Sunday, October 11, 2009

Homecoming 2009

Times have certainly changed since I was in high school. Today, you don't just ask a date to Homecoming, you have to do it in a unique way. A pizza delivered to your date's house with a message written in pepperoni; dressing up as Superman; meeting your date on a horse at the riding stable she boards her horse at, etc. I had forgotten just how trying and stressful Homecoming week can be - not just for the kids, who have a week full of special events and assemblies, but also the poor parents! And I am going to add - it is tough functioning as an only parent when life is basically ho hum and normal. But during a week like this one, the only parent routine takes on a new dimension!

By the end of the week I was worn out from running to the store for my youngest who first wanted to present flowers to his date when he asked her to the dance and then decided on candy (he ended up using nothing I purchased because his girlfriend was grounded and not allowed to see him! I gave the lovely flower bouquet to my oldest who gave it to his girlfriend). I had to go to the dry cleaners, order flowers, purchase socks, a shirt and two ties because there is a "rule" that the boy's ties "match" their date's dress. It was touch and go for a while when I couldn't locate the belts lost somewhere in the move - but we found two that would do.

I ended up taking my oldest to the doctor during the week because he was freaking out about his face breaking out. Then the boys wanted face cream and cover up, new deodorant and haircuts. And the dance tickets cost $60.00 and dinner about $160.00 between the two. The youngest was testy and rude to me all week (no doubt some of this was related to nerves but there is no other parent to absorb some of that excess anxiety being flung your way!).

But the real stress occurs the day of the dance - PICTURES! Although both boys go with large groups of friends, somehow the houses where the kids pose for photos before the dance always wind up at well-to-do families. I am the sole single/only parent in attendance and feel awkward and self-conscious. Then to top it off, we are in homes of families not having financial worries. I end up feeling jealous, envious and resentful. We live in a town filled with beautiful mini-mansions and historical showcases. One of the homes on Saturday had an amazing fish pond in the backyard, patio and garden that took my breath away. It was full of mission style furniture. The other was a restored historical home. Being in those homes made me miss the average, middle-class house I had to sell. Last year, when I was taking photos at least I was still a homeowner. This year I really felt the economic division between those who have and those in my position.

Taking the photos is hard enough for me because they are usually around 4:00 and I am unable to be in two places at once so I have to choose which boy to photograph and give a disposable camera to the other and hope a parent will snap a couple of shots for me. This year I was lucky to be able to attend both photo sessions since one was at 4:00 and the other 4:30. But as the locations were a distance away, it was rushed and stressful racing from one to the other. Other parents can split up and each take a kid if they have more than one going to the dance.

In the end, my sons looked handsome and their girlfriends beautiful. I remain proud that my boys continue to hold their heads high, that they are popular and accepted. Looking at the wealthy parents surrounding me as we took pictures made me think of how early in my widowhood, I felt such a disconnect to everyone around me. It wasn't that I felt superior or better than others, rather it was that I was thinking and being on another level. On Saturday I felt totally unconnected to these other parents, light years away!

I suppose having the photos taken in these beautiful homes makes the owners proud and gives them a chance to show off. Last year the hosts actually served cocktails and gourmet snacks to the parents! Wouldn't it be a hoot to offer to host the photo shoot for the next dance at our apartment? I could rent out the commons area in our complex, which is actually quite lovely (with its own set of mission furniture!). I just kept thinking as I stood among these fortunate parents, how different our lives are. But somehow this line of thought also made me feel proud of myself - to realize that out of all those people, I was probably the one surviving the most pain and loss.

Today I am grateful:

1. Homecoming 2009 was successful and is over!
2. The boys still fit into last year's suits so I didn't have to buy new ones.
3. That suits from Target look the same as those from department stores.
4. That the boys are popular and went to Homecoming.
5. Everyone made it home safe and sound (the boys and their friends and all the kids in our community).


  1. Oh my gosh what a weekend you had! Full of precious memories. Every time my stepsons (11 and 13) have a milestone I am happy and grateful to be a part of it but I find myself in that place of thinking that their Dad should be here to see this. I also find myself wondering how his absence at some of these events will ultimately impact them.

    I am blessed that their mother includes me totally in their lives. Even though they are currently living out of state, I am included in every aspect of their lives and see them every 4-6 weeks. I am included every major decision and crisis. She has become one of my best friends, which is hard for most to understand. I think, for her, it gives the feeling that she is not raising them alone.

