My First Dungeons and Dragons

I arrive at the game store. Sporting a shiny new Player’s Handbook in my arms and a set of dice from the Starter Kit in my pocket, I ignore my humming nerves, enter, and observe.

This establishment had advertised something called “D&D Encounters” on Wednesday nights.  I had done my research, and learned that “Encounters” is something promoted by the creators of DnD in order to make it more accessible to new players and to those without time to dedicate to a full campaign.  It is, as I understand it, a one-shot game every week, for level one characters.  This sounded perfect for me.  I had no desire to commit to a campaign I would not be able to maintain, and I especially did not want to saddle a Dungeon Master with a brand new player against his/her expectations.  Just to be sure, I had emailed the establishment to confirm this meetup was for newbies and people with limited availability.  I was told that there were Wednesday night games that had open slots available, and that people pop in and out all of the time.  It wasn’t exactly what I was asking, but it was close.  I was told to arrive early so I could meet the DM and roll up a character if need be.  I was terrified, but I need external interaction so badly right now.  I have always ALWAYS wanted to try tabletop RPGs.  I had to jump in somewhere, and this sounded promising.  So I had decided to go, had my mom watch the kids, and wound up here.

Several tables are occupied by people playing games, but unfortunately none feature a sign stating, “Dungeons and Dragons Noobs over Here!” I take an eternity in front of the cold case, taking deep breaths and selecting a fruity soda.  As I pay, I ask the bartender about the “Encounters” group for newcomers. She sees this listed on their chart, but doesn’t know which group it is.  She asks a man I figure is the owner.  He points toward the back room and says he’s pretty sure those tables have room for new players.  Neither DM has arrived.  He tells me to pick a table and see how it goes.

Ummm, okay.  That’s not my worst nightmare or anything.  I have flashbacks to finding a seat in the school cafeteria.  I almost run away.

Almost.

I stay.

The current clues do not bode well. My fear had been that I would show up and find myself in the middle of someone’s campaign, that a DM would have to try to teach me how to play while running an ongoing game. It now seems like this was exactly what I am about to do.

I peek into the back room. Seated at one table are a couple of kids who tell me that they will be playing an original game one of them has made up.  They say the other table will be playing DnD.  They don’t exactly invite me to play with them, but hint that new players are always welcome. I, however, know that I won’t be able to attend regular Wednesday game sessions, so I don’t want to impose on their game for just one evening.  Plus I am still hoping the DnD table will be single shot games I can play once a month. Besides, these kids are all a good two decades younger than me and sport multicolored hair. Obviously that iss the cool kids’ table. I have never belonged at the cool kids’ table.

I sit at the other table, the one that will be playing DnD and is occupied by a guy closer to my own age. At first I hope his is the GM and I introduce myself.  He tells me the GM hasn’t arrived yet and we chat about general nonsense. A couple of other guys show up, all of us as awkward as one would expect, and finally the GM gets there as well. He welcomes me as a new player and seems nice enough.

He asks if I have a character. I do!. I built one on an online generator, and admittedly don’t know what a bunch of the attributes mean. He looks over my character. Apparently it is all wrong.  My stats don’t match up with my personality traits, etc.

Also, my character is a level one.

I need to be a level three.
Because they are in the middle of an ongoing campaign.

Crap.

At this point I know I probably won’t be able to play with these guys regularly – unless we can make my character hibernate at regular intervals. Like Brigadoon.  I am otherwise engaged three Wednesdays a month.  My dreams of joining a one-shot game once a month to learn the ropes are pretty much dashed all to hell at this point.  I have made it this far, however, so I may as well finish out the evening.

There is no time to roll up a new character for me, as the GM was a bit late to begin with.  He doctors my character up to a level 3 and corrects some of the things that were wrong with her.  He asks some questions, and gives the deep sigh when I don’t know the answers.  The other players are extremely patient, counting out their dice and looking up things in their books.  I apologize for taking up the time, but they all respond with a general, “Hey, we were all new at some point” thing which is super nice.

Finally my character is less atrocious and the game starts. Immediately the GM turns to me and says, “I can’t keep poofing players in and out of the game whenever someone new shows up, so you’ll have to wait while I figure out a way to work you in to the story.” Okay, fine. I completely understand. I didn’t mean to intrude on an ongoing game, but here I am and I am aware that makes things more difficult for the GM. I am certainly not trying to trash him here, because I do know I put him in a bad spot.

