Tuesday, December 22, 2009
You gotta love in-laws.
Bob's family has become even more important to me since his death.
They are the keepers of the family lore, the remember when, the childhood secrets. When the boys ask if their daddy ever did this or that, they are the only people who have the answers. I can tell them about their dad in his 30's, but that isn't what they want to know right now, maybe when they are 30 something.
They want to know if daddy liked to read when he was nine, if he was good at math, did he ever get a time out in gym in kindergarten, did he like to sing at the Christmas concert?
Ah, the Christmas concert. The concert where Arthur dances his way in, spots his Aunt Kathy and me in the audience, breaks into his million dollar smile and joins the other wildly waving children on the bleachers. The same concert where Henry marches in, eyes down, stands in position, spots us out of the corner of his eye, smiles imperceptibly and gives us the wrist wave. (you know the one, the one where the arm does not move at all, only the wrist)
Arthur smiles while he sings and does all of the carefully rehearsed snowflake movements with a natural rhythm and an Arthur flare, only looking towards his aunt and me about 10 times per song to smile even broader if that is possible. Henry, on the other hand, has his eyes only on the teacher as he sings with zero emotion, seriously, you would have thought he was being lectured to by the police. When the swaying part came (he had expressed concern the day before about the swaying; "No one is going the right way, we are supposed to start on the left and then go right and everyone is going every which way. We are going to be horrible!") most of the children swayed with abandon picking their feet up and bouncing their shoulders. Not Henry, he swayed carefully, first right, then left, no shoulder movement, no feet moving, he was rooted to the spot. This is serious stuff!
Their Aunt Kathy and I watched both boys with the pride only a family member can feel. We laughed and nodded at each other knowingly and appreciated both for their unique approaches to the performance.
"Arthur and I are opposites," Henry said to me on the walk home. "Arthur likes to sing in front of a crowd and I don't. He doesn't get nervous and I do. Which way do you think dad was at his Christmas concerts?"
"That is a good question for your grandma," I told him, making a mental note to ask the next time we saw her.
Of course, she will say Bob was fabulous even if he was the kid who picked his nose or wet his pants or pulled some girls hair. That is how her memories work.
The boys and I recently spent the day with her and the subject of discipline came up. Grandma shocked the boys with tales of her mother making her kneel in the corner if she had been naughty. They particularly enjoyed the story of her mom going to the lilac bush to get a switch to swat her on the butt with if she had been REALLY naughty.
"Did you ever do that to Daddy?" They asked wide eyed and still giggling about their grandma just saying butt.
"Oh no, you couldn't do that any more by the time I had kids, it was out of fashion," she said. "They would have called it child abuse."
"Did you ever make him kneel in a corner?"
"I don't remember ever doing that....."
"What did you do, Grandma, when daddy was naughty?" they asked, dying to know what horrendous punishment their dad had to endure.
"I don't know........I just remember they were all good kids," she said with a smile.
Boring! We want some dirt on daddy here!
Although the look on her face, you almost believed her. (Please be assured that the punishment stories are not the only ones grandma tells of her childhood. She is just as likely to talk about the homemade noodles her mom made for the chicken noodle soup and how much effort her mom put into decorating a beautiful Christmas tree.)
This is all good stuff. For me and the boys. The continued connection with their dad's family, priceless.
I am so grateful to have that person to lean to at the Christmas concert and shake my head and laugh knowingly. Without my sister-in-law there I might look a little too longingly at the couple in front of me as they lean into each other and nod and laugh; "just like his dad" they are saying I am sure. (these couples are always incredibly happy in my mind, perfect for each other in fact, a first marriage of course, everyone is healthy and biologically related, no complications.......)
I could go on and on with stories that point out just how precious this in-law relationship is to both sides. I could write about the trip Henry got to take with his uncle this past summer. The trip that his uncle showed up in his 1959 Triumph and announced to Henry that he had the air mattresses that he and Bob used on their first road trip together when Bob was 16! You just can't make this stuff up!!!
So yes, I love in-laws, wouldn't want to be doing any of this without them. Even those that teach my little boys bad words. But once again, a subject for a different blog.
Thanks for checking in-
Friday, December 11, 2009
This is ridiculous.
It is crazy how much I am missing Jake. He was a cat for goodness sake, and an annoying one at that. He ate cellophane and threw up all the time. We couldn't leave any kind of wrapper or ribbon laying around or he would find it and start yakking. Birthdays were a nightmare, I finally had to give up getting balloons.
Jake was quite grouchy too. He had a fake hip from an injury when he was very young. Bob had to hold him down while I did range of motion exercises on his little leg. The poor guy foamed at the mouth trying to get away. I knew Bob really loved me as I watched him calmly hold Jake, this high maintenance cat that had come with me in the relationship, so I could rotate his hip. I believe the hip caused Jake pain in the humid summer time (and the cold winter time). He would spread his rather large body across the kitchen floor on particularly hot days and if you tried to walk around him he would growl and nip at you.
For a while he used to stand at the front door and lunge at anyone who had the audacity to leave the house and leave him inside. I eventually decided to let the de-clawed SOB be an outdoor cat.
Jake also had an amputated tail. Bob came home one day for lunch and found the poor guy hanging by his tail on top of a pile of folded laundry. The piece of wood holding the window of our 1920s duplex had fallen and slammed down on his tail.....ouch!! When he emerged from the folded shirts and pants after being set free his tail was a crooked letter "L".
The story of Jake losing his tail was part of our family lore, the boys and I. I was pregnant with Henry when it happened but you would think he had found Jake suspended in the air by the way he tells the story. And Arthur too, they both love to tell the story of when Jake lost his tail.
"And when dad opened the window Jake went running after Amber (our other cat). She must have been sitting there taunting him the whole time. Ha, ha you got your tail stuck in a window...you can't get out..." Henry will say dramatically, laughing and shaking his head very Boblike.
I had this false idea that since I survived losing my spouse I would be immune to "lesser losses". I know they say (you know, "those people" who say things) that you can't compare grief. "They" also say the most difficult loss is a child first and then a spouse. So a cat has to be rather far down the list.
And yet I find myself mourning Jake. When we decorated the tree this year I commented that we didn't have to worry about ribbons on the presents this year since Jake wouldn't be here to eat them and then vomit. I mentioned it as a silver lining, but the realization made me tear up.
Jake used to sit in between Mike and I on the futon when we watched TV and it always bugged Mike. He would grumble as he moved Jake's decreasing mass out of the way so we could cuddle. So Jake is part of Mike and my lore as well. Jake came with me into Mike and my relationship just like he came with me into Bob and my relationship. Jake was a four legged bridge between my past and my present.
And now he is gone. One more connection washed away. There won't be any reason for Henry to tell his version of the story of when Jake lost his tail anymore, no one will ask. One less tale about Daddy to tell.
I will miss the bridge, the limping, four legged, stub tailed bridge. But I still have two beautiful blue eyed, two legged bridges. One who got a time out in gym class today!!!! But that is a whole other blog.
Thanks for checking in-
Friday, December 4, 2009
We had to put Jake down yesterday. (the 17 year old cat) It was very sad. Worse than I imagined it would be.
It doesn't sound sad does it? We put him down, like you put your child down for a nap. Only it wasn't anything like putting your child down for a nap.
It seemed sudden, although he has been aging rapidly in the last few months. And he was 17 for goodness sake. And, truth be told, I thought I was ready for Jake's demise for years. After Bob died I felt like Jake had outworn his welcome.
Really, that is how I felt.
I kept thinking to myself; "Why is Bob gone and Jake is still here?"
Really, I did.
I had Jake before I met Bob, and then I still had him after Bob was gone. I had Jake longer than I had Bob. I am not sure why that fact has always bothered me. But in the end I guess I had grown fond of the old coot again, and I already miss having him around.
Henry and Arthur were with me at the vet and they took it hard. There was wailing. We even had some folks out in the waiting room in tears. Here is some of what those poor unsuspecting dog owners heard through the door:
"Now Henry, Jake had a long life."
"But I was only a part of it for such a short time"
"Just like with Daddy"
"I was a part of his life for even shorter!"
"I am glad I was so much younger when Daddy died. I didn't know so much of what I was losing. Now I know"
what is another word for wail? keen?
"At least I knew Jake......I hardly knew Daddy at aaaallllllllll"
Now we are all crying.
At this point the vet wanted to run screaming from the room I am sure.
This morning I came downstairs and found both the boys getting dressed in their room and crying again.
"I can't believe it," Henry said. "One minute I was laughing about something my teacher did at school and the next minute I was crying because you told me Jake was dying and we had to take him to the vet."
As Henry continued to lament the unpredictability of life, while hopping around and pulling up a pair of Spiderman undies, I thought to myself; "That is kind of how these things work, kid, bummer I know." You can't really prepare yourself in advance for these sorts of things. You can't know that next week your husband will get a cancer diagnosis, or that tomorrow you will get in a car accident.
