Saturday, 20 January 2018

Wait for it

It is so hard to wait. At least for me it is and I think this is one of my life lessons. I still have so much to learn here. "Patience is a virtue", "all good things come to those who wait", "great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance". I have heard them all, I pause, take them in and then move on to my desired destination- whatever that tends to be at any given moment. I have tried to analyze the lack of this virtue in my life, to reason why I am such an impatient person sometimes and I can't get to the bottom of it. I can only say perhaps I am frightened I will miss out on an opportunity, I will not get to my intended target and it will slip from my grasp- what will?  well- something I love, need, want, must have, can't live without, think I can't live without- it will disappear.  That is as close as I can get to the heart of this for now. That may be it, or it may be bullshit. I just can't figure it all the way through yet, that is why it is still one of my life lessons waiting to be learned.

So this need to wait for "it" is very painful for me. So I try to practice mindfulness when the need to be impatient or the torture of waiting for something is upon me. I try try try to live in the moment. When I can do this, even though I am feeling the angst of impatience tearing my soul, it is then that I am most virtuous. I know that, I know it to be oh so true, so why is it so hard to do then? Beats me. I'm human, I have faults, I'm far from perfect. It's okay, no one is.

Today I was feeling very very impatient, and very restless in my soul. I woke that way, part of it has to do with weekends and how they have changed since Terry has died, part of it has to do with not enough hours in the day to do all I have pressing on me, all I want to do, and all I should do, part of it is knowing truths I am not ready to admit to myself yet, and part of it remains a mystery. So I went for a walk in the woods. I took my Pax and I headed out just as the dawn was breaking. I was intentional in my exercise of mindfulness every moment of the walk. I felt the snow and ice below the icers on my boots as they gripped the ground keeping me upright and safe. I felt the wind and snow hit my face, the camera bouncing on my chest with each step. I noticed Pax's smile as he ran to and fro and back to me to say a silent "oh thanks mom I love it here". I noticed the frozen lake, the squirrel sitting calmly on the branch in the tree, the chickadee way up high in the tree, the crow cawing on the ice. I felt each footstep with intention. With total utter intention.

And still- I wait, I want, I feel impatience. I have much to learn and I am not sure I will live long enough to learn it all, and that has to be okay for now.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

All I want

Since you died. All I want is to see you again, to have you tell me your secrets about where you were, what you learned and how you can teach me what I need to know to remain living here without you. We would have so much to talk about. I have done so much since you have left. I have lived a whole lifetime, years of moving on without you, of living. I have traveled across this country more than once, traveled to Europe once. I have re learned how to cook, tended our house alone, sold our house, witnessed two births, two marriages of our children. I have changed focus in my job, found new friends, dated, learned so many hard lessons. Cried so many tears, felt so much loneliness.  All this, yet I am the same me that you left. I still need you, your touch, your gentle way of telling me what I need to know without hurting my feelings. I still need my feet rubbed, I still need someone to make tea for me. I still need to roll over at night to you.

It occurred to me the other day while I looked at this picture of you on the wall. No one lived with me longer than you, no one. Not my parents, not our children. You were the human being who lived with me the longest. The one who knew all my idiosyncrasies, habits, flaws, good and bad points. I knew all this about you too. And I am forgetting. This adds to the loneliness. The sound of your voice is slipping a bit, the sounds you made in the kitchen as you prepped for the Sunday dinner. The way our hands felt together when we danced. It is slipping. And I have only had a handful of dreams of you. I forget to pray for more in my weariness at night sometimes. Despite knowing prayer wouldn't change that, I forget.

All I want is for you to show up in my bathroom, sit on the toilet seat and talk to me while I bath, say "Sue honey, I know how hard it is, remember I am without you too, I know honey". I want to look up from my book and see you standing there with that smile on your face that says- I love doing this for you - as you hand me the hot tea, handle toward me as you delicately hold the rim so as not to burn your hand. I want to see the wide grin that reveals the missing back tooth - too expensive to fix in our poverty days, so you had it pulled- a testament to your selflessness because that is the kind of guy you were. I want to be mad at you for hiding down on the beach on the rocks at camp and not socializing with us on the deck, to come across you throwing rocks on the beach in your baggy bathing suit shorts and bitch at you about it and hear you say, "oh Sue leave me alone". I want to see you doze off watching the movie, or ask you what they said  at the important part and you say "I don't know I didn't hear it". I would give my right arm to be irritated again like I was about that.

