Way back in September of 2012, Megan, Shelby and I took our first backpacking trip together. Shelby was only 5 years old, and Megan was almost two years past her lung transplant. I meticulously planned the trip, choosing the Blackbird Knob trail in the Dolly Sods Wilderness, in West Virginia. I was already intimately familiar with it, knowing the various campsites, creek crossings, and hills along the way, but neither of the two of them had ever been.
I chose it because of the safety factor. I knew that we could ramble in about a mile before we came to a creek that I wasn’t comfortable having them cross. Just downstream from that point, there was a beautiful backcountry campsite where we could spend the weekend. I limited them, purposefully, so that I didn’t have to worry about Shelby trying to rock-hop across a fairly sizable creek, slipping, and being washed downstream. Nor would I have to be concerned with Megan, who was still getting her feet under her on dry, flat ground in her recovery, experiencing the same.
This past weekend, Sarah, Shelby and I took our first backpacking trip together. Shelby is now 10 years old, and Megan has been gone almost three years. I barely planned the trip, deciding on Monday that we should leave on Friday for the Blackbird Knob trail in the Dolly Sods Wilderness. I’m still familiar with it and all of the campsites, creek crossings, and hills. While Shelby had been briefly acquainted with it, Sarah had never been.
When Joey passed away my kids went to a small preschool near where we live. I never imagined how important this place would become to me. The day after his accident my daughters teacher showed up at my house, I was a little surprised because her and I weren't very close. But she said she felt like she needed to be there and would just sit if that was ok. Another mom started a gofund me account for us. Other days several other moms and teachers came to bring food or just to check in. They set up a daycare service the night of the funeral for parents to attend. Other the next few weeks they still showed there love. They would come by with dog food or presents for the kids. The following fall my son was in the four year old my daughter had been in. His teacher offered me a part time job helping out a few hours a day. It was perfect because my youngest was now attending the 2 year old class. Over the course of that year these people became more like family to us. They remember dates and important things. They were there for my kids and me.
This past year I worked there full time with the four year olds. This wasn't something I had ever wanted to do but to my surprise I had a blast. Kids are so pure and innocent. And don't get me wrong being in a room with 23 four year olds can become very stressful but the good always out weighs the bad. One the two year anniversary of Joey's death I didn't go into work. But after a morning of crying and visiting the crash site I knew there was one place I could go and find peace. School.
I am honestly not even certain what this has to do with being widowed, but it sure as hell has to do with death and loss and trauma and fear. Often times, I begin writing not knowing what will come and find that what needed to be cleansed comes to the surface on its own. I suppose, as someone who is learning to mother the child of a widowed person, it may relate for someone out there. I hope so. Either way, it seems this is what my soul needed to say today.
These past 2 years, I’m learning to mother a young girl who lost her mom a few years ago, and all the while I’m working through my own fears and the ghosts of my own past having lost my mother young as well. Maybe this is all coming up because we just had Mother’s Day and Mike wrote this heart-wrenchingly beautiful post last week about my role in Shelby’s life. Either way, I guess this is what needed to come out for me this week...
I had no idea just how much having a child in my life would bring up all of my own unresolved stuff from my childhood. It makes sense now, but I was truly and completely clueless when I first stepped into this shit (I am imagining every parent smiling right now). To say the least, it is both an incredibly healing and immensely painful process of unraveling pieces of my own heart day by day. Pieces that have been dormant for many years. Some of this stuff I didn’t even know was there.
Letting a child in has proven to be the very scariest kind of openhearted vulnerability that I’ve ever attempted. Guys, this shit is HARD. And it isn’t hard because she is a difficult kid. She makes it so easy on me. It’s hard cecause of course, you can’t really get by with being half-connected or faking it. Kids know. And I know deep down, I have to try my hardest to push past my not-so-great coping mechanisms and my own past trauma to be there for her.
Have you ever ....
Stared at your dead husband's picture, the same one that's been sitting on your nightstand every single day for over 5 years, and suddenly, for no real reason whatsoever, you don't seem to recognize his face as his face?
Have you ever ....
