8. The calvary.

Before I go into the early days of motherhood, I’d like to introduce you to Shane – who has had such an impact on my role as a mom from 2012 until today.

Shane in 2012.

Shane was a casual friend of mine, and he emailed me one day, and I didn’t answer because Tim had just passed away, and I was in the middle of a move. He followed up on his email and I let him know what had happened. He immediately called me and asked if he could help me with a move I had to make – I had to move into a new home, and I was just absolutely overwhelmed. Also – the cable guy at the new place was creeping me out, commenting on my jeans, my body – what the hell, dude, I just need you to connect my WiFi. I was on the phone with Shane while the cable guy was working and he offered to come over and kind of pretend to be my boyfriend because the guy had figured out that there wasn’t a man around in the house. It felt nice to have someone nearby who could, and would, show up in that way for me.

Did I think this would lead to something? No. Because 1) I was coping with two kids who’d just lost their father and my head was not thinking about dating, I was thinking about surviving; 2) He never made any moves or flirted with me at all and I just thought he wasn’t interested, but was a nice guy who was offering to help a friend in need.

I was wrong. It did lead to something. We started dating, which was ridiculously fast. I know that now, and I knew it then.

But the honest truth was, I, Mary June Brown, needed support and a shoulder to cry on, I needed help. I needed someone to hug me when I was sobbing so hard my teeth rattled. By this time, both my parents had passed away (more on the passing of my dad later down the line). Tim’s family were all extremely supportive, but couldn’t be hands-on, being over an hour away. My family, my cousins, aunts and uncles, loved me from afar…being in Texas. My little brother, Chip, and his wife, Rebecca, were also emotionally present, but again – not close by. I needed someone who could emotionally support me, and who could be around the boys in a way that made sense.

Shane began coming over on Friday nights (but never staying overnight). The boys adored him. They begged me to invite him over. We never showed any affection with one another in front of them – on this, I was firm. No holding hands, nada. But we did hang out, and Shane was like a cool Uncle – playing Monopoly, watching old, corny movies with them on Friday nights while I cooked. It became routine and helped life feel a little more normal.

We would go to the beach in West Marin, and it had been Tim who used to get in the water with the boys – I do not like to get in the water or even be barefoot at the beach. Part of losing Tim would translate into the boys no longer having these kinds of experiences…except, Shane was more than happy to do these things. He was enjoying the experience of falling in love with all of us.

The boys with Shane at Dillon Beach

This period went on for some time. We were getting closer, and some of my friends would offer to take the boys so Shane and I could have some time alone. On the weekends, Shane would come to the boys’ sports, and his presence was actually a very lovely distraction for the three of us in an extremely difficult time. Doing a jigsaw puzzle together or going to the park and Shane giving piggy back rides or whatever we came up with was a welcome interruption from the rounds of grief the three of us were perpetually taking turns in. In these early days, Shane got to “know” Tim by our constant story-telling, remembering, and grieving, and for us to have an opportunity to talk about Tim was therapeutic.

Early days. Shane fixing the boys’ bikes.

I think for people who didn’t know what my day-to-day life was like at that time, who didn’t know the extreme anxiety I had about how I would proceed to care for and provide for the boys (not to mention all the logistics that in one fell swoop became my sole responsibility – getting the boys to practices at the same time in different parts of town, pick ups, drop offs, etc.), seeing me move forward with Shane by my side probably didn’t make a lot of sense. But it was making sense to me and I have always been grateful for the gift of faith – and I’ll tell you more about it as we go, but there have been a handful of times I knew I was making the right decision, even if it seemed crazy. This was one of those times.

By the way, I’m so happy you are reading along – thank you for being here.


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  1. Mary, I’m sooo proud of you.
    You are such a strong and yet fragile person.
    You have come a long way, and it’s always been upstream.
    I will always love you.

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