Thursday, September 30, 2010

happy birthday.

it wasn't the kind

of birthday celebration

i would have chosen,

for her

but then

there's very little

about this situation

that either one

of us would have.

but after three

of them

without her

this was by far

the best.

not because i'm

over what

happened or because

i've moved on

(i prefer the phrase, "moving through," implying an active process vs. one that is finished),

but because

the community that has

supported us since

it happened

came together to raise

money for others

like us.

i can honestly

tell you that i never

imagined i'd

be doing the things

that i've done

since that moment

in march 2008,

and i'm glad

i didn't do

what i've wanted

to do so often.

i didn't give up

then, and i haven't

given up since.

it's stupid

to even think

about, but if she could

just see the good

that has come

from so much

sadness, i know

she'd be

pretty fucking proud.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

And So It Goes .....

.... and goes and goes and goes.
This thing called grief.

I just got back from a fantastic trip to Germany.  I was with a group of 46 other people and we toured around for nearly 2 weeks.
It was my first trip "alone".
I've gone on trips with the kids or with friends, but I went by myself on this one.  I stayed by myself in all of the hotels.
Most of the other 46 people were couples.  I knew some of them and am quite close with the couple leading the tour.
But .....

You know where I'm going with this, don't you?
It was basically my first trip without Jim.
After almost three years.

I've been planning this trip for over a year.
I thought that I'd be fine and that there would be no waves.
Why in the world was I stupid enough to think that?
Because it's what I wanted to happen, I guess.

But of course, I was wrong.

I did well until about the 3rd or 4th day.
And then I didn't do so well.
I missed him.
I missed having him take my picture in front of something cool.
I missed taking his picture.
I missed holding his hands like so many of the couples were doing.
I missed sharing all of those amazing sites with him.
I missed sitting beside him on the bus and on the plane.
I missed having him sleep next to me in all of those hotel rooms.

And so it goes.

I found it amazing how lonley you can feel in a crowd of 47 people.
Or .... on that particular day ..... in a crowd of thousands (as we toured castles, churches, etc.).
I hung out on the edge of our group, keeping my sunglasses on so that no one would notice the red eyes and the tears.

I was not the only single person on the trip.
In fact, I wasn't even the only widow.
But the other widow had her two daughters with her.
Me? 
Just me.

And so it goes.

It was a wonderful trip and I certainly wasn't miserable the whole time.
Just one bad day.
And only a few teary moments at other times.
Which, in the long run, is pretty good .... in my opinion.

About two days after my "bad day" I noticed something that made me catch my breath.
Literally.
I realized on that day ..... that exact day ..... that I missed C (we've been dating for almost a year).
I missed C and I didn't think about Jim while I was missing him.
This realization actually smacked me .... that day.
It felt almost physical.
And ..... this is the really strange part ....
it felt good.
Because I realized that the fact that I could miss C without thinking about Jim at the same time ..... was a very positive step.
In my opinion.

And so it goes ......

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Beginning of the March...

This month begins the "death march". That annual walk down memory lane that takes me from the last family trip we took when he was feeling somewhat healthy, to the 3rd diagnosis, to M.D. Anderson, to a brother's graduation, to a stressful birthday in the ER, to a series of specialists, to yet another hospital, and finally to a cemetery on a beautiful hilltop in the country.

From September to November each year, each day has a meaning for me. Each day in this time period 5 years ago brought something new, not always bad, but some new challenge for us, some new emotion, new thought, new fear, new reality. I can't describe how it all felt, but each year I feel it again. Less intense than the year before, but it's there anyway. Each day between now and the first week in November has a specific memory associated with it. All of it leading up to the end. It's beautiful and terrible, and it sucks. But, like all things on this path, this will not go away. There is no way out but through. I'm putting on my waders and trudging on.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Waiting

Special thanks to Dan for guest writing for me today! Michele






This is the part no one tells you about. This is the part that many do not know. When your spouse dies, you are left with a void, a big void. Your mind constantly reminds you that he is gone, and that what lies before you is an existence that must begin without him. The only problem is, how do you do this? And, what exactly is this new existence like? For me it's about waiting.

When my husband Michael died I was not surprised. After all, the doctors told us two year prior that he would in fact die. We spoke of it often. We prepared for it legally and emotionally. When it happened I was thrown off course. All the talking and planning didn't prepare me for an existence without him. In those first few weeks I sat on my living room couch in shock. Hours went by, and there I sat. I sometimes imagined that I was sitting on a bench, waiting for a bus to come by. I would board the bus, and it would take me away, away from my new existence. I knew that it wouldn't take me to Michael, that part I understood. I just needed it to take me away from where I was, which was feeling lost.

It's been 11 months now, and still I wait. No, I don't sit on my couch all day long anymore. I do have my kids to tend to, but at night, I do sit and wait. I'm waiting for a sign that tells me which way to go. There is no bus that will be arriving, so if I want to move forward I must chart the course myself. And to be honest with myself, I have started this movement. Yet, there is still so much that I am lacking. There is still so much that lacks meaning for me. So I wait. From my bedroom window I can see the city lights. They tell me that life continues to move forward. But tonight I sit here perched in my tower of grief. Waiting.

http://daninrealtime.blogspot.com

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Different Widow Card




So there's this guy...he likes me and I like him
And when we are together, we giggle.
With him, I remember how much I like to laugh, the kind of laughter that makes my belly hurt.

And then
there's this other guy, who when he smiles at me
I can't say a damn thing intelligent.
The energy coming off of him says "Good kisser."
If only I could find the courage to see if I'm right.

And then there were those silly police officers
whose eyes followed me as I walked by their car.
So I swung my hips just little more than usual, I sashayed.

And it felt good.

I love men.

I adore how they stupid get, or how bold I feel around them. How quickly they lose themselves in "Excuse me, can you help me? I'm so frustrated."

And now I see, really see that, I am free to love men and that the one I choose is lucky.

And I wonder, is it fun and exciting because I'm NOT that widow who is forlorn and missing her husband so much she can't see the men in front of her. Or is it fun and exciting because I am discovering the new Kim. The "this is what I have to offer" Kim?

It's fun to be that woman who looks at cute men and goes
"Mmm, mmm, mmmm."

I get silly and goofy but this time, 17 years after Art won my heart, I feel the control. I remember...(or is it that I am experiencing it for the first time?) that I am a woman. I glorious sensual 46 yr old woman.

Tall (sort of), beautiful and quick witted.

I know how flirt. How to lay my hand on a man's arm at that exact moment when we laugh, or to salsa with that flare or to say "I really appreciate your effort." and mean it.

I remember how good it is to know they're watching me, wanting me in their simple man ways.

I love what a smile will do for them, and how I can get that extra discount, the little favor, the phone number with that smile.

Somewhere I remember that power. It was the power I had over Art, only then I didn't believe him. I didn't believe that he really loved me on my "fat" days or my "I hate the world days."

And I see. That his love was kind and warm and even now it gives me the courage and the power to put new pieces into the new Kim. To say, "No, you are not right for me." To stay in myself in a relationship instead of in him in a relationship.

And with Art's love from those 17 years, this is what I think I am:

Funny and opinionated and smart. Driven to make a difference and I like to have fun, goofy, let's not get caught fun. I'm the don't even come near me if you can't make me laugh or have never watched Monty Python or have not traveled to some place exotic gal.

