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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Vacation Without You

We arrived home late last night, after a week long vacation in South Dakota.

My mom’s family has a yearly get together.  We haven’t gone for a few years.  You were never that great at vacationing.

This year I went.  My grandparents had been unable to come to your funeral, and were thrilled that I could come to see them.  All of my mom’s brothers and sisters were there.  Only one of my cousins attended, which you would have predicted.

It was the first time the kids rode a plane.

You weren’t here.

So many ‘firsts’ you will miss, and this is the first of them.

The kids did great.  It’s funny the things you take for granted.  H opened up the tray on the seat in front of him and said, “Hey!  Look at this!”  K attentively listened to the safety instructions, locating the nearest exits and reviewing the informational card when instructed.  Mainly they played on their Nintendos.  You would have been frustrated that they were so engrossed in their electronics.  Then you would have fallen asleep.

At my grandmother’s house, I must admit it was incredibly normal for you to not be there.  You and I were there together two or three times, but my entire life before we married I was there every summer and some Christmases.  It was so natural to be there again without you.  It was almost like going back in time, except the kids were there.

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They had a blast at the lake.  They rode my uncle’s tugboat and K helped drive, sitting on his lap the way he used to sit on yours to “drive” our boat.  That was perhaps the most difficult moment of the trip for me.

On the flight home I watched the new Beauty and the Beast.  You were going to take me to see that.  I remember I had mentioned to you that I knew you would never go to that movie.  You responded, “Are you kidding?  The animated one was one of our first dates.  Of course I plan to take you to the new one.”

But then you died, you asshole, so I watched it on a tiny screen in the headrest of the seat in front of me, earbuds digging into my popping ears and stopping every few minutes to get the kids something or listen to a pilot announcement.

It was good.  I would have loved seeing it with you.  I think you would have pretended to like it as well.

Last night the kids slept in their own beds (hallelujah!) until close to morning.  I got some much-needed stretch out starfish sleep in the wake of a week on my grandparent’s pull out sofa bed.  Our bed has new sheets — cotton.  Not the sateen kind you liked.  I also replaced that fuzzy zebra striped comforter with one more my style.

I am claiming the bedroom as my space.  I am not erasing you from it, but it is not our room anymore.  You don’t live there.  It is my room and I am modifying it to be the way I need it to be.  I need my own space now more than ever.

I picked up the dog from ‘camp.’  She is so excited to be home, but appears to be perplexed all over again that you are gone.  It hurts me to see her confusion.  It mirrors some part of me that refuses to understand.

Tonight I’m putting off going to bed.  Last night I was so exhausted, but tonight I feel your absence so hard.  I have been shot back into the present day, am no longer in the past, but you are not here.

How are you not here?

Earlier today I was mad at you again.  I was mad that you left us to deal with crap alone.  Now I am just lonely and sad.

I don’t know how to do this.

Cherish These Times cannot always be the answer (alt title: why some other mom bloggers can kiss my butt)

This is specifically about kids sleeping in your bed, but I’m sure it can be applied to other situations.

“Just cherish this time. It won’t last forever.”  This is RARELY, if ever, a workable solution.   At best, it is a mantra to be used as a coping mechanism.  Too often it is an admonishment, verging on shaming.  Whenever a parent has difficulty with his/her children, at the edge of frustration and at wit’s end, and reaches out to the fellow parenting community, the response that comes back is to stop complaining and be grateful.

Sheesh.

Here is some background about our sleeping situation.  When my boys were babies, it was of utmost importance to me that they learn to fall asleep in their own beds.  I knew many people who wound up in an unintentional family bed situation, which is stressful for the parents as well as for the kids who don’t have the skills to fall asleep on their own.  To this end, I spent many nights on the floor of the kids’ room.  We wound up putting a small sofa in that room so I could be near the kids to comfort them while allowing them to remain in their beds.  I fought that battle every night, all while people told me that I should let the kids sleep in my bed and cherish that time.  There was nothing wrong with me.  I was not a cold hearted person who did not want to snuggle.  I believed (and still do) that it was the best for them to develop that skill.  All their lives, they could come to our bed in the night if they woke, but the initial go-to-sleep had to be in their own beds.

