Sunday, October 31, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
I've always taken my own path. I like the fresh, uncharted dirt beneath my feet, the barren terrain of land not crossed by others. Yes, as Michael would say, I lived in the clouds, a world of my own, but he never tried to change that, and in all honesty, I think it's one of the things he loved so much about me. It's the Christopher Columbus in me, which did lead me to him to begin with.
After Michael died though, I forgot about this land, the trail of life I was blazing. Soon my life became consumed by the "What would Michael want me to do?" I had lost my inner compass, my sense of direction, and leaned on Michael to show me the way.
This sustained me for a little while, but I felt Michael fading more in presence.
Then it hit me. How or why would I feel his presence and guidance when I was losing and forgetting that I was my guide all along. I was losing me, in this pursuit to let go of my steering wheel, hold my hands up and expect for there not to be a crash.
Once I realized that to continue on my journey to him, my journey through this life without him, my journey, I had reclaim that girl that "lived in the clouds". That girl that had a machete in one hand to cut her way through an alien world.
I've found her. Piece by piece, new and old me's, gleam beneath the gravel of life they've been hidden in.
It feels good. To have that compass inside of me working. It feels good to know that at the end of my pioneering this life before me I'll be with my soul mate.
I remembered that the only phrase I needed to ask myself the whole time, "What would Taryn do?" and it's a phrase that has brought his loving presence back into my life more powerful than ever.
There is great meaning in life for those who are willing to journey.
Friday, October 29, 2010
I met a recently widowed woman in the doctor's office the other day. We talked sadly yet conspiratorially. I nodded as she mentioned having trouble trusting herself in public as she was concerned she would either throw up her hands and scream at all the ridiculous and vacuous frivolity that seems to go on in the world unnoticed by 'normal' folk or break down and sob gut-wrenching tears when faced with the choice of buying whole milk (her dead husband's favourite) or skim.
As I drove home after giving her my number and strict instructions to call if she needed to, I dredged up some of the partially archived memories and thoughts from those very early widowed days. I remembered how annoying and labour intensive every small task was and how I felt that I could see through the inane societal expectations.
I remember the suggestion that filled me with confusion and, somewhat, with anger was a family member's insistence that I begin to write thank-you notes. Everything within me screamed bitterly at this implication.
I was and remain very thankful of everything that had been done for, given to or assisted with for the remaining members of our little family. I was so touched and comforted by those who came by (although I was unable to greet them as I was more prone to laying in my bed staring at the imperfections in the drywall). I felt humbled by the empathy and kindness of those who loved us and even of strangers. I was relieved that my children were being fed because I was unable to make anything for them. People's generousity was a balm to the aching 'alone-ness' that I felt every second after he died. I was grateful. I still am. I will always be....even for the actions of those who I do not remember...either from the lack of ability to concentrate post-Jeff or from the sedative effect of the meds that the doctor had prescribed.
But I still feel that marking these acts of kindness and generosity with a card is brutal and hard.
When you're well and upbeat it is not a difficult feat to buy, write in, address and mail a small note letting the generous party know that you appreciate their thought. You have plenty to say....and often, you have a helper (husband or wife) to assist in the daunting task.
Weddings, birthdays and other festive events are truly wonderful moments in our lives to be chipper and express our grateful nature. Our eyes are smiling, our hearts are joyful and the generousity of others is given to share in the joy of others - not for the needs of the heartbroken.
I believe that the birth of a baby is cause to celebrate....but it is a bit iffy in the thank-you note department. The last thing I want a dear friend to have to do while their new baby finally sleeps is to have to write me a letter saying 'Thanks for the stripy green sleeper. My son barfed breast milk on it last night'. I'd be pleased if they used that moment to have a bath, eat some nourishing food or take a nap themselves.
I felt that somehow, in a warped way, my thank you note was creating the image that I was thankful for this situation. That this disaster that had caused the flood of casseroles and flower arrangements was to be celebrated. But I felt quite the opposite. I was horrified to be in this predicament facing down a life alone with two tiny kids in tow. Every breath was marked by reliving Jeff's death....and here I was writing a missive expressing my gratitude for the kindness bestowed upon us because of his death. "Thank you so very much for your kindness and generosity at this very difficult time..."
But I became obsessed with these notes. I had stacks of them ready to mail at all times. I was so very concerned that someone who had sent something or called or visited had not been given their 'dues' and been noticed or mentioned upon these pieces of card stock. I'd worry that they didn't know how thankful I truly was. I'd attempt to come up with some ingenious or creative thought. I'd stay up so very late into the evening with ink staining my fingertips trying to express my gratitude....and loathing every second of it.
So now, I wish that instead of handing this new widow my phone number with instructions to call if she 'needs' me, I wish that I had told her that if she felt that these tokens of gratitude were entirely necessary, I would write them for her....or instruct her that those who have empathy for what she is going through would tell her that these notes were a waste of energy. That those who were doing it with a truly generous heart would know that she was grateful and comforted. No note needed.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
but how could it be?
i was just there
a month ago...
it had been there
since before my
memories of this city
were actual experiences.
close to 9 years.
we used to go there
when we lived in
almost every saturday
we'd sit under the
awning, on the sidewalk
listening to the cars
drive by, watching
the hipsters check
their look in the
reflection in the glass,
fulfilling that promise
we made to one another
that we would
never become that couple
who sat across the
the table from one
another, reading the
newspaper in silence,
when one wanted
the other to pass
a certain section.
i can remember us
there, that first morning
after i returned
a short walk from our
apartment, i stumbled a bit
because the clock
had knocked me around.
we sat there
and i told her
about my last day there,
and the cake in
my face, and
the gifts i was given
and the friends i
i told her
i'd never leave her
she liked that.
months later i would
and we both
would be sad,
even though we both
knew it was
the best thing
for our future.
i would come back
and go again
trip i was
supposed to take
on the day
that she died.
i remembered all of this
in an instant
as i drove by another
place, another thing
that is no longer here.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
.... because I am starting to realize that not everyone on this path .... "gets it". Yes, that's a broad term, but I've used it and seen it used hundreds of times amongst widowed people. Since Jim died I have discovered that when widowed people are together (or writing to one another) many words don't have to spoken. Most emotions and feelings don't have to be explained. Most behaviors don't need to be defended.