I'm the emotional growth, spiritual person. So if you don't know what's in your baggage, if you don't believe in a higher power, if you have not done your work, if you have not fallen to your knees seeing all that you don't know, don't call.

I'm gratitude girl. If you have never appreciated the way your mail arrives 6 days a week, or how wonderful your nanny is or how on certain days, all the traffic lights are green, you won't even get my number.

And this body of mine?
Has the markings of a life well lived. It's sagging in the breast but has an ass that remains "young." This body has lose skin over it's belly. That belly comes alive and will writhe under just the right touch.....if you are lucky.

Did I mention that I laugh loudly and I will tell you when you make me mad? Did I tell you I love adventure but you will have to talk me into it?

I am all these things and I am not
all pretty, or all those things all the time.
I am stubborn and sometimes unkind. I have quick, sharp tongue that few have been able to rival.

But it is who I am and
it
is
all good.

Art taught me that.

This is the new widow card.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Say



I found this photo. Simply a picture of a memorial for some strangers lost loved one.

Raw. Honest. Candid.

Words that can be used to define the words left to commemorate this soul, this being.

What would yours say.

For Michael's Bench:

"A lover of steak, mechanics, calculus, Star Trek, not using directions, cargo shorts, foreign films. All he wanted was for everyone to love each other. Sit down, invite over someone you love. Love."

It's pretty hard, in retrospect, to choose what I'd want for others to put on some plaque for me, because for so long I felt as if I didn't know me or any sort of future after Michael was killed, but 3 years later, I know.

My Bench:

"A lover of her soul mate, life, sushi, ice cream, foreign films, Ross, Clarence, her friends, her dogs/children, sunny skies, overgrown grass in a strict HOA. Screw the rules. Make your own. Sit down and create them."

Friday, September 24, 2010

senseless socks

Photo from here...


One of the biggest lessons I've learned on this journey of widowhood is that grief is not logical. It makes no sense. It's arrogant and naive to believe that we think we know how we would react in any stressful or painful situation. Segments of our lives, portions of our morals and many of our ideals become frayed and scattered.

When we begin to remake our lives, things, us, are decidely different.

I've had people tell me that they would never be able to part with their husband's things should he die before they did. I've had others report to me that they have thought that I am clinging to the past by keeping some of Jeff's belongings. I don't know which camp is right....I just know that there are some things that I had never given a thought to and that now have such meaning....or maybe not 'meaning', just value to me emotionally that I am unable to part with them just yet.
There are items in this home that I will never be able to use, I can't remember a specific moment that signifies importance or that are truly undesirable to anyone besides myself. Logic does not, at all, enter my thoughts in the hoarding of these objects.

The specific thing I am talking of....Jeff's mismatched socks. Can't do it. I don't know if I will EVER get around to discarding them.

They lay tangled in a basket on the shelf above our washing machine with the kids and mine. The only distinguishing factor between the socks is that his are decidely larger....and dirtier. They no longer smell like him. I have never found their mate crammed behind the washing machine or at the bottom of the hamper. So they sit in the missing sock receptacle...and wait.

Everytime I reach into the basket to attempt to match the socks thrown in there at the end of a laundry folding session, I find his single socks. I don't know if it is the symbolism of being left behind, if it is the thought that these are the last of his personal effects that are tied in with our daily lives or if it is just that I can't bring myself to throw out something that holds proof that he walked with us. It's simply not logical.

But the lack of pragmatic thinking does not make me discard them. I still smile inwardly and occasionally shed a tear when I attempt to match his single socks. Because grief, it really makes no sense.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

nothing.

i don't throw

things away.

the meaningful,

the meaningless,

everything is somewhere.

in my house.

in my garage.

tucked away in

places i don't remember,

to be found at

times i don't

expect to find them.

i found a memory

a few weeks ago.

it was nothing, really.

just something i held

on to just

in case...

i can't believe i

kept it

in the first place,

but at the time

it seemed so necessary.

i thought,

or maybe it's better

to say i had a

feeling, that

it may be the last

time we

would see one another.

it wasn't.

we had a couple

of years before that

final moment.

***

when i found it

i knew what it

was and i knew what

it meant at the

time i saved it.

i held it in

my hand, surprised

at the kind of

emotions a little

piece of plastic could elicit,

especially two and

a half years

after shit like this

lost all meaning.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Things I/We Didn't Need to Hear ....



(this was originally posted on Feb. 16, 2008, almost 2 months after Jim's death.  It was in response to many of my blog readers asking me what to "not say" to a grieving person".  This is the 2nd time I have posted it on WV, but I think we need to remind people ..... every once in a while).



OK, buckle your seat belts. And please, please, please remember -- I have no memory of who said what.  Please don't put that onto me or yourselves. This is not to make ANYONE feel badly. It's just what I've learned and have been told to pass on. I think most of us are doing this for the first time. And like parenting, we don't always get it right the first time.
And, like parenting, this is done in love.

1. This is the most important item and I cannot stress it enough: "I understand." or "I know what you're going through."
No. You. Don't.
You can't. The loss you have suffered is yours and yours alone. It's interesting but every single widow who spoke to me never, ever said those words. My relationship was unique and mine. No one else can possibly understand the depth of pain and despair that I feel.
This brings me to #2 -- which is from my children.
2. "I lost my father, too." Not only does it not help because every relationship is unique, but it also turns the attention to YOU. When you're shaking a mourner's hand at a funeral or a visitation and you say, "I lost my father, too", or "I lost my _______(fill in the blank") then the mourner feels compelled to say, "Oh, I'm so sorry." and the whole reason for the event is lost. Bad, bad, bad idea.
3. "God has a plan." REALLY??? Because at that moment in time, I didn't give a damn. And neither did my children. The plan, whatever it was, sucked.
4. "God must've needed Jim for work in Heaven." Again, REALLY????? I don't think so -- God seemed to be doing quite alright on His own. WE needed Jim here. We STILL need Jim here.
5. "At least he's no longer suffering." Let's get this straight -- Jim wasn't suffering -- at least not until 4:00 a.m. on December 17th. And then he got meds and felt quite relaxed. He would have rather suffered some more and stayed here. And I'm sorry, but being the selfish person that I am, I would have rather had him suffer more and still be here.
6. "This has made me appreciate my dad more." Yes, someone said that to one of the kids.
7. "Merry Christmas."
8. "How was the cruise?" I'm sorry, what?! It sucked. Although that's not we said. We said, "It was O.K."
9. "Call me." This also goes along with "Call me if you need anything." People who are grieving don't usually call. They are just trying to breathe. And they don't know what they need, other than the loved one who is gone. Don't ask me to call. Call me. Come sit with me. Just sit.
10. "How are you?" You really don't want to know, so try not to ask.
11. Also from the kids, "Your dad lovED you very much." They know that he STILL loves them very much.
12. This is one that I really struggled with but I think everyone wants me to be open and very honest here. So here it is:
Try very, very hard to not write a Bible verse on a card. As one of my daughters said, "If you're not a Christian then you look at the card and think 'why the hell would someone write that to me?!' and if you are a Christian you think, 'Why the hell would someone write that to me --- I already know that." The first days are not the time to be reminded of God's love because it doesn't feel like He's very loving.
13. "Hang in there."
14. "This is going to be a very difficult Christmas for you." You think?!!!
15. "What can I do for you?" This goes along with #9. Again, I can't think past the fog in my brain and the pain wracking my body, heart and soul. I have no idea what you can do. This is where the "just sit" comes in. Jewish people "sit shiva" when someone is grieving. They go to their house and just sit. They talk if the griever feels like talking. They don't if she/he doesn't. The important thing is, they are there. Very important.
16. This has also been a difficult one to include but here it is:
"God never gives you more than you can handle." To that I say B.S. I don't agree with that - at - all. God gives us a whole lot of crap that we can't handle. Trust me. And I don't agree with that theology. I read that verse as saying "God won't TEMPT you beyond what you can bear. And when you are TEMPTED He will provide a way out'." The only temptation that I had was the desire to off myself in the early days.  But God did give me the loss of Jim -- and it's way more than I can handle. Just because I'm alive doesn't mean I'm handling it. Try to never, ever, ever say that to someone who's lost someone. Ever.
17. "You're young .. you can find love again." There are no words for that one. None.
18. "Trust in God." - when someone gets knocked to the ground by God, there's going to be a trust-issue. Trust me.
19. No one has asked me this directly but I guess some people have worried that I'm on meds and that I joke around about alcohol. Really?! Because even if I were drunk &/or higher than a kite most days --- could you blame me?! And to put everyone's mind at rest (or not -- think what you want to think) - I doubt that I could play tennis, work, write in a blog, or converse with my children if I were drinking every day or taking more than an anti-depressant and a sleeping aid every day (which are both prescribed by my doctor). So I'm not overly depressed and I sleep at night. Find someone else to worry about.
20. And the coup de grace, the ultimate thing I didn't need to hear and the only one I have vividly in my mind and know exactly who said: 'I am the reason Jim was successful. Let me handle your money. You owe me.' --- or something to that effect.

