Perhaps I am stronger than I think. ~Thomas Merton~
This day, like every day, we’ve been thinking of and missing Dad. So today I thought I’d pay a tribute to him and explore the perspective that keeps me sane during many months alone.
Sitting atop a dam wall
Since Austin’s birth, Pete has challenged himself to try and step into the role of provider for our family. My relief is enormous when it has panned out, and determination has taken hold when it doesn’t. I confess our new roles were unexpected and necessitated a complete reversal of every plan we’d made thus far, but also became a role I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Responding to Austin’s question of ‘how did the water get into the lake?’
Pete’s quest to provide for his family has taken him from the struggling economy of Detroit, to a fishing village in Alaska, to the heart of Dallas where he is working to create a legacy. When I recount to others that it will be months between our visits, people often genuinely empathize on how difficult that must be. It is on the one hand. But, it is also perspective, and it is also peaceful.
The first and only time riding on Dad’s back in the ergo. It was amazing to see the impact it had on Austin’s agitation level and how it was diffused. Packing for our much anticipated trip to Big Bend, he was beside himself.
When we are without Dad, the memory of who he is and what he might do if he were actually here is frozen in this perfect twilight zone of memory and fantasy that can be toted with us anywhere we need him. When we are with him, the time spent apart has given us the perspective of longing, a context absent when each day is spent in each others’ company.
Making a moment where you find it…playing fort under the clothing shelves at Sams Club after months of absence.
On the days when I struggle though, my inspiration to be steadfast comes from a few simple reflections that reduce my difficulty. They are these:
- Many children struggle with abusive fathers. Mine do not.
- There is no challenge I face that could touch the experience of a soldier’s wife, at home with their children. These mothers occupy my thoughts many days if I start to feel down.
Whatever has been presented as exasperating rarely retains the same hold on my emotions after thinking on these two.
Beyond this, the richness of our daily tapestry is filled with grandparents who provide an immeasurably wonderful addition of connection, experiences and sanity. I take on the challenge of setting the tone for our lives: creating a peaceful rhythm for our day, meaningfully engaging our children, maintaining boundaries, staying one step ahead of kids’ needs, growing friendships, and becoming the best mom and woman I can be.
When Pete left the first time, I feared I would crumble in the face of removing a boy from his beloved father. I didn’t. When he left the second time I was intimidated by the four month absence, not believing I could do it on my own and worrying Austin would lose it. When he left again, we had a 2 year old and an infant. Contemplating bedtime alone was terrifying, to say nothing of the emotional piece of trying to compensate for an absent father while attending to an infant.
But I did.
I didn’t collapse. Our boys didn’t crumble. In fact, it has given a beautiful opportunity to expand the need for intimate family to my parents and brother, giving us a rich dynamic we hadn’t had before. Pete is alive and well in the fantasy of stories and memories, phone and computer conversations, with the “next time we see Dad” building in anticipation as though it were Christmas morning.
Confidence in my capability as a mother and creative problem solver has grown, and most days pass with only the sweet memories to remember, letting the difficulties process through during the nighttime ritual “Story of the Day”…told in the dark before sleep…allowing ourselves to learn and grow beyond them.
Tomorrow is a bright new day.