Then it all changed.  Enter widowhood, single mother-hood, and parenting two kids who have experienced a trauma.

They now sleep in my bed every night.  I resisted at first, encouraging them to fall asleep in their own beds, even promising to wake them and bring them to my bed later in the night.  At this point, however, I have given in.  They go straight to my bed.  Both of them.  Every.  Single. Night.

I cannot get a decent night’s sleep.  I wake twisted and sweaty, with an elbow in my face, a knee in my gut, a dog on my pillow and cats chasing my feet.  No matter how many blankets I put on my bed, I still must battle throughout the night for the right to cover my toes.  I have to sleep in the middle of the bed to prevent a war between the littles.  This means that anything requiring access to the side table, such as turning the lamp off, checking the alarm and/or clock, etc. requires acrobatics while I hover over a sleeping child, both tangled in the blankets, to reach my glass of water without waking anyone.

Nighttime is already rough for the widow.  I can no longer go to bed nestled in the crook of Trey’s arm.  I can’t put my arm around his chest, listen to him breathe, let the day’s stresses release in the safety of his touch.  I also do not have the consolation prize of getting an entire bed to myself.  I don’t get to cozy into bed, burrito myself up in the blankets and read until I fall asleep.  Instead, I get extended Mommy duties.  Mommy duties that last all night and into the morning to start the next day again.

I have accepted all of this.  I know the kids need me.  I’m the grown up.  I will not stamp my feet and insist on keeping my own bed sacred.

Sharing my bed is no longer enough, however.  Now after bed time the kids come downstairs repeatedly, taking turns to ask when I am coming to bed.

They do not just want to be in my bed.  They want me to come to bed when they do.

I can’t.  I just can’t.  I know this could help them sleep and it would help them feel safe and secure, but I just can’t go to bed when they do.  I have things I need to do in the evenings.  I review my daily to-do list and mentally split it into tasks that need to be done after the kids go to bed.  I absolutely need that time in the evenings.  I sought answers in the interwebs, and wound up on several mom-blogs.  What advice did I get?

“Cherish this time!  It’s so valuable!  Your children are your most important priority, so make that time for them! This is your chance for dedicated one-on-one time with your child!”

Suck it.  That doesn’t help.  I actually need time in the evenings.  I actually have things I need to do.  My kids are my priority, but that doesn’t mean nothing else exists.

One of the blogs was promising.  She began the article by talking about one of her kid’s repeated requests for her to stay with him at night.  She listed her reasons for not joining their children at bedtime as being things like needing to tend the other kids, needing time to eat dinner with her husband, needing to finish up some work before the next day.  These all are legitimate concerns.  Finally a mom who understands and  hopefully has a solution that helps her kids but also allows her the time she needs.  Instead, her article then went on to outline her epiphany that this is the best time in our lives and that when your child asks you to come to bed with him, you should make the time to prioritize that over your other tasks.

Seriously?  Is she suggesting that one should not have dinner with their spouse, tend to the siblings, or complete work that needs to be done by the next day? Keep in mind that the reason the work is unfinished is probably in part due to putting it off in favor of family time earlier in the day.  Also keep in mind that I wish I had spent more time making my husband I priority instead of always pushing him to second fiddle. None of these things are important?

It sounds so simple — cherish this time together and remember it won’t last forever.  Cherish your time now, while you can.
Cherish the now.  Hmmm….  Let’s have a quick peek at what my ‘now’ looks like.
Now, I am struggling to be a single mom after the death of my husband three months ago.  Our whole dynamic is different, and I’m setting the structure under which our abbreviated family will work in the future.
Now, I have twin seven year old boys. If it is after bed time and I am speaking with one boy, the other soon wails, “Why does HE get to stay up and talk to you while I have to be in BED?” I therefore do not get this prized one-on-one time that I am supposed to be appreciating.
Now, I remember all those nights I slept on their bedroom floor, because I felt like it is important for a child to be able to fall asleep in his own bed.  I feel like I am losing everything I fought for in those early years.

Now, I cannot read in bed to fall asleep because it disturbs the sleep of my two little men.