    To me, I know we are doing it alone. It doesn't matter that she and I are there to attend their games and all the other activities they are involved in. I look around and I see the Dads in the stands or wherever we are and I realize that no matter how hard we try to make it normal for them I am NOT Dad and I can't be him. They have lots of strong male role models around them so I don't worry so much about that. I just worry that they don't have their own Dad at those times when a role model just isn't going to cut it. Your boys are a little older, how do they do with this? And boy do I know what you mean about them not having someone else around to spread the attitudes around to. My boys 'save' certain behaviors just for me. It's like they wait a whole month for me to either get there or for them to come home to me and then they let it fly. I think it's their way of acting out for me not being there all the time, which at this juncture is not doable. For me, when I am with them doing the everyday mundane things, it's the only time I feel somewhat normal. Once I am back home and completely alone I sink back into the abyss. Then it's work and home to bed.

    I don't want to project on to them my feelings and concerns. They have been through age appropriate grief counseling and outwardly appear to be doing ok. There have been some incidents of acting out that I think are connected. We just deal with them and encourage open lines of communication.

    As I was reading what you wrote something struck me. The other parents who own the extravagant homes could easily find themselves in our shoes should one of their spouses die, unexpectedly and leave them without a will or God forbid life insurance like happened to me. No one expects to die at such a young age. People think because they are young they have all the time in the world to take care of this stuff. Then one day they wake up and find themselves where we are. It can happen, it does happen. I always find myself wondering if those people who appear to have it all are prepared and if not, then they could lose everything. So really, they are one life altering event away from where I am. It kind of levels the playing field.

    I do envy them for what they have now and I can't help but wonder if they appreciate it or do they take it for granted like so many. I know if the shoe were on the other foot, knowing what I know now, I would be so much more aware of my blessings. I love your gratitude at the end of each entry. I need to start focusing on the good things so they can balance out the things I constantly feel like I'm missing. Thank you so much for writing and sharing your life. So many of the things you are experiencing parallel my own journey. It's nice to have another persons view on all of this.

  2. Kelly - What an amazing arrangement and friendship you have with your husband's ex-wife. How lucky for the boys to have the input of two moms after the loss of their Dad. In a way, it represents the good that can come out of terrible circumstances. It certainly helps to have more people in the parenting mix. I so wish I had more assistance in that regard.

    It is always hard seeing the dads in the stands, picking their kids up from school or out to dinner with their families. I had to find some during the picture taking to tie my sons' ties because we don't know how to do it. My boys don't talk about it much. I certainly feel their loss, especially at times like Homecoming or when they are playing a sport and I so wish their Dad was there to see them. I have taken a lot of criticism for my sons being overly involved in sports but quite frankly, if they were not, they would have very little in the way of male role models so looking back I am glad they have been so active (although their grades have suffered - it is always a trade off I guess).

    I totally agree with your observations about those in better financial positions. My husband left neither a will, nor enough life insurance (although I have to take some responsibility for that too). Most people escape the fate we have experienced so it doesn't matter. We are certainly in the minority. That is what makes it harder for me - the knowledge that so few of us end up in this place. I do not know anyone living in one of the homes I described face the situation I am in. And I don't think these fortunate people really ever take stock of all that they have and are grateful. I think it takes some falling and getting shaken up a bit to sometimes have a greater appreciation for the wealth we have in our lives. But that is just my cynical perspective. I would hope they are sincerely grateful and maybe some are. I live in a pretty self-centered community - wealth is just taken for granted.

    Thank you so much for sharing your interesting insights and observations.

  3. Cynical? No, realistic is more like it. When reality comes knocking on your door, or should I say takes a battering ram to the damn thing you have no choice but to see things for what they are. You can no longer pretend or take things for granted. That luxury is gone.

    As far as too many sports, no way. I agree with you 100%. I am very athletic and competitive but I am not a man and the boys need those positive male role models. Men are just different with them. They need that exposure. I can teach them all the sensitive aspects to being a man, their Dad was very sensitive. But that other stuff has to come from a man. When you mentioned the tying the tie thing, my heart just sunk because I know we are going to face that too. I immediately started to think of who I could get to teach me so we won't have to ask. It's the little things that throw us off kilter sometimes.

    I will say it is so nice to have someone else to talk to about it that 'gets' it. Thank you so much!!!

  4. Kelly - People do not realize the huge impact the loss of a parent makes on a child's life. It is not cut and dry - there are just so many aspects to loss and one of the complications is a child who no longer has a same-sex parent to identify with.

    Anyway, as I sip my hot tea this morning, I have raised my cup to you in a gesture of commonality from one who gets it to another, as well as friendship.

  5. Back at you my new friend. I think I have an even better insight, or at least I try to, because my husband lost his Dad at age 6 and his Mom at age 20. He bestowed on me a wealth of knowledge of what growing up like that was like. I try to access it when issues arise. I think, in the end, all we can do is our best. We can lean on each other for support and advice but in the end, our best will have to do.

    Hope you had a great day!