"I just wish I had one more day," Henry continued.
"Why, babe? What would you do with one more day?" I asked him, truly curious.
"I don't know. It would just be one more day. Don't you want one more day with Daddy?" He looked up at me with those intense blue eyes all waterlogged.
This question caught me off guard, honestly I have never thought about this option. Before I could gather my wits the boys, fully clothed, were off to pour themselves a bowl of Honey Oats. I will never cease being envious of children and their ability to turn grief on and off like a light switch.
But I continued to ponder the question.......and my final answer is no. I would not want one more day with Bob. Especially if it were a continuation of the days we were having before he died, I did not want one more hour of that. Maybe if it could be a day of my choosing, like the day we spent in Brugge, Belgium, before we discovered Bob had forgotten to put film in the camera. Or the day we went camping in the Olympic Rain Forest and it rained (harder than usual) and we spent the entire day in the tent playing backgammon and reading out loud to each other. Or the day I found out I was pregnant with Henry and I was freaking out and Bob just grabbed me around the middle and said; "Renie, this is going to be a riot with you!"
But, no, even if my one more day could be one of our greatest days, my answer is still no. One more day would simply put me back at the beginning of my grief journey. And you could not pay me enough money to be back there. When the movie "Ghost" came out (which was LONG before I met Bob let alone lost him) and Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze have that last dance together and it is supposed to be all romantic, all I could think of was ... Now she will just have to start all over again.
I guess I am not a romantic. I am too damn practical for my own good. If something is over, why drag it out with one more day? Maybe it isn't just practicality but a lack of patience as well. If there is no fixing a problem, I want to be moving beyond it.
So, no Henry, I don't want one more day with your dad.
Now, a lifetime? Totally different story.
Thanks for checking in-
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The holidays. Spending time with family.
But.......which family? Whose family? What is family?Family can be a tricky concept these days, even trickier for those of us who have been widowed.
In Webster's dictionary the first definition listed is a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation. #2 is a group of person's of common ancestry.#3 is a group of individuals living under one roof.
Hmmmmm.....a while after Bob died the boys and I were in the car line waiting to drop Henry off at pre-school. Out of the car in front of us came a mom, a dad, and a child.
"Wow, the whole family is here today," I said to Henry idly.
''We aren't a family anymore," he responded wistfully. "Now that daddy is dead."
The car in front of us pulled ahead, we pulled ahead and it was our turn to get out of the car. The tears standing in my eyes were nothing new to the teachers that year so we made the exchange of Henry without discussion.
After telling my sister-in-law about the incident she bought us The Family Book by Todd Parr....about all different kinds of families. I read it to Henry often and now I read it to Arthur. I still choke up at the part that says....all families are sad when they lose someone they love.......
These days when I read the line.....some families have 2 dads.... Henry always chimes in; "Arthur and I have two dad's. Our dad that is dead and Mike, our step-dad"(I know that is not what they are really referring to in the book people, OK, but it is very cute all the same) and when we get to the part that says......some families have a step-mom Arthur always says; "We won't ever have a step-mom" and then Henry chimes in again; "Yes, we could Arthur, if mom dies and Mike gets married then that woman would be our step-mom." (thanks for that bit of information Henry)
But seriously, if that lovely scenario played out, is that woman indeed their step-mom? Just who is the woman married to your step-dad?
So then there is the question of in-laws. Recently the boys and I went to their aunt's (Bob's sisters) for dinner. On the way home Henry asked why the Hogan's (his step siblings) hadn't come to dinner.
"This is your dad's family, buddy. They aren't really the Hogan's family." I tried to explain weakly.
"Well, then why did YOU come? You should have just dropped me and Arthur off." Henry (of course) said bluntly.
"How do you figure?" I asked, trying to stay amused and not annoyed.
"Well, dad is dead and you were only related to Aunt Jane and Aunt Kathy and Grandma because you were married to him. But we are his children so we are related forever. So why do you still come to Aunt Jane and Aunt Kathy's?"
Yikes!! I am too tired for this.
Webster's definition of an in-law is a relative by marriage.
So then......on Halloween the boys were deep in discussion regarding the difference between dark chocolate and milk chocolate. We all decided we liked milk chocolate much better."I guess we are a milk chocolate family," Arthur announced.
"Your dad loved dark chocolate," I said to Arthur as I stood at the sink washing dishes.
"Mom," he said to me with that sing song tone he had to have learned from me, that tone that says you should understand this already, but your young and still learning, so I am going to go over it one more time. "Dad is dead, remember, he isn't part of our family anymore."
Ahhhhhhhhhhh! I am WAY too tired for THIS.
Death is defined as a permanent cessation of all vital functions.
Well that clears it up for me.
Is "family" a "vital function". When a person dies do family ties cease?
I know we aren't living under one roof, not physically anyway, but I still like to think of Bob as part of the family. We have blocks for everyone in our family on our mantel with their initial on one side and their birth statistics on another, and the 'B' starts off the line up. BIMANSHA, that is who we are, too bad we can't fit it on our license plate.
And, despite what Henry might believe, I will always consider Bob's family to be my in-laws.
I think the point is family is anyone you consider family to be. It can't be defined by ancestry, marriage, affiliations or houses. And it doesn't have to be ended by death.
Thanks for checking in-
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
When Mike and I first met many of his friends expressed concern about him dating a widow.
I was insulted, of course. It isn't like I killed the guy. I didn't ask to be a widow or anything.
I understand it was their concern for him regarding the sainted dead spouse syndrome. People worry about the comparison to the dead spouse. Because anyone who has lost anyone they care about knows that you only remember the good stuff. Even the not so good stuff seems SO much better in the remembering.
........remember when we were lost in the woods for hours that one time because Bob insisted we didn't need a flashlight.........man, that was the best!...........
It can be difficult being in a relationship with a widow, I admit. Anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, school conferences, dentist appointments, movies, vacations, dinner........any event seems to hold a memory and a possibility of bittersweet sadness, disappointment, unfulfilled dreams or regret. Even in the middle of true joy and elation these moments can rear their ugly head with no warning.
These moments can last for minutes, hours, or days, there is no predicting grief.
I would still highly recommend a relationship with a widow. We are awesome! We have faced our worst fears and have survived, maybe even thrived. We are independent and creative and insightful. We are wise and thoughtful.
So we might cry randomly, would you prefer we weren't sad about losing our spouse? (that would be totally different baggage to have to deal with) Wouldn't you like to know that if/when something happens to you we will keep your memory alive for those that knew you and for those that never had the chance? Who doesn't want a few pictures of themselves kept around the house after they are gone?
Our spouse died, but our relationship didn't end.
I realize it is hard to understand if you haven't lived it. But wishing someone was still here does not mean wishing someone else wasn't. Nobody is a second choice, just a different choice for a different time.
I believe the key to a successful relationship with a widow is honesty and self confidence, for both parties.
Comparisons are odious a friend once told me (actually told me numerous times....). This saying is true for so many situations. Other peoples relationships, other peoples children, other peoples jobs, houses, parents, yard, car........ Comparing your situation to another persons can be a dangerous game. Comparison can take on a whole new level when you are involved with a widow.
Comparisons are going to happen, you can't stop them, it is human nature, people are different. The key is what you do with them. My general rule is to keep most of them to myself unless they are completely objective;
"Bob's eyes were blue." or "Bob enjoyed biking."
or if they make my live husband look really good;
"I have never had anyone serve me breakfast in bed." or "I love that you cut your fingernails in the bathroom over a garbage can, instead of leaving them in a pile around the house like Bob always used to do."
OK, of course, in a perfect world no one would date anyone who was widowed or divorced or who had any relationship baggage whatsoever and no one would have to hear the name of a former spouse spoken out loud. Since we don't live in a perfect world I am here to tell you that dating a widow isn't all that bad, even if the dead spouse is sainted. The dead spouse never calls during dinner and they have few opinions that differ from those of the live parent.
Pick your poison.
Thanks for checking in -
Monday, November 2, 2009
I hate that Bob died. I hate that I was widowed. I really do.
I can be pragmatic. I can be practical. I know that my life is now and not then and there is no use comparing or wishing.
I can be philosophical and insightful. I am grateful for all the silver linings of the situation, happy with what I have now and rather impressed at times with the person I have become. I really am.
But then Arthur's birthday comes around, just like it does every year, and I feel that kicked in the gut, wind knocked out of me feeling again. I find myself sitting cross legged on Arthur's bunk bed sobbing in the dark into my cupped hands hoping I don't wake the boys up, wondering how long this storm will last.
It must be the proximity of Bob's death and Arthur's birth that does it for me every year. Remembering all the craziness that he was born into. I think Arthur knew he was better off in the womb. He wasn't late but he sure needed coaxing once he began his hesitant appearance, as if he wasn't quite sure he really wanted to be out here among all of the darkness that was our lives at that time. Who could blame him, at least the darkness he was coming from was warm.
