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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m not going to share my own metoo stories. Suffice it to say I have them, as does almost every woman everywhere.
What I would like to discuss is a revelation I was in the midst of having when the metoo movement started.
Jesus, it’s scary out there for single women.
It’s scary enough for married women. I always check my backseat before opening the car door. I lock the car as soon as I get in. I only wear one headphone when I go for a walk. Being married, however, much like being plain or overweight, can provide a somewhat false sense of security. Knowing that I had a husband at home, or upstairs, or right next to me, reduced the feelings of constant fear that come with being a woman.
I didn’t realize how much less my fear was until that security blanket was gone.
I am planning a couple of road trips, family vacations with me and the boys. I hesitate. Is it safe? Can a woman and her kids travel, stay in a hotel, eat in roadside diners? I have never had this fear before. Trey was always with us.
We are home alone every night. When the neighborhood dogs bark, what are they barking at? If I hear people talking loudly in the street, should I be afraid? Should I call 911? I can’t go and investigate. I have to sit inside my house and wait for the noises to go away.
I take my dog for walks, and wonder if I should carry pepper spray. I’ve determined I cannot bring myself to carry a gun.
When my husband died and my fear of being victimized expanded, I realized that men don’t have these fears. I never thought about it before. But when I noticed how much my own fears had been dampened just by the presence of a man in my life, when I realized how it becomes almost paralyzing —
How is it that we all are not agoraphobic?
I know lots of single women, and women who travel for work, etc. without an escort. How do they do it? How do they overcome the fear and get out there?
Men don’t have this fear, and that blows me away. With the current dialogue around the #metoo postings, it has become clear that not only do men not have these fears, many of them are not aware of it. They have no idea that just being a man makes them safe. That they are so safe compared to us that just having a trusted man in our lives mutes the fear that infuses our every day. How is that possible?
Our mantelpiece had, among other things, a replica of the helmet from Gladiator. This was not my selection. I don’t even like that movie. It also boasted a host of different Buddha statues and Foo Dogs acquired at different China Towns. I have nothing against these items, but I would not have chosen to decorate with another culture’s aesthetic. The mantel held a smattering of other items, unrelated to one another.
It sounds hideous, but it did not look bad. After Trey died, I removed some pieces to pare down the clutter, but I left up the larger decorative items and this was the result:
See? Sounds awful and bachelor-y. It is a bit bachelor-y, but it is not awful.
But it is also not me.
Whenever buying items for our home, I wanted to plan, to get a strategy in place to avoid clashing items and generate a cohesive design. My desire was to identify a theme and palette that would inform our purchasing decisions. He, on the other hand, would go to Chinatown or Ikea or Target, see something, buy it, and hang it on the wall. The result was an interior design that leaned much more toward his aesthetic than it did toward mine.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided all that stuff on the mantel had to go.
In fact, I am redecorating the whole house as time and budget allows. Again this has been met with alarm by my family. They think I am purging, but I’m not getting rid of anything. I’m just getting it out of my face.
Here’s the hard truth of the matter.
Trey doesn’t live here anymore. This is my house now, and I need it to be my house.
I’m not trying to erase all evidence of him. I’m not trying to make it look like he never lived here. This place will always carry his mark. Our lives and hearts will carry his mark. No matter where we go or what we do, he will be with us.
That doesn’t change the fact that I need to make this place my own. It started in the bedroom, and now I am taking over the living room. I’d like to replace some of the furniture, but, you know, dollar bills. For now I can re-do the fireplace mantel.
That is the justification. Now let me tell you what happened.
I took all of his things off the mantel and put them in the guest room closet. It was then a clean canvas for me to decorate however I wanted. The problem was that I had absolutely no idea what was I wanted to do.
Isn’t that the shit? It’s a metaphor for my whole life. I wrote a post a while back about needing to find myself. I won’t go into all of that again here, although I could easily write three more entries about that process. I’ll give you the tl;dr version. When you’ve been with someone for your entire adult life and suddenly find yourself without that person, you need to put serious time and effort into exploring who you are as an individual.