Now, right now, at eleven at night, my to-do list includes making lunches for tomorrow, sorting socks, cleaning the toilets, registering my business with the SBA, researching code requirements for three work projects, and writing letters to my husband’s doctors asking for forgiveness on his final bills.  Yes, I can wait until tomorrow to do all of these things, but tomorrow has its own to-do list.  Plus work.  Eventually something has to give.  I have to be able to make time to take care of our lives.

Yes, it would be wonderful to cherish this evening routine with them.  To read a story and then all snuggle up and go to sleep together at 8:30.
But here’s the reality.  I do need to make lunches and snacks for the next day. I need to make sure there are library books in backpacks and food in the dog’s dish. I need to wash the dishes, fold socks and, yes, get caught up on work. It is easy to say that none of this is as important as time with your kids, but this has to be done sometime. If the kids’ request was 1-2 nights a week it would be an easier matter, but  is every single night. When am I supposed to take care of these things?  Part of making your kids a priority is making sure that their life is running smoothly.

Not to mention, God help me for saying this, but I do need time to myself. As moms, and especially as single moms, we are always told to take care of ourselves. I am always being told that I need to make time to ‘veg out’ or to go to a salon, or see a movie or even to drop the kids off with family for a weekend.  I don’t want to drop my kids off for a weekend.  I do want some time after they go to bed to unwind, to watch Supernatural, to paint my nails.  When I protest that I don’t have that small getaway, I am met with the argument that I should be grateful for my kids while they are young and take advantage of all the time I can so I don’t miss it.  What are you talking about?  When am I supposed to ‘take care of myself’ if I am on active Mom duty 24-7 including while I sleep?  My fellow moms are accusing me of not taking advantage of time I could spend with my kids?  Really?

It hurts. It really hurts to get this from the other moms.  There is nothing wrong with me. I believe that. I do cherish my time together with my kids. I quit my job and found a more flexible working situation so I could spend more time with them. Who are you to suggest that I am not cherishing our time?  That I am not taking full advantage?  I take them everywhere and love every minute of it.  I love them, and I love their snuggles and I love being with them.

But Jesus.  I need two hours to myself at night.  I need it 4-5 nights a week.  I’m just asking for a couple of hours.  I promise I won’t take it for granted.  I’ll pick up the floors and run the dishwasher.  I will get tomorrow’s backpacks ready and tomorrow’s work staged.  I will, sometimes, watch something that the kids can’t watch or may do a ‘spa evening’ with face mask and nail polish.

Or maybe I’ll spend the entire time crying, remembering my husband as I curl up in his spot on the sofa.

Or maybe I will stare at the wall and be empty for a while.

These are things I need to do.  I need them for my sanity and to keep our lives from falling apart.  I need the ‘after bedtime’ time.  The suggestion to ignore everything else, the implication that I somehow do not care enough or am not ‘cherishing’ enough if I need this time to myself is belittling and damaging.

2017-05-30 00.55.37Let me take a moment to apologize to the mom blogger on whose post I wrote a lengthy and not-entirely-positive comment.  I will not post a link to her site here, as I am not being super complimentary.  Overall, however, it is a good blog and if you are out there and are reading this, I hope that I was not disrespectful or harsh.  If you do want a nod to your site, let me know.  Also, that comment and this post have come about as a result of seeing several blogs with the same issue.  I finally decided to say something.

By the way — the solution I have found is to go to bed with my kids, and hope they fall asleep first so I can get up and finish my evening.

 

 

I Matter. (unless you multiply me by the square of the speed of light)

How many times have I attempted this?  How many hours, nights, weeks have I looked at the screen, typed a few inadequate words, and abandoned the effort?

I have engaged in a nightly cycle of near-creation as I tried to find the words to express what it is to be a supporting player in your own life when the main character dies.

Trey was the life in our life.  A whirlwind of spontaneous action and wild emotion, he drove our existence while I supported his efforts.  He was fascinating and exuberant, dangerous and fun. I am boring and plain, safe and disappointing.  I was the steady line to his sine wave.  I was the calming influence on his fire.  I was the straight man in our routine.

He was everything.  I was a passenger.

How to express that?  I couldn’t get the words out.  I couldn’t express the loss of me as a person when he went.  I couldn’t demonstrate being a non-entity without him.