Processes and forces of grief and living without you bring me back to these things I want. Dealing- sans alcohol, cigarettes, antidepressants, and avoidance's of every description and here it comes. The cruelty and finality of death denies me my desire. It doesn't matter how much I want this, how much I miss you and all you did for me and I for you, I will not ever have it again. In that kernel of bitter truth somewhere lies the all consuming overarching death anxiety. It does not matter how well or poorly I grieve for you, go through the process, do what is needed- I still just want you. But I can't have you, I will never have you again. It is over. I feel my chest fill with the heaviness that makes me try to catch my breath, to push it off me, to make it stop. I feel the hot sting of the tears, the burn as they well behind the ducts wanting to come out. The sorrow in the broken heart that feels like I want to fall to the floor. The flash in my mind of your body doing something, smiling at me, living with me, in time past. This grief, this widow's experience, this new life I didn't chose.

And in the end if I don't go there- I still just want you. And if I go there- I still just want you.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

About today

Being 14 years older than me and the fact that women usually out live men, I feared Terry would probably die first. Back in those days I didn't dwell on it, I didn't want to know the circumstances, the year or the calamity that would come knocking on our door to take him. I did not yet know how we would have progressed through life to that awful point and time. All of this has now come to pass, it's tragic details and meaning over. I left in it's wake. I heard a wonderfully tragic song by the National that rang so true a few months after his death, like a soothing balm for me to wallow in and feel it's comfort in the fact that others too know this terrible secret I live with. I was in the backyard of our house having the roof re done and crying over how you should have been there, not me, overseeing this. It hit me like a ton of bricks, asking me how I didn't see or ask about you when I should have.

You were far away
And I
Didn't ask you "Why?"
What could I say?
I was far away
You just walked away
And I just watched you
What could I say?

How close am I
To losing you?

Death. That touchstone in my life's yet unknown lesson rears it's ugly mark once more. Today I woke restless and stirred with an overlying sadness that I am unable to shake yet unable to grasp. Almost like wearing death as a hair shirt knowing it wants another shot at me. It thinking I have not learned the lesson yet, that son and husband weren't enough. Cherry thoughts indeed, but I just can't shake them today. I mused on my own mortality to see if any of that rang true. No such luck for me as I think my fate is much worse  -a long life of loneliness and grief perhaps? More death? There are many more I love who could go. I can't ask why, I just can't know how close I am to losing ....

Instead I wander the apartment, walk the dog in a biting cold I barely feel and smoke myself silly all in an effort to avoid asking why, to not know. Introspection has many consequences, I wish the inside turmoil would stay quiet long enough so I can busy myself with the mundane aspects of life. But this also has never been my forte. I wear my insides on the out, they need release like a lit firecracker once something gets stirring. But what? I will just need to wait, to write it out, to let it surface.

You just close your eyes
And I just watch you
Slip away

How close am I
To losing you?

Are you awake?
Yeah I'm right here
Well, can I ask you
about today?

Usually when I have days like this I know it's an aspect of grief clawing to the surface and the light of day so it can mingle with the knowing that teaches me. I can tell my insides to fuck off, I can drink or smoke it away and ignore it with netflix's and junk food and all ways of unhealthy coping but it will bug until I    ask about today.

Well, can I ask you what you want? What don't I know yet that will come and burn my heart again? What memory? What feeling still unfelt or not yet felt enough are you hiding in there that needs expression? Never mind that I am trying to get on with my life, to date, be happy, work- what now grief are you leaking from my eyes blinding me from seeing?

Grief, can I ask you about today?

Sunday, 31 December 2017

A new New Years Eve

This is the first new years eve since losing Terry that I have wanted to celebrate. I spent the first turning of a new year after he died with close family eating good food and saw out the worst year of my life with a sigh and "fuck you good riddance". I could not wait for the year to not be 2014, the year only about that he died. I felt nothing save grief and hate. The last two were spent at my close friend Cindy's, I wanted to be away from crowds and couples in general. Feeling that absence of the one I love to kiss when the year turned was too much to have other couples throwing it in my face- even if they were not -it felt that way to the grieving widow. I opted out for quiet instead. I had nothing to celebrate, I was just seeing out another year without him. So the fuck what.

This year feels slightly, ever so slightly different. I'll take that. I decided on a whim I would hold a small party at my house with my close friends and family. I went out and bought special treats, saw a recipe of a yummy treat I'd like to try and share that I will attempt with love and gratitude in my heart.  I will also treat myself to oysters and champagne to ring in the new year. I will dress up, I will dance and make a lot of noise, I might even get a lot tipsy as I welcome 2018 with a slight sense of hope and longing. This is new, I'll take this as well.

