In Honor of a Father
This past weekend was Father’s Day. Celebration, reflection, and sometimes hard. I cannot make it through Mother’s Day without thinking about the two babies that we lost. How can I not, when their birthdays are tattooed on my back, an ever-present reminder that I have five children? I need a day of distractions.
But I don’t want to project my own feelings onto Ger. After breakfast at our favorite local place, he wanted to spend the day napping. I don’t know if he thought about Nelle or Iris at all, and I didn’t ask – because it is his day. People grieve and remember differently. In the card I picked out, I put two tiny hearts next to the names of the living children, but I don’t know if he picked up on the significance. For me – it was a way for them to be included on Father’s Day.
On Saturday, I took the big kids to see “The Incredibles 2” movie. On the basic premise, Mom goes back to work, and Dad is responsible for all three kids: a teenage daughter with boy troubles, a grade-school son stuck on learning “new math” and a baby with newly discovered superpowers. As I watched the Dad struggle, I anticipated that it was going to fall into a very stereotypical role, where Dad can’t handle the demands of home and falls flat on his face. But I was pleasantly surprised. Dad tried to help teenage daughter, stayed up late learning “new math” so he could help his son, and wrangled the baby.
I reflected this weekend on my own family, built up over 12 years of marriage and 17 years together with Ger. From starting our marriage living in separate states, to multiple moves, to bringing the first baby home, to buying a home, to job changes, and financial decisions, and picking up the ashes of our daughters at a funeral home. All of those life events as partners.
When I wrote recently about the challenges we are currently facing, with Ger having anxiety, which led to alcohol abuse, I felt an invisible judgment on our marriage. I do not regret writing it, as it led to many people saying “Thank you for sharing – we have had struggles too” or “thank you for your honesty” I still wondered about what wasn’t being said aloud. People who may have thought that we just “didn’t work hard enough” on our marriage, or thought “I would never let that happen to me.”
I saw all of the smiling faces as I scrolled through Facebook on Father’s Day, in praise of “the best dad ever!” or “the perfect husband and father.” I admit envy of families and partnerships that have seen smooth sailing. And also wondered what might lie beneath the surface, that I couldn’t see.
I saw a new individual therapist last week, since if we ever hope to return to the marriage therapist she cannot see us as a couple and also me individually. The first session is always so much history and “how did you get here?” As I started with losing Nelle in 2015 and narrated through where I am today with Ger, she pointed out so many positive things happening. She also said “It sounds like you are committed to the marriage and working through the marriage.” I nodded my affirmation, saying that I cannot imagine my days without him. We are a partnership – a bond of love and respect, a foundation for our family, and companions on a journey.