Saturday, August 25, 2012

He Missed It

When my oldest daughter was born (11 years ago), my husband thought the same thing we all did as new parents.

"I can't wait to do ____ and ____ and ____."

In his case, it was camping and 4-wheeling and just about anything else you could think of that involved being outside.

In fact, he bought her first pair of baby hiking shoes when I was 9 weeks pregnant.

And then when my son was born, I could see my husband hold him in the delivery room, envisioning baseball gloves and footballs, Boy Scouts and t-ball.  It was all there.  Right in front of him.

Finally, when our youngest daughter was born, the world was wide open to us.  Surely one of them would like to do the things that we loved to do.

I think we all did that as new parents.  I know that I looked at all three, wondering if any of them caught the music bug that seemed to travel through my family.  And I think that my husband looked at his kids, hoping that one of them might want to do something - anything - that he always loved to do.

I made a deal with him, when the kids were little.  I said, "I don't want to force them to do anything.  If they ask, then we'll invest the money."

(I made that deal when he took my 5-year-old daughter to the go-cart track, hoping to entice her into racing.  Not a small investment.)

But I know that he watched them all and hoped, just as I did, "Please like what I like."

I felt it a couple of years ago, that sadness that he didn't live to see what they loved to do.  Because like most dads (and moms), when that kid comes out...we think that catching the ball in the backyard is just around the corner.

We don't realize that it will be years away.

And that's where I am.  Years away.  But he's not here.  I'm watching my son flip off a diving board, climb rock walls, and love roller coasters.  I sit through ballet and piano recitals with my girls, go to elementary school art shows, and (it seems like) catch baby teeth right and left.

I am at that point of parenting that he always wanted to be.

This is a magical time.  It's that in between time when they are searching for independence and but still need to see your face in the crowd.  When they show off because they know you're watching and actually care.  When they test their boundaries because your opinion still matters.

When they want to go sleep someplace overnight...but still cling to you for a minute when you leave.

I'm so sad, so very sad that he's missing this.   This, right now, is what he dreamed about when he became a parent.  Not the restless nights of a newborn, but the playful days of a child.

Watching your kids grab life.

Hoping that one of them might latch on to something that you loved, too.

And waiting, with breathless anticipation, to see who they might become.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Leap From Fear to Anger is Actually Only a Hop

I was watching The Newsroom this week, the show that is quickly becoming one of my favorites.  (Actually, if you throw Sam Waterston into any show that pretty much guarantees that I'll watch it.  I've been faithful to him starting with I'll Fly Away all the way through Law & Order.  And now he has me hooked again.)


The episode this week was a fictional re-cap of what a newsroom might have gone through the night the U.S. announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed.  At one point one of the characters said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "The more fearful we are, the more hostile we become."

If you've ever been through therapy, chances are your counselor has mentioned that anger is a secondary emotion.  That is, anger doesn't evolve on its own - its foundation is made of something else.  And anger grows from that.  Here's a handy picture:


Even though I've talked about that at length with my therapist, I don't know if I ever really got it until hearing it on a random TV show about 9/11 (which, when you really think about it, is the very definition of what we're talking about).  But I suddenly thought of all of these moments in my life where fear was the seed - and anger was the blossom.

Irritability when people don't act the way I want them to.

Fighting with anyone who might stand still after my husband died.

Events that are different than I think they should be. 

Pushing people away when life gets complicated.

You may not see it right away, but fear is the underlying theme here.  When people behave differently than I want them to, they're an unknown quantity and are, therefore, infuriating.  When my husband died, I had no idea what had happened or what was going to happen next and instead of facing that fear, I immediately switched to anger and frustration.  When something happens that I'm not expecting, I'm irritated.

And when life gets complicated, I'd rather blame outside influences rather than take the chance of looking inside at what's really happening.

Facing a fear is a fearful thing.  It's so much easier to pass right through that and move on to anger.  Because anger, for the most part, isn't solitary.  It's easy to identify who and what we're angry with and then they become partners with us in that emotion, whether they know it or not.  To face a fear - mainly the fear of the unknown - is work that we ultimately have to do alone.

And that can sometimes look like a deep chasm before us.

(By the way, when I looked up pictures for this blog and just typed the word "anger," a whole bunch of pictures of Charlie Sheen popped up.  That should be a wake up call to us all.  Look inward before jumping to the next emotion.  Just ask yourself, in that moment of I want to be like Charlie Sheen?  And then dig deep and really work with what is wrong.

You're welcome.)

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Allow Me to Introduce WTZ - Widow Time Zone

I'm writing this late at night on purpose.  Or maybe I'm not.  I don't know.  Right now I'm in Widow Time Zone (WTZ).

WTZ comes as a surprise to us all.  I know this because I'll be sitting at my computer just typing away when an email will come in at 1:00 in the morning and I'll respond to it.

Hey, Widow Chick!  Just wanted to see if you could help me with ____ or if you could read the following ____ or if you could just let me know if I'm crazy.

As soon as my email pings, I'm responding.

Of course!  Here's what I can do and let me know if I can do anything else!

There is usually a 10 minute pause and then I receive a message.

You're still up?

Well, of course I am.  Because the laws of time no longer apply to me.  I'm mentally asleep when I shouldn't be and completely wide awake when everyone else is asleep.  I zone out at the normal person's prime time of the day and could solve the energy crises at 2 AM.  This is how a widow in the United States can successfully communicate with a widow in Australia.  I would say that this would be the perfect time to have a newborn, but I'm guessing that those widows with newborns would say that they're actually sleeping when they should be awake and awake when they should be sleeping.

Welcome to the Widow Time Zone.

When I meet new widows, the first thing I hand them is my email address.  Because I know how it works.  You're exhausted all day and then - ping! - 3 AM hits and you're brimming with inexhaustible energy and you need to talk to someone.  And after 5 years of widowhood, I may be up.  But if you've  hit me when I'm actually able to sleep, I'd rather you not call me.

Just email me and I'll respond at 3 AM the next night.

WTZ is one of the main reasons why I created  Because all of the normal people in my life were sleeping when I wanted to communicate and I had a feeling that all of the other people who were in my sinking boat wanted to talk as well. This middle-of-the-night loneliness is what led to many late night chats on dating websites where I had no actual interest in dating...I was just desperate to talk to someone else who was awake.

I wouldn't recommend that.  To this day, I still wonder if there is some guy out there waiting for me in Cabo because it sounded like a good idea during a solitary January blizzard.

This has, without a doubt, completely changed how I operate.  I've always been a night person, but not an "all night person."  I need at least 8 hours of sleep or you don't even want to know me tomorrow.  (Actually, there are a few people who are probably reading this thinking, "Even if you had 10, I'm still cutting you loose.")

I have no point to this piece other than to say what I hope you always understand:  You're not alone.  Right now there are millions of widows awake, lonely, and wanting to talk, change the world, or just do a successful load of laundry.

Whatever gets us through the night. Or day.

What time is it anyway?