Thursday, December 25, 2008

Holiday Wishes

Hey there-

Happy Holidays to everyone and anything you might celebrate.

A reminder that my support group, Walk It Out, will go as scheduled even with the piles of snow we may need to navigate. December 27, 2008 at 9:30am.

Grieving is not for the faint of heart.

Thanks for checking in-


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dead Again

Hey there-

Well, Bob died. I realize this does not come as a shock to most people.

What I mean is that Bob died in the book, finally. I am writing chronologically and it has taken me all this time to get to the point that he dies.

So, Bob died again, and you know what happened? I felt relieved.

When he died the first time I felt no relief. And I was pissed to put it mildly. At the time all I could think about was that scene from Terms of Endearment when Shirley McClain is crying at the hospital after her daughter dies and she makes some comment about how dumb she was to think she would feel relief.

I didn't feel dumb, I felt ripped off. After all we went through and how ugly things got in the end and how exhausted I was, I thought the least I deserved was a little relief.

I felt none. I was too worried to feel relief.

Afterwards people said things to me like; "At least his suffering is over" or "He is in a better place". All I could think of at the time was that I thought the better place was with me and the boys. Selfishly, I fixated on the fact that my own suffering was just beginning.

Many wonder how I can put myself through all the pain of Bob dying again. I have often wondered myself why I am choosing to relive this dark time in my life.

My goal was to tell our story. And by telling our story I hoped to help others who will walk a similar path, others who might see a glimpse of themselves in us and feel less alone, understood.

As the day of his death grew nearer in the story I found myself slowing down. The scenes felt heavy, my typing sluggish. I didn't want to lose Bob from the story. Once he was gone the story would be mine alone and I knew the reader would miss Bob. Could I carry the story without him?

These are all things I wondered at the time of his first death. I didn't want to lose him and I wondered if I could carry the family without him, carry on "our" life. What would be my story?

So, Bob is dead again, and the greatest thing about experiencing Bob's death again is that this time I felt relief. I felt lighter, less burdened. This time around I have the gift of insight, the knowledge that I carried on, the confidence that I made it through.

I still feel a "better place" would be here with me and his boys. But I do feel relief that Bob isn't suffering anymore, and selfishly, I feel relief that neither am I.

Thanks for checking in-


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fishing Wire

Hey there-

So, the Christmas tree went up the other day. Mike took the three boys to cut it down and after the usual confusion and antics of getting it in the house and in the stand it eventually was secured in the corner of the living room.

The preperation of the tree has never been my favorite part of the tree trimming ritual. As a child the wait was painful. We always had to start with cleaning the family room, incuding the fireplace for Santa. Then the kids had to sit around and wait with the ornament boxes overflowing next to us while my dad painstakingly placed the lights on the tree.

Now, the light hanging is really a mystery to me. It always felt like my dad took forever to get the lights on. Then Bob was very particular about the lights as well, making sure that the cords were tucked in behind the branches. And now Mike likes to carefully wind the lights around the trunk and feather out towards the edges.

Is this a guy thing? When I was on my own I simply threw some lights on the tree willy nilly, not worrying about the cord showing or if there were too many red lights in a row. I figured the point was to get some light on there and get to the real point of the tree, the ornaments.

As I sat watching Mike struggle with getting the tree straight and the lights just so I was reminded of years past when Bob would take fishing wire and secure the tree to a hook on the wall. I always thought this was a bit of overkill and chalked it up to some odd Wellenstein trait.

I said to Mike: "Now, why do you think Bob would have taken fishing wire to secure the tree, isn't that funny?"

A conversation ensued regarding children and animals and the lengths people go to so that their tree will remain standing. We mentioned how grateful we were to be past that stage. We chuckled a bit at Bob's expense regarding the fishing wire.

Later that night, after the ornaments were hung (or flung) on the tree by the children, Mike and I stood admiring the tree and plotting which ornaments we would move where once the children were in bed. That is when it happened, the tree fell right over. The two of us stood there, mouths open, unable to move as it crashed to the floor and lay in the middle of the living room with shattered ornaments everywhere.

Well, Bob certainly showed us! I guess we won't be mocking his fishing wire idea any time soon.

The tree is now firmly secured with twine to a brand new hook in the wall.

Next year, I will remember the fishing wire.

Thanks for checking in. Happy Holidays!


Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I had a premonition.

It was early in the fall, 2002.

It was before.

I was standing on the second floor landing of our big old four square house, watching Bob whisper goodnight to Henry. Bob was on his knees, leaning over Henry as he lay in his bed. I could see Henry’s eyes, concentrating on Bob. Henry looked so small in his new bed, he had just turned two.

