Riding the Depression Wave

It’s all happening again.

Not to the extent it happened before, when the pain was new and I lived in a fog.

It is, however, all happening.

I can’t.  I can’t DO.  I sit on the sofa and realized an hour has gone by.  An hour with no TV, no phone, no music – is just gone.  Gone to blank staring, to emptiness and nothing.  I’m not remembering.  I’m not lamenting.  I’m not thinking of the holidays.  I’m just physically too sad to move.

My whole body is sad.  My shoulders droop.  My knees ache. My back twinges.  My legs refuse to carry me out of the chair, much less up the stairs or out the door.  I am heavy.  Gravity has made me its bitch.  It pushes me and I don’t even resist.

I try to work, and stare at the screen.  I try to wash dishes and stare out the window.  I try to sleep, and stare at the ceiling.

I have turned off.

Except when I’m on.

Two days ago, I reorganized/rearranged one of my pantries.  A couple of days before that I sorted through the medications in our guest bathroom.  I ordered new pictures for the walls.  I hung a broom organizer.  Over the past couple of weeks I have filled three large trash bags and two boxes for the goodwill.

I am experiencing bursts of organizing and productivity in between lulls of depression and sadness.

I went through this in the early months.  I want to claim my life and my space, so nesting kicks in and I go, go, go.  A day turns, and I am almost unable to shower.

It is most likely the holidays that have brought this on.  This is not happening the way I expected.  I thought I would be sad when I looked back at all of our holidays together, or forward to the holidays without him.  The truth is, I’m not thinking about or dwelling on those things.  Not much.  Not VERY much.  This is a free floating sadness invading my bones during the most mundane times.  Still, I think we can assume it is a combination of the holidays, along with the feeling that I’m careening toward his death anniversary, and the winter doldrums.

I’ve gone to the doctor and have gotten a prescription for Zoloft.

I had been resisting this.  I don’t like the way I feel on SSRIs.  I feel less me.  It’s not a dramatic change, but it’s enough of one that I feel uncomfortable with it.  Also, I want to feel my feelings.  How am I supposed to heal from the pain if it is always shrouded?  Sometimes you have to run a fever to break the flu.  (I don’t know if that’s actually true.  Don’t come to me for medical advice, I’m clueless.)

I can’t keep going like this, though.  I need to keep a relatively clean house.  RELATIVELY clean.  I need to work.  I need to make lunches and walk the dog and sew patches on boy scout uniforms.  I would love to succumb to the sadness and stare into space until the kids come home from school, but I do have work to do and it won’t wait.

Now, I’m not trying to be alarming.  When I leave the house, I do put on shoes — flip flops at least.  I am getting us all fed and to school and back.  I’m even getting some work done — somewhat inefficiently.  I do wear PJ’s and a robe a lot of days — a perk of working at home.  The PJs are clean — unless I spilled coffee or egg on them that morning — and in fact I kind of have ‘daytime jammies’ and ‘nighttime jammies.’  I’m showering.  I’m taking out the trash.  You won’t come to my house to fight through a mountain of pizza boxes and cat litter to find me in dreadlocks with green teeth.

But it’s hard. So Z is for Zoloft.

I have been on it two days.  I had forgotten that while the effects take a couple of weeks to be noticeable, the side effects are immediate.  I’m not sleeping well and my stomach is in knots.  This will peter out, but is unpleasant currently.  But if it gets me through the holidays and a bit beyond it will be worth it.

I’m also grief-shopping again.  The kids were thrilled with the “epic fort” they were able to make from all the Amazon boxes.

I just want to curl up in my bed and stare at nothing.

But, this weekend I plan to take the kids to a potter class.  Next Tuesday I’m going to see the Justice League with my widow sponsor.  Next Thursday will be Thanksgiving at my mom’s house, and I’m looking forward to it so much.  After Thanksgiving, the Christmas boxes will come out of the garage and we will start decorating.  We will also get those cards in the mail.

We’re doing it.  We’re doing this life.  We’re riding the waves and we’re crashing sometimes but we’re getting back up.

Breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe.

The Things Not Done at My House

The light in my bathroom keeps blinking off and on.  I’ve changed the light bulb but don’t know what else to do.

The thermostat keeps giving me an error message.  I need to call a repairman.

The handle fell off of my bathroom door.  I could fix it if I had the screw, but it seems to have vanished.  So every time I forget and close the bathroom door all the way, I have to get the handle off of its now dedicated spot next to the sink and jam it into the spot where it goes to open the door.

I took the cover off my bedroom light to replace the bulb, then lost the knob that holds the cover on.  I have since found the knob, but still have not replaced the cover because I’ve already folded up the ladder.

There is a mountain of boxes in the garage that need to be broken down and put out to recycle.

All of our bike tires are flat.

My kids don’t know how to ride their bikes.

They also don’t know how to tie their shoes.

There are two large pictures that need hanging.

The door is about to fall off that corner cupboard in the kitchen again.  I’m always leaning on it, but I always pretended like I didn’t know how it always broke.  He pretended to believe me.

The grill is filthy and needs a good cleaning.

