Friday, August 12, 2016
I wasn't sad at all this morning, but after reading an Instagram post by American journalist, Mary Katherine Ham, her words probed a still tender part of my soul, wounded deeply almost 42 years ago. As I typed that sentence, the number 42 haunts--it was the age of my daddy when he passed away in 1974, half a life, seemingly, instead of a whole, but that was the whole allotted him. MK's husband was given even fewer years, 34.
Mary Katherine wrote a sentimental birthday wish to their 3-year-old daughter; followers know her as the darling with the great hair. It's thick and full and wavy and however it falls it's always beautiful, often the subject of the nicest envy among MK's Instagram followers. In the post, MK also remembered her late husband who died in a freak cycling accident, thus missing the last 11 months of this precious one's life and the entire life of his second daughter who was still in her mother's womb at the time.
The number 11 haunts as well. I was 11 years old when my father died on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. For the longest I hated the number 11 and sometimes still look at it with the same dread and loathing as others do unlucky 13. Not so often anymore, but the memory is there, capable of being touched, brought back to consciousness in empathy with someone who has had a similar experience.
Unlike MK's little halo-haired beauty and her infant, whom I hope has the same glorious locks when it comes in, I was old enough to remember my father, thus referencing him as "Daddy." Anyone can wax melancholy about what those little girls will miss--not remembering, not knowing--but my heart, now 42 years later, is also touched from a different perspective, that of a wife. And no, I have not lost my husband. God willing, we'll celebrate our 30th anniversary next month, but I never took it for granted. I've cried more tears of thanksgiving and relief than anyone besides God will ever know that my husband lived to see our two sons grown, married, and even to date, has met a granddaughter.
I barely acknowledge, and do my best to tamp down any fears which arise on behalf of my granddaughter. Perish the thought she lose her daddy. I can't go any further in this line of thinking. I just can't. Well, I did go as far as to tell my son, who graduated at the top of his university class with a degree in finance, to provide adequate life insurance for his family, but no farther.
MK wrote to her daughter words the little one will treasure in the future, "the last 11 months of our lives have been sad and hard and confusing, but they've also been beautiful bc (sic) God made all of us just as we needed to be."
God. Yes, God. The One people often blame for misfortune rather than the fallen nature of the world we live in, God has given MK strength to carry forward.
Forward I can think, imagining a time when MK finds love again, to a good man who will cherish her children as his own. Then I wince a little on her behalf, thinking of the milestones when their father isn't there in person to celebrate with them. Undoubtedly he will be there in spirit, his larger than life personality often depicted in MK's photographs and reflections tells me so. But still, that unavoidable pain will also be there. With the dignity and grace she has faced widowhood, she'll do the same on each occasion, and I suspect in a way her daughters may not even notice. It's what strong women do.
Perhaps it is nervy and presumptuous of me to think of another epic love, but I can because I am not the young widow. My mother was once, and chose not to remarry. Her marriage to my father was stormy, one to be survived more than one to have cherished memories to comfort her. Truth be told, she'd had enough of marriage in 24 years to last her a lifetime, but that was her story, not MK's.
MK has tasted and known the delight of marriage to a loving, vibrant person who did life enthusiastically with her. As a mother of young adults myself, I wish for her to experience that again. As the wife of someone who has spoiled and adored me for decades, I realize the twinge of fear--could that possibly come twice in one lifetime? But that fear doesn't keep me from hoping for her.
As a fatherless little girl, I would have welcomed a loving male presence in my life to protect me from all the things a little girl needs her father to protect her from. Mom had a different perspective--she said she wouldn't bring another man in her house "over" me and my sister because if he did anything to either of us she'd kill him. Mom was a gun-totin' and sometimes mean ole nurse, and she didn't talk just to hear herself. She would not have hesitated to pull a gun and fire on someone who hurt her children.
In MK's private thoughts, if she has yet allowed herself to think of another man in her life, this topic has surely been or will be broached. In a world which will swallow a good man alive, will it regurgitate another who is a wolf in sheep's clothing?
It is a fear I hope is quickly dismissed. The loving gift from our Father in heaven of another father for her little girls. Another companion to walk out with her the days of this life. MK's recent ones have included an unspeakably difficult tragedy, yet she seemingly has put all her effort into living them bravely. I've no doubt at all she has kept the worst of her emotional suffering to herself (I peeked in my mother's bedroom when I heard her sobbing), and shared more with us the hope which drives her, as well she should and I commend her.
Good Lord, with social media, I've witnessed enough wallowing to last me a lifetime. A few days after my father's funeral, a nosy neighbor asked my mother what she was going to do. Mom's dark green eyes laser-focused on the woman as she said in a business-like tone, "I intend to stay right here and raise my children." She proceeded to do just that. Social media obviously wasn't around in the mid 1970s, but if it were, my mother would not have embraced the doubts her neighbor insinuated, that she couldn't do this by herself.
It really is none of my business, but the mother (and wife) in me wishes for MK another marriage in the appropriate timing. Someone who can find joy in sorrow deserves this.
The little girl in this 53-year-old woman who still tears up when she hears of another child losing their father wishes for MK's little girls to have another daddy. He can never replace or fill the shoes of MK's beloved Jake, but he could very well fill a hole in their lives and reap bountifully the love and delight in the company of three wonderful ladies.
My musings feel awkwardly personal, I've never met Mary Katherine Ham, yet through Instagram I have shared a little in MK's journey of widowhood. I've witnessed, through a child's eyes, my mother's. Retrospectively and through maturity, I have a degree of understanding of what each has endured.
On the girls' behalf, it's hard for me to comprehend which loss carries more magnitude, losing a father one knew for only 11 years or having few to no memories of one's father. Comparisons are odious in grief, each road different.
Nonetheless, I recklessly desire that someone I've never met will one day give love another chance. The hole in my life remained, the place where my daddy once lived, and I hope her little girls' hearts won't be quite as empty. As the wife of someone who has kissed the first age spot to appear on my hand and embraced my decision not to cover the gray, I want MK to have that as well.
(MK's instagram post which inspired this blog post)