Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The First Father's Day-It Left Me Tired

Well, I promised high's and low's here so I will be true to my word.

Father's Day was June 20th. It was the first one without Thomas and was a bit difficult. We'd just come home from vacation where I was able to rest my mind a bit or I might not have done even as well as I did.

I got up early to write Father's Day letters to my pastor and to my children's Godfather. There is just no card that I could get for either of them that would tell them how much they have meant to our family.I cried through the morning thinking of Thomas and of these two men and others who have embraced my children since Thomas' death. These two have always been there, but naturally have stepped up since Thomas died.

My children have the best Godparents they could have. Being a person of faith, I feel God put us in relationship with them knowing we would face a lot of challenges. The twists and turns of life that came with Thomas' physical challenges and his passing would have been impossible to navigate without that family by our side. They are the doting types and have embraced my children from the beginning. From the time I found out I was pregnant the first time around, I had the choice made and I have only been grateful for it. They have been there for my children and therefore been there for me. They've stepped forward that much more since Thomas died, but I knew they would. I believe Thomas knew they would.

But they aren't the only ones. I've seen throughout this horrid tragedy that though nothing can change it and no one can replace their father, that the male leaders in our church plan to embrace my children and mentor my son. From the time Thomas passed away, and my son showed he was alert enough to notice people, they began to interact with him. It was sort of this thing that just happened without a specific word spoken. Thomas mentored several boys who didn't have fathers. I had some moms approach me after the funeral to thank me for his time. Now I have one of those boys, but I am grateful for the support I'm getting. One man coaches several sports and said he'd coach Elijah one day if he chose baseball, football (God help me) or track.

Days we celebrate will come and go and this one did not go without some heartache. I went to church and was fine until a particular worship song was done. I don’t know what it is about this song, but the last time they did the song, the same thing happened. I ended up grabbing Elijah and running out. I sat with him in the room they have for nursing mothers until I was okay again. The rest of the service I was fine even though the message (being that it was Father's Day) was focused on exorting the men to step up and take their responsibilities more seriously because there are too many women having to be both mother and father.

My situation not being one either Thomas or I had a choice in was little comfort at the moment. I saved myself for marriage to avoid this situation, being a single parent to two babies. I'm not the only person in the world though and what my pastor said, sure is true enough and my pastor is of what he speaks. Before the message, they played a Father's Day video his children made and the adoration they so obviously have for him that shows all the time, came screaming from this video. I know he's been a daddy for me whenever I needed one. I can still remember telling them I was unexpectedly pregnant. I remember the gentleness I saw in his eyes and the kindness I heard in his voice as he reassured me God had a plan and things would work out. He didn't know it, but his reaction was one I so desparately needed and one I am holding on to even more now.

Their father would be here if he could. As I composed those two aforementioned letters, I cried thinking of my children, some were tears of sadness, but some of those were grateful tears. I'm very fortunate to have the children. I frequent an online young widow's group and so many of them did not get to have children before their spouse died.

After church we drove the hour to the cemetary. We hadn't been there since burying Thomas, so it brought out all the questions Ariana had again and I spent most of the time standing there explaining it to her. Not sure if I ever really can. She will likely just have to develop an understanding as she gets older. Thomas is buried in his hometown, so after that, we visited family. My father-in-law called while I was there and I talked to him and that was nice. He kept telling me he wouldn't forget me, that he'd be there for us, that if we needed anything to call and not to just sit wanting. He's on dialysis, so doesn't travel much. He has a portable machine which allowed him to come to Thomas' funeral, but he's home most of the time.

I stayed there an hour and a half, then we came home. I called my sister who helped me get up the courage to call our father. I hadn't spoken to him in 8 years. I last saw him in 2002 when my mother and I went to my brother's college graduation. We lost touch after that and neither my brother, sister nor I knew where he was or even if he was still alive. This entry would get too long if I detailed that conversation, but I got through it. He seems okay. What's odd? Thomas prayed for him every day. Every single day he prayed he'd resurface and we could resume our relationship. It was hard when I couldn't talk to Thomas about it. But it's far from the first time that's happened in the last 3 months.

I talked to my father about 90 minutes. I also let Ariana talk to him. The girl has never met a stranger. She talked to him like she'd known him all her life. Not a Father's Day I'll be forgetting I'd bet. Geez, 2010 is only half over.

Thank goodness for vacations. I literally busted my behind to pay for it and to earn enough vacation time to avoid missing a paycheck but it was worth it. The constant sound of the ocean, the change of scenery, the absence of work and the escape from the daily grind, just me and my babies...hard to top it. Cleared my head enough to wrap my brain around some things I'd been struggling with the last couple of months. But we also had a really good time. Taking them off on a trip like that alone, left me tired, but also pretty proud of us...and me. I promised Ariana it wouldn't be our last vacation. That was how I got her out of the hotel on checkout day, but I'll keep the promise for all of us.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Break Time!

