Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Fraudulent Widow

Got this photo from here.



I have a confession to make.

And to many of you it will sound preposterous.

No doubt many of you will think that I am out of touch, delusional or didn’t have a “good” marriage.

Some of you won’t believe me or won’t want to believe me.

I am not of the widow crowd that believes that my husband, Art, was “my one and only love in my life.” I don’t believe God put me on this earth to only be touched by one man’s life or to touch, mold, distract or teach only one man.

But that’s not my secret. My secret is my life
is
better now that
Art’s
not in it.

It is something that is hard to admit in a widow crowd cause, well, if feels almost blasphemous.

This awakening did not happen in the beginning. I cry every time I learn of a new widow because if I close my eyes, I remember those hollow, confused days. I remember the longing for his hand on the small of my back, or for my aggravation that he never called me by my name but referred to me as “Honey, Sweetheart or Baby.”

I remember wanting nothing more than to smell him again.

I remember knowing only that if I got up, I could go back to bed. And getting back to bed meant that I had done it...Lived through another horrible, no good day. And if I could live through that day, then I could do another. I knew that eventually this rising from and going back to bed would get me some place. I was unclear of where that place was. But I believed those who came before me when they said, "I promise you, it gets easier."

And then, suddenly (for it really did feel like a jolt), I would go a few days with out crying. I could plan, shop for, prepare a meal several days in row before I became that crumbly, un-functional mess again.

And somewhere, the grief became less about missing him and more about living without him, or any man, in my life. The grief changed from losing Art to losing the ground I had previously thought was so firm. It became about learning to live in the uncertainty. It became about facing my own demons now that the grief had laid them open and bare.

The grief became about me, not about him.

I was one of those wives who lost myself in motherhood, wifehood and friend-hood. Occasionally I would look up and see clearly that I had lost myself. Full of my self importance as a wife and mother, I became too afraid of what I might loose if I tried to “find” myself. So I turned away and skipped merrily (but empty) down the wrong road. My life was about making everyone happy, everyone but me.

And now that Art is not here, I can focus on myself. And I like that. I like being able to order whatever I want on the pizza. (Which I don’t do because I am gluten intolerant. Something that I have known for years, but did nothing about because it was easier to put up with a little discomfort than to try to resist the pizza, explain to everyone, every time, why I wasn’t having pizza and preparing something for myself.)

When I look at myself now in the mirror, I see someone who I not only like, but someone who I recognize! I am not the stereotypical lonesome widow, soldering on… bravely without a husband. I can’t stand the assumption that that is all there is in widowhood.

I think I am odd in this. I think that I am different so I play along, sometimes, like the good, longing widow. But I don’t long for him, I long for this new life that approaches. One filled with adventures and frustrations and vigor!

This life would not be possible if Art were still alive. I have seen how quickly life can disappear and I don’t want to spend it longing for or canonizing my wonderful but dead husband.

I do think about him every day but it’s not in a longing way one thinks of when one utters that phrase. It’s in passing, just like when I’m driving in the car and say to myself “Shoot! I gotta remember to call Christina.”

I don’t’ miss him in this life I have built. I am stronger here. I am more me than I ever allowed myself to be in my marriage. I have no one to blame for mistakes made, ramifications for decisions, or words said or unsaid.

If I am afraid, I have to have to look at it. If I don’t’ want to do something, I have to do it or find someone else to. It is all on my shoulders…the good and the bad.

And as a result, I like who I have become. I feel real. I am the phoenix who has risen from the ashes. I am gold and powerful and wise.

The ashes are what got me here, where I go from here is truly under my own power.

I have often said Art’s death was his last and greatest gift to me. Without him dying, I would not have jumped off the cliff
and
discovered
that
instead of
falling,
I am flying!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Guilt of a Happy Widow

Got this little Nutella freak from here


“Hey! How are you?” she asks.
With that question a hand is placed gently on my upper arm. Her eyes are round, her voice soft and kind, as if she were talking to a person who is old.
I wonder “Do I look ill? Is the lack of sleep that apparent?”
My friend wants to know, to
…really
… know
how I’m doing.
Only her assumption is that I’m not doing well. After all,
I
Am
A
Widow.

And all I want to do is smile and say “I’m doing….

GREAT! Today, the kids got ready for school by themselves and this included Langston (age 14) folding his laundry. The very same laundry he put into the wash AND the dryer by himself the night before.

I had to tell Ezra this morning as he dilly-dallied over his breakfast to “put down the book or I’d have to take it away from him." This same child, 2 months ago, I had to cajole into picking up a book.

Pallas is using me as her confidant (I know this will change) she comes into my room and we talk about friendships and bodies and nail polish color.

Me. Well, I closed my business and I feel free. I have an informational interview next week and you never know where those end up! Our new place is great. I like that there aren’t all these places to disappear to. If Langston is not in the great room then he’s in his bedroom or the bathroom. That’s it. No where else to look for him. And did I mention that it was 75 today? And I wore shorts that I couldn’t fit into when Art was alive because I am now healthy skinny not a holy-shit-my-husband-is-dead skinny? “

I want to tell her all of this. I want to go on and on and on to show her the other side of widowhood, the side that is beyond just getting through another day.

But I don’t. Because I also don’t want her thinking that it’s all OK again. I don’t want her to walk away from our conversation thinking I am “over” Art's death.

And then I feel guilty. Guilty for feeling good..

Guilty for thanking Art for dying. Without his death I would never have become 70% fearless. 89% authentic, and 100% alive. I really like all the ways I have been pushed to grow and expand and live.

Guilty because the kids and I are actually ok. We laugh and have fun without him, without thinking about him.

Guilty because the intense bouts of grief come further and further apart from each other. I can go weeks without crying about him. I can go days without yearning for him.

Guilty because most of the time, when I think of him, it is with sweetness, laughter and a deep sadness that doesn’t overwhelm me.

And honestly part of me doesn’t want to disappoint her. I want her to know that as a widow my life will never be "back to normal." I want her to know that I am still different from her and she absolutely CANNOT complain about her husband to me. I want her to know that it’s still a struggle – just less and less of one.

So instead of answering her, I simply change the subject.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sudden Grief

Got this photo from here


I’m with her and we are walking to find the bathroom in Macy’s. Pallas (my daughter) and I have just been bra shopping...for her.
A momentous occasion full of “Moooommmm!” and “Why are you looking at me that way?!”
She has requested this shopping excursion and I go along, resisting the urge to take photos and whip out the recorder to “document” the occasion. (Langston forbid me from documenting his first shaving lesson with our wonderful neighbor.)

We walk towards where the sales woman said we would find a restroom.
Completely unaware of the time, the casino-like lighting making me feel out of touch, in a dream like state.
We pass the mens clothing on the left.
I think “Huh, Art would look good in that.” Then chuckle, remembering his frustration. The day Banana Republic started selling tall clothing online was the day I tossed those ugly, but long enough jeans! His 6’6” frame too long for regular clothes.

I stop to touch a shirt as Pallas and I pass the rest of the lingerie department. I see the restroom sign off to the right.
I stutter step in my mind
“Fuck, is he?
Really….no way!
It just simply can’t be.
He’s never coming back? How can someone never come back?
I don't understand.”

The thought encases me in what feels like a full body plastic bag.
I run toward the restroom.
Hands to mouth to catch.
Open stall or not, I don’t care, I need to get it out of me.