I want to analyze why I am okay with celebrating, what it means for me and how come this year is different, thinking if I can encapsulate it perfectly in a post here that I can hang on to this tiny piece of magic through the year. I have learned though over these past few years that it doesn't work that way. Knowing is not equated with understanding.  I know Terry is dead I don't understand why I have to live here without him. It will never be something I understand, and I need to let that go or it will weigh me down further than I want to go. I know I can survive, I know I can feel some gratitude for friends and family, I can celebrate. I don't understand why this year -four new years eve's after he is gone- why I am doing just that. And you know what? I don't care to understand it, I am just doing it. It's about fucking time. I deserve it.

Past new years eve's had been wonderful when I was married and with him, I often danced the night away, kissed him at midnight celebrating the end of a year and the start of a new year with him. One of my favorite new year's was a night we stayed in and had a delicious dinner together made by him, danced in our living room and rung in the new year the right way. I will cherish that one and the 34 new years eve's I got to celebrate with him. This one I don't. That just has to be okay - because what is my alternative? I am grateful today that he is in my heart as I go about my preparations, he would be proud of me for moving forward, for not crying alone in bed, for living, for surviving. I know it - I don't understand why it has to be so - but I know this.

Happy new year darling. Happy new year everyone.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Matriarchal Musings

It occurred to me as I was talking to my really good friend last night that I am a Matriarch. I am the head of this family now, there is just me as parent- that makes me a Matriarch. That word evokes for me lots of images and heavily laden meaning. In my mind matriarchs are older, wiser, have much more power and authority and they usually have an agenda. Maybe I saw a lot of bad movies? The definition of a matriarch states, "a woman who is the head of a family or tribe; or.." an older woman who is powerful within a family or organization"  or... "a domineering matriarch". See it's not just me.  I envision matriarchs as women like Polly on Peaky Blinders or Maggie Smith's role as Lady Violet Crawley on Downton Abbey. You get the picture. But hey, I also am a matriarch, of this fine tribe my husband and I brought into this world.  And with that comes responsibility, and shamefully I admit, a responsibility I have sorely neglected these past almost four years.

Grief is a selfish monster. It consumes you whole rendering you incapable of seeing beyond the border of self. It's like a baby who doesn't know the big world yet, only the breast, the feeding, the going from wet to dry, the mother or father who exists only for the meeting of these basics needs that make the entire baby personality. Grief does that to you. It did to me, I have never been as selfish in my life as I have been while consumed in this grief- and I have been selfish- so I know what I am talking about here. I have seen only my own suffering, I have shunned family and friends to wallow in this suffering. I have not seen the suffering of others, only I can feel this grief, how can anyone feel grief such as I do - me the wife the one who knew him best, longest etc etc. Oh, I have come out of my grief coma a few times and glimpsed it over these past years. A word from my sister about him that I heard, a tear in anothers eye that I saw. But my children I have neglected sorely in this area. Maybe a part of my brain told me I can't cope with their grief as well, maybe I didn't want to see that hurt on top of experiencing my own it being all too much to bear, maybe I only saw it as they have someone to comfort them, I don't, let their someone do that. Selfish.

I have no idea what it is like to lose a parent. Mine are still alive and well. I am 55 years old. My son was 21 years old when he lost his dad, just at the end of a difficult first year in university going into exams. My daughter was 28 pregnant with her second child after just losing her previous one full term, My eldest son was 30 recently home from two tours in Afghanistan living across the country. My other daughters 23 and 28 lost in their life's direction. I never considered the impact of his death on their young lives, only my own. I think of this now with shame and regret. I know I tried in my way in the early days to be there for them. I gathered them for Sunday dinners the first few months but I wearied easily, I slipped into my personal tour of grieving without them. I failed them in theirs.

So when I was talking to my friend about the circumstances of my children's present lives it hit me, I am a single parent. I am their only parent, I am the matriarch of this family and I need to step up to that role, that responsibility. I see the effects of the loss in their lives, in all of ours. Some very difficult to see. Grief the monster that wrecks havoc, did.  I don't have an answer in what to do here, save be more present to them. I can't fix what's broke, I can only be one post left standing under the foundation of our home. A precarious balance indeed. Maybe one thing I can do is I can build on that foundation, shore it up, see the good under there in all their lives. How they persisted in their resilience to overcome the havoc and kaos. They married, they bought and made homes, they graduated, they survived! We stayed together.

