18: On My Own

18: On My Own

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People

On My Own

In time of test, family is best.

~Burmese Proverb

The doctors had bad news. It wasn’t their grim expressions as much as the nurse they had brought with them to talk to me. She was young and obviously new at being present when bad news was delivered to the family. She was scared and I remember feeling bad for her. Afterwards I don’t remember anything else about that nurse; I don’t remember if she tried to comfort me or not as the doctors told me that my thirty-five-year-old husband had died from the heart attack that brought him into the emergency room that morning. All I could remember was repeating the same question over and over again: How am I going to raise our sons on my own? I couldn’t do it; that was the only thing I knew with complete certainty on that day and for many months afterwards. It was Mother’s Day 1999 and I had to call my mother-in-law back home in Louisville, Kentucky and tell her that her oldest son had just died.

The next few days were a blur. We were living in Wichita, Kansas, due to a promotion Rick had received with his company. Both of our families were in Louisville, and I waited with my friend Edie for the arrival of my mom and aunt and Rick’s parents. Rick’s manager had come over to pick up our boys that morning and I had called periodically throughout the day to make sure he was doing okay with them. I wanted to see them but at the same time I was overwhelmed with my emotions, and part of me knew that as soon as I saw them I would be forced to admit that I was now a single mother and that thought terrified me. Michael was two years old and Nicholas only six months old, and I didn’t want to do this on my own.

We brought Rick back to Louisville to be buried and it was decided that the boys and I would move in with my parents temporarily. I needed the help, both financially and emotionally. The bank I was working for had a position in Louisville in their mortgage division, so three weeks after we buried Rick I started my new position. Our temporary living arrangements lasted for five years as I struggled to finish my accounting degree while working full time.

My parents have been a Godsend; they took us in and juggled their roles as parents, grandparents, babysitters, and shoulders to cry on. My Aunt Janet frequently takes vacations with the boys and me, and is one of my best friends. She’s always been there to offer her support and serve as a sounding board to me. My other aunts and grandparents have babysat and thrown birthday parties for the boys. My in-laws remained a strong presence in both my sons’ lives and mine. My brother, dad, and father-in-law take turns in assuming the dad role when it is Donuts with Dad day at school. My sister-in-law was my saving grace by helping with babysitting for several years and is still always willing to step in if the kids get sick and I can’t miss work. Countless friends have also provided their support by taking the kids to sports functions or having them spend the night when they can tell I need a night off.

It does take a village to raise a child. Our journey has definitely been a struggle, but my initial fear of being unable to raise my boys on my own was unfounded. I’ve not had to raise them on my own; my village and I will continue to raise my sons to be the type of men my husband and I dreamed they would be when we held them in our arms for the first time.

~Holly Sanford

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