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.

21762127_10213062003417632_3918295214798360379_n

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.

Sad Lonely Women’s Club

I would like to address the events of today.  It was a rough one for me.

At some point I will address the events of last week, which included the kids’ first day of school as well as their eighth birthday.  I cannot bring myself to write about that yet.  Suffice it to say that the first day of school was more difficult for me than their birthday was, but that both events were so much harder than I anticipated.

I can’t.

So let’s talk about today.  What led to today?  Well, I am seeing a counselor to help deal with my husband’s death and to help deal with suddenly being a single mom, which is the larger issue in a lot of ways.

I have been to counselors before, sometimes to address my own issues and others to address problems in our marriage.  Have I given the impression it was all sunshine and roses?  It wasn’t.  We loved each other and he was my best friend and I miss him terribly, but we had pretty serious problems off and on.  I believed, and still do, that it was a testament to our love and friendship that we worked so hard through some extremely difficult stumbling blocks.

I’m not here to talk about our marriage.  I mention this only to say that every counselor I have ever had, for any reason, starting in high school, has said that I need to make some friends.  They said I needed friends with whom I could spend time after school or work.  They said I needed friends separate from my husband’s friends.  They said I needed friends separate from my work acquaintances, separate from the other Moms.  That I needed a network of support that was not a part of my role as Architect, Wife, and Mother.  I needed friends who were not Trey’s wife’s friends.  I needed friends who were not H&K’s mom’s friend.  I needed friends who were Racheal’s friends.

I am not skilled at socializing, and Trey and I became pretty codependent, happy to do things with just each other.  For a time I did roller derby.  I’ve been members of various book clubs.  I think I was a charter member of meetup.com.  None of them really stick for very long, and I have been unable to form any kind of lasting relationship out of any of those activities.  When we moved to Washington, I had a reasonably strong position within the social circle of a group of moms that all had kids the same age.  That went away as soon as we moved, obviously.  Since we have lived here, I have met some of the other moms but don’t feel solidly within the social circle.

Then Trey died, and I quit my traditional workplace job and now work from home.  I have nobody.  Nobody to spend time with who will talk about something that is not Minecraft.  Nobody to see movies with.  Nobody to watch Supernatural with.  Nobody to drive on a road trip.  Nobody to complain to that I have nobody.  I have had almost no interactions with other adults, except for with my counselor.  I have had quite a bit of support from some circles.  Another mom has had me over to their house a couple of times, and my neighbors came by to play board games once.  But overall it’s intensely lonely being me right now.  I normally thrive on being alone, but this is too much.  Especially considering that I’m trying to find myself in the world.

This brings me to today.  Today I went to meet with some ladies for coffee.  I found these ladies through a Facebook group.  The group is made up of women in my age range who like to get together and have coffee.  Sounds nice.

It was the saddest most depressing event EVER!  Nothing against the women.  They were all super nice.  But none of us have anything in common.  I was the newcomer in the group, but even among the women who had been meeting up for a while there appeared to be no real connection.  It wasn’t a group of friends who liked to get together.  It was a group of women who have no friends getting together to keep from going crazy.  Just by demeanor, I would say at least two of the other women were also there because their counselor or someone told them that they needed social interaction.  We made small talk about families and friends who were in the hurricane path, but I didn’t get the impression that any of these women would call any of the other if they needed extra emotional support.  I looked at these sad lonely women and thought, wow.  These are my people.  A group of women approaching and breaching “the Hill” who were either divorced or had husbands that worked a lot and needed a reason to get out and get dressed.  That’s me.  I don’t want to be a part of this group.

I DO NOT WANT TO BE A PART OF THIS GROUP!

I don’t want to meet for coffee with other lonely women, making small talk to cover the fact that if I wasn’t there that I’d be sitting in silence at home.  It’s too awful.  I don’t want to do it.

So that happened.

Then, to top it off, today is my kids’ counseling day.  On these days I pick them up after recess.  While I was waiting for them, the principal approached me and said H’s teacher is concerned because he refuses to participate in class.  She knows the story and all so she know he’s not just being a dick.  But she doesn’t know how to handle it.

And neither do I.

I asked the counselor if we should back off of him — it worked when he didn’t want to learn to swim.  Everyone pretended not to see him practicing swimming, and not to notice that he was getting in the pool after adamantly yelling that he did not want to swim.  With the pressure off, he started learning.

