I’m jealous…

Subconsciously I’m in turmoil.

Oh I may look calm, put-together, and self-assured on the surface.  I’ve actually become a master (mistress??) of the look.

You know, the look of “normal.”

The look of a person who has moved forward, despite some crappy circumstances.

The look of a person seemingly content to sit at sporting events, cheering on her kid…alone.

The look of “happy-happy-joy-joy” everyone feels more comfortable being around.

I assume the look to avoid what many have said to me:

“Aren’t you over that yet?” 

“Why don’t you move on?”

“It’s time to let it go.”

You don’t “get over” the loss of a spouse to death.

You don’t “move on” in life.  You can, however, “move forward,” and my family is living proof that can be done.

Let it go?

You’re kidding me, right?

For over two thousand days (2,061 to be exact), I have awakened as a widow.

No matter how wonderful those days may have been (and there have been many more good days than bad), that simple fact remains.

I. Am. A. Widow.

My sons awaken to the realization they are still orphans (Biblical definition: fatherless).

And while we’ve made a new life, one that incorporates the best of their dad’s legacy while still moving forward, they are missing out. Big time.

Today, it hits me like a ton of bricks–my subconscious turmoil is jealousy.

I am jealous.

I am jealous of two-parent households.

I am jealous of kids who have their dads cheering them on from the stands, offering batting stance tips and advice on fielding.

I am jealous of women who awaken as wives, their husbands snuggled in close beside them in their beds.

I am jealous of extended families who make themselves available to help one another with what to me are logistical nightmares at times.

My sons have me.  Period.

Uncles, aunts, and two cousins live states away, as do both grandmothers.

Questions about sex, dating, shaving, and peer pressure?  Fall to me.

Teaching them to drive?  Me.

And while I look all calm and pulled together on the surface, I’m like those ducks you see on ponds, gliding along beautifully—underneath that calm, under water? They’re paddling like crazy.

I’m paddling like crazy to maintain the beautiful glide.

I’m also working on this green-eyed monster, ’cause it doesn’t jive with the whole being a Christian thing.

Naming it and claiming it are good first steps.







Savoring the sweet….

In this roller coaster ride called life, you’ve got to savor the sweet.

There will be sour, dour, unhappy times–of this you can be sure.  Some folks seem to get more than their fair share of the unhappy, which makes the happy & sweet even more precious to behold.

Every once in awhile, God gives me a glimpse of the bigger picture, one that I have cursed, cried about, begged to have taken from me numerous times in the past almost-six years.

I didn’t want to be a solo parent.

I didn’t want two little boys to be without their daddy.

I didn’t want to learn how to mow the lawn, weed-eat, take the vehicles for oil changes, inspections, and registrations.

I didn’t want to be responsible for making every adult decision in my household.

I didn’t want to even tend the garden out in front of my house.

And that’s just the few things I came up with, right now, off the top of my head.  Heaven knows there are hundreds more.

I still remember the first time I was given a respite, where God, in all His glory, gave me a few moments of peace in the first few months of this gig I have now embraced (if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em).  I was waiting for my boys to come out from their elementary school.  It was a lovely, bright spring day.

I sat at an old picnic table, way past its prime at the time.  There was no one else around.  The wind was blowing slightly, rustling the new leaves in the huge trees above me.  The sun lazily peeked through them; birds were going about their business of courtship, with lovely tunes filling the air.

In that moment, all my worries and sadness slipped away.  I felt content. I felt peace.  I knew my boys and I were going to make it.

That moment lasted maybe 30 seconds.  But it was exactly what I needed to keep plodding along.

There have been other similar moments throughout the past few years, but the first one will always be memorable.

Yesterday, God gave me another.

The eighth grader gets picked up from school first, so we have about 10 minutes of alone time, just the two of us, while heading to the high school to retrieve the freshman & two of his friends.

Some days, we just have small talk.  Some days, we don’t say much at all.  Still on others, we jam to music, singing along if the tune’s worthy of our pipes.

Yesterday, though, Ben clearly had something he wanted to share.

“Mom, I’m really glad you don’t have to work out of town, or crazy shifts, where we wouldn’t get to see you.”

Ben, so am I.  Your daddy and I worked long and hard–we are so very fortunate that I am able to be here for you and your brother.  Many parents don’t get that opportunity.

When I probe a bit further, I find he’s worried about a fellow student.  A student with both parents living.  One works nights, the other, days.  This kid rarely ever sees the one parent, who is either sleeping most of the time the kid isn’t, or when not sleeping seems to have priorities other than family time.

My kid, the one who lost his dad at age 8, is putting himself in another person’s shoes.

“Mom, I feel sorry for him.  I know that he has both his parents.  And I really miss Dad.  But I want to tell you, you’re like having two parents.  You do it all.”

I’m like having two parents. 

That is, most likely, the sweetest sentence I have heard in years, outside of “I love you.”

