I once wrote a post titled "The Hardest Part of Being A Widow," which for me involves attending the numerous athletic, music and school activities of my sons' on my own. Last night was the 14th District Wide Band or Orchestra concert I attended on my own but this time there wasn't any moping or feeling sorry for myself. There was a huge sense of pride at my son and for myself as well.
The concert includes all the kids in the district (600) involved in either band or orchestra (separate concerts) from 4th-12th grades. Each level plays a couple songs on their own and then they all join together for a finale. The point is to show the parents and kids, especially the younger ones, where they'll end up if they continue all the way through.
I remember the first one I attended when my oldest was a beginning sax player and being blown away hearing the top high school band. Last night my son played in that top band. I heard the reaction of some of the parents around me with younger children and it was the same I had 8 years ago - awe at the quality and talent of the kids playing and hope that one day our own children would be part of that group. There were actually intakes of breath after the top band performed.
Almost a magical twist of fate that yesterday my son received his acceptance letter from the #1 college of his choice known for its excellent program in criminal justice as well as its music program (the two areas of study he has chosen). There weren't any tears in my eyes at the concert, just a huge surge of pride as I saw my tall, handsome son in his tux. I looked at the youngest kids imagining his own progression (as well as mine) through the past years. We did it! We made it! I successfully raised the boys into fine young caring men and they grew into mature teens on their own merits besides. It hasn't been easy. In fact, I would venture to say at times it has been hell and torture but last night, the bad stuff took a back seat to the joy and happiness I felt.
My husband never saw one of these concerts. When my sons were younger and he was still alive, he was in the hospital at the times these concerts occurred. I marveled a little that I was the sole parent of the boys attending these mega concerts all these years. And felt sadness that my husband had missed them...
An older gentleman asked me where the concert was as he entered the high school. I directed him to the gym adding that it was the 14th and final concert I would be attending! He smiled and replied, "That's what you think," and I assume he meant that there will be more concerts in college or with future grandchildren.
In the past, I have looked around me at all the intact families surrounding me on the bleachers and have just felt sadness, resentment, envy and pain that I have been alone holding up the household and being an only parent. But there was none of that last night. It was a celebration of how far we have come and the pure and simple fact that in the end we made it.
The finale was Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" and all I could think of was how significant this was too - they used to end with "Let's Go Band." There was joy last night in my soul and spirit. So if there is any silver lining to the road of widowhood, it would be for me, the knowledge that I did survive in the end and that the boys became good decent young men. Young men my husband would be tremendously proud of. Maybe even better men in some ways because of the trials they have faced.
I have griped about these district music concerts for years - once in a pretty bad snow storm we got stuck in the snow trying to get to the concert. But last night it was bittersweet that it was the last one I would ever attend with a son performing. Endings are bittersweet but I see on the horizon so much awaiting my son as he starts his college years, with my youngest ready to take those steps in another year.
I wish that there had been a magic ball in which I could have looked into so many years ago. To where I would have seen the happy and successful outcome that finally arrived. But I wouldn't have believed it anyway.