Now, to end on a positive note:

The Things I/We Needed/Need to Hear

1. "There are no words."
2. "You are constantly in my thoughts and prayers."
3. "I am so angry at God."
4. "This sucks."
5. "I love you."
6. "My heart aches for you."
7. "I'm sorry that I never got to know/meet him because he sounds like an incredible man."
8. Any time someone shares a memory of Jim.
9. "Can I come over?"
10. Any time a man cried in front of us. It sounds strange, but we need to know how much Jim meant -- especially to men.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

East Coast Trip, Part II


 Let's see... where did I leave off...

Oh yes - back in Buffalo. The kids and I stayed in the little apartment above Matt's aunt and uncle's farmhouse where his Grandma Munn used to live - on the dairy farm in our old neighborhood. So peaceful and wholesome. Grandma Munn was such an awesome lady. I'm so thankful I got to know her, and I'm somewhat comforted that she's up there with Matt. She passed away four days after we were married. We were fortunate to get some nice pictures taken with her on our wedding day, at her home.

It was perfect for the kids and I, and we were so comfortable there. I also liked it because it was comforting to be staying where she lived - it brought me just a little closer to her and Matt. The kids had such a blast hanging out with their cousins who live a few doors down, going to the barn to check out the cows and the new baby calf, climbing the hay bales, eating fresh picked sweet corn, playing with the kittens that were being nursed by their aunt kitty (long story), and the space for Jacob to ride his borrowed bike on grassy hills, stone paths and mud puddles. With the kids being just one year older since the last time we were here, it made it so much easier for me and more fun for them. 

The whole time I anticipated this trip, the question loomed in my mind.... Do I visit the home we built together? If I do, should I dare go in? Will I be a blubbering mess? Will I be sorry that I did because I might hate whatever changes they made?

The first time I drove by the house, I was on my way to Rick and Mary's farm. I had to drive by since it was on the way, and before I got there, I asked myself, "Do I turn into the driveway, or just keep going? Pull in, or keep going???" Before I answered the question, I found myself pulling into the driveway. No one was home. The kids and I just sat in the car for a few minutes while I looked at the outside of the house. I looked at the siding. The siding Matt put in, piece by piece. I looked at the spot where Matt had to replace the one strip because a ball or something - now that I think about it, it could have been a bike tire (Matt's or Jacob's) crashing into it and cracking the siding. Anyway, I looked at that spot, knowing the crack that was there not long before. I looked at the overhangs. The porch railings. Looked at the spot in the front where Matt used to plant impatiens and tulips, now covered with stone. I looked at the hill where Jacob and his cousins used to ride their bikes. The garage doors that used to be open all the time with Matt working in the garage - usually building something or fixing something. The shed that three generations of Row boys worked on together. The house is missing the life we brought to it. The life that would still be missing even if the kids and I stayed. I was frozen in thought for a while, and then finally pulled away. I brought the paperwork for the tractor. I had been holding on to that with the intentions of mailing it to the new owners from day one, but not getting around to it, I decided to just bring it out with me. That way, I could use that as an excuse for why I stopped by to see the house while in town. If I saw anyone home while I was visiting, I would have the paperwork in the car already so I could pop in. A very handy opening to an awkward situation.

One of the things I just remembered was when Matt put in the lantern halfway up the driveway, he anchored it with a cement base. I have an extremely vivid memory (which doesn't happen often) of him finishing up the cementing and putting the pole in. The kids and I put our hand prints into the soft cement. I told Matt we were done and that he should do his next. He wouldn't. I looked down at our hand prints, and it just seemed so wrong to have the three of ours there, but not his. I left a space for him to put his hands in. I asked him why not, and either he didn't answer or I don't remember the answer, but no matter how much I tried to get him to put his hands in there, he wouldn't. It was really upsetting to me. Little did I know how fucking symbolic that would be.

The kids and I so thoroughly enjoyed spending time with friends and family we've missed so much. It was tough (and exhausting) to try to make sure we weren't leaving anyone out, but I know there were many we didn't get to see or spend enough time with. We had a chance to visit The Gow School where we worked for years to see everyone there. They were always like our second family. They have a memorial garden in Matt's honor that is just beautiful. My intentions were to visit Gow at least twice while we were in town, but that didn't end up happening, and my one visit there was totally rushed so I could make an appointment with my life insurance agent (finally getting that in place).  Life insurance people - no matter how young you are, if you have a family, GET SOME. I know plenty of young widows and their children who are struggling to make ends meet because of their spouse not having life insurance. That should be the least of their worries when also trying to survive and function after losing their loved one. Trust me.

It was a struggle to get up out of the bed in the morning while there. I didn't expect that. Knowing we were in Buffalo another day without Matt - it was as hard as I imagined it would be. It felt so wrong to be there without him (I was still in shock at the time I moved, so I don't think that concept had a chance to really sink in). Yet, I could feel him with us at times, and there were times it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

I made it a point to visit some of the places Jacob has the most memories. We went to one of the places in town where Matt and Jacob would ride their bikes together. There is a little trail with a "jump" behind the pizza place we used to order our pizza from that held a lot of memories for Jacob. Sydney, Jacob and I went there and walked along that trail, walked on the little hill that's the "jump," and went up a bit further to the railroad tracks that Jacob loves so much. They, too, hold memories for him with his daddy. We went to the Red Caboose ice cream place that's near there and also to the park we used to go to all the time. We went to another ice cream place in town that we used to go to with Matt. They have great hot fudge...