Once the storm passes, and it does pass, I make it up to our bedroom and I am sure Mike can tell that I have been crying. But he says nothing. He has learned that is best sometimes. What is there to say? I wish Bob were here to celebrate his son's birthday. I wish the two of us could reminisce about the day Arthur was born. I wish Bob were here to see Arthur dance to Van Halen (long story).
I wish Bob were here.
Grief can't always be shared or explained, it just has to be experienced and lived through.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009
We all went to my family reunion last week in Connecticut, all seven of us.
The McGoldricks have a reunion every three years and this years was the eighth one. This was the first one for my step-children, the second one for Mike, the first one for Arthur (unless you count the one when I was pregnant with him), the fourth one for Henry, and the seventh one for me. Bob attended three.
Each reunion is in a different place and hosted by a different family member but many traditions stay the same. The family photo when everyone turns around so we can get a picture of the back of the reunion T-shirt, card playing (our game is Setback), one nice family dinner that everyone attends, a poem from my dad at the end of the weekend (he is not really a poet but they always rhyme) and the photo albums from reunions past.
Six years ago we were in the San Juan Islands. Henry was about to turn three, I was pregnant, and Bob had just finished a chemo treatment less than 24 hours before we got on the plane. When the announcement of Italy as the next destination was made on the last evening I wondered if Bob would be there with us. Would Bob be healthy, sick, or would I be there alone with the boys?
Mike came with me and Henry to Italy three years ago. Surprisingly, that had never been an option I had entertained at the time.
Looking at the photo albums last weekend it looked as if I had a seamless transition. One reunion I was standing next to Bob and the next reunion I was standing next to Mike. How crazy is that? One year I posed with one child and the next year I posed with five.
A picture doesn't tell the whole stroy does it? It is a moment in time.
Anyone who knew me during those three years knows the transition was anything but seamless. Those years had jagged edges and there was a lot of ripping out of stitches and lots of tears. (you can decide which way to pronounce that)
I like to think of the person I am now as a quilt. A quilt takes time, hard work, and patience to make. It may look haphazard and unattractive at times. A person can get tired and sore and feel like giving up the project. It may seem like more pieces are being taken away than being sewn back in. But in the end it all seems to work somehow.
I am patched back together now. Some pieces of me are old and some are new. Some pieces go together well and some need to be seperated by other pieces in order to work. Some pieces were put in place and then ripped out and put back in a different place. Some pieces didn't make the quilt in the end but were important to the construction of it. All the pieces are important to the whole.
I don't know what is in store for me in the next three years. I can't imagine the pieces that are being formed at this moment for my next quilt.
All I know is that for now my quilt is comfortable and warm and beautifully patched together.
Thanks for checking in-
Friday, October 2, 2009
I have a friend.
I adore her.
Whenever we are together we talk nonstop, there is never enough time to say all that there is to say to each other. I feel like I have known her all my life. I think we may have been related in another life. I can't imagine what I did before I knew her.
And I never would have met her if Bob were still alive, and that is hard to reconcile at times.
She is a "new friend". That is the term I use for friends I have met since Bob died. People who know the woman I am today, the person I have become after clawing my way out of the depths of grief.
But they are missing a significant piece to my puzzle.
They can listen with interest, compassion and maybe a bit of awe to my stories of stem cell transplants and growing tumors and nursing infants and weeks of instant oatmeal for dinner. But they weren't with me. They weren't there to have me to dinner for the fifth time that week even though our children always ended up fighting, or to come over and organize my Tupperware drawer with a stack of tissues in hand, or to put their own grief and fear aside and stand beside me as the undertakers took Bob out the front door, or to listen, once again, to my lamenting about the injustice of my situation.
There was a time when all I wanted was to meet new people. I was desperate to meet people who did not know Bob and who did not see the big "W" on my forehead. I was tired of being defined by my circumstances. But when I began to meet these new friends I resented the fact that they did not understand my situation, they could not tell I was widowed just by looking at me, they did not understand what I had lost, what I had been through.
How could they really know me and not know Bob?
I found myself wanting to explain my situation, wanting them to know who I was when I was with Bob. It turned out I didn't want to escape my circumstances, I wanted to embrace them. I wanted to incorporate my whole story into this new person that I was becoming. This new person with new friends and old friends, all of whom have circumstances of their own that have made them who they are.
I am grateful for all the people in my life, new friends, old friends, live husbands, late husbands, in-laws, family, neighbors, children, step-children. No matter how or why I met them, I am grateful for them all. I am grateful that they know me and love me for who I am today.
We are all who we are because of our circumstances, maybe even despite our circumstances.
Thanks for checking in-
Friday, September 25, 2009
"You can't leave me Bob. I can't do this without you. What am I going to do? I don't want to lose you," I pleaded with him, choking and gasping for breath.
Bob stayed right there in front of me as if he was trying to keep me from falling apart, limb by limb, right there in the living room. He didn't say a word, just remained there with me, hands firmly on me thighs, a solid presence.
I don't know how long I carried on. It might have been quite a while or maybe just a moment. Slowly unfolding from the fetal position, coming back to my surroundings, my breathing slowing down, I looked around the room. My eyes landed on Henry on the other side of coffee table, quietly standing there in the dark corner absorbing the entire scene, giving us the wide eyed Henry Stare. That look he had in his eye that made you think he could see more than just what was in the room.
"Hey, Bud, do you want to watch Blues Clues?" I asked stupidly, attempting to distract him from this ugly scene. He was not a child who was easy to distract. He had straight forward questions that we answered as honestly as we could.
He knew daddy was sick and the doctors were trying to make him better. He knew the "straw" in daddy's arm was how the medicine got in. He knew that because of that straw Daddy was unable to go swimming with him this summer. He knew that the blood cancer Daddy had was so bad that the medicine they had to give him made him feel even sicker and made his hair fall out. He knew he was staying with his aunts more often so that Mommy and Daddy could go to doctor appointments. He knew Mommy was having a baby.
He knew a lot, he knew way more than any three year old should have to know. And now he knew that his mommy was terrified and that Daddy could get lost. How much more would he have to know before this was all done I wondered?
Friday, September 18, 2009
It happened again.
Henry and I were in line at Noodles and we began chatting with an older gentlemen in front of us about one thing and another. The man asked Henry if he was a Packer fan. Henry stared at him blankly and shook his head slowly. I quickly explained that we weren't against the Packers or anything (I didn't want things to get ugly right there at the neighborhood Noodles), but that we just weren't a football family.
The man nodded and smiled like you would to a crazy person on the street singing show tunes at the top of their lungs and dragging on the stub of a cigarette.
"My step-dad is a Packer fan, he watches football," Henry chimed in, noticing the uncomfortable silence.
And that was when it happened. I got the look, the "Oh, I see" look.
Real or imagined, I can't be sure, but it is distinctly different from the "Oh, I understand" look.
After Bob died it took me about one week to discover that there was much more sympathy for a widowed person than a divorced person in our society. Divorce implies choice. And I will admit I was not above playing the widow card from time to time if it meant a little more assistance in a time of need.
Why do I bristle at the word step-dad? My boys don't. I find myself wanting people to know why they have one. As if to say; "This wasn't what I wanted, this wasn't my plan, this wasn't my fault."
I doubt anyone who has children goes into it wanting them to have a step-dad. I don't believe prospective parents sit around planning this outcome.
"OK, here is the plan. I have always wanted my kids to have a step-dad, so we should have a few kids and then we will get divorced and then you can get remarried so our kids can have a step-dad. Or this, we can have a few kids and I can get sick and die and then you can get remarried and they can have a step-dad. That would be great!"
I don't think so.
For whatever reason many children end up with a step-parent, it is not shameful. I never planned on it, I never wanted it. This was not my dream for my children.
But I am extremely grateful they do have a step-dad, especially one that likes my boys and likes Bob's family and honors Bob's memory and his continued importance in our life. The next time the subject comes up I will use the word with pride, just as Henry and Arthur do. No explanation needed.
Thanks for checking in-
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Bob and I never texted each other.
We never spoke to each other from our cell phones. We never emailed each other from work, we never emailed each other period, or Facebooked. There was no Twittering......OK, maybe there was some twittering.......
Bob never even heard of a blog.
What DID we do?
We walked together and rode bikes. We planned trips. Bob cooked while I put flowers on the table. We played Scrabble and read books in the living room with steaming cups of tea between us. We debated the existence of God. Bob wrote in a journal (actually putting pen to paper) and I concocted different recipes with my essential oils. We spooned on the couch and watched "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". He read a book while I folded clothes. He took Henry grocery shopping. We gave each other massages.
I am glad there was no Internet or cell phones or Facebook when we courted. A few days after our first date I went to the laundry mat. I had told Bob the night before that I was thinking of doing my laundry that day. As I was pulling out of the parking lot onto the street with my clean clothes balanced precariously on the seat next to me Bob flew past my car on his bike. He made a quick U-turn and approached me with a big smile on his face.
