1 widowed parent, 1 time machine

One widowed parent, one time machine

Becoming a single parent is like stepping into a time machine.

Except it’s not as cool as a DeLorean or a police box.

A little over six years ago my wife, Andrea, passed away, leaving me a single parent to four kids – two girls and twin boys. It was maybe the most challenging and most rewarding thing I have had to face.

I’m a journalist by trade. I’ve traveled the world; been to Israel, Afghanistan (OK, that was all of a couple hours, but I was there!); I covered the crash of the space shuttle Columbia.

I’ve been hit, threatened and surrounded by dozens of angry men because of a story I covered.

The stakes in those stories, though, were nothing compared to what faced me in March of 2011.

Failing being a single parent is not something I wanted to face. I was scared to death for the majority of the first couple years. I knew how to cook – my mother had made sure of that. I knew how to fix things and work on my car and all the typical “guy” things you’d expect.

Here’s where the time machine analogy comes in.

The moment I took over as sole parent in the house I had to go back to a time when my life didn’t have a partner. I almost had to look at life like I was a single guy who suddenly had the responsibility of four kids thrust on his shoulders. In essence… that’s actually what happened. I had a partner, a friend, a roller-coaster of a marriage for sure, but one I stuck with for 18 years.

Here I was at 40 and I was alone with four little faces looking up at me wondering what to do.

So I stepped into that time machine (picture Doc Brown, or Tom Baker… your choice) and went back to when I was those kids’ age. I went back to those days and began playing and recording music again. The routine – the really important parts of the day – added stability. I could deal with the grief as it came as long as I kept the routine going.

Here I was at 40 and I was alone with four little faces looking up at me wondering what to do.

I knew people who had lost a mum or dad and if the one remaining parent didn’t step up everything fell apart. So I tried my best to be like my mother and their father at the same time.

I cooked (holidays turned into major baking sessions).

I cleaned.

I did everything from make lunches to laundry to buying tampons at the store.

The space-time continuum has its downsides too, though.

The 16-year-old awkward guy re-emerged when, at the age of forty-something, I found the courage to start dating again. Yet he walked into a world where nobody did things the same. The phone was attached to a wall and there were only three TV networks when I first started dating. Now I had to navigate my emotions, the shadow of my wife’s memory and the fact that there were four kids – even if two of them were adults now – as part of the deal.

Four kids. That’s a lot. My four kids are even more.

But traveling through time has taught me something. I didn’t reach this point in my life, nor did my kids, in a blind, restless search for someone to be their mother. They had one; she just left us too early.

We are now at a point where we are actually living our lives. We worry about the future, where we’re going, what’s next.

If I took that time machine back six years… we wouldn’t know what tomorrow even looked like. It’s good, sometimes, to see how far you’ve come, even if you still have a way to go.

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