It. Out. Of Me!

Pallas is running behind me, “Hey," she says disappointedly, "you can’t just decided to race without telling me!” Using her longer-than-mine legs to catch up. She notices my hunched run, reaches for me and says “Mom are you ok?”

There’s an empty stall
Lunch, bile and tears mix together
Into the toilet
which automatically flushes.

Loss swirling down.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

He's Not Here?



Last weekend we moved. 
Our new place is smaller, more intimate.
I like it.

It’s simpler to manage. (There are only so many places Ezra’s left shoe can be!)  It makes sorting through the boxes and boxes of stuff I should have sold, much simpler.  (If it stays, exactly where is it going to go, Kim?) 

And I feel lighter here, less weighed down by stuff and keeping track of the stuff so I can find the stuff. 

But today, I walked out of the bathroom, I looked at my bed and I realized…

Art’s not here.

He’s nowhere in this new place.  Not in the decision of which draw to put the utensils in, nor in which painting to hang where.  He’s not in the money spent at Ikea nor will he be in the car when I return a few things. He’s not in the assembly of the shelves, or the finding of the toothpaste.

He’s not in the walk in closet.

He’s not in third call to Xbox Live in two hours about the hook up issue. He’s not there when the electrician, plumber, handy man and old renter all arrive within 20 minutes of each other. 

He’s not in the dinner I cook, the good night kisses I give, or in the bed where I collapse.

He’s not here. 

It was not till I left the house that I see that I have left him too.   I didn’t think I left him. I thought he was coming with us. But here in this new place, I see that he was in every damn thing in the old place: in the walls, in where the toilet paper was stacked and where the breakfast trays were kept. He was in the lights he put up around the large kitchen window that looked out onto the back yard. He was in where the canned soup goes, the best place for the dresser and the fiction book order:  black writer fiction, black female writer fiction, dead male writer fiction and damn good fiction to reread over and over again. (Yes we really had the books divided like that!)   He was in the up high shelf with the extension cords and the bicycle tools tool box.

I could hear him sometimes, in the catch of the kid’s voices as if, for just a moment, they might forget and call to him, instead of me.

In this new place, their voices are clear and call, with piercing clarity, only my name.

This feels like this is where it begins.  Where our new family starts, this family of four.

Our dinner table no longer has the extensions out.  It is square: one side for each of us.  Tonight, I looked at each of my kids, one across from me, two on either side of me and sigh. We are a family of four now.  Four sides of a square for four people.

The most weird, unnerving, pleasant and peaceful thing about this observation is that

I’m OK with it.

In 2009 we became a family of four. It was not what I wanted, not what was planned.

In 2011, it is what I have accepted and come to embrace.  It is what we are, it is who we are. It is neither bad nor good. It just is.

My new place just taught me that. 


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fever, Clothes and Backwards

The last two days I've been sick.
Fever.
I found myself lying in my bed, the wrong way.
Backwards (head where my feet usually are, feet where my head usually is)

The fever is making me feel backwards.

I'm preparing to move from the house the kids, Art and I have been in for 6 years. (Huh. The kids and I have been here for six, Art only 4.) It means going into his closet and getting rid of the rest of his clothes. The ones that no longer smell like him. It means going into the attic and going through the ones I put away for the kids and this time asking them what they want to keep.

I am at peace with this idea.
Settled.
OK
Ready.
That feels backwards.
"They" said I'd know when the time was right to get rid of the clothes, to take down one of the photos. I couldn't imagine there would ever be a "right" time in his wrong death.
But without looking for it, it has arrived.

The time is right.
There is peace and gratitude in letting more of him go...
or
is it the fever?

------
Post from August 27, 2009. 4 months after Art died.










Yesterday, I took Art's remaining clothes out of the closet. I divided them into the one's I want to keep and the ones to give away. Today I drove them to the Mission in downtown LA. Some tall homeless person with size 14 feet will finally have clothes and shoes that fit him.

Yesterday, I took down the get-well cards friends, co-workers, familiy members and students had sent him. This wall reflects me.

I am that wall. I am empty, vacant, not complete. I am not surprised at the depth of the grief, just disappointed in it. I am surprised at how quickly I begin to hyper ventilate, and how powerless I feel. I can't talk, even though I wanted to call a friend.

I think we are fine and then it hits, the wave and I swear that I will drown. And I cry so deeply and so completely that my whole body gets involved. I shake and feel nauseous. I force my breath. My nose quickly fills. My head aches, my arms tingle. My feet move rhythmically back and forth across the sheet. I hold myself, I let go. I punch his pillow. I hold myself again.

I know I need to call someone. Anyone. But what will I say? What is there to say? I don't want to be cheered up, I don't want to be soothed. I want to be held, to be allowed to grieve, with the noisy blows from my bulbous red nose and with the lines of tears from my swollen eyes.

I don't want anyone to tell me it'll be ok because right now, it's not. I want someone to wrap their arms around me, to sit with my pain, to stroke my hair and my back. To NOT say "shhhh." To cry with me even. No judgment, no better world. Just this grief here and now.

Tomorrow is my 45 birthday.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Happy

photo by Ezra

I’m gonna come out and say it.
I’m happy.

I’m a widow and
I’m happy.

It’s not because of another man either,
and I didn’t win the lottery.
I didn’t discover extra life insurance money or an extra $20,000 in my savings account.

I still haven’t found a new place to live. (If you live in LA, I’m looking for a 3 bdrm, 2 bath on the Westside. Hey, ya never know!)

And no, I have not been drinking or smoking the funny stuff.

I haven’t been eating ice cream or chips or cake for that quick high.

I’m happy because today Ezra and I had a good day and this day would not have been possible if
Art were here.

If Art were here,
my two oldest would not have flown on separate flights by themselves back east. They would not be forging their own, significant relationships with my sister and my in-laws.

If Art were here,
I wouldn’t have taken Ezra to the Venice Beach boardwalk. We wouldn’t have marveled at the roller skating guy, the skate boarders, or the guy in the turban with the electric guitar. I would not have been told, “Wow, they don’t’ make them like you anymore!” by the dummy and his ventriloquist.

If Art were here,
I wouldn’t have insisted (a bit meanly) that Ezra buck up and get on his new skate board. I wouldn’t have dared him to fall 5 times. (He fell 7 times and said he won!)

If Art were here,
I would not have been at the neighbor’s pool. I would not have heard “Mom watch this!” only 9 times (a record low) and been amused that I actually DID watch 8 times.

If Art were here,
I would have said, “I’m too tired, you take him.” Who am I kidding, if Art were here, we’d be somewhere else.

If Art were here,
I’d be in Maine, suffering my in-laws.

But
Art’s not here
and still
I’m happy.

I can’t believe I wrote that.
I’m too happy to even bother justifying that statement.

I am happy.

I’m happy.
Down to my hair follicles happy.

I’m happy because without Art here
I found this new strength, this courage, this audacity to just fuck it all and
be happy.

Without him here,
I have found
something
that was lacking when he was here.
A deeper,
more loving knowledge of
who I am,
faults included.

Without him here,
I like what I’m left with.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Two Year Ago

Two years ago, less than three months after he died, I went looking for him.
I rememberd this today, as I made a to-do list. Things that need to happen before two of my three kids fly back east, without me.

