Friday, February 10, 2012

Screw February

February is my landmine month and the only way I think I can make it through is chin down, teeth bared and feet moving. So far, it’s been a blur.

February 14th is my 42nd birthday. I cringe at the idea of celebrating without my sweet wife but time doesn’t stop, whether I want to recognize it or not. My 40th was my first birthday after Maggie’s Angel Day and I couldn’t in my wildest dreams imagine a reason to celebrate that day without her so I didn’t. Since then, I’ve felt no love for my birthday. How could I? How can I celebrate another year in my life when she’s not with me? We were supposed to travel together to our old ages and celebrate our rocking-chair days. Yet now it’s just me. Celebrate? No. I’d much rather just forget.

February 28th is our 8th wedding anniversary. Damn. I’ve commiserated before about what to call that day. “Our anniversary”? No. She’s not with me any more. “My anniversary”? It’s hard to have a “My” wedding anniversary. Damn semantics.

February 29th is MY wedding anniversary. This date is easier but the humor of it all feeds my sadness. See, we were married twice: once on the 28th which was OUR wedding and then once again on the 29th which was MY wedding. (MY wedding was in Las Vegas. She dressed up as Marylyn Monroe and I dressed up as James Dean. Elvis married us in the Little White Chapel with about 20 of our closest friends attending while dressed as their favorite movie stars.) Our simple plan was that HER wedding anniversary was more important and was to be celebrated every year. MY wedding anniversary, however, came just once every four years and was to be a par-tay! Unfortunately, we didn’t plan for this particular outcome.

Making this month more difficult is that a very good friend of mine’s brother is dying as I type this. His brother has been ill for some time. My friend is keeping a bedside vigil. I know all too well what that looks like and how that feels. My friend has told me many times during this time that he better understands how my life has been. His experiences have brought back many painful memories.

Making this month even worse (and some of you will laugh when I say this but stay with me), a friend of mine’s cat died last night. Yes, we widow/ers have all had that pale comparison made. But my very intuitive friend nailed it this time. For months he had been nursing his poor, ill-health kitty with various caretaking, around-the-clock tasks. Then, suddenly, he was relieved of his position of caretaker. Many of us know all too well that sudden cessation of duties. He was in shock. And all he could do was think of how it was for me back in early May of 2009. More memories for me.

But here’s the real kicker. Yesterday, an old friend of mine sent me a whole bunch of digital memories all wrapped up in a zip file. There were thirty or more pictures and about twelve videos of Maggie and me together. When were these little time capsules from? February 28, 2004 – our wedding day.

Maggie and I both agreed not to videotape the wedding. Jokingly, we said we didn’t want any chance for either of us to play out those sad scenes you see in movies where there’s a dark room and a wedding video playing where it becomes clear that a spouse had died. We only had pictures from that day, pictures I haven’t looked at in years. Now there’s video. As for as I know, these are the only videos in existence of her. It’s like the only proof she was even alive. I feel like I’m sitting in a dark room with a lit match and a stick of emotional dynamite that I haven’t lit yet.

I really try to leave each post I write with a positive message. I’m truly reaching this time for anything more than a message of determination. By taking many steps, a journey will take place. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. You will be surprised at where you’ll end up. (Right foot… left foot… right foot… stumble… right foot again… left foot….)

Part of my journey is writing these words to you. I’ll never know how they affect you. I hope they help in some way, if in no other way, knowing you aren’t alone; I truly want to help. But part of why I write is to know I’m not alone. Surely, I can’t be the only one who lived a dream… and lost.

“Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.” ~ Dr Suess.


  1. Our anniversary is this Saturday. I'm also dreading it-my first without Karl. It would have been number 19. I'm going to a lymphoma fundraiser luncheon on that day-not sure if it is a good idea or a bad but couldn't think of another way to celebrate for my dear husband.

  2. I've just finished reading your piece "Screw February". Thank you. As the tears still sit in my eyes, I tell you that you speak for so many and capture the pain and angst that it is often difficult to describe to those not in our shoes. Your Maggie sounds like a wonderful lady and you had one of those truly special relationships. I had one of those too. I know we should be grateful for that...but, somedays, as you say, it's damn hard! Those memories are everywhere and on the days when we're trying the hardest to keep our heads down and go forward...they find us. Yesterday was the 10 month anniversary of my sweet husbands death...the 21st will be his birthday and he's not here. I too did the months of caretaking and the bedside vigil you speak of. There is a huge hole in my life and my heart.....I miss him more and more instead of less. You're not alone - neither am I .....sadly we're part of a club that we did not want to join. But, here we are and there is comfort in sharing these dark days with others who "get it". Thank you again. SueB

