About Monday Holidays

(My thoughts today are with the wonderful ladies of the American Widow Project, who connect today's generation of military widows with open hearts and shared memories. They inspire me -- but today's post is from experiences that reel in my own heart today, because Memorial Day is right in the middle of my own anniversary season.)

During the two years that I was a single mother, Monday holidays were the worst torture I could imagine. It wasn’t that we had any traditions for those days, and losing Gavin disrupted a beloved custom; with Gavin self-employed, days off were never a particularly festive occasion: he’d go off into the studio on some of them anyway. And with a new baby, we were waiting to create new ways to spend special days off.

Gavin’s diagnosis meant that our first Christmas as parents, our first Thanksgiving, first Easter, Memorial Day and all the miscellaneous Mondays were also spent with a terminal diagnosis. Yes, we enjoyed our state of hopefulness, but in some sense we must have known this wasn’t the first of twenty Christmasses as a family. His advanced age meant that, semi-consciously, I didn’t assume our family traditions would be permanent in any sense.

In my general state of anger at him for being ill, I often wanted to say, “if you’re so sure you’ll live another 20 years, why don’t you fucking floss?”

But Mondays without him. The curve of the weekend as a grieving, lone parent was deadly: It was hard for me to say which was worse, late afternoon on a napless Saturday, just a few hours of daylight left, the depth of the pit, or the same state on Sunday, looking desperately forward to the relief of work and daycare come Monday. Many a working mom finds a haven in work, not just in time with grown ups, but in constructive occupation and adult expectations and words. But for me, desperate, inexperienced, with a TODDLER of all things, coming to work on Mondays looked like a ray of rainbow shining upward from a unicorn eating a dozen donuts. Beautiful, blessed, and sweet.

But Monday holidays were hell. It was hard enough for me to use a calendar and plan playdates – and understand how as a parent you have to break up the day to survive – but with all the people out of town, it seemed we were always alone. What I would have given for a tool like Foursquare. Instead, I sent blanket emails to a half-dozen moms hoping someone was free and could hang out. It usually didn’t happen; everyone else had car trips to see cousins, or grandparents visiting for the long weekend.

We were rarely invited anywhere for those Mondays. On the few occasions we were asked out, we always went, unless we were already in hives from the stress of the weekend and leaking adrenaline so visibly that I knew we couldn’t pass for company.

And there’s no way to feel more left out than to be alone on a Monday, drained from two days already alone with your kid, with no one around or reachable or interested. Those Mondays were when I felt most alone and the solution was so simple, but I just couldn’t get there.

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Jen said...

I am totally with you on this one. And two more elements makes Monday holidays so deadly -- when I am invited to some event, it's with a bunch of happy, intact families, with all these men around. Dads wrestling with their kids, husbands getting their wives something from the drink table. Then, coming home after a BBQ or picnic and having to get a small fussy child safely in bed, then unload the car and put everything away, is Exhausting. Sometimes it's hard to know whether it's better to just stay home.

annie said...

Weekends, extended or not, could be long, but the pro/con of workday versus day off were pretty even. On work days I had a break from my child only to be trapped in a school with the needy children of others - which was restful or not depending. And weekends got better as my daughter got older and could amuse herself and I was able to get a bit more sleep in/nap time.

Though we didn't have much of a support system, I had a couple of friends who always invited us to their family gatherings on holidays though I didn't always take them up on it and we traveled back to my parents a bit where my daughter had a cousin her age and a great-aunt who loved to watch her for me.

So much of that time is losing its edges for me. My husband's been dead for almost five years and counting the time he spent living away from us during his illness in nursing homes and the fact that he was brain-damaged past the point of being interactive - we've technically been without him for close to seven years. It's all so far in the past that I can recall events and even feelings but only remotely. There's almost no cause to go back there anymore but for the odd commenting I do on FB and some widow blogs and I am starting to wonder about the wisdom of that.

Memorial Day for me was a time to learn about my family history as I tagged along with my grandmother at the cemetery. They were good times. The only one on one time I got with her because I was the only one who was interested in what she had to say. I find myself doing the same thing with my own child - telling her stories about our family. We rarely get back to the countryside of my childhood. The last time was about a year before my father died. We toured the farm area where he grew up and visited the old church graveyards. It was nice. Memorial Day can be painful to those fresh in grief, but in my experience, over time it becomes a day for reconnecting and passing things on.

Pathfinder said...

The post and the two comments ALL have helped me today, which is not only Memorial Day (my husband was a WWII Marine officer veteran) but also the exact 2nd anniversary of the funeral. I went out to the cemetery today. I have a widow's blog, too: newpathsforever.blogspot.com, so I will not go into it all here. But your comments about loneliness helped me. And the comments about Memorial Day and learning and sharing family history with our children, also helped. Thank you.


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