8765 Times 6

RisaThere are 8765 hours in a year, 52,590 of them have ticked off since Risa passed away.  Probably because of the timing, it becomes a strange time of year for me (and I think for my girls as well).  While the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of year,” there are probably more than just me who would stop and question that.  8765 times 6 – there’s a lot to think about.

Who’d have thunk there would come a time I have two teen-aged girls in high school – much less thriving in that environment.  16.5 is in honor roll and 15.0 is pulling a low 90 GPA.  Far better than I ever did, clearly taking after their mom.

Along with a second transition to high school, we’ve (and I say we because it’s been the three of us)  conquered an introduction to driving, a change of sport from softball to tennis, a job change for me and just getting through another 8765 hours with the rest of life’s challenges.

Reflecting this time of year is probably normal – give or take this is when people (who make them) will begin to think about New Year’s resolutions.

I was chatting with a friend who is also widowed – and we were talking about how tough this time of year can be as an only parent where you’re dealing with the family and everyone is happy.  And it’s not to say we’re not happy – but there is a part missing.

What would Risa think about her girls excelling in school? I know how proud I am of it and I know she would be proud too – but what would she think?

And would 16.5 be a different (maybe better, maybe worse) driver if there was another voice offering guidance?  I don’t know.  We don’t have that second voice, and I don’t pretend there is a second voice.

In the last 8765 hours 15.0 made a change from softball to varsity tennis.  She walked onto the tennis court just before Labor Day this year and became a tennis player and has taken to the sport with determination.  I know Risa was a very determined person as well, happy to see she’s taken on the best of the traits.

16.5 entered the working world over the summer and excelled as a lifeguard at a water park near our house.  She embraced the challenge of working and becoming responsible – maturing into a woman.  Now we begin thinking about test prep and college search.  I know those are the parts of life Risa would have cherished, and despite the challenges I know it’s a time I will cherish with her and her sister.

15.0 has also become expressive in art – a skill I only wish I had, but again its a skill her mother possessed.  I can’t help but smile when I walk into her room and see her work on display on the walls.

And because managing life with me and two teen-aged girls isn’t quite challenging enough I decided to change jobs this year too.  It was one of those situations where it was time to make a change and the right opportunity came along – but its in those moments where I try to think through important changes, don’t really have that life partner to talk to and know I’m about to make a life changing decision – the clock slows down, and a few of those 8765 hours feel like days at a time.

I wonder, what would Risa think about all of this?  Am I doing the right thing?  Would my father be proud of life I’ve created for my family?

I’d like to think the answer is yes – because that will help get me through the next 8765 hours and changes our lives will face again.

 

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8765 Times 5 – Milestones Achieved

Risa, the girls and me after we moved into our home

Risa, the girls and me after we moved into our home

There are 8765 hours in a year.  In the five years since Risa passed away 43,825 hours have ticked away.  Sometimes time just flies by as we go about our lives.  Other times, the hours drag as moments play out.  In the 8765 hours over this year some milestones have been achieved and moments have been shared.

Maybe the most significant was 13.0 achieving her bat mitzvah.  While I don’t think the struggle was any tougher than any family goes through convincing a 12-year-old that studying Torah and practicing prayers and readings is important – this had deeper meaning for us.  One of the few promises I made to Risa over the years she battled her brain tumor was that the girls would make it to their bat mitzvah.

Not only did 13.0 perform flawlessly – but she emerged as the young lady she is becoming.

With that goal accomplished this year it’s a chance to look back and reflect – but also to look ahead.

When I have a “look ahead” conversation with friends, somehow they all talk about paying for a wedding – I’m a little more of a realist and thinking about cars and college.

Sometimes as an only parent it’s tough to step back and evaluate how things are going.  I can look around and see signs of positive results – good grades in school, the ability for the three of us to communicate with one another, 13.0’s bat mitzvah, 15.5 setting out to become a lifeguard over the summer and accomplishing it and other tangible moments.

But sometimes out of nowhere comes confirmation that I’m sure Risa would be proud of too:

15.5 is in all honors classes and an AP class this year.  Her English teacher sent me an email last week about a moment from class that reassure’s me that there is a solid foundation to build on.

It seems the teacher’s mother is going through a health crisis and the teacher has been in and out of school.  She ended up canceling a test right before Thanksgiving, and told 15.5’s class it was due to the illness of her mother.  According to the teacher, 15.5 stayed after class that day and shared that she knew what it was like to have a sick mother and she would be there to support her teacher if she needed it.

How could a parent not be proud of the young lady they are raising?

One of the lessons I learned in childhood (raised by an only parent) is that there is no instruction manual for life.  You look at the moment, try to assess it and handle it as best you can.  You won’t always be right but if you decide with caring and compassion you won’t be wrong very often.

More than 350,000 hours have ticked off since my father passed away.  I think about him and Risa and wonder if I’m doing OK and what would they think about the way life for the girls and me has turned out.  I think it’s OK.

