Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009 The Cancer's Return

Today I am finding it hard to be grateful.

In my head, when I tell myself I am grateful for ....

the kids
the ranch
my cousin
the car rental
the ....

it feels shallow, insincere and like I'm just saying it. Ya get it over with

So I stop.

And in that space, that space that I am often so afraid of, I find

a sob.

In the nothingness I have been feeling for days comes the truth.

365 days ago was the first time Art said he didn't feel well.

He called his doctor who said, "It's not cancer. Your tests from last month are clear."

And from the stop, the pause, the release from the force to feel grateful comes one giant


What if I had insisted the doctor see Art?

What if I hadn't gone to CT to help my mom move?

What if I just got strong and firm and said "I am bringing him in, you need to set up an appointment for a test. You will do it. This is my husband."

And the doctor would have too.

And I wonder, if I had, if we had caught it earlier,

before he lost 20 lbs.,

before the embolisms formed and found their way to his lungs,

before he was so sick and weak

would he

be here?

Would he be here to romp with us at the ranch?

Would he be here to ride with Ezra on the ATV, to watch Pallas on her first trail ride, or teach her to drive the ATV solo?

Would he be here to sip the good wine, reminisce about our first visit over 6 years ago.

And in my mind, I believe he would be. He was strong, a quiet force of nature. He would have made it if he hadn't been so sick when we first caught it.

I am not God. I cannot say for sure. But I was his wife. I watched closely as he fought the first battle and I saw the defeat the second time, before I knew what to call it.

I am not responsible I tell myself. But ya know what....a small piece of me doesn't believe that. I saw him through the first time and I believe that somehow I failed him the second.

This has nothing to do with logic. Nothing to do with facts. Or really to do with Art's part in his own health. Guilt is not logical. On this day, and the days leading up to the moment I choose to write this morning, it is what I believe.

I know this is part of the process of walking in the grief. Of making it to the other side that promises wisdom and peace and softness in knowing that fallacy is a just as much a gift as success.

My thoughts of failing him explain my fear of H1N1. If I failed him then, how can I possible trust myself to make any good decisions for the kids, now. My perceived failure in those earlier days before we knew it was cancer come alive in me every time I have to make a health decision for my kids.

So on this Thanksgiving, today. I am grateful for ...

I don't know.

I guess I am grateful that these thoughts will clear. And that maybe in the next breath, or the one after, I will be able to forgive myself, lessen my power in keeping him alive.

In the next breath, maybe, I will laugh at how Art missed Ezra trying to sneak up on a lamb, confident that the lamb nor its mother knew he was coming and then say to me "Mom, it's like they knew I was trying to catch them. Next time....pause....I will make them think I am just going for a walk near them."

"Next time" I say to myself. Next time...I am grateful that the next breath give me a "next time."

Friday, November 20, 2009

November 20, 2009 Hound Dogs

Like hound dogs, sniffing out a sent

my friends come.

"I was thinking about you today. Are you ok?"

I shake my head. They open their hearts.

"I will follow you to the mechanics and the car rental place."

"Can I take Pallas this afternoon?"

I have a conversation with a fellow older widow.

"Jesus Kim! You are only 7 months into this!" she reminds me.

And I inhale the support, my cup spills its water.

And i can stand on the bottom again. No need to tread.

And as I replay the scenes of yesterday in my head, objectively, I am still amazed at how little, how very, very little it takes before I don't care to breath.

Grieving fucking sucks.

November 19th. Running Position

Who do I call if I have car problems?

Which mom said she’d be happy to get the kids?

I can’t remember. Panicked I start dialing familiar numbers. No one picks up.

Tuesday, I needed a man to talk to about my car so I found two standing on the school yard.

I said “What should I do?”

They said “Ask this.”

I smiled. I said thank you, feeling sheepishly stupid for not thinking of it myself. I went to our car mechanic, the one we’ve had for over 5 years, and asked…

“Can I drive this to the Sierra Foot Hills on Sunday for Thanksgiving week?”

He called later and said, “No.”


“In fact, it’s a good idea to think about getting a new car…soon.”

I smiled. I haven’t had a new car in 11 years. Our mechanic used phrases such as “radiator and slight crack,” “left rear cylinder head gasket appears to be leaking” and “need two new tires.”


