Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Losing a Child or Parent, Losing a Husband

This weekend, B and I went to a camp for grieving families. There were a number of people there mourning the loss of a parent, a few who had lost siblings, a reasonable group of those who had lost a husband (no widowers, of course), and one family who had lost a teenager. B and I had gone last year, when it was an intense, painful, exhausting experience, though also incredibly supportive, loving and nurturing. This time, I wasn't expecting such intensity, and my intention was to work on bringing T forward into my life now and into the future. And it wasn't nearly as intense, though the love and support was still very evident.

Driving home, I found myself thinking a lot about the differences and similarities in various types of losses. In a sad coincidence, the stepmother of the teenager who died was a high school classmate of mine, which brought into sharper focus what it must feel like to wake up every morning knowing that your child is gone. Maybe I'm comparing to make myself feel better, but it seems to me that my loss is easier to "get over". T and I were together 8 years, married 5. I loved him with all my heart, but I'm not sure I would have described him as my best friend, or my soul mate. That saddened me, but it may make it easier for me to imagine being with someone else, perhaps finding what I felt was missing with T. What brings me to tears these days is the loss that B suffers -- the loss of a parent, and especially before she ever really knew him. He can't be replaced in her life, nor can his role in my life as the co-parent of a child.

For the loss of a child, and the loss of a parent, no matter what you do, you can't replace that person. You can have more children, but they will never be that particular child, with that child's future. And you can develop a close relationship with an in-law or other parent-aged person, but he or she won't be the one who taught you to ride a bike, or fed you soup when you were sick. They won't ever know you like your parent did.

Maybe I'm kidding myself, but I believe that I can "replace" or recreate major parts of my relationship with T. Yes, T and I had history together, but really, was it that much? We knew each other for most of my thirties, but as activity companions for the first half of our time together, rather than in any very deep way. We didn't grow up together, make many major life decisions (other than to have a child!) together. Our lives were intertwined, but not our deepest identities.

T's death leaves a huge hole in B's life that can never be completely filled by any new husband of mine. T's death also brought me to a close, personal relationship with loss and the eternal questions of life and death. And his death leaves me lonely and struggling as a sole parent. But it does not leave me unable to find another life partner, another person to BE my husband.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Another Vacation

Tomorrow B and I leave for 11 days on the beach in Rhode Island. Hurray! We have no agenda, no schedule -- just bathing suits, seafood, and a stack of books.

The genesis of this now annual trek across the country is a silver lining story. As I have mentioned, T had a son, D, from a previous relationship. D's mother grew up in Philadelphia, and her family owned property across the street from the beach in Rhode Island. (As I'm getting tired of using a single letter naming convention, let me call her Tall Blonde, or TB, because she is in fact quite tall, and blonde.) TB and I were always friendly when T was alive, but T was the primary conduit for planning and execution of all things related to D, so I didn't have much of a relationship with her. She was always very gracious and thoughtful, though, saving D's baby things in case T and I had a child, then welcoming B with open arms and no apparent jealousy.

Then T died. Instantly, TB and I were alone in the world, as it were, raising the children of T without him. We quickly formed a bond not unlike close family, helping each other out, celebrating holidays and birthdays together, ensuring the kids have a strong sibling relationship because each was the only sibling the other would have. Admittedly it's a little weird, and I wouldn't have necessarily picked her as a close friend in other circumstances, but I so appreciate TB's straightforwardness, lack of drama and emotional baggage, and open-hearted generosity. (What do I call her? My parallel parent? Co-parent or parenting partner sound too intimate. I haven't found the right terminology to properly explain our relationship.)

That first summer after T died, TB invited B and me to join her and D at the family place in Rhode Island. Sure, I said, feeling like it wouldn't matter if I were on the moon, I was so numb. But I had a very pleasant time, being pampered a little by her family, people who had met T a few times but didn't have the same experience of loss that TB and I did. Last year we went again, since it worked so well the first time. By this year, it's become an annual event, and one I am very grateful for.

I can't help but wonder, though, what will happen when I'm in a relationship again. I imagine we'll stop going ... and I'll be a bit sad. But in a strange way, I can imagine I might be glad, too, to have something else to do with a new love, putting the haven I needed after T died behind me. But I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I'm Forty-Eight

I'm forty-eight, and I'm tired. It's been a sad day, one where I had trouble concentrating at work. When the going gets tough, I just don't seem to care enough ... and the going was not even particularly tough today. I'm just not where I wanted or expected to be at this point in my life, and I'm staring down 50 like a freight train headed straight at me. I don't know why it should bother me so much, but not being settled in a committed relationship, not being married and comfortable, especially at this age, is very unsettling. I am practicing reframing to look at the positives, appreciate what I have, blah blah blah. Sometimes it works. Sometimes I just need to acknowledge that it sucks, and I'm sad.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Marking the Passage of Time

This weekend I attended my 30th high school reunion. I had a very nice time catching up with people, but as expected, I felt a little let down and blue driving home this afternoon. At the party Saturday night I talked about losing T, but not exclusively. I found myself leading with it, then changing the subject after a sentence or two. With people I hadn't known well in high school, I sometimes didn't even feel compelled to share it at all. I was envious of the married couples, but there were plenty of divorced and a few never-married people to help remind me that not everyone is in a perfect relationship. I guess what made the weekend bittersweet was the reminder that the last time I really knew these people, I had my whole life in front of me, and I was full of optimism and certainty that it would be a grant adventure. And yes, it has been a grant adventure for the most part, but darn it, it's half over now! And on that subject...

Tomorrow is my 48th birthday. I don't like celebrating my birthday alone. Luckily, D's mother is throwing me a birthday dinner, bless her heart. I love being a little pampered, and she does a nice job. She's bringing dinner over, and we'll have wine and there will be presents and I will miss T but not unbearably so. I haven't decided what to get for myself for my birthday; it may be permission to buy nothing, since I don't NEED anything and I'm becoming less and less of a consumer over the years. What I really want is for someone else to organize a party for me with all my friends, or to take B for the weekend so I can go away for solitude and spa pampering. Maybe I'll get myself organized enough to make the party happen next year, and come to think of it, the nanny is standing ready to take B for a weekend any time. If I pick a date, I can make that wish come true!

T was 48 when he died. Next year I'll be older than he ever was.