Widowered Fathering: Figuring Out Our New Traditions

Happy New Year! It’s 2013. Out with the old and in with the new… Wait! seriously? I’m pretty comfortable with some of the old, maybe even a lot of it. Besides, new makes me itch! Itch or not, there is no way around all the new in my life. It seems that it’s part and parcel with widowerhood. Truthfully, I’m okay with it all, it makes for a great study in adaptability! Today we had a small adventure and I spent some time reflecting on some aspects of my newness while thinking about fathering.

Old and New Traditions.

Traditions seem to be a point of connectivity for a family. As life moves forward traditions give family members a point of reference for warmth and love. Carrie spearheaded our family’s traditions. Now that she’s gone it falls to me. This holiday season, from Thanksgiving until today, I’ve tried to keep as many activities the same as possible…which I discovered was widely impossible with the loss of such a prominent participant. Even with my best mom-shoes on I don’t measure up. In spite of all my deficiencies we trudged through the holiday season and had a lot of fun while still taking time to remember.

One accidental activity was certainly new. As I was getting the camera ready to shoot pictures of the boy opening his presents I came across video of last Christmas—or at least the part of Carrie opening presents after coming home from the hospital on December 27. With the boy sitting on my lap we watched about 10 minutes of Carrie opening her presents. We laughed a little and maybe had a tear fall from wet eyes but we were happy to see the video. We hugged and talked about how much we missed her. Then, to remind us of the real reason for Christmas, we read from the Gospel of Luke recounting the birth of Jesus. After all of this we finally got to the presents.

Today, it’s a week later. It’s New Years Day, another holiday with some of its own tradition. This may be one of the least traditional days or at least one of the most laid-back for our family. For years Carrie fixed Black-eyed Peas and some other food as a continuation of her southern-born family traditions. This Yankee never developed a taste for the stuff but I never objected to its introduction to our offspring. Our youngest, the boy, acknowledged that he can take it or leave it… so I’ll give you three guesses on what we didn’t have today AND the first two don’t count!

In place of the southern comfort food we opted for lunch out at our favorite Chinese Buffett. As the meal was winding down I looked across the table and asked, “How has your life changed since mom died?” After a moment of thought the boy replied, “I don’t know. I only know it has changed.” I’m not sure what answer I expected but this wasn’t it. I suspect it is difficult at his age to articulate the complexities of change after losing a mother. After some thought I have realized I’m not sure how I would answer that questions either. In reply to the boy I muttered something about death bringing about a lot of change and I’m sure that our lives will change some more in 2013.

The next question was about planning some fun things to do this year. The boy suggested camping on Lake Michigan again. Yes, that was fun and doable again. A trip to Michigan Adventure was another enthusiastic answer. Okay, I’m writing this stuff down. After a little more thought he asked about a trip somewhere, to go away like we use to once in a while. And I thought “if he only knew”. This was a great discussion and I think it is helpful to remember that life can still be fun and filled with adventure even after losing someone so important.

As the waiter filled our water glasses for the third or fourth time and the boy was finishing off his bowl of soft-serve ice cream, I asked if there was anything that I’m NOT doing that mom used to do with him. In retrospect, this is a question I should have asked months ago but it never occurred to me. He mentioned two things but decided he was getting too old for those. Then he said that sometimes he and mom would go to the mall or some other shopping center to walk around. He thought that it was fun and missed doing it. Okay, that one’s easy…sort of. Did I ever mention that I’m usually not a window shopping kind of guy? Since I take this dad thing pretty serious, I suggested that we go to the mall after our meal. With a big grin the boy agreed!

We entered the mall through the bookstore, which is the only redeeming value of visiting the mall, and began meandering through the maze. We visited one shop selling sport clothing. We were in one area when I mentioned we might better move on since we were in the woman’s section. The boy asked “How can you tell?” “Perhaps it’s the shape of the mannequin wearing that hoodie. I’m surprised a boy your age hasn’t noticed some differences.” “Dad!” …..Ha. Dad 1, the boy 0.

A short time later I stopped in front of a woman’s clothing store and asked if he wanted to go in to look around just as mom would’ve done. He zinged back a quick “yes, and you can try on some clothes just like mom too!” ….I had nothing. Where does this kid get his humor? The boy 1, dad 1.

We continued our trip through the various wings and were nearing our entry point. The boy was in a deep discourse about some video game and not really paying attention. I guided our walk into another store. About two steps in he looked up and realized it was a lingerie shop. “Didn’t mom ever take you in here?” “NO! DAAAAAAAAD!!” ……slam dunk, dad wins!

We finished our walk and headed home. I’m not sure if we have begun a new tradition but the afternoon reminded me how the small events in life are important. There may be the big adventures from time to time but the smaller things in between keep the relationship going strong.

I shut the car off after pulling into our driveway and sat for a moment looking at the boy. Grinning he looked at me and said, “Dad, today’s been a lot of fun” then he bounded out of the car and up to the house. I sat for just another moment and grinned to myself. “Yep”, I thought, “we’re gonna be okay.”

(comments are welcome at the bottom of this page)

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