Sunday Post 55: Their Wobbly Bridge

Posted by Danny

A friend recently sent me an article by Dean Murphy, an editor at The New York Times.  He lost his wife to cancer and is now raising his three sons on his own.

He encapsulated something I’ve felt for a very long time when he wrote:  “It is an odd feeling as a father to be so transparent, so naked, in front of the children you still provide for.”

I can’t imagine seeing my father, the rock of our family, lose his heart.

I wonder what it was like for my girls when grief paralyzed me.  How did they feel when I was reduced to tears by a Kenny Chesney song or the scent of Lisa’s perfume?  I can picture them looking up at me when I stood in church, eyes fixed on that cross, unable to sing or recite The Lord’s Prayer knowing if I opened my mouth, I’d be overcome with sadness. 

Can you imagine being filled with your own grief and the person you most look to for comfort can’t do a thing but cry with you?

Looking back on the past two years, I wonder if my kids aren’t truly the ones who have lost the most.  Their lives were turned upside down instantly at a time when they should have been eating ice cream, snuggling with mom, or running with friends on the playground. 

Instead, as Lisa fought valiantly for her life, with me by her side almost every minute of her illness, they were tossed on a real life Tilt-A-Whirl.  Jerked from one family member to another.  Tossed in a car with a friend or at least a friendly acquaintance, assuming their mother would soon be back to gracefully bring our lives back to normal.

As Lisa became sicker, I couldn’t be the father they needed.  I was so desperate to save her.  I was consumed with finding her cure – medically, through prayer or voodoo if necessary.

As I missed work, they were required to proceed with life.  Walking on a tight rope with no apparent safety net.

And the person who is supposed to be comforting them had been so deeply damaged, that at times, they became the comforter.  Michelle creating art to brighten my days.  Stephanie, quick to test, “Are you OK?  You look sort of sad today.”  And DJ, filling in the gaps.  The ones her mother left as well as the ones I wasn’t able to fill myself.

In many ways, they have become my protector –  their strong one, now “transparent and naked.”  For them, a journey that started on a concrete bridge ended up on an old wobbly log.

I’ve become stronger again – more able to provide the security that for so long has been missing.  But I wonder if they will ever experience the blind trust they had before?  Can good intentions and unconditional love rebuild the bridge?  Not fully I don’t think.  But hopefully it can come close.

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  1. Dave K

     /  January 29, 2012

    Apostle Paul talks about strength and weakness in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

    Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

  2. I related so much to your post. I know that neither Joe nor I could truly be the parents our daughter needed after Jason died. We couldn’t support her in her grief because we were buried under our own. She lost her brother – who was also her best friend – and we were so inadequate to help her.

    • Danny Tanner

       /  January 29, 2012

      What a tough journey that must be. Understandable – but tough.

  3. I find that my children are surprisingly adaptable at times. Being children, they are already accustomed to feeling strong emotions, and to a lack of control in their own lives. I think what makes children vulnerable also makes them strong in some ways.

    • Danny Tanner

       /  January 29, 2012

      Perhaps they will be better suited to face difficult times in their lives. One can only hope.

  4. Parenting is an interesting experience in that we naturally think that in order to be “perfect parents”, we have to provide the perfectly feathered nest for our children. I raised my three children almost entirely as a single parent and ironically, it was their exposure to my own humanity and to some of the more challenging moments that gave them added depth. As my son said, “Mom…we’re not a normal family, but we’re still a perfect family….” My children are now grown—thriving, vibrant and successful. They appreciate life in a way that most of their peers do not. Blessings can be wrapped beneath sorrow, so as cliche as this may sound, the best gift (and preparation for Life) that you can give to your children (in my humble experience) is to share the loving, passionate–and yes, vulnerable–beauty of what it means to be alive and to love…If you do not trust your children enough to be all that is you, how can they grow to trust you to see all that is them… In my experience, the more that you allow them to be, the more that they become… Be kind to yourself and know that you are their perfect father even in your sorrow…

    • Danny Tanner

       /  January 30, 2012

      Hadn’t really thought about like that. I may sleep well tonight…

  5. Aunt Susan

     /  January 30, 2012

    I understand that you think of yourself as a “wobbly “bridge” but I truly want to smack you for that. You and Lisa were such a great team, rasing some really incredible girls, do you really think that in two short years or long years how ever you want to look at it, they grew into this? You are simply moving along what you had started, and in your wisdom you are open to ask for help, and to consider it. You number one have God supporting you and you listen, then you have a lot of people who pray for you and are willing to do what ever we can. Even before Lisa went to offer her assistance in heaven you had some prety strong kids, who sadly are growing stronger a little eariler than they should have had to.

  6. Mom

     /  January 31, 2012

    Your friends are right, I watched Lisa teach those girls what she needed to teach them. She packed a lot into those short years and did an exceptional job. We all talked about what a great job of parenting she did. But, we all learn through troubles, probably more than we do when things are going along fine. They are learning from you how to work through grief and that it’s ok to grieve. They are learning that they DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT all the time. That’s big! They already knew that they had a very loving and supportive Dad and you never went away. You simply cried with them as they grieved. How could you have showned them that you understood better? It’s good that you can verbalize what you feel but we want to “shore you up” by assuring you that you did it right and still are.

  7. I some time wonder what my kids think during these past years of my unemployment and the financial struggles that is bringing. I feel I have to stand tall and strong when I am actually beat down into a curled up fetal position. Do the tough get going? Or do the tough eventually break? What happens if that happens? The question of failure creeps in. Is my manhood badge being torn from my grasp? Do the older 3 get it? What are the younger 3 feeling? My wife? Others? Too many questions not enough answers. We may not find out this side of heaven, but I hope and pray for better times.

  8. Aunt Susan

     /  February 1, 2012

    Danny, listen to your mother, she is right.


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