The counselor said that doesn’t work here.  We have to keep pushing him to participate, or he will withdraw more and more.  We’re not talking about public speaking here.  We are talking about in the morning every kid is supposed to turn to the kids on either side of them and say good morning.  This is the level of withdrawn he is.  At counseling, he frequently does not even talk to the counselor except to say that he is bored.  She is being kindly persistent and has instructed me to do the same.

But it hurts so much.  Why is he withdrawing so hard?  What do I do about it?

So to sum up, my kid is sliding down a slope that looks like it will end in his refusal to speak to anyone except for me.  I tried to be social and instead just felt worse.

This sucks.

 

 

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.

Not Just Grieving

I’m grieving, but that’s not all I am doing.

This is not the post about how I’m also holding together a life and kids and managing day-to-day existence.  I’m doing all of that, too, but that is not what I mean.

Specifically with regards to my husband’s death, I am doing more than grieving.  We all do, I assume.  All widows and widowers.

We all have to find our place in the world.

Trey and I started dating in High School.  We got married as I was graduating college.  We have always been together.  I have never been a single adult.  And I don’t mean ‘single’ in the sense of being unattached or available.  I have never been a single, as opposed to being half of a pair.

My relationship with my kids, and their relationship to each other, is different now.  We are trying to redefine how we work together as a family.  It is not easy.  It is not simple.  It is not that I am now “being both mother and father” the way people say.  As a single mom, I’m not the same mom I was, with added responsibilities.  It’s different.  It’s completely different and I’m still trying to figure it out.  I’m examining what is important to me as a parent, and what issues can be let go.  I’m making determinations on our new schedule and new disciplinary recourses.  (Just wait until your father gets home is no longer a valid response to their shenanigans.)

I am also redefining my relationship with myself.  This is even harder.  Who am I without him?  I saw a movie by myself.  I got a tattoo.

By the way, apparently all GenX widows get tattoos.  I know two other women who have recently lost significant others, and we all have tattoos now.  So there’s that.

I was the shy background player, the soccer mom wallflower.  Now I’m the woman with the fish tattoo driving the neon jeep.  I want to be more than I was.  I want to be active and fun.  I’m not sure what that looks like, though.

So if you see me on Facebook or in town, and it looks like I am unphased by my situation– if it looks like I’m going on outings and pretending that everything is okay — please understand there is more to it than that.  I’m trying to stretch my wings and find my place in the world.  There is less of me now that he is gone, but in a way there is more of me, too.  I am the sole driver in my life and I’m trying to draw up a map.

Six Month Whatever-Versary

Today is the six month anniversary of Trey’s death.  Except it’s not an anniversary, because Anni- means Year.  It drives me crazy when people talk about a one month or a two week anniversary.  Is there a word for a month-versary?  Honestly, I’m not in the mood to learn vocabulary today so I’m not going to look it up.

Six months ago today I left work, drove to my parents’ house to pick up the kids, arrived home and found my husband dead in the living room.

Six months ago today my life fractured.

I can still see the future we were going to have.  I can still see us attending our kids’ graduation.  I see us arguing over what Junior High they should attend.  I see us at the third grade neon glow party.  I see us watching the upcoming Justice League movie together.  I can see it clearly in my mind.

It doesn’t matter how hard I look, however, I cannot make it real.  That future is lost.

What did I do today?

Well, I went ahead and dropped the kids off with my folks like I usually do on Tuesdays.  A client wanted to talk to me, and I was anticipating needing the time to work.  I snuggled with them for too long and had to fight the urge to throw a conniption fit when they dawdled getting dressed.  I let K wear his clothes from yesterday.  I just couldn’t fight about it.

In other words, it was like every other Tuesday.

I dropped the kids off and rushed to my counseling appointment, for which I was 20 minutes late.

It was just a coincidence that I had an appointment today.  But it was a happy coincidence.  I only recently started seeing someone.  I believe this was our third appointment.  I still feel like I’m not sure how it helps to just talk to someone, but it does help so I’m doing it.  I enjoy our sessions.

I felt . . . normal.  I’ve felt normal for a while now.  I get sad and I get lonely.  I am sometimes shocked when the reality hits that this is permanent.  Overall, however, I go about my daily routine and function as a human.

I am not a fan of the phrase “the new normal,” but I suppose it applies.

