Month: February 2014

It’s OK That He Stinks at Valentine’s Day

So I was thinking about writing for our local Open Mic night and dithering over a topic when Kevin (the nice man I am married to) suggested that, since it would be Valentine’s Day I could write about that. That, of course, led to a conversation about Valentine’s Days that we have shared. We have been married for 20 years – that is a lot of Februarys together – but I could only come up with one that I had a clear “romantic”memory from, and Kevin wasn’t even home.
At this point in the conversation he declared himself a lousy husband.

No No No!  He is definitely not a lousy husband, but he is kind of lousy at events.

I think that it is easy to forget sometimes that these are very very different things.

A lousy partner never notices when you are tired, but always notices if you gain 5 pounds. He’s the guy who calls it babysitting, and complains, when he gets to spend time with the kids while you do something crazy sexy like grocery shopping or going to the PTSA meeting.  He’s the guy who complains about dinner but wouldn’t think of planning and cooking it once in a while.

These guys might come through with the gifts – the flowers and the chocolate and the jewelry.  They may use it as an apology.  They may even believe that it proves they really love you, even as they treat you like last year’s phone.

Who co-opted the idea of a“good husband” and sold it back to us as the guy who knows what to buy for Valentine’s Day and Christmas and Anniversaries?

The “good” husband is the guy who occasionally clears the table or runs the vacuum and doesn’t think you owe him one for doing so.

He’s the guy who worries about the kids just as much as you do, and the one who makes sure they know how much he cares about them.

He’s the guy who takes care of his parents because it is the right thing to do, and because he loves them, even if they may not remember his name.

He’s the guy who will give you a hug when you need one, who laughs at your jokes… at least sometimes.  He’s the one who always, always has your back.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against flowers and romantic getaways. But I received enough flowers from guys who didn’t show up when it counted to know the difference between presents and presence.

What if, instead of buying stuff, we chose to tell our Valentine simply, I love you?  I am grateful to have you in my life.  Thank you for making me laugh.  I love to watch you take care of your parents, I love to watch you play with the kids.  I am proud to be married to you.  You rock.

It doesn’t really matter if you are lousy at events if you show up every day for life.

That is what love really is.  Not diamonds or chocolate or roses.

Love is going through life, side-by-side, showing up, eyes open, hand in hand.

By the way, that romantic Valentine’s Day was right after we were married – he went skiing and I came home to an empty house and a brand new Bob Dylan boxset and a single red rose –the right gift can be pretty amazing too.


Thoughts While Folding Laundry

It is 9:30 at night and I am sitting on my couch folding my 2 year old daughter’s laundry.   I am sorting out favorite dresses that are showing wear, and little shirts that no longer fit.  This makes me just like thousands of moms with toddlers that grow faster than we ever imagined.  But most other moms are not in tears, sobbing while they hold little pairs of jeans with grass stains.

The waves of grief that hit me this night take me completely by surprise and take my breath away.  It has been over 2 years since we lost my son Ryan, right before his first birthday.  He never played in the grass to get grass stains on his knees.  He outgrew clothes slowly and his clothes never showed signs of wear and tear.  The fact hits me hard in that place in my stomach where the dull ache of sadness still lives.

The challenges of parenting after the loss of a child are hard to explain to someone who hasn’t walked this path.  Each milestone that my daughter accomplishes is washed with pride and joy and wonder, and then bathed again in the melancholy of knowing that Ryan never took a first step, never learned to feed himself bananas, never said “I love you Mama”.

It isn’t that I spend all of my time thinking of what we lost with Ryan’s death.  On the contrary, I am far more aware of all that I gained from being his mother.  But there is the flash that goes off, with each experience, that reminds me of what could have been.

Grief is surprising in its’ unpredictability.  I expected melancholy on my daughter’s first birthday, after all my son died days before his first birthday.  Her birthday turned out to be a joyful and peaceful day.

On the other hand, many months later, I cried inconsolably when I came home to find my husband had removed the crib from my daughter’s room.  It was bound to happen soon, she was sleeping in her “big girl bed.”  I knew the crib couldn’t stay there forever, just like Ryan couldn’t stay forever. The decision was made for me, again, ready or not…  If my own husband had a hard time understanding why I was so upset about the crib being removed, how could I possibly explain it to my friend.  She tried to comfort me by saying “They grow up so fast”.  I wasn’t crying for “They grow up so fast”; I was crying because, sometimes, they don’t grow up at all.


I wrote this essay almost 8 years ago.  It first appeared on the Rowan Tree Foundation website – an organization supporting families through the loss of a child. I am proud to be a Board Member of RTF. It is now 10 years since my son died and my grief is no longer overwhelming or exhausting, although it is still very real.  Often it is most challenging when it presents itself as loss to my daughter.  I sometimes think that her loss of her sibling is the saddest loss of all.