"You weren't at home when I called so I thought I would ride by and see if you needed company," he said, my heart skipped a beat.
A few days later I was at work and he appeared during my lunch hour to take me on a motorcycle ride to the lake. We hopped on the bike and I wrapped my arms around his chest and lay my cheek on his back (to protect myself from the brisk Oct. air...)
What if he could of just texted me while I did my laundry? I would have missed how his face looked that day when I saw him do that U-turn on the street, bright with anticipation. What if he had called me on my cell phone at work and asked if I wanted to go for a ride on his motorcycle? Would I have said yes or would I have been cautious and said there probably wasn't enough time. And I would have missed the exhilaration of being on that bike with him on that clear fall day, even if it was just a few minutes.
What if Bob had blogged instead of writing in a journal? I wouldn't have had the peaceful comfort of him sitting next to me in contemplation, pen in hand, notebook open on his lap, music on in the background. I wouldn't have his penmanship to look at today. The way he slanted his "S" and put a big curve at the bottom of his "g". Seeing the unique way he wrote on the page seems to bring the story to life somehow.
What would our relationship be like today if he were still alive, what would our communication be like? Granted, we were not people on the cutting edge of technology but so much has changed with technology in such a short time.
Would we email each other from work about what to have for dinner or who was going to pick up the boys or what we should do for the weekend? Would he text me from some biking trip he was on to tell me about the sunset? Would he forward me silly political cartoons? If we were out to dinner and his phone rang would he answer it? Would he have a Facebook page? Would he spend the evening on Google finding out answers to the boys never ending questions? Would he be fighting with the boys for computer time? Would he be a follower on any blogs?
I honestly can't imagine Bob doing any of these things. I can't imagine him choosing the computer over a bike ride in the evening. I can't imagine him going to the computer for a recipe and not thumbing threw one of his cookbooks. I can't imagine his phone ringing during dinner. Sometimes I think he got out of here just in time. Sometimes I wish I did. (like when I have to place an egg timer at the computer to limit the amount of time the children are on it, or when I watch a group of kids walking down my street and they all have there heads down, looking at their phone, not interacting at all with the people right next to them)
I will never know the answer to my questions, of course. I can only try to imagine, and remember how it was, and be grateful we had each other when we did, and that our relationship was the way it was.
I must move forward in the world today, technology and all.
But all of this musing begs the question, if Bob were alive today would he read my blog?
If Bob were alive today what would I be blogging about?
Thanks for checking in-
Friday, August 28, 2009
In my last post I mentioned that my mantra while I was doing a little off road biking recently was "look where you WANT to go".
I learned this useful phrase the first time I ever did any kind of mountain biking. I was with my best friend, who was an experienced mountain biker (and WAY braver than me), in the mountains of Colorado. I had no helmet and the words of my mother as we parted following my graduation from college the day before were ringing in my unprotected head.
"Don't forget to get health insurance". I think she was a little excited to have just completed the task of successfully raising and educating seven children.
As I attempted to make it down the steep trail full of rocks and roots my friend kept telling me to look where I wanted to go, not at what I was trying to avoid, and the bike would follow. Try as I might I just kept staring right at those mini-boulders in my way, mentally pleading for them to remove themselves from my path, and sure enough I ran smack into most of them.
Once we successfully, and slowly, made it to a paved trail I vowed never to go mountain biking again. I am quite certain that my friend also vowed never to take me mountain biking again.
While I have never returned to the mountains of Colorado to do any biking I did find myself doing the occasional off-road trail with Bob here in the Midwest, and now with my boys. But I admit, I still prefer a paved trail, a smooth ride through a shaded overhang of trees, past farmlands and lazy rivers.
What does this fact say about me and how I proceed with my life?
I prefer a smooth ride, it's true. I like when things work out according to plan. I like when events start on time and people live up to my expectations. I like when my checkbook balances and my children do their chores without a fuss. I like when couples happily grow old together and when people live to a ripe old age and die quietly in their sleep.
I like when there are no boulders or roots in my way.
But, inevitably, there things that happen that put a kink in the plans. Even paved trails have their twists and turns, the occasional stone in the way. Sometimes husbands die before they reach a ripe old age. And those plans of growing old together don't come to fruition, no matter how carefully I planned.
So now what?
I can't will the boulder away by staring at it; but I can look where I want to go, be brave and continue on the path, move beyond the boulder, and look beyond the next one as well.
Thanks for checking in-
Saturday, August 22, 2009
You know what?
Bob died 5 1/2 years ago. And here I am, going along; I love where I live, I love who I live with, I love what I am doing, and yet the thought that I will never talk to Bob again, never hear his voice, can still take my breath away.
I recently took all three boys camping with a girlfriend and her two boys. Camping was one of those things, like biking, that I was afraid I would never do after Bob died. Bob was always the motivator and organizer of our camping trips. My contribution was to carry all of the sleeping bags, the tent and the bins packed with camping "essentials" to the car so Bob could pack it all up.
I was about as much help once we got to the camp ground. My idea of appropriate camping food is whatever comes out of a box and doesn't require a dish that needs to be washed. Bob enjoyed making elaborate meals while camping, involving the whipping of eggs and the need for things like buttermilk and cumin.
I could never live up to all that.
I feared the boys would not grow up knowing the joys of camping. No sleeping in tents listening to the cicada's sing, no starting fires in the morning and sitting around the fire at night roasting marshmallows, no wishing on the first star to come out, no catching frogs outside the outhouse.
No great outdoors.
It took me over a year to figure out that I didn't need to cook full course meals to give my boys the great outdoors. I could camp without buttermilk and fresh eggs and Idaho potatoes. I could camp "Irene McGoldrick style". Grab a box of cereal and some Poptarts, stick a brat on a stick, cook it over the fire, and call it a day.
That I can do.
And that is what I did, until I met Mike, who likes the more complicated meals around the campfire. So now I am back to my "carry out the sleeping bags and tent and place them by the car for packing" routine.
But this past trip was just my girlfriend and I and we took the boys off road biking for an afternoon. We found ourselves following the boys as they negotiated the trail with different levels of enthusiasm and skill. We tried to warn the serious riders as they blew by us about the 5 young children up ahead strewn about the trail. Only 2 of our group ran into a tree (one was me thank you very much) and Arthur got pushed down a small ravine in an attempt to keep him from getting run over by one of the aforementioned expert riders.
On one of the more level parts of the trail I had a moment to think (in between my mantra of "look where you WANT to go, look where you WANT to go") about how proud I was to find myself in this situation right now. I felt good. A cool bike trail, a fabulous camping weekend, the boys having a great time in the great outdoors.
There was a time I couldn't even imagine being able to put the bike rack on the car.
"Look at us, Bob," I thought to myself. "Look where we are, look at our boys ride this trail."
That's when it happened.
The realization that Bob and I won't ever admire these beautiful blond haired boys we created. We won't stand shoulder to shoulder, leaning towards each other, watching in awe as our children learn a new skill or discover a new fact about their world. This realization felt like a tree branch had just run into my ribcage, my breath came shorter. (it could have been the biking, we were going up a hill by this point) But then, there were tears.
Damn it, and I was having such a good time.
When will it end? The grieving, shouldn't I be done with it by now?!
Man, grief sucks! It really does. It is hard work, and anyone that tells you it just takes time is mistaken. It takes courage and perseverance and resilence and patience. Patience!
By the time we were back at the cars loading up the bikes, the kids hopping around excitedly reliving their "near death" experiences and munching on pretzles dipped in Nutella, I had come to another realization.
There is something worse than grief. Having never had anyone worth grieving for, that would be worse.
Now that would really suck.
Thanks for checking in-
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Walk It Out will be happening this Saturday August 22nd, 2009.
Come walk and talk.
The weather should be gorgeous and the construction almost complete.
I will see you at 9:30am at the Hart Park Senior Center parking lot.
Thanks for checking in-
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Yesterday would have been Bob and my 13th wedding anniversary.
What was most remarkable about yesterday was that no one remarked on it. I say this not to make anybody feel bad, I have always felt that anniversaries are for the couple and not for anyone else to remember, but simply to make an observation. Of course, I did tell Henry and Arthur what the day was.
"Oh, wow," was Henry's response. I give him credit for trying.
On the first anniversary after Bob died I went out to dinner with my parents and some friends. When I returned to my new home, with boxes still unpacked, I sat in the big chair in the sun room and opened an incredibly thoughtful gift from one of my friends. She had stolen the newspaper clipping of the recipe for "Portuguese Fisherman's Stew", the last meal Bob made for friends before he became too sick to cook, and she had it framed.
Sitting in the sun room staring at that recipe I wept imagining Bob standing at the stove stirring the bubbling stew with one hand and studying that slip of newspaper in the other. I suddenly found myself in a panic because I could not remember the sound of his voice.
It had only been 5 months and I had already forgotten the sound of his voice?! How long until I couldn't remember what he looked like , or what it felt like when he held me?
