As widowed people, most holidays will come with some sort of a bump or lump. We are socked by memories; how we spent the last 4th of July together, that empty chair at the Thanksgiving table, that Memorial Day weekend we traveled somewhere fun. This past weekend was Mother’s Day, which carries no less emotion for many of us.
Often there are children left behind too, which is an additional scar for Mother’s and Father’s days; and for others, the ache of childlessness when a partner has died too soon. That sort of pain I have heard often from many widowed friends of mine. Both cases hold something deeply sorrowful that will never go away.
For me there is a little of both. I was 31 when I met Mike, and at the time had no audible ticking biological clock. But as I treasure my relationship with my own mother, I had wished for daughters - just not babies. So I was tickled to learn this man had two from a previous marriage. They were both just starting out as young adults in this world as Mike and I fell in to our new life together. A few years later both girls ended up in Hawaii with us (one for a short time, the other is still here) and I developed my own relationships with them. Over the years we became friends and much, much more.
Mike had a fierce love for his girls, even though he was, as he himself admitted many times, not the best dad when they were small. As they became adults though, especially in his last eight years or so, their relationship was stronger than ever. Both girls treasured him, relied on him, adored him, were proud of him…were also frustrated with him at times, worried for him, and I know, unable to imagine life without him. He carried an enormous presence in all our lives, and left a cavernous pit of emptiness when he left us. His death hit them both very, very hard and it’s been a long road for all of us so far in coping with life without him.
And there have been a few rocky moments in our relationships since he died. But we all continued to work on it…to work on ourselves, our own grief, our own paths without Mike’s presence or guidance. I did worry for a time that maybe Mike was the glue that held our little stepfamily together…now I know he still IS that glue. The bond of having known this incredible man as intimately as we all did will, I hope, continue to keep us connected forever. No one knew him like we did…and when we need to share a memory or a dream or a burst of grief, we call each other. The truth is, they became my stepdaughters when I married Mike, but in the years since, have both become true friends and daughters of my heart. Their own mother, Mike’s first wife, has welcomed me as part of the extended family, to share her daughters and grandchildren…this in itself is a huge gesture that has brought so much more easy joy to us all. Because it didn’t have to end up this way, our all remaining close. But it did. So when this past Mother’s Day rolled around and I got warm and lovely calls from both girls, I truly had to thank Mike for what he had brought into my life.
My mainland stepdaughter has three children now, and I recently returned from a trip to help out. Being known as “Tutu”, which is, for lack of any more concise definition, Hawaiian for grandmother or elder, causes my soul to rejoice. My Hawaii stepdaughter is creating her own family and perhaps, one day, will make me a Tutu as well. I ache with the deeply painful knowledge of what Mike has missed, and what these babies will miss not having him around…but grateful that I can still be here to know them, watch them grow…and someday, help tell stories about their amazing Grandpa.
Do I wish I’d had a child with Mike? Now, I do, sometimes. I have to admit that I often daydream about what such a person might have been like. As I am growing older I wonder whether I made the right choice there, and it does carry some pain of regret. Some family members may be surprised to hear that. But it’s too late now. And in the wake of it all, I have the girls and their families. Thank you, girls, for being in my life. I love you so much.
And I am blessed to have my own dear mother, who has stood strongly by my side through all of this. When I first married Mike it took awhile for her to understand who this mysterious older man was. But over the years she, as well as my dad, grew to love him very much, and were devastated when he died. My mom has seen the very ugly inner face of my grief and what it has done to my life, and her support has meant everything. So thank you, Mom. I love you very much.