January 12, 2014

The Hard Part

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 5:40 pm by Debbie

About a year ago a friend warned me that the second year of widow-ness would be harder than the first. I’ve heard and/or read the same ‘warning’ several times since. Silly talk. Everyone knows the first year is the hardest. Right? Wrong.

And here I thought making it through the first year would be such an accomplishment. Wrong again. Hmmpf.

The Firsts
The first year is, well, all about firsts. You find yourself dealing with one first after another. And it’s not just the first important dates like anniversaries, birthdays and holidays. It’s the first time you want to talk to them about something. The first time you roll over in bed and remember why they aren’t there. The first financial decision you have to make alone. The first party you go to without your other half. The first trip back to his hometown. The first (ugh) home repair. It’s all about the firsts. Each one dealing its own blow. One right after another. Add to the mix that you spend a good part of the year in shock, rehashing those last moments, dealing with strange emotions along with your grief, and trying to figure out how to at least attempt to control the tears.

Plenty to handle. But as hard as all of that is, I’m learning that the second year of widow-ness is harder. My friend was right. It’s true. Really. Here’s my take on what makes months 13 thru 24 such tough ones:

The Missing
The missing. Oh, the missing. Of course you miss them during the first year. But remember, there’s that shock thingy going on. And during the second year the missing sets in. Big time. I couldn’t have, in my wildest dreams, ever imagined missing someone as much as I do Dave. After over 30 years together, I kinda got used to the big ox. We were a part of each other. And trying to come to grips with him not being here is hard. Really hard. It’s a stab to the heart sharper than his death was. And, man, does it hurt.

Waning Support*
And since everyone in the whole universe (except those who know better) thinks that the first year is the hardest, you’ll also notice a weakening in the strength of your support system. Innocently, family and friends think you must be doing well. After all, you made it through the first year. They might even think (because they don’t know any better) that it’s time for you to ‘get over it’ and ‘move on’ (and I think that’s another post topic altogether.)

You Without Them
And while you miss them terribly and might be feeling like you’re at it alone, you begin to realize that you have to figure out who the-you-without-them really is. The second year is about defining who you are. It’s about figuring out your new normal. It’s about learning to live life without a part of your breath. It’s about choosing to enjoy life without them. It’s about getting back up. When and if the journey through grief finds you ready, the second year is about searching for and redefining happiness.

I don’t care who you are, that’s really freakin’ hard to do. Really!

*I don’t mention this little tidbit because I want to speak out to anyone in particular. And I don’t know of anyone who would be brave enough to say something like ‘get over it’ to me. Quite the contrary. I happen be related to and am the friend of some of the most awesome-est people in the world.

November 10, 2013

A Matter Of Sleep

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 8:05 pm by Debbie

It’s a king. A king-sized bed. Big. Lots of room. And there I was, sleeping on one little sliver. It was time to conquer the bed.

Dave was no small man. And I don’t like anyone touching me while I sleep (don’t judge – maybe I’m claustrophobic.) So there was never much of a decision to make. The bed had to be a big one. Now, you’d think after a year without Dave that I would have figured out how to take full advantage of my “new” space. Not so much. Night after night, day after day, week after week, I was sleeping in one small portion of the bed. I decided to change my sleeping habits. Seriously, do you have any idea how hard that is?

I started by inching toward the center one night. But then I realized that our two bodies had made indents in the pillow top, creating a small hill in the center of the mattress. Okay, maybe not a hill, but it felt like it in the middle of the night. And no, my mattress isn’t more than ten years old. And yes, I know you’re suppose to change your mattress every eight years, like the commercial says, but I figure it takes nine years to remember to check how old your mattress is and then another year to actually get around to buying a new one. So, if mine is under ten, then I must be okay. A simple solution (though not really simple because it’s a two-person job and required me to enlist the assistance of my son, who really wasn’t interested in helping at that moment) was to rotate the mattress. Done.

Then I started inching toward the center. Again. It was kinda nice. Spacious, even. I slept well. And then morning came and I was too far away from my alarm clock to hit the snooze button and that really, really, really irritated me. So, I went back to sleep while my alarm was blaring. And I over slept.

