The Same Age
It has dawned on me this week that I have now surpassed the age my mother was when Daddy died. The above picture was taken on Easter, 1979, and it shows my parents with their granddaughter, Rachel, who at this point was close to her 1st birthday. Daddy would be gone within in about a year, as he died shortly before Rachel's 2nd birthday. Mama was 55 and Dad was 63 at the time of this photograph.
If I ever needed to have an inkling of what Mama went through at that age, this realization would do it. I can't imagine being a widow at 57. I can't imagine the sudden shock of suddenly being on my own, the sudden awareness that the "until death do us part" of the marriage vow had actually come to fruition. It would be devastating. She at the time of his death had two daughters in their 20s and one small grandchild. She would live to see 3 more grandchildren born, and later (at the present time) 3 great-grandchildren. She would experience decades more Christmases and anniversaries and birthdays without her partner by her side.
That would be heartbreak enough, but to understand Mama, you have to understand how dependent she was. Daddy was the bank teller; Mama had stayed home to raise Joy and me ever since we were born. She didn't have to pay bills or write checks or do taxes or even do much driving. He did all that. He even wrote the Christmas cards! She felt assured he would take care of her, as he did, her whole life - and it ended up being his whole life.
Of course, most everyone knows the statistics that the husband will probably go first, but that doesn't help when it happens, especially if you are middle-aged and caught off guard with little warning.
I know my sister Joy and I miss Daddy terribly - and I can imagine how much more that applies to Mama. Oh, she managed well, even better than we expected, living independently, with some help from Joy and social contacts such as good friends from her church. She's a survivor.
But it can't have been easy. Now as I am caring for her here, I am looking at her with fresh eyes, knowing that here, at my very age, she was still trying to navigate a world turned upside down. And here she is now at 88 years old, again trying to navigate her world turned upside down again, because after her accident, she is now dependent once again on her family, this time her daughters and sons-in-law. It is a sacred trust on our part, one to Mama, one to Daddy, that in his absence we are to make sure she lives out the rest of her days in security and love. In 1980, Daddy just passed the torch. I hope we are worthy of carrying it forward on a rocky, frustrating, sometimes difficult but amazing journey.