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 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