It does feel a bit less welcome-y though.  Especially when two of the guys next to me point out that they are in a forest and I’m a rogue thief, so it would make sense for me to kind of appear out of the woods.

“I’m not doing that.” the GM replies.

The group is in a forest, having just rested.  They are immediately attacked by some sort of fire monster whose name I didn’t catch.  It takes me a bit to realize that the little cardboard circles on the table represent the fire monsters.  It doesn’t matter, however, because I’m not in play.  I watch the game play, and the guy next to me whispers, “I’m sure he’ll get you in the game soon.”  I reply, “It’s okay.  It’s helpful just to watch what’s happening.”  I can tell he’s annoyed on my behalf, though, which helps to diminish my own annoyance.

During the battle, a couple of other guys show up — first timers who are friends of one of the other guys.  Now the GM has to deal with three of us.  They borrow characters from their friend, so they don’t need to develop anything.

The GM winds up more or less “poofing” us all into the game.  “You are drawn to the sounds of the battle.”

During the battles I learn the difference between “open to new/beginning players,” and “geared towards beginning players.” While everyone is friendly and patient with me, the game moves so quickly I can’t keep track. We are still under attack by a swarm of . . . those fire related monsters. I can’t tell who is rolling to attack and who is rolling some sort of reaction. When it is my turn, the GM hands me additional dice and tells me what to roll and adds up the numbers, and I spend the next couple of turns scouring my character sheet to find out where all of those numbers came from. (After my second turn at battle, I find that I have been doing a ‘sneak attack,’ which is why I’ve been needing to roll a second d6.  I still have no idea, however, why I had the sneak attack, or when it applied.)

What I had hoped for – what I still hope to find – is a DM who will narrate the game the way I do for the kids. “The monster is attacking that player and the roll comes up with this number which is a hit, so I will roll this and the damage done is that.” Yes, I am saying I need to be treated like a child.

That is not what is happening here.  It feels like dice are rolling and damage is happening and I have no idea what is going on or whose turn it is. I roll when I am told to roll, and attack when my name comes up.  I don’t feel like I’m learning how to play.  I am just perpetually confused.  And stressed.  Every turn I get, I try to figure out quickly what I’m to do, but the GM just keeps pressing dice into my hand like they don’t have time to sit and wait for me to catch up.  (It is only later at home that I realize the other players all had to take a few minutes to check their sheets or their spell cards or whatever during their turns.  It is only me who is being rushed.  Even the other two new guys are given time.)

The battle ends, one of the characters heals us all, we are dealt experience points.   Our group decides to press on instead of resting, and we are attacked by . . . some sort of water creature.  We are still in the forest.

During these battles, I do realize quickly that having your numbers leveled up is not the same as actually playing a character until she levels up organically. Everyone else has developed spells and armor and abilities, while my character is pretty basically equipped.  I have a dagger and a shortsword, and some light armor.  I deliberately have no magic, because I knew I’d be struggling to keep up and didn’t want to complicate things further.

This is how every round of battle goes:
Other Player – throws up a wall of fire or some such. Damages all of the monsters on the north end.
Another Player – blows a gale force wind knocking back all of the monsters 20 feet.
Me – walks up to the closest monster and pokes it with my dagger.

It gets a bit embarrassing and futile feeling before too long.

I think the DM may be skipping me, but I can’t tell for sure and I don’t really care.
By the end of the game, I know that this particular group is not mine. I have learned quite a bit, however, and would say I had a good time. I believe I will find my group eventually, I just don’t click with the dynamics of this one.

Lessons Learned:
I learned that there are SO MANY kinds of dice. Some people come to the table with boxes full of of a kaleidoscope of dice. Others bring out only one or two sets of fancy and obviously expensive dice.
I learned that you need more than one set of dice to play.
I learned that a d8 and a d10 look remarkably similar to each other.
I learned that I should use pregenerated characters until I know what I’m doing.
I learned that it takes about 20 seconds, in a room of the right people, for a heated discussion about Firefly to begin.
I learned that if you (I) roll a one during an attack, you miss the target and wind up shooting your own paladin with your arrow. I also learned the Paladin will not get mad about it.
I learned that a new player (or at least me) should either find a group of friends who play and join them, or find an event that is geared specifically to new players so the GM can plan on teaching while playing.
I learned that maybe next time I should give the cool kids’ table a try.

First After Miserable First

We survived our first holiday season without Trey.