We "get" each other.
Or so I thought.
But I'm beginning to realize that some don't.
That's neither a negative nor a positive statement.
It's just an observation.
I've observed it by some comments that I've read on this blog .... not just comments on my posts, but on everyone's posts.
I've overheard a couple of widows talking a few times.
I've observed it by listening to some things other widows/widowers have said to me.
Heck, I've even heard it from the man in my life, who's also widowed.
I'm not sure if there's a common denominator.
Most people seem to be several years "out".
Some are re-married or have been in a long-term relationship for a while.
I don't know if time or relationships have anything to do with it, or if it's just the personality of the people I've observed.
Please don't t think that I'm saying that I've experienced this from many people, because I haven't.
But I have experienced it.
And it makes me afraid.
Because I don't want to wake up one day and not "get it".
I want to always be able to relate to and feel compassion for people who have lost half of themselves.
I want to be able to feel what they're feeling, as much as I can.
I don't want a widowed person to feel that he/she needs to defend their thoughts, words or feelings to me because I don't understand.
I don't ever want to lose this new part of me.
The part that I gained the minute Jim died.
The part I never had before .... and never wanted to have.
But now that it's in me ..... I want to keep it.
Am I afraid that if I stop "getting it" that will mean that Jim is becoming less and less to me?
But I'm more afraid of not being able to connect with others who need connection.
I'm afraid of not being able to let someone else know that he/she is not crazy, nor are they alone.
I'm afraid of not being able to feel an instant bond with someone .... just because we both happen to have a dead spouse.
But I guess my biggest fear is this:
I'm afraid that Jim's death will have accomplished nothing.
I'm afraid that I will have gone through this hell on earth .... for no purpose.
Which means that I will have lost Jim .... and gained nothing.
And that makes me afraid ....
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Our traditions have changed a bit in the past 5 years though. We not only plan tricks and treats, we now celebrate the Day of the Dead - or All Souls Day. The Day of the Dead is the 2nd day after Halloween, and the day before the deathaversary (5 years). We'll collect sugar skulls, marigolds, coffee, a little jack daniel's, some beef jerky, and whatever of Daniel's favorites we come up with, and we'll head to the cemetery to decorate his grave. Sometimes family come with us, sometimes it's just us. We go no matter what.
This year will have another layer of meaning. Our dog, who mourned for months after Daniel died (she licked her feet until they bled and walked the house whining for him for what seemed like forever), passed away in June. Her ashes are ready, and Grayson wants to put them with Daniel. I can't think of a better place. We'll do that this weekend when we decorate for the Day of the Dead.
The tradition has become one we look forward to, and in some strange way it makes us feel closer to Daniel. I imagine him sipping his Jack and coke while watching us place the various items on his grave. I imagine him tasting the different treats and noticing how tall Grayson has grown. I imagine him putting his arms around us as we look at the black stone with his name and dates carved on it. In whatever way he can be, he'll be with us. It's an odd and special day for us, and I'm looking forward to it.
Happy Tuesday! - Michelle D.
Monday, October 25, 2010
I have been feeling kind of lost lately. I'm a bit unsure about a lot of things. For one, I have been renting a house for the past few months while I sell off my house in San Francisco, which has provided the kids and I a temporary home while we get settled into San Diego. As of today, I no longer own a house. Yes, my house sold, which is good, but it also comes with mixed emotions. I lived in that house for 17 years. It is the house where the kids and I have many happy memories, and also some sad ones, such as Michael dying. I suppose the latter is not strictly a sad memory, as it was also a beautiful experience providing Michael all the comforts of dying in our own home, and in our own bedroom. Yet even with all these positives, it was time to move on.
Ever since Michael died I have had an urgent need to leave my home, and start over somewhere new. I know that it goes against conventional wisdom to make such a big move, such as leaving your job, home, city and friends, during the first year of grief. But I knew it was a good move for me. By the time the first year anniversary of his death came around, I was already in a new environment, which helped me get through that terribly rough time. I think it would have been even more difficult for me if I was still in our home at the time. Maybe this wouldn't be helpful for most, but for me it was exactly what I needed.
Last week was the second anniversary of our wedding. It wasn't the first time for this occasion to come around without him, as he had already died when our first anniversary came around. One of the things that came about with our first year anniversary was my decision to begin blogging about my grief journey. The experience of writing about my process on a daily basis was quite cathartic for me. There were definitely some very dark days, days in which I didn't think I was going to make it. But here I am, full circle, one year later, and I have survived.
I think about where I will be by next year, and I kind of come up empty. Not that I don't have expectations, more that I don't really know what I want, or what I can expect. All I do know is that after coming full circle this time around, I can honestly say that life is getting easier, if not better. I now have the benefit of looking back, and clearly identifying the many changes and milestones that I have successfully grown through. This is my history, and if history repeats itself, then I can expect this next year to get even better.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Pallas is on the phone with my mom.
“Well we talk about things like regret.
Like if I had to do it over, I would be nicer to my dad.” she explains what they discuss in her kids support group.
“Mom” says Langston who is in my doorway. It’s 10:47. I was asleep.
“I have a confession. Well it’s not a confession, its….”
