Darkness, Fear and Resilience

“If you’re going through hell

Keep on going, don’t slow down

If you’re scared, don’t show it

You might get out

Before the devil even knows you’re there”

– Rodney Atkins, If You’re going Through Hell

That’s been my theme song for the past couple of months – put my head down, do what needs done as quick as I can, move on to the next task, I’ll think and sort through feelings when I have the time.  That’s especially been my m.o. since returning to work – first, missing a month puts you behind the eight ball, but it feels like I’ve got two other full time jobs with my new single parenting responsibilities, not to mention my temporary full time job of completing all the tasks necessary when someone passes away.  These are things that simply need done, like changing beneficiaries on all my financial instruments and checking accounts, wills, and bills, in addition to the pile that is now about a foot and a half high of thank you notes that need written someday, and designing a tombstone.  I’ve been trying to tick a few things off as I get some spare time, but spare time has ground to a halt with the return to work.

I was actually feeling pretty good about tonight – I made it to the mandatory parent’s meeting for football, made a good healthy dinner of fresh farm food that even the kids ate, had the dishes and a load of laundry done, was even prepped for my travel to Akron for a staff meeting.  Everything was going as planned – hey, maybe I can do this…

Funny how life turns on a dime, especially when you make plans.  Knowing Jake had football practice at 3, I had made arrangements for T to visit a friend’s house – all I need is for Jake to walk T over on his way to practice, and it isn’t far out of his way at all.

Well Jake over-reacted, not wanting to mess up his plans to be at practice early with his friends.  And of course I over-reacted to his objections, my temper already short from a lack of sleep and not having a whole lot of options this late in the game.  I’m also upset because I need to get up so early, and I don’t have time for this.  The shouts escalate to a full-fledged fight, and charges are thrown out that nobody means.  I exercise my dictatorial rights and shut off their video games and send them to bed, but not before giving them a speech about needing to do more to help me out and to help each other out and to help out more around the house.

It is horrible, like that very first fight in a new relationship.  I’ve tried so hard to be both mom and dad, to make things as okay as I can, to make them as comfortable as possible, and now I’ve blown it all in a fit of rage.

Our bedtime prayers are perfunctory, nobody returns my kisses or love you’s, and my little guy has his head buried under the covers, the top of his Care Bear poking out the top, mom’s hat clutched in his tiny hands.  I can hear muffled crying coming from their room – it breaks my heart…

This is so unfair, so unfair especially to my kids!  My god, what is going through their little heads?  I can’t even get my head around things, what must it be like for a nine-year-old?  I can feel his fear, fear of the dark, fear of having to live by mean old dad’s rules now, missing his loving mother.  And Jake is just twelve, he should be worried about meeting his friend’s, that’s what twelve year olds do.  I hated when I was near his age and my dad died and I was constantly told I needed to help out more and be the man of the house – I just wanted to be a normal kid.

Of course I cannot sleep.  At night, when I’m alone in the dark, my fears become more vivid, more real.  I fear I will be a failure as a parent, especially after tonight’s disaster.  How will I handle future crisis’ that will certainly be much worse than this?  I fear I will never be able to do my job now that I cannot put in the routine 12-hour days.  I fear I’ll never get done everything that needs done, evidenced today by the shut-off notice from the cable company that I’ve forgotten to pay all summer.  I fear for the unknown in front of us, imagining the worst in the lonely darkness.  It keeps me up most nights and wakes me when I do sleep, but tonight my fears are especially acute.

Near midnight a light flips on in the boys room.  I immediately jump up at the excuse to go back in their room; Jake is climbing down from the top bunk to take Trevor to the bathroom.  Trevor’s never been fond of the dark, but since mom died, he doesn’t want to even be alone in the daylight, and I forgot to leave the small kitchen light on.  It melts my heart that Jake would do such a favor for T – maybe all is not as bad as it seems in the dark of night; maybe we can work through this together.  We end in a big group hug, with promises to always stick together and to always watch out for each other, for we are family.

At least I get a little sleep after that, of course not enough, and there is still a slight residual hangover from the events of the preceding night in the morning.  I’m out of the house a little after 5, wishing that I could just stay home today until the boys wake up, so I can confirm they are okay.  I vacillate between the anger of having to leave them for work, and the unfairness of the whole situation.

It is torture at work, first the three hour drive, then sitting through a 5-hour staff meeting.  I know the boys sleep late (it is summer vacation still), but no one is returning my texts or calls.  Are they okay?  I’m completely distracted and cannot even remotely concentrate on the meaningless tasks I’m being assigned nor join in with the fake laughs as we all pretend this work stuff is important.  My night fears are chasing me even in the light of day; c’mon boys, just give me a call!

And they do, and they are fine.  They are kids, they are resilient, and no strains from last night are evident over the phone.

And I do make it home in the evening, and Trevor gives me a big loving hug, and Jake apologizes before I can even unload the car.  All the chores I’ve asked them to do have been done, and we are all happy to be reunited.  Another group hug, another chance to have a better night…

We’ve made it through our first test, this rag tag family of boys, and I think we’ve all grown a little.  And the night tonight doesn’t seem as dark as last night…

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4 thoughts on “Darkness, Fear and Resilience

  1. Wow. Powerful. You will have other nights and fights like this. You are only human. It helps that you remember what they are going through from your own experience. I can see you guys have grown so much closer. At Logan’s party, the boys wanted to sit right by you and hug you. They are good boys. You are a good father, and mother now. Don’t forget that, even when you have some bad days. You are human.

  2. WOW! Like Anne said, You are human! I’m sure Debbie had these days too Joe, but she chose to hide them from you because she knew they would pass. I cannot even begin to think about what you habe to encounter each day! They boys are angery and said too and do not know how to release their feelings, therefore, they way rebel against you but it’s their age. Not only are they going through a loss they are also going through the “normal” kid stuff. Keep open communications with them. They may not talk at that second, but they will come around:)

  3. Hey Joe. This is to be expected and more are sure to follow. But preparing yourself as well as the kids that these outbursts and fights will happen will make it easier. These fights happen with all of us. Your’s are magnified of course without Debbie. I know the feeling you have when you say things you don’t mean and how you handled it afterwards was great. Let the kids know and remind yourself that these stupid fights and arguments will happen again and dumb things will be said that you don’t mean as well as them. And just shrug these things off and move on. This will be a part of the healing process and really it is life in general.

  4. I am friend of Anne’s from work. These things will happen. Sure, your boys are afraid – afraid of all the changes and afraid that they will lose you, too. Just keep reassuring them that they will be taken care of. It is hardest for you trying to be all things to everyone. You make it through each day because you have no choice and you will keep making it! God bless all of you.

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