28 March 2012

Not really a single mom

During the fifth month of her pregnancy of her first child Natalie Taylor is devastated by the sudden death of her husband. Her journey with grief is chronicled in the memoir Signs of Life. Join From Left to Write on March 29 as we discuss Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

I am not a single mom. 

I sometimes make jokes about my traveling husband, how many days he is gone every month and how we practice tag-team parenting.  How, when he gets home, I clock out.  We slap hands in the driveway, my tires squealing as I shout, "I'm out!" before he can set down his suitcase long enough to protest.  I sometimes call his schedule and his absences "the married single-mom shuffle."  My friends, who know the unpredictability of his work schedule, just ask, "When will he be home?" when we're discussing weekend plans,  the kids' baseball practices and Cub Scout meetings. 

And there it is.  

He will come home.  I am not a single mom. 

Natalie Taylor's memoir is real, and honest, and raw. Her grief is palpable, something her reader experiences with her.  I don't mind telling you that I shed tears along with Natalie as I read her words.  I have experienced grief and loss and the deaths of loved ones.  I have experienced growing up without a parent.  I have not, however, experienced the death of my spouse, and I came to realize as I read this book, that I have no idea what I'm joking about when I glibly call my life "the married single mom shuffle." 

What would I do?  How would I cope?  How would I get up every day and get my kids off to school?  How would I help them cope with their dad's permanent absence?  How I would keep him alive for them?  How would I dry their tears and tell them we'd be ok?  How would I teach my boys about what it means to be a man?  Who would teach them to change a tire and how to throw a perfect spiral pass?  Who would help them build a tree-house?  Who would give them their first .22 rifle and teach them how to use it right?  

I found Natalie to be incredibly brave.  Brave enough to get up in the morning, to continue to do the things that needed doing.  Brave enough to be the mother her son needs, even when she doesn't feel like it.  Brave enough to continue living her life. Brave enough to write it all down, and to share it with the world.  I believe that giving voice to something takes away its power over us, whether it's a secret or a struggle.  

I am not a single mom.  But I'm afraid I could become one, at any given time, unexpectedly.    I can't say I'll never make a joke again about tag-team parenting or doing the married single-mom shuffle.  Besides giving voice to my fear, those jokes allow me to laugh a little at the possibility, and humor is a powerful weapon, especially in the face of difficulty, however awful it might be.  

I know I don't understand Natalie's struggles.  I can't.  And to be perfectly frank, I don't want to.  I am afraid to.  I applaud her and I admire her for her honesty and her strength.  But I can't understand. 

Her story reminds me that I am not a single mom.  It reminds me to be grateful for the blessings I have, and that you just never know.  It reminds me that life can change direction, and turn on a dime.  It reminds me that I am, or I could be, stronger than I think.  It reminds me that there is always hope.  

What are the things you laugh about, that you're really afraid of?