I pause, while the mom voices chatter with worry, concern and dread.
“I wish I had spent more time with Dad the second time he was sick. It’s just I didn’t know he was going to die. I regret not taking the time.”
Regret. Their regret. My children’s regret. I hadn’t realized regret was, in my mind, an adult emotion. It feels odd to hear it coming from the mouths of a 13 and 10 year old.
“Do you know what one of my fondest sick memories of him is?” Langston continues. Memories. They all have their own distinct memories of him, his voice, his smile and his essence. Memories that are not mine to give to them, but their very own.
A few weeks early, when I have officially told them I want to date, the topic turns to marriage and step dads.
Langston says, “I will never call anyone Dad anything. I’ve already had a dad.” He says it calmly and with force, the emphasis is on anyone. I sigh. To be so sure at 13!
“Is he tall and white?” Ezra wants to know about the man I am going out with tonight.
“Why does it matter?” I ask
“Because I think it’s best that he at least be a little like Daddy, the man you loved.”
There was a time when I worried, feared that they, my three children would drown under the weight of having no father. Instead, they have taken it in, mulled it around and have devised their own new normal.
Which reminds me of a saying.
But for the grace of God go …..they.
Fear not, they will be Okay
Saturday, October 23, 2010
I just returned from England and decided to sift through posts I wrote on my first "once-in-a-lifetime" trip after Michael was killed. This poem sums it all up...My life here without him...my presence on this earth...my impact from that which he embedded in my being.
The sentiments and feelings are still the same...as well as the love:
Wow!! I came across these and got those ever present chills.
I felt like this while walking through Spain. I wanted to touch, smell, hear everything to it maximum capacity. I was taking notes in my head to give Michael, experiences that I wanted to share with him. It sucks on those days when I don't get to have those notes to give him, but the days when I do, the days when I feel I have lived, those are the ones which are bound and printed in my memory for him.
Love Sonnet LXXXIX by Pablo Neruda
When I die, I want your hands on my eyes:
I want the light and wheat of your beloved hands
to pass their freshness over me once more:
I want to feel the softness that changed my destiny.
I want you to live while I wait for you, asleep.
I want your ears still to hear the wind, I want you
to sniff the sea's aroma that we loved together,
to continue to walk on the sand we walk on.
I want what I love to continue to live
and you, whom I love and sang above everything else
to continue to flourish, full-flowered:
so that you can teach everything my love directs you to,
so that my shadow can travel alone in your hair,
so that everything can learn the reason for my song.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
just the three of us.
so we did.
off to honolulu.
with no plans
other than to
madeline had the time
of her life.
(that's my only real goal in life).
she played on the beach
and in the ocean
and at the zoo
and even took
in a couple of sunsets.
none of this is
easy, but a few
moments alone together
go a long
way in helping all of us
get to where we
need to be.
and as long as
i get to see her
doing this everyday,
i am pretty sure
we'll be okay.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
.... that still brings huge waves of pain and grief to me, even after almost three years, is also one of the most beautiful things in our home.
It is my piano.
It's not our original piano .... it's mine.
Jim bought me a piano a few years after we were married. He knew how very much I wanted one and so we saved up for a while and he bought me a nice, older piano.
I loved it from day one.
I played it all of the time.
When we had our first child, she started playing it when she was three.
And then the other children came, each taking lessons (for at least a little while).
Before we had our 4th child I started teaching piano .... in our home, on that piano.
Then we moved to Texas and I decided to stop teaching. It took too much time away from the kids, especially in the afternoons, when our oldest was just getting home from school. It was a good decision, especially since the four kids we then had were followed by numbers five and six!
As the kids grew and became more involved in activities I played the piano less and less (though they played it more and more).
I never enjoyed playing in front of people .... ever.
I loved teaching, but if someone asked me to play something or accompany someone, my heart raced uncontrollably and my stomach felt like it would lurch. Even the thought of playing in front of someone makes my heart beat faster (as it is now, just writing about it).
But there was one person I could play for .... at night, after the kids had gone to bed.
I couldn't play for him directly.
He wouldn't be in the same room, but he could be in the room next to me.
Yes, I know it's odd, but it's just the way it was.
He loved my playing.
And I loved playing music that I know touched him deeply.
He loved Pachelbel's "Canon" .... he first heard it in the movie "Ordinary People".
I played it often.
He also loved anything from "Les Miserables", but especially the song "Bring Him Home", which would sometimes make him cry.
We both shared a love of that musical and many other Broadway musicals.
So I played songs from "Les Mis" .... a lot.
After Jim died I didn't touch that piano for over a year.
I just physically couldn't.
I couldn't even look at it.
The thought of playing it brought waves of grief and pain that are difficult to describe or rationalize.
I just ..... couldn't.
So after a year, I decided that maybe if I got a new piano, I'd be able to play again.
Because it would be different.
It would be my piano.
Not the one we shared.
We had talked about getting a used baby grand for a while.
And so one day I found a great deal on one (you know the kind, only owned by one owner .... a little old lady who only played it on Sundays). :)
I was excited to get this piano.
It was so beautiful .... and so different from "ours".
The day the new/used piano was delivered, I pushed "our" piano into the dining room, where it sat for months until I could have it moved to a small house we have on a lake.
We moved the furniture around and made room for the new arrival.
The new/used piano was now the centerpiece of my living room.
It was .... and still is .... an amazing musical instrument.
But .... I was wrong.
The new piano, which I thought I could play and play and play .... mostly sits as just a beautiful centerpiece in my living room.
I have not been able to play for more than five minutes on it.
Believe me .... I've tried.
The last time I tried was this past weekend.
No one was home .... the house was very quiet.
I walked through the living room, on my way to my bedroom, and the piano caught my eye.