Today was no different.  I felt normal, but that in itself felt odd.

I arrived home after my appointment to find a card in my mailbox.  A real card, with a handwritten note.  My best friend from high school, my maid of honor, knew this was coming up and she sent me a beautiful and supportive card.  It was exactly what I needed, at exactly the right time.  I sat on my kitchen floor and wept.

wp-1503470129999

I don’t remember when I last cried about Trey.  It feels like forever ago, but so does his death.  It feels like forever ago and it also feels like it happened last week.  Grief time is weird.  If I had to guess, I’d say it’s been two or three weeks since I really cried.  I needed it.

Then I realized I could not find my wallet and the next couple of hours were consumed with finding it.  And with cleaning that gross sticky spot that I had not known was under my sofa until I accidentally stuck my hair in it while looking for my wallet.

I found my wallet and headed to the grocery store to buy supplies for our celebration of Trey’s life.

Kit Kats, M&Ms, Tootsie Rolls, Tootsie Pops, Hershey’s Kisses.

Yesterday I told the kids that today would be six months.  K, who speaks like a small adult, said, “It doesn’t feel like that long.  It feels almost like it was yesterday.”

I asked what they wanted to do to mark the day.  We discussed going to the beach where we scattered his ashes, but that is a full day trip and none of us were up for it.  None of us felt like making a big deal out of it.  It’s already a big deal without us adding to the drama.

The kids’ idea?  Buy a “mother lode” of candy.

20170822_195232
A Mother Lode of Candy

Trey had quite the sweet tooth.  I have always claimed to not have that much of a sweet tooth, but the truth is I drink my sweet in the form of sodas and in the form of coffee drinks that are essentially liquid cake.  In any case, a couple of months ago it was brought to my attention that with Trey gone our house is devoid of candy.  I did not intentionally cut candy out of our home.  When I make a grocery list, I just don’t think about adding candy to it.  Trey always did, though.  “Pick up some Kit-Kats” he would say.  Or, if he went to the store unsupervised, he’d come home with half a cart full of candy.  So it makes sense to commemorate him with candy — although I suspect it was a bit of a ploy on the part of my kiddos.

No matter the true motivation, I obliged.  Today I hit the store and filled a basket with candy.  I also bought some flowers for the dining table, some tater tots for tomorrow’s casserole, and marshmallows because I have a huge box of rice krispies burning a hole in my pocket.

And I wept.

I cried in the car the whole way there.

Car crying was my favorite form of self expression in the first couple of months.  I haven’t done that in a while.  I sobbed the whole way to the store, sniffled my way through the aisles and hitched my breath during checkout.  I’m sure I looked like some sort of sad housewife cliche.  Here I am, an overweight white woman in sweat shorts and T-shirt, sticky stuff in my hair, purchasing candy and tater tots and flowers and Moscato.  (I also bought a bottle of Moscato, of which I am currently partaking, as my own private six month tribute.)

I came home and proceeded to set up my new phone.

My phone broke a while back and my new one came in today.  That feels particularly harsh of the universe.  Trey worked in cellular/telecom since 2001.  He handled all of this.  I have never ever had to set up my own phone.  It was more complicated than I expected.  I had nobody to ask and nobody to help.  Just me and a phone that somehow uses a different charger than every other device in my home and nobody to complain to about that.  It was unreasonably heart breaking to handle this myself, but I did it.  I got my new phone set up.

Then it was time to pick up the kids, and get back to the regular routine.  I cooked dinner while they played tablets.  They ate candy.  We had dinner, watched 2 cartoons, brushed teeth, read a story and they went to bed.  Now here I am, spilling my guts to the ether.

That is what happens in my life when I reach the six month anniversary of the day I stopped being a wife and became a widow.

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.

19990169_10212502997562835_1877298431440615901_n

 

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.

20031546_10212502997162825_8596033365437204505_n
A rose, charred from the flames, found floating on the water
20031584_10212502996642812_4512321871456381559_n
Our Viking Raft
20031607_10212502998122849_1849802513980206010_n
The boys by the ocean as the raft floats at the edge of the water

20140006_10212502997922844_8923378423070535782_n

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.

19884132_10212436158291895_7636490197393804751_n

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 person in our life 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?  My parents don’t live there anymore.  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.

20170519_100843_resized (1)
My fingernails match MY Jeep (I’m not skilled in the girly arts.)