I have three children, all with the same man. They are now 42, 39 and 27. Their father died when our youngest was 16. It was a very quick, though not unexpected, and very gruesome lung cancer death. We were not together at the time, though he was still one of my best friends, one of my oldest friends, and we still loved each other very much. When he died, I lost the details of many shared memories. He was always the archivist but kept it all in his head. I also lost much of the music we had performed and written together since he never wrote things down, and I didn't play instruments at the time. His death shook all of us to our very core. I had never stopped loving him but couldn't live with him any longer. We were destroying each other.
Over the years, we worked together managing many dramas together, even after we had split up. It was always comforting knowing that he was there. Since his death, there have been many more dramas, some worse than either of us could have ever imagined. I've stood strong, dealing with them to the best of my ability, always wishing he was here with me throughout it all and missing him terribly. We have two sons, who have seen their share of troubles. If their dad was here, he would react very differently than me. He would have a way of talking to them that they would actually hear and respect. Not that they don't respect me, but I do it differently, not always elegantly, and I'm a woman. I don't understand how to be a man, and sometimes, that's what's needed.
Now there is turmoil again, and I feel angry. I'm angry that he left me to deal with this by myself. It wasn't meant to be this way. We made these children together and were supposed to raise them together. It is more than one person can handle. Equally, I feel broken-hearted that my children haven't had him when they've needed him the most. I've had other men in my life, but they are not their fathers. They didn't see them come into the world and know them for their entire lifetimes. They didn't have that inescapable bond that comes from welcoming your child into the world. Even adoptive parents welcome their child and experience a special bonding that comes from the anticipation and joy of finally holding their child in their arms.
When my youngest son was going through an unbelievably difficult time, many friends encouraged me to walk away. His father would not have done that. He would have understood that I could never walk away and leave him with nobody. He would never have turned his back on him. Those friends were well-meaning but many of them are childless. They couldn't possibly understand. Also, not one of my friends had ever experienced this particular trauma. Once in a while, I would encounter a stranger who had a similar experience and would encourage me to go with my gut feelings and not abandon my son. Unbeknownst to them, they saved me. I felt sad and missed his dad terribly during that time. My son recovered, and we've been working on mending our relationship, little by little, because it really is that important.
Now here I am again, but this time, I feel enraged that he neglected his health to the point that there was no recovery possible. He knew that both of his parents had cancer, yet he continued to smoke - and not just a little. He came to one of my parties once gasping for breath, walking a short distance, catching his breath then going a little further and stopping again until he reached the smoking area. He joked about the fact that he lived on coffee and cigarettes and that it would kill him someday. I didn't think it was funny, and it turned out to be all too true. He was 51 years old when he died, exactly a month to the day after having gotten his diagnosis. There was not enough time for our children to ask him questions, no time for him to arrange things, and he left me with a mess to deal with. At the time, I just rolled up my sleeves, helped him die with dignity and grace, reminding that I loved him and settled his affairs after he was gone. I did my best to help my grieving children and stuffed my own grief until a better time to let it out. And I did grieve, but now I'm furious, and
... "there's nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile."