dating a widower in LDR

Maquoketa Caves State Park

Image by Phil Roeder (lots of comments to catch up on) via Flickr

I love my sister’s in-laws. They are a large, friendly bunch who lay waste to every bad in-law joke you may have ever heard. BIL and his twin were actually high school classmates of mine, and I actually knew him before he and my sister even met.


BIL has six brothers. All but the youngest is married. All but two have children. When even a couple of them gather in one place with their families, you know they are there. The last time I saw them all together in one place was nearly 7 years ago when DNOS and BIL married. I remember at my parents house the next day while the grown-ups were outside watching the newlyweds unwrap gifts I walked into the kitchen to find a half-dozen or so of BIL’s nieces and nephews pretending to mix drinks using various concoctions of soda pop.


My sister is actually the “oldest” of the sister-in-law’s even though she was the last one of them to marry into the family. DNOS and BIL dated for about fifteen years. They got engaged The Christmas after Will and I got married. In fact, the first time we visited after our engagement BIL’s comment to Will was “Thanks a lot.” Even with the occasionally clash of personalities, I have always thought my sister to be extremely blessed as far as in-laws are concerned. Because Will was an only child and not really comfortable with either side of his family, I knew I wouldn’t have what DNOS did but I had high hopes for pleasant holidays and other such gatherings. I didn’t get that. As we circled the park today trailing after P’s wife K as she scouted about for a picnic site in what is essentially a campground, I had brief flashes of the Mathes family celebrations. A room ringed with people on folding chairs, eating off paper plated balanced precariously on their knees while engaged in the awkward small talk that periodically broke the silence. My sister has not always taken her in-laws in stride, but her observations of mine have made her more grateful for them than she already was.


My daughter loves to visit with her cousin’s cousins. She is just beginning to understand that she is not related to Uncle BIL’s family, but she stubbornly maintains that his youngest nephew is in fact just as much her cousin as N2, BIL and DNOS’s son, is. They are quite the trio. No is the oldest at six and a half, followed by N2 who is just six and then my Dee at not quite five. They ran themselves silly, played on the swings and argued over the camping chairs. No tried to convince the other two to play “runway model” on top of one of the picnic tables. N2 was game but Dee hung back and merely watched. I don’t think she knows what a model is and the look on her face indicated that she wasn’t quite certain that this was an activity for boys. My daughter is a bit archaic in her ideas about gender. As I watched I remarked to my sister that her husband would not have permitted a game like that to played for long. He is very archaic in his ideas about gender, but as the two boys sashayed up and down the table top, wiggling their bums like girls in a hip-hop video, everyone but Dee and I pretended not to notice.


After a dinner of grilled animal and assorted junk food of which Dee partook and I demurred politely, we said our good-byes. Real good-byes I realized when Dee pointed out to No that it was very unlikely he would ever see my Dee again. It’s interesting the people who are connected to your life, but who you have such a little bit of contact with over the course of it. I wonder if a person is richer or poorer for it?

Wedding Dress For Happy Couple in Love

Image by via Flickr

On the morning of June 27th at just about this time in the morning, I will have been married for just a bit more than half a day. Rob and I remind ourselves often that time is too precious to wish away, but as I gear up for another week of separation I wish I owned a Toynbee Convector.


There is an old Ray Bradbury short story that I used to teach to my seventh graders back in the day. It is about a man who fakes a trip to the future in order to give the world hope of a better world to come. The faked proof he presents inspires people to go out and actually create the world he only imagined for them. I remind myself when I am feeling impatient and missing my love’s physical reassurance that what we are doing in our time apart is giving substance to our dreams.


You can’t build a future if you aren’t able to envision it in your mind’s eye.



HDR IR Victoria Day, Toronto

Image by Lone Primate via Flickr

Rob is here for the the week. He arrived Saturday afternoon, and my daughter and I picked him up at the airport. His flight was a bit delayed, so we walked around a little as we waited, a very little, as it is an extremely small airport made smaller by the fact that you are no longer allowed up in the main terminal. I think terrorism is currently a yellow color, and what passes for security was a tad more attentive though their vigilance seemed only to extend as far as luggage that sat still for longer than a minute. Dee too was especially interested in the suitcases as they wheeled by us.


“Black, black…….black,” she would say as she tallied them up.


“What are you doing?”


“I am looking for a green suitcase. Rob’s is green,” she explained to me in a tone reserved for the stupid.


I explained to her that Rob would be with his suitcase. It wouldn’t be arriving with someone else. Still, we had to go to the baggage claim and look there as well.


When he arrived, there were hugs and kisses, and I felt whole again. I hate the time we spend apart. Even though we both put much time and effort into staying as connected as possible, there quickly comes a time when phone calls, emails and IM cannot substitute for hugs and kisses and looking into his eyes during a conversation.


Being a family too is not a distance thing. It should come as no surprise that my daughter has taken to Rob like a duck to water. Last week one night as she artfully resisted bedtime, she tried to convince me that she needed to spend the night in my bed with me. Although I didn’t need to point out to her that she is a big girl who has her own bed in her own room, I did anyway. Repetition is the key to instruction. Cleverly, she agreed, but pointed out that since “our dad” was not here, it would be okay for her to bunk in.


We spent the weekend quite like a normal family. The babysitter came at seven on Saturday evening, so we could have dinner out with friends of mine who wanted to wish us well on the upcoming move and wedding. Sunday was Shrek the Third at the multiplex at the nearby mall and a walk around the fishpond outside before ice cream and home. Sunday was tidying up Will’s grave site and decorating it for Memorial Day as we will be in Edmonton for the holiday…….okay, maybe that’s not what a “normal” family does as on a Sunday afternoon many families are trading the kids back at the designated drop off according to the visitation schedule per the divorce decree…….and yes, that wasn’t nice. But, I wonder sometimes about “normal”. A year ago a normal Sunday was spent with me on the Internet and my daughter watching cartoons. The year before that our normal was going to the nursing home and her watching me spoon feed her father his lunch.


When did the standard for what constitutes a normal family become a mother, father and 2.3 children, and why does this standard persist when that clearly is not the norm anymore?


Peggy Drexler, a gender scholar who lives in New York, has a piece in the current Newsweek magazine discussing the idea of what makes a family appear normal. A product of a single parent upbringing, her father died when she was three and a half, she discusses the insecurities and inadequacies brought about by the overt and subtle messages that society sends to children and parents who are living outside the Christian Coalition’s definition of what makes up a proper family. She raises the point that growing up she felt that somehow they were a lesser family due to loss of her father, and although that is true, to my mind it is only true in the sense that she, her mother and her sisters missed out on the love that would have been theirs. They were a family regardless.


The article, No Such Thing as an ‘Average’ Family, discussed research Ms. Drexler conducted as a graduate student that concluded that family make-up is not a one size fits all and that “damaged” children are not necessarily the outcome of families that fall outside the traditional structure. As a public school teacher for twenty years now I would have to concur. What we would term “good children” comes primarily from “good parenting” and this can occur in any type of family.


Victoria Day or Fête de la Reine is a Canadian holiday celebrated on the last Monday before or on May 24th in honor of both Queen Victoria’s (1837-1901) birthday and the current reigning British Monarch. Although it is often thought of as a purely Canadian event, it is also celebrated in some parts of Scotland. I mention this only because next year we will be celebrating it as a family, or maybe not, Rob tells me that this Monday is usually the day spent traveling back from wherever you have been camping. We will be our version of a family. No better or worse than what we would have been had Will not died or if Rob and I had never found each other. Just a family, like so many others that live and love from day to week to years on end. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then so too is what makes a family.