Then I decided to angle my feet and legs in toward the center, keeping my head and arms close to the edge. Full utilization of the bed. Sleeping at an angle. Hands close to the snooze button. Win, win. Not so much. Apparently I was invading the dog’s territory at the foot of the other side of the bed, so he was up and down and bouncing around all night long. And I overslept.

Then I decided that I really didn’t need to conquer the bed. Not everything has to change. The dogs are happier this way. And I’m not oversleeping quite so much. And coming to the realization that not everything has to change was the real win, win.

September 15, 2013

One-Year Deathiversary

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 9:01 pm by Debbie

Dave died one year ago on September 20, 2012. I call it D-Day. Death Day. This Friday is his one-year deathiversary. That should be a word. Not a celebratory word. Just a word.

The child in me concocted a fantasy that Dave’s one-year deathiversary would be magical. The clock would tick on 2:30 PM and I would be transformed into someone who has fond memories without the pain. Someone who has known love, but not profound lose. Someone whose life is . . normal again.

The adult in me is, perhaps, somewhat wiser. Normal included Dave. I can’t wish him back. I can’t turn back time. I can’t analyze the pain away. I can’t have one more conversation with him. There is no possibility of returning to my old normal. I have to find a new normal.

Looking back on the first year I’ve spent without Dave, I think that’s what I’ve been doing. Trying to find my new normal. When tragedy strikes and you work to put the shattered pieces of your life back together, at some point you begin to realize that it’s impossible to do so in the same manner. They don’t fit quite right. The new shape will emerge transformed. It will be different. Your transformed life might be just as beautiful, but it will never be the same as it was before. It’s kinda like that.

I can already tell that I’ve begun to change. For example, I’m not as obsessed with a clean house as I used to be. No wait a minute, I was never obsessed with a clean house. An occasional tangent, maybe, but not obsessed. But there are subtle differences in the way I view life, my priorities, and my reactions to the world around me. And I have a bucket list now. And by golly, I’m going to ride in a hot air balloon, go skydiving, go zip lining, visit Ireland, and hold at least one grandchild in my arms.

So as I spend the upcoming week reliving the moments of a year ago, rehashing the countless list of ‘what ifs’ and crying (a lot), I may also spend a minute or two looking at the possibilities the future is likely to hold. And I’ll definitely hope for a better year next year. Or at least one with a few less tears.

July 7, 2013

How Are You?

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 11:00 am by Debbie

The conversation goes something like this:

Person: “How are you?”
Me: “I’m fine.”
Person: “And how are the kids doing?”
Me: “They’re okay, too.”

The well-intended question. Spoken from the heart of friends and family who really do care that we’re all okay. Unfortunately, I can’t provide the true answer right now. Not because I don’t want to. I’m just not sure I could. The answer in my head goes something like this:

“I’m okay. No I’m not. Yes I am. I don’t really know. I will be okay – that much I do know. But I’m sad, I’m mad, I’m confused, I’m worried. I’m in auto-pilot mode. I miss him. That cute little old couple that walked into the restaurant had no idea that the sight of them instantly angered me. I’ll never have that with Dave. My soulmate can’t grow old with me. I’m worried about my children, finances, the future. I miss him terribly. I’ve had a part of my heart ripped in half and yanked out through my toes. I’m living a horror story. I’m in shock. I really miss him. I just want to talk to him, but I can’t. I hate this. I laugh at memories, expecting some “Dave” response that never comes. Tears drop unexpectedly. They just appear. I’m lonely, but not alone. I hate cancer. I still can’t believe this happened. I’m so glad he’s not suffering and there’s no more pain. For him. Just pain for me. I can do this. My best friend is gone. Gone. I wish he were still here. I’m calm on the outside, a smoothie blender twirling on the inside. Will someone please wake me up from this nightmare? It’s not fair. Life isn’t fair. I’m okay. No I’m not. Yes I am. I don’t really know. I will be okay – that much I do know.”

Here’s what I can tell you: Grief isn’t an illness that you magically get over. I won’t wake up one morning and be cured of anything. It’s something that I have to learn to live with. It’s like an unexpected visit from a deadbeat cousin that you didn’t know you had who does not plan to leave. Ever. On the outside you’re the perfect, calm, cool, friendly host. On the inside you’ve plotted his demise a thousand different ways. But somehow, someway, you have to learn to live with the new annoyance in your life. No matter how uncomfortable his presence is.