I stopped .... and thought, "Maybe today I'll be able to play it."
And so I sat at the bench, got out my sheet music .... and began to stumble through a piece.
In less than 2 minutes I was crying so hard that I couldn't read the music.
I kept playing, though, thinking that I just needed to get through it .... maybe if I played until the end, it would somehow break this "grief curse" I seem to have.
I wiped my eyes and kept playing.
And kept crying.
Until the very end.
And then I closed my sheet music, shut the keyboard cover .... and walked away.
I was wrong.
It wasn't the piano.
It was the music.
It was us.
It was him.
It was love.
And now, there is no us.
There is no him.
Yes, there is still love .... in an odd, one-sided sort of way.
But I cannot play the music.
No one seems to understand that.
No one except someone else who walks on this path with me.
Yes, it's strange and yes, maybe I should look into why I can't play yet.
But .... I think .... it is what it is.
And it will be what it is for as long as it takes.
And until that day comes, if it ever comes, that beautiful piano that sits in my living room will continue to be ...... the One Thing......
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
It's not easy every day, and sometimes I have to make a conscious effort. But I do it. I'm here. I love the metaphor Michele used for the mosaic of her life. The broken pieces picked up, put back together, and although totally different from the original, still a potential masterpiece in their new form. The idea of rebuilding something beautiful from the pieces left after such tragedy is inspiring.
I am trying to do it. I hope I am successful. Today it feels pretty good. I'll keep you posted on what tomorrow brings.
Happy Tuesday - Michelle D.
Monday, October 18, 2010
My brain started to tune out the sermon, and try as I might I could NOT pay attention to the lesson at hand. Instead I started parading all the widowed people I know across the front of the Church. Each time the word widow was mentioned I resisted the image being implied of a needy, teary, helpless woman and imagined the widowed skydivers, rock climbers, runners and bikers, single widowed parents who manage a family alone, people who honor the love they shared with their spouse by raising money for causes, founding organizations, writing down their most intimate fears and hopes so that others like them won't feel so alone. By the time the homily was over I filled the Church with the widowed people who inspire me to keep reaching higher, loving deeper, and giving more than I ever knew was possible before I survived the loss of my husband. You guys looked great!
The thing is I was once needy, scared, dependent, teary, and at times pretty sure I was helpless. But that was only one part of this grief journey. When I hear the word widow I don't think about the first weeks after someone loses their spouse, because in my opinion those early days are not the most difficult part of this experience. The hard part is picking up the pieces and reconciling yourself to the fact that the picture of your life will never again be the same. Which is not to say that life is over, however much we may wish that were true sometimes. Eventually we learn the beauty of the mosaic....taking the pieces and creating a whole new picture with what we have in front of us. The resulting image will not be the same, but it can be perfect none the less.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
And I found myself struggling for the memories. How could this be? How could I be losing the memories? I already lost Lisa, isn’t the deal that I lose Lisa but get to keep the memories? Didn’t I sign that somewhere in some death contract I made with life?
I started to panic. Over the next few days I was obsessing of any memory of her. Pulled out the old video tapes, drove by the ole hangouts, pulled out the love letters. I felt like I did something wrong. That by not thinking of Lisa enough, I was being punished with the loss of my memories.
How many times do I have to go through the same damn cycle to learn that I am not done yet. The answer of course is as many times as the cycle happens. So here I am going through another grief cycle, this time grieving the loss of memories, a devastating double loss considering the fact that Lisa is already gone.
I am now at the “acceptance” stage of the cycle (once again), I am slowly getting to the “not feeling guilty that I’ve done something wrong” stage, but not there just yet. I hate it that Lisa died so young, I hate it that I will probably be alive longer than I knew Lisa. It makes me sad to thing that in 20 years, the memories will seem like 5 lifetimes ago.
But just like the early stages of grieving Lisa's death, time will move forward, life will keep on moving, and I now know that the memories will become more faded. And like before, I will continue to cherish what I have and the memories I do remember, instead of obsessing over what I have lost. After two years, the lessons just keep coming. Swell.
Friday, October 15, 2010
"Hi, its me. I forgot to ask you to be sure you ride in the second or third car of the train. Thanks."
"Wow, you are awfully close to the side of the road. Don't get hit by a car."
"Bike ride? Um, sure that sounds like a good idea. Are you going out alone?"
"Hi, you said you'd be home around three and it is three-thirty now. Just checking in. Can you call me as soon as you get this? Thanks."
"Have fun. Be careful. Drive Safely. Call me when you get there. Love you. Don't forget to call."
I have never been an overly protective person in a relationship. Generally speaking I am aware that living life is a risk. Now I can add to that bit of wisdom the fact hat no matter how careful you are, how often you go to the doctor, whether you exercise regularly or sit on the coach eating bon-bons all day, wrap yourself in protective gear and never do anything deemed dangerous by any expert...you are still going to die. Cancer strikes the healthy vegan; heart attacks kill runners as well as smokers as well as those who have never touched a cigarette; very strong athletic people who obey all traffic laws get hit and killed by cars; and accidents of all sorts end the lives of the unsuspecting.
So when my new husband walks out the door, I sometimes take a deep breath remembering when Phil last walked out the door. Phil never came back. I try not to project one situation onto the other. I remind myself that I can't control the things that happen in life and will have to roll with whatever punches life delivers. But I have to tell you this, sometimes the things I know scare the hell out of me.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
but i found two mirrors,
buried in bags,
buried in boxes,
buried in a garage.
one, part of
a fold-up hairbrush.
a compact to check
i found the compact first.
i don't think
i'd ever seen it before.
i held it.
i closed my eyes.
i opened it.
i opened them.
i saw me.
i was disappointed.
some more digging.
i found the other mirror.
i have memories of
it was used
and many other places
knew i'd give
her shit for
carrying a full-sized hairbrush.
in my left hand.
folded open with my right.
i opened it.
i opened them.
i saw me.
i was sad.
of these mirrors had
seen a face since
i don't really know what
i expected to see.
but i had to
preserving an image forever.
they reflect back
a moment that doesn't last.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Most relationships have their bumps and turns.
