Modern Viking Funeral

We drove to our favorite beach, at Ocean City. The drive is brutal. I’ve always been a passenger, in which situation it is a pleasantly long car ride with the family. As the driver, it is a grueling endless trip during which the GPS keeps extending your expected arrival time due to “slowdowns along your route.” I still enjoy a road trip, and it was fun, but it feels much longer when you are driving. That’s all I’m saying.

We arrived at our favorite beach and the place was packed! We drove along the sand, utilizing the four wheel drive Trey had insisted we would need, to reach a somewhat less crowded area. We got the raft out of the back and started decorating it.

Believe it or not, there is a company in England that makes actual flammable viking ship urns just for this purpose. We decided not to go that route. We wanted something we could build together, and also something large enough to not capsize immediately in the ocean. So we have spent the past couple of weeks dismantling and reassembling wood pallets, and attaching a series of boxes and boards together with twine. I got to use the saws-all, which impressed the boys very much and caused Korben to repeatedly tell me to be careful.

Once on the beach, we set to work decorating it with dried flowers and plants, plus some lovely flowers and ferns picked from the side of the road earlier that day.

The result was a haphazard explosion of dried plants and untreated wood, held together with twine and burlap. We made it together and I hope we achieved our goal of making it entirely non-toxic to the environment.

I pulled it out into the ocean. We arrived late, and it was dangerously close to low tide. My plan was to set it loose as the tide was rolling out. I pulled it to where it was floating, and went to work setting it on fire.

This is where the inevitable hiccough occurred. The kids and I had previously discussed that there was every likelihood that the Viking Funeral would be an epic failure and that is okay because Trey Wilson would love that too. The important thing is that we come to the beach, to the ocean that he loved, that we send his ashes out into that ocean, and that we take on this project together to give him this Viking Funeral.

It was therefore funny, and not devastating, when the lighter wouldn’t light. I had bought two lighters and some matches, and the ‘better’ lighter was not lighting. While I was trying to get it to work, the other lighter and the matches got wet in my pocket. I kept trying with the ‘good’ lighter, which would sometimes tease me by giving a puff of flame. It took roughly 45 minutes to get anything to light enough to set the raft ablaze.

But we did it. We got it to light, and for a few glorious minutes Trey’s raft floated, flaming, as we shouted our good-byes to the wind. By this time, the tide had turned so the raft did not sail out into the ocean. Instead, it would land on the beach where it would get picked up by an incoming wave and move farther down the beach. It didn’t capsize or suffer any catastrophic failure. It simply floated its way along the coastline.

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Once the fire burned out, I entered the water again to bring the raft farther out into the water and partially submerge it. I watched as Trey’s ashes swirled around, joining the ocean. As I walked back to the beach, a single white dried rose, charred from the fire and released from the raft, was floating on the water. I saved it.

We then left the edge of the water and spent the afternoon flying kites, blowing bubbles, and getting massive amounts of sand on our clothes.

I thought it would be a terribly emotional and sad experience, but it wasn’t. It was celebratory and it felt good.

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A rose, charred from the flames, found floating on the water
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Our Viking Raft
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The boys by the ocean as the raft floats at the edge of the water

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Kokomo

This one time recently I came downstairs and Trey had paused the TV show. He started it up, and the characters were talking about vacation and said, “Aruba, Jamaica . . . ”
The show went on with some other conversations, but I didn’t hear any of it because obviously I was now singing Oooh I wanna take ya to Bermuda Bahama Come on Pretty Mama
. . . And right there, on cue, two completely different characters on the show holding a completely different conversation said, “Key Largo, Montego” The timing was perfect and I was ecstatic. I clapped and laughed and was absolutely delighted by the whole thing.
Because I’m a huge dork.
Trey had seen this part of the show while I was upstairs, had known that I would sing, had known that I would be delighted and would applaud when the song was continued on the show so he rewound it and paused it and waited for me just so he could watch me be a dork.
Because he thought it was adorable.