Of course, there are also a lot of things around here that need to be done as a result of Trey’s death.  There is sorting and getting rid of things, rearranging things, not to mention the whole nesting instinct that kicks in.  So my house is half painted.  The above list, however, is a list of things that Trey normally handled and now he is not here.  His dad used to buy dilapitated houses and the would enlist Trey’s help fixing them up for rent or sale.  This was years – decades – before “house flipping” would be a thing.  The point is that Trey could rewire things, install thermostats, repair plumbing — he was a super handy “guy-guy.”  And now he’s gone.  And it’s not like I’m a girly princess who can’t fix things.  I hang my own shelves and I installed our video game systems and I can do a lot of these things. The things I can’t do, my dad can do or I can hire someone.

But he used to do them.  He took care of things like broken door handles and flickering lights.  He knew what to do about furnaces, and didn’t mind getting out the ladder.

I hate these daily reminders that he’s not here to take care of things.

Meanwhile, there is a jar of strawberry jelly in the fridge that I absolutely cannot open.

A New Widow’s Christmas Card

The holiday cards I ordered arrived.  Maybe this year I’ll get them sent out.

For the past three years or so, I’ve gotten around to ordering them but never mailed them.  I wasn’t able to get my shit together.  I ordered them mid-December, paid extra for super rush shipping, and then was too caught up in last minute holiday preparations to send them out.

This year I’ll make it.

I like the cards — I think.

When I sent them to the printer’s, I was certain they were exactly what I wanted.  When I started to think about them, however, I wondered if they are wrong somehow.

There are no pictures of Trey.

All of the pictures are of the boys and me.  Mostly the boys.  A couple with me.  But none of Trey.

Will people think that is disrespectful?  Will his family want to have a card with his photo on it?  Maybe I should have included a picture of us at the Oregon Stonehenge, or our wedding photo, or that picture of him with the kids on Bring Your Own Cup day at 7-11.  Maybe there should be some sort of visual remembrance of him.

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For the words, however, I worry that I talk about him too much.  People don’t want to think of death when reading their holiday cards, right?  This is what I wrote:

I started with some general holiday pleasantries . . . hope this card finds you well, etc.

“This was a hard year for us, but we have family, friends and each other to see us through it.  As we make our way through the fog, we learn to love deeply, to hold on fiercely, and to be each other’s strength even while we feel weak.  We learn the strength of family, that it can be badly damaged and yet remain.  We learn that sadness may be with us, but joy is as well.  There is no end to the joy that can be experienced if you leave yourself open to it.  While we will always feel his absence, Trey’s love will be part of our hearts and of our lives forever.  We carry him with us as we continue our journey of love and life and joy.  We bid a loud “good riddance” to 2017 as we look forward, hand in hand, to the new year.”

After that is the usual accounting of our lives — what grades and activities the kids are in, what I am doing for work, blah blah blah.

Is that too much?  Is it too sappy?  Did it make our card too much about death?  I tried to make it about looking forward and continuing on life’s adventure, but maybe it is too depressing.

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Here I am, then, in a typical widow’s conundrum.  Did I say too much?  Did I say too little?  Will people think I’m dwelling too much on the loss?  Will people think I am not grieving enough?

Should I have included photos of Trey?  Should I have not mentioned him at all?  Should I have sent out plain store bought cards, and avoided this altogether?

I am happy with the cards, save some awkward wordings.  I look at it and I’d like to revise, but I had a hard time putting that together so I did not have a chance to edit it.  I feel like it would be a disservice to what we are going through to not mention it at all, but I didn’t want this to be a memorial to him.

I suppose some people will think it should have been a memorial, and they will be unhappy.  Others will think that my words are overly emotional and improper and they will be unhappy.

I am happy.  I am happy to be getting cards out this year.  Hopefully I will start receiving cards again.  (It’s a two way street.  You have to send them to get them.)  I am happy to have such lovely photos of us — if they are a bit overly touched up for my taste.  And I am happy with the message in these cards.

I suppose people who have a problem with it can kiss my jolly ass.

Happy Holidays!

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Judging a Widow? Keep Your Effing Opinions to Yourself

I’m not sure whether curse words in the title are frowned upon.

I think the point is clear.  You can keep your judgement, your disapproving looks, and your obvious vaguebook insults to yourself.

We don’t need it.

I shouldn’t have to say this.  It should go without saying.  Don’t harass a widow about how she is handling her widowhood. It doesn’t go without saying, however.  It has to be said.  Many people apparently do not have the sense to know this on their own.  I have spoken with other widows my age, and have read blogs and articles written by others, and it seems everyone has at least one person in their life who has decided they are the authority on grieving and on widowhood, and is quick to point out – emphatically – how we are doing it incorrectly.

It’s often someone we care about, or that our husbands cared about.

It’s so deeply hurtful.

Widow-shamers come in two basic camps.

Actually, technically there is a third camp, I will mention only briefly because they are well-intentioned.  We all have sweet, caring people in our lives who hate to see us hurt and want to help ‘fix’ it.  They want us to snap out of it.  They want us to join the world.  Sometimes they want us to start dating.  To these people I say we thank you for your love and support, but please understand that to try to fix us implies there is something wrong.  There is nothing wrong with being sad when your spouse dies.  We have to be sad.  We have to be sad in order to learn how to live with our sadness.  Please stop trying to abbreviate the process.  We need it.

