I don’t know how many commencements I’ve attended, but I remember what the speaker at my husband’s medical school graduation told the crowd of new interns. He quoted the instructions on a mayonnaise jar: “Keep cool. Do not freeze.”
That’s really not bad advice.
Within the catalogue of my parenting deficiencies without my husband’s physical presence, I cannot claim consistently to have kept cool, but at least I have not frozen for long.
I simply never imagined being the only parent. It was outside what my mind could envision until the darkness that crashed down in that drawn-out moment when my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Last spring on Mother’s Day I was very fresh to the world of involuntarily single parenting. Today it remains overwhelming to realize that everything ultimately falls upon me; my wise husband is not there to give advice and be a sounding board in my or our children’s crises–not even to send me out of the room to regroup when he saw a warning salvo signalling one of those blitzkrieg-like escalations between mothers and teenage daughters. Jim possessed no temper.
And then there is the drudgery, everything from arranging insurance and correcting spontaneously regenerating (take heart, Lamarckians) corporate errors to filling out and re-filling out copiously detailed forms in the endless game of gotcha that seems to make up the world of financial aid.
And yet without all these formerly-shared responsibilities, I would have little hope in the search for any meaning in the life that remains without my husband here with us. That endless parade of drudgery (a phrase I have not been able to repeat without a smile since Jim and our son responded to my grumpy complaint with, “And who doesn’t love a parade?”) has a companion, as with our marriage: a yin to its yang.
Along with the stress and loneliness and sheer, endless yearning for my husband to be here with us come whatever opportunities I have to take in the world and our children’s place in it for both of us.
Life has saddled me with responsibilities I never wanted and will never master, but it has also allowed me to see our first child graduate from college; to hear my children help one another; to help them recover from injury and illness; and even to hear them laugh again.
Motherhood: it may not be the thing I’ve done best, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
(c) 2012 Stephanie M. Glennon