Thursday, the wheels (I think) took his comments seriously.

Today …. One mile from home, the car felt like it was running over those rut thingys…the kind they have on the side of highways to wake up sleeping (or talking) drivers.

½ mile from home the whole car was movin’ to its own awkward but deep beat.

The kids gripped the seats.

I pull into the drive, they opened the door…

“What’s that smell mom? said Langston

“Ew, mom! What stinks?” regurgitates Pallas.

“Mom, the car smells…I’m getting out of here!” says always concise boy, Ezra

Nothing to see.

And then I see the list of things that needed to happen tonight.

A run to the store that included bread for breakfast.

Ezra. Black pants. School play. Tomorrow.

Speaking engagement me…tonight.

Tomorrow: Ezra’s class play, therapy for me, class birthday party for Pallas. Groceries for the car trip on Sunday, a night out for me. A run to the movie store?

I get in the house and start to yell at them…the ones whose needs are part of the stress but who are as innocent of their effect as the rain.

I stop. Better words come out of my mouth. “The car thing is really stressing me because….”

“I am sorry I yelled. It is not your fault.”

“This is very hard without daddy. At times like this I can’t see how I will get it all done.”

“Yes. Thank you. Putting your clothes away would help.”

I breath and dial for…. kids.

Langston ride – check

Pallas and Ezra ride – check

Pizza is coming, quiche will have to wait.

Me ride to school? No. Car first. A school play will be missed. It’s the first one. It won’t be the last.

Can I get the car rental earlier than Sunday?

Who will pick up the kids from school?

I can’t remember who to call.

I can’t remember who said they’d help.

How will I get to the birthday celebration? I don’t know. I will ride my bicycle if I have to but how will I get them home?

I will think about it tomorrow.

The morning is planned out, I know how I will spend the first two hours. Those two hours managed to the best of my ability, to the best of my fucking ability. I sit down and contemplate ending it all right now.

This is so, so, so hard. And I’m cold. The house is cold and he used to warm me up in bed. I’d face into him, knees curled up, his arms still able to reach around me. He’d pull up his legs, his thighs warming my feet and ass. And I’d giggle and shiver and he’d laugh too. The heat would radiate off of him onto me. “How is it possible for you to get so cold?” He’d ask, shaking his head. Every winter this is what we did.

His death is isolating.

Didn’t she send me an email once offering to go to the store for me?

Didn’t he once offer to take the kids after school?

Have I called her too many times to ask yet again?

It’s month 7 and

I have forgotten who has offered.

And now that I need something like a car a ride, a grocery run, I can’t remember. I can’t fucking remember who said they’d be happy to……

I can’t ask anymore.

The vulnerability of asking wrings me ragged.

I sit here in this house wanting the stress, the pain and the planning, always planning (always, always, always planning) to go away. My mind, my grieving, widowed mind hung with its various levels of fog (or is it smoke) is useless.

I sit here in this house, cold, hoping tomorrow won’t come. If the sun refused to rise, I won’t have to get up and make sure my feet and legs are in running position before they touch the floor.

And all I really want to do is sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep. The world is passing me by and I’m good with that. Let it move on. My straw is to narrow and bent and kinked to suck life out of it anymore. It’s sucking me instead. I’d rather stay right here…in the nothingness.

I am fearful at how quickly I come to the edge. With just a few extra drops, my cup over flowth and I almost go under.

I will go to bed, cold, hoping that tomorrow will be better.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

November 17, 2009 Shot

I've been shot,

several times

and only now do I realize I'm bleeding.

I hold my hand as the blood flows into it. My insides are coming out. There is no stopping it this time, I am sure I will bleed to death. I stare curiously at the stuff oozing from me. It's familiar. My guts came out often in the beginning, days and weeks just after he died. So often that when I had "normal" days, I jittered in nervousness, my hand uncomfortable in its emptiness.

As I bleed, I retrace each wound, hoping (quiet silly actually) that if I know where they come from I will be able to duck it next time, to drop fast enough that the bullet will whiz overhead.


Wound #1 Fall Coming (Home Coming) at Windward.
In honor of Art, Langston is the guest team captain, flipping the coin, then jumping in the middle of the football team, the mascot for the moment. He as big as them, but his 12 year old grin giving away his delight at being with the "big guys." I'm laughing watching the man-child wallow in his man-childness.

