It means when I've got the flu and I'm too weak to crawl from the bathroom to his bedroom, I'm damn lucky to have a mother who will drive three miles to my house at 2 A. It's hard even if you have an awesome partner, because raising a small human is hard work and they start to get their own ideas and opinions and sometimes that means they poop on your basement floor and while you're cleaning it up, Being a widowed mom adds just a little more pressure. Maybe because when strangers glance at my ring finger when meeting my son and me, and try to casually ask after his father, I just drop a concise "He's dead" and let them pick their own impolite jaws off the floor.
Or because I started a Hot Young Widows Club and yeah, we have tote bags and mugs and matching tattoos.
Not really, I just like the idea of starting something heavy with a lighthearted joke. If you're creating a detailed timeline in your head, yes, this means that my husband had brain cancer when our child was conceived. I don't mean women who are on Facebook like, "Send prayers and extra wine, Trevor is on a business trip so I'm a SINGLE MOM this week." To which I give a decisive unfollow but will take the time here to say, "Really?
Anyway, if you missed that opening line, my husband died. I knew, when I made the man I love go to a suburban strip mall and jerk off into a cup at 7 A. Your husband going to Cleveland to do his job and make money to support your family is like being alone in this world to care for your kids completely on your own with no emotional or physical or financial support?
Which makes me a widow, and makes our child 50 percent orphan. M., when I went to a fertility specialist and had a nurse insert a small syringe into my vagina and impregnate me on an otherwise regular workday, that I was signing up for a future where I would one day be this child's only parent. "I mean women like me, and my friends in the Hot Young Widows Club, who suddenly or not-so-suddenly find ourselves in the role of solo parent.
Aaron and I were married for three years, and even though that is about 47 years too short to get a really great party thrown by our grandkids in a church basement, we completely nailed our vows. He was diagnosed with brain cancer before our wedding! But like dating my little brother's close friend or getting my first tattoo, I had no idea what that decision would actually mean for my future (if you're wondering about those two examples: I ruined their friendship and can never again wear a backless dress). Women who have to explain to their kids that Papa isn't on a business trip, and he isn't even remarried and living in Tulsa with his former coworker and their new children.
It's my job to keep Aaron's memory alive for the boy who shares his eyes and his funny smile, to remember the purest love I've ever known and to remind myself that the love he gave me wasn't in vain. So I'm showing my son that women are strong and capable and amazing, and that he is, too.
It's my job to make sure that this huge event–which will be a defining moment in his life–isn't the only thing that defines Ralph. He's seen me pack a U-Haul and drive it across town with all our earthly belongings inside, hook up the Burley and take him for 30-mile bike rides, and accidentally drop a hammer on my bare foot while trying to assemble a bookshelf on my own.
It's my job to make sure that the weight of it all doesn't crush him. Still, I wouldn't trade three years of marriage with Aaron for anything—not for a longer marriage with any of the other boys I dated, who are all currently alive. He knows that when he goes to daycare, I go to work.
Our son was 22 months old when his father died, which is another way of saying he was almost two years old, but when you have a child you start doing annoying things like counting their age in weeks and months, so people who don't have children have very, very specific knowledge of when this child emerged from your vagina.
Women who can't even hate-sing Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" about him while running and fantasize about how much hotter we are than whoever he dates next.
Ralph's dad is dead, which means that I don't have someone to double-check whether the child has a fever or if I'm just really bad at reading this stupid "easy read" thermometer.
It means nobody to back me up when he's supposed to be taking a time-out but keeps getting off the step when I go into the kitchen to check on our dinner. However you do it, and I do it a little haphazardly if I'm being honest, being a mother is hard.