An Open Letter to my Mom on the Eve of my Dad’s Wedding

Dear Mom:

It’s almost four years since you died. Sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago and sometimes it feels like yesterday.  Mostly, it feels long, long ago as it’s hard to remember what life felt like when you were here.

Time has marched on just as everyone predicted. I don’t know if your absence has gotten easier to bear, but I’ve certainly become more used to it. It’s corny but true; you are still very much alive, carried in the hearts of many of us still here. You are very loved, appreciated, emulated and admired. 

So let me get to the point of why I’m writing. I wanted to fill you in on big news, if Dad hasn’t already.

Dad is getting married this weekend.  Surprisingly (to everyone else, I think) I’m truly happy and excited for him and for his fiancée.  He is marrying a really great woman who was widowed at a young age. She has terrific kids and really has become part of the family.  I am so impressed with how she has respected Dad’s large extended family and embraced it. I’m sure it can be intimidating and overwhelming, but she’s never tried to separate him from those he loves. I respect that and think it reflects her own confidence in who she is and their relationship. That is huge. She’s not exactly like you (though she looks like she could be your sister or mine) but I kind of like that. It’s like Dad isn’t trying to re-create his life with you, which would make me uncomfortable. For, how could he ever? I like that it’s a new chapter for him, for our family and one that’s about them and not about you or his life before.

It wasn’t Plan A, but it’s a pretty ideal Plan B. And it’s filled with love.

I think you are on the same page. I am once again grateful for the time we had together to prepare for your death, as awful as it seemed at the time. I hope you take comfort in knowing even though you’re not here, you make me a better person each day. 

I’m happy that Dad isn’t alone, and I know you would be too. I’m happy he’s so happy again. I’m happy he has someone to do all those things with that you both probably talked about doing together once the kids were older and he was slowing down at work. I wish it were with you, but I’m not angry he gets to do it with someone else and I hope no one begrudges him that. I’m happy he has someone to love him as a partner and not just as a child or grandchild would. I’m happy that this very nice woman seems to appreciate him, and I’m glad for her that she will have someone as amazing as Dad with whom to share her life. I’m happy that she’s become my friend and that it’s easy and not stressful for us to spend time together. I’m very happy that her kids, who aren’t that much older than mine and were all but babies when they lost their dad, will have a father figure in their life who is a good role model, a great man and a wonderful dad.  They deserve that.

Overall I’m very happy for them, and for Dad.

I won’t lie and say I’m not also sad.

I’m sad you’re not here. I’m sad that you can’t be the one to do all those things you both probably talked about doing together one day, when there would be time and money. I’m sad you didn’t get time to reap the joys of being a grandmother, and I’m sad you had such a small window of time to be friends with your daughter. You deserved that – you, the woman whose own mother teased her, calling her Pollyanna for being so sweet, good and truthful.  I’m sad I don’t have a mom to call for advice or shop with or gossip to or complain about our jobs, husbands and kids. I’m sad you had more years with the push-and-pull of mothering and not more years of the reward of friendship with your children and the grandchild adoration. I’m sad that my kids will never know you nor get that special grandmother time with you or have you at school events, holiday celebrations or milestone moments. I’m sad they won’t get postcards from you on vacation and sleepovers at your house on school breaks. I’m sad that you will not be here to teach them proper etiquette and good manners and how to keep their stomachs in and their shoulders back for good posture, as I know from my own experience how unlikely it is they’ll listen to those lessons from their mom or dad.

I’m sad you won’t have that chance to utter, “I didn’t wish it on you,” as you laugh, watching them as teenagers treat me the way I know I treated you.  I’m sad they won’t have you to call from college when they’re mad at me. I’m sad you won’t be there to speak your mind about the people they’ll date or to beam with pride when they get married or start their first jobs or have children.

Basically, I am so sorry for you that you’re gone. I don’t know they’ll ever understand what they lost.

Maybe another time I’ll share a letter with you about what they’re like today. I wrote quite a bit about them to put in here for you. But this was supposed to be about sharing this weekend’s news with you and letting you know I’m okay. Everyone keeps asking, so you were probably wondering too.

I love you, I love Dad and I love my family. Old and new.

Love, Me

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December 5, 2008. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Sample this

Today, someone in my family actually tried to suggest that men do more in their families than women, complain less and accept more accountability for their kids.

I’m willing to consider this. (Cue the Jeopardy theme music while I consider). Okay, I’ve thought about it. Here’s my verdict:  No way, buddy.

Here’s some irrefutable evidence from today alone. (Editor’s note: some most of this is gross.)

This morning, instead of getting ready for work and going in to the office, I collected a stool sample of diarrhea/staetorrhea from my 6-year old daughter to fill the 5 plastic cups provided yesterday by the pediatrician’s office while my husband got ready for work and did go to the office, then showered with said, possibly Giardia-carrying daughter, drove to the local hospital to deliver the samples to the outpatient lab within the one hour mark of collecting it, stopped by her school to drop off the check for a school event on Friday that is due today since she won’t be at school, went to the dry cleaners to drop off the suit and tie my husband stained last week, dropped 20-some thank you notes that I wrote over the weekend into a post office box for our twins’ birthday gifts, then grabbed a coffee at Starbucks.

I was back home by 8:00 a.m. to do some work before taking to preschool the only one of our three kids not currently voiding their bowels as if they’ve undergone colonoscopy prep.

Not a problem for me on this, just a variation on the daily routine, as chaos seems to be the order of the day in our house. I should also note, when it became clear yesterday that one of us would have to stay home from work to do all this and ensure our other two children survived through the day of stomach cramps and potty runs without ending up in the hospital or sending the nanny to the madhouse, there wasn’t even a conversation or question about who would take responsibility for it. Even my husband will back me up on that one.

Now, my husband is quite possibly the best father in the world. He can handle these three tiny creatures better than any other dad I know does theirs from what I can tell, and does indeed sometimes watch all three at once on weekends when I go do frivilous things like get my hair cut and colored or go grocery shopping. He changes all the light bulbs in the house, does garbage duty, has taken kids to birthday parties and tennis, puts them back to bed when they wake at night, and helps them hang holiday decorations. Yet, this very same man, who has never once been to his hearing-impaired daughter’s audioloist appointment had a small temper tantrum when asked if he could take her to an upcoming one that has to occur before our 504 staffing at the end of the month because I will be out of town on business for the date assigned to us. Of course, he will take her, but I had to hear about it first.

About all this, I have no real complaint. In the long run, everything will get done and we’ll march ahead to the next day whatever it brings. I for one am glad I can do all this, and I take some pride in the fact that I can work a relatively high-level, demanding, full-time job at a Fortune 10 company while also collecting stool samples and managing the family’s school and social obligations. I once read an article about a study saying moms are better multi-taskers than men and it pays off for them at work.  I hope any men who read this (if they haven’t clicked off to somewhere else by this point in the blog post) can somehow take comfort in that study as proof that it’s just not inherent to them. I would hate for men to have to take accountability for willfully evading all this stuff.  That would make me so sad for them.

So, the next time you think you want to face off over how women can’t do what needs to be done without complaint or their willingness to embrace responsibility or accountability, I’ve got a little special sample of something I’ll be happy to share with you. Let me just run to the bathroom first….

October 13, 2008. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. 7 comments.