I have to say, I gorged myself on pizza, wings, hot dogs, home cooking and soft serve ice cream - just like I intended. My stomach was KILLING me for pretty much the entire trip, but it was SO worth the pain.

One day, we were on our way to meet our friends to go to a picnic, and I saw that the garage doors were open to my house. The kids and I pulled in, and the owner was on the John Deere tractor I brought the papers for. He was mowing the lawn, like Matt used to always do. I waved him up to the house and when he killed the motor, I introduced myself. He was surprised, and seemed happy to meet me. He invited me in and without much hesitation, I said sure. The kids and I went into the house and also met his fiance (I don't know if they've gotten married since I sold the house to them, but they were engaged when they bought the house, like Matt and I were when we built it). They are a very sweet couple who adore their new home, and appreciate where it came from. They appreciate the quality of workmanship that Matt put into it. I gave them some history on the house, and Jacob told them about the raspberry bushes they didn't know existed up the hill. They said they didn't have to do anything to the house after moving in, but paint some of the rooms their desired colors. I was pleased with the colors they chose - I think they compliment the house really well, and the furniture they have in it looks beautiful. I felt good going into the house and seeing what it looks like now, and that it's being loved and appreciated. Jacob felt comfortable there and made himself at home, lounging on their chair in the living room, and Sydney mooched some grapes from them, too. I didn't bawl like I thought I would, either. I told them the next time I come to town, I'll bring the photo albums of when we built the house - we have pictures from before Matt was the one-man bulldozer and cleared the land, to the finished product. And the paint war in between... We had so much fun building that house, and it was probably a true test to whether or not we could last the duration.

I did a really great job of repressing my emotions for the majority of the time I spent in Buffalo, except for one or two brief moments. Like when I was at the Run for Row, and one of Matt's former co-workers came up to me after the race. He sat down to talk to me - I never met him before. He said he worked at Cameron while Matt worked there, but now he doesn't work for them anymore, but many in his family still do. He was in charge of the first machine Matt was testing the night he was killed. That one was getting tested until midnight. As he was talking to me, I tried so hard to really hear him and listen to his words, but my thoughts kept interrupting. As he was telling me how much he admired Matt's work ethic, blah blah blah, I was thinking, "couldn't you have done something like tell him he should go home? Cover the shift for him that he was covering for Rob? Have something come up with your machine so he wouldn't have to test the next one that killed him?" I don't know what the expression was on my face, but he ended the conversation by saying how nice it was to meet me, and he got choked up as he said goodbye. After he walked away, I lost it. I'm always happy to get to talk to the people Matt was with last before he died and to hear little bits and pieces of his last moments, but at the same time, it's so hard. And it brings me right back to wanting to be Superman and fly around the Earth at warped speed to turn back the time to somehow change the course of events.

Since the moment I made my decision to move to California five months after his death, I haven't looked back or doubted my decision. Things just seemed to fall into place to make it possible, and it felt right. Before I left for Buffalo for this visit, I wondered if it would plant the seed of doubt. If I would get there and feel like, "What the hell did I do??? Why would I leave our home? Our life here?" I had one very brief moment of that, but more defining moments that confirmed for me that I made the right decision. I think our next trip back will be a lot easier.

What I didn't expect was when I returned home to California, the sense of closure I felt at "returning to the scene of the crime." Closure, in the way that as wonderful as it was to go back and visit, my home is here now. Maybe there will be a time years from now that I'll decide to move back - I've changed my mind before (for instance, when Matt first died, I vowed I would NEVER leave our home). Or maybe I'll decide to live somewhere completely different. But for now, I love Pasadena, and I think it loves me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Almost Married


By the time you all read this post I will be married. Even as I type these words I find that fact slightly unbelievable, because five years ago I was certain that my life was over. My heart was still beating, my lungs worked, my eyes opened each morning, but my LIFE was over.

I found the fact that the world as I knew it had stopped turning to be both limiting and liberating. On the one hand I was desperate to have my old reality back, and on the other I just wanted to move onto the next world as soon as possible. Either situation would have worked for me, because the point was to be with Phil again in one world or another, I didn't even really have a preference. Not caring was freeing, while desiring the impossible was infuriating. My days were marked by the swing of the pendulum...desperate, reckless, desperate, reckless. Looking back now I tremble at the memory of those days, and also marvel at the power of the human soul to somehow persevere. Because I have. Somehow I lived through the terrifying reality that my husband was dead, and that the life I reveled in was no longer available.

At one time surviving the absence of Phil from my daily life took every ounce of my energy. As I grew through my widowhood I began to see that recreating my life was actually a bigger job, made more complicated by the fact that not only did I lack the energy to create, but I lacked the desire. I wondered how I was supposed to manufacture a zest for life that I did not feel. Forgive me if you thought for a second that I actually have the answer to this rhetorical question. Because I don't. Personally, I consider the fact that a genuine enthusiasm for life has been returned to me a miracle.

(Disclaimer: I have been corrected before when using the word miracle, so I want to be very clear here. I am using the Michele Neff Hernandez dictionary of words and freely applying creative license to define something that I find totally incredible.)

Here are a few things I consider to be miraculous...the fact that my heart survived losing Phil because it really should have stopped beating, the idea that taking all of those little steps forward followed by huge steps back throughout the grieving process actually did move me forward, coming to the realization that love is worth the pain of loss no matter how devastating eventual separation will be, the finding of space for so many more people in my life and in my heart, truly knowing love and recognizing it when I felt a knock on my heart, finding a man who loves this new me in so many of the ways that the old me was loved for just who she was at the time, the fact that neither joy nor grief is mutually exclusive.

These are just a few things I personally consider to be gifts of an inexplicable nature. The fact that I can't tell you how I got here baffles me a bit, but grief has taught me to stop looking for the explanation and just enjoy the moment. Which is what I hope to report to you that I did every minute of September 18Th, and yes, I will post pictures. Thank you all for the outpouring of love and good wishes. I take them with me into this new phase of my life as treasures from the past that will brighten the future.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ashes

Ezra and Pallas with Art, in the box with the ribbon

We're at the ranch.
It's my cousin's place.
90 acres
horses, sheep, ponds, creeks
and
ATVs.

It's our second home. It's the place where we escape our noisy city lives. It's the place Art wanted to be sprinkled. I left part of him her in May 09, 1 month after his death. I left him in a box. That was placed above my cousin's book shelf.

Today was time to take some of him home to LA. And then spread him out here, down by the creek his favorite place at the ranch.

Ezra and Pallas wanted to see his ashes. So they took the box and sat outside with it.
We opened the box. And then Ezra touched his father.

"I want to keep some of the ashes with me." he said.

"That way I can keep daddy forever."


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Push


One of the many hills Michael conquered.



Active Lifestyle....

I lived one.

I ran 5 days a week, did ab workout DVDs, went biking with Michael, and a little more here and there.

Now in comparison to Michael, I was sedentary, but he was my motivation to do that which I was active in to begin with.

Self care was something he was a huge advocate of, and feeling and looking my best made me feel great inside and out. Plus, it made me even prouder to stand next to my husband and be introduced as his wife.

Then it happened.

He was killed.

Suddenly I thought, "Screw it all." I went out and ate everything I had cut from my diet. Steak, blizzards, Big Macs. I stopped caring about my it all, and hoped if anything, this lifestyle would make me see Michael sooner.