Even now, the notion of looking for him makes sense.

So, I went back to the post I wrote on August 4, 2009.

-----
The chair where he always sat by the water in Maine.


This place is saturated with him.

I awake from a bad dream and prefer to go back to it rather than acknowledge that the other half of the bed is empty.

It feels like it did in the beginning, raw and suffocating. I am steeped in disbelief. I am not here without him, I think. He’s in the kitchen.

And when he’s not there, I think he’s stretching in the living room.

And when I check and see the floor empty I think, he’s down by the water.

I walk down expecting to find his long legs stretched out, his head back, eyes closed, hands intertwined and resting on his flat belly, dressed in his red fleece to protect from the dewy morning.

And when I don’t see him there,
I sink into his chair
and sob.

This is that wave that my friend spoke about. The grief wave. It comes, up over my head and with magnificent force shoves me down to the bottom, smashing me. It lifts and tosses me until I don’t know which way is up. I am afraid to breath.

So I don't breath, I cry until I magically float to the top, where this time, there is not another wave waiting for me.

---
12:10, three hours after
I
went
looking for him.

Looking for him?
Searching for him. Like he might just be in this one other place, this one place I forgot to look. Against logic. I saw his dead body. Against common sense, why would he be here?

But I just had to check, to see, to make sure that he really wasn't there or here or maybe at the store. The chair by the water was the last place I knew he would be if he were still alive.

Now I sit on the porch of Blue Hill Books, unwrap my new journal and begin writing. My lungs fill with air that is filled with him.

I'm still breathing.
--

I remember that day. I remember the sadness and the surprise of my action. What I find so amazing now is that, just like my friend said it would, the pain is not sharp or forceful or even scary. There is a sense of loss, dull, like someone gently putting pressure on my back. Noticeable, but not distracting or overwhelming. I am surprised to find myself here.

In this place of acceptance and dare I say...okness?

I am relieved to find myself here.
Finally, a place where it doesn't hurt as much.
Finally....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mattering


my daughter Pallas (2nd from the left) and her friends

She says to me “Kim, you’re important. Other widows want to meet you. They ask if you will be there.”

I was talking to Michelle, the founder of this blog, Camp Widow, Widow’s Village and Soaring Spirits Foundation.

She was trying to convince me to come to widow camp.

I wasn’t going. Even though I live just two hours away.
I wasn’t going.

I’m important, I whispered to myself. I’m important.
I matter to other people.
I had not felt that way since…
Art died.

The moment Art died I felt like I mattered less.
Like the space I took up in this world was not nearly as important as the space others take up.

I was not a wife anymore.
As a wife I knew I mattered to one other adult. I mattered a lot to him.

As a widow there is no one to call to say “I’m on my way home.”
There is no one to worry about me, or worry with about the kids.
My day doesn’t matter to other people.
They guy who cut me off matters less.
The great deal I got on a dress doesn’t really matter either.
My life and all it’s little insignificant happenings does not matter to anyone else.
It would take days for anyone to realize that the kids and I were gone…or dead.
Without a husband I questioned my matterness.

And it was not until Michelle spoke the opposite of what I believed that I saw how I carried around that little belief. I carried it around as sure as I carry around my kids were born from me, that Obama is our president and that I will wake up tomorrow and it will be Sunday.

I don’t matter as much now that I don’t have some to matter to.

That belief just sits there,
quietly,
solidly.
I matter less with no one else to share my life with.

And the thing is I didn’t realize that was my belief until I spoke with Michelle.

“I matter,” I whisper again, this time just a little bit louder.
The funny thing is:
if I take a really close look at my life.
if I am honest about who I have become since Art gave me the gift of his death
if I really look at it, I matter more
now
than I did when he was alive.

And if this is true for me, then it is true for many of us widow’s too.

We matter.
We matter to each other.
Every blog that is discovered at 3:23 am, when a widow is terrified of what has happened to her or him,
matters.

The comments that widows leave, the open, honest, "me too" comments that are left and read by THOUSANDS
matter.

The visitors, lurkers, outsiders
matter.

We all matter! It just doesn’t look the same way it did before our partners died.
Heck it doesn’t look the way we were taught it was supposed to look, dead partner or not.

I matter
You matter.

So when you see me at Camp Widow, or out and about in LA, come up and give me a hug.

I need it. I need to be reminded that I matter.
And my guess is you need to be reminded that
you
matter
too.

I think we all do.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Our Struggle"



“We’ve all had our struggles…”

And that’s when I stop listening. For her to throw the death of my husband, the life that I lead trying (and failing most of the time) to keep my head above water, for her to lump me in with someone’s divorce, or hospital stay or job loss (well….job loss maybe), for her to insinuate that being a young widow raising kids was “just” another life struggle….

Oooooo……I’m so mad I can’t even type!

And on top of that, she called me a single parent. I am an ONLY PARENT (thank you widow who posted that in comments a few months ago!) There is a big huge difference!

And this comment from a person who says that the loss of my husband still affects her!

Wait….I am so pissed! I want to growl!

“We have all had our struggles…” as if mine is like hers. How dare she trivialize my life, my daily fucking battle to keep a roof over my kid’s heads, to feed them, to care for their mental well-being.

How dare she compare her life with her married husband and say “We’ve all had our struggles…”

Does she mean that she gets up weary every fucking day? Does she mean that before her feet hit the ground she has considered where the holes are in her plan and the 3 people she needs to call, that morning to fill those holes?

Does she mean she dreads weekends because she just didn’t have the energy or time during the week to make plans for the kids so now they will be with her, which is exactly where she doesn’t want them to be, arguing, unless she finds the energy to argue them or de-whine them into a bike ride, a trip to a museum or the park? All the while really only wanting to take a good long nap, long enough to skip a damn day.!

Does she mean that she carefully plans her Sundays to make sure that the house is full of food, breakfast, lunches, snacks and dinner and just in case food items so that she doesn’t have to go to the store in the middle of the week because she knows it may mentally push her off the deep end to make “just” one more stop?

Does she mean she got to tell her kids today “we’re moving” and then find the ability, patience and kindness to comfort each one of them, separately, when all she wanted to do was go into her room and scream into her pillow?

By "our struggles," did she mean that she listened to her oldest say “The last 1/3 of my life has been….” and then watch his shoulder’s shake as he cries dealing with yet another loss. Or to have her youngest say “It seems like most of my life has been not very good.” And to realize, it’s true. His dad was diagnosed with cancer when he was 4. He’s 9 now.

Does she mean that she has days upon days upon days where she falls into bed, after trying to raise threes kids ON HER OWN and think, tonight would be a good night for a fucking earthquake because at least I could “rest?”

Does she mean wrapping her small frame around her much larger older child as he again sobs himself to sleep knowing the only thing she can do is listen to his pain, bless it and hope that it will not swallow him.

Is that what she means by “We all have had our struggles?”

Cause there is NO PAST TENSE in my struggle. No “had!” Not today. In fact, it feels harder today than it did in the beginning..

I could try to interpret what she meant by that comment, but well. I’m just too damn tired!

So I didn’t hang up on her, although I was tempted. There was no point in trying to make her see because she can’t, she won’t. She needs to believe that “We all have had our struggles…” It makes her feel better and who am I to take that away from her.

