Clink!

Clank!

Of ropes against the masts

while waves tickle the tummies of sailboats

snoozing in their slips.

Maybe it’s always sunset

so you can sit on a porch and catch every glimmer

of the sun on the Lake

as a million fiery diamonds drown just for you.

Heaven should be warm because you loved sunshine

especially in the fall

with leaves crunching underfoot

while you whistled through acorn-caps

like you taught me to do.

I hope angels have a sense of humor

so someone can laugh with you.

What good is eternity if nobody laughs?

Spoons

Sometimes at night you are here

breath stirring my hair

hand warm on my hip.

Spoons.

Flat of my feet against your knees

shoulders against your chest

safe inside your curve.

If I turn, I know how you’ll look

blue eyes closed

mouth slightly open

cheeks flushed.

So young in your sleep.

Pink morning light outlines your jaw

on the flowered pillowcase

I can smell your cologne:

Eternity.

You open your eyes with a drowsy smile

and vanish with the alarm clock’s ring

not a dent in the pillow

no Eternity.

It’s been a year today

When do I start getting over you?