  3. So, so sorry. February is a hard month for us all and though I love love, and the trappings of the day, it's very cold and dark because of my husband's passing. Jay's birthday was in May, but he died on February 28, 2007. Every year I stare at the open block on the calendar. Yesterday waiting in a line, a woman spoke to me about how she and her husband don't do anything for Valentines because they are too busy. I suggested they make each other cards, as we had. My old Valentines festoon my home. There are many of us in the Laid-Off Caretakers Club. I wish you all peace for February, wish you all love, in whatever form it comes now. Chris, I'll be thinking of you the next few weeks. Peace. Jeni T

  4. Thinking of you Chris. You are not alone. May moments of warmth and comfort sneak up on you.
    - Maria

  5. Chris, my first thought when I read your absolutely wonderful post was "what a romantic life he shared with Maggie". How very unique was the anniversary on the "29th". Further, I thought how fortunate that he had so blessed and special times that some go through a lifetime without. But then and as another poster responded, it isn't always easy to focus on what you had, instead we all seem to focus on what we will miss. I soooooo get this. My 30th wedding anniversary would have been on 1/30/2012 and we had planned a trip to Hawaii to celebrate. It does suck that the trip never will happen.

    I do wish you peace and a rush through February. I also thank you for your sharing your life. Your writings have MOST DEFINITELY helped!!!! THANK YOU!!!!

  6. Greg died on March 1, 2010, less than a week after his birthday. My 40th birthday was 30 days later. I had planned a big party to celebrate and then had to cancel it. As far as I'm concerned, I will never celebrate a birthday again.

  7. I stumbled across 2 videos of Dave about 10 months after he died. (I have others, older clips, but haven't wanted to look through my files for them.) But these 2 videos were ones that I hadn't taken and so I wasn't familiar with them.
    One was a short clip of him at Detroit Red Wing's playoff game a few years ago. The other was a eulogy he gave at a student's funeral 2 years before he died.

    I replayed them over and over again that day - mesmerized by the swagger in his step, and the cadence of his speech, amazed that I hadn't seen him walking or talking for almost a year.
    It's hard. Brutally hard. And I can't bring myself to do it again.

    Today as I walked the dog I thought about Valentine's Day, and wondered what I'd done last year. Nothing I think. I really don't remember!
    Our anniversary was a month ago. I went out with a girlfriend for dinner and a movie. I was thinking about that as well this evening. I think I'm at the point that I barely want to acknowledge it anymore, let alone celebrate it.

    Thank you for your post Chris.
    Best wishes for your birthday and the rest of the month.

  8. This morning I called my husband's cell phone. He's been gone almost 16 months so i don't know why I was shocked to hear a strange woman's voice on the voice mail. It sent me into a tail spin. I still trick myself through the day sometimes. The crazy part of me still feels on some level that if I do everything right he will magically appear. This whole tragedy is somehow a test and I will have passed. The kids have stayed in school, gotten good grades, made it to aikido and soccer and camp and sleep overs. I am almost finished building the house we had planned for the past 8 years. The animals are all well and happy. I haven't (by all appearances) fallen apart. Anyhow, that's my own coping system. But I'm just writing to you to say thank you again. Thank you for writing and sharing. Last week a wonderful girl I know, who was also a classmate of my son's and a former student of mine called to ask me to buy tickets to a fundraiser for her soccer team. The event was a Valentine's Day dance. I almost laughed as I said I would be happy to buy to tickets but would not be attending (her parents had a table they needed to fill). I am so grateful for this site. Although I don't come here every day, when I need a little virtual love and compassion I can always find it here. Bless us all (we need it). Happy Birthday and I think Maggie's looking down and seeing her wonderful Chris, sharing and helping all the people looking for a little light.

  9. "My" wedding anniversary is also February 29th. This February would have been our first real anniversary. He didn't make it. I'm reaching, Valentines Day, Wedding Anniversary, and the 6 month mark all in the same month. I would gladly love to fast forward through it.

  10. Good bye and good riddance February 2012 - you were a painful month! I lost my husband in July. We were in the process of relocating for his job when he passed suddenly while traveling. What would have been my 28th wedding anniversary fell in the same week i closed on my house. Then two weeks later my 5 year old dog got very sick and i had to put her down. Someone asked me if i was giving up anything for Lent - i laughed and said, "i think i have given up enough this year". My thoughts are with you all, I can only hope your pain lessens each day.
    Yes, goodbye February!