When my father died four years ago, I was surprised at the level of grief that rolled through my own family; after all, my kids only saw their PopPop a few times a year. Yet even now, my 12-year-old says he still sometimes "talks" to his grandfather at bedtime. Now, when I'm on the phone for hours talking with doctors long distance, or when Frank dashes down to his parents' house to solve some problem, I see the questioning, frightened looks my kids try to hide. How To Help A Partner Grieve
I have no answers for them. I can't think about that now. Not this week. Not when I'm alone on the scene, running between my mother's room at the rehab hospital and the only place nearby where there's a reliable enough Wi-Fi connection to allow me to get work done.
I'm doing my best to keep in touch with my husband and sons via phone calls and texts. While I'm here, the 16-year-old is tackling driving lessons, and his younger brother has begun soccer practice. Last night, they emailed photos of them at a Yankees game. I'm missing it all, and even though I know that what I'm doing here is important, and that Frank has altered his work schedule, and that friends are pitching in, I still somewhat resent the whole situation.
For now, I can only think about what Mom needs, and somehow reconcile that with what I need, and what my husband and our children need. So far, we're holding steady, though we don't always like the situation we're in. Like now. My need to travel forced us to cancel our family vacation, made it necessary for me to forego a freelance project that promised needed income, and separated us for the final weeks of summer, a time when we traditionally spend more, not less, time together.
When I was packing, everyone in my house kept their distance—though they also pitched in. Frank made calls, studied the family calendar and made sure, the night before my flight, that we made love, passionately. The boys taught me how my new cell phone works, rounded up magazines for the plane ride and slipped a snack into my purse. Yes. We're holding steady. What choice do we have?
Lisa Romeo is writing from Las Vegas this week.