Gone into the closet where you keep a few of his things, still, and taken out a specific t-shirt that always had a faint smell of him on it - only to find that the smell is no longer there, and it has faded away into nothing?
Have you ever ....
Watched your wedding video, the same one that you couldnt bear to watch for years because it was so painful seeing him move and talk and laugh, only to discover that this time, you are listening with extra intensity, because your husband's voice, no longer sounds like your husband?Read more
I had another series of thoughts planned for this week, but it will have to wait. The tragedy in Manchester just has me reeling. So many young girls lost, so many families in the horror of that grief right now.
It is as if I am a ship that is becalmed in the ocean.
Stillness all around me, even as I am aware of movement and chatter around me.
But my world seems still. Even as it moves around me.
Doldrums is the term used to describe the ocean when the winds have disappeared and ships lay still. I’ve read of sailor’s accounts of the eeriness of such an event.
The strange thing about both of these terms, as I use them to describe me and my widow life, are that they aren’t actually true, I suppose.
I’ve been in motion continually in these 4 years since Chuck died. And the world around me has certainly continued moving.
It just doesn’t feel that way to me.Read more
Megan loved being a mother. If there was one thing, one goal in life she had, it was to create a little girl like Shelby. For 7 years, she doted on her, relishing taking her to school, feeding her creamed peas, changing diapers, reading to her, and in effect spending every healthy moment she had with her. Even when she was admitted to the hospital, roughly 5 - 8 times a year for three or four weeks at a time, she wanted Shelby there. Nothing would perk her up and make her smile more than to see her peanut waltzing through the hospital room door, saying “hi mommy”.
She was proud beyond words (still is, I imagine) at who Shelby was. I half assume that the only reason she joined the PTA, and chaperoned different school functions was so she could show Shelby off to the other moms. I mean, i sure as hell didn’t have a desire to sell popcorn balls in a school basement to three dozen other mothers as part of a “fundraiser”, but Megan, damn, she would have been leading the endeavor.
Like so many of these posts go, there's a summary of something in my past with Megan, followed by “Then, she died”Read more
From the moment our daughter, Ryann was born Joey was madly in love with her. She has always been his princess and although he loved his boys, his love for her was different.
The worst part of Joeys passing has always been the pain the children feel. The fact that they will have to grow up without their dad and never be able to experience life with him. But Ryann's pain as always been the hardest. She remembers him not just stories about him. He actually remembers life with him. She cries out at night for him. It's heartbreaking. She is overly sensitive and emotional. She cries if a bug dies because death is real to her. She understands something children should not.
Some moments can be so complex it just floors me. Tonight Mike and I were grilling out in the back yard and taking turns playing ball with his daughter Shelby. We had good music going and a beautiful warm sunny sky. At one point I went in the kitchen to clean up some things and they followed me inside. Mike started dancing with me to a sweet song that came on, and Shelby followed soon after. Before long, we’re all three dancing around in the kitchen together like dorks. Shelby is laughing like crazy and it’s positively a moment from a movie. One of those moments you remember forever, and as soon as it happens, somehow you know you’ll always remember that random silly moment.
The next minute I can feel the underlying emotions stirring. Before long, I’m escaping upstairs with the convenient excuse that I need to write my post for tomorrow. Which was true, but I also needed a moment to myself and I didn’t even understand why.
So I’ve been upstairs a few moments now, had a little cry and collected myself enough. I can hear them still outside playing ball and laughing. Why aren’t I laughing anymore? What even just happened? I’m at a loss for the reason enough that I don’t really want to bother Mike with it when they’re having such fun. It’s more a thing I need to be quiet with a moment to understand.Read more
On mother’s day just past I spent an hour trying to calm my three year old daughter because she didn’t want to get out of the shower. It was a huge tantrum that left the both of us floored and in tears. Admittedly for a while after John passed I let her walk all over me because I didn’t have the energy for a tantrum if she didn’t get her own way. So her behaviour problems towards me are my own fault. As I stood my ground with her and watched her tears fall while she kicked and screamed, I felt defeated. Though I stuck it out with her, for her, because she needs me to be strong. It’s not easy.