Because it’s bullshit.  It’s all bullshit.

I believed it all, with my entire being, throughout my entire life.  I believed it after he died.

I believed it until I heard others say it.  Until I realized that is what everyone believed.  Heard from the mouths of others, the lie made itself known.

“So I guess you’ll be moving back to Oklahoma now.”

“Are the kids going to miss those spur of the moment trips to Portland?”

“Is it crazy to be stuck with that neon green Jeep?  Are you selling it?”

Question after question, offhand comment after comment, all indicating our friends’ and families’ beliefs that everything notable about us was really just Trey.  That I would shake off the trappings of interest and fun, and would live as the bore we all know me to be.

Bitch, I picked out that Jeep!  I insisted on that color; Trey wanted black.  We fought intenseley as we paid extra money for a rental car while we waited for this color to be available.  I refused to drive a boring color while ‘hypergreen’ existed in the world.  It did become Trey’s car.  I told Trey I didn’t like to drive it.  I told him I loved my truck too much.  I did this so he could drive the new car. He didn’t like to drive the truck, and he had always wanted a Jeep.  So I pretended that I was not interested much in it.  The truth was that it was me who selected the car and waited for it and named it Herman.  I bought nail polish to match it.  I love it and have since the moment I saw it.

Every member of Trey’s family believes that Jeep is just another example of crazy awesome Trey doing something outlandish, and of how I’m such a good and supporting wife for indulging him.

Those trips?  Those spontaneous trips?  Trey didn’t know there was a replica of Stonehenge in northern Oregon.  He didn’t know about the pirate landing.  Or the sandcastle competition.  I pushed these trips through when neither of us felt like doing anything, and we were the better for it.

Why would I move back to Oklahoma?  I have no family of my own there.  It is true I moved us back to Oklahoma when I was pregnant and my parents lived there.  I panicked and needed comfort.  I also moved us out of there as soon as I was ready to work again.  I moved us.  I found a job on the west coast, packed us up and moved us.  I never wanted to raise our kids there.  I grew up yearning for bigger places with more opportunities and the possibility of greater experiences. I wasn’t going to live my adulthood and my kids’ childhood in the place I always wanted to leave.

I wasn’t indulging or silently supporting my powerhouse of a husband.  We were partners.  I commanded the driver’s seat as often as he did, and actively navigated as a passenger.

It is true that he managed our social life.  At events, he took the spotlight while I watched cozy from the background.  He ensured we knew our neighbors and the other kids’ parents.  He was the life of the party, the gracious host, the fun one.  And he was welcome to it.  That shit exhausts me.

As the years went by, however, he grew more reluctant to fill that role.  He was content to binge watch Netflix and order takeout.  It took quite a bit of coaxing to get him out of the house to do anything.  He talked about his big regret – that he did not take me dancing anymore when we were younger.

-You could take me dancing now.

-No, we’re old and I’m too fat.  It’s embarrassing.  Let me get into better shape and then we’ll go.

Well, I guess that day never came.  It would have been nice to go dancing.  I don’t get embarrassed anymore.

That isn’t entirely accurate.

I don’t let embarrassment stop me from doing something that could make me happy.  I got over that shit years ago.  With Trey by my side it was easier to be spontaneous, to do mildly embarrassing things.  Even if I had to push him.  Even if he didn’t join in but would laugh at/with me.  He would smile at my dorkiness and reinforce my belief that it is okay to be embarrassing.

He was my world.  But he wasn’t the whole world.

I still exist.  I am not a phantom.  I am not useless, or plain, or dull.  I am broken without my partner, yet I remain a whole person.  I will remain in Washington, and will perhaps move to Florida later.  I drive Herman and I walk the dog and I take the kids on trips to book signings and to watch a movie with a bunch of cats.  I dance.  I dance in my living room, and I also dance at the supermarket.  I skin my knee trying to ride a bike.  I meet the neighbors for game night.

And I cry.  I cry and scream and beat the steering wheel and throw my phone.  I’m lonely and forlorn and desperate and furious.

But I am not nothing, and it’s time I stop thinking of myself as nothing.

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My fingernails match MY Jeep (I’m not skilled in the girly arts.)