As Halloween approached, we elected to not make the costumes we had all been talking about as a family.  Then we elected to not make costumes at all, but to buy.  Mr.K finally decided to just wear last year’s costume, which was the moment I realized that he was not as excited about the holiday as he wanted to be.  We had several parties plus trick-or-treating.  Each Halloween event began jovially, but ended with K feeling sad, removing his costume, and secluding himself.  He says he may not dress up next year.

Mr.H made a Thanksgiving project at school – a poster on which we all were to write what makes us feel thankful.  We all wrote something about family, but I felt dishonest because our family is missing a piece.

Tension built in the days leading up to Christmas, as Mr.K grew more and more insistent that Santa could bring his dad back.  He would not be disabused of it.  The whole thing terrorized me that he would wake on Christmas morning and fall to pieces because his wish had not come true.  Thankfully, on Christmas morning he accepted what I am sure he already knew — that this was not possible.  We had a lovely day, but partway through it Mr.H got really upset about a gift he though his dad would have gotten him.  I hurt for him so much.  After a snowball fight in the yard, Mr.K laid this one on me:  “It’s sad that dad couldn’t be here for this.  That’s what’s so bad about when people die.  They miss out on all these things.  I mean, Dad is never going to have another Christmas.  I don’t even have to get very old — just 41 — and I will have more Christmases than he did.”

Ouch, kiddo.

New Year’s Eve arrived, with nobody to kiss.

Close on the heels of New Year’s was Trey’s 42nd birthday.  It also would have been our 19th wedding anniversary.  Even though I was certain gravity had doubled due to the heaviness of my entire body, I managed to bulldoze us through that final day of the Wilson Family Holiday Season.  We enjoyed breakfast at the pancake place he used to take us.  We honored his memory by once again visiting the root beer store.  Mr.H and I cooked a birthday cake for Trey.  Mr.K, who originally suggested the cake, found himself unable to move forward with it.  We didn’t sing “Happy Birthday.”  We baked the cake, iced it and ate it.  K joined us for the eating part, and we didn’t talk about why we had cake.

Everybody is extremely sympathetic toward me right now.  I appreciate this. I am fortunate to have so many people in my life who care about me and who are thoughtful enough to realize how difficult the holidays are.

The first holidays, in particular.

For every first holiday, however, there are countless smaller firsts.  Innumerable times my heart protests that the last time we did this, he was with us.  At the beginning of widowhood, these firsts are a daily assault:

The first time I put the kids to bed and came downstairs to nobody.
The first time I made dinner for just the three of us, knowing he would not return.
The first time I went grocery shopping without buying his favorite staples.
I watched a TV show we always watched together.
I picked up listening to the rest of the audoibook we were sharing.
I went to bed.
I woke up.
I rented movies.
I cleaned the kitchen.
I hung up clothes in the closet.

Everything in my life was something I was doing for the first time since he died.

After a while, the basics of living had run through a couple of cycles.  No longer was each day a constant chorus of “this is the first time . . . ”  The firsts continued to batter me, however.

The first time I took them to a movie just the three of us, I couldn’t figure out what to do when I had to use the bathroom — make them both come with me, or leave them in the theater while I went?

The first time I took them to get the Slushies Trey always got them, I managed to get Slushie all over the place.  I could not get the hang of filling the cups the right amount before causing major overflows.  In some cases, the stuff keeps expanding after you stop pouring, turning your cup into a volcano science experiment smelling of blue raspberry.  I’d had no clue it was that complicated.

The first time we went to one of their school parties without Trey was the Neon Glow Party.  It was just a week after he died, but we’d been talking about it for weeks.  The neon party is always eighties themed, and I’d said we needed to all dress up like the eighties.  Trey had responded, “So you’ll just be wearing your regular clothes, then?”  He had a point.  Looking back, I can’t believe we made it to the party.  I was still in such a fog, and didn’t want to disappoint the kids who still wanted to go.  They were dancing their butts off, and I was glad to have brought them.  I just kept thinking it would be okay as long as we avoided the photo booth.  Of course then K really wanted to do the photo booth.  So we did it.  And we got the pictures.  The same pictures we get every year, but with Trey conspicuously missing.  K deflated and wanted to go home.  We went home.

The first time we played our favorite four-player video game with just the three of us, we realized one of us would have to log in as Trey in order to keep our game progress.  As uncomfortable as it was, I logged in as him.  It’s commonplace for me to do that now.