I Sobbed Through Gardians of the Galaxy vol 2

“It starts May fifth.”

I have been hearing this from my boys for months now.  May 5th.  The opening of GOTG 2.  It was big news in our house.

The movie is rated PG-13, and my kids are both seven.  I realize it is a grown-up movie and my kids are kids.  I therefore refused to bring them opening weekend.  My kids and I are a hurricane blasting through wherever we go.  I try to be respectful where I can, however, and one thing I can do is keep the littles out of the theater when it is filled with fans who went out of their way to see it opening weekend.

The movie has been open for a week now, today is Friday, and the kids have the day off school.

So we went.

And I wept.

If you have not seen this movie, I will not spoil anything but will say that some of the themes in the movie are a bit on-the-nose.  (You will remember from the first movie that he grew up without a dad and that his mom died when he was young.)  This, however, isn’t why the movie wrecked me.  I have found that spouses/dads dying in movies does not evoke a huge emotional response from me.  You would think that watching someone lose her husband or father would bring back my own memories and situation.  It doesn’t.  The truth is that losing him is so big — so fucking huge — it just has absolutely nothing to do with whatever is happening to a character in a movie.  I could watch movies depicting parents and spouses dying all day long and it would not affect me.

20170512_124607 (1)THIS movie, though.  This one.  Guardians of the Galaxy vol.2.  This movie wrecked me.

This movie — the one we had been planning to see as a family.

The one that is rated PG-13 but I can’t say no to the kids because Trey would have brought them.

The one for which Trey taught my kids to remember the opening date.

The one that has Kurt Russel.  Kurt fucking Russell why did Kurt Motherfucking Russel make it into this movie?  Trey had an unhealthy obsession with Mr. Russel.  Do you have any idea how many times I’ve seen Overboard?  We’re not talking about Escape from New York or Big Trouble in Little China.  Every time Overboard comes on, we’re watching it.  This is true of the other movies as well, but they don’t come on as much.  Trey loved Kurt Russel.  On his birthday this year I requested that friends and family post pictures of Kurt on Trey’s Facebook wall.  Two months before he died.

Our family of four is now a family of three.  Plans we made will never be fulfilled.  We will not attend graduation together, or give girlfriends a hard time.  We will never make the holiday Leavenworth trip a family tradition.

We will not see Guardians of the Galaxy 3.

My weeping began during the previews.  Today previews were featured for the new Star Wars movie, Wonder Woman and Thor.  All movies we knew were coming and we were planning to see.

Together.

The four of us.

Then the movie starts, and it is so amazing and he would have loved it.  The kids are loving it and would have loved sharing it with him.  And then Kurt Fucking Russel appears onscreen.

It was all over for me.

I laughed at the movie, and cheered and loved it.  Through it all, though, I wept for all the dumb little plans we made that we will never fulfill.

El Debarge

Just a couple of days before Trey passed away, it was my birthday and it was also President’s Day so it was a holiday. We were sleeping in late with the dog happily snoozing on the bed with us.
Trey woke up and said, “Well, El Debarge, I guess it’s time we get up.”
I said, “Did you call me El Debarge?”
“Nope. I called the dog El Debarge. You’re Johnny.”
“Who’s Johnny?” I asked.
“Aha! Maybe you are El Debarge!” he responded.
We laughed until we cried. I exclaimed that I knew the second the words were out of my mouth that I had walked into that, and he said he’d been waiting for a time to use that and that I had responded exactly perfectly. It was one of those perfect moments. We laughed about it all the next day.

Game Night Revelations

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That time our family took down a gym together

I may have mentioned this, but Trey and I were more or less hermits.  We were those people who always say, “We should get together sometime” but never do.  We like people, but we liked the comfort of an evening in PJs on the sofa even more.

It felt acceptable when there were two of us — four of us.

