Saturday, December 11, 2010

On Random Updates

I don’t really know how to begin this post.

And that has been a good portion of the reason for my absence from this site the past few months. There have been things I have wanted to write and times I have wanted to write them, but the two have not crossed paths. And even then, the posts have not been taking shape in my mind the way they usually do before I ever sit in front of this screen (and even now there have been much longer pauses in my keystrokes than normal). In order for a post to make the site (generally) it has to flow from my brain through my fingertips. And that just hasn’t been happening.

Now, I won’t lie and say that I don’t know the reason(s) for this, because I do. Sheer busy-ness has been one of the main culprits. I rarely play the single dad card, but in this case I must. For those of you who are new to this site, I live 800 miles from my closest relatives. So everything that needs to be taken care of in a day/week/month/year falls on my shoulders. There is no dropping my daughter off at grandma and grandpa’s so I can do this or that. Now, I realize that I made the choice to stay here after my wife died, but one of the unfortunate consequences has been not being able to update this site nearly as often as I would like.

I have also had a lot weighing on my mind, some of which I unfortunately cannot go into here right now. I can sum things up by saying there have been some health issues, some family issues, and some possible financial issues. Actually, that one I can go into here. I found out the day before Thanksgiving that I am going to require some extensive periodontal surgery in the spring. Well, really anytime is good, but I don’t think I’ll have the money until then. I’m not a perfect financial planner, but I do have a budget and live within my means from month to month, so money is not as constant a worry as it once was. But I don’t have dental insurance. And my emergency fund is not prepared to take that kind of a hit right now. And truth-be-told, I’m a bit of a control freak about certain things, and oral surgery was not part of my overall plan (even though I have known it might be a possibility for a while). And on top of that I found out I am likely going to have to buy a new water heater…

But I digress.

Most nights I have been falling asleep earlier than normal. I’m a night owl by nature and most nights recently I haven’t seen ten o’clock. Which is good for my overall health and well-being. But it’s short-lived. It inevitably comes in cycles and I end up with nights like the past couple where I cannot get to sleep until the normal time or even later. (It’s the middle of the night as I type this, though I will not likely post it until tomorrow). So I’m exhausted when I need to be alert and sometimes alert when I need to be exhausted. And as if that wasn’t enough, I had a dream about my wife last weekend. It was the first one I’ve had in a very long time and was similar to the first few dreams I had after she died. Only this time she was already in the hospital when I found out she was going to die and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Those dreams never get any easier to take.

But actually, as many of my long-time readers will note, the sleep issue is not really such a new pattern with me after all, so I guess I should get to the updates.

My daughter started first grade in August. I didn’t think that first grade would be a grief-trigger for me, but I was wrong. Parents expect to have difficulty letting go when their child starts kindergarten, but first grade should be old hat, right? It was in all of the normal, routine ways. But my wife was in her second year of teaching first grade when she died and that thought has bombarded my mind many times over the past several months. I think about the skills my daughter is learning that my wife taught to her students now four and five years removed, the books she read with them, the papers I helped her grade. And to complicate matters, my daughter’s teacher is a young expectant mother whose baby is due near my daughter’s birthday. She does not remind me of my wife in appearance or demeanor, but the new mom dimension has been hard to think about at times. Those were such happy times, and while I’m thrilled for her teacher and her husband, it still amplifies my own sense of loss. I think it would be that much harder if my wife had been teaching first grade when our daughter was born, but thankfully she was still teaching third at the time. And my daughter’s teacher is expecting a boy, which somehow helps a little as well…

We spent a lot of time trying to see family this fall. Living as far apart as we do, we welcome any chance we get to meet family, either where we live, where they live, or somewhere in-between. In October we met my parents in-between one weekend and my wife’s parents in-between the next weekend. It was a lot of time on the road for a little bit of quality time, but it was well worth it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, so the week before Thanksgiving I made the official decision (I had been contemplating it for a long time) to head back to the Midwest for Thanksgiving. That’s not something we do every year and it was a decision which was complicated by a few factors. Normally I have the day before Thanksgiving off, but due to some school cancellations early in the year we were required to use that day as a make-up day. On top of that, plane tickets were outrageously priced (a thousand dollars for two weekend plane tickets was also not in my budget), so we were locked into driving. Fifteen hours each way. To be with family for two and a half days. I know a lot of people would have taken the day off and pulled their child/ren out of school, but I made a rule before kindergarten that I would only keep my daughter out if she was too sick to attend. (Which, interestingly enough, happened the day after we drove fifteen hours home!) Even so, it was still worth making the trip to be with family for Thanksgiving and a few other special events…

The weekend after Thanksgiving held a milestone of sorts. It was the anniversary of my first foray into the dating arena. I didn’t actually think about it until the day before and am not sure I would have at all had it not been in such close proximity to Thanksgiving. But I did think about it some. A year later, it’s not a decision I regret making. But it’s also not one I’m anxious to make again anytime soon, no matter how many “nice Christian girls” my friends and co-workers want to set me up with…

And now Christmas is upon us. Last year at this time I was in a rut and had difficulty being excited about Christmas. Thankfully that is not the case for me this year. We got the house decorated last weekend, the Christmas shopping is about half-completed, and the cards are in a box on the kitchen table ready to be signed. Having a brighter outlook toward Christmas this year has been a huge blessing.

Mostly because my daughter is struggling so much with it now.

My daughter continues to experience her grief in waves, much like I do (though not always during the same periods). But sometimes it blindsides her as well. Last weekend was one example. If you’re not a widowed single parent of small children, then you’ll have to take my word for this next sentence: Comforting my grieving child is one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. When she says things like “Mommy will never get to watch me open presents again” or “Mommy won’t ever get to read me a Christmas story again”… there are no words that can heal that kind of pain. But even worse than trying to comfort her without being patronizing, is having to watch her endure the kind of pain that grief can bring and not being able to do a thing about it…

So I guess that is my update of sorts. Now that I’ve typed it, it seems as scattered as it did in my head. But I wanted to get something on here for those of you who have been genuinely concerned about my absence. I truly do appreciate your messages and Facebook comments. I’m slightly better about returning e-mails than I am about posting here or on Facebook, so should I go missing again, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

It actually kind of brightens my day when you do.

And right now my days could use a little brightening.


  1. i am glad you got to spend time with family over Thanksgiving. airline prices are as unreasonable as health care. i hope you can get the dental work done as your teeth do make a difference in your overall feeling of well being.

    i can only imagine the work and feeling of helplessness that goes along with helping a young child with grief. though my children grieve for our Dragon, they are grown. mostly i think they grieve over me and how much i have changed. they sort of lost the mom they had always known. i have no idea what it takes to become better. i think the days for all of us just end up running one after another as if on an assembly line and we tackle what is immediately before us.

    you have nice friends who want the best for you when they try to match you with a "nice Christian girl," and hopefully soon they will realize that you will be ready when you are ready. nothing wrong with them or you. you are just where you are right now. raising your daughter and getting the both of you through her first grade will take a lot out of you.

    i keep you in my thoughts and wish for peace for both you and your daughter. peace and light.

  2. Hi, first-time reader via One Breath at a Time. I lost my husband before I was 60, and even that was not a "young" widow by any means, I discovered that grief and support stuff was indeed geared to those in their 70's and older. My hat goes off to those, like you, who lost their spouses so very VERY young and are also coping with a young child (or children) who also misses their parent. In a situation in which NONE of us wants to be found, it is comforting to read of your emotions and how you are coping with the challenges that you are facing. {{HUGS}} from someone who has been walking this path about 2-1/2 years.

  3. Thanks for the update. Nice to have you back.