family Grieving story


Thats the new job title. Objectively of course it fits. We were married almost 15 years. The kids and I celebrated our anniversary by setting a place for Momma: champaign with spaghetti and meatballs and a caesar salad (her favorite.) I don’t feel like a widower, I don’t know what that really means. Do they put you at a different table at weddings? Front row seating at funerals all the time? True liked celebrating our anniversary, she wants to do it again next year chiefly because it means chocolate cake. Anything with cake has to be good. Maybe you get more cake in life if you’re a widower.

If I’m going to be a widower what kind do I get to be? Am I Tom Hanks from Sleepless in Seattle? My Mom thinks so, she says we had the perfect love, it comes only once in a lifetime. Which, honestly at this point would suck. I think the whole purpose of these widower movies is to prove to men that love can come more than once in a lifetime, right? And by the way – does this mean I have to chase one of my kids to New York to meet my new love? I really don’t fly well these days. Also, I’m not really a fan of Meg Ryan in that film. I know she left her fiance but WOW, what a milktoast fanatic he was! If Meg could be with him how exciting could she really be? My late wife once took our toddler son on a ride in his wagon down our road at about 25 MPH. They hit a rock, flipped completely over and both face planted. Once in a lifetime photo op. Beat that Meg.

If being Tom Hanks means flying to find my kids and hook up with Meg, I think I’ll pass. I never really liked that movie, even though I thought it was a really good performance by Hanks. He totally captured what its like to be standing next to an amazing kid (I’ve got two) and grieving at the same time. It’s sort of like running into a good friend you haven’t seen in years in an elevator when you’re on your way to get a kidney removed. Fun times.

Of course Liam Neeson in Love, Actually is a good choice. His late wife was extremely cool and awesome (just like my wife, see wagon story above.) That’s important in a widower movie because even though the woman is always more awesome than the man could ever be, some of her coolness inevitably rubs off on him. Which is probably why Neeson gets to hook up with Claudia Schiffer in the end. Bonus* he’s old like me and he gets to sleep with a supermodel! He’s the it’s-never-too-late-for-love-if-you’ve-got-kids widower. Also his kid rocks, I’ve got that times two! I do cry kind of like he did in that movie. Its that sudden, almost coughing up a live sardine that went down the wrong pipe, kind of crying. Generally it makes people a little uncomfortable when I cry. Its difficult to tell if I’m really upset or having a medical emergency.

Another tempting choice is Matt Damon in We Bought A Zoo. This one is really appealing because – damn you GET A ZOO! I mean like a real Zoo with big wild animals. Screw grieving, I want to feed LIONS!! Of course when you stop to think about it maybe getting a zoo with giant man eating creatures isn’t such a great idea when your kids only have one parent left. Kind of scary that this movie is based on a true story. But putting reality aside, there is also the much younger Scarlett Johansson as well! It’s clear from her later film career that she only gets hotter with age. And let’s face it, in that movie Damon is basically a total dork. He’s got a great leading man jaw, but really he’s 110% pure American Dad Dork. Does he wear a fanny pack/utility belt in every scene? I AM A SHOE IN FOR THIS ONE!

What I really like about this widow story is he gets to cherish his love for his late wife, while still loving someone else. It shows that men can actually walk and chew gum (emotionally speaking) at the same time (with the occasional kick in the pants from Scarlett.) *Caution: one of the kids is extremely sullen and dramatically affected by the loss of his mother. So far my kids have avoided this pitfall, we’ll see. Of course the younger one is a perfect match for my daughter: dancing her way through the cataclysm that is the loss of Momma in fuzzy pink cowboy boots, still looking for that unicorn to take her on the next adventure.

A brief moment the widows out there:

At this point it’s becoming clear that if you’re going to lose your spouse it’s MUCH better to be a man than a woman (I know, HUGE surprise ladies.) I think we expect women to be permanently shattered, never to pick up the pieces unless a man comes along to do her the GREAT service of caring about her kids. We are so damned heroic. We like our men to grieve, then fall in love and get laid. Women, meh – not so much. We’re really not that concerned if women get laid after their husbands have died. Throw on top of that how pay inequality impacts single mothers, and you’re romantic comedy potential has now completely died. At this point I should suggest finding a widower who understands what you’ve been through, but apparently we’re all getting laid by supermodels, so good luck with that!

That’s not to say there aren’t some pretty sexy widow flicks out there. When all is said and done (Zoo’s notwithstanding) I’d rather be Demi Moore in Ghost.  Where the fuck is my kiss goodbye? I get what being the guy widower is about, I can do all that. I just wanted a proper goodbye with her standing in the light and me knowing she was OK. Patrick Swayze is breaking down doors just to get to her and I am apparently a big pile of chopped liver! OK, fair enough, compared to a young Demi Moore I actually am a large pile of chopped liver.

And yes I do know she’s OK. She’s visited me in dreams, I’ve got my own ways of visiting her. Others have confirmed that she’s a good place. Turns out she is not pining away for me though, NOT LIKE PATRIC WOULD! The kids, yep, but she’s got things to do and haunting me ain’t one of them. She’s doing great, she feels complete, gotta go, things to do. Hurumph. After all these years I still haven’t made it to the top of her priority list. This self pity probably isn’t earning my any points with Scarlett.

I like some of the movies about old widowers, the ones who talk to their wives all the time, visit their graves every day (George Burns in Going in Style … actually just George Burns in real life after Gracie died.) It’s a simpler way of being. They’re old, there done, just time to wait for passing on. My daughter Truly of course will have none of that “I’m done, throwing in the hat” old man BS.

This morning:
“I miss Momma.”
“Me too sweetie, miss her all the time.”
“What about my old Mama?”
“You mean your birth Mother? She’s sick, she can’t really be a Momma anymore.” Makes sense, if you’ve got an old, slightly used spare Momma laying around why not bring her on board?
“I really don’t know honey, Papa is not in charge of that. If it’s gonna happen, it will probably take time.”
The furrow of disappointment is deep.

Funny how I feel her absence most acutely with the kids. I had so much time to prepare for dealing with the practicalities of caring for them while Terry focused on her healing, and then her dying, that I had taken just about everything over. The main thing that changed in my daily life when she died was that I had more time for the kids. I’ve started to feel those moments when we all would have turned to her, those places where she provided the balance to me, when she held Tadg and True in the way only their Mother could. This last month is really the first time in my life I’ve felt starkly inadequate as a parent. Not because I’m not doing all the right things, but because I’m not her.

I guess I’m like most people who know our family, I’m not done mourning for my kids and what they have lost. Maybe when that’s done I’ll get to cry all of my tears not just in a few gurgled moments, but in the great river that is waiting to flow through me. Maybe then I’ll feel like a widower.

My son has been gone for 4 days now on a class camping trip. He really didn’t want to be away, until he heard he’d be bunking with one of his best friends. True and I have spent a lot of time together, she’s noticed Momma being gone even more without Tadg to distract her. We’ve both slept deeply, a lot longer than we usually do. I didn’t even mind it when, a few hours after crawling into bed with me, she woke me up by sticking her toe in my ear (she was dead asleep.)

Come to think of it maybe that was Terry, making sure I knew she was still watching over us, ready with the joke. Not Patrick Swayze but I’ll take it.

Good night Gracie, wherever you are.

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