The title of this blog is aimed at the other two types of judges.  One type feels that the widow’s handling of things has somehow harmed them personally.  The other type feels she is not being widow-y enough and is disrespecting the dead.

Here’s the thing.  Please understand this.

MY GRIEF IS NOT A PERFORMANCE I AM PUTTING ON FOR YOU OR FOR ANYONE ELSE.

Also . . .

IT IS NOT MY JOB TO FULFILL YOUR IMAGE OF WHAT A GRIEVING WIDOW SHOULD BE.

It was a revelation to me that people would take personal issue with how a woman carries out the final wishes of her husband.  Personally, I have had several people pointedly mention that they feel they didn’t get closure (whatever that means) because I cremated the body before anyone saw him.  I have not been directly attacked, but on two separate occasions, two different people pointed out that they keep thinking they will see Trey or get a call from him.  Apparently this is because I did not have a viewing at the memorial.  It was implied that I have an easier time of accepting his death because I saw his body, and that I robbed them of this comfort.

You know what?  I saw the body.  It’s not that awesome of an experience.  I wouldn’t recommend it.  At all.

Did seeing his body make it easier for me to accept his death than if I had not?  Perhaps.  I’ve never been on the other side of that coin so I do not know if I experienced some benefit from having witnessed it with my own eyes.

I can say this.  I saw him dead.  I saw how the blood had pooled in his extremities.  I performed cpr.  I wept into his cold shoulder, stroked his cold forehead.  It is now eight months later.  Eight months I have been living in the house we shared, his absence a constant presence.  Still, I often expect to see him come down the stairs.  If that is not enough to hammer it home that he is gone, I doubt that your seeing him in a casket would help you.  We each need to find our own ways to peace.  I will help where I can, but not at the expense of what I need, what my husband wanted, or what our kids need.

I also, unfortunately, had a falling out with someone very close to us.  You may have seen my post about the viking funeral at which I scattered my husband’s ashes in the ocean.  I will not get into the details here, but will say that there was a misunderstanding where a dear friend of ours was legitimately hurt when he learned I had done the viking funeral with just the kids and did not include him or any other family members.  I thought everyone had understood my intentions, but he did not and he was hurt.  I understand his pain and feel sorry for the misunderstanding that caused it, but I will not apologize for handling the scattering how I did.  I did not do it this way to hurt him or anyone else, but because this is what my kids and I needed.  The real tragedy for me is that this friend does not understand I was doing what I needed, and instead felt I deliberately misled him about my intentions.  He said some hurtful things, I responded harshly, we parted ways and now I no longer have what had been a major source of support.

The final arrangements are deeply personal and specific to each circumstance.  I could not imagine having a viewing, with Trey all waxed and painted.  It would have been awful for me to see him that way.  It would have been awful for the kids.  They also had unfortunately already seen his body.  They didn’t need to see any more of that.  Furthermore, he specifically did not want that.  He told everyone he knew and wrote in his will that he wanted to be cremated in the cheapest way possible.  He didn’t want funereal expenses to cut into the money that could go to supporting his family after his passing.  He also would have found it humiliating to be laid out that way.  I handled the cremation, memorial, and scattering exactly how he would have wanted it, and how was best for our family.  None of it was easy.  None of it.  So unless your opinion is, “Wow, I can’t believe you were able to handle all of that while dealing with your grief.  I am astounded by you.  If you need anything, I am here.  You did exactly right by him,” you can just keep your fucking opinion to yourself.

If it were just about me and my experiences, however, I wouldn’t even write this post.  I’m not trying to put a lot of anger out there, or self righteousness.

The thing is, it’s not just me.  I have a friend who is four months widowed and has not yet had her husband’s memorial.  She is catching the same kind of flack as I did for having a cremation instead of a viewing, and family members are actually yelling at her for not hosting a memorial yet.  She has stated that they can hold a memorial if they want, whatever they need to do.  But she is not ready yet, financially or emotionally.  Still they tell her it is just not right.

I know another woman who did have a viewing but did not dress her husband in a suit.  Guess what?  People were upset.  I know a widow who had upbeat music playing and encouraged everyone to wear bright colors.  Most people were on board but, again, there were people who were offended.

We do not mean to offend.  We are doing what we need.  I’m not telling you to not be offended.  I’m telling you to keep that shit to yourself.  Telling us won’t change things, and will just make us feel worse.  As if that were possible.

Now I come to the worst of the worst — those who proclaim loudly, to our faces or behind our backs, that we do not appear to be mourning or that we are moving on too quickly or some otherwise judgy notion that comes down to the idea that they don’t believe we are really grieving.

Shut the FUCK UP!

Widowhood doesn’t look like weeping in a dark room hidden under a black veil.

Do you want to see widowhood?  Come with me for a day.  Widowhood means making breakfast and driving the kids to school, singing along with the radio, getting haircuts and doing laundry and celebrating holidays and going to the zoo and laughing and living and loving those around you.  It also looks like crying at the sink, crying in the car, staring at the wall, comfort eating too much junk food, not eating at all, fits of terror that you will lose someone else, too.  And, yes, widowhood can look like a vacation to Hawaii, or Cozumel.  I have two widow friends who have taken such holidays.  They both have caught SO MUCH SHIT for “partying it up” while everyone else mourns the loss of their husbands.