The first time the three of us went on a road trip together, I wondered if it was safe.  How can a woman and kids drive over the state border and get a hotel room and be safe?  I’d never traveled without a man.

We went to our first soccer game, and to our first hockey game.  Without their dad.

These small activities that we find ourselves in, that remind us that Trey was here last time, they are growing more and more infrequent.  Maybe there will come a point when there are no more.

The final kind of first I will address is the worst, as the frequency of it will keep growing at least for a few years.  Instead of protesting that we did this last time, my heart screams that Trey never had a chance to do this with us, to witness this event.  These milestones and first experiences will always be accompanied by my ghost of him, seeing his reactions inside my mind.

I joined the kids on their first airplane ride.  They had never heard the safety speech before, and K paid careful, solemn attention to the flight attendant.  They delightedly opened the tray tables, exclaiming, “Hey, look at this!  A little table!”  Trey never got to experience this with him.  I could almost feel his laughter.

Harry hit his first baseball.  Then stood at the plate, not knowing what came next.  At the urging of his coaches he ran toward first base.  Still carrying his bat.  The coaches yelled at him to drop the bat, so he ran back to home plate to put the bat down, and then back to third.  Trey would have told me that only my kid would be doing this sort of classic move.

Korben played goalie for the first time.  Trey never got a chance to see his son so enthusiastically cheering on his team mates even when they were not near his goal.  He never got to see Korben save a goal.

He won’t be there for their first girlfriends, their first school dances, their first day of every grade, their first kids, first auditions/tryouts for various activities, first play or first academic bowl or first recital or whatever we have in the future — these firsts will keep coming.

The Empty Christmas Stocking

I’m not crying because I’m on Zoloft.

This is our first Christmas since Trey died.  It’s rough, y’all.  Really rough.  I love the holidays, though, and am looking forward to Christmas.

1513213659248525845966.jpg

But that stocking.  Trey’s obnoxious gold tasseled Christmas stocking.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, I pulled out our boxes and boxes of holiday decorations and went to work Christmas-ing our house.  I was appropriately jolly, until it came time to hang the stockings.

What do I do with his?  Do I hang it, and then fill it with gifts for the whole family, in memory of him?  Do I hang it in his honor and leave it unfilled?  I thought those options might bring more sadness to the day, so I elected to leave it in the box.

I struggle with whether this is the right decision.  I feel like we need to include Trey in our holiday somehow, but I don’t want an empty plate at the table and I don’t want an empty stocking over the mantel.

The good news is that we have LOTS of stockings above our mantel!  Everyone who celebrates the holiday with us gets a stocking and this year our home will be filled as my parents and uncle are coming.  Of course we have a stocking for the pets as well.  We therefore have a whole row of stockings and our life is full of love.

But that one, it’s gone.

I just don’t know what to do about it.

He’s Really Gone

He’s gone.

Duh, right?

It’s been almost nine months.

Nine months of not hearing him come down the stairs.

Nine months of him not falling asleep on the sofa on a Saturday morning.

Nine months of me watching kid-inappropriate TV by myself.

Nine months of crying and yelling and laughing and weeping.

You’d think this would not just now be sinking in.

It’s hitting me like an anvil.

I think it started the last time I visited this blog.  I got to thinking that I should change the photo of the blog to a more recent one of Trey.  This one is over a year old.  That’s when it hit me that there will be no new recent pictures.  I mean, we have more recent pictures than this one, but all we have is all we will have.  At some point the most recent picture of him, one taken on my birthday two days before his death, will be ten years old.  There will be no new photographs, no new jokes, no new experiences.

There will be no new memories with him.

At night I get in bed alone, and that is how it will continue to be.  I still sleep mainly on my own side.  The dog has taken over his pillow, a fact that would both amuse and annoy him.

I wake up with kids in my bed, but no husband.  That is how it will continue to be.

This is not the first holiday season without him.  This is the first of many holiday seasons without him.  Of ALL the holiday seasons without him.

I asked my mom for gift ideas for dad, and awaited the traditional responding question of what she should get for Trey.  Half the day went by before I realized that I was expecting that question, and that it would never be asked again.

His gone-ness is overpowering, is washing me away.

I sit at the dinner table, looking at the three of us.  (Okay, I admit it.  I sit on the sofa, looking at the three of us eating dinner with our plates on our laps.)  It’s the three of us.  It will be the three of us, until the kids grow up and start lives of their own.

I see advertisements for concerts and live shows to which we will never go.