So I take my rage to the only place I can, a computer and then to other widows and some of you knowing that I am not alone. And in that one thought, as I thought it, then wrote it...the rage disappears.

Thank you for being a place where I find the healing too.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Grief from A Child



This is what Ezra has to say about grief. He wants you to pay attention. He's nine. He was 7 by three weeks when Art died. M=Mom, aka Kim


E: It's scary whenever I go to sleep because I’m afraid I will be dreaming about daddy.


M: Why do you not like that?


E: Cause then every morning I wake up and I realize that he’s never coming back and it’s really hard for me.


M: What do you miss about your dad?


E: I miss that everyone would say, “Oh your dad is so tall. I wish I had a dad like him!” and stuff like that.


M: What do you think about our new lives without him?


E: Everyone says that everything that happens on earth has a reason. And it’s really hard to believe that this has a reason.


M: What do you like about our lives now that you don’t have Daddy?


E: Come to think of it, I’m having a lot of new experience that I wouldn’t have if my dad was alive.


M: Like what?


E: One of the biggest experiences is not having dad.


M: What are your good days like?


E: I don’t know. I think about him. I have my mind on other stuff.


M: Do you have any advice for people who are grieving, adult or child?


E: If people say that they are in worse grief than you are, just say, "You know I don’t think you are." because there are different kinds of grief. So it may be they are in bigger grief than me but in a different way.


When people say that to me, I just think you don’t know how I feel, so how can you compare something when you don’t know what it is?


M: What is it like to watch me cry when I miss Daddy?


E: I have different feelings. Sometimes I feel like I let you down somehow. Sometimes I feel like I should just leave you alone because I’m not in too good a shape myself.


M: When you comfort me, how does that make you feel?


E: When I comfort you, it kind of comforts me. And also that’s why I like to play the piano sometimes. It’s another way to express myself without getting mad. It comforts me.


E: slyly. That’s why you should let me get on the piano more often.


M: Do you have any tips for widowed mothers?


E: When the kids say, “Leave me alone” the mother should. Cause a lot of times when we say, "Leave me alone." it’s just better to be left alone because it feels good to let your feelings out when you’re not with other people.


M: Ezra can I post this for other widow’s to read?


E: Well that’s why you’re writing it all down, isn’t it?


I love you Ezra. Thank you for teaching me what it's like to be you.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

How Did He Die?

I’m at the bank, not my usual branch.
Comments are made about how tall my youngest is.
“He’s only 9?”
I nod.
What I want to do is roll my eyes, and hand her a card that says:

“Thank you for noticing that my child is tall. Hopefully he will be a tall man some day. I have trained him to smile and say “Thank you,” even though he has nothing to do with how tall he is or how tall he will be. Now kindly stop ogling and either lets finish our business or be on your way.”

That’s what the card would say.

But I haven’t printed it up yet so instead I say:

“Yes, he is tall. My husband was 6’6.”

I use past tense easily now, forgetting how ominous it sounds. When their eyes go wide, I assume, for an instant that it’s in response to my husband’s height. Silly me.

The conversational tone changes from light to tragic. Their realization that in front of them is a woman whose life truly is tragic. “Did you say your husband ‘was’?”

Here we go.

“Yes. I did. My husband died.” And depending on the situation I sometimes add ‘recently.’

And then it comes, the stupidest question ever…

“How did he die?”
Or if they have a modicum of politeness, it’s:
“Do you mind me asking how he died?”

Now here is my quandary.

I do mind. Now I do.

When he first died, I would recount the story in detail. Somehow telling it over and over again and getting the same reactions over and over again put more and more earth beneath my feet, a place where I could say “this is where I stand now, without a husband.”

Then right around the second year, I noticed that telling my story began to feel old. I felt like my piece of earth was fairly solid. I had tamped it down and built it up. It was called “my new life: the expected bad, ugly and the surprisingly good.”

As I stepped into my third year, (OMG my third year….. I remember in the beginning not being able to imagine what it would be like to live that long without him!) Wow.

As I stepped into my third year, I find the question intrusive. And voyeuristic and well, like I’m adding to their gossip mill.

Isn’t it enough that my husband died? If I tell them he died of cancer, unless they have experienced loosing someone to cancer, they will have a way-not-accurate-image of his last moments on this earth that will probably include him looking deeply into my eyes and him saying a few final words before his last breath is taken. Or something that is so, so far from the truth!

I have to admit. It’s the kind of question I would have asked before I was on this side of death. It’s the kind of thing I would have listened intently too, shaken my head. Then later, maybe months later, I would have shared with an authoritative tone in my voice “I met this woman who lost her husband to cancer and she said…….”

That would have been me. Missing the whole point. Because it’s not how he died that matters. It’s the fact that he’s dead that matters.

And this is what I want to tell someone when they ask.

“Its not about what killed him. What makes it so difficult is that he’s dead.”

So I resolve to use that line. I resolve to not tell anyone how he died.
From here on out, when someone asks me “how” I will reply:

“It’s not what killed him that matters, it’s the fact that he is dead that is so difficult.”

And in that resolution, I leave the house the next day.
And I find myself in a random conversation with a random person in line at the grocery store.

Out slips “He was … “

“Oh!” she says “Is your husband dead? “

“Yes.” I reply

“Was he shot?”

I give up.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Widow vs. Widow











She said “Well, at least you got to say good-bye.”

Anger rises in me because I see her comment as one of those my-situation-is-worse-than-yours comments.

Anger because she wants to beat me to the bottom, to claim more grief, more anger, more despondency than me.

Anger because really? Do we have to have this conversation? I’ve had it before but about skin color with a white friend who was saying that my “blackness” was different from the “poor people’s blackness.” And I had to explain that the store clerk doesn’t thing so. I still get “watched,” and treated with suspicion even with a platinum American Express in my purse.

This widow assumes that Art’s cancer gave me time to prepare. I am disappointed at the magical death image she holds. You know the one from t.v.? The one where the person looks like themselves, opens their eyes, says a few last dying but meaningful words with the last exhale.

She thinks that expecting that your husband will die is some how easier. As if I could “prepare” for the impending grief by filling up sandbags to line my life. The more sandbag the less pain.

As I go to open my mouth, to tell her my last memories of my husband are of a withered 6’6" man who went from 235 to 154, his sunken, hollow face, unconscious, mouth open emanating that foul sweet smell of his dying innards. A smell that even in thought, makes me wretch.

Before I can tell her about the relief that came over me when he died that was quickly followed with shame of being relieved. Before I can tell her any of that…

I float
into her head
and see her own
devastation.

I see her need to tell her story over and over and over again, to compare it to others because in her world, right now, there is no firm footing. Nothing makes sense. She doesn’t know how to get to point B because not only is she standing on completely new territory, she doesn’t even know which direction to head in to find that second point. Comparing her story to mine at least provides her with walls, something familiar, something firm, a shelter of sorts.

And it is not till I recognize all this, I back down. She can have the bottom. She can have the grief and the despondency. I no longer need it to stand on.

I am surprised for my love for her, for the way I want to hold her in my arms and let her know it will truly, truly be okay. I want to tell her that she will find her place in this world. That she will slowly learn to lean into, and live, decently, without him.

The love comes out of my right arm, through my fingertips as I take her hand. I say to her after a moments silence, “Wow, I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to loose him so suddenly. I hear you.”

Because I know she simply wants
to be
heard.