He’s being all matter-of-fact.  And I just lose it, right there on Kemp Boulevard, next to Applebee’s, in the midst of after-school traffic.

Tears.  Nose running. Laughing and smiling.

“Ben, you’ll never know how much that means to me.  You’ve made my week.  You very well made my month!”

God, once again, knew what I needed whenever I didn’t have a clue.  A spring-time glimpse into the bigger picture.

A picture that evidently includes two empathetic, loving young men, developing beautifully in spite of the fact their dad is in heaven.





Finding a lost love

My fifteen year old is the sports guy of the family.  His dad bought a t-ball set up when our boy was barely 16 months old.  My father, who only lived to see his grandsons at ages 2 and 8 months (a sad thing, too, I know), lived long enough to be amazed at the strength and accuracy his oldest grandson could throw a baseball.

The boy’s daddy grew up loving sports, especially baseball, so theirs was a match made in heaven.

From the time the little boy could play organized baseball, he did just that–with his daddy alongside him as a team coach.  They went everywhere together, the two practically joined at the hip.  Practices, games, pitching, catching, and batting in our expansive 1/2 acre backyard—it was all so very good for many years.

Until his daddy died.  AJ was 9, his little brother barely 8, in 2011.  Baseball was suddenly very painful for us all.  I’ll never forget that first drive to the Little League fields, where my nine year old was trying out for fall league–without his biggest fan beside him.  With two different coaches wanting him on their respective teams, my kid prayed about it.  He came to the conclusion that the coach most like his dad, belief-wise, was the right choice.

He continued to play ball.  We even went to a World Series game in the fall of that year, because our beloved Texas Rangers were playing mine and Mark’s favorite childhood team, the St. Louis Cardinals.  Stepping into that stadium without his dad was hard, too.

We adjust our sails to weather the “hards” we encounter.  They simply became too numerous to keep track of.

And somewhere along the way, the boy begin to lose his love for America’s game.  He began to love basketball and found out he’s pretty darn good at that, too.

Basketball became his primary focus.  Baseball, a game he played in summer on a YMCA league team with friends just for fun.

Then high school happened.

The stakes are much different at this level.

He earned his rightful place in the starting five of the freshman basketball team.  It was a fun season to witness.

Basketball season ended and he decided to try freshman baseball.

The first day after practice, I could tell he was frustrated.  The team, shall we say, needed a lot of work.  And for better or for worse, the kid got my gene for impatience.

He was ready to quit.  “Mom, I just don’t have the love for the game anymore.  Ever since Dad died, it’s been a struggle.  I go out to play without him.  I don’t watch it on television anymore, that’s something he and I did together.  I don’t think it’s my game anymore.”

I take part of the blame for his falling away from the game.  We don’t make the pilgrimage to Arlington to watch the Rangers play anymore.  If there’s something else on TV, we don’t watch MLB.

But Howells aren’t quitters, I gently remind him.  “I know it’s hard right now.  Please give it a chance.  You’ve committed to play, people are depending on you. Get through the season…who knows? Maybe you’ll find that love again.”

He begrudgingly agreed.

I won’t lie, the first game he played, the first at-bat he had, as a freshman? My heart was in my throat.

It wasn’t pretty.  In fact, it was darn ugly–the score? 18-0.

The one bright spot was his triple.  When that dinger went long, my heart slipped down out of my throat and damn near beat out of my chest 🙂

He’s most always played first base, but was in center field. He complained of boredom, standing around in the outfield while our pitching struggled.  I didn’t have any answers, just letting him vocalize his frustrations.

The next game was a bit better, they “only” lost by 7.  A couple of base hits, including another triple, switching from playing center to short stop later in the game.  His mood?  A tad lighter.

Yesterday’s game was in a neighboring small town.  I made the drive over, praying that he would use his abilities for the glory of God and have a little fun in the process.

At bat? A triple, base hit, a walk, a run scored and a RBI.  Starting out in left field, he moved back to first base quickly.  It looked like the boy was back at home.  We lost 4-3, errors lost the game.

I hugged him after the game, then drove back to the high school, waiting for the bus to bring the team home.

He piled into the car, tired but with a twinkle in his eye.

“Mom, I’m beginning to remember how much I loved the game.  I’m starting to enjoy myself.  And Dad? He’s there with me, I can feel him.”

“Basketball’s still number one with me, but I think this is going to be okay.”

Says the boy who was asked by the head coach to move up to junior varsity just yesterday. He’ll play for both teams, which means Mama will be driving to the Metroplex quite a lot the next month and a half.

But it’s all good.

He’s rekindled his love for America’s game, and I am so very grateful.

They say “time heals”….that’s a crock.  Time will never heal the void of two young men missing their extraordinary daddy.

Time softens.  Time gives perspective.  Time allows you to get used to a normal you never asked for.

And God alone heals.