I get groupon ads for couples’ getaways and think, “Well, I guess I’m never doing that.”  We will never go to a romantic resort together.  Never take a cruise.  Never visit New York.  Never visit the real Stonehenge.  I may do some of these things on my own, but so many of them are contingent upon being a couple.  The part of my life where I am part of a couple is over.  I didn’t see it coming.  It’s done.  He’s gone.

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.

The Unbearable Sameness of Being

When my boys were babies, there was a mom in my Mommy group who said, “It feels sometimes like I’m living the same week over and over again.”

That perfectly captured what it is like to be a stay at home mom with young children.  Your life exists only as routine — bathing, feeding, dressing, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.

It once again feels like that, now that I am widowed.  There isn’t any reason for it to feel this way.  The kids and I go places and do different things every week.  There are holidays and seasons, birthday parties and movies, classes and scouts.  If anything, there is less routine in my life now.  I am most likely overcompensating by filling our lives with activities.

Still, it feels like there is no reprieve from daily life.  I get the kids ready for school, drop them off and then either work or run errands.  I pick them up at my parents’ house.  We do homework and have dinner and either watch some TV or do baths unless it is a night where we have activity planned.  Then it’s bedtime for them and TV/Chores/Staying up until I pass out time for me.

Every day.

Nobody is here to say, “I’ll do the cooking tonight.”  Nobody is here to tell the kids, “It’s after bedtime,which means Mom is off duty.  Come to me if you need anything.”  Nobody is here to embark on some project like painting the fence that will consume us all.

To be fair, I have had my share of projects.  My downstairs is currently half painted.

So I am not sure why it feels so monotonous, but it does.

Maybe it is the simple lack of someone to talk to.  Perhaps the presence of another adult, someone to tell about my day, someone to make comments to while watching TV, maybe that is what I am missing.  Maybe the simple act of turning to the person next to you and saying, “Whaaaat?  I did not see that coming.  Did you see that coming?” is what transforms an evening in front of the TV from being sad and monotonous to being fun and engaging.  Maybe being able to complain to someone about the mountain of dishes elevates washing them from being lonely to being, I don’t know, not lonely.

That is what I feel now.  Bored and lonely, and like every day is the same.  Every week is on repeat.  The morning routine, the night time routine.  Over and over.  I know it isn’t true.  I know last weekend we went to a Halloween party and the weekend before that we went to a scouting event and this week the kids were out of school on Friday but we all had fevers so we didn’t do anything.

I know my days are not on repeat, but they still feel repetitive.

And now I am being repetitive in this blog.  Sorry about that.

I don’t know what to do.

I just feel so sad.

 

 

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.

20171112_013940.jpg

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.

20171112_013849.jpg

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!

20171112_013908.jpg

I Deleted His Porn

Let’s get personal!

Hopefully none of his family finds this blog.  Of course, if they do, it will not be a surprise to them that he had porn on the computer.  For a while, we owned a company that sold adult couples’ products, and went to the Adult convention in Las Vegas once or twice.  This was about a thousand years ago.  So for me to say there was adult content on our computer, well, that is a surprise to nobody.  Do all men have pornography files in their computers?  Do all widows at some point have to delete this stuff?  Am I the only one?

In the days after Trey’s death, I purged a lot of things.  Many of them were personal, couple-y things.  I got rid of all lingerie, etc.  I got rid of all his adult DVD’s.  (We don’t even have a DVD player, except I think the XBox plays them.)  I figured family was going to descend on my house, and people were going to help me clean and sort.  I knew my sex life was over.  I thought it would be a lot less awkward for everyone if any intensely personal items were gone.  It’s like that old joke, if I die here, go to my home, tell my wife I love her, and delete my browser history.

I thought I had pretty much gotten rid of everything sensitive, until the other day.  My desktop computer went kaput and a very nice school parent offered to help me fix/clean it up.  Well, that’s when it occurred to me there was probably adult content in that computer.  I couldn’t exactly send my computer over to another third grade parent when it might be filled with my husband’s rather impressive collection of pornography.  I mean, I’m sure he sees all kinds of stuff in people’s computers.  But still.  So I went on a search for video files, and sure enough there was a collection of films filed cleverly in a folder called “Work Financial Spreadsheets.”  I deleted them.

