Thursday, November 19, 2015
to my kids
I recently saw a touching interview on the Stephan Colbert show where he spoke with Joe Biden, two men I admire very much. One of the topics they discussed was the tragic loss of Biden’s son, Beau. Vice President Biden talked about his reluctance to run for President in the face of his ongoing, overwhelming grief. This also brought up the story of how Colbert lost his Dad and two of his brothers at the age of ten. The men discussed their shared experience of grief. Biden talked about his incredible support system in family and faith when he lost his first-wife and daughter in a car accident many years ago and then the recent loss of Beau. When Biden related his grief to Colbert’s Mom, wondering how people get up and put one foot in front of the other after facing such a tragic loss, Colbert was honest and said that she did it because she had other kids to care for. But, also, that they were there for each other, it was a mutual dependency and in many ways, he had to “raise his mom” as she learned to face the new normal. Biden said that his boys did the same for him after losing their mom in the years of grief that followed.
It was an incredibly emotional interview for me to watch as I related so much to what these men were saying. Colbert said that his mother was "non compos mentis" for years after her loss. It selfishly validated my grief by knowing that it isn't just me who cannot get over things or let them go. But more importantly, it left me feeling that I had no choice but to stop everything that I am doing this instant and take time recognize the sacrifice and bravery that it takes for my kids to “raise” me in the aftermath of their father’s death. This blog post isn't enough, nothing is enough, but I need to take this time and admit that they are truly everything that's 'right' about me in this moment. I was so lost, and I still very much am, in who I am supposed to be now. I’m needy and angry like I never was before. And so sad, I'm still so very sad. My kids go out of their way to make sure that I am okay, many times taking on responsibilities and roles well beyond their years and often times giving up much of their time as kids to adjust to this new and scary role they have had thrust upon them. Often times, though I know they are sad, they put those emotions aside to first make sure that I am okay. And though caregiving is not every minute of everyday, the effort that they put in takes a toll on them. It wears on their emotions and their own relationships. This isn’t how it's supposed to be for them and I wish we weren’t mutually parenting one another. Sarah, who took on the role of my greatest confidant, has definitely risen above, especially in the loss of her recent engagement, as a key player in keeping our family running smoothly. I am sure that it wasn’t ALL to do with me, but I know that taking on this new expanded role just as she’s coming of age definitely hindered her relationship and probably contributed to its downfall. Noah, who became man of the house at the age of 13 can’t even be a normal, angsty teenager because I am not emotionally stable enough to deal with anything, and while he could push - he absolutely does not. He is a steadfast source of strength and comfort. He also works very hard to learn, mostly from his Grandpa, how to take care of our house and yard taking on many of the traditional 'Dad' roles. Micah, who has not only had to deal with the loss of his Dad, but also have me completely preoccupied with my own grief and full-time schooling at an age when I should be volunteering to go on field trips with his class – or better yet still homeschooling him - tries to take it all in stride. He is so good about keeping track of all our schedules, permission slips, and reminders of items needed. He is also so kind when my scattered brain forgets something, yet again.
All three kids do very well in school and work so hard to help around the house as well as all their many, many extra-curricular activities. No one really has a road map as to how this is supposed to work for us. Every time we think we've got it figured out there's a new hurdle, another conflict, more chaos.... but the kids balance things out and help me carry the weight instead of adding to it. Sure, sure, they've each had their moments to freak out and give-in to madness, but it is never as bad as I make it out to be and often they're the ones who right themselves first and calm me down in the wake of any misbehavior.
During the interview, Joe Biden mentioned an expression his father used to say, ‘A Father knows he’s a success when he turns and looks at his son or daughter and knows that they turned out better than he did’. Biden said he knew he was a hell’ve a success because of who his kids were.
I couldn’t agree more, and so, even though I feel like a failure at almost every turn, I watch my kids in all that they do, in the kindness they show everyone, in the care that they take to look after me, and in the effort they put into all they’re involved in and I know that I am successful.
I love you kids. Thank you. I would be incapable of anything without you.
And I’m sorry for your loss.