I can tell you all that I am sorry I failed you but I am here now, I am ready to listen now, I can take on your burdens now, I am stronger, I am available if you want and need me. I understand grief, not yours- but mine- and we can compare notes, we can go from there. We can continue to laugh and remember him fondly together, we can cry and miss him together too. Yes I am the surviving parent, I am your mom, I am not just the grieving widow anymore. I am the matriarch of this beautiful family that I love. And I love you all more than anything in this world.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Christmas 2017

Christmas is a time to pause in the busyness of life and spend some quality time with family or ones you love. For those who have no one it must be extremely hard, I can only imagine a tiny bit- I know what it feels like to not have Terry at Christmas but I can't imagine if I didn't have these ones I love in my Christmas. My children, son-in-laws, my grandchildren, parents, sister. To be alone without them would be truly unbearable. What I feel without Terry multiplied by many many times- yeah unbearable. This year I tried really hard to not think about loss, to instead think about all I had and have and how grateful I am for it, for being with them all. Having them lighting up my life and filling it as they do.

My house was full from Christmas eve to late Christmas night. It was glorious and wonderful and special. Matt and Mary were home for the first time to celebrate Christmas with us since Terry died. Their happiness was contagious, simply contagious. I saw it through their eyes and it was a nice sight indeed. My camera captured a tiny bit of it in this shot. Mary had not celebrated Christmas with Rupert ever and she couldn't wait to see him and Molly open gifts. It meant so much to her and you can see that in her smile here as she hugs him. I had a moment, a brief moment where I grieved that Terry had never had the joy she is experiencing here, that he and Rupert never will. I just allowed it a brief moment - ever so fleeting it was there, I acknowledged it, I let it go-  into the ether with him as a heartfelt prayer from my this time present- consciousness. It was right to give this credence.

This is how I imagine life will be here on in. I think this might be how it happens, you gradually allow yourself to see the good to feel it to live it even if it's through others not yourself. You have moments of attaching that good moment you now can experience to the one you lost and you honor that intrusion. You no longer see it as a segue to an hour of crying, to dipping into the depression again. You just honor that moment- the presence of your loss and the absence of your lost one- in it. Oh the moments of out and out crying and grief still exist- they no longer show up as waves threatening to drown you and sweep you out to sea, but they exist. They come more unexpectedly I find and catch me unaware. Perhaps that is a good sign, it might mean I am busy getting on with living and coming out of the land of the undead. The time spent in the land of the undead gets shorter and I visit less often. This frees up some space to see the moments like the one I captured above. It makes room to hear the joy in my son in laws voice as he tells me how his Christmas is so special here with my family this year. This is good, it is how I heard it happens, it is happening for me.

It does not mean I don't still grieve and miss my love, I have much space in my heart for that as well. As I spoke about in my previous post, it is there. I will always reserve that piece of my heart, nothing will fill that space, nothing - and that is as I believe it should be. It was just very good this year at Christmas to know my heart can feel both reserve for Terry and my grief in missing him, and joy and happiness in my family. This dichotomy works for me.

St. Jude- the patron saint of lost causes

I came across this picture on my external drive, one I had forgotten about. His last Christmas. A good one, I was so in love with him. We had patched up our bad times and forgiveness was in the air between us. I had my makeup done by Candice and we were heading out to my sisters for a fun Christmas night. My house was packed with family and I had taken pictures of everyone in front of the tree, and wanted a fun one of me and him. We had always been so serious, so filled with caring for others and the drama around all things. I wanted it to be light and fun, I was sitting on his lap and whispering in his ear, look at the camera darling, he was always looking at me so I had to tell him. I love him so. I know he loved me. He'd worked so hard this Christmas making the turkey and feeding us all, I now know first hand how much work that was.  It was snowing, a lot, the last Christmas it snowed. It's been appropriately dull and rainy every Christmas since. I hope it never snows on Christmas again. This was perfection. Look how happy we are.

So, I didn't see that he'd been losing weight. I was pleased with how he looked, he spent a lot of time in the gym strengthening his body for his new knee surgery, so he'd be in shape for a good recovery. He did that. He was well on his way to recovery, he was back to work, he was good, just a little weight gone. I so love this picture because it was the last time we were together before the elephant came into the room, before the unknowing and the knowing, it captures the last happiness of us. There was no other portent or foreshadowing of what was to come, save him showing me the way to dissemble the artificial tree after Christmas. I remember saying to him, "why are you not going to be here next year to do it or something"? I had a moment of thinking of how sad that would be and summarily dismissed it. We'd had our bad luck, none was due us, nothing would touch us now in these happy times, new grandchild, one on the way, enjoying the fruits of our 30 year marriage. But as Shakespeare said, "expectation is the root of all heartache".