But throw in two widowed people, their children (8, with & without teenage hormones), the difference in the time of their widowedness (6 1/2 years) and the grief that each still carries ..... and you don't just have a few bumps and turns.
You have a monstrous version of bumper cars.
No, it's not always bumpy and yes, it's nice to be cared for again and loved by someone.
But it doesn't make me miss Jim any less.
And it doesn't make it easier to learn how to communicate with someone new.
Jim and I loved, argued, communicated, disagreed, agreed, raised children .... and just lived our life...one way.
He and his wife lived their life another way and for a shorter amount of time (not that time matters in grief, but it does matter in how long one has been the sole support,provider, parent, decision-maker in his/her home).
It is wonderful to feel loved.
It's not wonderful to wonder what you must've said this time to make him upset (or visa versa for him) because you don't know how he thinks .... like you FINALLY (mostly!) learned with your spouse.
It is wonderful to be held.
It's not wonderful to always feel that you have to be the peace-maker between an adult and children.
It's wonderful to have someone to spend time with.
It's not wonderful to feel upset, or know he's upset, because you rarely have enough time for just each other.
It's wonderful to know that if something happened to you and you really needed him/her, he/she would be there to support you.
It's not wonderful to know that you will always play second fiddle to his/her children.
So .... is it worth all of the "it's not wonderfuls" to be in a relationship after being widowed?
I guess we all have to decide that for ourselves.
We tend to forget how much work really went into our marriages/relationships/love.
So we need to be careful in making our decisions.
We need to weigh so many different things that most people don't have to consider at all.
We have to truly .... look before we leap, no matter how tempting it is to have someone again.
And we have to try really hard to remember that our spouses ..... sorry to write this ..... were not perfect.
I know. :)
Love is wonderful.
I think that, for me, this relationship is worth it.
But it doesn't take away the pain.
Or the scar.
Or the tears.
A relationship .... ANY relationship .... is hard work.
But it can be worth it. At least I think this one can.
Especially if I keep in mind that ..... the grass is NEVER greener ....
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Funny thing is that it doesn't look so different in lots of ways. I am older and so is G. We are happier now than we were 5 years ago, that is certain. We are somewhat peaceful about the path that we are on, although we each have our days of angst and missing Daniel. We talk about it. We wish out loud that he could be alive. We wonder out loud why it all had to happen. We also talk about how great our life is and how lucky we are. It's a paradox. You'd think with what we've experienced neither one of us would feel terribly blessed. We are and we know it. I find hope in that. I believe my little guy does too.
Monday, October 11, 2010
I am quickly approaching what would be my second wedding anniversary. Can I see a raise of hands as to who thinks this might be a difficult time for me?
A no brainer, right?
I have come to have a really negative visceral reaction to the word anniversary. It is a sad reality, but I like other young widowed people, missed out on a lot of things that other people take for granted. A basic one that I missed out on was wedding anniversaries. And I won't lie, I am bitter as hell.
I grew up in a home where anniversaries were really big deals. My parents have been married for 54 years. As a child, and as an adult, I have been present for many of their wedding anniversary celebrations, including their huge 50th wedding anniversary. My brothers and I helped my parents plan a renewing of their vows, and a wonderful reception filled with friends and family. In the weeks leading up to their celebration I met a wonderful guy. He was sweet, he was sexy, and he was quickly capturing my heart. I remember feeling an urge to invite him to the celebration, which was in Southern California. I resisted the urge, as we had only been dating a short time, and I didn't think it would go off very well if I brought a date to the anniversary party. I remember standing outside the church, posing for a family picture with my parents, my brothers, their wives, and all of our children. The whole time I stood there waiting for the picture to be taken I had this gnawing feeling that Michael should have been there. It's hard to describe, but I knew that he would have a place in my family. Two and a half years later, we stood in a similar pose in San Francisco, with all of my family members gathered around us.
Our wedding was as traditional as they go. We felt that we deserved to have all the rituals and celebrations that go along with getting married. We looked forward to that first wedding anniversary, when we could toast to our first year together as a legally wed couple. The thing was, we knew that the day would likely not come around for us. Michael had a death sentence, and while we loved with a passion each day that we were blessed with, we also lived with a harsh reality, which was a brain tumor. I lost Michael on September 13, 2009, and celebrated without him on October 19, 2009.
The gift that I received on September 13, 2009, was the beginning of my Year of Firsts. The first anniversary of...since his death. I have been celebrating these anniversaries ever since. I tell myself that I have plenty to be grateful for, and I have wonderful friends who have tried to reach out to me on these difficult anniversary dates, but in the end, I have to celebrate them alone. It's not that I am ungrateful, or that I don't think about the wonderful times we had in the past, but at the end of the day, I am alone. There is no avoiding this reality.
Unfortunately for me, death was a gift that keeps on giving. I'm told by some that it gets easier, and to be honest it has. Yet, if not easier, then at least it has become more familiar. I have also been told that the second year of anniversaries is more painful, because you now face them without the numbness that surrounded you the first time out. Great. Happy anniversary to me.
I'm going to work hard at reframing my thoughts about anniversaries this year. I won't pretend that I am not already feeling enormous pain associated with my upcoming second wedding anniversary, but I do want to find a way to make the word, anniversary, not feel like such a punishment, or torturous reminder.
