Dear Micah: New Horizons


unnamedDear Micah,

A few months ago I lost my husband after a battle with a long illness.  Now that I am facing the rest of my life without my husband I am seeing new opportunities and new adventures ahead.  I could live another 20, maybe 30 years even.  I’m excited to see what’s ahead.  I started guitar lessons because I have always loved to sing and wished I knew how to play something to accompany myself. My husband had always thought it was a silly idea.  I got in touch with a couple of old girlfriends I had lost contact with and we are planning a reunion trip together.  I’ve joined some organizations and I am making new friends.  I am enjoying life again.  My worry is my children.  They think I’m acting inappropriately. I guess to them I should be wrapping myself up in their lives and my grandchildren and not doing anything else.  I think they think I’m being disrespectful to their father’s memory by doing so many things so soon.  Do you think I should slow it down?  Is is considered disrespectful to try to enjoy life after a spouse has passed away?  I have a feeling you might see things my way so I thought I’d write to you and then show it to my kids.  I hope I wasn’t wrong.

Call me Pauline

Dear Pauline,

You were right to write me because I agree with you.  Life is for the living and with as much time as you seem to have left to your life, crawling in a hole and waiting to die is a ridiculous answer to losing a loved one.  More than that I get a sense that perhaps your marriage was not all fireworks and heart shaped bubbles as your kids might be imagining.  I am not saying that you didn’t love your husband, but it sounds like perhaps he held down some of your dreams and some of your spirit.  His death, though I am sure painful, has probably felt surprisingly freeing too.  Don’t misunderstand, I am in no way diminishing your feelings for him.  I am just saying that it sounds like you are experiencing an awakening of sorts now that there is only you to consider.  This would especially be the case after battling a long illness like you say.  Who knows what you’ve gone through or for how long while caring for a terminal spouse.    I think if you are able to look at the world and see a beautiful place that you want to explore and reconnect with, then that is a wonderful thing.  Go for it!  Do everything you can to squeeze as much life out of every moment you can.  Don’t neglect your kids or grandkids though.  You want to temper your new freedom with doses of the old responsibilities.  Your children did lose their father and your grandchildren will want to have grandma time.  And it will be important to you down the road to continue to play that role actively with them all.  You don’t just want to go freedom-crazy and never be around for them.  But you’ll find the correct balance.  And the lesson you will be teaching all of them is a profound one, even if they cannot yet realize it.  It’s never too late to start to improve a life.

 

The Family We Choose

Micah,

My 17 year old daughter befriended an elderly neighbor last year.  Since then she visits with her, helps clean her house, and goes to the grocery store for her.  They have become very close.  I like the woman myself.  I have visited her a few times and she seems very nice.  She has no family that lives nearby and so my daughter has become a surrogate granddaughter to her.  Here’s the issue.  My daughter wants to bring her to our family holiday get togethers this year.  My mother is kind of a jealous woman and she has expressed to me before that she thinks my daughter spends too much time with the neighbor lady.  I believe she is jealous of their relationship.  How do I handle this?  Do I allow this neighbor to join our private family gathering and make my mother uncomfortable, or do I tell my daughter she cannot invite this woman that she has grown to care about?  I am not sure which way is the best way to go with this.

Gail

Dear Gail,

You graciously open your family up to this woman and make at least two people happy at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  You tell your mother that you need her to be gracious as well and welcome this neighbor in with open arms—for several reasons.  The most important reason is that it is important to your daughter, who I assume your mother loves.  I can understand that it might sting a little to see her bond with another grandmother-type figure, but in truth there is some need being met by this neighbor that no one else in your daughter’s life is meeting.  So, if she needs this friendship to make her feel happier then she should be allowed it.  Another reason why your mother needs to support this, is that any of us could have just as easily have found ourselves in this woman’s same position where we are aging and have no family to be with or have families but they live far away.  No one likes to be alone, especially at the holidays.  If your family can open up and make room for her you will all benefit greatly from that generosity of spirit.  The holidays are about having family near and sometimes family is what you chose it to be.  This woman has become part of your daughter’s family, and it’s just as much your daughter’s Christmas (or Thanksgiving or both) as anyone else’s.  So, if she wants her to be there then she should be able to have her.  I think it’s never a mistake to open your heart and let someone deserving in.

The Buttinski

Dear Ask Micah,

When my husband had to have a special surgery at UAB, we stayed in Birmingham with my son and his wife while he recovered.  It was more convenient for us to be in town for his follow up visits rather than drive back and forth from Gadsden where we live.  While we were staying with them I observed for the first time just how much my son does around the house for the family.  He works all day till about 5.  My daughter-in-law works till 2 then she picks up the kids.  They were at camp in the summer while we were there but now they’re in school.  When she gets home she helps them with their homework but doesn’t do anything much more.  My son, on the other hand, does the lion’s share of the cooking.  He came home every night and made dinner, then cleaned up the kitchen.  He also started several loads of laundry and folded most of them.  On the weekends he vacuumed the house while she mopped behind him, but then he did all the dusting and bathroom cleaning.  I saw him working his fingers to the bone and she did very little in comparison.  I didn’t want to say anything while we were there and start a fuss, but now that we are home I can’t help but think about what all he has to do every day.  I wonder if I should say something to my daughter-in-law.  She and I get on well together and I think if I mentioned how she might pitch in more she might get angry at first but then think about it and realize I’m right and maybe start doing some of the work herself.  You probably think I should stay out of it but you say in your answers sometimes that you have a son.  How would you feel if you saw him working like a dog and then his wife doing very little to help out?

A Mom

Dear Mom,

I hope I will stay out of my grown man son’s marital affairs.  Like I think you should.  You are making judgements based on what you believe to be fair and appropriate, but you just have a tiny glimpse into their life.  Maybe they all like this arrangement of his doing these things.  Maybe he’s a better cook and they don’t want to eat her cooking.  Maybe he does not like the way she cleans the dishes and he wants to handle that himself.  Perhaps they used to have great big fights over housekeeping techniques and this arrangement is the solution they came up with that keeps their household in peace.  You have no way of knowing the many thousand intricate facets of their relationship and how or why they do things they way they do them.  All you should ask yourself is this:  Does he seem happy?  Does she seem happy?  Are the kids happy?  Do they have fights, affairs, substances issues?  Do they appear to genuinely like each other’s company?  These are the questions that should matter to a mother and mother-in-law.  If all seems right with those answers, keep your mouth closed and let their marriage and their household be whatever way they want it.  It seems to work for them.  Your opinion is really irrelevant, unsolicited, and possibly could be rather destructive if voiced.  So keep it to yourself.

 

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