And so we’ll start to tick off another 8765 hours with more milestones to achieve.  We’ll build on our success and learn from our mis-steps and be able to look one another in the eye and know what is important and who we can count on – and all in, that’s not so bad.

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8765 Times Four Living and Remembering

RisaThere are 8765 hours in a year – and each of them has ticked off once again since Risa passed away in 2010.  Entering my fifth year as a single parent raising two girls and I can say we are making the best of our lives and have overcome life’s hurdles – not without challenges.  But 8765 times four living and remembering, we’re hanging in.

A lot happened during the course of the year – along with each of us getting a year older we’ve gone about living our lives together and independently – and I think each of us have learned a lot.  The memories we share of Risa are never far away, and we talk about them a lot.

For me, I’ve had the chance to do so much during the last year.  It may not look like a well planned and thought out process – but more often than not it is.  There are so many people in my life who help make things easier to deal with.  Many have been there for a life time or longer – others are new.

For the girls, the year has been full of a lot of change and transition.  14.0 is in high school now, and asserting her independence.  12.0 is growing so quickly – and is quickly becoming a young lady.  She’s deep into the circuit for bar/bat mitzvahs for friends now – with hers less than a year away.

In the middle of the year our long time sitter moved out.  A few months later, my brother (who needed a chance to re-boot) moved in.  One day we’ll get our house back – but until then, I think Risa would be happy.  8765 time four living and remembering – and we’re doing OK.

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8765 Times 3 Plus The Circle of Life

Risa on her wedding day with her sister and mother

Risa on her wedding day with her sister and mother

There are 8765 hours in a year.  In the three years I’ve been widowed, 26,297 hours have ticked off.  Recent events though have made me realize, my life isn’t so bad.  Yes, its challenging at times but as the girls and I mark our third year without Risa and the passing of her mother (their grandma) at 8765 times three plus the circle of life we’re doing OK.

Maybe it’s the time of year that all of this occurs in – the holiday season filled with symbols that make the images of 2010 so vivid.  There was Thanksgiving at our home, a very quiet day with the girls.  We hosted Thanksgiving dinner again.  It’s become an impotent part of our time together.  We know where we are.

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Back then I got the call that Risa was starting to decline.  This year the call was different but the message was not.  A member of the family was approaching the end.  This time it was Risa’s mom Grandma Eddy.  As events unfolded I wrestled with how and when to tell the girls, the message similar to the one delivered years ago.

There we were at our temple’s Chanukah fair, where we were the day after Risa passed away.  This year, instead of talking to the rabbi about Risa, the discussion was Risa’s mom.

The irony of the moment was not lost on me.  Somehow, it seemed to make sense to keep things as normal as I could of the girls.  Let them go through their day, be with their friends and celebrate the holidays.  The moments that we remember.

There are 8765 hours in the year.  8765 times 3 plus the circle of life this year.  It’s a moment we’ll share (again), but it’s also a reminder that all in all our lives are not so bad.

Risa and Grandma Eddy are gone, but not forgotten.  We carry their memories each day.  They are part of us 8765 hours a year – hopefully for many years to come.

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52 Weeks +

This is one of those posts that is a few days late.  I’ll say because of the demands of being a single parent during the holiday season.  The cynic in me will say it’s a series of thoughts I’m trying to avoid.  Reality is it’s probably somewhere between.

So we’ve marked a year since Risa passed.  With the unveiling next week, I intentionally did not call a lot of attention to the day with the girls, but the subject did come up during the weekend-and we talked about it a little.

What struck me though was the familiarity that the weekend took on.  While the memories of that five days last year is vivid to me like it all occurred yesterday-I could not help the moments of deja vu over the weekend.  From the hustle of the holidays to spending time at the temple’s Hanukkah party to the discussion with the Rabbi about how I wanted to handle the next solemn moment to the flurry of emails and texts from family about “stuff” that was coming up it really felt like I had already done all of this.

But this time, if I were looking for differences it wasn’t that tough.

While marking a year of mourning and transition, I can also take a moment to look back and see real success.  Tangible moments that make me think we’re on the other side of this part of our lives.  Yes, we have memories and even moments of pain and self-doubt.  But by and large, 52 weeks later the girls and I can truly say we’re doing alright.

One of the worries I have is someone on the outside looking in and seeing us a year later not in a traditional sense of mourning-but rather in a state of recharging our lives.  It’s something each of us in the house do in our own way.  9.0 looking for new things (violin like her mother, art projects) to be interested in.  11.0 becoming an increasingly independent young lady (with a pretty cute childish streak) or me trying to figure out what’s next…and then the voice, “It’s only been a year.”

Well, for us, it’s been years.

So yes, we mark the calendar solemnly.  Sunday we will go to the grave side and unveil the headstone (even that has not been a simple as it should have been).  No one here has forgotten-and like Risa did 13 years ago when she was told she had a brain tumor-none of us has let this moment define us either.

And that may be the lasting tribute each of us can give to our wife, mother and friend.

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