Imagine this.

Your husband dies.  You now spend every day in the home you bought together.  You cook every meal (every single meal, because there is nobody else to cook) at the oven in which you baked cookies as a family.  You keep up with the daily routine: cooking, cleaning, homework, bills, work.  You make sure you don’t run out of toilet paper or shampoo.  You make sure the kids get to bed at a reasonable time.  You wake up every morning.  You push forward every day, taking care of your family and yourself.

Now imagine you have an opportunity to leave all of that behind for a few days.  For a week, someone else will do all of the cooking, and all of the cleaning.  You will be in a new place, somewhere that isn’t constantly assaulting you with memories.  You will be where nobody knows you, where you will not have to apologize for your emotions, where nobody knew your husband.  You will have no obligations, just for a few days.

You can heal.  You can be sad when you need to and laugh when you need to and eat when you want to and sleep as much as you can.  You can call the memories when you want, and sob yourself to sleep.  You can also go out and laugh to cleanse your soul.  It’s not a woman partying her buns off because she’s newly single.  It’s a woman who needs a safe place to focus on her own pain, her own life, and begin healing.

Not that you deserve an explanation.  But there it is.

Even if a widow is not able to take a vacation, you might see a lot of social activity suddenly hit her feed.  You should be glad that she is trying to find herself, that she is reaching out to friends and engaging in activities to keep her from growing stagnant at home alone.  If your response instead is, “She shouldn’t be out having all of that fun.  She’s supposed to be in mourning,” well, again, you can keep your fucking opinions to yourself.

I used to sit at home every night, with my husband who loved me.  We would rent Netflix and share some scotch.  We would watch The Walking Dead and Supernatural and we would play Cards Against Humanity.  But he is gone now.  I can’t sit by myself and watch TV every night.  I’d like to.  I’m a homebody.  But it is not good for me to stay home all of the time, and it is not good for my kids to see me staying home all of the time.  It is not good for the kids to stay home all of the time.

So, yes, you will see on my feed that I am going to movies and to game nights, that the kids and I are going to soccer games and state fairs. We are not trying to forget about Trey.  We are honoring him by enjoying and making the most of the life he no longer shares with us.

I know women who started dating after the first six months, and women who are not dating five years later.  I know women who got rid of their husband’s belongings, and women who kept most of them.  I know women who removed their rings the first day, and women who wore them for years.

All of these women were criticized by someone in their lives who felt they were not doing the right thing.

There is no right thing.  There is only what the widow feels in her heart is the NECESSARY thing.  We are doing the best we can.  We don’t need the additional stress of trying to please you.

The Fireplace Mantle as a Metaphor

Our mantelpiece had, among other things, a replica of the helmet from Gladiator.  This was not my selection.  I don’t even like that movie.  It also boasted a host of different Buddha statues and Foo Dogs acquired at different China Towns.  I have nothing against these items, but I would not have chosen to decorate with another culture’s aesthetic.  The mantel held a smattering of other items, unrelated to one another.

It sounds hideous, but it did not look bad.  After Trey died, I removed some pieces to pare down the clutter, but I left up the larger decorative items and this was the result:

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See?  Sounds awful and bachelor-y.  It is a bit bachelor-y, but it is not awful.

But it is also not me.

Whenever buying items for our home, I wanted to plan, to get a strategy in place to avoid clashing items and generate a cohesive design.  My desire was to identify a theme and palette that would inform our purchasing decisions.  He, on the other hand, would go to Chinatown or Ikea or Target, see something, buy it, and hang it on the wall.  The result was an interior design that leaned much more toward his aesthetic than it did toward mine.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided all that stuff on the mantel had to go.

In fact, I am redecorating the whole house as time and budget allows.  Again this has been met with alarm by my family.  They think I am purging, but I’m not getting rid of anything. I’m just getting it out of my face.

Here’s the hard truth of the matter.

Trey doesn’t live here anymore.  This is my house now, and I need it to be my house.  

I’m not trying to erase all evidence of him.  I’m not trying to make it look like he never lived here.  This place will always carry his mark.  Our lives and hearts will carry his mark.  No matter where we go or what we do, he will be with us.

That doesn’t change the fact that I need to make this place my own.  It started in the bedroom, and now I am taking over the living room.  I’d like to replace some of the furniture, but, you know, dollar bills.  For now I can re-do the fireplace mantel.

That is the justification.  Now let me tell you what happened.

I took all of his things off the mantel and put them in the guest room closet.  It was then a clean canvas for me to decorate however I wanted.  The problem was that I had absolutely no idea what was I wanted to do.

Isn’t that the shit?  It’s a metaphor for my whole life.  I wrote a post a while back about needing to find myself.  I won’t go into all of that again here, although I could easily write three more entries about that process.  I’ll give you the tl;dr version.  When you’ve been with someone for your entire adult life and suddenly find yourself without that person, you need to put serious time and effort into exploring who you are as an individual.

My mantel looked like this:

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It was a perfect reflection of me.  I had plenty of ideas for what to put there, but didn’t know if I felt passionately about any of them.  I considered gathering my gnomes from around the house.  I thought about arranging a Funko Pop display, or of covering it with family photos or with flowers.  I even considered decorating it with “Architect’y” things like T-Squares and Prismacolor pencils.   It all seemed fine, but didn’t feel quite right.

