Getting Through The Bad Days After The Death Of My Husband

by Marjorie Brimley
Stefanie Harrington Photography

I definitely didn’t win Mom of the Year today.

I mean, let’s be honest, I didn’t win Mom of the Year any other day previous to this one, including during the many years before my husband was sick. I actually appreciated how much my friends and I joked about being “bad moms” because we let our kids have cookies for breakfast or watch TV all morning or throw out their homework rather than encouraging them to do it. I didn’t do that every day, of course, but I cut myself some slack as a mom because I knew that most of the time, I was doing this parenting thing okay.

But today — and especially tonight — was not one of those funny “I’m such a bad mom” kind of days. It was the crying-in-the-bathroom-after-the-kids-finally-go-to-bed kind of day. The day had been okay, if horribly dull. I let the kids have too much screen time and they got antsy and then everyone kept fighting with each other and then no one really ate their dinner (which was “leftovers, again” my daughter helpfully pointed out.)

But I was slogging through the routine and I managed to get everyone upstairs and in the shower and ready for bed. It was one of those nights that I’ve had before — usually it meant that my husband was working late, and I had come home from a long day and then had to do everything by myself. So the actual steps of tonight were not totally new to me. My daughter needed help with her hair and my older son really wanted to find this specific book and his younger brother was refusing to put on a diaper and they all needed me all at the exact same time.

I got the boys in bed and then my daughter was upset that I was taking too long, so I went to her room, and then her baby brother followed me there and she slammed the door and he started crying and I had to start all over. Meanwhile, my older son had climbed into my bed and was refusing to sleep anywhere else.

I moved my son three times back into his own bed, and finally got into the shower. I was exhausted, and if I’m being honest, I felt defeated. And then, I hear this little voice: “Mommy, the wind is blowing outside and there’s little twigs coming off the trees.”

I turned to see my son and I just lost it. “Just go to bed. Somewhere! Anywhere!”

Ugh. I had yelled earlier at my daughter about something that I can’t even remember now, and the only reason I hadn’t yelled at my baby was because he was binge-watching a teenager on YouTube demonstrate how to best utilize zombies in a Minecraft game (I’m not kidding — this is actually a thing and he loves it.)

I was not winning Mom of the Year. But this time instead of making me laugh it made me cry. A lot.

It made me miss my husband, of course, because it made me miss what we’d be doing right about now if he was still alive. It made me miss laying on this bed of ours after the kids were in bed and staring at the blank white ceiling and me saying “God, I’m so tired” and then him saying, “Me too.” And then us both staring at our phones and laughing at funny videos and doing rock, paper, scissors for who had to go back and put the baby back in bed again.

It was not glamorous, because parenting almost never is. But it was a partnership. Not always fair, for sure, and there were times when my husband would show up after bedtime and I would seethe with anger that I had just done all the hard work and he had missed it all. But most days I felt like a team, and I knew that there were plenty of things I took for granted that he did for me. Even if I had dealt with dinner and baths alone, and he had just made it home for a story, he did that with such love and such enthusiasm. And at the end of all that, we had our time of exhaustion, laying there on the bed, barely able to do much at all except be with each other and stare at the ceiling.

I miss the way my husband laughed — a big huge burst of laughter — and I miss the way he made his voice small for the kids at night. I miss the way he talked about current events and I miss the way he put on a tie. But right now, I really just miss how he was my partner in every boring moment. I miss staring at that ceiling at night, just existing together without words.

Tonight, after I showered and brushed my teeth and decided I was done crying, I came to bed. My son was in it. He opened his eyes. “Hi, Mama,” he said sleepily. “Can I stay here?”

I paused, and then relented. “Okay, baby, just this once,” I replied.

It’s not the same — oh, it’s not the same — but it’s nice for one night not to stare at that blank white ceiling alone.