Well, it probably would, but with me looking like a sea world exhibition. Looking like someone he wouldn't know...and I probably wouldn't know either.

So I started. Started eating healthier, returning to a daily exercise routine, taking my dogs for that walk that their tales begged for.

It's taken a while and I've just recently started pushing myself back to the level I was at when Michael was alive. I've moved from the elliptical to pavement and from hula hooping to weight lifting, but it's happening.

So blinded by my grief and his death, I forgot me, I forgot the person he loves, I forgot that I am a living example of the man I am so in love with.

I feel him when I run, I feel him when I think I want to give up, I feel him when I look in the mirror, knowing he'd be standing next to me smiling.

Piece by piece his Taryn, my Taryn, is returning...and damn...it feels great.


A picture Michael took of me after a steep climb on the bike. When I reached the top, seeing him there made it all worth it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

to try again or not to try again


I'm lonely. Bitter and lonely.

I don't want to date....but when no one asks me to go on a date, I feel stung and.....lame.

What is wrong with me? Are my thighs too large? Do I not have a good enough job? Do I have too much baggage? Do I look to androgynous?

Then I look around at what is out here. I'm young-ish but old enough that if someone my age is single, there is often a very good reason. The dregs at the bottom of the glass. Is that how I am seen? The leftovers.

I mentally ask Jeff to send someone interesting my way....And then think I am an idiot. I don't want anyone in my life! The kids and I are fine. I get to choose all the pictures on the walls. I am the master of my domain! I was truly loved by a wonderful man who I adored and could never 'replace' that.

But then I find myself curled up around my cold hands wishing I had someone's armpits to stuff them in to warm them up. Someone who'd listen as I told them the long-winded anti-climactic story of my drive home behind a woman with a beehive hairdo and five chihuahuas. Someone who'd share the huge pot of chicken stew I made that won't fit in the freezer, dooming my single self to three days of a strict stew diet after the kids have long grown tired of the thick and healthy vegetable laden broth.

Back and forth I go. Yes, I want to date. No, I most certainly don't want some cast-off in my life. But I want someone to give a damn about what goes on here. But I don't want to worry about the hairdo my legs are sporting. But it would feel great to care about someone and know that they think I'm the bomb. But I'm glad I don't have to put the toilet seat down before I sit.....

For now, maybe I should just ask Jeff to help me decide what the hell I want in my life. Because how I'm feeling right now is just pathetic and quite possibly, desperate. Not traits that are at all attractive or conducive to inviting a possible relationship into my life, really.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

that drive and the ones that followed...

i'm not intuitive

or any of that shit,

but when he suddenly

stopped talking,

i let the silence

settle through

the car.

it would have

been obvious

to anyone

(but not everyone)

that something was up.

it was on the

second trip when

he turned the volume

down on

the western music he

had gotten

for people like me

(not knowing that i wanted nothing more than to hear his music)

when i noticed that

the silence enveloped

us in the exact

same spot as last time.

i imagined him appreciating

me playing along,

not knowing why

and unwilling to ask

but realistically i

figured he didn't care...

i was nothing more

than the reason he

had to be away

from his wife and kids

on a weekend.

on the third trip

i knew exactly

what to do.

he looked at

me with eyes

that said he was thankful

that i had obliged

him yet again.

of course, i thought

still not asking why.

as if i had

passed all of his

tests and was

finally worthy

to hear the story,

he pointed

to the right side

of the road.

as i mentioned

before, i knew that

the sound disappeared at

the same place each time,

(just as we turned off of the highway and in to town)

but in avoiding

his eyes

and staring out

my window

at the men

surrounded by dead

fish and flies,

i'd failed to

notice the muslim

burial ground on

the right side

of the car.

"my parents. they are in the ground."

he said,

his english

imprecise yet perfect

(for a seventh language).

i watched as

he cried,

the man who

seemed tougher than

nearly any i'd met before

(especially that day he reached through the open window and slapped that guy across the face for blocking the road)

and i cried

with him

though i don't

think he noticed.

on the fourth trip,

i told the

other passengers to

cease their conversation

when i gave them

the signal.

"why?"

"just do it,"

i said.

"well, what's the signal?"

one of them asked.

"pay attention and it will be impossible to miss."

they stared at

me, waiting for

the punch line.

but this was

no joke,

and i secretly hoped

the male in

the backseat would

say something at the

wrong time just so

i had an excuse

to punch him

(i'd been wanting to do so for a long time).

as we approached

the entrance

to town

i reached down

and shut off the music

before the driver

could do it.

the woman was

first to notice

the signal

and she slapped the

man on the leg,

silencing him just

in time to save him

from a savage beating.

when we finally

parked outside

the cathedral,

a cathedral that was

as out of

place as we were,

the man asked,

"what was that all about?"

"nothing," i said

with a look that

must have convinced

him i would

never give up

the secret.

***

i knew that

someday i would have

my own silent spaces,

reserved for the people

who would (physically) disappear

from my life,

but i had no

idea the silence

would be so loud.

and when i drive

past those spots now

i think about

the lesson i learned

from my driver

in india

and i think about how

lucky i am that i have

people in my life

who notice the silence

and don't ask

any questions.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Should I Be Happy ....



(originally posted December 29, 2007 ..... eleven days after Jim died)

..... to know that Jim is in Heaven?  Yes, someone asked me this ...... 10 days after Jim's sudden death.


Interesting question. Should I/we be happy that Jim is in heaven? Well, of course if I were a "good" Christian then I'd have to give you the pat, "good" answer: 'Of course I'm glad that he's up there, with God, praising and singing (though he never really enjoyed singing so I'm not sure he's all THAT thrilled) and will never suffer again.'
But I think we Christians tend to gave way too many "pat" answers, mostly because we don't know what to say, or because we don't know what the hell we're talking about. So here's my real answer (because I don't feel very "good" nor "pat" at the moment):

No, I'm not happy that he's in heaven. I'm beyond furious! I think this was a stupid idea and I wish I could understand what HE was thinking when He tore such a good, decent and godly man out of our lives. He hadn't been sick; he wasn't suffering (until the morning he woke up); and I was told there was an 80 - 90% success rate for this surgery! Jim could've and should've done so much more in our community, in our church and in our family. I was making headway in getting him to go to Africa with me so he would've had an even bigger impact on our world.

Yes, I know there's the whole "My thoughts are not your thoughts" and My ways are not your ways" verse, but for the first time in my life, Bible verses seem to ring a little shallow.
It's not that I'm turning from my faith -- heck I've had that longer than I had Jim, but it just seems far away right now. God seems very far away. He felt like He was a million miles away on the 18th when so many people were in battle, praying for Jim to live ... and he did not.  To use an illustration used at church the weekend before Jim died:  I feel like one tiny frozen pea, lost in the Astrodome of God's galaxy. 

And I don't, or can't, trust that He'll ever put me back in His arms again.

Yet.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Better...


Portions of the following post are from about a year and a half ago...at the time I really thought I was better, and all things considered I was.

About three years ago I started joking with Michele that I wanted to wear a black t-shirt with word "bitter" printed on it to identify myself as a bitter widow. She refused to let me, more out of fear of the reaction of my poor grieving family members than anything else, but her point was well taken. Wearing the bitter t-shirt would only be funny if all who saw me wear it could be truly comfortable in the knowledge that I was not actually bitter.