The primary colors of the helicopters and dump trucks on Henry’s new quilt jumped out against the freshly painted blue walls. The two blonde heads touched each other lightly as they plotted the possibilities of what Henry could dream about that night.

I stood watching the scene, frozen; I was overcome. I felt like I was being spoken to by a secret.

“Remember this moment,” it whispered. “Remember right now.”

I felt it swirling around my rib cage, a long forgotten secret.

“This won’t last,” it warned.

Obeying orders I quickly made a mental picture of the two of them in the bedroom with their heads supporting each other and stored it away in my mind. Being a planner, I figured I should keep the memory safe just in case.

The secret left, as quickly as it came.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Walk It Out

Hey there,

I have started a walking support group!

I read an article about a woman running a "vertical grief support group" somewhere on the East Coast and I thought to myself; "What a fabulous idea! Perfect combination."

So I started one. The information is below.

Spread the word.

Walk It Out

Not your average support group.

Anyone who has lost a loved one and enjoys fresh air,
Come walk and talk.
Combine the health benefits of walking with the emotional benefits of talking.

Group starts in the parking lot of the Hart Park Senior Center, 7300 Chestnut, at 9:30 am on the 4th Sat of every month. We walk three miles along the Menomonee River rain or shine so dress accordingly.

Favorite book suggestions on grief are welcome.

Coordinator: Irene McGoldrick, MSW, MT

Thanks for checking in-


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Did Daddy ever............?

Hey There-

Arthur turned 5 on Halloween. Anniversaries, especially birthdays, are still difficult for me. Without Bob I have no one to do my "remember when" routine with.

"Remember when I was crawling around the floor in pain and I didn't think I was in labor?"

"Remember when I yelled at the doctor for not believing the nurse when she told him I was ready to push and I went ahead and started pushing anyway?"

I have no one to reminisce with about these momentous occasions and, frankly, no one else cares. No one is truly interested in your birth story except the person you were doing the birthing with, and possibly the person that you birthed.

There is no one on this planet that knows just exactly how I react when some resident attempts to stick an IV in my arm minutes before I am about to push a new life into the world, or when the intake nurse tells me that yes, indeed, that big volcanic like spike on the screen is a contraction and, by the way, we better get you a room since you seem to be at 9 centimeters already.

But I like to remember, so I still try.

On the night before Arthur's birthday we were reading bedtime stories and I started telling him about what his daddy, his brother and his mommy were doing 5 years ago today. I told him all about how Henry was riding his bike so fast on the parkway that I was unable to keep up with him due to my enormous belly. And that Bob wasn't able to keep up with him either due to the fact that he was still recovering from his stem cell transplant. Henry got so far ahead of us that we couldn't see him on the path anymore and had to trust that he was OK.

I told him about how excited his brother was to hold him for the first time in the hospital when he was about one hour old, and I told him about his Aunt Kathy commenting on how long his fingers were when she first held him. Then I told him about the umbilical cord and how it was wrapped around his neck when he was born and that the doctor had to move quickly to cut it off so he could breathe. I explained that his daddy wasn't able to cut his cord like he had been for his brother.

Then, without warning, my lovely "remember when" story turned on me.

When I went to say goodnight to Henry in the other bunk he was crying; "I just don't understand why the doctors couldn't make daddy better" he whimpered.

As I crawled in bed next to him to try and explain the unexplainable Arthur began to wail.

"I just want to see my daddy alive," he kept repeating.

And finally; "Why didn't daddy cut my cord like he did Henry's?"

Now, Arthur doesn't even fully understanding what an umbilical cord is and why it needed to be cut in the first place. The point was that Daddy had done this thing for Henry and not for him.

There have been a lot of these types of questions lately. Did Daddy ever take me on a bike ride, did Daddy ever take me camping, did Daddy hold my hands while I learned to walk, did Daddy ever hang me from the wood molding in the living room and catch me when I let go?

My attempts to explain that he was only 5 months when his daddy died and that he never had the chance to take him on a bike ride or camping does nothing to pacify him. I try to explain that his daddy held him and bounced with him on the big exercise ball until he fell asleep and fed him and read to him and loved him.

None of this information is any consolation at all to Arthur.

Henry will say; "Mommy, remember when Daddy used to take me to the park with the roller slide?" or "Remember when I used to help Daddy make pancakes?" and I will nod, because I remember.

I miss having Bob to remember with.

What Arthur is missing are memories of Bob.

