J and I start planning Little Man’s birthday party a few months in advance. This means that before he died, we had already begun to plan. We do this for many reasons. The most important being, we always try to plan the actual party on the weekend that he had off. Sometimes this means it was before C’s birthday, and sometimes it means it was after. Just part of working an officer’s schedule. We also wanted C’s birthdays to be special. He’s an amazing kid and deserves a day when he is reminded of that. Then, J would usually end up taking C’s actual birthday off and we would celebrate it as a family. Therefore, to say that celebrating C’s birthday was difficult, is an understatement.
It seems as if this summer has been full of “difficult days.” Our anniversary, C’s birthday, C starting school. A summer full of what should have been happy celebratory events, and instead, just constant reminders that one day can change everything. Please don’t get me wrong, I am celebrating these events, it’s just with a bittersweet constant paradoxical attitude.
This entire past week has been difficult. From the family birthday party last weekend, to the memorial golf tournament/birthday party yesterday, to C’s actual birthday today. Not to mention the pre-trial being mixed into all of this as well. I never know how to plan for these days. I don’t know what to do to get myself ready, and then I remind myself for what seems like the millionth time in 2 months that there is no getting ready. Immerse myself in whatever feelings I’m having at that time, and then try to deal with them and move on. That’s difficult especially today. C’s actual birthday. It’s difficult because he deserves a special day despite all that has happened in the past two months. This is his day, and he deserves a chance to be happy, and his mommy’s sadness shouldn’t affect that. He was my source of strength today; however, I found that it was still beyond difficult to be happy today. And then, well, I feel like a bad mommy because what kind of mom is actually sad on her child’s birthday? Again, a reminder that one day, one choice, one instant, changed our world forever.
Now, to begin what most of you are accustomed to by now in my blog: refection. I’ll warn you, this one will probably be as emotionally raw and real as the last. If you are expecting happiness at the end of this, I can’t promise you that. I just promise to be honest.
Today, when I should have been ecstatic because my “baby” turned 5, I found myself wondering about and being afraid for his future. I felt anxious and fearful all day. I was short tempered, and patience, well you might as well have forgotten about that virtue. I tried as much as possible to be happy and to actually celebrate his birthday, but I found myself feeling empty inside.
Often times I found myself wondering what this day would have been like with J by my side. Sure, C wouldn’t have had such an extravagant birthday party yesterday, but his day would have been filled with love by his TWO parents. And today, instead of getting to feel his daddy’s hug and hear his voice say “Happy Birthday”, today, he got his mommy trying her hardest to tell him how excited his daddy was to watch him from heaven. And, it simply isn’t fair. He deserves better. Again, one day…
We went through the whole day with me repressing my feelings, and pushing them off because I wanted him to be happy on his birthday. And let’s just say, today was not as happy as we would have wanted it to be around our house. It’s hard to repress the knowledge that you are his sole parent. That he won’t have his daddy to give him advice, and that it’s now my job to pass on what I THINK his daddy would have said to him. And all of this responsibility falls on me because of one day and one choice.
I struggle even to know what the “guy answer” to the problem is. And, he’s only 5. I want so badly to go back to the days when I got to be the nurturer and J got to be the advice giver. He knew how to make C into a man. And yes, for those of you who aren’t parents, those lessons start even before a boy turns 5. Being a man is a way of life, and it’s a choice, often times a series of choices on a daily basis. And, yes, I know that a mother plays a tremendous role in turning her little boy into a man, but he learns best from his daddy. And so today on C’s 5th birthday, I found myself wondering just exactly how I was going to do that. And I wasted a tremendous amount of his birthday caught up in this idea. Still, even now, I feel horrible. All the worrying was fruitless. Nothing came out of it because, like always there is no plan for this. I pray, I make the best decisions I can in that moment, and I pray some more. I’ve made more mistakes in the past 2 months in parenting than probably in the past 2 years.
Each time I make one, I admit them to C, I ask for his forgiveness. I explain that mommy is still trying to learn to cope with Daddy’s death too, and we pray, we hug, and we start over again. Maybe that’s step one in raising a man? Admitting mistakes, asking for forgiveness, and changing your actions to reflect the lesson you learned? Who knows? I didn’t figure out much in the “how to raise a man” pity party I was having today. I know plenty of moms and dads who are raising boys together and still don’t know these answers. Even when I was throwing myself this pity party for over half the day, I knew it was pointless, but it didn’t change how I felt. I don’t think these feelings will go away. I worry more about how this is affecting C than I do myself. He’s my driving force.