Three years later, on a birthday celebration trip to NYC, we had the t-shirts made and wore them gleefully through Greenwhich Village. I think most people who saw us assumed we were advertising for a beer, which I thought was hilarious! We, however, were giddy with the knowledge that we were not in fact bitter, but we were better. You can't be bitter and hopeful at the same time, and we were hopeful. Life can still be good for us. Different for sure, but good nonetheless. I am thankful for that knowledge every day. If life gives you limes, make margaritas; you can salt the rim with your tears. It will only make the concoction taste sweeter. Michele, thanks for helping me mix the margaritas and salt the rim. They wouldn't taste the same without you.


And now, 5 days before Michele's wedding...I can still say that most days we are much better. Better than we were in 2009 and looking to be "more better" in 2011. The interesting thing to me is this, even with a pending wedding for Michele and a fantastic boyfriend in my own life, you are never fully "better". Although I have a life of my own that I have built these past 5 years, I still have my sad days and I will always have a place in my heart that hurts. It never goes away, and you are never the same woman you were before. I am different, and in some ways I don't think Daniel would recognize this me. I've had to change in ways I'd never have planned and I've learned in a very concrete way what the important things are in life.

Unfairly, I think the world assumes that if you've begun to date or heaven forbid you actually dare to marry again, you must be "over it". Any widow who reads this will laugh out loud at the concept of being "over it". I don't feel I'll ever be over it in the sense that it will be completely gone, resolved, or put behind me. You don't get over it, you get used to it. They say amputees will experience a tingling in their missing limb for decades after it's been removed. If you've lost half of your life, for how long does it tingle? I think it tingles forever. Maybe you don't feel it every day, but certain triggers will make that spot throb intensely, and it can't be helped. We may be better than we were, and even capable of as much happiness, but "over it"? Not likely. We are just forging ahead in spite of it. There is a difference.

Happy Tuesday! - Michelle D.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Gay Widower


In the days following the death of Michael I began to realize that in addition to losing my husband, I was losing part of my identity. I was having a conversation with someone about Michael when I began stumbling over my words. I hadn't quite thought out how I would describe him. Up until a few days prior, he was my husband, my spouse, my partner. He wasn't my ex, as we didn't end our relationship. Was I still married?

Why was there a need to redefine our relationship? Wasn't losing him enough? During the previous year we were part of a fortunate group of gay couples who were able to legally wed in California. The Courts even held that while gay couples were no longer able to wed as a result of Prop 8, we were still married. Suddenly I felt removed from this group.

I realized that I had no role model to prepare me for my new identity. Growing up there seemed to be plenty of female relatives who had survived the loss of their husbands. They were referred to as widows. But the men I knew who survived their wives were few, and the gay men I know who have survived their spouses were fewer. In the decades past we lost many gay men to AIDS, and many of them left lovers behind. Yet in recent times people of living with the disease, and fortunately we are not seeing as many gay men having to suffer losses like before.

At age 50, I find most of my friends are married or partnered. As I look around me, none are widowed. This awareness seems to emphasize my feeling of being alone. During this journey with Michael's illness I found support through an online brain tumor caregivers group. In the time that I was active with the group I was the sole male participant. How telling is this reality? To what degree is it that we men do not seek support, and to what degree is it that we are not provided with the images that support us identifying as caregivers, and later widowers?

So here I am, a widower, a gay widower. I feel as though I have undergone a significant shift in my identity. I went from being a lover and strong caregiver, to feeling like a broken widower. Broken, because my spirit is badly wounded. Broken, because I am feeling robbed of an identity that I loved.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Uncle...




Warning: This post may be unsettling. It was written in June. I didn’t post it because I didn’t want someone calling Child Protection Services, a threat that was made. Please know that I am better. Please know that I continue to fight and function. Please know that I am here.

I thought about it today.
And yesterday
Actually been thinking about it for 5 days straight.
Considering different ways to do it. Quick, painless ways to do it.

I’ve been thinking about killing myself.

The fact that I am writing about this means, I think….I am working past this feeling.

I hope.

This running of me, the running of my children’s lives, the running of my business, the worry of money, the worry of asking for help…..again and again and again.

It’s stretched me beyond ….


I am so thin, wispy…..

I can’t see myself.

Father’s Day, a school wide celebration called Moving Up Day, the death of a husband’s a friend, the running out of money, the knowledge again, that there is no protecting my children, just shielding them and offering them tools that I feel leave them ill equipped to handle life.

Tools to cope, where are mine?

I know suicide would be selfish.
I know that it is possible that my children would never understand.
And I know that I am in extraordinary pain.
And I know that dying would be quieter, easier and would end the pain. I know this is what my husband felt when during his battle with cancer he said to me

“I’m just so tired.

I just want to rest.”

And he did finally, get to rest.

I know that you, the reader may call me cowardly, a horrible selfish mother.

And you would be right and you would be wrong. The pain is so intense that I feel my kids would be better off without this monster mother I have become, roaming freely in the world, angry, mean, blowing up for no good reason at random. Spewing hate and self doubt, shame.

I find myself looking at another shopping list, listening to another bickering session between my kids, packing another lunch, making another play date phone call, trying to stretch $1 into $2 and then going to bed and doing it all over again the next day. I find it all too much. And I ask,

“Is this all there is?”

After the intense loss, after starting to be OK without him, after the grief has turned deep and mellow, is this all there is? Is this what I was fighting to get too?

I remember when Art and I would share the weekends. One morning one of us got to sleep in. For a few hours in a week, one of us got time to ourselves to do whatever we wanted to do. I remember we provided for each other with back-up, guidance, help, humor (I have forgotten what it feels like to have a really big belly laugh!) I remember feeling like I could fall down cause not only was there someone there to pick me up but to clean up the mess as well.

I’m not allowed to fall now.

The wave of grief has me so far down that swimming to air, if I knew which way was up, feels like it would take too much energy. Energy I simply don’t have.

My friend said, “Imagine BP (the oil company) losing ½ their staff during this crisis. That’s what happened to you. You lost half your staff when Art died and you were in crisis and still are.”

That makes me smile. It puts an image to the burden I feel.

He follows with “You need a break.” And I want to smack him. How do you take a break from kids who can’t stand to have you go away?

Everyone says “You need a break." and yet no one suggests exactly how that break is supposed to happen, nor do those words follow with an offer of help, in any way. It’s like the airplane thing when they say put the mask on yourself first. What if your mask is all tangled up, barely within reach, in knots?

I am tired. I have been beaten.

Uncle life, Uncle. You win.

I am no good.

I am no good to my children.

I am tired and I just need a rest.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Overwhelmed



It happens.

A song plays. A breeze brushes past my face. A scene from a movie crosses the screen. I stand in the kitchen for no certain reason. A sunset paints itself across the horizon. Our dog sticks his head out the window. I lay silently in bed.

These diminutive things take place, and from head to toe I am overwhelmed with how much I am in love with him. How much of his love gives me random moments of bliss and makes me thankful to be around to feel them.

It's the equivalent to his 6'2 self wrapping his arms around me. A kiss of his lips on my forehead. Awakening to find him watching me.

It's the same sensation, just in a new form. A form that makes all well in this tornado of a world I live in.

