Is that sunlight coming through the window?
"Hey, Tony, it’s time to get up…"
Oh, yeah, he’s not over there. Ok, I’m going back to sleep. I don’t feel like moving at the moment.
*Covers go over the head*
“Moooooooooommmmm! Get up! You gotta take me to the bus and you gotta work!”
“What? It’s Saturday, isn’t it?”
“Noooooooo! Get upppppppp!!!!”
Shit. I am not in the mood today. I’ll get up in a minute. Back to sleep, I go.
Door slams open.
“MOM! Get up right now!”
I think to myself, who the hell is the parent here? Oh, it’s me. I have to get up and make money to keep the bills paid and feed those crumb snatchers called my kids. Actually, they're our kids. Sometimes I forget they aren’t just mine because they act more like him anyway.
While those panicked thoughts brought me fully awake, I would whip my comforter over to the empty side of the bed and force myself up. If Tony was here, this is the part where he would roll over, pull me back down to kiss me and grab some part of my anatomy. I’d giggle and then jump up because now I would be running late.
Instead, I sit on the edge of the bed, and will myself towards the bathroom. I stare up at his smiling face on the portrait the funeral home created for me and hiss, “Quit your smiling. I'm not having fun here.”
I shower-up with my favorite bath wash, which was also his favorite on me and I think about this while I’m in there. He’d sniff the air and say joyously, “Mmmmm, love when you use that.”
No one to say that to me now.
At least I smell good.
I pick an outfit and throw it on the floor.
Then I pick another, which is a bit more feminine.
Tony would have told me I looked sexy in it.
Nope, not that either.
I pick up the first one, a quite monochromatic and boring outfit. No one cares if I’m sexy because I’m simply a mom now.
I catch a few minutes of the news while I finish getting dressed and gather my things for the workday. I sigh. I’m so sick of doing everything.
I wish Tony were here.
I could use a big bear hug from him before starting my day like he used to. My boys are “too manly” to hug their mom. So no hugs for me.
I straighten something in his memorial area on his old dresser and give his urn a pat and a kiss. “Have a good day, Bae Bae.”
Mister and I walk out to my car. There’s a cardinal perched on it this morning. Cardinals are a sign that a loved one is near. The sight warms my heart and it makes my day suck just a little less.
I kiss Mister and wish him a wonderful day at school. At least I got that out of him, I think.
I sigh again as I plop into my car and contemplate music for the long drive to work. I’m tired. Whenever I didn’t feel like working, Tony would say, “So take a day off; you’re entitled.”
Hearing his voice say that echoes in my head. But then, the realization that I can’t really do that much anymore because it is just me and I am responsible for our boys.
Feeling slightly resentful of that thought, I step a little harder on the accelerator and put one of my Spotify playlists...the one with the dirtiest and most foul gangsta rap songs I could put in a playlist. Still mad, I rap along with the songs, emphasizing the curse words for effect.
The guy in the car next to me looks over at me like I’m nuts. I want to say, “Quit looking at me. I’m a widow, and I can do what I want!” I speed up even more.
I arrive, park and trudge into work. I think to myself how I like this job. I hated my last job. Between working there and the stress of all the changes in my life, I was damned near close to a nervous breakdown.
My desk is covered with the work I didn’t finish the day before. My desk is also covered, a bit more strategically, of course, with pictures of the boys and Tony. Those faces have always gotten me through rough days - even more so now. I check that they are all still in place and then I sit down in my chair.
I do my daily tasks, laughing and joking with my co-workers. Some days, the laughing feels hollow and brittle, but on others, it feels genuine and somewhat healing. They all know my story and have learned to understand me (this is one of the most appreciative workplaces I’ve ever been in). When I’m at work, my heart is less heavy, so perhaps I’m getting there.
Later in the day, I call and check on the boys, particularly Mister. His main concern is what is it to eat and why the cable television keeps messing up. I wrack my brain and assure myself that I paid the bill and there is food for him to eat in the apartment. Thankfully, he’s learned to use the microwave since I get home too late to cook.
Tony would never have allowed that. I cooked every day before. Something else in my life I’ve had to change. Worse yet, Big Mister complains that I don’t cook much anymore. Now, why make me feel guilty about that? It’s not...like...I...have…a...choice.
