Tonight, I did something I hadn’t done in some time–I sat down and cried. Not a few tears, mind you, but a full-on “ugly” cry, where the tears flow, the tissues stay soaked, and the makeup runs into puddles off of my chin. I did this at the conclusion of an emotion-packed long weekend, out under the stars in my driveway. I propped myself up against my Toyota Tacoma truck tire, and just let it out. I sobbed. I cried out to God (hope the neighbors don’t think I’m crazy). I prayed.
Afterwards, I felt better. The boys had seen the beginnings of the crying jag, as I walked through the den. They sympathetically offered encouraging words, but I just kept on walking. Sometimes, you just have to cry. I’m strong and tough and stubborn and leading my family fairly well—but whenever I give in to the small voice of doubt that tugs at my subconscious, I need to cry.
This weekend marked the inaugural Mark Howell Memorial Fishing Contest for kids at Lake Arrowhead State Park. Every year since we’ve been in Wichita Falls, there’s been a kid fishing contest there on the first Saturday of June. He was there with his office mates each year, having a ball. He loved nothing better than to help a kid catch a fish. He knew that once a kid catches a fish, he’ll be back. It will most likely lead to a love of fishing, which connects that kid to the outdoors, hopefully for life. I heard it was well attended, and saw pictures of beaming children holding fish of every imaginable size. The boys and I didn’t attend, but we plan on it next year. Still too hard on us. Plus we had to be in Athens, TX instead.
Athens is home to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, where there’s a special Fishing Hall of Fame. I nominated Mark this year, and even though he wasn’t selected, a banquet was held to honor all nominees and family. The boys and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It was hard, I won’t lie, but the love and warmth with which the three of us were received made it worth the effort. I took the boys back on Sunday to fish the kid’s pond, where the center provides bait and rods and reels. It was another “first”—a very hard one—as I took the boys fishing for the first time alone, without their daddy.
I’m a poor substitute at best on many fronts, but fishing? That’s one of my weakest areas. I’m good at baiting a hook, and even catching the fish. But removing the fish from said hook, and filleting them? Forgettabout it! One fish was caught. We’ll just leave it at that. I wrote my outdoors column on the experience, you’ll have to read that to find out “the rest of the story.”
But the ugly cry I had? I think it was due to a culmination of emotions and experiences. The final straw was driving home from Home Depot tonight. In the truck I had Home Defense insecticide (we seem to have a scorpion problem), wasp/hornet spray, a mailbox post, and a 60 lb bag of concrete. All of these items I would’ve never purchased before Mark died. If I came home from shopping, I either had groceries in the trunk, or clothes purchases from the mall.
And now? I’m spraying for scorpions, replacing mailboxes and posts, dealing with bees and wasps, mowing the grass, paying bills, worrying about our investments, planning trips, booking hotel reservations, and making decisions on my own that will affect my family’s future.
The dynamic has forever been changed. And sometimes, like tonight, as those doubts creep in, I cry. I’d rather be shopping for shoes instead of insecticide. I’ve never bought concrete in my life, much less mixed it or used it. I never worried about things like a full tank of gas in the mower, or a full charge on the weed eater.
Man, I sure had it good. He treated me like a queen. He called me the “Queen Bee” for years and Ben somehow heard it as “Queen Pea.” The name stuck.
Well, the Queen Pea feels a little better after her royal cry. And those doubts? Gone, at least for the moment.