I don't know where they come from or why, but they are a reminder of the capacity of happiness that is and can be felt in this soul of mine. A whisper from his soul into mine. A promise that he's always with me. A promise that all will be well.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Photo from Fort Dodge


This week my little girl, Liv, started school....not kindergarten or grade one. Until now, she had been homeschooled.
When Jeff was alive, we had discussed our desires for our children's education and what we thought would be the best pathway for our family to take. Although we both agreed that homeschooling was the choice for us at the time, Jeff felt that the advent of Grade Three would signal an appropriate time for our daughter to enter the public school system. I had balked at the idea....and really I thought that I had years to prepare my argument to sway his thinking.
When he died, I didn't think about it much, but I suppose part of me figured I could have my own way now.
It turns out he was right. Grade Three is the year that Liv begins her public school journey. It's bumpy but she's enjoying it.
And I feel that Jeff left me with instructions for his wishes....and it makes me feel less alone when I drop her off each morning. This is what he wanted for our little girl....and maybe he's watching over her as she trudges up the pathway into the school doors and grinning. He won.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

something small.

i just found it

the other day,

still attached to a

belt loop

on an old

pair of jeans.

it was part of me

everyday for two weeks,

that simple

metal object,

it held on

to the things

that meant so

much to her

in life

and will mean

so much to her

daughter when she's old

enough to appreciate them.

i tried to put

the jeans on,

leaving the safety

pin where i

found it.

one leg in.

but as i tried to

push my right leg

through the emptiness,

i stopped...

i pulled my left

leg out,

folded the jeans

up and placed

them back in

bottom of the drawer

where i'd found them.

not today,

i thought.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Eat, Pray ......


..... and Love.
No, not the book.

But just those three small words.

I was looking at my copy of the book this morning, wondering what I was going to post about for WV.
And then I started thinking about those 3 words.
And about how small they are, but also about how much power and emotion has been packed into each of them since Jim died.

First ..... Eat.
I think that eating was my first voluntary/sometimes involuntary action to leave.
Eating became a huge issue ...... for everyone but me.
People kept insisting that I eat.
I would look at them (sometimes, but not most times) and think, "I can NOT believe that my body is still breathing on it's own.  Even THAT hurts.  And you want me to try to put something in my mouth?!"
Just the thought of that was enough to make me want to run to the bathroom.
At first it was annoying.
And then I started to get pissed.
Really, really pissed.
Yes, I know that everyone loved me and wanted the best for me and the fact that I lost 20 pounds in 2 weeks scared the crap out of them.
But Jim was dead.
I physically could not eat.
Not enough, anyway.
Not enough to please anyone.
I wasn't trying NOT to eat (although I guess subconsciously I could have been trying to starve myself to death, but it was never a thought).
I just couldn't.
Eating food made me sick.
For quite a while.
But I survived.
And slowly gained back my weight.

Eating.
Eating is a huge topic among the people who love widows.
Either we don't eat enough.
Or we eat too much.

Eating.
I think it's over rated ..... especially during grief.

The next word:  Pray

Wow .... that word has just recently stopped making my blood pressure rise.
First I must tell you that I am a Christian.  I have a deep faith in God and know that I wouldn't be here if I hadn't had that relationship.   I've known God longer than I knew Jim.
But .....
the 24 hours that Jim was in the hospital .... fine one day, seriously sick the next ..... I prayed.  And I never doubted that Jim would survive.  Never.
There were thousands, literally thousands, of people all over the world praying for him.  The waiting room was full of our friends and loved ones who were praying.  Our whole community (he was the president of our school board) was praying for him.  They even asked for prayers for him on our local Christian radio station.
I.
Never.
Doubted.
Never.

And then ..... he died.  In surgery.
And I was beyond stunned.
Of course I was stunned to hear that he didn't make it .... when it never occurred to me that he wouldn't.
But I think I was more stunned at God.
I remember sitting in "that room" .... you know .... the one they make you go to so that the doctor can talk to you ...... the one you don't want to go in, but people almost carry you into (or maybe that was just me).
I sat in that room, with my children and our friends surrounding us (I think it was a big room) .... and sat face to face with the surgeon.  I remember him holding my hands and apologizing and telling me how everything went horribly wrong.
But the thing I remember most about those minutes ..... was me, thinking in my head .... to God, "What are You thinking??!!  WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING????!!!"  That's all I could think .... over and over and over again.  What the Hell was he thinking?  I could NOT do this.  This wasn't right and I was the wrong person for the job.
And my prayer life immediately changed.
It stopped for a while ..... which I know is normal.
I wasn't worried about it.  I knew it would come back.
But I also knew it would never be the same.
And it's not.
I still pray .... but I don't pray as specifically anymore.
Instead of praying for someone to be healed ..... I pray for their strength ..... whatever happens.
Yes, I suppose I still have some trust issues to overcome with God.
But I'm ok with that.
And so is He.

Prayer ...... what a box of dynamite that word contains.

And the last word:  Love

What is there left to say that we haven't all felt, experienced, lost, grieved for, read, been told about, etc?
Love .... another small word packed with more emotion that the world can sometimes hold.

I loved.
I was loved.
I am loved.
I continue to love.

I may never be loved again the way Jim loved me.
And I think I'm now OK with that.
But I think I'm OK with it only because ...... I had it.
And once you've had it ..... you realize, unfortunately, how very rare it actually is.
That discovery has made me sad for very many couples.

I don't know why I had it.
I didn't earn it.
I didn't demand it ..... because, of course .... you can't.
And I in no way deserved it.
But I was blessed to have it.
And I tried never to take it for granted, although of course I did every so often.
But I also thanked God every day for the gift of Jim.
And .... I still do.

Love kept me here.
Love for Jim, knowing he would want me to stay here.
Love for my children, who needed me more than they ever had before.
Love for my family and love for my friends ..... who ceaselessly worried about and cared for me.

Love.
It can make you eat.
It can make you not eat.
It can make you pray.
It can make you not pray.

Love ..... I think it's the most powerful word there is .... in any language.
Even though it's small in size.

It's big enough to make you keep on breathing, keep on crawling, keep on ..... just ..... keeping on.

Eat.
Pray.
Love.

I imagine those three small words have started a multitude of wars all over our world.
Each one packed with enough power to heal ..... or hurt ..... depending on how they are used .....

.... or misused.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Escape


I'd like to get on the boat above and sail off into the sunset to a place where I am responsible for nothing and no one needs me. Ever. For anything.

Sometimes the pressure of being the "only parent" feels so intense I can hardly bear it. All decisions are made by me, all responsibility is born by me. I have no partner to lean on when I've had too much. No one to take over when I need a time out. I have to be in it regardless of my readiness or mental state. There is no other option. The buck stops with me.

If I need help there is no one there to see it and offer it. If I need help I have to ask for it. I feel like I'm constantly having to ask for help, get someone's assistance so that I can have even the smallest break. I'm sick of asking. Its not fair to me that I have to do this alone. It's not fair to Grayson. He doesn't get the best of me. He gets what's left after I work, pay bills, take care of the house, groceries, laundry, dinner, homework, etc. What's left after that? What's left for him? Hell, what's left for me?