And we’re learning to live with the annoyance of Cousin Grief. That’s how we’re doing.

But do me favor, will you? Please don’t stop asking. Because when you ask me how I am, even though I can’t tell you the truth, at least I know you care. And that means the world to me.

June 16, 2013

Happy Father’s Day

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 7:20 pm by Debbie

Remembering you is easy, I do it every day.
Missing you is the heartache that never goes away.

In honor of Father’s Day and in memory of the two special “fathers” in my life (mine and the father of my children), I decided to share some related randomness with you – a snippet of my weekend, if you will:

~ Me (directed to my Dad and Dave after accidentally spraying myself in the face (twice) with the water hose while washing the car*): “Okay you two, you can stop laughing now. It wasn’t that funny.”

~ Conversation with myself: “Dave would be so impressed that I washed the car inside and out. No, on second thought, he’d probably have to critique my not-so-perfect job and tell me how I had done something-or-other wrong. Come to think of it, he’s probably rolling over in his grave that I even washed the car at all. I wonder where that phrase comes from? Shoot. Now I have to go look it up. Never mind. I’m sticking with the first one – Dave would be so impressed that I washed the car inside and out.”

~ Thoughts while looking at old photos of my Dad: Wow, Dad doesn’t have gray hair in this picture. And he’s still skinny. I wonder if we (kids) caused his gray hair and weight gain. No, wait a minute. He didn’t get gray hair and gain weight until after we all moved out. So, it must have been all Mom’s fault. What was I thinking?

~ Texts with my children:
Me: Since tomorrow is Father’s Day and your father isn’t here, you two should spend money on me, instead.
Son: U don’t get two days.
Daughter: Yeah Mom, you don’t get two days.
Me: Clearly we did not raise you two right.
Daughter (to her brother): I think we turned out pretty awesome, don’t you think?
Son: Duh

(Note to self: Need to work on that whole two-days thingy for next year.)

~ Conversation at dinner after I suggest to my two (adult) children that they pitch in more around the house:
Son: You should be nice to us since it’s Father’s Day and we don’t have a father any more.
Me: Seriously. Lame.

~ To all of the Dads I know: I hope your day was special.

~ And to my Dad and Dave: I love you. I miss you. Happy Father’s Day.

*In my defense, you should know that the hose handle will, occasionally and randomly, come back on after it’s turned off. I’m really only an airhead once in a while. Really.

My Daddy and me:

20130616-200320.jpg

Update: My Mom won’t let me blame my Dad’s gray hair and whatnot on her. She says I have to blame heredity. Okay. Whatever.

June 10, 2013

Water, Water, Just Like Me And Some Advice

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 6:00 pm by Debbie

Note to reader: I noticed that my last few posts have been the down-in-the-dumps kind of posts. I promised I’d do my best to try to find the humor. It’s not always easy. Challenging, some might say. I’m not going to apologize, but this week I decided to tell you a story, provide some potentially useful advice, share an epiphany, and (maybe) make you smile. Not in that order.

Note to self: Don’t forget to buy the Homeownership For Dummies book.

Somewhere in the middle of our kitchen remodel, after dinner one evening, I was cleaning the kitchen. Yes, we clean the kitchen after every meal. Usually. Sorta. Anyway, I was running water in the sink and had just turned the dishwasher on when I heard a yell from the basement, “Turn off the water, something’s leaking.” So, I turned off the water (left the dishwasher running) and headed downstairs, thinking it’s probably a dishwasher hose not connected tight enough. And that doesn’t make much sense, because not only would the dishwasher hose not leak in the basement, but I left it running. At least, I don’t think a dishwasher hose would leak in the basement. Maybe it would.

As I hit the last step and turned the corner, I could hear what sounded like a waterfall. A big waterfall. A big waterfall with a lot of water. A big waterfall with a lot of water pouring out of the ceiling. A big waterfall with a lot of water pouring out of the ceiling from my kitchen above. A big waterfall with a lot of water pouring out of the ceiling from my kitchen above and into my laundry room. A. Lot. Of. Water.