Thankfully, I think that one night was just a temporary freak out. Five years later I am sitting in that same sun room in the same big chair and I am able to hear the sound of his gentle voice; "Happy anniversary, sug." (short for "sugar")
And I remember clearly how it felt to kiss him 13 years ago on that bright sunny day, when our whole lives were in front of us and anything was possible.
Thanks for checking in-
Saturday, August 8, 2009
“Are you sabotaging your recovery, Bob? What were you thinking?” I yelled at him while marching around the kitchen, flailing my arms wildly.
“I didn’t think about it. Willy just handed me some grapes. I took some grapes.” Bob explained, shrugging his shoulders, eyes innocent, head tilted to one side, arms out in an “oh well” kind of expression. He appeared bemused by my “overreaction”.
“Now what are we supposed to do?” I screeched, frantic. My own eyes shooting daggers across the counter. I could have sliced that tumor out myself.
It was the Friday before Memorial Day and now we had to wait over the entire holiday weekend because you can’t get these procedures done on weekends or holidays.
“Cancer doesn’t grow on the weekends,” as my sister Teri said.
Oh, how I wish that were true. At this point you could literally see the tumor get bigger by the day. It was horrifying. Once the biopsy finally was done we would have to wait again for the results and then wait again for the doctor to make her determination. Wait, wait, wait, I couldn’t wait.
“Just don’t tell them.” I suggested in a burst of desperation. “Just go, what are they going to do?”
It was just a couple of grapes, they are mostly water, I reasoned. I wanted Bob to get that offensive growth biopsied NOW.
I stood in the kitchen, defiant, arms crossed, listening to him on the phone with the nurse. He mentioned the grapes, he nodded his head wordlessly and then I heard the word Tuesday. Grabbing my purse off the counter, I turned on my heel and headed for the garage. The sound of the screen door slamming was not nearly enough to drown my screams.
Monday, July 27, 2009
The first year after Bob died was tough.
I guess that goes without saying, huh?!
Frequently, I felt overwhelmed with the needs of Arthur and Henry (1and 4). In the evenings after the boys were asleep I would vent to my sister, Kathy. During these phone conversations I was usually elbow deep in soap suds with the phone clutched between my cheek and shoulder, often I was whining about all the things I had to do before I could go to bed. The "to-do" list stretched in front of me like a vast dreary landscape.
"Just go to bed," she would tell me. "Get some sleep."
"I can't," I responded, incredulous at the mere idea. "It's not as if anyone is going to do this stuff for us while we sleep."
The thought of getting up in the morning to a kitchen full of dirty dishes, no clean sippy cups, lunches that still needed to be packed, and a full laundry basket was enough to keep me on task.
Waking up behind the eight ball, the "to-do" list from yesterday still before me, and the current day quickly racking up more tasks to add to that list, was enough to put me over the very precarious edge I hovered on. My sanity felt very thin, a full sink of dishes in the morning might be all it took for those last threads to unravel.
A little OCD is common when grieving. It is an attempt to find order and control when one has just been taught the biggest lesson of all; control is an illusion.
I perseverated on wanting my kids to be 4 and 7. For whatever reason 4 and 7 sounded really good to me, there would be more order somehow. They would both be dressing themselves and going to the bathroom on their own. There would be school and a chore list, Henry could surely take out the garbage for me when he was seven. What age can they mow the lawn and shovel, anyway?!
"Hang in there, Irene." Kathy repeated encouragingly, a hint of pity in her voice."You have some good years ahead with the kids, the grade school years, some really golden years. The boys will be more independent and not surly yet."
That first summer the three of us went to Door County for a few days to stay with a high school girlfriend at her family's lake "cottage". Door County is a beautiful peninsula about 3 hours north of Milwaukee that juts out into Lake Michigan.
We gals were busy with the organized chaos of nursing and making bottles, putting kids in high chairs to spoon feed mashed peas in their mouth, putting kids down for naps, trying to make sure they kept rocks out of their mouths and didn't disappear to the other side of the dunes. At night, exhausted, swinging on the porch swing and listening to the calming waves of lake Michigan I wished those golden years would hurry up.
Well, 4 and 7 are gone and the golden years are definitely in full swing!! The boys and I just spent an idyllic 3 days with my girlfriend and her family back at the "cottage". This time we gals read books in our beach chairs and swung in the hammock while the 2 youngest (5) played school and the older boys (7, 9 & 10) took sleds and shovels to the beach and were down there for hours, unattended and no intervention needed. Kayaking and sailing were on the agenda instead of petting zoos and disgustingly early McDonald's runs to keep your early bird from waking the rest of the house.
At night the happy, tired, sun kissed and sand laden children ate plates of noodles and tacos with their own hands while the adults ate on the porch with a lit candle as the sun set giving the clouds over the lake an orange hue.
Fully sugared up with s'mores the kids immediately fell asleep in sandy beds and slept late, waking up smelling of fire and coconut sunscreen and ready to do it all again. Not a surly one in the bunch!
Ah, the golden years," I thought to myself as I sat on the porch swing and watched the boys launch themselves over the dunes on a plastic sled they dragged from the garage. It is still organized chaos, but I seem to be able to find more calm within the storm these days.
I still can't go to bed without the kitchen cleaned and the house in some kind of order, an affect of intense grief, the lingering knowledge that we really control nothing but our reactions to a situation. But I will occasionally leave the laundry to fold for the next day, secure in the knowledge that it will get done eventually. (and sometimes by someone other then me)
A sign of improvement surely!
Thanks for checking in-
Friday, July 24, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I will be attending a conference on widowhood this weekend in San Diego.
Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation is having a conference and they are expecting 300 widow/ers to attend.
There are a lot of us out there. Every widow/er changed in ways they could have never imagined.
I will be offering my lotion and oil blend of five different essential oils, all of them chosen for their powerful benefits for symptoms of grief. Essential oils helped me through the worst of my grieving and I am happy to share my knowledge and love of essential oils.
I would have never chosen this path of widowhood, and yet I find myself on it. I am proud to have embraced the opportunity and made the best of it.
I am looking forward to an inspiring weekend.
Thanks for checking in-
Thursday, July 9, 2009
The boys and I were invited to a dinner party the other day.
It was a group of young widows who have been getting together for a couple of years for support and friendship.
"They are a group of women whose husbands have died," I explained to Henry and Arthur at breakfast. ".....like Daddy."
"They are all widows," Henry responded.
"Yes, they are all widows," I agreed.
"What do you call a husband whose wife died?"
"A widower," I told him.
Henry nodded silently and returned to his Cocoa Bumpers and comics. I returned to my Dear Abby and chai.
After a few minutes of contemplation Henry looked up from his bowl.
"What are we called, Arthur and me?"
Good question. We decided they couldn't be orphans because they still have me and don't have to live in an orphanage. (although sometimes they act like I make them eat gruel) But what are they? What is their label? How do they explain the situation in a word?
The three of us couldn't come up with anything. We went on about our day and I forgot about the conversation, but Henry didn't.
We drove to the party later that day with Arthur giving us his usual constant commentary. Henry suddenly piped up from the back seat.
"The Fantastic Fatherless, that's what we are."
I like that he put the word fantastic in the label. I could think of other words; strong, insightful, sensitive, wise.
Fantastic, I love it!
Thanks for checking in-
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Mike's dad died on Thursday, June 25th.
Arthur was playing in the front yard with a tennis ball and a baseball glove when I told him that I had to go to the hospital because Mike's dad was going to die.
He looked up at me with those sensitive blue eyes of his, eyebrows crinkled, and I thought he might cry.
"Mike's dad is going to die?" he asked.
"Yes," I responded simply, trying to meet his open gaze.
"....My dad died too. .......That is sad," he said wistfully, as if he were harking back to the days of yore when his own dad died. "Mike will need a hug when he gets home."
Then he promptly went back to his tennis ball and continued with whatever game he had invented that day.
Mike's dad would have been 80 in December, Arthur's dad died 4 days before his 40th birthday. Mike is 46, Arthur was 5 months. Two completely different situations but a common bond all the same, losing a father.
I was recently invited to a dinner for a group of widows here in my neighborhood. This group has been meeting for a couple of years and I am honored to be included. I was telling a friend (non-widow) about the group and how excited I was to be asked, especially since I am not officially a widow anymore.
She thought that being a widow was something like being a veteran, we may not be fighting the same war any longer, but we still have a common bond, just like Arthur and Mike.
All loss is different and nobody grieves the same way, but there are similarities. Anyone who lives long enough will be a veteran of the grieving war. No matter who you lose or when it happens there is a common thread, the finality of death.
I think Arthur said it best.........it is sad, and everyone should get a hug.
Thanks for checking in-
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
A reminder that Walk It Out is happening this Saturday June 27th at 9:30am.
I look forward to seeing you all at the Hart Park Senior Center parking lot.
Should be a nice day! Yea!
Thanks for checking in-
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I saw Bob the other day.
No, that is not a typo, I saw Bob.