My mantel looked like this:
It was a perfect reflection of me. I had plenty of ideas for what to put there, but didn’t know if I felt passionately about any of them. I considered gathering my gnomes from around the house. I thought about arranging a Funko Pop display, or of covering it with family photos or with flowers. I even considered decorating it with “Architect’y” things like T-Squares and Prismacolor pencils. It all seemed fine, but didn’t feel quite right.
This is exactly what happens to me when my folks keep the kids overnight and I can do whatever I want for the evening. I have no idea what to do. I think about going to a movie, going out to eat, taking a bath and reading, or cleaning the house from top to bottom. I usually wind up having some edibles and dozing off watching TV. (Which is a luxury to a single mom of twins, I’m not knocking it.)
Suddenly it hit me. I would decorate seasonally. Halloween is coming up, so I present to you my current fireplace mantel design:
After Halloween, I’ll do a general Autumn theme until after Thanksgiving. That’s when I’ll pull out the crates and crates of holiday decorations. After Christmas, I”m not sure — perhaps some general winter display? Add in some hearts for Valentine’s day, and then after that a spring motif? My plan is pretty much to hit the seasonal department of the Dollar Store and will decorate with whatever they have. I may even extend this to include outdoor decorations. I will be that weird old lady who has yard decorations for Presidents’ Day.
At first I felt like this was a cop-out. I thought I was delaying making a real decision.
Then I realized this is actually perfect. Again it is like my life. I am getting through this one day, one season, one holiday at a time. I’m not committing to anything, ever. I’m not looking ahead more than a couple of weeks at any time.
I’m trying different things. A book club, a board game club, a coffee club. I’m not any one thing yet. I’m exploring. My interior decorations don’t have to be any one thing yet either. This is me now.
I can always round up the gnomes if I decide to do so.
In a sweeping move of what is either irony or kismet, the universe decided I should lose the diamond out of my wedding ring today.
Look at this picture, and realize that this was not just my wedding ring. That solitaire was my engagement ring. By which I mean it is the engagement ring he placed on my finger as we were turning eighteen years old. That stone has endured for 23 years, through two ring re-sizings, through ring welding, through construction sites, through hospital stays, through trips to oceans and lakes and through snowball fights.
Now it decides to give up the ghost? This is definitely a sign of some sort.
There is no obvious sign of trauma to the ring. None of the tines are bent into an unnatural position. None are broken or missing.
As I was driving the kids to school this morning, I glanced at my hand on the steering wheel and the stone was just . . . gone.
Like Trey. One minute he was here, and I was talking to him on the phone. Four hours later I get home to find him gone, with no idea when he died or how it happened. My stone is gone. I assume I had it yesterday, so it may be in my bedroom having dropped out during the night. It may have gone down the kitchen drain this morning while I was making breakfast and washing dishes. It may have plopped to the ground as I carried the trash to the curb. Maybe I saw it the second it fell out, and the diamond is currently on my car floorboard. Again, there’s about a four hour window in which it likely happened.
I have performed an initial search, but looking for such a small thing when I don’t know exactly where I lost it has turned out to be challenging.
But at least it is essentially transparent. That helps.
I have taken a blacklight to the most likely areas. I have no idea what a diamond would do under a blacklight, but you’d think it would do SOMETHING.
BTW – I highly recommend you do NOT ever randomly search your house with a blacklight. I’m disgusted and want to move. And get rid of the pets. And the kids. This place is disgusting.
The strange thing is I am not as distraught as I would have expected, considering I was fully planning to wear that ring for the rest of my life.
I was never going to take it off. I consider myself to still be married. I think of all those buddy cop movies: “Janet’s been dead for two years, man! When are you going to take off that ring and move on?” “Never! She’s still my wife!” That was my feeling about it. I’m still his wife. I wear the ring.
Now, however, I realize that wearing the ring is not that important to me. Taking off the ring would have been too difficult. Removing the ring would have felt like a rejection of our life together. Putting the ring away would have been closing the door on our marriage.
This is different, though. I did not decide to move on and remove the ring. It broke so I put it away.
Surprisingly, my ring is not on the list of things that have grown in importance since Trey’s death. Our wedding photos and the memories they preserve hold a top spot on the list. The comic books we waited in line for together, the personalized belts he had made for the kids, the gold chain he wore around his neck, his grandfather’s medals, all of these are on the list of the most important mementos I never want to lose. The ring is a piece of jewelry.