Since I’m not a total idiot, I knew that I needed to shut off the water before I could deal with the water. I went directly to where I thought the water shut off valve was. It wasn’t there. I didn’t think those things could move by themselves. But it was gone. Or was never there. So the next logical move was to start to panic just a little. I yelled at my son to help me find the stupid shut off valve thingy. We tried a couple of options. Nothing worked. I was beginning to think the house didn’t have a water shut off valve and headed upstairs to grab my phone to call in the experts (e.g., big brothers.) As I was sprinting away, I yelled to my son to “keep looking.” His response was something to the tune of, “You’re the homeowner. You’re supposed to know where these things are.”

Well strike a match and watch the temper blow. Mine. How dare he, right? As I was yelling screaming in response, “My [bleepin] husband just died! How, exactly, do you think I should know all of this [bleepin] [bleep]?” As if he didn’t know that my husband, his father, had recently died. And that’s when it hit me. The epiphany. I realized at that moment that my son was just like me. Because that’s exactly what I would have said at exactly that same moment. I would have said it a little more under my breath, though.

Three calls later and I finally got one of my brothers on the phone. We were about twenty minutes into the ordeal at this point and had figured out that the leak was coming from the copper pipe/hose that connects to the fridge for the ice maker. Or something like that. Apparently, when you move your refrigerator in and out (because you’re remodeling and it’s a small kitchen and the big thing is always in the way), you can easily rub a hole in that pipe/hose thingy, or whatever it is. And a LOT of water runs through that hose thingy.

Another thirty minutes later and my big brother had driven to my house, shut off the water, pulled the old hose, gone to the hardware store to buy a new hose, and put it back in its place. Okay, maybe forty-five minutes. Crisis over. Thank God for big brothers.

Guess what? THE WATER SHUT OFF VALVE WAS EXACTLY WHERE I THOUGHT IT WAS ALL ALONG. Yep. Just hidden a little. Actually, hidden a lot. But, in the same place.

And here’s my advice: If you know where your water shut off valve is, go find your spouse or significant other and show them where it is. If you do not know where your water shut off valve is, go find your spouse or significant other and ask them to show you where it is. If you live alone, call your brother and ask him where it is. For Pete’s sake, don’t go to sleep tonight until you know where the water shut off valve is! I beg of you! That, and don’t stick Q-tips in your ears.

June 2, 2013

Intensely Intense

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 8:32 pm by Debbie

A coworker of mine went to heaven last week. Cancer won another battle. He was twenty-six years old – the same age as my son. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes and an ache to my heart.

I have read several articles and blogs about the intensity of general emotions after experiencing profound lose. I read them, but never gave pause to the possibility that I might experience the same thing. I’m the strong one. The one who can handle all of this. The one who knows how to move on. The one who has her emotions under control. Yeah, right.

That might be true on the outside. The inside is a different story. By the way, on the off chance that you’re thinking I was a crass witch before Dave died, understand that I have always been sensitive and empathetic. But never in a crippling manner. And never so intensely so.

While on the way to drop off food for the grieving family, I cried like a baby. When I got there, I could hardly talk. My voice cracked as I attempted to offer consoling words. The day of the funeral I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go until the second I started my car. On my way to work that morning, I nearly hyperventilated and had to pull over to catch my breath. And a solid night’s sleep evaded me for almost a week.

Yep. Its real. Intensely intense emotions. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear someone slipped me a this-magnifies-emotions-by-tens-of-thousands pill. Eventually my calm, sane, don’t-be-selfish side won over. Emotions back to a controllable state. And now I’m just terribly sad that cancer won another battle and the world lost another one of the good guys. Meanwhile, if you all could do me a favor and not get sick (or worse) any time soon, I’d greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

May 7, 2013

Funky Funk

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:00 pm by Debbie

Lately I’ve been in a funk. A funky funk. I’m not necessarily depressed. Just not myself. I’m not sure what name to give the funk. If I had to guess I’d say its name is grief. I’ll call it the Grief Funk.