In my darker humorous moments, I say that my first wedding anniversary gift was as traditional as they get. Paper. I received a death certificate. I know, it's horrible to say. But my second wedding anniversary gift will is cotton, and I received it a bit early this year. While at Camp Widow my wonderful friend Susan presented me with a pillow case quilted out of Michael's well worn cotton shirts.
Special days such as this will certainly bring tears, but we all know how absorbent cotton is.
What a blessing.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
As we walked he wrapped his arm around my waist.
I leaned in, not away.
As we talked he looked into my eyes (so sorry for the corniness of that statement)
And I looked back, not down.
We sat at dinner and I danced in his attention.
Rose, glowed, warmed when he looked at me thinking I was not paying attention, when he laughed at my quick wit, when he beamed after I said "OMG, these charred Brussels Sprouts are soooo, soooo good! Thank you soooo much for ordering them!"
And when I got up to use the restroom,
(with the intention of not taking another sip out of either my wine or water...damn the date rape drug)
I intentionally didn't pull my shirt all the way down over my jeans
knowing that he was looking,
feeling like he was lucky to be able to look, lucky that I wanted him to look.
As we went up the escalator his warm hand found mine
and only let go briefly in the movie.
And just like in the movies, he was shocked that I was crying.
He took both my hands, pulled me in, his face all concern and asked "Are you ok?"
And when I respond that "I cry easily," (which is my new truth after Art's death) he smiled and kissed me on the forehead.
And then starts to gently, affectionately wipe my tears away,
until the flow gets to be
and I have to stop him
the tears are mixing with
the stuff coming from my nose.
And after all,
it is only our first date.
And then he walked me to my car
and we stand there,
knowing what was going to happen next.
And I'm asking God, "Please make him a good kisser. Please make him a good kisser!"
And he is.
And I am delighted
and I revel in his touch, his soft hands, the firmness, the gentleness,
the experience-ness of them.
And I revel in the light, respectful but oh so wonderful kisses.
Then he pulls away and says,
"Art was very lucky to have you."
And I revel more, like a dog who has found a really
of stuff ...
to roll in.
I see I am not just reveling in his kiss,
or his attention
or his touch, although all three are good enough reasons.
I am reveling in myselfness. This widow, who couldn't see this place, who didn't want to go to this place, is now dancing and shining and laughing in this place.
And there is no guilt
And there is no shame.
This widow is alive and boy, does it feel fuckin' good!!!!
Saturday, October 9, 2010
This weekend I'll be at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. 8 stages, over a hundred bands, but to me it is so much more.
Last October, my best friend (and fellow widow) and I ventured out on the green grass, drinking wine from sports bottles, listening to amazing music, having a grief/stress free time.
Of course, since Michael's death I've had many days that way. Worry free, almost to the point where I forget that he's even dead, but what differentiated that festival weekend from anything else was the affect it had once the 3 days were over.
You see, after Michael died, the future was unbearable fathom. Minute by minute was as far as my mind and heart could comprehend. As time passed I could maybe look a month or two ahead, but after ACL happened the amazing happened. I went and bought tickets for the next year's festival over a year in advance.
I couldn't believe it, but it felt so good. 2 years after my soul mate's passing, I had seen the possibility of looking forward to something not only in the future...but a year in the future!
So you see, this weekend is more than a music festival, it is a marker of what has allowed me to see and plan and get excited for life again. It is 3 days, that year ago allowed me to look 365 days ahead, allowing me to be set free from the fear of having to face another second without my other half.
“My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there”
-Charles F. Ketering
Friday, October 8, 2010
I feel so lost still at times. So alone. So bereft.
I watch others who have found love again. I see those who have never lost theirs. The jealousy and envy I feel are almost tangible.
The agony of being half of a whole is so filled with melancholy....and at times, humiliation.
Who wants the damaged goods that a widowed mother of two has to offer?
The only people who offer their services as companion or 'lover' are either already 'reserved' or are the kind of human who would whack off on a webcam to an unsuspecting stranger in an attempt to get their thrill.
I am tired of the lack of touch. I could almost molest my hairdresser for gently brushing my hair - and she's a pregnant female. I feel pathetic. And desperate. And furious at Jeff for causing this. Fucking asshole.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
moment became something
when the words
drifted from her lips.
well, i shouldn't say
that it was
wholly unexpected, but the
timing most certainly was.
the question brought
me back in a
way that usually only my
"remember what we talked about that one time?"
that's what changed
and that's not exactly
what she said, but
it's a close enough approximation.
"yeah," i said.
"when do you want to do it?"
"i don't know. when do you think i should do it?"
"anytime between now and whenever."
again, that's not exactly
what she said
but it's not the
exact words that matter.
"soon," i said.
"i want to know, you know, just to be sure."
her eyes nodded
and she disappeared from
off to check her
that first time.
while she was gone
i felt as alone
as i did that other
moment back then,
but not because i
was the only one
in the room.
my thoughts didn't
allow for anyone
else at that
moment, and for that
i'm sorry to both
one looking in
the mirror, unaware,
the other with
her hand in mine,
causing slight physical pain
in an attempt
to relieve something worse.
but it's as if
i wasn't there.
i was above my world,
floating on my
back, the cool mist
of the clouds
enveloping the me that
the door opened,
and she was peering in,
holding what she
went to get.
i hit the ground
with a thud,
but nothing was
broken. of course not,
i reminded myself.
i wasn't really where
i felt i was.
in my hand now.
it's the list.
the list of words
i'd seen before,
on a different
piece of paper,
in a handwriting unusual
for someone in
(or so the stereotype goes).
i stared at it.
1. this list has killed.
2. this list could **** again.
(that exactly how i said it in my head. that word doesn't exist in scenario #2. it can't. it won't).
i know it's
better to know,
but do you ever
wish you didn't know?
