“Well, you got dreams and you know they matter, be your own boss, climb your own ladder…”
- Dolly Parton. 1980
My sister-in-law Amy and I both married film makers. She married my brother and I married Darcy. Over the years we have supported each other through a lot of stuff – events, emotional challenges, logistics - in a way that only film wives can. Because eight times out of ten, our husbands were busy working and not physically available to show up. There are some things that other people would just never tolerate in a relationship, but the film wives…we are sister wives. We know. And we know it’s what we signed up for. I was the one who held Amy’s hand the first time she ever heard her daughter’s heartbeat at the obstetrics appointment, and she went all the way to New York and back with me when my son had surgery there, carried him through the airport with his casts on while I navigated all the paperwork and luggage, because Darcy wasn’t able to be away from his show.
We know what it is like to roll with unpredictable schedules and have dates canceled at the last minute. We know what it’s like to wait for an ETA before starting the dinner preparations. We know what it’s like to work with that ETA only to have it change. And change again. And then again. And sometimes the arrival time isn’t until WAY after we go to bed alone, and dinner never happens. Sometimes it’s dinner for one. It’s quite reminiscent of what it is like to try to make a film, actually. It is an unpredictable life and you do it for the love of it.
I love this photo of Darcy on set, taken by Darko Sikman. The post notes say it all.
I appreciated his work ethic every day, and he appreciated mine. #myfavorite
Amy and I have laughed incessantly at stories of how many times we ended up having to do something alone because our husbands were all the sudden unavailable to join us or help. Like the time Amy was pregnant (with my favourite and only niece, Mia) and she, all by herself, held a garage sale, sold all their belongings, moved herself and my brother out of their Los Angeles apartment and got on a plane with her 7 month old son (my first nephew, Coen), her baby bump and ALL their earthly belongings to move to Vancouver. Alone! Alone, because my brother was shooting in Alabama or some other random location and when it comes to film making, duty calls. Duty calls and mama has to do ALL the work at home. And we kind of don’t even really mind. That may seem hard to fathom but, it’s like I mentioned…we knew what we signed up for and on some deep control-loving level, we probably welcome the opportunity to just get the job done. Who knew one pregnant gal with a baby on her back could manage TWO luggage carts, three carry-ons, two passports and winter coats all while making her way through Canada customs with a smile on her face?! We knew. She may have collapsed in a puddle of tears shortly after seeing me in the airport reception area but she got the job done. Solo. Sister knows what she is capable of.
Another favourite story of Amy’s is one that I only shared with her because I knew she would still love Darcy after I told her. We still pee our pants laughing about it. It was the one where I was like, 7 months pregnant and had just worked four days of back-to-back 16 hour shifts on my feet on the tourist train serving cocktails and canapés and storytelling to foreigners with my gigantic belly and ass tucked neatly into my synthetic uniform in the sweltering July heat. As the train rolled into the station I tweaked my sciatic nerve and could no longer feel my leg. On my 37th birthday, no less! If that doesn’t sound very laughable, this next part of the story will. I somehow got myself home and peeled off my uniform, grateful for the opportunity to exchange the starchy vest and trousers for a muumuu. I lay down on the bed ready to share a birthday pizza and ALL my woes with the sympathetic, caring father of my baby (who had just taken a break from his own 16 hour self-induced work-day renovating our home) and when I finished the ten minute rant about the hard work on the train, my pain and suffering and offered him a verbal invitation to my personal pity-party, Darcy just looked at me with the blankest of stares, shrugged a little and simply said “Well…It’s your job.” Nothing. I got nothing from him. I could have throttled him. But it was the truth.
Darcy had a work ethic like no one else I have ever known. Except maybe his mother. And his statement to me that day, the way he addressed my agony with zero sympathy, honestly sums it up. He expected himself to accept, every day, the work that he had chosen and I can count on one hand the amount of times in our 15 years together that he ever felt sorry for himself about having to go to work. He just didn’t have tolerance for complaints around it. His attitude was just that simple. It’s your job. You chose it. So do it. Until you choose something else. The end. I learned quickly that he wasn’t going to be my 'go-to guy' for a shoulder to cry on when it came to work stuff. And the result of that dynamic was that I remained a very capable and independent person as our family grew and the work load increased. I could always handle it myself because I usually had to. My husband was at work and he trusted me to hold the fort.
5 year-old Miller and 1 year-old Summer
at work with Dad on the production of his TV series "You, Me, Her."