Varsity Windward Coach Scott (the man responsible for putting Art's initials on the helmet)
Ezra with the Helmet of Honor
Langston getting riled up with the Windward Varity Team before the game....which they won!


Wound #2 The Art's Memorial Run
I greet friends at the Art Nagle table, humbled by their early morning presense just to run with him and me.

I run with, for and because of Art. I beat him too, competitiveness NOT going to the grave with him! I cross the finish line, and squat by the fence. Holding onto it as I cry and cry and cry.

some of our friends who ran with Art.
Art's dad at the finish line.
The Art Nagle Table
Marda writes the names of those who have lost their battle with cancer, her brother included

Julie Talbert, the kind, gentle and expansive soul behind the Talbert Family Foundation

Wound #3 Last Week at The 7th Flag Football Game
I remember Langston's 7th grade team winning. I remember cheering and laughing and jumping up and down. I remember hearing "Championship game is tomorrow." I remember sitting on the bleachers, at what used to Art's school and now is only Langston's school, looking every now and then waiting for Art to appear, entering the field with his distinct long gate, hands in pocket, to see his son play.

Langston with Nana and Grandpa.

Wound #4 The Championship Game
Windward 7th Grade flag football team wins the championship, I am jumping up and down (and peeing in my dress!), yelling and screaming. He runs fast, he catches two touch down passes, he intimidates their quarterback. I growl with his fiercenss, loving the way he has found his aggressiveness on the field, putting it inside his big size, making him intimidating.

At the end of the game, I swear that I hear Art say "Great job, kiddo!" to Langston with pride and awe at a child that shows talent in an area where his parents have none.

The Winning Team


And then it's today. Before the tears come, I put my hand out, expecting to feel him in his spot. For one more second I wonder what time he got up to go for his run. And then I am crying before I'm fully awake.

A moan passes my lips, causing them to vibrate. It shakes my vocal chords. It is then that I know I am bleeding again. Loosing bits of myself in the realization (again and again and again) that he is no more. He's missed all of this. He will continue to miss all of this. It is so fundamentally sad that I am dumbfounded, mute, frozen, no words to adequately express this loss.

And yet....while the blood gushes from my body, it stops sooner than last time. I know quickly that, no, I won't bleed to death, it no longer takes me hours to realize that. The clean up takes less time, too. I am not as sore afterwards.

7 months was yesterday. I forgot till today. I have to get the car, pick up the kids and do our routine that we have established. The one that does not include him in any way.

And I smile at myself. I smile at them. We are doing this. This thing that I never thought I could do is being done. And this time I drop to my knees with gratitude and laughing.

It's a nice change.

Monday, November 09, 2009

November 9, Giving Up the Ring

Once, when I was really mad at Art, I took off my wedding rings and didn't wear them for a whole 23 days.

It was annoying. Like a really bad paper cut, or a splinter. Aware that something wasn't right. I wanted to see if the world would treat me differently. I wanted to prove to Art how in trouble our marriage was (my words not providing enough movement). I wanted to see if he'd notice.

He didn't.

I put them back on.

Last month, I took them off again. It was an unceremonious event. I removed my rings, opened my ring box and placed them in it. The fell and laid next to his wedding band.

This time, it's as if a chunk of me was missing. They are part of me, like the black beauty mark 6 inches right of my belly button or the scar on my right knee. The rings are a part of my body history.

When my finger didn't clink on a glass or the counter or tap on the steering wheel, my mind jolted. I wondered, "Where did I leave them?" then sucked in air and sighed, remembering. My finger ached, needed to be massaged constantly. I had phantom ring finger syndrome.

10 days of no ring, 643 where-did-I-leave-them?, countless inhales, sighs and stomach ache sadness, I replaced the rings with a different one. One that a friend gave me as a gift after he died. One that only fit that ring finger. One that says to me "weaning widow."

Weaning widow, not ready to say:

not married.

Not ready to say:

not in a committed relationship.

Not ready to say

heart completely mashed

to the rest of the world.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

November 3, 2009 A.N.

The football team honors Art
On the back of every helmet are his initials


Art Nagle

My husband