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
I know that's a given.
Life is full of set backs.
Everyone's life, not just mine.
So why is it then, that when I am hit with one of them .... I'm surprised?
Last week was a set back.
One huge, hairy set back.
It started the moment I arrived home from a trip and continued on through Sunday (and is even bleeding a little bit into this week).
I'm sure that jet lag and exhaustion had something to do with it .... and with the way I encountered things.
One such event was meeting a complete stranger. As we spoke we realized that our husbands may have known each other. She asked what my husband did now and I told her that he died almost 3 years ago.
Stranger: "Of what?"
Me: "An aortic dissection."
Stranger: ...... a slight pause and then ..... "Well, at least he didn't have something that made him linger on and on. I would hate to die like that. When my parents ....."
She kept speaking but I quit listening.
I was stunned (and how ironic since I had just re-posted "The Things I Didn't Need to Hear").
I wasn't stunned as much by the fact that she said it. I'm used to idiotic sentences.
I was stunned that such a statement still had the ability to take my breath away.
I had to bite my tongue to keep from yelling at her, "FORTY SEVEN!!! He was ONLY 47, so NO, I'm not THRILLED that he didn't linger!"
She continued to talk while I stared off into space, trying not to let the tears fall from behind my sunglasses.
There will always be people who say stupid things about Jim being dead .... and there may always be times when they hit me in the gut.
A couple of days later I was shopping at Target (not a promo here, but that store IS my retail "crack").
I ran into a friend that Jim and I had known for years and years. We met their family at our church back in Oklahoma and they were a part of our close-knit group.
This family had moved to Texas years ago, into our community, but had since moved out. It was just sheer coincidence that we happened to be at the same Target.
She caught me up with her family and I caught her up with mine.
As she talked, I started to think .... "Wait until Jim hears ....." before I remembered. It was only a second, a nano second, really, but it still happened.
I thought of him first.
As I drove away from the store I started to cry. Jim was the only connection I had to this friend in my life here. He was the only other person who knew her and knew our histories together.
And he's dead.
I had no one with whom to share the news of seeing her.
No one who would be interested in what her husband is now doing.
I cried all the way home as I thought about how much I've missed sharing with him.
I cry now as I type this, thinking of how much I miss him.
There will always be moments that will come .... and I'll wish that he were here to share them with me.
There will always be tears when I stop to think how very much I miss him.
There will always be crappy moments, or days or even weeks.
Yes, they get fewer and farther between.
And the tears start getting less gut-wrenching.
But I'm sure that there will always be tears.
Just as there will always be love.
The love he gave me can never be forgotten or lost.
Not while my children or I am alive.
There will always be an impact he made on someone or something.
There will always be joy .... that I had him for as long as I did.
I guess that's one thing we can count on in life.
There will always be ....
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
As a young teen, my husband Daniel traveled on Amtrak to St. Louis Missouri with his parents and five siblings. When he spoke of this trip many years later, his fondest memories were of staying up all night in the sleeper car rocking to the rhythmic movements of the train, watching the Texas landscape flash by, playing Gin Rummy as the train clicked along, and trying to pick up girls with his older brother in the various cars. He remembered that trip as one of the greatest of his childhood, and he looked forward to the day when he could share the magic of traveling by train with his own children.
We’d been married 12 years, and had a four year old son, when Daniel was first diagnosed with throat cancer. A year later, with radiation therapy and a life altering surgery behind him, Daniel received his 3rd cancer diagnosis--and the prognosis was not good. As a consequence of the urgent need for surgery immediately following his second recurrence of cancer, we postponed a birthday trip we planned for our son Grayson. The revised itinerary scheduled us to head out by train for a trip to Disney Land the week after we got the third bout of grim news regarding Daniel's condition. The discovery of new cancerous cells meant we needed to make a choice; postpone the family trip once again and schedule further tests at MD Anderson immediately, or hop on the train and set-up the additional tests for when we returned from California. Daniel's desire to create life-long memories with his family, combined with the outside chance that we might be looking at our last chance to take this trip, made the decision for us--we went for it.
Amtrak goes from Austin to LA, and we booked a sleeper car for the trip. As the time to leave home neared, the thrill of taking the train out shined even our excitement about our theme park destination. The anticipation of stepping onto that platform, and beginning our journey, eased the fear and uncertainty of what lay ahead for our family. Daniel was so excited to share this experience with Grayson and me.
Due to an accident that delayed our train, we waited for hours at the station near Cesar Chavez. We made the best of it and hung in there, worried that if we left for even a few minutes we’d miss the train. Our patience paid off, and we gleefully boarded the train at 3:30AM. The three of us loaded into our cabin, which was the wide one at the very back of the train. The trip to San Antonio was quick. We were still awake when we passed through South Austin and within a block of our house in old downtown Buda-- we were all so excited to be on the train that sleep was unnecessary. The adrenaline was flowing and we were on our way!
I’ll never forget seeing the “back side” of so many different places in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. The views of West Texas, especially the Pecos River, were breathtaking. Despite the pain that was becoming a part of everyday life, Daniel enjoyed every second of that trip. The absolute joy on Grayson's face expressed exactly the hopes Daniel held close to his heart for his only son. Grayson was in love with everything about the train: the rocking, the loud bangs, the sweet staff in the dining car who fussed over him, the bunk beds he called home for two days, and most of all the spectacular views through our picture window. Our little boy was under the spell of the wonder of rail travel.
We began that trip 5 years ago today, and Daniel passed away one month later. The memories created while we rode down the tracks as a family are indelibly imprinted on our hearts. I am forever grateful that Daniel and I were able to share that experience with our son. That trip on Amtrak will always hold a very special meaning for us, and the sound of the train flying by is always a reminder of an absolutely unforgettable and treasured experience. Grayson, now 10 years old, remembers this trip as his favorite vacation--outranking England, Lego Land, Fiesta Texas, and a Caribbean cruise. When packing to leave for a trip, Daniel's son doesn’t care about the destination; he just wants to know if we can take the train to get there.
