Happy: A Quest for Life After Death

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Hero Factory

Colin, my 10-year-old, went on a four-day fishing trip with his cousins and uncles recently. When he got back, his Uncle Zach texted me:

Thx for letting Colin go on the trip. He is a very good kid. He has good ethics and compassion for others.

It turns out that Colin’s cousins spent a lot of time fighting and making each other cry. Colin unfailingly sought out the victim to see how he could help. Usually it was to persuade his cousin to join him in his latest obsession, a game of Magic the Gathering.

I’m not surprised. You know those stories of people who run into burning buildings to save someone? These heroes more likely than not have survived a disaster or trauma. My kids are no exception. They may not have made a dramatic rescue, but they can see where they are needed and they step in. They do not ignore people in pain.

I hate everything my kids lost when their dad died. A cheering section, a skateboarding buddy, a tutor, a driving instructor, a guitar teacher, a basketball coach, a driver, a confidante, a career advisor, a spiritual guide, a grandfather for their children, a friend.

But they gained some things too.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Love and Butter

I dated plenty before I got married, so my ineptitude 15 years later -- four years after being widowed -- surprises me. But in the last 18 months since I “got back out there” I’ve learned that I share a problem with 13-year-old boys: the social acceptability of my behavior in a relationship is in inverse proportion to my level of interest. I can be charming, witty, warm, and flirty if the stakes are low. When the stakes are high, I am overeager at best and creepy at worst.

I re-entered the world of dating with Jeb, who I knew from my first job out of college. We had been great friends, and when he turned up divorced and interested I thought he had to be The One. We lived in different cities, which covered a lot of my faux pas, although I texted too soon and too often and stayed up too late waiting for him to call. 

About the time I finally admitted to myself that Jeb just wasn’t that into me, I met Michael. I was charming and flirty because he already had grandkids, and as a mom to grade-school kids I couldn’t envision myself with him.

I tried online dating and met Pablo, who was nice, but I didn’t feel enough sparks for a second date, so I was attentive and warm. Patrick had also lost his spouse, and I was funny, empathetic, and supportive, but trying to make the schedules of two solo parents mesh -- no every-other-weekend availability -- proved to be impossible. With no opportunity to self-destruct, I remained in the plus column. 

Then there was Nathan. He was a brooding starving artist type with no car, but I inexplicably found myself wanting his approval. Unfortunately for both of us, we lived in the same city. No faux pas cover for me, no protection from borderline stalking behavior for him. 

True to form, once I decided I liked Nathan, I was not warm, or funny, or flirty. I was weird. To start, after a couple of dates I sent a poorly timed and ultimately unrequited effusive email.

Awkward, but possibly recoverable.

But not for long. We had a mutual love of food, and I had confided that if happiness for Linus is a warm blanket, then mine is an entire rack full of chef’s knives. His, he said, is a freezer full of butter.

I understand this. It’s impossible to predict when a batch of cookies, some scones, or a pie crust will be needed, but these situations will certainly arise at least weekly. So I bought him six pounds of butter.

In retrospect, perhaps saturated fat doesn’t express affection and a sense of “I’m not totally crazy” quite as well as I thought it would.

His response?

“Uh …” And then, “I’ll take the butter, but don’t buy me anything else.”

This went down so much better in my imagination.

At this point it’s difficult to prove that I have even once had a rational thought, but bear with me. Four years ago I lost the best thing about my life -- a devoted and deeply satisfying relationship. Of course I can’t get back what I had, and I know that. I really do.

But on some level, if I catch a glimpse of something that looks like what I had, I do go a little crazy. I am desperate. Not for the current Mr. Very Unlikely to be Right, but for everything I miss about my old life.

And I can’t seem to stop myself from chasing it down with butter.

Saturday, January 31, 2015


I spend a lot of time sitting in bleachers watching sports.

I'm not the first, though. I sent Mat's mom some photos of Ian playing basketball, and she wondered whether bleachers would be any more comfortable when Ian's kids are playing basketball.

I doubt it. Some things change (the length of basketball shorts), but some things never do. I suspect I'm just as uncomfortable as Mat's mom was, and the next generation won't have it any better.

It's kind of nice that some things don't change.