I do alright during the day. Then when I get home, I’m tired. I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to write. I don’t want to work on the house. I don’t want to mess with any of my hobbies. I focus my eyes to the TV or fumble with my phone and my favorite games. Hey now, don’t knock the whole games-on-the-phone thing until you’ve played What’s The Phrase, Words With Friends or Scramble. Serious waste-of-time fun.

But I’m not doing anything. I’m fiddling. I’m passing time. I’m not living. I feel like I’m on a ride through numbness. And Grief Funk won’t let me stop the ride to get off.

I think I’m smarter than that. And I think I’m also stronger than that. And I’m certain that I’m much more stubborn and bull-headed than that, not to mention slightly used to getting my way. Yes, just slightly.

So I decided to create a new goal for myself. I have to do something productive every evening. It can be anything, as long as it appears to the sane part of my brain to be productive. Last night I went to a friend’s house for dinner. Tonight I wrote a thank you card, activated my new bank cards and took out the trash. And here I am now, writing again.

I’ve pictured myself standing with squared shoulders, defiant eyes and set jaw and saying to Grief Funk, “Screw you.”

April 7, 2013

Ring Around The Finger

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 4:17 pm by Debbie

It’s a tough decision. There isn’t a definitive right or wrong time. Each individual must decide what to do for themselves. As if adding another something-to-ponder to myriad others we (widows) find ourselves faced with makes it weigh less on our mind.

When, if ever, do I stop wearing my wedding ring?

The answer is a simple one: when it feels right.

My solution to the ring dilemma was to replace my wedding ring with one that’s symbolic and meaningful in another, perhaps more, special way. Before you start spreading rumors about how shocked you are that I would dismiss our wedding vows so quickly (which is probably the furthest thing from my mind right now), let me give you a little back story. . .

I haven’t worn the ring that Dave gave me on our wedding day for quite a number of years. Yes, I weigh the same today as I did then (minor miracle, I might add), so it still fits. No, I didn’t lose it or break it. It’s safely tucked away for the day that I will hand it down to my son. You see, the ring Dave gave me on our wedding day was a family heirloom, traditionally passed down to the first born. Dave was the first born. My son is the first born. My wedding band belongs to my son.

Which brings me back to my decision to nix the ring. The ring I was wearing carried little sentiment, other than its symbolic statement and the treasure those vows hold in my heart.

The new ring I’m now wearing is all of that and then some. It’s still a band and it’s still symbolic of our love. It has five ruby baguettes, each separated by a small round diamond. The four diamonds represent each member of our family. The rubies (my birthstone) represent strength and determination. Specifically, my need to find strength and stay determined to carry on. The fact that there are five of them was no accident – one for each decade of Dave’s life on earth. When I look at this ring, I am instantly reminded of Dave, my children and myself. And yet it’s simple, petite and doesn’t scream “you are married!”

Decision made. And it feels right.

March 25, 2013

Time Stood Still

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 6:37 pm by Debbie

John F. Kennedy once said, “For time and the world do not stand still.” And we’ve all heard the phrase, “time stands still for no man.” Of course, in the literal sense, these are true statements. However, my heart begs to differ.

These past few months I’ve glimpsed a thousand moments where time stood still. Frozen moments. They feel like only yesterday. They feel like a lifetime ago. They are crisp, clear flashbacks that now form snapshots, heart tugs, tears, and smiles. They are the memories that keep Dave’s love alive. Each one a bauble that when strung together create the most dazzling charm bracelet my heart could wear.

Big and small; meaningful, powerful and eloquent; insignificant, trivial and silly – they’re there. The I-do moment, the it’s-a-boy and it’s-a-girl moments, belly-laugh moments, singing-at-the-top-of-our-lungs moments, sports moments, quiet moments, sad moments, proclaiming-brown-to-look-like-poo* moments, smile moments, no-tag-backs moments, and myriad more.

And so, time does stand still. For those moments. The moments that memories are made of.

*As I stood back to admire my newly painted kitchen cabinets the other day (a DIY project that may have been more than we should have undertaken, and isn’t completed yet), I laughed out loud as I realized just how much Dave would hate the color. “I don’t like brown,” he proclaimed. “It reminds me too much of poo.”

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