Family gets by with teamwork, faith and a little help from our friends
Now and then: The three of us in June 2017 and in September 2009 (on the day of Steve's service)
From today's Briefing:
Days after we sang "Happy birthday" to Cooper, it hit me: I've been a single mom for as long as I was a married mom.
Cooper turned 16 this month. In a few weeks, we'll remember the eighth anniversary of my husband's death. Cooper has lived half of his life without his dad in the house. (Younger sister Katie had only four years with Steve.)
The occasion doesn't warrant a card or a party, but there's a somber sort of celebration in my heart.
We have been the recipients of more meals than I can count. Those early days of widowhood are a blur of casseroles delivered to the front porch and restaurant gift cards in the mailbox. Even today, I can rely on Grandma to show up with dinner during our busiest seasons, or we can walk across the alley for dinner with our best friends.
For eight years, we've relied on other people for rides to and from school, Scouts, church, band, track. Cooper and Katie have a list of folks they can text last-minute for rides, say if it's raining and they're dressed for an important presentation at school. I scan my calendar weekly, trying to avoid overlapping commitments and seeking logistical help when it's unavoidable.
I'm rarely ill, but one awful week I was incapacitated by flu. I was in and out of fevered sleep when the school nurse called. Cooper had suffered a slight injury in PE and needed ibuprofen. I didn't panic. I called a nearby friend, who had already offered to help in any way, and she delivered medicine for me.
When I'm weary from being the only adult who makes decisions, I know who I can call or text for venting with no judgment. When I need advice — because, oh my word, why on earth would my child do that and how am I supposed to respond? — I've got a list of folks who listen and advise.
More often than not, though, the three of us have figured out how to forge life on our own. We long ago settled into a daily routine. Katie is the official dog-walker. Cooper is the light-bulb changer and trash man. I take care of the first half of the laundry process, and they do the rest.
If something's broken, Cooper is our go-to guy. If a gift needs to be wrapped or a card created, Katie's in charge. I plan menus and shop for groceries; the kids take turns unloading the minivan and putting food away.
We've traveled all over the country together. The three of us share precious memories of hiking along the Oregon coast, climbing slippery rocks in Maine, riding Space Mountain at Disneyland, gathering seashells in Florida.
We've lost our way — in more ways than one — yet we've always rediscovered the path together.
We pray together at the dinner table and worship together on Sundays.
We each have built stockpiles of resilience.
There's so much of life we don't get to control. This isn't the parenthood I dreamed of. It's not the childhood I expected for my babies. We've made it this far, though, relying on our compassionate village, steadfast faith and the strength we find in one another. It's teamwork worth celebrating.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.