This is exactly what happens to me when my folks keep the kids overnight and I can do whatever I want for the evening.  I have no idea what to do.  I think about going to a movie, going out to eat, taking a bath and reading, or cleaning the house from top to bottom.  I usually wind up having some edibles and dozing off watching TV.  (Which is a luxury to a single mom of twins, I’m not knocking it.)

Suddenly it hit me.  I would decorate seasonally.  Halloween is coming up, so I present to you my current fireplace mantel design:

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After Halloween, I’ll do a general Autumn theme until after Thanksgiving.  That’s when I’ll pull out the crates and crates of holiday decorations.  After Christmas, I”m not sure — perhaps some general winter display?  Add in some hearts for Valentine’s day, and then after that a spring motif?  My plan is pretty much to hit the seasonal department of the Dollar Store and will decorate with whatever they have.  I may even extend this to include outdoor decorations.  I will be that weird old lady who has yard decorations for Presidents’ Day.

At first I felt like this was a cop-out.  I thought I was delaying making a real decision.

Then I realized this is actually perfect.  Again it is like my life.  I am getting through this one day, one season, one holiday at a time.  I’m not committing to anything, ever.  I’m not looking ahead more than a couple of weeks at any time.

I’m trying different things.  A book club, a board game club, a coffee club.  I’m not any one thing yet.  I’m exploring.  My interior decorations don’t have to be any one thing yet either.  This is me now.

I can always round up the gnomes if I decide to do so.

 

I Guess I Won’t be Wearing my Wedding Ring Anymore

In a sweeping move of what is either irony or kismet, the universe decided I should lose the diamond out of my wedding ring today.

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The diamond fell out of my wedding ring

Look at this picture, and realize that this was not just my wedding ring.  That solitaire was my engagement ring.  By which I mean it is the engagement ring he placed on my finger as we were turning eighteen years old.  That stone has endured for 23 years, through two ring re-sizings, through ring welding, through construction sites, through hospital stays, through trips to oceans and lakes and through snowball fights.

Now it decides to give up the ghost?  This is definitely a sign of some sort.

There is no obvious sign of trauma to the ring.  None of the tines are bent into an unnatural position.  None are broken or missing.

As I was driving the kids to school this morning, I glanced at my hand on the steering wheel and the stone was just . . . gone.

Like Trey.  One minute he was here, and I was talking to him on the phone.  Four hours later I get home to find him gone, with no idea when he died or how it happened.  My stone is gone.  I assume I had it yesterday, so it may be in my bedroom having dropped out during the night.  It may have gone down the kitchen drain this morning while I was making breakfast and washing dishes.  It may have plopped to the ground as I carried the trash to the curb.  Maybe I saw it the second it fell out, and the diamond is currently on my car floorboard.  Again, there’s about a four hour window in which it likely happened.

I have performed an initial search, but looking for such a small thing when I don’t know exactly where I lost it has turned out to be challenging.

But at least it is essentially transparent.  That helps.

I have taken a blacklight to the most likely areas.  I have no idea what a diamond would do under a blacklight, but you’d think it would do SOMETHING.

BTW – I highly recommend you do NOT ever randomly search your house with a blacklight.  I’m disgusted and want to move.  And get rid of the pets.  And the kids.  This place is disgusting.

The strange thing is I am not as distraught as I would have expected, considering I was fully planning to wear that ring for the rest of my life.

I was never going to take it off.  I consider myself to still be married.  I think of all those buddy cop movies: “Janet’s been dead for two years, man!  When are you going to take off that ring and move on?”  “Never!  She’s still my wife!”  That was my feeling about it.  I’m still his wife.  I wear the ring.

Now, however, I realize that wearing the ring is not that important to me.  Taking off the ring would have been too difficult.  Removing the ring would have felt like a rejection of our life together.  Putting the ring away would have been closing the door on our marriage.

This is different, though.  I did not decide to move on and remove the ring.  It broke so I put it away.

Surprisingly, my ring is not on the list of things that have grown in importance since Trey’s death.  Our wedding photos and the memories they preserve hold a top spot on the list.  The comic books we waited in line for together, the personalized belts he had made for the kids, the gold chain he wore around his neck, his grandfather’s medals, all of these are on the list of the most important mementos I never want to lose.  The ring is a piece of jewelry.

Now I have a reason to take it off, a reason that is utilitarian and not gut wrenchingly awful, I may leave it off.  It may be okay.  My hand is a wreck.  I think that dent in my finger will remain always.

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Now my left hand looks like this.

Of course, like most things in my life, this is not a permanent choice.  Death is permanent.  The decision of whether to wear a ring is not permanent.  If I go without it for a while and it feels strange, if I feel something is missing, if I feel lonely or sad, I can have the ring repaired.  Obviously I’m not Daddy Warbucks so I won’t be purchasing a random diamond.  I do have some diamond earrings I can probably take the stone from, or I can replace it with zirconia or a semiprecious stone.  It might look pretty with an amethyst.  Or, maybe I can sell those diamond earrings to buy a replacement diamond for the ring.