Exactly what I wanted and
still want.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

July 2008, Malibu

So I was gonna try and ignore Father’s Day.
It’s Father’s Day and my kids don’t have one.

I was gonna just treat it like every other Sunday only….
Well last time I tried to run from one of the “big” days,
like his anniversary death date,
like his birthday,
like random days when his loss seems to be around every corner,
I get slammed,
Emotionally beat up,
eaten and then spewed out.

It took days for me to recover.
My whole body, my mind, just like in the beginning,
unable to focus, skittish,
in a sluggish way.

So this time, instead of running from his loss,
I turn into it.

Not out of bravery.
Not out of “I’ll show it whose boss!”

I turn into it out of the idea that facing the monster diminishes its power.
I’m not afraid anymore (or well just not afraid TODAY )

Cause what I have learned on this 792 day since his death is:

the loss won’t kill me.

Its unpredictability, won’t make my heart stop.
Its depth won’t suffocate me.
Its “holy-shit-this-hurtness” won’t be with me every single moment of every single day.
I have learned that all that pain that often brings me to my knees in random places like the kitchen, outside the car and yes, once in Whole Foods,
washes over me and then goes away.
And while I don’t like it, (I will never like the feeling of being left, abandoned and vulnerability),
every time, every fucking time afterward,
a rainbow appears.
And at the end of that rainbow is the new, better me!

It was a gift to have him even if he did stink up the bathroom (Cannonization of Art)
It was a gift to loose him (Dancing)

I am standing here, not just stronger, but wiser, more open, more sensitive than I have ever been.

I am standing here alive.
And alive means feeling all of it but knowing that “all” passes. The joy all and the yucky all, it passes.

Now as for the kids, cause really, the day is more about them, than about me.

This year I watched the grief and hopelessness catch up with Langston and flip him, and for moments, pin him to the floor. I have watched him look for relief in food, in friends and in video games. I have stood beside him, nodding my head, rubbing his back, curling me 128lb frame around his 251lb one.

He is walking his own journey and it is not for me to dictate it, fix it or say “No, no don’t go that way!” because he has to find his own place of strength. I have to remind myself that it is not one I can create for him.

His blessing through this? It seems that it is dawning on him (slowly) that the outside things bring him only temporary relief. He’s learning to turn into the loss, too. (That’s more awakening most adults 3, 4 and 5 times as old as he is!)

For Pallas, I still worry. I’m not sure where she is. I watch her float around with her friends, and with me seemingly content. I worry but as the saying goes, “Worry is putting a negative spin on the future.

For Ezra, I watch him fear the fear of his loss, hold it in till he turns blue with it and then let it out because he doesn’t have the strength (who does?) to keep it all pent up! And then worry what we will think him less than when it comes tumbling out. I am waiting for him to discover, like his brother, to run from it, gives it more power.

They lost a father, a man that cannot be replaced. I lost a husband who frankly, can be replaced. (I don’t believe there’s only one soul mate per lifetime.)

And the journeys my kids travel are their journeys. Not mine, I have to be careful not to confuse the two.

No doubt Father’s Day will mean different things to them as they grow up, as they discover and acknowledge their own courage and growth as it spills out of them in this life.

This year (cause next year may find me in completely different place!) Father’s Day is a day to give thanks to Art for being a decent dad and for mourning the kind of father he “could have been.” It’s also day for me to marvel at my children as they make their way in the world without a dad, something I didn’t have to do.

The one thing I hope for them for forever is that Father’s Day doesn’t scare them, doesn’t become a day to avoid.

I hope that Father’s Day becomes their independence day.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Every Sunday


(Written 2/2011)

Every Sunday it happens.
I go into my office to print out the grocery list.
And find myself on the computer
Searching for……
a distraction,
a reason,
a gift,
something that will ease the unease.

I read the past week’s posts of the other widows.
I look at my emails.
I answer the ones that don’t take much out of me.
Finally, I refocus but not before I feel
Overwhelmed
by the emails
that require me to plan, to think, to notice that I have to do it again
alone.

I have to make lists that will get checked off
by
me.

Before I get stuck in overwhelm, I force myself to remember what I came in for.
I print out the grocery list and begin the routine.

Weeks meal plan
Three grocery stores
To Do List for the week

Every Sunday, I feel empty and alone.
Every Sunday I use my computer as a way to run from it
and every Sunday it doesn’t work.

This Sunday I went further
I tried ice cream, hoping the cold creaminess will make me
forget the
cold
emptiness.

It didn’t.

So I tried alcohol.
Hoping the gentle relaxation would allow me to weather the
insecurities, the fear, lesson the weight of the world that not only sits on my shoulders
but my spine,
my stomach and
my knees.

It doesn’t.

I call a neighbor. “Do you have anything?” I ask.
He runs me up a little something to smoke.
I look at it. I go to light it and I stop.
I know it won’t work either.

So I call this guy I know. This friend.
Strong hands, a comforting hug, a good kisser
I go to him.
I want to know that I matter to another man.
I want to feel his arms around me, to sink into the testosterone, the power
the protectiveness of him.

It works...
but only for a little while.

I get back into my car
And I am crying
And praying to God

“Please help me!
I can’t do this anymore. I can’t take the weight, I cannot make one more decision on what we will eat this week by myself I can’t!”

And even as I say it, I know I am lying.
I’ve done it every Sunday for over 52 of them. I can do it for 100s more.

Every Sunday I wonder, is this it?
Is this what surviving grief looks like?
Is this what I worked so hard to get too?

Really?

Sunday, May 08, 2011

A Different Grief

Pallas and Langston

It was a lovely evening. I could feel the exhaustion running all the way into my finger tips and for once I welcomed it. It was 9:30 pm. I checked the clock 7 times to make sure I hadn’t misread it.

9:30 pm and for once all three of my children were in bed and….asleep.
A self-congratulatory smirk (accompanied with a sigh of unimaginable relief) passes over my lips. I’m in bed at 9:30 pm!!! I close my eyes doing a happy-skip-run-prance towards sleep.

I am exhausted. In an effort to take care of myself I have run myself into the ground. Eating healthy and answering all those kid questions, paying attention to the long and drawn out stories, making orthodontist appointments, and ordering skin cream and buying bikinis and getting my 9 year old to SLEEP IN HIS OWN DAMN bed and getting a break from them and running a business (two now….) and trying to have a social life and exercising and trying to spend quality time with each of them so they don’t feel further abandoned and teacher meetings and volunteering (which I admit I HAVE TO STOP doing) and talking to a new widow 3 times a week and remembering who has what game/doctors appointment/play date when
has
run
me
into
the
ground.

9:30 is huge fucking triumph!!!

I drift into my triumph

At that mother sleep level, the level that allows you to hear the cough, the sneeze, the bathroom runs, the talking when you are asleep but not quite wake up, I hear him rise from bed. I hear his heavy methodical one-foot-slightly-dragging footsteps make their way towards the bathroom. Only they don’t stop they keep heading my way. I think “Lie really still. He’ll just go away.”

I remember those nights when all three kids just seemed to keep getting up, Art and I would pretend to be asleep so the other one would get up with whichever kid had just wandered into our room. I remember how the person who “won” would feel guilty and would hold open the covers.