Monday, October 4, 2010
When I first was able to entertain the thought of marrying again, I was certain that I would fall to pieces when asked to utter the phrase, "till death do us part." Those four words mean something completely different now that I know what parting actually feels like. In fact, I often teared up when discussing my fear of this phrase with Michelle...before there was any threat of actually having to say it! So as my wedding to Michael approached, I was nervous about the vows section of our ceremony. Would I be able to speak?
As with so many other milestones on this widow journey, I was surprised to discover that the lead up to the ceremony was much more nervewracking than the actual moment. I found myself overcome with joy that Michael and I made it. Together we allowed grief to coexist with love, though the concept may not make sense to many other people. He didn't require me to walk away from my widowhood in order to become his wife. With the assurance that my love for Phil was safe, my love for Michael found room to grow.
This love includes my kids, my family, my friends both old and new, and my widowed community. Finding someone who could embrace every part of my life is a blessing I experience with awe, and instead of crying all I could do was smile.
But, I will share a secret with you. When Michael and I finally laid down at the end of a wonderful evening full of love, laughter, and friendship...I cried and cried. When he asked me what was wrong I said, "I don't think I believed until right this minute that this day would actually come." I explained to him that I feel like I held my breath for the two years we dated, waiting for the other shoe to drop. He kissed me on the head and said, "Don't worry, both my shoes are still on." ;)
I write this today being able to very clearly recall saying the words, "No one will ever measure up to Phil." The journey that has led me to the place I am today has been equal parts terrifying and amazing. This post is not intended to imply that being married again will wipe away all the pain of loss. Nor do I believe that marrying again is somehow mandatory as proof of healing. I just wanted to share with you my reality, which is that I don't have to trade in one love for another...I can have both.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
I have nothing to write.
I had a completely relaxing day.
I dropped Langston off at school for his game
and on the way home
I cried so hard I had to pull over.
Art's death is just so fundamentally sad.
All that he is missing is just tragic!
I returned later, and watched Langston play flag football.
I took my other two to play dates.
I took care of myself.
Watched two movies
Flirted with a guy via email
and then went to two neighbors houses
had drinks and laughs.
Kids are now in bed.
All part of a normal day.
I think about him every day.
Every single day
it doesn't stop me from living
It doesn't interfere with my rising from the ashes
This is the new normal is
And I'm OK with it.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”
- Mark Jenkins
It's that time of year.
That time where I'm able to fulfill one of the biggest dreams Michael and I had.
To travel across the world.
I vowed after he died that I would take a once-in-a-lifetime trip once a year. The first being a 220 plus mile backpacking pilgrimage across Spain. The second was in Ireland. And this yearI will be hopping around the UK (London/Lake District).
They are 7 to 20 days where I am able to experience and see things we could have only once dreamed of. I experience them for both of us, which in return makes the time doubly amazing. The cherry on the top though, is having been able to experience these adventures with my fellow widows. Women I met due to tragedy, befriended due to commonality, and had by my side for this new chapter due to extreme luck (and hopefully a little help from Michael).
Greece, India, Africa, New Zealend...and the list goes on with future endeavors. A time to live to the fullest with my husband (invisibly) by my side, and the women who are my group of Indiana Jones....ready to explore new terrain, physically and emotionally.
As my own life has evolved, not only do I have these yearly excursions to look forward to, but I have a time of reflection to see how far I've gone....in miles and in healing. I look forward to it. Something I once loathed even saying...the future. And these trips are the perfect time once a year to commemorate my once in a lifetime life.
Below are photos of special ways I've incorporated my love into my adventures.
Friday, October 1, 2010
My daughter, Liv, has always loved stories. Stories of mythical creatures and the lessons these myths hold seem to entice her imagination into applying these learning experiences upon her life.
Awhile back, for movie night, the kids and I watched ""The Secret of Roane Inish". After learning of the legend of the Selkies, Liv was truly enraptured and enthralled.
"The seas around Orkney and Shetland harbour the shy Selkies or Seal-Faeries (known as the Roane in Ireland). A female Selkie is able to discard her seal skin and come ashore as a beautiful maiden. If a human can capture His skin, the selkie can be forced to become a fine, if wistful, wife. However, should she ever find her skin she immediately returns to the sea, leaving the husband to pine and die. The males raise storms and upturn boats to avenge the indicriminate slaughter of the seals." -- Brian Froud and Alan Lee, "Faeries"
Liv has decided that her father was a Selkie. That the pull for the sea was too much for him and he had to return to his home....Leaving us behind - me, his wife and his 'Darkies', the offspring of the Selkie and a human. But she feels that he is happy in the sea and that one day we will see him there amid the waves.
While the thought that the pull of the ocean was stronger than his love for us fills me with sadness, this explanation of his 'departure' from us fits so very well that it carries some ....comfort, even for me. That he is back in the ocean that he so dearly loved. That there is a 'reason' for him to leave us. A need stronger than we were able to fight against.
As I watch my kids learn to accept the loss of their daddy, I find healing in their ideas and theories. To them, I am the giver of comfort. The one who offers a stable shoulder and an empathetic word. And I wonder if they will ever understand that not only does their presence make life more than bearable, but it brings me peace and understanding of our loss.
I know that he died. He is not literally in the sea. I know that he didn't leave us because he was a seal. But the sparkle and wonder in this theory adds a magic that is not present in the 'real' story of his loss.
And I love to imagine him in the place he loved best ~ the sea.