The Power Company, the Mortgage Company and the rest offer their condolences, but bills don't stop for tragedies and even though it took 10 days (after Thomas died) before my daughter actually consumed a full meal in one sitting, children still need to eat. So this Mama did what she had to do. I went back to work 6 days after I buried my husband. With the exception of taking off work 6 times for various appointments I worked everyday I was scheduled until the Friday before Memorial Day, which I took off because Ariana was out of school.

Now, though, it's time for a break. We originally planned to vacation with a group this coming week. A group cruise was planned with our church and two others. We signed up when I was two months pregnant with Elijah. Thomas' untimely departure changed those plans. I was unable to keep our reservations. This week though is also the week Elijah's daycare will be closed for preparation for the new school year. I wouldn't be able to work even if I wanted to, which I don't.

After a lot of consideration, I decided I'd do something we hadn't previously done. I made a reservation at a Holiday Inn in Virginia Beach. Some might ask how much rest will she get going away alone with 2 small children. Time away from work is...well...time away from work. I'm looking forward to getting away from the daily hustle and bustle of our routine. Everyday until school was over it was out of bed at 5:30, dress, dress the children, drop Ariana off at school, Elijah at daycare, 40 minute commute, work, pick up the children, dinner, homework, baths, bed the children, then do whatever I have to do until I pass out. In the 2 weeks since school has been out, it's been out of bed at 5:30, dress, dress the children, drop Elijah at daycare, Ariana off at summer camp, Elijah at daycare, 40 minute commute, work, pick up Ariana, pick up Elijah, home, dinner, baths, family meetings, bed the children then do whatever I have to do until I pass out. I'm looking forward to the change of scenery and just "being" with my children. I'm looking forward to introducing Elijah to the pool, watching Ariana build sandcastles and dipping Elijah's plump little feet in the ocean for the first time. Then at night after they're asleep, I want to sit either on the balcony or on the couch just inside it and listen to the ocean. I think it's a major step in getting us to a good place. I don't think I've really had a chance to wrap my brain around our new life like I need to in order to make it happen.

So now it's been three months since Thomas' death. I'm actually a quarter way through the first year. Tired doesn't begin to describe it. I see why people take off for weeks after a spouses passes away. Holding down a career, raising children and grieving is a balancing act I don't wish on anyone, but it is what it is. My children have been my saving grace. They are amazing. They are (if I may say so) beautiful and a great source of love, laughter and just enough of a distraction so I don't sink into the black hole of overwhelming sadness that threatens me. But there it is everyday. I had the American flag that draped his casket laying in the dining room, but eventually put it in a glass case and put the case on the coffee table where some random decorations used to be. I've also replaced some deteriorating wall decorations with some recent portraits of our children.

Elijah is 5 months old and his newest accomplishment is rolling over from back to tummy. He's been able to roll over from tummy to back for 2 months, but then all that takes is raising up on his hands and then falling over. Rolling over the other way is a whole other trick. At first he only turned his head in the direction he wanted to go. Next he began to turn his waste and bring his legs over. The last obstacle as usual is that lower arm, the one that almost seems pinned to whatever surface the baby is resting in at the time. But eventually with enough wiggling, the arm pops loose and they end up on their stomch. Most of the time the baby is as surprised as everyone else in the room, even startled. When I was dropping Elijah off one morning one of his classmates was having a crying fit after he frightened himself rolling over. We haven't had that happen and Elijah now rolls over at will. Of course "at will" didn't include the day my mother came to visit and I said, "look, Elijah can roll over." He's also thinking about learning to hold his bottle on his own. I'm giving him some smaller ones. He does actually reach for it, which is more than he had done previously.

Ariana is 7 and I'm now the mother of a 2nd grader. I can still remember her finishing preschool like it was yesterday. It was a cute little ceremony complete with caps and gowns, diplomas, an after party at Chuck E Cheeses and even class rings. If anyone had told me that 2 years later, I'd not only have another child, but Thomas wouldn't be here, I might not have believed it. Thomas almost had me convinced he'd just keep on going. Truth is though he lived longer than a few people estimated. The doctor at the VA once gave me a prediction of how things would work out. Thomas outlived his prognosis by just under 3 years, during which he saw Ariana graduate preschool, saw his 1st son graduate high school and his 2nd son created and brought into the world. He accomplished a lot in his life and he said he enjoyed it. I have to believe he'd want me to try to enjoy mine even now.

So, I'm going to do the best I can. Some days are better than others. Some days I can go to work, come home, cook diner, have great conversations with Ariana, bathe both children, shower and by 8:00, I'm sitting on Ariana's bed reading to both children. Then there are other days where after eating take out, we all pass out on my bed in the clothes we wore that day. Getting us settled here is going to take time and patience, and the right combination of acknowledging what we've been through, but continuing to develop at a good rate. I'm determined we'll get there. Thomas never crawled into a corner and neither will I. I won't run from this challenge. I'm just going to take a break...and I'm taking my babies with me.