I know I'm preaching to the choir, but I guess it helps that you get it. Another chapter in the book of "why it sucks to be widowed". And yes, I would like some cheese to go with my whine. Thanks for listening.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The August Flu




Even though I have now lived through the month of August five times since Phil's death, I once again failed to notice the signs of the anniversary flu as August 31st approached this year. Maybe you recognize some of the symptoms?

physically achy
impatient
slightly glum, but with no real cause
low grade sense of impending doom
decreased level of energy
increased level of anxiety about people I love dying
upset stomach
disinterest in food
dull headache that may last for a day or so
realization that grief triggers are suddenly around every corner

During the month of August my body knows what day it is even if my brain is blissfully unaware. Phil died on the first day of school in 2005, so back to school is awash in bittersweet memories for me. Each year as the kids head off for their first day of classes, my heart aches a little. Somehow during the month of the deathiversary I recall where we were at any given moment because I find myself accidentally standing in the very place that I am remembering. Coincidence? A subconscious desire to walk a path we once walked together? I don't know, but I am certain that there is a visceral memory bank stored in my body that activates somewhere in the middle of the eighth month of the year.

Since this is the first deathiversary that Michael was here in the US, I wondered how the anniversary day would go. I wasn't sure what I needed, we are in the middle of planning a wedding, I was in New York the week before, and the amount of time I have been out of my office of late meant that I HAD to work. First thing in the morning Michael said, "Honey, I am not sure how I fit into today, but please let me know what you need...space, time out of the house, me to go somewhere...whatever." I thought about this statement for a minute and then told him that all I needed was for him to be himself. Oh, and not to die, thank you very much.

After I said this I realized that Michael being Michael and Phil being Phil was just what I needed on that day. My need to spend the whole day in memory of what was lost has changed. I am held up and loved so well by my family, friends, and widowed community that I feel this outpouring of loving remembrance is enough. We went out to Mexican food together and toasted Phil, each of the kids shared a memory that made them laugh. And then we made plans for the next day, because life does go on.

I don't know how many times I will suffer from the anniversary flu, but I do know that I wouldn't walk down this memory lane filled with markers of my final days with Phil if our lives together weren't seeped in love. So even though my body rebels a bit as the days on the calendar pass, the visions I have of our time together speak of the joy of being married to Phil and that joyful, playful, solid, committed love is a permanent part of my personal history.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ours to Mine


Our wedding rings are no more.

His was so huge. My 6'6" husband had fingers that matched his size.
When he died, I removed his ring
and put it into the ring box that I kept my diamond in.

I don't remember when I took off my wedding bands.
Long enough so that wearing a ring on my "wedding" finger feels odd.

I needed something that would represent us, who we were, who we will always be.
Something that spoke to our commitment to each other, our fights, our love making, our sense of humor, our thought provoking, intelligent conversations.

Something that said moved 8 times, birthed two kids at home, had dogs, interrupted each other to read interesting or beautiful sentences from books. Something that said didn't like to be tickled, loved to be held, incredible father, kind, endearing, stubborn. Something that spoke of our love of Monty Python, riding race bikes and moving our bodies in any form of athleticism only because it felt good. Something that spoke to our competitiveness with each other. Something that held our dissatisfaction of the world and our desire and actions to make it better.

I needed something that would not get in the way of my committing to someone else, but something that would remind me that yes I was fiercely loved for exactly who I am.
Yes, I was worth the time.

Something that will give me hope to being loved like that again ... only differently.

And so I had our rings, his wedding band, my wedding band, the anniversary band and the diamond he gave me, I had them melted and put back together, differently.


Just like me.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

26






This Sunday will mark my baby's 26th birthday....or 4th birthday in heaven. However you want to look at it.


Birthday's we're always such a happy time but even three year's later, the angst of certain holidays never weaken with time.


I remember when I had my 23rd birthday...I had officially had lived longer then my soul mate. Though that birthday was hard and not being able to celebrate his with him is equally difficult, I try to use these days to celebrate who he is/was/continues to be in my life.


I like to buy him cards and have them displayed on these special days, because for me, he's on this journey with me as much as I am with him. Ups, downs, and all.


Tonight, as shuffling through the card aisle of Wal-Mart, I found one I thought fit perfectly. I'd like to share it below:


Front:

Real love takes more than flowers

means more than

beautiful words.

Real Love means keeping promises...

holding on when you don't want to, being strong so that others may rest.

And as time and change

swirl around us,

the love we share

stands quietly (or loudly in my case) in the midst of our lives,

forever beautiful,

forever real.


Inside:

Sometimes I stop and think

about what we've been through

together- the good, the bad,

and everything in between.

And I realize that there's

no one I'd rather share

my life with than you.


Happy Birthday to the Man I Love (and I'm in love with)


I love you, baby, and am SO in love with you. The only gift I can think of getting you is the one you give me day in and day out...and that is my love...my unconditional, unwavering, undying love.

Happy Birthday!

Friday, September 3, 2010

stuffing

Photo by Bug'sBitePlayfood
Written on Dec. '08...Nine months after Jeff died



I've been stuffing. I don't mean putting bread and spices into a turkey's nether regions. I mean my emotions.
It's been too painful to deal with this loss. I avoid Jeff's photos. I redirect my thoughts. I do things that seem to take the pain away for a moment. When I talk of the loss of Jeff, I refuse to feel the sadness. I push it down. I turn away. I try to forget. Like a door closed to a fire, the smoke eventually seeps under through the cracks.
I almost felt smug with this coping mechanism. I thought that I had found a way to survive with out crumbling at least once a day. We all hear that you 'should' allow yourself to feel emotions so they don't come back later to get you. But I guess I thought I was the exception. "I can do it", I told myself, "I'm strong." But it turns out that I'm not strong. I'm a coward. I've been hiding under a blanket and hoping that it will be gone when I emerge. Like a child hiding from a monster. But I am hiding from sadness, loneliness and fear.
But now, I can't hide. The last two days have been really hard. I am on the verge of tears constantly. I feel lost and beyond sad.
It's like a wound that superficially closed over but still brews infection. It looked okay but beneath the surface the infection has been pushing at the scab and pulsing. The pressure has been building and causing a lump to form. Suddenly, the wound has broken open again, spilling its' pus and reminding me of the initial injury. I scurry to find a band aid but what it really needs is fresh air and an occasional cleansing.
I have still have dreams that he's alive and I am happy. Suddenly, he can't breathe. Instead of trying to save him as I did in real life, I run away. I hide. He dies alone.
What I'm learning is that there is no convenient time for grieving. I can't hide. I have to feel this. I don't want to. I want to curl up in a ball and sleep. I am tired and I don't want to do this.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

not what I imagined



it's been three

years since i was

here, in the place

that appears to be

the end of the earth.

my life is

much different now than

i imagined it would be,

(whose isn't, right?)

but being here makes

it seem like

nothing has changed.

that blue building

where we stayed is

still there.

i just walked

past it.

the boats in the harbor

continue to ferry tourists

to the fishing spots,

and the deckhands

still give the

same stories to avoid

cleaning the cod.

i'm here now.

feeling like i did back

then, but today when

i get off the boat

with my brother,

liz

won't be waiting

for us at the

bar with the money

on the walls.

but i'll go

and sit there anyway,

with my him and his

friends, trying to figure

out how to say

something funny enough

to make them laugh

when all i want

to do is

disappear for awhile.