Sunday, June 17, 2012

Daddy Dearest.

When a single mom goes out on a date with somebody new
It always winds up feeling more like a job interview
My momma used to wonder if she'd ever meet someone
Who wouldn't find out about me and then turn around and run 
– “He Didn’t Have to Be”

“Daddy would like this song.”

Looking at her in the backseat, surrounded by fluffy friends and related accoutrements necessary for a night of mommy-and-me time, I wonder if she understands the lyrics she is listening to. The woman inside me knows that she does, and I am caught between wishing she didn’t and welcoming the wisdom that is beyond her years.

In the nearly four years that I have navigated the murky waters that widowhood ignominiously landed me in, I have learned much about the annual calendar. I have learned that milestones, holidays and nondescript days all carry equal weight on the scale of pain.

In the first year each day seared, some white hot and others blue flame. Each milestone and holiday a test of endurance and resolve. But the days in between, when the air felt like a moment in time past or familiar musculature crossed my line of sight in passing, were as painful for their anger and loneliness as the unwelcomeness of the holidays that shone a spotlight on our void. As time passed, the pain dulled and each holiday simply became unwelcome. But the Hallmark-ed weeks of anticipation ensure that the ones most jarring are prolonged. And for an entire week I have been subjected to questions, conversations, dreams and dreads of paternal importance.

What he looked like. Was it burritos or nachos? The sound of his voice. His favorite color. The games he played. Did he like football or hockey best? Where we met and where we got married. Did he ever get mad, or was he always laughing?

When will we have a new Daddy?

Listening to the words of the song, she does not know that years ago we listened to the same lyrics. And in a moment of thoughtfulness, we wondered how hard it would be to enter a family that you did not start. To embrace children not yours as your own. For children to embrace a father that was not theirs as their own. And in that moment we promised that if it ever came to pass, we would honor the other by accepting no less than someone who would love us as if we had always been theirs.

And it came to pass, and Father’s Day became as much a day of remembering as it has become a day of wondering. It is equal part tears and dreams, a day of wishing for what was and what could be.

“Mom, I made a wish in the fountain but it can’t come true. So I wish you can find us another Daddy that is the perfect one for us instead.”

“Any chance you saw a frog near that fountain?”

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bedtime Stories.

I have broken my bed.

Right now those of you who bet the odds are questioning why it took so long to get to this point. If you have been a fierce advocate of my inner cougar, you’re secretly hoping for vindication. My mother is pretending she is uninterested in whether her only daughter will find happily ever after again, and you’re all waiting to hear what 50 shades of misadventure led to this little turn of events because, if there is anything we’ve all learned by now is that my life is nothing if not entertaining.

For you. Not necessarily for me.

Just so we’re all caught up, the lip has healed nicely. The doctor-prescribed vibrator to vanquish the unsightly scar tissue that required a visit to a not-to-be-named-lest-my-computer-contract-something-nefarious purveyor of such pleasantries, however, did not survive. Overuse, I assume. It’s not like I had plans for it afterwards but, just in case this whole dating thing doesn’t work out it, it would have come in handy. And for the record, it was never applied it to my lips in public.

But I digress.

For the past several years, I have methodically taken inventory. Of what I wanted and what I don’t and what stays and what goes. What is me and what was us. What is beyond salvation and what can be salvaged. What to do and what not to do. What to walk away from and what to walk toward. 

So one would think that the bed—the place where he died and where I slept unknowingly beside his lifeless body—would be first on the list of disposables.

But one would be wrong.

The bed is neither expensive, nor is it elaborate. Made from iron bands that gently curve, a single mattress sits above weakening wooden slats. For years, I have disappeared into its velvety winter layers and I’ve lain restless on its cool summer sheets. It gave me my children and it took away my husband. It swallowed my silent tears and embraced us in laughter. On a wooden platform that has weathered a lifetime.

With the mattress they took away its memories, leaving behind strong steely bands and weary wooden slats to be covered anew. A cold, empty platform covered with a warm, new foundation on which new memories will be formed. A shell to be filled. 

Just as soon as I figure out how to tighten the screws.