Early the following year the first thing I noticed was how quiet he had gotten. He had not much to say, he felt distant. I thought he was working too hard and talked to him about retiring. But there was a distant in us, a divide. I talked to others of it, said he was becoming like my brother not my husband. Eventually he started to nap more, didn't do the regular chores he had always done, and the ones he was doing were slipshod, haphazard, not like him. He had a bad cold in February, one he couldn't shake and I made fun of his man cold. Secretly I was upset he was not the strong active man I knew. I remember one day in March in the woods walking Pax, I caught myself daydreaming about reviving him from a heart attack on the floor in our living room. Now given my past, and my premonitions about my sons death, this scared the shit out of me - as it should have. Why the hell am I here in the woods walking and thinking of reviving my husband as he lays dying on the floor? I remember crying then over this strange ominous daydream. I remember not saying anything to him.  Hence, all this amasses, it layered over the weeks- as things do that are wrong - as they build to more wrongness. I ignored why, but I saw the what. I was seeing the portents then. I said nothing.


He is taking forever to make me a cup of tea, what the fuck is he doing in there?, I take notice and realize it's been quiet for a long period of time. I think this but what I am feeling is the dread, the layer of dark mischief that has entered our home, it's around me like a blanket made of snakes. I can't get myself up out of the chair to go see what is happening with him, he has been in there about 25 minutes! WTF (there is a wise women inside who is saying go look) the frightened girl wins, and oh she is so damn scared there is something wrong, oh so wrong here. But instead, I get angry I think jesus he used to be able to get me tea and toast in 5 minutes flat, I'm not moving, I worked and I am tired, what the hell is his problem. I ask him, "Terry what the hell are you doing"? I don't get up and see, I am too terrified -now I can remember that this was the feeling- then I didn't let it penetrate through to me. I was not fully conscious in what was happening. He brings me barely warm tea, one piece of toast not two, like I asked, barely buttered- how he knows I hate it. It's not like him, something is wrong. I don't ask. He is getting old, he is tired I think, he needs to see the doc about his fucking cold. There are more portents as the days bleed into March, you get the picture. This the worse one I can think of now, it hurts to brings others to the fore. I knew but didn't.  I remained silent. I made up excuses, my anxiety rising over the weeks to the point where I believed I was dying, I told him so.

The point in this is that I didn't speak from my heart honestly and truthfully with intention when I should of. I had been conditioned to "pretend" I'm ok you're ok from the time I was a little girl. We don't tell our deepest desires or needs or fears to others. We make nice. We ignore the elephant in the room, we ignore the elephant even as he is dying in the room. I told my husband absolutely everything, my deepest secrets, my fears and dreams and desires our entire marriage. Until this, until his dying. I still do not know why. I think maybe it was a matter to dark to explore. A true case of you can't see the forest for the tree you just smashed into, of hindsight is 20/20. I can't blame him for not telling me that something was wrong. I tried this out in therapy, it's just not true. He was too far gone to explain, to articulate, the mets into his brain probably, the toxins from his dying liver clouding all his judgement and abilities. And I wanted him to get at the chores he always did, I wanted to have toast and tea brought to me after work, who's at fault? Who didn't step up?

By the time I did it was way too late, 6 days from death too late. I live with that. I grieve that, I can't change that just like I can't change that I smoked when pregnant and lost a child to SIDS that I laid him on his tummy, covered him too tightly and warmly and smoked and he died of SIDS. I can't change any of it. I can only learn from it.  In the end this is what the post is about. It's for anyone who has regrets. Use me as an example, and tell yourself -there I don't have it as bad as her thank God. And go from there. It's all I can do, save decide to quickly or slowly kill myself, all I can do is learn from my lesson. And I have. I speak my truth, my guts come out through my mouth, right or wrong I tell what I feel, what I think. If that elephant is shitting in my living room I am going to notice, I am going to say hey, will you look at that! There is a elephant shitting in the living room, get a fucking shovel and clean this up. I can not be the good girl who was raised in the 60's to be nice, I can not stay silent when I think something is wrong, when it's bad, when I am watching a death in the making. I will speak the truth each and every time. Terry taught me this.

"Another conversation with no destination
Another battle never won
And each side is a loser
So who cares who fired the gun?
And I'm learning, so I'm leaving
And even though I'm grieving
I'm trying to find the meaning
Let loss reveal it
Let loss reveal it
St. Jude, the patron saint of the lost causes
St. Jude, we were lost before she started
St. Jude, we lay in bed as she whipped around us
St. Jude, maybe I've always been more comfortable in chaos
And I was on the island and you were there too
But somehow through the storm I couldn't get to you
St. Jude, somehow she knew
And she came to give her blessing while causing devastation
And I couldn't keep my mouth shut, I just had to mention
Grabbing your attention"

St. Jude- Florence and the Machine