So I’m pretending and it’s not working because Art’s dead and I’m the only one here. Langston, my oldest, says to me, almost pleading, “Mom I don’t want to go to school tomorrow.” His voice is nasally, stuffed up, then that mother awareness memory kicks in. He’s been blowing his nose….a lot. My big man-child has been crying. A lot. Him in pain jolts me awake.

“Hey … kiddo, what’s going on?” I hesitate using ‘kiddo” it’s what Art called him. I let my mother imagination fly … drugs, girls, bullying and suicide. He won’t tell me. He won’t alleviate my anxiety. He repeats over and over again “I don’t’ want to go to school. I don’t want to go to school.”

I repeat “I need to know what’s going. I need to know what’s going on. “

After the seventeenth “I need to know what’s going on.” He shouts, exasperated, “Never mind!!” and storms out. I get up, go into his room, he’s not there. I find my crocks, grab my sweatshirt and head out the front door, that I just noticed is ajar. And there he is. Sitting on the front stoop.

“I want to be alone.” He says. I pretend I didn’t hear him. I sit next to him. I put my hand on his back wondering when did this back become the back of a man, and not of a little boy. His man back is shaking as he cries.

My heart, that feels so fragile, begins to tear at seams that have been mended over and over and over again.

“Sweetheart, tell me what’s going on. It’s safe. I promise you it’s safe.” I say
“It’s everything.” he says “I miss Daddy and no one understands. Only one of my friends gets it.”

I say “Yes, that’s true. Many of my friend’s don’t get it and it makes me feel lonely.
But you know people who get it. You can talk to them.”

Then he says
YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!!!”
I want to laugh.
I’ve been waiting my whole parenting life for one of them to say that to me.

“You don’t,” he catches a sob in his throat, “You don’t have to walk past his office every single day!

Rip…the seam is completely undone.

Langston attends school where Art used to work and he does walk past his old office every day. I thought it didn’t bother him.

I’m such as ass.
Such a mother ass!
I know better than those not-knowing people who act all surprised at my sudden tears over Art’s loss and say “Are still mourning?”


“I think about him all the time, Mom. All the time, every day and I don’t want to think about him every day.”

He’s sobbing. He’s almost pleading. My 6 feet-225-pound-14-year-old is sobbing. I'm trying to use my 5’7”-130-pound frame to comfort him and it feels entirely inadequate.

This is THE WORST PART OF ALL THIS.

I can’t fix it for him.
I can’t protect him from this loss.
No amount of words, or actions or back rubs will take his pain away.

It is like watching someone drown because I am unable to swim.

I’m silent. Every day he walks past Art’s office. Every day. How many of those days does he think he might see his dad? How many of those days does he just want to punch that door?

It feels like for the first time I am seeing his world, a world that doesn’t include potential other fathers the way my world includes potential other husbands.

He lost his father. There will be no other.

I breath deeply. He is not ok…he has been hurting all this time? Shame rises and then falls. In Art’s death I feel the lack of motherhood omnipotence.

He’s right. I don’t get it.
I don’t understand because I don’t walk past Art’s office every day. I don't understand because my dad lived till I was just one day shy of 40, not when I was 12.

Then he says, “Mom, it was so hard having you and Pallas and Ezra fall apart but I couldn’t.”

I let out the kind of sob that hurts my body.

“I know, baby. It must have been so hard for you to lose Daddy and then have me not being able to function. Sweetheart, I’m here now, I’m functioning. It’s ok. We survived it.”

He continues, “I felt so powerless. Unable to do anything to help you.”

This is when I hear my heart shatter.

I stifle the sobs. “I know how you feel.” I say.

He just sits there and cries. And I sit next time him, my hand on his back, or stroking his hair, his neck. I do what I wanted so many others to do for me.

I witness him.

I witness his pain. I honor it. I validate it. I don’t hand him a tissue, I don’t say “It’ll be alright.” I don't distract him with "You know your father loved you." or "Your dad used to...." stories. I just sit there until he’s cried out.

I put him to bed and he lets me rub his back as he falls asleep. I notice that it takes longer than I remember to traverse the distance from his left shoulder to his right, then down diagonally to his waist and across.

He has grown in the last two years, inside and out. Another loss for me. I feel like I am seeing him for the first time in two years, since Art died.

And in those long strokes, I send him courage and strength and love, love, and love. I sit in my powerlessness, finding that I do have some power.

My power is not in protecting him but in honoring his journey. My power is in not lying to him, telling him it will be ok because it will never be ok. His father is dead.

My power is in letting him have his feelings and making them ok. My power lies in showing him that the bad is followed by the good, which will be followed by the bad and the good again.

My power is in teaching him to hold tight to those moments…all of them because they are what will make him so wonderfully approachable and human.

I see his grief and my grief as separate. I always saw it as the same.
He lost a father, someone that cannot be replaced.

I mourn his innocence.

-----

I finished writing this, the eve of Mother's Day, and for a moment I can't think. I keep wishing everyone else a Happy Mother's Day and forget that it applies to me as well.

I'm not sure how I feel about it or that I should even put much thought into it. The man who is partially responsible for me becoming a mother is dead, but I'm still a mother. A very, very different mother than I would have been if he were still alive. I haven't thought about the ways I've changed till now.

But when I re-read my post I see. In Art's death, I am becoming the mother I always wanted to be. The approachable kind, the kind that my kids (and others?) know will love them, will honor them, their triumphs and foibles. I am impatient, but real (I'm sorry guys. I don't have the space right now to help you.) I am harsh. (It's because when I was your age I didn't have the chance to do it. It may not make sense to you. But you are doing it anyway!) Above all I hope my kids see that I am human -- flawed and imperfect, courageous and terrified and still moving, changing and forever growing. I have never felt more like a real mother than I do today, at this moment.

Art's death freed me to be this kind of mother.

So to all you widow-mothers out there -- I love you. Our journey through motherhood without husband's is an imperfect one, full of bad words, horrible feelings and unwise actions. Yet we not only live it but find the courage to grow in it.

That truly is the miracle of motherhood.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

730 Days




Written on April 15, 2011


729 days and 22 hours ago…

we were dancing in his room.

We were drinking beer, watching American Idol

and eating.

I can’t remember what.


We were laughing together,

his sister, his best childhood friend, my friend and I.

And then one of us would look at him,

and cry.


I tried to forget all of that today.

I told myself that I will “ignore” tomorrow.

I had decided that I would ignore this anniversary.


The 730th day.

730 days since my life

shifted,

became Jell-O under my feet,

since it ended up on a different life plane.


And those memories of the last hours of his life

can’t be stopped.

I tried eating my way into ignorance.

I tried drinking my way past them.


And yet, there they are,

those pointy edges,

those fragments of memory,

pricking me,

making me bleed tiny little droplets

and

as I bleed out,

in comes the physical response to the grief.


My spine aches,

my eyes feel prickly.

I feel fuzzy, unclear and surreal.


Just like I did 729 days ago.


I am filled with the same joy too. It was us, the four of us there, in our cocoon. The world stopped at the hospital door. Those three were there with me, we were there to help him leave this life. It was beautiful those last hours.


His leaving so black, so unknowing. Sarah McGloughlin reminding me to:

“Hold on.

Hold on to yourself.

This is gonna hurt like hell.”


I remember the nurse telling me that I wasn’t cooping well.

And I yelling at her, “I know I’m not cooping. My husband is dying! Now get him more morphine!”