Our neighbor started a mountain bike club with a group of kids from our block. The first night the Woodchuckers were to meet I was lingering in the front yard chatting with the gals when Henry slowly rolled down the driveway and appeared from behind the neighbors SUV. He had on his new blue helmet, a pair of riding gloves and was riding a borrowed bike with gears.
And there, for just an instant, was Bob. Perched high and proud on his bike and decked out in his riding garb, a gentle smile on his lips. My heart jumped to my throat.
And then Henry was back, trying, for all the world, to look like he didn’t think he was cool.
Stunned into silence by my vision I eventually spit out; “I wish your dad could see you right now.”
Trying to regain my composure I watched as the group rode down the sidewalk and turned towards the park. They all looked a bit blurry from the tears brimming in my eyes.
It was then I heard my neighbor tell her young son to look up, look up above the trees. There was a hawk slowly gliding in a big lazy circle above our street.
“I knew it was you,” I thought to myself as I squinted at the lone bird. “Good, so you do get to see Henry tonight.”
Many of you may know that I believe Bob visits me as a hawk. Bob loved hawks and always pointed them out to me when he spotted one. Soon after he died I started spotting hawks myself. They would appear just when I needed to talk to Bob about something or was hoping for an answer to a question, or needed a little extra help to get through a particularly difficult moment.
These sightings always leave me with a feeling of calm and confidence, the same kind of grounded feeling that Bob provided me when he was walking beside me here on earth.
Bob can’t stand beside me anymore, we can no longer lean against each other and stare in awe and wonder at the beautiful boy we created, marveling at him all geared up for his first mountain bike outing. But he still offers me support and comfort, silently gliding above us, wings outstretched.
Thanks for checking in-
Thursday, June 11, 2009
We had about three, maybe six, good weeks following his initial diagnosis on March 21, 2003. All the tumors went away. Bob was pain free and his energy was better than it had been in months. He had a little spring in his step again, nothing short of miraculous.
“I feel like we have gotten off easy,” Bob said one night as we were turning out the lights.
“Shhhhh, don’t say that, you will tempt the fates,” I replied quickly, shuddering as I felt the secret whisper to me again.
“Not so quickly,” it said chillingly.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
I was so annoyed yesterday I thought I might spontaneously combust right in my car while I was driving Henry to his soccer game.
It all started when I was summoned out of bed by my five year old, Arthur, yelling “Mom!” repeatedly from his bedroom. By his calls I imagined something involving either blood or vomit but what I found was his brother Henry “annoying him” by staring at him over the boards of his bunk bed.
Apparently Henry had been thrown off when he went out to have his breakfast cereal and found someone he didn’t know sitting in HIS seat at the dining room table (step-sister, Aubrey, had a friend spend the night) and his solution to this was to wake Arthur up and proceed to stare at him. According to Henry it is more embarrassing to introduce himself to the “stranger” and ask her name than to cause a scene by annoying everyone in the house at 7:30 on a Sunday morning.
The day quickly deteriorated from there when I had a cold shower due to the fact that I had to switch a load of laundry which put me in line for the shower behind my step daughter, Natalie, who takes the longest showers known to man.
After my extremely brief shower, where I only performed the bare minimum in hygiene maintenance, I began to pack for a two day business trip when Henry appeared at my bedroom grief stricken.
“Mom, I’ve got my cleats and my shin guards and my water bottle and my ball but I bet you didn’t clean my soccer uniform from yesterday, did you? I don’t want to wear the same one from yesterday, that’s gross,” he announced mortified and dejected at the same time.
“Excuse me?” I retorted. “Excuse me!?!?!? Of course I took the time to wash your soccer uniform last night after we got back from your Aunt Jane’s birthday party, thank you very much. And I had a cold shower this morning just so it would be dry!”
What kind of eight year old boy cares about wearing a dirty soccer uniform anyway?
After all this I was quite proud of myself that we were actually getting in the car early enough to drop Natalie off at her friend’s house before the game , AND stop at the library to return the movies that were due the next day, when I discovered I was missing something……..Arthur.
Where the hell was Arthur?
Henry and Sam thought maybe in the ravine behind our house. Nope. Our neighbor thought maybe he and his son were together in the ravine down the block. Nope. Maybe the basement? Nope. Maybe the new neighbor’s yard? (after all they do have Battter, Batter Baseball) Nope.
The two hooligans were finally located, after much yelling up and down the block, in the backyard of another neighbor, who weren’t even home at the time.
Evidently when Arthur is told we are leaving in five minutes he takes that to mean it is time to go play in the neighbors sand box.
“Well, I didn’t know how long five minutes was, Mom, sometimes it can seem pretty long,” he told me, completely unfazed by the now apoplectic brother and mother who are crazy people when it comes to being prompt.
From now on I will be more specific with my instructions when I give the five minute warning.
“Don’t leave this property!” should suffice.
We were on track to be only a few minutes late until I missed the street for Natalie’s friend’s house due to construction. It appears that when there is construction in this town they remove any and all identifying street signs and just make people guess where they are amidst the rubble, orange cones and yellow construction tape.
After realizing I had gone too far I totally freaked Henry out by pulling a U-turn.
“Mom, why did you just turn around in the middle of the street?” (It was completely legal I assure you)
At this point I was taking deep breaths and doing self talk, trying to remind myself this is just a soccer game after all, it isn’t as if I was going to be late for brain surgery. My finger drumming on the steering wheel gave away my attempt at a calm demeanor.
I slowed down the car in the middle of the construction site to let Natalie jump out of the car and pulled another U-turn (again, perfectly legal) to high tail it back to the soccer field.
At this point Henry was lecturing Arthur about the importance of being timely and if he would just listen when mom said it was time to go then mom wouldn’t have to be driving illegally and probably get arrested.
“Do you want Mom to be arrested, Arthur?” (I am telling you those U-turns were SO legal!)
We made it to the soccer game just as the game was starting. (they lost horribly, probably because their "star" goalie was all discombobulated by the late arrival)
We got back home and I got on the road, where I had four hours in a car by myself to think about all the antics of the day. (never a good thing)
Driving by some rocky cliffs surrounded by bushy green trees I was reminded of living in Oregon and Bob and I driving through the Columbia River Gorge for the first time. I had a pang of longing for those early years when Bob and I had all that freedom and adventure, our calender was not set to soccer games and other peoples social lives.
On occasion, I even miss the days when Bob was dying and the days and months after he died.
I miss the clarity that grief affords you, your priorities are so clear; there is no time for petty grievances when you are dealing with the biggest grievance of them all.
Annoying siblings, cold showers, dirty soccer uniforms, running late?
Who cares? My husband just died.
Soon after Bob died I began what I called a success journal. Every night after the boys were asleep I sat down and wrote a list of all the events I considered a success that day. The first few entries were rather slim, consisting of the bare minimum of existence, the boys were alive and safe in their beds and I had fed them.
We are all so busy, rushing off to somewhere to accomplish something.
What does it all boil down to at the end of the day?
Are we fed and safe in our beds? The rest is just gravy.
Thanks for checking in-
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I want to tell you a story.
One day, some time after Bob died and before I met Mike, I was walking through the hallway of the assisted living where I worked, pushing the wheelchair of one of our participants of the day center to her beauty shop appointment. There was a spry elderly lady in a blue cardigan sweater opening the door to her apartment. I noticed she had a hyphenated name above her door.
I asked her about this because it is unusual for someone of that generation to have a hyphenated name.
"I had two husbands and I loved them both," was her answer, a broad open smile on her face.
I started crying right there in the middle of the hallway with my hands gripping the wheelchair for balance.
I knew that was what I wanted my story to be.
When people ask me how I can love Mike and still love Bob I always think of that woman and her broad smile. It is not a competition, the heart's limits are boundless.
Thanks for checking in-
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Albert Einstein was one of Bob's heroes.
We have an enormous poster of the man hanging in our basement. His grey wiry hair, bushy mustache, and intense eyes staring out at us.
"Imagination is more important than knowledge" is the quote at the bottom of the poster. Bob hung the poster in his bicycle workshop for inspiration. After my "Momentum" piece Mike found another quote from Einstein.
"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."
Coincidence? I think not.
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Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Bob had just told me the news as we walked back home from dropping Henry off at day care. The early spring air felt cool and moist and smelled like earth freshly turned.
“Wait, when did you find out? How long have you known?” I inquired, suddenly suspicious.
“Yesterday,” he stated.
“You knew this yesterday!?” I couldn’t believe it.
For Bob, lymphoma had not been the news he was hoping for. It wasn’t good news for him. Trying to make sense of the information himself, he had been trying to spare me the bad news. Bob had still entertained benign as an option. It had still been an option for him until the tests came back definitive.
Now there was no more speculation, no more possibilities. He stood stranded on the street facing me. He was reluctant to admit the truth. He wasn’t ready to redefine himself. He wanted to reject the label.