It just felt weird because this is something that was his.  And if he were still here, I’d have to explain why I was throwing away his things.  Getting rid of his work stuff wasn’t a problem, because it was his work stuff not “his” stuff.  Getting rid of his clothes didn’t bother me, because he had three closets of clothes and really wore the same four shirts over and over again.  I kept those four shirts, and knew he wouldn’t care about the rest of the clothes.  Most of the other things I got rid of were our things — our bedspread, our mantlepiece decorations, our espresso machine.

Getting rid of his Scarface picture felt a bit wrong, but was also cathartic as I was claiming my bedroom.

This was something that was his, not mine, and wasn’t in my way and I was strictly getting rid of it for utilitarian reasons.  So I deleted his porn from my computer.  The world did not end.  I did not have to explain to anybody why I was erasing the files he downloaded.  I feel very neutral about that decision.

I also deleted Halo and Call of Duty from the XBox..

This is funny.  The kids had a friend over and they were playing video games.  My kid suggested playing Halo.  I stopped them and said that game is for grown ups, and I only let them play it because their dad sometimes played it with them.  I asked the friend if he was allowed to play it, and he skirted the question.  I said I would check with his mom, and he decided to play Plants vs Zombies instead.

I got to thinking about it later.  I kept Halo because it felt wrong to say, “Your dad died and now you are no longer allowed to play the games you like.”  The thing is, though, I really do not want them playing those games.  Not yet.  And I never play them.  They give me motion sickness (don’t judge me.)  And I am the parent.  I am the only parent, and I can parent as I see fit.  I don’t have to consult Trey’s ghost.  I am not doing the kids a service by going against my instincts.  It is horrifying that they lost their dad, but letting them play a highly inappropriate video game in his honor won’t help or change that.  He wasn’t perfect, and one of the areas on which we disagreed was his belief that our seven year olds were somehow teenagers.

I did weenie out, however.  I deleted the games, along with a few we never use, while the kids were asleep.  At some point they’ll look for Halo and I’ll be like, “Whaaaaa?  It’s gone?  Did you try turning it off and back on again?  I have no idea.  Did you try logging in under your dad’s profile?  Wow I guess there was some kind of glitch.”  I feel good about this decision.

I suppose the point here is that my house is becoming progressively  more PG-Rated.

The Husbandless Holidays, Halloween Edition 

So it begins . . . Our first holiday season as a threesome.

I cannot even tell you how not okay this is.

I bought three pumpkins.  Well, six. I bought three big pumpkins for carving, and three pie pumpkins for painting.  Not for pie.  Gross.  I’m not someone who gets all jazzed about pumpkin spice.  I don’t even understand why people thing this is delicious or smells good or anything.

But I digress.  I was about to tell you how I almost wept in the arms of a sweet elderly lady at the grocery store.  Perhaps I shouldn’t use the word ‘elderly.’  I’m no spring chicken, and I do not know how old she is.  She’s older than me, though.  She commented on my cart full of pumpkins, and reminisced about carving pumpkins with her kids when they were young, and again with her grandkids.  I talked about how my boys won’t go near the pumpkin guts so I have to clean the pumpkins out before they will even consider having anything to do with the whole thing.

It was on the tip of my tongue, what had been on my mind all day:

“This will be our first Halloween since my husband died.”

I didn’t say it.  I almost said it.  I wanted to say it.  I didn’t.

Why didn’t I?  Part of it was that voice inside my head telling me that she doesn’t want to hear about it.  She’s having a lovely memory and doesn’t need my sadness invading her space.  It’s what keeps me from mentioning it wherever I go, even though I feel like it’s branded on my forehead.

“This will be our first Halloween without my husband.”

I kept it in.  The other reason?  I knew that if I said the words out loud, I would cry.  I would cry, and I would not stop.  I would slobber big snotty drooly tears all over this poor unsuspecting stranger.  In the middle of Safeway.  On a Monday afternoon.

Instead, I continued the pleasantries, swapping stories of trick or treat and candy bellyaches.  I loaded up the six pumkins

six, not eight

and sat in my car and sobbed.

I thought of the missing pumpkins, about family costumes in years past, of the couple’s costume we had planned for the next time we had a grown up party to go to.  I remembered his idea to dress up the twins as Daft Punk this year and how he was going to help them build their helmets.  I tried to maintain that concept, but none of us had our hearts in it and it fizzled.  I remembered how much work he put into helping H with his costume last year.  I thought about how Halloween is not so far from February, and how last Halloween we absolutely had no idea the end was coming.  How we were still getting settled into our neighborhood and how we were using this as a reason to meet the neighbors.  How he insisted on getting full sized candy bars.

