Portrait of a Day

When you lose a spouse you lose so much. Dreams, hopes, future, companion, lover, friend, confidant, all gone.

Something else you lose, especially if you’re a parent, is time.

I don’t have much to write about so I thought I would capture a day in the life of a solo-parent and share it with you all.

6:15AM Wake up, brush teeth, get dressed. I worked from home so I got to sleep in an hour!

6:30AM Dialed into first meeting and got T and E up and ready while talking through team strategy in 2019.

7:15AM T and E out the door.

7:30AM Second meeting, acting as a proxy for my director in front of a partner org’s VP. And I made coffee.

9:00AM Meeting ends, finally looking at my emails.

10:00AM Pre-meeting meeting to discuss another meeting.

10:20AM Excuse myself from the last few minutes of that meeting. Rush to the car, realize I hadn’t eaten yet. Run back inside, grab a protein drink, back to the car.

10:35AM Get to T and E’s school to pick E up for his counseling appointment.

10:45AM Still waiting for E, the meeting the pre-meeting was about starts.

10:55AM E finally shows up, we get to the car using only hand signals because I’m on the call. He’s gotten good at this game.

11:05AM Drop E off 5 minutes late, drive back to the school.

11:40AM Still on the call, go into the school to pick up T and get her to counseling.

12:00PM Got T there on time! Pick up E and take him back to his school.

12:22PM Arrive at the optometrist. Fill out the paperwork at record speed. Have to fill out ‘widowed’ for martial status. During the appointment she asks how long ago it happened. Then how it happened. Then gave me advice on how to deal with suicide. Thanks for the tips.

1:10PM Pick up T, ten minutes late. Back to her school.

1:30PM Driving home, next meeting starts, a two hour preparation meeting.

3:00PM T and E get home. I forgot T was having a friend over. I feed them a snack while I finish up the meeting.

3:45PM Go to the gym for a quick run (it’s raining and cold and I just don’t feel an outdoors run today). One of my asshole friends convinced me to sign up to run a marathon with him in June and I just started training. I hope he’s reading this. Asshole.

4:45PM I get home. T wants a pick up at the store and her friend needs a ride home.

5:15PM Back home. Preheat the oven and get the rib roast in. Take E to a scouting event.

6:30PM Pull the roast out and let it rest. Go pick up E.

7:00PM Dinner. It was bomb.

7:30PM Clean the house.

8:30PM Finally hit the couch and start writing with a John Oliver rerun in the background.

I did a lot. I did it well. I did it by myself. I’m a freaking super hero!

See? I’m recovering, right? Things are looking up. I can do this.

But then there’s the day before to think about. On Monday I got up at 5:15 and went to work. Checked Facebook when I got to the office.

Facebook let’s me know Christine’s account had been memorialized (my request) and my relationship status is now ‘widowed’. I break down and nearly turn around and head home.

My schedule was packed. I just float through the day, trying to pay some attention to what’s going on but I feel totally disconnected.

The 3 o’clock meeting was cancelled so I went home.

I walked in the door at about 4:30. Went upstairs and stared at my bedroom ceiling for 1.5 hours until I realize I need to feed the kids. T has already called a friend for a ride to soccer. She knows the drill.

Dinner was leftover pizza. I laid on the couch with the Seahawks on in the background. Kind of watching.

At 8 I went to the store and bought a bottle of wine. I drank it all, then hit the whiskey cabinet while listening to sad music. I finally head upstairs and crawl into bed fully clothed. No idea what time.

Remember at the beginning of this when I said you lose time? When you’re in it, when you’re awake and aware, time flies. When you’re down and hurting it’s the opposite. It moves so slowly. I beg the clock to move but it feels stuck, trapped. Like me.

I don’t know who I am. Am I the dude that’s rocking this shit or am I the guy who can barely make it through a day?

It’s like a real life Two-Face. Fate flips the coin and decides what my day will be.

Guess we’ll see what happens tomorrow.

A Better Man

I went to the bar the other night. Alone. There’s that word again.

Things were overwhelming so I took a walk to the nearest watering hole.

The new Queen movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, has this great line:

‘The human condition requires a bit of anesthesia’

Truer words.

As I sat I thought about a time before Christine.

I wasn’t a great guy. Not to say I was terrible, but I wasn’t great.

I was much more self centered. I didn’t have a lot of concern for others. I was impulsive. I lied all the time.

Being with Christine made me a different person. A better person. She was my catalyst.

And she didn’t do it through nagging or arguing or any forceful method.

She did it by believing in me. She trusted me. She saw something in me no one else ever had.

I loved her for that. Love her for that.

It made me want to be the man she thought I was, or at least could be.

It didn’t happen overnight. I was still working on it when she left me. It’s a process. But improvements were noticeable pretty quickly.

My mom: Ben has changed so much. How did you do it?

Christine: I didn’t.

She was wrong of course. Her love was what did it.

I’m telling you all this because I was struck by a thought sitting in that nasty little dive bar. I can be anyone I want to be now.

Of course I always had that ability. I could have remained as I was before Christine and for all I know she would have miserably powered through. Or just left. Who knows.

But in honor of my love for her I became a better man.

Isn’t that a funny term? ‘Better man’. I think we (as men) miss the point so often. A Better Man isn’t someone who just brings in more money or is a provider or whatever the fuck. At least not in my mind.

A better man understands his job is to give. To give unconditionally. To give when it’s easy, to give when it’s hard. To show kindness. To be vulnerable. To take everything on his shoulders. To give and give and give.

And never ask for a single thing in return.

To do the dishes. To cook. To clean. To be MAN enough to take on everything and anything.

To me, that’s a man.

To stretch, to take a breath, and to carry more.

I don’t have that anchor anymore. Yes, I have my kids. It’s not the same. It really isn’t. I can be a great dad and still be totally self centered in the rest of my life. Love of a child is transformative, but not in the divine way. Not like a man and woman entering into a union by choice. At least not for me.

See, she chose me and I chose her.

So now what? Without her, without that reason, what do I do?

I can go back to the Other Guy. He had a lot of fun. Too much, probably.

But isn’t that dishonoring my love for her? If I return to my bachelorhood, or some semblance of it (I really am too old for that shit), what was the point?

So I look into the proverbial mirror.

I used to look at myself in a real mirror and say ‘Who are you?’

Now I ask ‘who do you want to be?’

If I regress, if I become someone who wasn’t chasing her love, trying to be worthy of her, then aren’t I saying she didn’t matter that much?

The worst thing is I’ve realized through events external to Christine I wasn’t even the man I thought I was.

Yes, thoughtful in my actions, but not thoughtful in my words.

Selfless in my actions but selfish in my thoughts.

So there it is again. The choice. Do I strive to be the man I wanted to be for her, the man I thought I was? Or do I take the easier path?

Me: Hey mirror, I choose her.