I remember all of it

It pours into me.

There is no stopping it, no deciding to ignore it.


So I sit still

Let the tears come in their sporadic, unpredictable rhythm,

dropping down my cheek and onto my shirt.


I use my hands to swipe at them, smearing the wetness onto the back of my hands then onto my cheeks and then my pants or the bed duvet cover. Tissues …I can’t. Placing something clean and white under my eye to safely contain the grief feels absurd.


Grief is messy and wet and unpredictable.

I want these tears to represent all of it.


And then I want to cry not just to honor what has been lost,

but what

has

been

gained.


I can’t be one without the other.


730 days.

730 days.

730 days.

730 days.


To be followed by 731.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Sex, Sensuality and Sadness



Sex. I’ve been thinking about it lately.
And I really miss it. I miss the animal-ness of having another sweaty body pressed down against mine, the sounds, the smell.

I miss being openly desired, I miss teasing, I miss all the foreplay that comes before. I miss being sexy. I miss being a sensual woman.

And I find myself unsure if I even know how to be sensual outside of him.

I know I don’t have to be. After all I’m a widow. Good widows don’t crave sex. Good widows don’t take about that need. Good widows move forward but do so looking back and sighing. Good widows leave their best years behind them, and walk bravely into the future. Good widows don’t talk about their “toys” either.

Sometime when people ask me how I’m doing I want to say, in a pleasant soft voice with a sweet smile, “I’m horny as hell and really want to get laid.”

I’m a shitty “good” widow.

But it’s not just about the sex. It’s about the desire to be desirable. It’s about having a man openly want me, it’s about my wanting him back.

It’s about being sensual and here is where I struggle. For all of our sex, for all the times we made love, I can’t say that I was ever sensual, I mean really, really comfortable enough to be sensual with Art.

And I’m scared.
Art’s death has splayed me open…. I am raw to the touch, to any emotional breeze. And in a weird way I feel the fool. Foolish for laying there letting anyone see me.

And yet in the fear strangely comes courage and the desire to use my second chance to embrace what I have always wanted to be but been too afraid to try.

It’s the bravery I turn into Sensuality here in Cancun. I love the word, it captures it’s meaning in its pronunciation.

I have dared myself to practice being sensual this whole trip. And in doing so I try to see my body the way Art did: beautiful, soft, curvy and expressive. It’s difficult to ignore the familiar, mean, internal messages. “Your thighs are too big. You have too much cellulite. And good Lord, whatever you do don’t lean over! Your three child stomach skin will hang down like elephant ears.”

My sensuality fights to stay present, in front of me.

On the beach, I study other woman from other places like Brazil and Atlanta. I watch them move in tiny bathing suits with bellies and thighs and bosoms that are the complete opposite of the waif thin I think I should be. And I watch the sensuality float around them, magnifying their sexiness.

I want that. I want to dip myself in it. I want to be amplified. I want to see what Art saw in my body. He didn’t see the stretch marks, cellulite, the wrinkled belly, or the saggy small breasts.

All he saw in that single minded male way was a woman, who he loved with breast that were just right, with a belly that was curvy in all the right places, soft, expressive and holy delicious to look at, to kiss, to stroke.

With those thoughts, Sadness creeps in. There is a man on this trip that I’m interested in. It will be a one night stand. And suddenly standing next to this man, I am lost, not sure how to do this or even if I want to. I am scared I will do something “wrong.” I am still splayed open. I feel unattractive and needy and fuck….vulnerable.

It is here that I see for now, I am trapped between my dead husband and a world that is out there. A world I see and occasionally venture into but for most of the time it waits for me to figure out how I want to engage in it.

And with that, the sensuality is gone. I am a widow. A scared, lost, confused widow. Not sure what to do or how to do it.

I've been here before. I'll figure it out.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Ugly and Forgiveness



This is post from March 26, 2010
I've been going back to find myself, to ground this experience, to find a way to mark the growth, the good changes and all the challenges I have overcome.
I'm been going back to find courage.

This is what the post said.
-------


“He’s in our thoughts and prayers.”


“We are sending a blanket of love.”


Those are words I read today about a boy, who like Art is


battling his second round of cancer.


He’s doing a better job than Art did


and I’m NOT doing a better job at begin gracious.


Instead, when I read those words of love


And support


Ms. Cynic thinks


“Save your breath!”


“Those good thoughts and prayers


Don’t work.


If they did,


I wouldn’t be writing this column.”


Silly, stupid, people.


-------


That boy died earlier morning on Friday, March 26.


The grief sucked me down its whirlpool, shame followed


And anger was fast on its heels.


Only this time, I bobbed to the surface


Before I got too much water up my nose.


The whirlpool didn’t take me down as far and I am not as disoriented.


I cry because I know where his mom will go.


I know the journey of loss


and the idea of someone I know walking it


Makes me scream myself raw


and punch trees


and crumble to the floor and say


“Why her? Why her?”


Brooks….I’m sorry.


I wanted those silly, stupid people to be right.


I really wish they had been right.


-----


I re-read these words and at first, I feel shame

and then oddly

it is followed by forgiveness.


In the wake of the last few months

I have learned to forgive myself.


To forgive myself for:

not calling his doctor sooner,

for not convincing him to try alternative treatments

for not singing to him the moment he died

for not being too tired on Saturday to visit him so I could have alerted the doctors sooner

for not waiting to hold the memorial service so our friends from across the country could attend

for not kissing him on the lips after he died

for not staying in bed for days and days and days like I really think I should have

for not playing the widow part good enough

for not being more loving to him when he was around the last few months

for not being kinder to stupid people

for trying so hard to please all those around because somehow I felt their attention was unworthy

for it all

for crying too much or not crying enough

for my anger

for....


the list goes on.


In his death, I found my humanity and my imperfections.

In his death, I have discovered that it's not my fault.

In his death, I have discovered myself.



Sunday, March 27, 2011

The New Road


some where on the I-5 in CA heading south

862 miles

14 hours in the car

in two days
.
Less actually, because we left at 
1:00 pm on Friday
 and got back tonight (Saturday) at 7:00 pm.



It started with a casual comment.
"Hey, you guys wanna go to Sacramento to the State Championship Basketball games for the boys and the girls varsity teams?" I asked my kids on Tuesday.



"Sure." came their reply, unaware of the weight their casualness carried. 



The plan?
Drive to San Francisco, (387 miles) stay over night with Art's cousin.
Get up early the next morning and drive to Sacramento (91 miles).
Watch two basketball games, then drive home (384 miles).

The motivation is simple and clear.
It would be fun and
I think I can do it.


862 miles in 30 hours.

Crazy talk.


Overwhelming talk.


Why-didn't-someone-talk-me-out-of-it? talk.



Only this time, I notice, I'm on a new road.



It's unfamiliar.


It makes me grin.



The road is called SPONTANEITY!

 And I’m diggin' its slickness, its sense of adventure, its well-what-the-heckness, its I-can-handle-an-unplanned-event confidence.


Two years ago, I could not have done this.
Last year I could not have done this.
4 months ago, I could not have done this.
Today, I smirk.
I did it.

Spontaneity powers my grin.

Forgiveness powers my spontaneity. 


Death powers the forgiveness.

Because after his death,


after the grief lifts for longer and longer periods of time,
I see that …

grief
didn’t
kill me
(although I was sure it would).