That probably makes more sense than re-using a diamond and then having one ring and one earring.

But the thing is, even though I was not really ready to remove it, I also do not think I am at a place where I need to go to lengths to preserve it and get it back on my finger.

For right now, however, I suppose I will just see how it goes.

He’s Even Gone From My Pantry

He’s not entirely gone, but he’s going.

Before being widowed, I had some idea of what it would be like if it were to happen.  Am I the only one who indulges in these morbid fantasies?  I don’t think I am, because it happens so often in movies.  Other people must sometimes also think, “what if the unthinkable happens?  What would that be like?”

You know that half of the bed will be empty.

You know his spot on the sofa will be taken over.

You know his chair at the dinner table will go unused.

You know your life will change so dramatically that you won’t be able to understand it.

You don’t know all of the tiny things that will change, reflecting his absence in tiny ways.

I have just today realized that you can see his absence by viewing the contents of our pantry.  Of my pantry.

(This isn’t a euphemism.)

Our pantry used to be full of canned chili.  He loved chili in all of its forms, but I rarely made it so our pantry was stocked with chunky chili, smooth chili, with and without beans, hot and mild.

We also owned an inordinate amount of hot sauce.  And different types of French and Russian salad dressings.  And chips.  There were always corn chips in our pantry.  And candy.  He had a sweet tooth.  We had white bread.

I made Frito Chili Pie last night, with the last of our canned chili.  I donated much of it to a food drive.  I was the only person who ate it.  The kids don’t like chili.  They don’t like chili dogs, or chili on spaghetti.  They just don’t like it.  So all those cans of chili are gone.  Likewise the cans upon cans of different types of beans — maple beans, ranch style beans, baked beans.

I tossed most of the hot sauces.  I’ve gotten old and prone to heartburn.

I made a conscious decision to only buy chips sometimes, to go with a specific meal or event.  I can’t say no to chips, so it’s best they not do the asking.

I did not make a conscious decision to stop buying sweets.  I just never think about it.  The kids have had to ask me to buy candy, or the makings of root beer floats.  Poor guys.

I switched us all to entirely whole wheat bread, and nobody complained.

All those maple beans have been replaced with plain pinto beans, vegetarian refried beans, and garbanzo beans.

The pantry is filling up with whole grains.  Trey and I always did high protein diets together.  He got the best results from them.  Now, however, I am returning to a more plant based diet, and the jars of various grains now replenished in the pantry reflect that.

The French and Russian dressings are gone.  Blech.

There is no Spam.  There is tuna.  There is no ramen.  There is penne.

The fridge is the same.  American cheese has been replaced with provolone.  Steak has been replaced with hamburger.  Heinz ketchup has been replaced with Hunts.  Spicy barbecue sauce has been replaced with the honey variety.

It sounds like small changes, but every time I open the pantry I see his absence.  It does not distress me much, but it serves as a reminder with every meal that the whole of our life is changed.

Birthday Party – I laughed, I cried. In front of the other moms.

My boys turned eight years old a couple of weeks ago.  This month has been a bit of a roller coaster, as I suppose you would expect.  Their first day of school also happened this month, and I haven’t yet had the stones to write about it.

Here it comes.  This post will most likely be too long to read, and will encompass the start of school as well as our Month Long Birthday EXTRAVAGANZA!  Are you in it with me?  Here we go.

At the end of school last year, I was so excited for summer to begin.  I thought that once I was freed from the daily grind of mornings and lunches and rides to and from school, I would be able to take control of my life and of my schedule.  I would be able to get more work done, take care of the house better, and of course spend more time with my kids.

I don’t have to tell you it does NOT work that way.  I must have been suffering from some sort of temporary insanity caused by wishful thinking.

It was a wonderful summer, full of late mornings watching Teen Titans Go in bed together, late nights playing XBox and two family trips.  It was much needed, but it was not particularly productive.  So as school approached, I was glad.  I was not glad in the traditional wine-drinking mom “yippee the kids will be out of my hair and occupied for part of the day” kind of way.  I was glad because once again, possibly delusional again, I believe this is when I will be able to take charge of our household schedule.

In the days leading up to the first day of school, I went on a special one-on-one outing with each of the kids.  I bought back to school clothes and shoes (I pre-ordered the supplies from the PTA last year.)  I bought Starbucks cards for the kids’ teachers, and wrote each one an introductory email explaining that my boys have therapy once a week and if the time does not work for their class schedule to let me know, and also to let me know if they notice any behavior in class that I should have the therapists address.  The teachers, of course, know that my husband died last February.  I set up schedules for homework and nighttime and morning routines.  I set up a new chore chart and star chart.  I stocked the fridge with school lunch items, bought new backpacks and lunches, and ordered new coats and jackets.  I did this all on my own.

Honestly, it’s not that different.  Trey  was not much of a ‘planner’ or ‘preparer’ (except for his disaster prepping – eyeroll.)  I would have taken care of most of this on my own even if he were still alive.  I felt good.  I felt optimistic for the school year and confident of my ability to make this work.  I took the kids to school the first day, using our schedule and star chart.  We did not have to rush or scramble, and we were not up against the tardy bell.  After school I picked them up.  They hung up their backpacks and helped unload the dishwasher to earn tablet time.  I started cooking dinner.