I sigh a hell of a lot these days. Wonder if it's because I’m exhausted, frustrated, fed up, maybe?
I drive that long drive home, again playing angry gangsta rap. I have a Spotify playlist dedicated to Tony and his favorite songs. But I don't feel like crying my way home today. Some crappy driver might succeed in killing me, and I can't join Tony yet...as much as I want to sometimes.
As I drive, I ponder dinner. Do I feel like eating out of a bag tonight? Since Tony passed away, since he died, since he left me, I correct myself - the boys and I have eaten out of bags more than I care to admit. I am frankly sick of it, but my work hours don’t allow me to crank up the stove every night.
Besides, I am too exhausted from holding myself together today...most days actually.
I decide to root around in the kitchen for a small meal. I don’t feel like stopping anywhere, and frankly, it’s too far from my last payday to consider spending extra money.
I park my car in the parking lot in front of our apartment. I get home too late to park near the lighted spaces, so I park in the darker area - where Hurricane Irma knocked over the lights. Tony would have gotten mad at me for parking way over there.
“It’s not safe. You know better,” would have been his response.
Yes, I do, but I’m tired, and I don’t care I said to myself as if he's right here with me.
I sit in my dark parking space, gathering myself to go in. Mister is home, Big Mister is not, and Tony is gone. I’m so tired of facing the loneliness of our place. Mister is home, I tell myself, and I need to get in there.
I can’t sit here...sulking? Feeling sorry for myself? Considering starting the car back up and driving to a beach? Thinking about just leaving and not ever coming back? Can’t do it, I am responsible. And I love my kids.
Still...I dread going in because Tony is not there. I only consider..so I talk to adults at work. Our apartment is full of memories, and I still see his hospital bed when I open the door. I don’t smell his unique scent.
No, “hey babe” greeting from him.
I will probably just smell "boy feet" and whatever Big Mister burned on the stove today. No, I really don’t want to go in. But I’m going to. After all, everyone says I’m so strong, and such a great mother.
I take a deep sigh and square my shoulders.
I should be used to this by now, but I’m not.
I stick my key in the door and open it. Mister is opening the door at the same time that I do.
Mister gives me a huge smile, similar to Tony’s and says:
“I’m so glad you’re home, Mom. You look tired, Mom.”
Yep, I am. Been a tough day. You have a good day?
“Yes, Mom. It was okay. I already ate my dinner too.”
“Go relax in your room.” He blows me air kisses.
I smile to myself. That is exactly why I do it. Tony and I gifted each other with these boys, and he left them in my care. I am not going to let any of us down. For love of him, and them, I will keep pushing.
Because that’s what we do, us widowed parents.
Cheryl Barnes was born in Atlanta, Georgia works as a bookkeeper at an association management company . She attended college at Indiana University Bloomington, majoring in Public and Environmental Affairs Management. While in college, she met Martin “Tony” Barnes. They became inseparable and were married December 24, 1991. After five years of marriage, their first son, Malcolm, was born on New Year’s Eve, 1991. After Tony obtained his Master’s Degree in Social Work, the family moved to Orlando, Florida where she was employed by her dream job, Walt Disney World. Two years later, their second son was born. Cheryl later left Disney and accepted a job in accounting with a property management company. After the death of her husband in 2014, and as a way to work through her grief, she started writing, at first, only for herself. But, being encouraged by others, she began publishing her blog, “Widowness and Light.” Besides being a writer for BlackWomenWidowsEmpowered.com, she also blogs for Hope for Widows Foundation. Additionally, she is also the founder of Black and Widowed: A Unique Journey Private Facebook group and a contributing author of the book, Widowed But Not Wounded: The Hustle and Flow of 13 Resilient Black Widowed Women. Her hobbies include reading, attending Orlando Magic games, yoga, going to the beach, making jewelry, and spending time with her boys. She currently plans to return to school to obtain a Master’s Degree in Social Work so that she can help other widowed persons cope with their loss. Contact: You can reach Cheryl through her public Facebook page, Widowness and Light, which is based on her widowed journey.