I notice that...
I didn’t
cry
myself
to death
(although I tried).

I realize that...
the next day
kept
showing up
(although I doubted it would come again).

I grasp that ...
life went on,
but
yes,
yes
it
got
better.

I have faced loss,
painful,
excruciating loss
and
I’m still hear.

Did you hear me??????


I'M STILL HERE!!!!!


Nothing will be as hard as those moments.

N-O-T-H-I-N-G!!!!

In the realization comes freedom.

Spontaneity is my new road and I’m driving it, baby, on cruise control because
I
have
been
to hell
and
I’m
back.



On Thursday, a friend texted me and asked
“Do you want to go see Lady Gaga on Monday? VIP seats!”

As if I need VIP seats as an incentive!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Ghost of Art




I read one of his journals today.
I read it because
I sold
our bed,
in three hours.

I had to empty out his bedside table (they went too) before the guy came to pick it up.

Later, as I try to decide where
a mattress
on a floor would look best,
in MY room,
I get side tracked
and sift through
the box of stuff from the bedside tables. I sit down, pick up a journal and read.

It starts in June 1995, 6 months after we had been married.

I recognize his early fear of not being strong enough for us. I recognize my young self, but from his eyes. It is a refreshing and slightly embarrassing view. I am soften. I want to reach in and back and hug him and tell him it will all be ok.

The journal gives me a memory of things I had forgotten. He records our bike trips, the time he got fired from his job as a basketball coach. He records his fear and excitement about my pregnancy…and his amazement at how I just want to eat all the time. He records our trip to Paris and every single place we visit. He records his disappointment at work and his deep disappointment for his parent’s reactions. He records his love for me.

He records the good advice I gave him, calling it “another good thing Kim said..”

When I open his journal
I did not expect to see him,
Rising, like a ghost.
But he is no longer clear.
He is like mist.
I can see him if I stand still or far enough away from this life.
But up close, he looses his definition.

Reading that journal brought him back to me but not in a full form.

My life is past him, and here in this life 702 days away from loss,
I can only see traces of him.

It’s strange because I see
the idea of him, of Art,
doesn’t fit in this new place,
in this bedroom with no bed.

I could not be who I have become if he were here.

It’s almost like another death. A quieter
More gentle death
As I move forward, I leave him behind
In the mist
As a ghost.

Tonight
I will lie on the mattress,
on the floor and cry,
for him, for me
for how I am leaving him,
and for all the good things I have
become since he has gone.

That is what needs to happen
So I can find a new bed.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tired


I’m tired of being a widow.
I’m tired of bringing the car to the mechanic when the red maintenance light visually screams at me.
I’m tired of running out of food and being responsible for getting more.
I’m tired of waking up by myself.
I’m tired of being solely responsible for:

Bringing in all the income
Paying all the bills
Making sure the kitchen is clean.
Preparing the kids for their car pool.


I’m tired of not hearing “Daddy?”
I’m tired of hearing “Mom?” from three different voices in 13 seconds.
I’m tired of being interrupted while I am trying to hear what the first "mom" yeller (or was it the second) call was about.

I’m tired of telling people I’m a widow.
I’m tired of using it to help me get what I need
Or don’t need (like that traffic ticket).
I’m tired of the look that people give me when they find out I’m a widow.
I’m tired of that fucking gentle touch on the arm which really means “I’m so sorry for you and I’m so glad it’s not me.”
I'm tired of my widow story.

I’m tired of explaining that widowhood is not all doom and gloom
I’m tired of talking about the growth, the joy, the fun it is too.

I’m tired of going to teacher conferences alone.
I’m tired of teachers asking me to do that one more thing for one child or another, not realizing that it will break me.
I’m tired of taking the kids to doctor’s appointments, dropping off the prescriptions and picking them up and administering them by myself.

I’m tired of listening for that horrible cough in the middle of the night by myself.

I’m tired of holding our children as they cry because they want you to come back.
I’m tired of my powerlessness to fix it.
I’m tired of telling myself that they will be better people for your death.

I’m tired of my over reaction to the Legos on the floor.

I’m tired of not knowing what will trigger sobbing.

I'm tired of the guilt I feel because Langston, as a teenager, doesn't have a father.

I’m tired of being awed by all that they are doing and then, in the next breath regretting that they won’t ever know the joy of looking up and seeing you smile at them after they did it.

I’m tired of the irritated sound of my friend's voices when I need to talk.

I’m tired of the shallow “OMG! You look so great!” as if there is a direct correlation between looking good and feeling good.

I’m tired of admiring my body…by myself.

I’m tired of deciding to: break the cell phone contract, buy a new couch, and enter that cycling race with you not here to discuss it.

I’m tired of being lonely.

I’m tired of writing about widowhood
I’m tired of crying.
I’m tired of missing you.
I’m tired of loving the person I have become since you have been gone.

I’m tired of forgetting, in very brief moments, that you are dead.

I’m tired of planning each day, a closely choreographed dance, with dancers who want to go their own way on a tiny stage.
I tired of remembering drinks for the team, that Langston is sleeping over at ___'s house, that Ezra needs cleats and what color Pallas wants to paint her room.
I’m tired of asking:

What is your homework plan?
Did you write that thank you note?
Will his parents be home?

I’m tired of forgiving myself for the missed phone calls, forgotten plans and skipped lunches.

I’m tired of fearing dates:
6 months,
1 year and now
two years dead.
Your birthday or
Langston’s or
Ezra’s or Pallas’s.
Or mine.

I’m tired of discovering that the reason I have been feeling so crappy for so many days is because I have been in a death march (Susan, such a great and accurate phrase!) because one of those dates is coming.

I’m tired of crying in Trader Joes (I am sure they are too).

I’m tired for trying to remember if something occurred before you died or after.

I’m tired of looking forward to the weekend, only to realize the weekends offer no break from the kids, from the grocery shopping, from being an only parent.

I’m tired of the men I date not even trying to understand what it is to be an only parent, not just a single one!

I’m tired of not having someone to tag team with.

I’m tired of not having anyone to look horrible in front of but still be loved.

I’m tired of your parents who can’t take ONE damn step out of their comfort zone to see your children.

I'm tired of hearing them say how important family is but backing it up with NO action whatsoever.

I’m tired of not having someone to talk about the car or the stupid pedestrian I almost hit on my bike ride today.

I’m tired of having no one to discuss my day with.
I’m tired of thinking about the energy and time it takes to get into a new relationship.

I’m tired of craving sex.
I’m tired of wanting to be held, of needing to be touched.
I'm tired of wondering if my sagging breasts are a turn off.
I'm tired of wondering if I'm good in bed.
I'm tired of waiting to have sex.
I'm tired of wondering if I can give a good blow job.
I'm tired of worrying about diseases!

I’m tired of wanting someone to take care of me, so I can have the energy to take care of everything and everyone else.

I’m tired of clean sheets and a clean body and no one to enjoy them with.

I’m tired of wishing I could see you just one more time, just one more fucking time, healthy.

I’m tired of watching the anguish in our kid’s eyes as they miss you.

I’m tired of writing about you.
I’m tired of talking about you.
I’m tired of telling stories about you to our kids so they can know you.

I’m tired.
I am so, so, so fucking tired.

So honey?
When the fuck are you coming back? Cause I’m tired of this shit.