“I have lymphoma,” He slowly repeated the statement, looking me straight in the eyes I could hear our breathing echo in my ears.
We stood there on the sidewalk with the word “lymphoma” bobbing and dipping around us. It eventually settled down beside us. I saw him pick it up and step into the word. He pulled it up around him and zipped it up like a snow suit.
My husband had cancer.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Arthur learned to ride a two wheeler the other day. Henry taught him while I watched through the dining room window.
Learning to ride a bike was one of those things that had me in a panic after Bob died. I always imagined he would be the one teaching the boys this important life skill. I had visions of him running passed me on the sidewalk holding the back of the teetering bike and shouting encouraging words with that calm patient tone he had.
Instead, one evening during a block party Henry, newly five, marched past me with a wrench in one hand and his bike in the other.
"The training wheels are coming off," he announced, his blue eyes full of determination.
Moments later he rode passed me on the sidewalk. No teetering, just focused power and freedom on his face.
Arthur has been a bit slower to warm up to the physical part of life and needed some motivating to remove the training wheels. Once off, however, he was out on the sidewalk with his helmet on trying to run and jump on his bike like his neighbor friend had showed him. I quickly assessed the frustration on his face and called out to him to wait until I got some clothes on so I could come run behind him and offer those words of encouragement. (probably not as calm and patient as Bob would have been but my own version of encouragement....something like "Put the peddle to the metal buddy, you have to pick up the pace if you are going to get anywhere" type stuff. That's encouraging right?)
But before I could get through the dining room I heard Henry out on the driveway with Arthur. Had I not seen the two boys out there with my own eyes I would have thought that Bob was back from beyond to fulfill this parenting milestone he had so rudely left me with.
"Now Arthur," Henry explained thoughtfully, "it's all about momentum. Momentum is gravity's enemy."
This information was followed up by a visual presentation of a bike making a turn. As the bike neared the curve he explained that the faster the bike was going the less likely it was to fall over.
Arthur listened and nodded and then took off on his bike very slowly and cautiously. He, of course, fell right over.
"Momentum, Arthur," Henry continued, "just remember, it is all about momentum."
Giving Arthur a swift push the next time he sailed down the driveway and the boys counted the number of peddles together. One, two, three, four.
"OK, Arthur, let's see if you can get to five next time. Always remember.....momentum is gravity's enemy."
I leaned out the window in my robe and cheered as Arthur got to seven peddles the next time. Bob couldn't have done a better job, and now these brothers will always have this memory, when Henry taught Arthur how to ride a bike.
And Henry taught me about the importance of momentum.
When life threatens to pull me down with it's unexpected twists and turns, I will just keep moving. Proceed as best I can. Don't just sit there and look at the lemons, make the lemonade right? Because momentum is gravity's enemy.
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009
“What would I do with them?”
This was the most common question from the conference in Dallas, referring to essential oils and the lotion and bath/body oils that I make and are available on my website.
I use essential oils every day of my life and have for about 12 years, for me it is just a matter of which oils I use and when. So my initial reaction to that question was; “Huh?”
Not very professional I know.
Since this blog is dedicated to living beyond grief, I thought I would tell people how I used essential oils throughout Bob’s illness and after his death to help me get through each day with a little beauty and style.
Hopefully this will shed some light on why I want to spread the good news about essential oils to the masses.
I will start with the morning….in the shower I used shampoo and conditioner that I had scented with the essential oils of rosemary and lemon. (I bought unscented shampoo, soap and conditioner and put drops of essential oils in them that I purchased from an essential oil supplier in Oregon) I chose rosemary oil because it stimulates ones mental capacity and lemon for its clean, refreshing scent.
After the shower I used body oil scented with bergamot, rose, orange and sandalwood. (Jojoba oil is my carrier oil of choice due to its similar chemical structure to our own skins oily secretions, giving it excellent moisturizing and emulsifying properties. It will not clog pores and is fabulous for blemished skin. Jojoba also happens to be one of the most expensive of the carrier oils. Others include almond, olive or grape seed) I chose bergamot for its mood elevating qualities, orange for its soothing and refreshing scent, rose because of its antidepressant and comforting properties and sandalwood for grounding.
Throughout treatment and mostly during the stem cell transplant in Nebraska I had Bob gargle with tea tree oil to decrease his chances of mouth sores and infection. Tea tree is antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory. I put drops of lavender and marjoram on cotton balls and stuck them in our pillow cases for their assistance with relaxation and sleep; both oils can calm an agitated mind.
And one crazy afternoon I massaged oil infused with cypress and lavender to assist Henry after he twisted his foot in one of those hideous play areas in malls that have a room filled with plastic primary colored balls that the kids jump in and climb through. I wanted birch oil for its anti-inflammatory and cell rejuvenating qualities but cypress was the closest I could get in Omaha on short notice. I do believe that the intention with which the oils are used can assist in their healing, which is why some oils can have stimulating and relaxing properties at the same time.
At the very end I massaged Bob’s feet with peppermint oil, gliding my warm hand over his slender arch I was foolishly proud of his smooth skin. The fresh minty aroma cleared the air in that dark living room; it lifted my spirits and cleared my mind.
After Bob died I put bergamot in every soap dispenser in the house so every time I washed my hands I got a shot of it's refreshing and uplifting scent. I boiled water on the stove and dropped lavender in the steamy water when I was selling the house, giving it a relaxing and calm feel. On anniversary dates or particularly bad days I put rosemary in the steamy water. The penetrating scent was stimulating and has signified remembrance for centuries; it can also help combat depression.
I don't mean to bore people, I just wanted to give folks an idea of how the oils can be used in everyday life and can be tailored for a person's specific needs at the time. The oils I have mentioned are just a small sampling of what are available, each have their own specific chemical compounds that assist the body and mind in a myriad of ways.
Professionals could use my blend in their office, have a jar of the lotion next to the tissues or place some in the bathroom next to the sink. The oils in my Embrace blend are selected specifically for their benefits for common symptoms of grief; insomnia, melancholy, headaches, lack of appetite, anxiety. The blend has restorative and comforting properties that will last after the client has left the building.
Friends and family of people newly bereaved can purchase Embrace body oil or lotion as a complement to flowers when a loved one is grieving. Essential oils are a step beyond flowers and the bath oil or lotion will provide strength and warmth to the bereaved long after the last flower has wilted and the final casserole has been eaten.
For more information feel free to visit my website at http://www.ms-dh.com/ or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments.
Thanks for checking in-
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
The next Walk It Out is this Saturday, April 25th, 2009. It is supposed to be beautiful weather!
I just returned from the ADEC (Assoc. of Death Ed. and Counseling) conference in Dallas with lots of information to share about the latest research in death, dying and bereavement if people are interested.
Spring is always such a lovely time of the year, with signs of new life everywhere. It makes me think of one of my favorite quotes from the book "The Courage to Grieve", by Judy Tatelbaum.
"Spring does not refuse to come because it was preceded by winter."
Something to ponder for our walk.
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Monday, April 13, 2009
I am heading to Dallas, TX on Wednesday April 15th to present on the topic of the use of essential oils with grief and loss. The conference is the Assoc. of Death Ed. and Counseling.
"Healing with Scents" I call it.
I have been a bit crazed getting all of my information consolidated and looking pretty. With the help of many friends and their artistic abilities things are coming together.
The website is up and mostly functional for the conference! The big launching! Woo, hoo! There are still a few kinks to be worked out but people can check it out at www.ms-dh.com and can even make a purchase if they like! Yikes!
It is very exciting! I am bringing Mike as my marketer and Henry and I have been busy making 1 oz. sample jars of lotion to give to people at the conference who might be interested. Henry is quite good with the shrink wrap and loves to use the hair dryer. It is a family business after all.
I will let people know how it all went when we return.
Please be patient with the kinks and let me know of any glaring mistakes.
Thanks for checking in.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
I bought a Boboli.
The pizza crust, the pre-made pizza crust, the pizza crust Bob would have never allowed in the house.
“Why buy pizza crust when you can so easily whip some up?” That’s what he always said.
When Bob plugged in the KitchenAid and got the flour and yeast from the shelf and carefully placed his stop watch on the counter so he could time the fast and slow mixing as well as the rising of the dough, a peaceful feeling would descend upon the kitchen. His face would smooth out in a focused calm and the smell of garlic and fresh pineapple would begin to permeate the house.
Music was usually involved and sometimes whistling or hip swaying would be added for good measure as he peered at the thermometer sticking out of the measuring cup, making sure the water was just the right temperature so as to not kill the yeast. Bob would remove the silky dough from the bowl, place it lovingly on the lightly floured countertop and effortlessly begin to knead it with a flick of the wrist only an experienced baker can produce.
“This is a beauty,” he would say if he were particularly pleased with the dough that day.
The red pepper, Canadian bacon and garlic was my favorite, the crust was crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. As we munched the pizza and I savored the taste sensations exploding on my tongue, Bob would analyze the crust and determine what could be changed to improve it for the next time. A little less water perhaps, some more salt, bake it a few minutes before putting on the toppings, maybe.
