A few weeks ago, on our last night of Safe Harbor I was given the question “if you could go forward to see the future or go back in time, what would you do?” I responded without hesitation, “I would go back in time to a moment when John was completely coherent. I would tell him how much I cherished our friendship, the peace we had built…I would promise my dear friend and brother that I would work tirelessly to raise our children for both of us.”
Most importantly I would tell him that I loved him.
John and I did not have a complicated relationship – after all, John was not a complicated person. He was Mr Happy Go Lucky, belly up to the bar and have a beer, everyone’s best friend. (I am a Rubik’s cube complicated Gemini but that is beyond the bounds of this post). When we divorced peace was our only option, no matter how unusual everyone else thought it was. We high-fived each other out of divorce court, sat next to each other at many kid events, texted almost every day, and enjoyed keeping each other in the loop on the happenings of friends.
Two years ago today he left us. In his death, and my determination to raise our children for both of us, he has given me more gifts than I could have ever imagined. I have borrowed his patience, understanding and good cop parenting style to balance myself out. And sometimes I imagine him whispering “please handle it this way for me” when I am at a crossroads in what to do – driving all over creation to buy the perfect car, long drives to find the perfect college, allowing the middle one to attend a music festival…so many occasions I would never allow if left on my own. He’s here, in my heart, helping me co-parent. Don’t get me wrong, when I need to drop the bomb of discipline I know full-well he would 100% back me up (as he would also quietly walk away from the actual disciplining – which was not his thing).
While it is my honor to parent as I do, for both of us, providing the support of both parents is exhausting. It is filled with worry, doubt and many moments of tears – mine and theirs. As the only parent I am the one on hand to attend all events, haul stuff in and out of dorm rooms – buy cars – instill work ethic – hand over credit cards – be a quiet soft spot for my kids to land when things go wrong (that was his job in the past), and put support in place when they get overwhelmed by me and need a break (hey, I’m not perfect). But while I am the only parent available, I am not alone. He’s with me – probably laughing his ass off most of the time as I repeatedly have the cars fixed, negotiate curfews, boyfriends (yes, they ALL got boyfriends after he passed), and prom dresses that I demand must cover important parts.
In moments big and small, graduations – car buying – sitting around talking, you can often catch a tear or two welling up in my eyes for my dear friend and all he is missing. Sometimes you can also find me looking upward, asking him to bestow upon my life a miracle to get me through some crazy situation. Every now and again I do curse the clouds and scream in my head “you left me here with them alone – what were you thinking?!?!”
It has been a tricky dance I struggle with, every single day, managing and balancing his death in my head. Living my own life while carrying the torch of his memory for our girls. It is still absolutely surreal he is gone and that in his loss I am lucky beyond the riches of Midas that I get to do everything with our three daughters…see them grow and fly. I have realize that I have received the golden prize of life – in fact if you are reading this, you have as well…life…days to live and enjoy. And so, I feel grateful…
No, our marriage did not go as planned, but the strong amazing family we committed to after our divorce not only lives on, but is strengthened by the determination to do right by him. John got the short end of the stick of life for sure, and the gifts that have been sent to me through his passing I cherish and honor. In the words (a bit edited) of Fogleberg,
“I thank you for the freedom when it came my time to go
I thank you for the kindness and the times when they got tough
And John, I don’t think I said I love you near enough”
One year ago we gathered in Lawrenceville to dedicate a tree to John. It is a big floppy tree that waves to you as you pass by. At that time, a very special person, our neighbor Ed DeLoca became the self-appointed keeper of the tree. He was going to weed, trim and promised to bring a Fat Tire by every now and again. As shocking as John’s 82 day journey to the promise Land was, Ed was gone in hours after suffering from an AVM back in January. I have no doubt they are up there, beers in their hands, beaming with pride at their families. Two phenomenal guys, the nicest you can find…gone but never forgotten.