Thanks for checking in-


Saturday, November 15, 2008

How is the book coming?

Hey there,

"How is the book coming?" It is a question I hear frequently.

That is what you get when you tell all your friends and family that you quit your job to write a memoir about your dead husband. Talk about incentive.

I ususally say something lame like; "Well, I keep writing." or "It is going well." Then I launch into some version of my "vision". I talk about self publishing or walking support groups or the use of essential oils with grief or grant applications.

So, how is the book coming? It is going well. The experience thus far has been way more challenging (and rewarding?) than I could have imagined. I grossly underestimated the time it would take to write one chapter (4 months!) and how hard it would be to find that time. Plus, living through all of these dark emotions again has been difficult at times. (and the 5 children.........)

Sometimes I am not sure what is driving me to do this project. There are times I feel placed back in that time and I feel all of the anguish and despair, maybe even more acutely now than I did back then. I am less hardened now, not bracing myself for the next blow. But, this has been an amazing opportunity to see the events of Bob's life and death with clearer vision, in writing, and make some sense out of them.

There are times I feel as if I am observing this woman's life and I ache for her. And there are times I am jealous of her. And there are times I feel so grateful for my life now. And there are times I think "Why does anyone care?"

In the end I feel that this is a story that should be told. I have something to say.

So, "How is the book coming?" you ask.

It is coming along.

Thanks for checking in.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Dense Tissue

Hey there-

I had to get a follow up mamogram this morning.

They called a few days ago to tell me my annual mamogram had some "irregularities" and they needed further investigation. I kind of freaked out.

"You sound concerned," the tech said to me on the phone.

"My first husband died of cancer." I said. Yea, I was concerned.

My mind went immediately to chemo appointments and bald heads and thoughts of life insurance for my orphaned children. I could not think of a single person who had to have this done before.

Within an hour I had several examples of women who had the same experience and they were all fine; shadows or folds or dense tissue. This situation is apparently quite common, women are asked to come back and get tugged and pulled and smashed and radiated all over again, and for what?

"Dense tissue". That was my result. I was very relieved. Mike took the morning off and we celebrated afterwards.

I may have overreacted. Is all of this overkill? I worry that the harsh manipulation of "my girls" will actually do more damage than good. I am not discounting the importance of mamograms, I just believe the less medical intervention the better.

But I feel such pressure to stay well for the boys. I worry that I have become a hypocondriac since Bob died. Diagnosing myself with a hernia, ovarian cancer and colon cancer all in the last few years. None of which have turned out to be anything more than constipation or indigestion or perimenapause. I was never paranoid about my health before, but I also never had constipation or indigestion. ICK!

So, am I paranoid or just getting older? I can't be that old, I do still have "dense" breasts. And I am just not willing to give up red wine yet! Of course, I never drank red wine before Bob died. Not for lack of trying on his part, I am sure he is sifting in his urn over this development, thinking of all the lost opportunities.

I hope everyone doesn't get as anxious about the news of "irregularity" as I did, the anxiety alone can't be good for you. I hope most people don't have a reason to feel so anxious.

The celebration once Mike and I got the "all clear" was almost worth the anxiety though. Silly maybe, but it was a celebration that Bob and I never got to have. It felt a little decadent, such a minor event. I figure it is better to celebrate any victory, even dense tissue, than not have a victory to celebrate.


We Remain Upright

Arthur and I were in the car waiting for Henry to get out of his kindergarten class. The minivans and SUV's were lined up obediently. Henry was ushered out of the building, his eyes toward the ground he nodded imperceptibly to the teacher as she complimented him on his hard work that day.

He got in the car, placed his canvas school bag on the seat next to him, buckled himself up and leaned over to his brother.

"Arthur, when are you going to start using the toilet?" he asked.

"When my daddy gets back," Arthur answered.

"Arthur, Daddy is dead. It makes us all sad. I still cry about it sometimes, but he is on Dog Mountain now. And also in the dining room-in that thing on the shelf-you know. So he isn't coming back, Arthur. But you still have to use the toilet."

Arthur answered simply; "I know, Henry."

Glancing in the rear view mirror I saw their two blonde heads leaning towards each other. Both sets of blue eyes gazed out their own window. Henry sounded as if he had been thinking about the conversation for days and had chosen his words carefully. Just as his dad would have done.

At the time Henry shared this straightforward bit of advice with his younger brother he was six years old. Arthur was three and their dad had been dead almost three years.

Their dad, my husband, died early in the morning on March 29, 2004

This is our story.

Irene McGoldrick