Now that I am the sole adult here, I don’t want my kids to grow up with a mom who is a hermit.  I think it may be damaging to them to see me home alone every night, going places with just them on the weekends.  In order for them to build healthy relationships, they need to see me experiencing healthy friendships.

Or maybe I just need to keep busy in order to escape emotional quicksand.

In any case, I invited our neighbors over for a game night.  My neighbors are a couple that are my age – early 40s – and their 16 year old daughter.  They are delightful and fun, and Trey and I always meant to have them over.

They came and we ordered Chinese food and played card games they brought with them.  One involved throwing virtual poop at one another, which was a resounding success with my seven year old boys.

Then the unexpected happened.

The kids started talking about their dad.

It began with K, telling H to not mention what happened to their dad.  K doesn’t like people to know or to talk about it, because he doesn’t like the pity or how uncomfortable it makes people.  H responded by asking why K didn’t want people to know that dad is dead.

Bless her, the neighbor then told my sons that her father died, too.  K just opened up — asking her questions and telling her about his experience.  Meanwhile, H was talking to me and to the husband and daughter.

H was describing in detail what Trey looked like when he was dead.

I had been hoping that I had shielded their view of it.  I knew they had seen, but I was hoping their young eyes only saw someone passed out or sleeping, even though it was obvious to me that something was very wrong.

I tried to get them out of the room quickly, without alarming them.  I tried.  I thought I succeeded.  But I didn’t.  I didn’t succeed at all.  H saw, and knew it wasn’t right.

So he started saying what it was like to come home and find his dad dead.  He described the events of the evening.  I listened intently, giving him all of my focus.  The most important thing in my world was making sure that he could unburden, and that he knew I heard him.

I glanced at my neighbors, to find their eyes thick with tears.  They, too, were focusing on him, letting him talk, letting him get it off his chest.

I am grateful to them — more grateful than I can say.  I tried to apologize to them later.  It was meant to be an evening of fun, and I hadn’t intended to lay all of that on them.  They assured me that it was fine and not unexpected.  Of course, they knew my husband had died and were prepared for the potential of this conversation.

They are wonderful people.

Easter

20170416_004039Trey wasn’t into holidays. This worked out, because I am SUPER INTO holidays. We would have been full-on Griswold for every one of them if he had been as enthusiastic as I am. I had actually been thinking we should start decorating the house and yard for Fat Tuesday, and almost had him on board.
He didn’t ever stop me or act grinchy or comolain about my holiday preparations, and I didn’t ask him to help decorate. Invariably, however, he would wind up doing most of the hosting and final cooking on the day of the holiday, as I had exhausted myself in preparations.
He never seemed to mind. He liked hosting, even if he didn’t care for the trappings of the holiday. My enthusiasm, however, seemed to perplex him. He never could get excited about a holiday like I did.
I choose to think that he found my love of the holidays to be charming and not irritating.
Tomorrow will be our first major holiday without him. Easter was his least favorite. Coloring eggs put him to sleep. Literally. Every year he dozed off while we were coloring eggs. He wasn’t a fan of ham, which I insist is the only meal to have for easter. He did love the ham salad my mom made with the leftovers.
Our Easters were subdued, me saving my crazy holiday credits for christmas and halloween.
So this is not the worst holiday to tackle as our first.
One time, when the kids were three, I had hidden the easter treats by leaving them.in the truck. When I went to grab them on easter eve, I found the chocolate bunnies had melted and looked pretty gruesome
Trey went i-don’t-know-where in the middle of the night and scored us two new chocolate bunnies for the easter baskets

