Wanting a dad

Ethan and I were listening to music and talking about our days yesterday on the drive home from school. Out of nowhere he said, “Mommy, you really need to go out on a date.”

“What?” I asked. “Why do you say that?”

“Well, I need a dad,” he said. “I really want a dad.”

“It’s just not that easy,” I said, holding back the tears behind my oversized sunglasses.

“It should be,” he said, matter-of-factly. Then he went on to talk through the Pokemon powers of Jigglypuff or some other weirdo creature.

Heart. Broken.

I know the kid desperately misses his dad – well, not the dad he had in the last few years, but the kind of man who will take him camping and fishing, will spend time explaining “boy stuff” to him on a rainy afternoon, will teach him how to fix things around the house, will play ball with him in the backyard. He misses the idea of a dad, since Mike really didn’t (couldn’t) do any of those things with him.

This conversation raised some questions that I need to sort out. I’ve talked about how I’ve contemplated dating as a widow, but now there’s a larger consideration – when and how would I introduce someone to the kids.

Great, another thing to think about…

His Death is Real

Know what makes death real?

Reviewing the computer-generated image of the tombstone, or as they call it “cemetery memorial.”

The cemetery gave me a choice of two memorial companies for Mike’s tombstone. I went with the local one – they do everything in same small town as the cemetery. Seemed nice to support a local business that keeps jobs in the community and has been around for 60+ years.

The woman who answered the phone was very nice. I explained what I wanted – simple, cost-effective, not flowery or over designed. Just his name and dates. No chiseled angels or flowers. No fancy shape. No “best dad and husband ever!” Just tombstone-y. Basic.

We settled on a grey stone (cheapest option) with no special carving. Since it was a single grave (meaning, I didn’t buy plots next to him), it was actually much less than I anticipated. Of course, like everything in this death business, there’s a hidden fee. In this case, a $300 cost for  the “foundation” – it’s a cemetery requirement, not even sure what it is, but it’s not negotiable. The sketchy thing is that unlike paying for the grave plot (paid to the city) or the tombstone (paid to the mom-and-pop company), the foundation payment is due to some dude – not a corporation, just a dude.

This whole thing can be done by email and snail mail. Crazy. The company just sent the image by email. Of course, there’s a mistake. Mike’s date of birth is wrong. My fault. Thank goodness for seeing the proof!

Still, even with the wrong date, there’s something final about it. Something more than going to his showing or the funeral mass or burying him. Seeing the image of a grave marker with his name and his dates makes this very, very real. And final.

Guess Who Called

This afternoon, I was in a great mood. The new job provides incredible flexibility. Today, I needed to take Ethan to school – day one, show up anytime between noon and 6 p.m. , drop off supplies, meet the teacher, get photos taken, attendance mandatory. It would have been impossible to leave my previous job to do this. I would have had to take a vacation day, spending DAYS beforehand putting together a “plan” for how my team will remain successful for the ONE DAY I would be absent. (Unfortunately, not kidding.)

Tunes pumping. My thoughts racing with syllabus revisions I want to make and test questions I want to write. Huge grin on my face, happy to be able to take Ethan his first day of second grade.

Then, the music muted, and my cell phone rang. Thinking it was my mom, I picked it up quickly, looking at the caller ID screen.

“TXXXXXXX” – it was the last name of my in-laws on my screen. I haven’t talked to them since the funeral in January.

I didn’t answer.

A few minutes later, there was a message. “Jackie, this is Cindy. Would you please give me a call back. We have received some information through the mail that is pertaining to Ethan and they want me to have you contact them. Our number hasn’t changed. It is… Thank you.”

Her tone was cold and sterile. No “how are you” or “hope you and the kids are well.” No “hope you had a good birthday yesterday.” No pleasantries of any kind.

I haven’t called her back. Can’t imagine whatever they’ve received for Ethan is important. Nothing was forwarded to Mike’s address – not even his bills, so it’s probably junk mail. I know I’m going to have to call them back at some point, but damn, really? Now? When things are going so well?

When I do talk to them, I’m going to ask them to sign over access to his storage unit. Whew! Is that situation a mess – a mess that I’m paying rent for every.damn.month…

Little Things

Know what’s awesome?

I was able to get Lauren up and dressed this morning. Made her breakfast. Fixed her hair. Packed her lunch. Took her to “baby school” (she goes to daycare two days a week). Let her walk as s-l-o-w as she wanted to her classroom without having to hurry her along. THEN I drove to work. And through it all, I never felt rushed or nervous about being late to the office.

New job allows me the flexibility to actually do “mom things.” I think I’m going to like this… I hope I’m going to like this (you know, when students arrive on campus and I actually have to WORK)!


I was Googled.

I was talking to a new colleague today and she told me that 1) I nailed my interview a month ago, just nailed it, and 2) immediately following the interview, the search team Googled me. One of the first entries: Mike’s obituary.

The colleague couldn’t have been nicer. She didn’t press for information, didn’t ask questions. She just expressed her condolences and offered that this new position should make things easier, scheduling-wise, with the kids. Still, I wasn’t expecting that the loss of my husband would be something discoverable.

I’ve said before that I prefer to establish myself before people get all weird about it. People just don’t know what to say – and there really isn’t anything to say. People can make snap judgements, right or wrong. People assume things, good and bad. I don’t want pity; I don’t want to be a “poor thing.” I just want to be…me.

Again, this colleague was very nice about it, but I wonder how many other colleagues and students will search my name and stumble across his obit (how can they NOT – it’s one of the first entries!). I know that I’m guilty of Googling new people (often), so I have to assume others will search for me. I know that a few students in the department in which I will be teaching have already checked my LinkedIn page – did they see that obituary, too?

And, as my life moves on and I contemplate dating again, I need to prepare myself to be searched. (Afterall, I will be searching, too.)

It’s just a weird feeling that an obit can be found so easily and rank so high. Mike’s death doesn’t define me, but it ranks higher than my Facebook page. It doesn’t tell the whole story – heck, it doesn’t tell much of a story other than he lived and died and left a wife and kids.

But if I want others to get to know the real me, I need to do the same for them. Google only tells part of the tale. The rest is written by each of us.