And so this afternoon, after getting home, a friend came over to take J’s bike out for a ride. It has to be done until we can sell it. I’m sure when he walked in, I must have had a horrible look on my face. At that time, I was juggling at LEAST 4 different tasks, and I simply was about at my wit’s end. He told me to go get J’s helmet and to hop on J’s bike.
For those of you who knew the old me, you are thinking, yep, there’s no way she did that. Yeah, I told him that a few months ago too, “not going to happen.” But for some reason, I didn’t question it. For some reason, the idea of actually riding J’s bike, (and as a side note a motorcycle for the first time) was appealing and seemed therapeutic. I followed directions, hopped on the bike, and off we went. And yes, I did consider for a second how dangerous it was, but I also felt this innate desire to be alive today. And being on the back of the bike just seemed right.
I thought I would be terrified. The opposite happened. I felt alive. And then, I began to think about who J was a person. I think so many of my fears about C’s future stem from the idea that I’m afraid I won’t know what J would say to him. And, even though he’s dead, he is still C’s daddy. I married J in part because I knew he would be a great daddy, and I wasn’t wrong. Therefore, I want to tell C what J would tell him.
So as I’m riding, I started thinking about J and his values, morals, ideas, likes, dislikes, and his crazy theories. I started to smile, well in between passing cars :). I guess you could say I had a conversation with J while on his bike. The bike he could NEVER convince me to ride because I always felt too scared. Today, even more of J rubbed off on me. I’m by NO MEANS fearless; however, today I’m one step closer. It’s sad to say that I understood who he was on a level that I never had when he was alive because I would never let go of that fear.
Today on the back of his bike, and during some reflection at a farm, I realized, I’m going to be alright raising C on my own. I realized how well I actually know his daddy, and that even if I don’t know the answer, the right one always seems to appear. Since J died, I’ve always worried about whether or not I’m making the right decisions. But today, while watching some dogs play on a farm, I remembered, he was the one who let me make all the decisions anyways, and then he would validate those decisions. In his death, I miss that validation. I miss knowing that he’s on board with my decision. But today, it’s odd to say, but on the back of that bike, I felt like I got my validation. He always told me I was too uptight, and that I needed to live a little more. He was right.
Through J’s death, so much of his tendencies, qualities, and ideas have rubbed off on me. Due to this happening, I realized today, that C has a momma in the flesh, and a daddy whose spirit still flows to some degree through his momma. And because of this, he still has two parents. That seems weird even as a I write it, but that’s the best way I can describe it. I’m hoping the ideas I’m attempting to convey come through correctly.
Even though I’m sure I’ll second guess myself, and my parenting decisions so many more times in the future, right now, I know that if I just stop and stay still for a second, J’s ideas, thoughts, and feelings still flow through me. Even if staying still is being held hostage on the back of a bike, where being still is your only safe option at the time ;).
One day can change everything. One choice changed our lives forever. It has caused me to second guess myself more than I ever thought possible, to cry more than humanly imaginable, to reflect on deeper level, to grow closer to people who uphold the same morals and values as J and I do, and most importantly to grow into a person I never had the courage to be. To grow into the person that I am destined to be. Of course I would trade in all of this growth for my husband to be back; however, that no longer is an option. When I signed up to be an officer’s wife, I had NO idea SO much officer blood, thoughts, and values would run through me. I had no way of knowing that because of his ultimate sacrifice, I would be forced to grow. I don’t like that it had to happen, and I would give anything to change it, but I do like the person it is slowly making me become. Right now, I only like a few scattered pieces of her. But in the end, I’m determined to like all of her. I’m determined that through his death, I’m going to love who I become. It beats the other option. Either way, he isn’t coming back. I might as well love the person I become.
And, now I am given the task of raising a boy into a man. The difference is, today I believe I can do that.
When I started this post, the title was really negative in connotation. But because I’m a firm believer in silver linings, this post is ending with a positive note I wasn’t sure I could promise you at the beginning.
One day can truly change everything; however, every day is an a chance for your life to change forever. Everyday I have a choice, and thankfully only half of today was negative. Thankfully at the end of the day, I got to talk to my precious 5 year old about how happy his daddy was to see him turn 5, and I got to hold him until he fell asleep. And then afterwards, I get to sit here and reflect on how much like his daddy I have become. I don’t have to worry about whether or not he’ll remember his daddy because in 7 years of marriage, and 6 being an officer’s wife, I finally realized today on the back of his bike, that I really did know him. And in the end, C will be just fine and so will his slightly less square mommy ;).