Sunday, May 13, 2012

Balloons, Python, Mothers

            One of the ways I like to torture myself is to do useless comparisons about the different aspects of being a widower.  One of my favorites, and I’ve even brought it up while hanging out with my widow friends, is which is worse: sudden death or a long drawn out passing?

There never seems to be a definitive answer, nor do I think one exists.  For some reason it’s just a topic I like to delve into to when I want to go to that dark place.  Not sure why I like these topics, I’ve never been much of a masochist.  The closest I come to abusing myself is to eat a half box of Cap'n Crunch until the roof of my mouth is bleeding – I’ve never done a full box yet, but I’m only in my early 40s.

            Another topic I like to go over and over and over in my mind as I lie awake at night,  thinking of ways to make myself feel like crap, is which is worse for the girls growing up, no mother, or no father.

            Of course I’ll always convince myself it’s no mother.  The bond of a mother and her children are priceless, growing up without the loving touch, the nurturing hand, the sympathetic voice of reason, are tangibles no child can live without.  I lie there looking at a dark ceiling I can’t see and convince myself that no matter what I do or no matter how hard I try, my kids are screwed.

            I’ve tried to make up for no Lisa around the house.  I thought if I could make mom still very much part of us, the kids won’t really notice she died.  Last Mother’s Day, we all made cards and I bought helium filled balloons to tie the cards to and release them to the sky.  I made a big production about it and oversold the benefits of this to my girls, “See, by making cards and tying them to balloons, we still do have a mom to do things for, she’s not totally gone,” the thoughts race in my mind. 

We get outside and the wind is blowing so we move to the front of the house to avoid power lines.  I make a much longer than needed speech and we release the balloons and watch them, as the top of the tree acts like a magnet and all three balloons fly right into the branches.  Kelly breaks the silence by stating the obvious, “I don’t think Mom is going to get those.”  I say something overly nice about how mom can still see what are in the trees – or something stupid along those lines.  The kids walk back in the house pleased of the launch while I’m obsessing about how better their life would be if Lisa were here.

            Although embarrassing on how I sometimes arrive at validations of my parenting, I will still share with you my latest train of thought on the topic.  I was watching TV, flipping through channels, when I came across Monty Python’s The Holy Grail - one of my all time favorite movies, and yet a movie I haven’t sat through in almost 20 years.  As I sat and watched, I was amazed at one aspect of this film; it's a slow movie with no ending – they totally punted on the ending.  But it doesn’t matter because there are so many great bits and catch phrases that it more than makes up for any of its poor scene transitions or lazy ending. 

            My kids won’t remember every moment of every day we live.  Heck, I clearly didn’t remember how slow the entire move of The Holy Grail is and I’ve seen it like 100 times when I was younger.  We remember highlights and good moments, and I do give my kids those.  I can honestly say that I don’t need to revisit the topic of which is worse, not having a mother or not having a father, because the answer is, not having someone at all who can give you those good moments to help you forgot the slow and difficult parts of life. 

            We’re going to do the balloons again today, but I will skip the speeches and overselling of the meaning of the day. The fun part is watching balloons go up towards the sky.  I don’t need to fill an entire day of importance; I just need one good moment.  I’m going to make Mother’s Day just like Monty Python’s The Holy Grail, except I will leave out the fluff and get right to the good stuff;   after all, it’s all they’ll remember anyway.


King Arthur: I am your king.
Woman: Well I didn't vote for you.
King Arthur: You don't vote for kings.
Woman: Well how'd you become king then?
King Arthur: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. THAT is why I am your king.
Dennis: [interrupting] Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.


  1. Beautiful and perfect. Thank you Matt.
    The fact you do this in memory of their Mom they will always remember.
    It is amazing the things we think . . . .I usually play "if I was dead and Jim was alive, what would he be doing?"
    Then I give him this big and perfect life. With a new stunner of a woman, dinner with great friends, wonderful vacations and driving in the sunshine.
    I know its crazy but sometimes imagining his "happy life" makes me feel better and in a little way gives me permission to also have it for myself.

    Your girls have the best dad and that will be enough.

  2. Ah, Monty Python. How I adore.
    Matt, I grew up without a mom when my dad was widowed young.
    It's debatable how screwed up I am, but I'm pretty satisfied with how I turned out. Mother's Day sucks a lot and always will, but you're right. All that matters is that there's someone in your life who helps make the slow parts less torturous and the good parts more wonderful just by being there.

  3. I agree. All we can do is our best. Hopefully one day the kids will understand that.

  4. Hi Matt,
    You are so right making memories is a good plan for you and the girls.
    I have three daughters and my youngest age 5 asked me today if it was possible to go and live in a new family, no I replied why do you ask ? It's just I don't like all the shouting in this family ! Ouch . Think I need to try a bit harder at the moment to add light into the dark that has descended on us. You have spurned me on to add a bit of fun and get right to the good stuff.

  5. We take a hike every Mother's Day, it's something we used to do as a family, only now we're minus one person. I love the woods anytime of year, especially in spring (in Michigan). Whatever your tradition, I think the kids will benefit from it. Make it special, let them add to the day.

    I, too, picture my spouse as if I had died, and see him going forward and living life so much better than I am.
    Makes me think twice when I am down, he would not be that way.

    Thanks, Matt, I can just see those 3 balloons flying into the tree. Life is so unpredictable, but we have to learn how to go with the flow.

  6. I actually laughed at the balloons getting stuck in the trees. That happened to me once...I do a balloon release every year, just by myself ('course, I do about everything by myself, but that's a whole other blog post), and one year they totally got stuck in trees, which made me sad. But now I can actually chuckle about it. Matt: so glad your girls have you. Like you said: someone who cares enough to do his best for them. Blessings to you.

  7. Ahhh - we go to the same dark places I think. Thank you so much for your honesty.

    1. I too wonder if I'm going to mess my son up. He's my first boy and his father was supposed to teach him all the manly things in life. He's only 8 years old.

      I love what you said about memories. I don't have to do everything perfect to make the rest of my son's childhood good. If I keep adding to his stock pile of good memories then I've created a childhood he will look back on and smile.