Then I was punched in the stomach.

This routine we are setting up — it doesn’t include Trey.  He’s not just gone now or for this first day of school.  He is going to be gone for all of the days of school.  There is no bargaining for who will be making dinner.  There is no talking each other into or out of ordering a pizza.  This is it.  This is my routine every night.  Helping the kids with homework, making dinner, washing dishes.  Alone.  This is it.

So then I’m crying by the sink again, which for a short while was no longer my favorite hobby.

Three days after the first day of school came the boys’ birthday.  For the first year ever, I managed to talk them into having their party a couple of weeks later.  I couldn’t figure how to get invitations out in time to have a party right after the start of school, and I didn’t think anyone would be up for attending a party at that time.  But I did want to mark their actual birthday.  At first we were going to meet the grandparents for some free Denny’s birthday goodness.  But naturally I am overcompensating for their dad being gone so instead we went on a Pirate Cruise.

Because what says, “I’m sorry we are having your birthday without your father being in the world” like a pirate cruise?

We went with my parents.  It was a lot of fun and I only cried a bit later that night.

The next weekend, we went to visit my uncle who lives about three hours away.  His town has a fair and rodeo, and we go every year to see him and attend the fair.  This year was weird without Trey.  It was weird largely because it was kind of nice.  Bless his heart, he really tried to be a good sport about it, and he never said this out loud, but I have been going to fairs with him for years and the truth is: he hates fairs.  Hated fairs, I mean.  In past years, the kids would go up with my folks, and then Trey and I would join the next day, close to the end of the day so we could spend an hour at the fair.  He hated the walking and the smells and how much everything costed.  I love the ridiculous food, the pig races, the world’s largest whatever.  So going to the fair without him was kind of nice in a way.  I went when my folks did, and spent the entire day with the kids getting their faces painted and spending too much money on bounce houses and unwinnable games.

And then K decided he wanted to go on a ride called the Storm Trooper.  I thought he would be too scared, and didn’t want to let him do it.  Something I always tell myself, however, is to not let fear keep you from doing things.  So I let him go.  I’m too fat to ride those rides so my mom rode with him.  He loved it.  I could see him scared at first, and then laughing and loving it the whole time.  I was so glad I let him go, and I was so horribly sad that Trey wasn’t there to see it.

I didn’t cry.

This weekend was their birthday party.  We did bubble soccer, something we did a couple of years ago and it was a big hit.  The kids wanted Minecraft themed cakes and decorations, and then had extremely specific requests for their cakes.

Now, I bake exactly once a year — on the birthday.  I still remember cakes that my mom made for me, so it is important to me that I make the cakes for my kids’ birthday.  I reserved the bubble soccer place a month ahead of time.  I started baking a week ahead of time.  I burned up the Pinterest boards making cakes and cupcakes and decorations.  This was going to be the best birthday ever.

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Today we arrived, and it went well at first.  But, see, K has been sick for a couple of days now.  He hasn’t had a fever, but he hasn’t felt well.  He’s had a runny nose and he fell asleep yesterday afternoon.  I thought about postponing, but for a multitude of reasons decided not to do that.  (I did warn the other parents, in case they wanted to stay away from the germs.)

So when he fell down early on and twisted his ankle, he was already feeling kind of cranky and this just ended it for him.  He tried to stay in the fun, but he was pretty much a little ball of screaming crying anger.  Normally when he gets like this, he just needs some time alone but I could not figure out how to give that to him in this case.  I took him to the room where the cakes were set up.  That’s when he unleashed on me:

“This is the worst birthday ever!”

“We’ve had seven birthdays and this is the only one that is terrible!”

“This is a waste of a whole birthday! I won’t have another for an entire year!”

I know he’s a kid and kids lash out, but I was already fragile and I just crumpled.  I kept my cool, told him I was going outside for a bit and asked if he needed me to get anything before I left.  He said he wanted to lay down in the car for a while, and I thought, well duh that’s a great idea.  I can’t believe that didn’t occur to me.

This is when my dad stepped in.  Seeing my barely controlled anguish, he offered to take K to his car to lay down and have some cooldown time.  I gratefully accepted his offer, and found a quiet corner of the building in which to have a complete breakdown.

I went outside and sobbed.  I wanted so much for this birthday to be amazing and wonderful and special, and somehow I had managed to ruin it for him.  He would always remember this first birthday as being terrible and I couldn’t do anything to fix it.  He was hurting and it made me hurt and I couldn’t handle it.  So I let myself cry for just a couple of minutes, then pulled myself together (I thought) and went back in.

One of the other moms — one who knows I’m recently widowed — was in the lobby on the phone.  She saw my face.

I guess I wasn’t as stealth as I thought I was.

She immediatly hung up, stood up, and hugged me.  “I can’t imagine how hard this is for you.”  I started crying again.  I couldn’t think of anything to say.  I just cried.

I pulled myself together again – or so I thought.

We went back inside, where my other boy was having a grand time.  One of the other moms there is also a widow — she’s just over two years out.  She saw me and immediately asked if I was okay.

I started to say yes, I’m fine.

We all do that.  We all say we are fine.

WE ARE NOT FINE.  WE ARE NOT OKAY.  NOTHING IS FINE.  “Fine” just means “I managed to generally function like a human being today, despite this pervasive wrongness that I carry.”

