Category Archives: When the Other Parent Dies

I Deserve Your A-Game

Let’s face it, these last few months have been rough…in fact, since April 12th I have been living under a blanket of fear and sadness.  Fear he would die, fear of what a recovery could be like, fear of my life changing, fear of you and all you would go through with whatever happened.  Sadness that his summer was ruined, that your life had changed so much while he was in the hospital.  Fear he could not come home, and sadness when I realized he never would.  Fear of how to make it without him, and sadness when we finally had to trudge forward after his death.

Through all of it, I have supported you unconditionally, never hesitating in how my life would change with his illness, the announcement of hospice, and then his death.  You have been my first thought always as I neglected myself and just about everything around me to care for you…sometimes just to worry about you – even when you were fine.

You were pissed, angry and upset with all that was going on, and that was understandable.  You are too young, as was he, to go through any of this.  It is not lost on me that you were stuck with bad cop – the stricter parent.  I know he was your buddy and that void must be heartbreaking for you to even think about acknowledging let alone begin to explore it.  But I’m doing everything I can, and I’m going to now demand your A-Game – afterall, I deserve it.

  1. Flush the toilet
  2. Make your bed
  3. Clean your room
  4. Engage at the dinner table (don’t just stare into space).
  5. Do your chores.
  6. Mind your manners
  7. Show kindness to others when they try to help you through
  8. Look for the good in our home
  9. Say good morning and hello
  10. Say thank you

Above all, it is what your father would have wanted.  He would want you to bring your A-Game to our home, to represent him in the best possible way.  He would want you to remain somewhat together, neat, and to realize that this situation is not perfect for anyone.  He would want you to appreciate that while this impacts you the most there are others who have adjusted around you.

We have heard horror stories of other teens who have gone through exactly what you have experienced…and they have not handled it with the grace and success we expect of you.  They go off the rails turning to others and substances to ease the pain and heal the void.  But the void you feel from his loss is so big that there is nothing that could fill it and I will not allow you to dishonor him by trying .  So as you move forward fill the loss with your own success and happiness. Nothing can dumb or dull the pain of his absence.

Luke, I am NOT your father

He cooks your meals, starts your car in the morning when it is cold, and has dinner with your boyfriend.  Takes you on fancy vacations, checks your oil, and hugged you tight when dad announced he was going into hospice.  He has helped your mom in too many ways to count…and held her up through the imaginable of this summer as she struggled to hold you up at that time.   Continue reading Luke, I am NOT your father

The First Birthday After a Parent Dies – Happy Birthday Buddy

The first birthday after a parent dies.  I was told the day was going to suck …and that this day in future years will always suck.  I prepared myself mentally which means I braced for tears…mine and theirs as well.  The oldest has come home to be with us – I arranged for them to go out to dinner with your person.  I’m sending them to Wawa for Treat-yo-Self Friday.

I want to erase this day from the calendar or race through it with lightning speed.  For 30 years or so I have reached out to you on this day…in person and then on text with a Happy Birthday.  You considered it a national holiday – I threw you elaborate parties – and even after our split helped you honor yourself in ways big and small.  I laughed as you always took off from work – and now as I look at all that has happened, I am glad you did.  It is also not lost on me that since your birthday falls in October it is the start of the holiday season – and this year that start is one of dread.

Look, I’m a happy person…glad to be the parent who is alive for sure.  But their pain is so great I want it to be over with already.  I’ll carry them on my back, wipe their tears, give them hugs…but at the end of the day this isn’t very fun, in fact it is profoundly sad.  We all just miss you.

Over these last three months my heart has broken a thousand times for what you are missing – both for you missing it and them missing you –  there have been so many moments each day when my eyes have filled with tears, and other times when I have sobbed.  Drivers permits, college tours, campus drop offs, first days of school, new boyfriends (ughhh to that last one).  I know you aren’t missing it, I can feel your presence, somehow watching over us.  But to not be there with them, for them, and enjoying it all for yourself.

I know that wherever you are, and whatever the temperature, you have a beer in your hand and friends surrounding you.  Just know that we are all sitting here thinking of you..and wishing you were still with us.

Just Keep Passing Out the Peanuts

On April 12, 2017 while attending a conference in Philadelphia I received a text from my ex-husband.  I knew he was also down in Philadelphia, his trip was to visit a surgeon at Penn hospital to remove a growing bump on his neck.

“I have anaplastic thyroid cancer.”

I originally thought, “oh jeeze, like me need this.  But whatever, we will get through it.”   Having never heard of this type of Thyroid Cancer I immediately looked it up.”  Tears filled my eyes, my hands started to shake, and stresses ripped through my body settling with that tingling feeling in my calves as I read…

“Rare…aggressive…deadly.”

I immediately asked him what stage he had…afterall, isn’t that one of the first thing they tell you?  I thought of our three teenage daughters…but as I dug a little deeper into the internet from my phone, I learned that this cancer is always stage 4.

As I look back on these last six weeks (it seems like I have been in a time warp, I have realized that at that moment John shared his news with me the plane our little family usually travels on started experiencing extreme turbulence.  And just like a flight attendant, my job would be to stay calm and just keep handing out the peanuts.

But let me tell you, that has not been easy.  He left his original surgery with a tracheotomy and was not able to speak for weeks.  Upon learning the results of surgery (which did not produce the miracle we hoped for), and many times since I have been the one to share news with our three daughters, and none of it has been particular good.  I was the one who told them the actual diagnosis, “dad is back in the hospital.”

I’m just now realizing the importance of writing about this.  My dear sister Susan reminded me of my gift and the cathartic impact.  Not to mention that I have a resounding message, that every divorced parent needs to hear…which will be shared with every post…

For the sake of your children make friends with your ex.  As divorced parents it is the greatest gift you can give to your children.