Monday, July 19, 2010

More Evidence of the New Normal

I forgot to mention (more evidence of the New Normal) that I had one of those potentially awkward widow situations during B's birthday party. B's best preschool friend is new in her life this year, and I only know the parents slightly. They are lovely people, and I was pretty sure they weren't aware of our backstory. Sure enough, early on in the party the dad said, "So where's your husband?", looking around as if he might be hiding out somewhere. "I lost my husband 2 years ago", I said, steady but rueful. He was taken aback, and apologized several times. Later his wife said she hadn't known, and was very sorry. It gave me a chance to talk about how much easier each year is than the one before. And it is. I missed T like I always do these days: wistfully, bearably, normally.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Tonight, I am happy. Unreasonably happy, perhaps. I'm not entirely sure why, other than having pulled off a successful birthday party for B and an evening BBQ with dear friends. Apparently, I love entertaining, and when things go well it fills me with contentment.

First, the birthday party. B turns four on Wednesday, and I have always tried to keep her birthday parties low-key. This is the third year without her Daddy, and I guess I've gotten used to him not being around. The first year, with him, was family. The second year, raw without him, a very close friend brought cupcakes and her family and carried me through the ordeal. The third year, I had a little more resilience but still asked our wonderful nanny to plan and purchase for the event. She brilliantly came up with a beach theme, and we had a wading pool and shells and visors and beach balls. And 3 friends, since B was turning 3.

This year, I was able to carry it on my own. We ended up inviting 5 friends even though 4 was the limit, because I really wanted to include B's best friend from preschool along with B's closest friends (really, MY closest friends!) from two of my moms' groups. We are fortunate enough to have a nice pool in the back yard, so I hired the daughter of a good friend, a certified life guard, and the party was a smashing success. What's not to enjoy about warm sun, a cool pool, pizza, and cupcakes?

Of course, the day was not without its challenges. B woke up complaining of a tummy ache, and after consuming half an English muffin and listening to a story, proceeded to lose the muffin on the hall carpet. Then she lay down and fell asleep. What to do? Cancel the party and attempt to reschedule? I called several of the invited guests, and got wonderful, thoughtful advice. I cried a little, too, thinking that if T were here, I would have someone to share the decision-making process with. In the end, B woke up from her short morning nap as chipper as a sandpiper, and off we went. Must have been something she ate, because she had no trouble enjoying her friends and the pool and two cupcakes.

She had a late nap by the time the last guests left (helping me clean up first -- what wonderful friends!). Then we zipped to the store for some fresh Alaskan salmon, and I BBQed salmon, sliced sweet potatoes and asparagus for the friends who introduced me to T. A warm evening on the patio, good food and company, wine and ice cream, and I'm overflowing with happy feelings. I made it through another milestone event unscathed, perhaps even with joy, and I sit here at my desk looking out the window at the half moon and counting my blessings.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Coming Home Blues

Even though, as I mentioned in the prior post, I'm mostly feeling "back to normal" these days, whatever that may be, I still had a bit of a bumpy reentry coming back from vacation. Last year, arriving home from our annual Montana trip triggered a long, difficult sad period. We had missed our flight (yikes!) and rather than having the nanny pick us up at a reasonable time mid-day and keep B occupied and me company while I unpacked and she prepared us dinner, I had to call in a big favor from a friend to collect us from the airport late at night. We arrived home to a dark, very empty house, and my heart and soul felt dark and empty for what seemed like a long time afterwards.

This year, the effect was much lessened, but I still feel blah-ish. Our flight was delayed an hour or so, on the ground in Missoula while we waited for SFO visibility to improve, and I was fine. A dear friend who lives near the airport picked us up in our car, and I took her back to her place before heading home. No problem. The nanny had done the grocery shopping and was preparing a crock pot dinner as we arrived. Great! But it wasn't going to be ready in time for dinner. Huh. OK, I'll make quesadillas. Nope, we are out of refried beans and the nanny didn't pick up the shopping list before going to the store today. There was nothing else fresh in the house for dinner -- I had to thaw some leftovers. And that was enough to send me over the edge into testiness. What's the big deal? We'll have the crock pot meal tomorrow, and the leftovers were tasty and easy. But it was the disappointment, the mismatch of reality to expectation, that got to me. I had a grand vision of being taken care of, of not having to think or manage for a few short hours after being ON for nine days. It was painful to arrive in the kitchen 10 minutes before dinner time (and nanny quiting time) to discover that I had to take care of myself and B after all, that I had to manage. It was a trivial but recognizable echo of losing T suddenly and unexpectedly, after marriage and baby and the expectation of having a partner to share the care and management with. I am just hopeful that the after-effects won't linger this time.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Feeling Healed

B and I just returned from nine days in Montana, where much of T's extended family lives. I am very fortunate that B is such a great traveler, because I like nothing more than planning a trip, throwing a few things in a suitcase, and heading off to new adventures. This was a great trip, and I am very glad to be able to continue building our relationships with T's aunt, cousins, and their families. In some small way, I think I was responsible for the family reunion that occurred on a beautiful Montana lake last week, where 24 people ranging in age from 76 years to 3 weeks, all related by blood or marriage, spent time enjoying each other's company. It sometimes takes an outsider as catalyst to bring the blood relatives together. (Photo credit: Robin Spielberg)

While on the trip, I had a small but nice reminder of how far I've come on this grief journey. Sure I had moments of deep sadness when I reflected on T's absence, my loneliness, or the challenges of sole parenting, especially while traveling. But in the parking lot of our hotel early in our visit, there was a truck (this is Montana, after all) with "Just Married" messages decorating the windows. "How sweet", I thought. And went about my day. Later in the week, another Just Married vehicle appeared in the parking lot, and it was then that I realized I didn't get that zinger of pain, that visceral reminder of my widowed state. I'm not a fresh bruise, sensitive to everything. The wound is mostly healed, and I'm so thankful to have arrived at this state.