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.

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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.”

February 20, 2013

The Somewhat Merry Widow’s Club

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 8:30 pm by Debbie

Here you are. A recent widow. It’s really an icky place to be. And not one you planned for. Not in your wildest dreams. All sorts of odd things will happen to you and within you. Your family, friends and acquaintances will show you all manner of sides. You’ll get the pity looks, the sad-eyed looks, the I-can’t-imagine looks. You’ll encounter those who want to hug you, mother you, take your pain away, love you. You’ll cross paths with those who don’t know anything about your story, don’t care about your story, and certainly don’t want to hear your story. And you’ll suddenly be surrounded by those who have traveled and are traveling the same journey. Those who really get it . . . Wait. What? Someone gets it?

The Somewhat Merry Widow’s Club.
The initiation is brutal. Invitations to join aren’t sent, they just happen. Listening skills are required at all times. Memories are shared, not for one-upmanship, but for understanding and compassion. The fee of helpful thoughts, suggestions and anecdotes are paid on an as-needed basis. Members partake in the common knowledge that they are not alone. And while every story is different, and every traveler is at a different place on their journey, our members all know, understand, and have shed the same tears. We won’t ask you to join, but we’ll certainly open our hearts when you do. The experience may make you feel, um, somewhat merry.

Okay. So The Somewhat Merry Window’s Club isn’t really real. And yet. It kinda is. I’ve shared countless emails with other widows introduced through blogs, a phone conversation with a Twitter friend from Texas whose journey started about a year before mine, and have plans for dinner with a dear friend who became a widow almost seven years ago. And let’s not forget my own mother. Seems other widows all sorta came out of nowhere. In a good way.

It was during a conversation with my Twitter buddy that I mentioned that this all feels like I’m being initiated into some odd club. She coined the club’s name. Kinda catchy, don’t you think?

February 9, 2013

Our Story, Part 1: We Were Only Freshmen

Posted in Our Story tagged , , , , , , at 8:30 pm by Debbie

As I learn to live with grief, I have begun to understand ever more the importance of keeping the memories alive, cherishing them, holding them close to my heart, and remembering them fondly. Memories are what keep the love alive when the loved one isn’t. This post is the first in a series where I’ll share our story of 30+ years together. These are just some of the memories I’m holding on to.

The year was 1980 and I was a freshman at Southwest Missouri State University (now called Missouri State University.) The Beach Boys were in town. What do college students do when the Bead Boys are in town? They have a beach party. At someone’s house. With sand on the porch. Shorts, swimsuits, and flip flops were the featured attire. No matter that it was November. And cold.

At some point in the evening, a friend stopped by the party so I could give directions to her and her date to some place that I supposedly knew how to get to. Keep in mind that my direction giving is lacking in the remembrance of most street names. I return to places based on visuals and landmarks. I give directions the same way. Nevertheless, I grabbed a beach towel to wrap around my arms and headed out to her date’s car. That was the night I met Dave Kipp. Yep, he was on a date with a friend.

The next day my friend asked me what I thought of him. I was honest. I told her I was not impressed and that I thought he was arrogant. I believe I actually called him an asshole (though I really don’t remember what he said to make me think that.) I think she went out with him one more time and then realized I was right.

Fast forward past Christmas vacation and one or two not-all-that-exciting-dates-with-duds to a night in February. We were at another party (we were college freshmen, what did you expect?) Dave was there with a friend (who shall remain nameless, but is very likely to post a comment at the end of this post.) The two guys saw two girls they were “interested” in and flipped a coin to see which girl each would talk to. Meanwhile, I saw him from across the room and remembered meeting him earlier in the school year. I wondered if he was as big a jerk as I first thought. Dave “won” me in the coin toss and ended up asking me out that night. I was curious. I said yes. By the way, I didn’t find out until years later that asking me out was part of a coin toss. Geez. Men.

On our first date we went to see Caddy Shack at the Student Union. I had already watched it at the theatre, but didn’t offer up that detail. But then it was kinda obvious as I was pointing out the good parts before they happened. After the movie we went back to Dave’s dorm room with some friends and spent the rest of the evening talking. We laughed, we joked, we talked of our plans for the future, and we all got to know each other pretty well over the course of a few hours. By the time we were all ready to call it a night, it was so late (or early) that two of us had to sneak out of the “boys” dorm and back into our own to avoid breaking curfew. Those were the days. So much more fun to be sneaky than to not have the rules at all.

If you had asked me at that moment to be honest about how I felt, I would have told you that I was sure I had met the man I was going to marry. Years later I learned that Dave felt the same way, which, of course, scared the heck out of him. After all, we were only freshmen.

February 4, 2013

My Father’s Eyes

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

I took a few minutes to really look at the photo. To examine its details. And then I saw it. There, twinkling in front of me, where it had been all my life. I saw my own reflection in my father’s eyes. Yes, I really am Daddy’s little girl. Always was. Always will be.

February 5, 2013 marks the one-year anniversary of living without my Dad. So much of 2012 is still a blur to me. I suppose it always will be. Dave had just returned home from his first hospital stay. We had learned of the cancer, but not his diagnosis. Meanwhile, my Dad went into the hospital and never came home. It went something like this: Dave in hospital, Dad in hospital, Dave has cancer, Dave comes home, Dad dies, Dad’s funeral, Dave has Stage IV Adenocarcinoma, Debbie goes into caregiver mode. All of that in a 3-week period. The list of surgeries, illnesses and funerals for our family continued for the entire rest of the year.

I didn’t have time to mourn the loss of my father. I didn’t allow myself to think about him really much at all. Until recently. And now thoughts of Hollis David Kennedy bring a smile to my face. My heart is warmed by the memories. My grief is in a comfortable place. And I have my father’s eyes.

When I was a little girl, the most severe punishment you could inflict upon me was hearing my father say he was disappointed in me. All he had to do was raise his voice and tears would fly – not that I was ever in trouble, or anything. No, really. I was the baby with two older brothers, need I say more?

One of my most fond memories is Evil Eye. Dad would pretend to be really mean, furrowing his brow on one side, raising his brow on the other, pure evil (not) streaming from his eyes. I usually feigned fear. Then I would spend hour upon hour practicing the same facial expression in the mirror. Laugh if you must, but it takes many hours of practice to train one eyebrow to raise while the other is scrunched. Hard work. Really. Then when I thought I had it figured out, I’d run to my Dad and say, “Watch this, I can do the Evil Eye, too.”

But it never worked quite like Dad’s. I think I was a legal adult when I finally trained my eyebrow muscles to perform the Evil Eye. According to my children, my Evil Eye is still not as menacing as Dad’s. As a matter of fact, I recall some laughter at my attempts.

It’s just as well. There wasn’t an evil bone in my father, either. But they’re wrong. I can do the Evil Eye. I do have my father’s eyes, after all.

I lit a candle for you today, Dad.
It glows from deep within my heart.
And there it will stay,
Until the day we see each other again.

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