It was a Zen like experience for us both.
“Whipping some crust up”, takes on a totally different meaning when I am the one trying to make the pizza crust. It starts with me dragging out the KitchenAid and dusting it off, attempting to find the proper utensil for the mixer and hoping I have yeast that hasn’t expired.
When the timer on the stove goes off I can’t remember if that was for the 30 seconds on high speed or the 2 minutes on medium because I was distracted by Henry trying to cut his finger off while slicing the olives. I am never sure if the water is too warm or too hot for the yeast because I am never sure where the thermometer is (I think the boys were using it the other day when they were playing shop keeper).
When I remove the dough from the bowl it never feels silky and the flour pile on the counter goes flying everywhere after I drop the sticky dough ball onto the counter in disgust. The kitchen still fills with smells of garlic and red pepper but you don’t bite down into light and flakey crust, it is more leaden and soggy.
So, this year for Bob’s annual birthday celebration I bought Boboli. Sitting around the dining room table eating the pizza my sister-in-law looked at me quizzically and asked; “You didn’t really make all of these did you?” I shook my head sheepishly and admitted to the purchase of the offensive item, feeling guilt creep up from the pit of my stomach.
“I was going to say, nothing we made ever tasted this good.”
Ouch, that hurt.
So, we move forward. This year was the 6th birthday we celebrated Bob’s birthday without Bob and the 1st year we had store bought crust, something tells me it won’t be the last.
A wise friend reminded me that the point of the gathering is to celebrate Bob’s birth, the fact that he was alive and we all knew him and we honor him still today for simply being a part of our lives, not to make myself crazy trying to recreate Bob’s pizza crust.
You can tell when food has been prepared by a person who loves to cook and when it has been made by a person who is trying to put food on the table. Like so many things that Bob did I will never be able to recreate his pizza crust (although I do a pretty good job with his pancakes). Another wise person once told me that I can’t spend my energy trying to recreate Bob because then who would be me?
It makes me wonder, if the situation had been reversed, what would Bob be trying to recreate?
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Friday, April 3, 2009
Bob would have been 45 yesterday.
He died just 4 days before his 40th birthday, so he will remain forever 39.
At the time of his death the proximity to his birthday was awful.
We had already ordered a cake so my sister and some friends and I stood around the small layer cake with purple and yellow flowers and smelled the faint lavender and lemon scent slowly fill the room. "Happy Birthday Bob" was joyously written across the top. None of us knew quite what to do as we huddled around the kitchen counter and stared at the cake as if we expected it to tell us what to do next.
Now I think the two dates being so close to each other was a stroke of genious on Bob's part. These important dates can be recognized in one crazy week of emotion. (I also would like to thank Bob for dying in the spring when there are signs of new life everywhere instead of the fall or winter when it is difficult enough to endure the long dark nights and bare trees)
We have established a wonderful ritual to celebrate the day that Bob entered into this world. Henry and Arthur and I get together with Bob's mom and sisters and we make pizza using Bob's recipe and his KitchenAid. Then we set off balloons into the universe. Now that the boys are older they write notes that we attach to the balloons and we watch as they drift off, bringing good wishes to the cosmos.
It is important to honor the day Bob came into this world. Without him I would have never experienced the Pacific Northwest or discovered how much I love camping or eaten red peppers or had Henry and Arthur. Without Bob this world would have been a lesser place.
I am sorry he wasn't here for his 45th birthday. I am sorry the boys and I couldn't sing to him and go on a bike ride with him afterwards. I am sorry he wasn't here to see Henry ski down his first mountain in Colorado or perform in his first talent show.
But I am so grateful he was here and that I had the great luck to meet him and be his friend and wife. I take all Bob was with me and am a better person and parent for it.
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Wednesday, April 1, 2009
March 29th was the 5th anniversary of Bob's death.
I have declared this date to forever be a Two Chai Day.
Having allowed myself one chai per day since starting the habit when Bob and I lived in Portland, I looked at my friend, Mark, dubiously when he reached for my mug to froth me up a second one the morning Bob died. A group of us sat around the dining room table in the early morning light waiting for the undertakers to arrive.
"Irene, I think it's a two chai day," he said to me.
That steaming mug of cinnamon goodness was so comforting in my hands that morning as I tried to explain to the ever curious Henry what "those" men were "doing to daddy".
So every March 29th I treat myself to two chai lattes. It is my small way of honoring the day that Bob's struggle ended. It is also a small, private way to treat myself and honor the struggles I have conquered since that first Two Chai Day.
As my life proceeds and the days and years fill up with activities that don't include Bob it gets harder to honor these moments of my past, but no less important.
Thank you to Mike (my sainted live husband) who understands the importance of these dates both for me and my boys.
Thank you for giving me my Two Chai Day this year.
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Sorry for the late post.
I will be out of town this Sat. March 28th which would normally be the Walk It Out meeting time. The official meeting will be cancelled but I encourage all interested to walk on their own.
Practice some walking meditation, notice all the signs of new life around us at this time of the year.
The regular meeting time, the 4th Sat. of every month, will resume in April. April 25, 2009.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I cried last night.
I was watching a TV show (Private Practice) and I started to cry during a scene with a father showing his new baby to the mom, who was laying on a gurney, recently dead.
Sound a little over the top? It was. But I was apparently moved to tears.
I took it as a good sign.
I used to cry rather easily at movies and TV shows, even commercials. As a child I was a complete wreck after watching "Kramer vs. Kramer", and don't get me started about "Terms of Endearment" or "Beaches".
After Bob died I stopped crying at anything on a screen. None of it compared to my real emotions, nothing could move me to tears, I was all cried out.
So, a TV drama brought me to tears, I think it is so great that I am filled up again.
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009
When we would go hiking, I was the one studying the map at the fork in the trail. Lingering there with my wavy hair sticking out from under my brim hat that I purchased at a Grateful Dead concert years before. Needing to know where we were going and how long it would take to get there, did we have enough food?
Meanwhile, Bob would be gazing with awe and wonder at the banana slug inching its way across the trail, searching for a log or leaf, his own shaggy locks hidden by a colorful hat he had purchased recently at the Portland Saturday Market. No worries about the dwindling light or the lack of food.
“Bob, it is getting dusky. We need to get going if we want to get back to the trailhead before dark,” I would say, a slight edge to my voice.
“Hey Renie, did you see this Douglas fir? Look at this old growth tree, the sword fern growing out of it wouldn’t fit in our kitchen. Amazing,” he would respond, as if there was nothing else at this moment to focus on but this tree.
Glancing up from the map I would see Bob leaning up against the tree with his arms stretched out, as if trying to give the tree a big hug. His arms didn’t even make it half-way around the trunk. Those huge old growth trees were an amazing sight.
Thank goodness I had Bob to remind me to pay attention, to stop the fretting and enjoy the moment.
Together we had the forest and the trees.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Paperwork, it is unending. It seems the more we move towards a paperless society the more paperwork there is.
I took Henry and Arthur to the dentist this morning and I had to fill out a bunch of paperwork. Some of it was legitimate since we changed providers since our last visit and they always want to know about any health changes, but some of it seemed plain silly to me.
What is the name of his/her favorite pet? or What is his/her favorite toy?
I am assuming they want this information in case they have a child who is freaking out in the dentist chair and the staff can casually bring up his/her hamster or his/her tonka truck and attempt to divert the child from the sound of the drill.
This one always stumps me. Every piece of paperwork I do for my boys, whether it is for school or the doctor or an acitivity, the form always asks for the father's name.
It seems like an easy question, they simply want a name. I could write any name down, they wouldn't know. But I could sit and ponder this simple question for hours given the chance.
Should I write Bob's name? If you asked the boys what their father's name was I bet they would say Bob.
Should I write deceased? Even if I wrote deceased the man still had a name.
Should I write down Mike's name? After all, it is HIS insurance we are under, he deserves some credit. I could write "step" in front of the word father just to make it clear for everyone. Who am I trying to make it clear for?
I have the same problem when I do my own paperwork. What do I check for marital status? I am married, yes, but I was widowed. I am no longer a widow but I was widowed, it is still part of my indentity. Should I check both boxes?
Does any of this even matter? What important statistic is this information being gathered for?
These are just a few of the random thoughts that flow through my mind as I sit quietly with the clipboard on my lap. I look around at other people busy with their own paperwork and I wonder what boxes they sit and ponder before they check?
Ethnicity? Age? Marital status? Sex?
Does an X in a box really explain who we are? I am reminded of a skit from the album Free to Be You and Me (for anyone not familiar it came out in the 70s and was the brain child of Marlo Thomas--just ask my brother Mike about my obsession with this album, he probably still has nightmares)
Anyway, one baby says to the other baby as they lay in their bassinet and try to figure out what sex they are; "You can't judge a book by it's cover."
So true, and you definitely can't know a person by an X in a box.
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