This One Time in New Orleans

This was many years ago. I will say that again. This was many, many years ago. I was driving our Jeep Cherokee, Trey was in the passenger seat. We came up to a stoplight where I needed to get into the other lane, and this other driver was not going to let me. I expressed my negative emotions about this in a loud manner, with disregard to the open windows.
The man in the other car unleashed an incoherent sound of rage, opened his door and launched himself out of his car. Certain he had a gun or something, I proceeded to roll up our windows. Because, you know, Jeep Cherokee windows are bulletproof. I don’t know what I was thinking but I rolled them up.
The man proceeded to stand in front of my car, screaming at me and slamming his hands on my hood.
This man was BIG and SCARY. And LOUD. I was frightened but I was also mad. So I started yelling back at him. There we were, him yelling at me and hitting my car with me yelling at him – but not opening my windows.
Then the light turned green and I thought “Oh good, I guess he’ll get in his car and go now.”
Nope. He just kept slamming his hands on my car and yelling.
So I put my foot on the gas and nudged him out of the way.
This was not over, however, as he got into his car and started to chase.
At the next red light, he pulled up beside me, got out once again (but did not stand in front of me this time) and started yelling, “You want a piece of me?!?”
This is when the light again turned green, so I just gave him the hand and drove off 
again.

This is when Trey started to laugh.

Up until this point, Trey had been a spectator in the incident. He had made no move to calm me down but also did not jump in to offer assistance. I assume he would have if he had felt like I needed it.
Now, however, he started laughing. He thought the whole thing was hilarious.
The man started following us once again, and Trey started giving me directions to lose the guy. I am not a fast driver and traffic was thick so speeding away or any kind of fancy/dangerous weaving around cars was not an option. Trey kept saying “change lanes here. get on the highway. exit here. change lanes again” eventually we lost the guy or he gave up after a while of extremely slow and boring pursuit. I was always a bit curious as to how and when Trey became an expert at evading a pursuer.

My Hero

One time Trey thwarted a would-be mugger with sheer Okie attitude.

We were in Las Vegas, and were approached by a scraggly, somewhat frightening looking man. He asked for some cash and when we replied we had none on us, he responded by showing us his knife. He proceeded to ask us if we knew what it was like to have things taken from us.

I was in an all-out girly panic, but Trey just pushed me back out of the way a little, then took two steps TOWARD the mugger. He put his face an inch away from that man’s face, ignoring the knife completely. In a very calm voice but with the deep Oklahoma accent that arose from him when he was angry, Trey said, “Look here, F***er. Here’s what’s about to happen. We’re gonna go this way. You’re gonna go that way. I’m not gonna see your f***ing face again. Got that?”

The guy couldn’t run away fast enough.

He had brought a knife to a Redneck fight.

Kokomo

This one time recently I came downstairs and Trey had paused the TV show. He started it up, and the characters were talking about vacation and said, “Aruba, Jamaica . . . ”
The show went on with some other conversations, but I didn’t hear any of it because obviously I was now singing Oooh I wanna take ya to Bermuda Bahama Come on Pretty Mama
. . . And right there, on cue, two completely different characters on the show holding a completely different conversation said, “Key Largo, Montego” The timing was perfect and I was ecstatic. I clapped and laughed and was absolutely delighted by the whole thing.
Because I’m a huge dork.
Trey had seen this part of the show while I was upstairs, had known that I would sing, had known that I would be delighted and would applaud when the song was continued on the show so he rewound it and paused it and waited for me just so he could watch me be a dork.
Because he thought it was adorable.

Our Last Moment

I flick the bathroom light off, to avoid spotlighting your face as I open the door into our room. The dawn provides enough light for navigation, as well as enough for me to see you sleeping. Our son, who has stolen my place in our bed, snuggles under your arm. His tiny hand grasps your thumb. His puffy hair wilds against your arm. His tiny snores bitty echoes of your great roaring ones. Two matching faces, so similar especially in sleep. Everything is now. All of the light everywhere exists here, in the contented slumber of father and son. I stop to grasp the moment as I often do. I do not know this time it will be different. I know only it is a beautiful quiet moment in our loud turbulent lives and I stop to appreciate it before exiting the room and heading to work.

As far as last memories go, we could’ve done worse.