I didn’t say I was fine.  I looked at her, she had asked if I was okay, and I said, “No.”

She said, “Of course you’re not.”

More hugging.

More crying.

So now I’m just openly widow-crying in front of everyone.  All this work to make it seem like we are moving forward okay and that we are doing “as well as can be expected” is gone.  I’m a blubbering widow-y mess.

I did manage to pull myself together in time to call the kids to the party room for pizza and cake.  K came in, refreshed from his time alone, and was able to laugh and play and have fun for the rest of the party.  Everyone said it was a huge success, and I’m glad everyone had a good time.  I’m especially glad that K was able to reign it in and have fun for the second half.  I’m super proud of him.  That’s not easy to do.

I had fun, too.  I talked with the other moms about chore charts and allowances.  It was good.

Now I’m sitting at my computer bawling.  I had Amazon Now deliver a small bottle of bourbon and I’m quickly getting blotto and am about to watch Donnie Darko.

Thank you for listening.

Erasing the Evidence of Him

When Trey died, I almost immediately started going through and getting rid of things.  My mother was alarmed, and other people also would caution me to not be in a big hurry.  Those who love me thought I was going through some sort of emotional purge that I would regret — that having his things around was painful so I was trying to erase him.

They needn’t have been concerned.  That’s not what I was doing.  Trey and I have always had an over abundance of clutter.  I like to keep things for sentimental reasons, and he liked to keep things in case we need them again.  This resulted in boxes of items we promised each other we’d go through.  After he died, I needed space to breathe.  I needed some of the clutter to go away.  I no longer needed to confer with someone else.  I got rid of things.

The items I got rid of mainly consisted of clothes and work related papers and books.  I also got rid of his stash of outdated routers, that big box of tangled wires with which he refused to part, and one of the three sets of kitchen knives we had.  I didn’t get rid of anything sentimental and if I had any question about whether to keep something, I kept it.

Later I spoke with another widow, one who is farther along the path.  She said that she went through the same thing — an initial purge that worried other people.  She did not regret anything, and neither do I.  She wisely told me that I would hold on to some things that I know I will not keep forever, but that I am not ready to give up yet.

Last week, for example, I got rid of that hideous ginormous Scarface picture.  Trey bought it when we moved to LA, after he had relocated but before I had a chance to join him.  I always hated the picture.  Ugh.  After a couple of moves, I was able to get it located in our bedroom instead of in our living room.  Once Trey died, I looked at that ridiculous picture hanging above our bed and thought, “Nope. Not yet.  I’m keeping that awful thing.  He loved it, and he loved how much I hated it.  It stays for now.”  Then suddenly last week I was ready to get rid of it.  So I put it up for free on Letgo and now it is some other wife’s problem.

To put it more briefly, I am not conflicted about getting rid of Trey’s things.  I have confidence in my ability to determine what I am ready to let go and what needs to stay.

What I am conflicted about, apparently, is redecorating.

I need to do it.  I need to make my home my own.  I have a serious need to claim my space.

It started in the bedroom.  I replaced our burgundy sateen sheets and zebra print fuzzy comforter with some almond colored cotton sheets, a warm soft blanket, and earth toned striped bedspread.  I removed his clutter from the shelves and bedside table.  I planned to make the room my safe haven spot, just for me.

My plan was puny, as the kids have not slept in their own rooms more than ten times since Trey’s death.  Far from being a quiet haven, my bedroom is constantly full of kids and pets and noise.  It is still nice, however, to walk into my room decorated as I like it.  It feels open and freeing.  I can breathe in there.

Now I am looking at painting our living room.   As part of this, I will take down the Seattle skyline sofa picture that Trey got at Ikea.  Will I put it back up?  Probably not.  What about the Gladiator helmet and Buddha statues on the mantel?  I will replace them with something more my style.  I have already replaced the crystal decanter and glasses on the side table with books.

More and more this place feels like my home — not ours.  The transformation feels necessary and right to me.  This home was ours, and the furniture and decorations demonstrate the sometimes incongruous blend of our tastes.  Now, however, I need my home to be mine.

This does not mean erasing all evidence of Trey.  I’m not boxing up every single thing he purchased and pretending he never existed.  I am not trying to remove all the reminders of him, although I think people may view it as that.  I expect more concerned questions.   It would be impossible to remove the reminders of him even if I wanted to do so.  He is not in the mantel decorations or the red sofa.  He is in the yard he was teaching the kids to mow.  He is in the fruit trees we planted as a family.  I see the stairs, and I see him lumbering down them in the morning.  I sit at our dining table and I see his spot empty.  I see him when we play Monopoly with three instead of four.  I see him in the lightswitch he repaired, in the thermostat he installed, in the light bulbs we took half a day to decide upon.  He is here.  He will always be here.  He will not be removed, and I would not want to remove him.

It is true, however, that this will no longer look like his home.

How do I feel about that?  Guilty.

Like I said, I know this is necessary for me.  I need to claim this space as I am claiming my life.

But the other day I dreamed that someone forced me to get on an airplane and leave my wedding dress behind.  I think that’s a pretty clear message about how I am feeling about this.

This is so hard.

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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