One of the things I dreaded about the holidays were the Christmas cards. What used to be something I looked so forward to, is yet another reminder of the life that was taken away from me. Sweet families smiling; husbands and wives together, loving each other; fathers holding their children close – everything I no longer have.
Most of these are addressed to “The Dempsey Family,” but that family is no longer. On bad days, I look at us as a widow and her partially orphaned child. On good days, I look at us as a mother and her sweet daughter. But we’re no longer the Dempsey Family I dreamed of.
Some women want children no matter the circumstances. They are so driven to motherhood that they’ll adopt if there is no man to father a child. I was not one of them. While I always knew that I’d like to have children one day, I hadn’t felt that strong maternal pull…until Ted.
When I met Ted, what I wanted was not just a child, it was a family. I wanted to share parenthood with him, and he with me. We wanted to experience the joy of hearing our baby’s first words as well as bear the hardship of the all-nighters.
Together. We wanted to experience life together.
We talked about parenthood – the responsibilities, the joys, the opportunities to mold them into happy, contributing members of society – even before we became parents. After Eleanor arrived, we talked about all that we wanted to teach her and all the experiences we wanted to give her.
We each had our role picked out. I was going to teach her about the less tangible things in life: contentment, graciousness, compassion. Ted was going to teach her, quite honestly, about everything else.
He was so damn smart – about EVERYTHING. Name a topic and he could have a dinner table conversation surrounding it. And frequently, that would only pique his curiosity, so he’d research the subject even further and come back with additional, thought-provoking information.
When Eleanor was a newborn and nursing several times in the night, Ted would sit up in bed with us and read me something interesting going on in the news or just something I had a random musing about. We were a perfect match: he was intellectual and I’m intellectually curious.
I rested so peacefully in knowing that Ted was going to teach our child the ways of the world. When we took her to all the wonderful places in Europe that I wanted to introduce her to, Ted was going to give us a history lesson on what happened there during the world wars. When we’d go fishing on my stepdad’s boat, Ted would teach her how to rig her lines and bait her hooks. But most importantly, when she became old enough to date, he would have taught her how a man is supposed to treat a woman, by showing her how he treated me.
We were so confident in the healthy view of marriage Eleanor was going to have because of how much we loved and honored one another. She was going to see how I trusted her father and how he respected me. She was going to learn the importance of laughter in the home and doing things together – the fun and the mundane. It wasn’t always surfing and co-ed soccer, sometimes it was weeding the vegetable garden in August.
We were going to teach her how to play golf so we could walk the local Par 3 course on Saturday mornings. We were going to teach her the value of hard work so then she could reap the rewards of a dollar well earned. We were going to teach her both the responsibility and the value of being in a family: everybody contributes, but everyone takes care of one another.
We were a family with so much hope, so much promise, and so much appreciation for what we had.
We were a family.