Even though this could occasionally drive me nuts, it is also something that I loved and admired about Darcy – he went to work with the sole intent of providing us all with a life of abundance and wild adventure and he did it, mostly, with a smile on his face. I never begrudged him for expecting me to be highly competent and able to keep the home-fires burning alone. It is something he loved about me! It’s something I was proud of. He knew I would be fine, no matter what the day threw at me. Just like my brother chose Amy, Darcy chose me because that kind of resiliency is what is required in the partner of a film maker if the relationship is to work and the family grows. Me and Amy…we were up for the task. I always believed that my short stint working in film in Toronto was just training for my upcoming role as a film wife. It served me well. In retrospect, it has been incredibly helpful that I had to rely on myself SO often to navigate the emotional load AND do all the things in our home too. It means that the kids and I have, overall, not changed our daily routines that much since losing Darcy. We were well prepared for that part of this experience of loss.
Still there were SOME jobs around the house that Darcy believed were his responsibility. And so did I. I got used to never having to do these things and that was FINE with me. He was the gardener and the mower-of-lawns. He kept up on the maintenance of things like the furnace and the trailer, the roof repairs and window cleaning. He was in charge of garbage, recycling, light bulb changing, technology challenges, the bills and banking. He was the day-trader and the investor. He applied for all the grants and filled out all those time-consuming forms for things like Nexus passes and passports and so much more. His jobs were his. Mine were mine. He didn’t have much interest in coddling me or listening to me complain about my day-to-day frustrations, and if I even so much as breathed a whisper of a “poor me” he was certainly not there for it. This always felt just fine to me because he ALSO didn’t allow HIMSELF to lean that way. It was an understanding. And this understanding freed us up to make sure our precious time together - many days it was just an hour or two at night - was very well spent. We almost never wasted time complaining about anything on our to-do lists. Those very individual lists were just the cost of doing business because we wanted a family that ticked along well and that meant each of us doing our part. Team Wild. Our partnership worked pretty well for the most part and it’s safe to say that the majority of our time together was spent in connection and fun. What a treat!
So as you can see, the job he was best at was this… he was my champion. He believed in me. He didn’t let me handle so much of our life because he was lazy and didn’t want to do it himself. Quite the opposite. He let me handle it because he believed I COULD and that made it possible for him to go do his good work, which brought us a great life of opportunity. He wasn’t a cheerleader by any stretch – he never threw me a “rah rah rah” in my life, no way – but he believed in me fiercely. He knew I could handle it all and then some, and he showed me his appreciation by doing everything in his power to make things easier and more enjoyable for me – he would hire a cleaner to lighten the load, he’d plan a weekend getaway so we could have fun and I would get a break from cooking and bed-making, he’d gift me something special, just because he could. And I love that he felt that way about me. I think near the end of his life I was almost starting to believe in myself that much, too. And on the day that I shared the news with my kids that their Dad wasn’t coming home, I said to them with confidence, “Dad never thought anything like this would happen to our family, but he picked me, just in case it did.” And they believed me too.
We three. Our little Wild trio, out and about. 2016.
Nowadays, I have had an entire year to watch myself rise to the occasion, and it has been the ultimate test of my ability and competence. Sometimes, when I am taking out all the heavy garbage or sorting the recycling in the pouring rain, I feel a tiny bit sorry for myself. I will find myself thinking “This wasn’t my job. This was HIS job….” but then I catch myself. I catch myself and land into the knowing that, at the end of the day, we all only have ourselves. If I want to have a beautiful life, all the pieces of that puzzle are MY responsibility. There is no missing piece. I have ALL the pieces I need, right here within myself. All the jobs are my jobs.
Coming together in partnership and sharing the load is a beautiful thing and I look forward to doing that again at some point, but for now, I am doing my best to enjoy ALL the jobs that I thought were Darcy’s. I am attempting to bring an energy of excitement and empowerment to the tasks of taking over the finances and figuring out how to clean the filter in a dishwasher. I am trying not to be fearful of that day when Miller needs to learn to shave or Summer asks me for more details on baby-making. I am learning to ask for help from friends when I really need it. And I am learning to ask Alexa or YouTube when it’s something I could probably handle with the guidance of some Artificial Intelligence or a millennial with a video camera and decent lighting.
I applaud myself for this. I am becoming my own champion for the first time ever, taking responsibility for all parts of my wholeness, and that feels good. You know why? It’s partly because it really matters to me that my kids know I am capable of taking the torch and running with it. I want to show them that I believe in myself and can do the work it takes to give us a beautiful and extraordinary life. I want them to believe in themselves, too.
But mostly it feels good to be my own champion because…
“Well…it’s my job”. It always was.
Til Next Time,
Heal & Be Healed.