I looked to the future Halloweens, all of them with pumpkins in multiples of three.  The kids and I may do a family costume, but there are no couple’s costumes in my future.

I sobbed and sobbed until my eyes felt like they were bleeding.  I must have sat in that parking lot for 45 minutes trying to get a hold of myself enough to drive home.

I wish I had told that stranger.  Maybe if I had told her, I’d have wished I hadn’t.  But I think it would have felt better to say it to someone.  The holidays.  Wow.  It is going to be harder than I anticipated.  I knew they would be difficult; I’m not an idiot.  But Trey was a real grinch about the holidays.  I mean, once the boys were born he upgraded from Full-On-Grinch to Grudging-Good-Sport.  He recognized the importance of holidays for the kids.

It was always me, however, making the holidays happen, bulldozing them into our lives whether anybody else wanted them or not.  Trey liked Halloween, but even then his enthusiasm was limited to selecting a costume.  I put out the decorations, and shopped for more.  I made costumes.  I carved pumpkins.  I put together Halloween crafts for the kids.  I played Halloween music and watched scary movies.  He treated the holidays like they were any other day, as much as he could in the midst of my obsessions.  I therefore thought that his presence would not be missed much more than it is any other day.

That’s a nopefish.

This is horrifying — going through the holidays without him.

We went to the school carnival, where my mom accompanied us and watched the kids while I volunteered at a booth.  We went to the Boy Scouts Halloween party with my parents, but we didn’t know anyone else so we collectively posted up at a table.  We went trick or treating with my mom.  There was nobody at our house to hand out candy.  Finally, yesterday I went to a grown ups Halloween party where I only knew the host.

20171105_142438.jpg
That’s me in the middle.

It was fun, but also lonely.

What is the rest of the holiday going to look like?

Thanksgiving is coming.  Thank goodness, my parents host T-day.  All I will have to do is get the kids dressed and show up for dinner.  Trey didn’t like turkey, or stuffing, or cranberries.  He didn’t care for going somewhere to eat.  He’d rather stay home.  He was always friendly about it, however, coming with me and eating too much and falling asleep in a chair like the other men.  He was also there to do the driving so I could have slightly too much wine.  It will be so odd not having him there.

Then, Christmas.  Holy shit.  Christmas we host at our house.

Once again, he was a grinch.  He didn’t participate in the decorating or the planning, or in much of the cooking.  But he indulged me.  He was there to help put the decorations near the top of the tree.  He was there to help lug boxes in and out of the garage, and to help me find extension cords, because they are never where you think you left them.  When he really shone was Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

He would spend the entire month of December specifically pretending it wasn’t Christmas.  I did the decorating and the shopping and the gift selecting and wrapping.  I would handle the cards and the lights and the menu and the guest list.  I would watch Christmas movies, above the loud protests of my family.  On Christmas Eve, however, he would bake cookies for Santa.  He would sit on the floor with me all night, as we assembled whatever nonsense I decided to get for the kids that was made of a million small pieces with a single sheet of instructions.  We’d each take one item and race to see who could get it assembled first.  He would help hang the stockings and we would share some scotch to congratulate ourselves on successfully preparing for Christmas, before falling into bed at three a.m.

On Christmas Day, he was glorious.  Excited to see the kids get excited, he would wake at about five — or perhaps he never slept — and would WAKE THE KIDS.  Who does that?  Then as guest after guest (mostly my family, but sometimes some of his) entered our home, he was the perfect host.  Hosting is not my strong suit.  Planning is.  Once people are in my home I come dangerously close to falling apart.  He always stepped up, offering drinks and cooking some sort of appetizer he had decided at the last minute that he needed to cook.

What will this year be like, without him?

Halloween was fun.  But it was also sad.  I have not cried as much this month as I did the first month after he died, but I have cried at least half that much, and that is a LOT.

 

I don’t know how the rest of the holidays are going to go.  I’ve ordered Christmas cards and will be sending those out.  They have lovely photos of, you know, the three of us.  I could write a whole post about that.  Maybe I will.

But not today.

Travelling Alone – Yippee or Boohoo?

Both!

This was work travel.  I was to drive for three hours (which always turns into five) to a town in a neighboring state to measure  building for a client.

