Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lessons Learned

When I saw his little hand rubbing his brother's...I knew this five year old understood love in a way that few others do.

Luke had a dentist appointment this week...two fun.  I took the day off work and the three of us made our way to the dentist.  As we drove...I could sense Luke becoming increasingly tense...although he was desperately trying to hide it from his little brother.

Ben read through his brother's facade...and turned on the humor as he did his Goofy Ben thing in an attempt to ease Luke's mind.  I watched it all happen in my rear view mirror...and I knew they both got it...we are a family...and we love each other in a way no one else can understand.

As we pulled into the parking lot...Luke was laughing and seemed to have forgotten what he was scared about.  This lasted up until we left Ben in the waiting area and walked backed to the little room with all the needles and drills.  As soon as he got in that over sized chair...the tears began to gently roll down his face.  He didn't make a sound...he just let the tears come and reached out for my hand.

I held it tight...trying desperately to absorb the pain from his little body as the Novocaine shots began.  It was no use...I just wasn't enough to ease his fear...or alleviate his pain.

I have no idea how Ben did it...but without warning he appeared in the room.  He had managed to get himself back there and find his brother.  Ben looked up at me...his eyes asking if it was okay to come in...but his body didn't wait for my answer.  He simply walked in and began caressing his big brother's hand while I held tight.

Luke's body seemed to much so...that the Hygienist took her eyes off him momentarily.  She looked down and saw the little boy that had snuck into the room to help his brother.  As Ben stroked the top of Luke's hand...she looked up at me with a tear in her eye.

I have no way of knowing if that would have happened a year ago.  But I do know it's not the first time I have seen it in the last fourteen months.  They have both came to each other's side in an almost maternal way since Susan's passing.  They seem to understand something about life, love, pain and death that others don't.

We have learned something about love through death...we have learned lessons that will always keep us close...keep us tied together...and keep us caring for our family of three.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Balance's not a new word to me, but like so many things in my life has taken on a whole new context.

My life now revolves around keeping everything balanced. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but mostly I struggle daily to keep from completely tipping over.

The balance between my boys and their individual needs has become more evident.  They are both traveling their own grief their own pace...but need me to escort them each individually as they react in different ways and at different times to losing their mother.  As I walk with each of them...there is no map to guide us...or assure us we are headed in the right direction.

Sometimes we meander...sometimes we trudge....but occasionally we hit our stride and advance.

Accompanying them on their respective journeys may be the most daunting challenge I face as a parent. Trying to discern and make sense of their emotions reminds me of when they were newborns and I constantly found myself guessing at their needs.

With each cry and whimper...Susan and I had to get a feel for what they were trying to say and what they needed...and neither of them expressed themselves in the same way.  This past year has been an unbelievable feeling out process for me, but I believe I'm slowly starting to get a handle on how each of them deals with losing Susan.

But there is also the difficulty of trying to balance all the regular chores of being a single parent.

The boys had always benefited from having two loving parents that could split up their time and dedicate all their attention and love when needed. Those days have vanished...but the pull on me from each of the boys is amazingly strong...because they need it...and deserve it....but also because I love them both so very much.

Truthfully I'm often angry at how the boys were robbed of the life we started for them...the life we intended for them...the life they both deserved.  Sue and I seemed to be able to tackle anything together...but now I'm faced with helping them through more than I ever expected...alone...and that's not how it was supposed to be.

If the balancing act stopped at the threshold of my home, I would be laboring...but work is also a part of this balancing act.

The balance between work and home has become nothing less than agony.  Somehow...the year after my wife's death...I've been handed one of the most difficult classes of my eighteen years...and I've had a few challenging ones in the past.  Substitutes have actually told me they were praying for me...and they weren't talking about Susan's passing.

My students drain me of my patience daily...and then my boys are left to pay the price when their exhausted, frustrated father picks them up from school.  In my mind I split my day into two and home...with a hour long commute/break in between each demanding phase.  No sooner have I pulled into the driveway then the second shift begins with the walk home from school and the instant new complications...and the solutions that I must find.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would think of my life in this way. I truly believed this was the year they would take it easy on me...but not so much.  So sadly...teaching has turned into a job this year...and that only adds to the imbalance of my life...because teaching had always been pure joy for me...something that completed me.

But not every moment is filled with exhaustion...or sorrow..or pain.  Which creates it's very own unique balancing act.

The struggle to find a balance between my ongoing flashes of grief and my increasing moments of happiness is...overwhelming.  As each day goes by...I'm still conflicted about enjoying the positives of my life as I feel an unparalleled sorrow over the unexpected death of my wife and best friend.

I often feel like two different two separate lives.  The balance here is confusing because these two people don't recognize one another...but reside within the same man.  I can break down within seconds or glide through a few hours without feeling that tug at my heart.  But when I lay my head down at night...I obsess over those two people and the contrast in their days.

Finding the balance...that's where I'm at...and like I said before...not a new idea...just more complex then I ever imagined.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

2nd Time Around

Well this is my second Tour of Duty...the second year of facing milestones without Sue...the second year of celebrating traditions that we shared...the second year of hiding my pain so my boys can have the childhood joy they deserve.

Easter was the first holiday without Susan that rolled over me last year...and as I write is knocking on my door a second time around.  Although this year is different than's also very much the same this time around.

The emptiness of hiding eggs alone...the confusion of wanting to create a special memory for my boys without their Mom...the disbelief that this is what life has dealt us.

So how is this year different?

Surprisingly...I was much more on top of things last Easter...baskets ready...eggs set up.  But not this time.  Today I was scrambling around...finishing up everything at the very last possible minute.


I think the explanation is quite simple.  Last year at this time I was shock...unaware of what my reality really was...or was going to be.  Honestly...I just kind of soldiered through it without making sense of what was happening.  But this time around that magical cloud of protection is gone.

I wasn't ready this year because I was putting off the inevitable...celebrating as a family of only three...and accepting that we must go on without her.

So it's roughly midnight the night before Easter as I'm typing away at my table...and I'm wondering how tomorrow will play itself out...wondering how this second time around will be...but not just tomorrow...I'm wondering about each day of this second time around.