Today I stood at my kitchen sink at watched the clock change. 4:00. 4:10. 4:15.
I sighed and words of irritability ran through my head. I was impatiently waiting to see the back end of my husband’s truck come down our driveway. With each minute that ticked by and each whine from our boys about where their Daddy was, my irritability grew. Suddenly, a thought popped into my head: “Mom didn’t do this.” I took a deep breath and tried to appease the boys. No, you didn’t get to do this. For most of my childhood, you didn’t peer out the window, waiting for taillights. There weren’t lights to wait on. You did this whole parent thing on your own. You were a single mom.
Now, I am aware that divorce is common and happens for a slew of reasons. I am also aware that there are two sides to every story, and the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. Like anyone else, my memory and my experiences are my truth and every time I think about it, one sentence is always on the forefront:
I don’t know how you did it.
By the time you were 32, you were a single mother of 3. You were a stay at home mom who suddenly found herself alone with three little girls, ages 7, 5, and 19 months. I cannot imagine the panic you felt. It had to have been suffocating.
I am sure many tears were shed, but I don’t remember you crying. Maybe you waited until you were alone and we wouldn’t see you. What I do remember is the worry. I remember you trying to keep it together. I remember you watching children in our home so you could earn a living while still being with us. I remember you checking and rechecking the mailbox to see if a support payment had come in. I remember being loaded up in our pajamas to put a check to the electric company into a dropbox, so it wouldn’t be late. What else is a single mom supposed to do when she is on her own and online payments didn’t exist?
A few years after the divorce, I remember you telling us you were expecting a baby with the man you had been dating. While I was excited about having another sibling, I was not thrilled by the presence of his father. I didn’t want you to date. I wanted it to just be us, and my 9-year-old mind saw no need to change things. I decided secretly that the whole thing wasn’t a good idea at all. And I saw the looks you received. I heard the judgment. A baby out of wedlock. How disappointing. And how on earth were you going to take care of another one?
As it turns out, you didn’t have to. Not long after our brother was born it was discovered he had a heart defect, and he died in the hospital at only 3 months old. That’s when the tears came, and the pain washed over you. I distinctly remember holding him before they came and took him away. That image has stuck with me forever. So often when I held my infants I remembered that day. I cannot fathom what that was like. I would imagine you needed time to grieve, but you were forced to get up and move forward. You dated (which I couldn’t stand). You got a different job, then a second job. As I grew up I blamed you for all the things I didn’t have, and we grew apart.
Then, I was married, and shortly after I became a mama. You went from being my mom to being Gigi, and everything changed. Almost immediately I understood what you went through, and the selfish, rebellious shroud was removed from my eyes. I was blind, but now I see.
I see your sacrifice. I see how you did everything you possibly could for us. I know I can never understand exactly what you experienced, as I have not walked in your shoes. However, I am now a mother. I am exhausted, touched out, and need alone time. I have argued with my husband and feared my account would overdraw and held my son close and felt the overpowering joy and fear that is handed to you in that tiny, beautiful package.
How did you do it?
How did you manage nights alone? How did you handle going from double dates to never being invited? How did you answer us when we asked where our Daddy was, or respond when we begged for a toy you couldn’t afford? How did you work two jobs then come home and still have the energy to care for us? How did you rock your son and hand him to a nurse, knowing you would never feel the weight of his body in your arms again?
Hindsight is 20/20 and I have to tell you, you are one of the strongest women I know. So many of my life choices have been made cautiously in an attempt to not endure the pain and struggles you have. Life is full of sharp edges and fractures and a million things you cannot control, but I hope you know that because of you I am a better wife, mother, and all-around human being. I wish we could truly thank you for raising us the best you could, but nothing I could give you would suffice. I only hope that the shrieks of my boys running to you and the intense love they radiate for you is confirmation you did a damn good job.
I love you, Mom.