Now I have a reason to take it off, a reason that is utilitarian and not gut wrenchingly awful, I may leave it off. It may be okay. My hand is a wreck. I think that dent in my finger will remain always.
Of course, like most things in my life, this is not a permanent choice. Death is permanent. The decision of whether to wear a ring is not permanent. If I go without it for a while and it feels strange, if I feel something is missing, if I feel lonely or sad, I can have the ring repaired. Obviously I’m not Daddy Warbucks so I won’t be purchasing a random diamond. I do have some diamond earrings I can probably take the stone from, or I can replace it with zirconia or a semiprecious stone. It might look pretty with an amethyst. Or, maybe I can sell those diamond earrings to buy a replacement diamond for the ring.
That probably makes more sense than re-using a diamond and then having one ring and one earring.
But the thing is, even though I was not really ready to remove it, I also do not think I am at a place where I need to go to lengths to preserve it and get it back on my finger.
For right now, however, I suppose I will just see how it goes.
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.
This is more of a general parenting rant than a widow rant. It is true, however, that I am not just a widow. It is also true that this situation is complicated by my new status as a single parent.
My kids are sick, and so am I.
First K got sick, over the weekend. He was worst on Saturday and a bit better on Sunday. I planned to send the kids to school Monday, but he had been up hacking and coughing most of the night. Plus his brother seemed to be getting sick so I kept them both home for an extra day of rest.
By “rest,” I mean “almost twelve straight hours of Minecraft while I try to work and to recover the house from all the birthday mess.”
I told them they were definitely going to school today.
Then at midnight last night, H woke up crying and screaming because his nose was so stuffy he couldn’t breathe and his throat hurt so bad when he coughed. He came to my bed.
This morning I woke to the sound of him still snuffling uncomfortably, miserably fighting to stay asleep. I was also snuffly and felt like my head could explode at any minute. I knew K was well enough to go to school, but . . .
I didn’t want to pull H out of bed to get dressed and get in the car so we could take K to school. This is where single parenting comes in. When Trey was alive, one of us would have stayed home while the other dropped K off at school. Now, I did think of calling my folks to come and stay with H while he slept.
But here’s the thing about help from others: you need so much of it, when you’re widowed, when you’re unexpectedly single. Every day it seems I’m asking my parents for help. So when you can get by without asking for yet another thing, you try.
Plus I did not particularly feel like getting up either.
I had this wild parent fantasy that if I called both kids out sick that we would snuggle up in the bed together, sleep until ten, then move to the sofa downstairs with a box of kleenex, some blankets and Netflix. So I called both boys out sick.
What was I thinking?!?!? Am I a total noob at this parenting thing?
H was already up and out of bed by the time I finished calling the school. He is definitely sick and I’m glad I kept him home, but if he was going to get out of bed anyway I would have brought K to school. I thought about hauling them all out to the car right then, but by that point it was getting pretty late and would have been a rush.
So we stayed home. One perfectly healthy kid and his sick and cranky (but not sleepy) brother. Plus their sick mom.
I have elected to not keep alcohol in the house since Trey died, mainly because I find it difficult to resist a nightcap, and then I get all sad about drinking alone. But after the kids’ party I got a bottle of bourbon. So it’s sitting on the shelf, and I keep thinking of it longingly. My head is pounding. My eyeballs feel like there is sand in them. My nose and eyes are leaking nonstop. I want to wrap up in a blanket, sip some warm bourbon, and binge watch Supernatural. Or at least to wrap up in a blanket with my kids, sip some orange juice and binge watch something of their choosing.
Instead I’m making lunch, fetching juice, refereeing arguments, putting away groceries, feeding the dog, doing laundry, and trying to put in a solid half day of work.
It’s such a cliche. When everyone is sick, mom takes care of them. When mom is sick, she still takes care of everyone else. Granted, I’m doing it in a very minimal fashion. So far today the kids have watched Captain Underpants and about a hundred episodes of the Thundermans, and have been on their tablets for about an hour now with half an hour left to go.