This is something I used to do in my days as a younger Architect.  I took 1-2 day business trips, by car or by plane, to measure sites and buildings and sometimes to meet with City Officials.  It was always kind of scary.  It is always kind of scary for a woman traveling alone.  I assume.  I had always thought I was being timid or paranoid, but recent events on social media, as well as living in the world and talking to other people, have taught me that many women are uncomfortable traveling alone.

This time it was scarier than I remember it being.  Is it because I haven’t traveled alone in years, and I simply must get used to it again?  Maybe.

Is it because my previous trips were mainly in the midwest, and now I am in more metropolitan areas?  That may have something to do with it.

Is it because being married, even if my husband is not physically with me in the car, gives a sense of security?  Probably to some extent.

It’s a combination of those things.  I wasn’t in terror the whole time or anything, but I was nervous at some points along the way.  I didn’t like how isolated the hotel was, and was nervous being in the empty abandoned store all day.

In truth, however, I was looking forward to it.

A night away from the kids, in a hotel, where I wouldn’t have the option, much less the compulsion, to feel guilty for not doing the dishes or painting the walls or folding laundry.

A “night off” from being a widowed single mom.

A night to myself.

Just one.

I imagined listening to my new Kevin Hearne book in my Jeep on the way to the hotel.  I imagined checking in late afternoon, maybe checking out a local tourist attraction before dark.  I imagined getting room service or having food delivered.  I imagined swimming in the hotel pool or taking a long hot bath.  I imagined watching TV propped up on those hotel-y pillows that hotels have.

I knew better, but I still imagined that.

The reality was that my client prefers I get a rental car.  I was able to listen to my new book, but had to listen through a tinny bluetooth speaker I have because the radio in the rental doesn’t play media off of non-apple devices.

The reality was that I checked in around 9:00 at night.

The reality was that it was a Comfort Inn.  I toyed with the idea of asking the client if they would be okay with me staying at a luxury hotel if I billed them for a Comfort Inn stay, but decided not to broach that subject since this was my first trip for them.  This client prefers to pay directly for the hotel.  So I was booked in a Comfort Inn.  I checked for bedbugs, and found the bed and the room to appear clean.  Obviously there was no room service.  There was also no list of restaurants that delivered to the area.

The reality also was that I am on a diet.  I had brought my diet food with me.  Rather than search for an hour for local food delivery to the hotel, I just ate my diet food.

The reality was that the pool was closed, and the hot tub was weird and smelled odd.  I was a trooper and got in the hot tub anyway, and then showered right afterward to avoid getting a yeast infection or typhoid or something.

20171025_221422

The reality was, who wants to take a luxurious bath in a Comfort Inn tub?

The reality was that the TV got six channels.

The reality was that the hotel wifi was unsecured so I did not feel comfortable logging in and getting work done.

I went to bed at 10:30 watching reruns of The Family Guy and feeling like the loneliest person in the world.

It was nice to have the time to myself.  It was nice to car-cry and to go to bed without unfinished chores calling to me.

It was good to wake up alone.  I love my kids, and most days it makes my heart happy (even when I’m grumbling about the hour) to have them wake me in the mornings, or for me to wake them.  It was grand, however, just once, to wake up and just be me.  I wouldn’t be able to access the site until mid morning, so I woke and puttered around, putzed with the in room coffee maker, etc.  I padded down to the free breakfast in my jammies.  The free breakfast was not awesome, but I’ve had worse.  I got my stuff packed and ready to go.

My stuff.

Not my kids’ things.  Not even my husband’s things.  I was not in charge of finding anybody else’s lost socks or making sure everyone went potty and remembered their drinks for in the car.  I did not have to stop anybody from fighting with each other. There was no “five more minutes of this show” or “hold on honey let me check my email one more time.”  When I decided it was time to leave, I picked up my bag and my purse and I walked out the door.

Lonely, but awesome.  Simple.  So simple.

I then worked all day and got back in the car — some more Kevin Hearne, some more car crying.

Overall, I give the experience a B+.  I felt like a real member of the adult working community — not as a ‘mom’ or a ‘working mom’ or a ‘work at home mom’ or a ‘wife’ or a ‘widow.’  Nobody in this place knew or cared about those roles.  I was a person on a work trip.  I was a professional doing my job.  It has been a long time since I have felt that so strongly.  It was lonely and sad for part of the trip, but lonely and sad is where I live much of the time.  It was good to get out and about.

Next time I will see if I can arrange for a better hotel situation.  I have a hankering for a $10 room service candy bar.