Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!
I took my mother out to lunch for Mother’s Day with my sisters and a dear friend at Cherries Café in Clemmons, NC. Cherries is a wonderful “ladies” restaurant run by “old” high school friends, and in addition to great food, they have the BEST salad dressing in the world! (I buy many bottles to give as hostess gifts.) As we were waiting for our food, I decided to share my news: “I am going to be a BLOGGER!” My mother promptly exclaimed “You are going to be a FATHER?!?!?!” OMG we all fell out of our chairs laughing. Now granted, my mother doesn’t hear well (she passed that down to me!) and she has no clue what a Blogger is (or a blog, for that matter), but me? A father? Bless her heart!
I posted my first blog the Wednesday after Mother’s Day, and since I missed that holiday, I am sending out some “Mom love” here. But I also want to take this opportunity to say Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there, old and new… especially my special first time dads: Matthew (Baby Jack), Scott (also a Baby Jack!), Joe (Baby Maddy) and my son-in-law Zach (for my Grand-Dawg Paige!).
“The greatest gift a Father can give his children is to love their Mother.” (Reverend Dr. Worth Green, New Philadelphia Moravian Church)
Our pastor, Worth Green, preached this on many Father’s Days. Most of my friends are still married; these Dads are abiding this advice. And yet, so many Fathers fail here. My father failed. My ex-husband failed. And after hearing from so many of you, I realize how many more have failed. My father left my mother shortly after I got married. I was in such a blissfully newlywed state that I had no idea anything was wrong. Mom always said I lived in a fairytale world – explains a lot! I mean, your parents will never divorce – right? And yet, mine did. And my sweet children’s parents did, again shortly after my daughter got married. I never wanted my children to have divorced parents – the possibility never entered my mind. No matter how young or old you are, divorce affects you. It’s a struggle to see everyone at holidays and birthdays and family events. I would have done anything to prevent my children from going through this. Doesn’t he remember what it was like for us with my parents? But I had no choice. “We’ve separated” implies a choice. The truth – my husband left me. And I filed for divorce. And luckily, I am in a better place. Solo. But are my children?
My dad was a man of few words. Then again, how could he get many words in with 4 girls surrounding him daily? He was a good looking man and he knew it. He LOVED being outdoors in the sun, especially the beach (like me – thriving at the beach!). He did not take aging well (unlike me – I am embracing it!). However, Daddy had zero patience. Zero. Explains my lack of patience. I remember one time Daddy took me back to Chapel Hill after being home for a weekend. (I went home too many weekends to see a boyfriend who was still in Winston-Salem… not smart.) Anyway, Dad dropped me off, and as he left I sat on the steps of Alexander Dorm waving goodbye. Then I saw him drive by again… waved again… and again… then once more our family sedan was in front of my dorm. It stopped, and my dad yelled “How the #%&! do I get out of here?” That was the only time he took me back to college… he bought me a car to drive myself.
We lost my father November 2, 2000. I had just been down to Winston-Salem to accompany him and my sisters to his doctor’s appointment. We wanted to know what was going on with his health. Evidently, a lot. After his appointment that Thursday, I went back to Charlottesville. The following Monday, I looked at my phone as I was leaving the gym and noticed a lot of missed calls. I listened to messages from my sisters and my dad’s wife – Daddy had suffered a stroke. Thanks to my wonderful next door neighbor, my kids would be taken care of and I took off for Winston-Salem to be with Daddy while he was in ICU for 10 days. Due to my younger sister’s connections to the ICU (she is a nurse), I was able to spend the night in his room. Plus, I did not have to be at work or take care of family. Dad perked up Saturday morning and was eating so I decided to head back to Charlottesville to see my family. I woke up Sunday morning with an odd feeling and decided I needed to be back in Winston. (I missed Halloween, but my dear neighbor again made sure my kids had costumes and she took pictures for me.) We lost my dad that Thursday evening, November 2nd, around dusk. Luckily, we all had time with Daddy and said everything that needed to be said. We told him we loved him. We told him we would take care of each other. We told him goodbye. We loved Daddy. He had a very hard life as a child, steeped in poverty as he was the youngest of 9 brothers and sisters who lost their father at a very young age. He had no role model to follow. This does not excuse his actions concerning our Mom but he was still our Dad. However, I now look back and wonder how my sweet, gentle mother made it through my dad leaving her. I know first hand the pain and suffering she must have endured. And she still had my younger sister at home to get through high school. My grandmother was suffering from Alzheimer’s and was not a viable source of comfort for mom. But my mom had her sister, who was also her best friend, for support. Geez… how history repeated itself with me. History must NOT repeat itself anymore in my family!
Mom taught her daughters to be independent and strong, and that we can survive whatever is thrown our way. And we have. I believe Mom got this from her mother, who became a widow in her early 40’s and never remarried. My grandmother, Isabel, was a strong, talented woman who lived ahead of her time. She drove a Peugeot and no one drove a Peugeot back then. (Do they even make Peugeots anymore?) She was the head of the bridal department at Montaldo’s (an exclusive women’s store), where she bought all the bridal gowns and directed weddings. She traveled to New York often on buying trips and to Europe on vacations. Grandma Isabel was the only person I know who died probably wishing she had worked more! She was an artist (must be where my sisters get their talent). We all have some of her paintings in our homes. She took a wedding dress from Montaldo’s and transformed it into my dream wedding dress. It was difficult to watch such a strong woman succumb to Alzheimer’s. I remember in her last years when I would take the kids to see her, she would say to them “Who’s your daddy?” to which I would respond, “It’s not important who their daddy is, it is who their momma is!” And she would say, “Who’re your people?” “YOU’RE MY PEOPLE!” “Oh, that’s good.” Bless her heart. I come from a long line of strong women. Thank heavens! (and Alzheimer’s – scary!
I read somewhere that “One of the hardest things you will ever have to do is grieve the loss of someone who is still alive.” Mom spent time with us in the hospital with Dad and I remember her telling me she had grieved the loss of my father so many years earlier. I too have grieved the loss of my husband.
Maybe men leave because they think the grass is greener on the other side… Maybe if they watered the grass on their own side, it would be greener! All I know is that I no longer have to mow any grass as I am living in a maintenance-free neighborhood, and I am so thankful. As my old neighbors will attest, I faithfully mowed our yard twice a week, alternating the direction of the “lines” in the grass. Imagine that – more routine! (I got a self propelled mower for Mother’s Day one year. Oh and a backpack sprayer another year along with a hand truck to move kids into college! This year I got a great tennis bag and 2 tennis skirts and all I ever ask for each year is for my kids to write a letter to me! Got the letters too!)
So for all of you Fathers out there (Mothers can remind them – we are good at that), set a good example for your children. Raise strong, confident, and caring individuals and remind them that “Life is not fair but it does go on.” And we should all be thankful for that. And from Karon Waddell: “Get busy watering your own grass so as not to notice whether it’s greener elsewhere.”
See you next Wednesday!