Moving On, Literally

Hello? Remember me?

If not, it’s my own fault. I’m sorry for abandoning you. It was holiday time, I was swamped at work.

Then, on December 19, I closed on my new townhouse.

Now, I’m excited about this townhouse thing. I won’t have to do *any* maintenance on the outside of my new home. I have always loved outdoor work but our family home has half an acre and lots of upgrades, such as a hot tub and generator, miles of gutters, a stone walkway, extensive gardens, and a back yard in need of sprucing up. I’m exhausted. In fact, I’ve started to feel resentment toward this house I swore I’d never leave.

We bought this house in 1994. Think back. In 1994, the hottest thing in real estate was a transitional 2-story in a brand-new planned neighborhood with a pool and lots of cul-de-sacs where kids could play basketball and street hockey without fear of being mowed down by motorists.

Our house was not that.

We got a great price on a house that wasn’t the bomb at the time. People looked sideways at us, except for those prescient enough to give us a wink and a nod.

Today, my house is the hottest thing going. A true-blue mid-century mod by a locally noted architect. I am sick to leave it. I might have to stalk whomever buys it to make sure they appreciate it and don’t do any rude renos. Confession: I did a couple of rude renos before I understood. Is it possible for me to write into the contract that all modifications must be run by me first? Definitely want to say that I have first dibs on the FireHood engine-red fireplace, should they want to remove it. But why would they?

Anyway, the new place was built in 1980. Nothing much was remarkable about 1980 except that I graduated from high school that year. Architecture wasn’t really a thing then, unless you were Jon Condoret. But I digress.

I have had to strip 1980 wallpaper and 2010 wallpaper. I need to replace sliding glass doors. The bathrooms are tiny. On the good side, the kitchen needs a total reno, and, amazingly, I work at a kitchen place! I sit at work with the most amazing woman who has helped me with so many decisions and is designing my new kitchen.

Maybe I shouldn’t put this much money into this home. But I need to not move into a hovel. I need it to be a little jewel box because I have lost so much, and now I am losing my treasured home, a home that is a little museum piece, a little piece of architectural art. It is exactly all I ever wanted and I am losing it, just another thing in a long line of loss.

So let me have my moment. Let me overdo. I’ll keep you posted.

Another Kind of Birthday

When I opened Facebook tonight, I saw that it’s the birthday of a man I went to high school with, one of the first of my peers, in adulthood, to die from cancer–way, way, way too young. So I’m thinking about his wife tonight. I never met her, but if you’re from my hometown you probably know who I’m talking about. Thinking of her prompted me to share this post from one of my favorite writers about grief, Megan Devine.

http://www.refugeingrief.com/birthdaysafterdeath/

 

You were here. I loved you. I love you still.
REFUGEINGRIEF.COM

Hubris

Hubris and recreation will get you every time.
Over the weekend I decided to try to enjoy myself rather than doing chores.
On Sunday I blew off my friend Kirsten’s widow group to go to a local arts festival. I’d been doing pretty well and was thinking I didn’t really have anything to give to the group and I’d already planned to go to the festival so the decision seemed reasonable. It’s been four years, after all. “Shouldn’t you be moving on?,” they say (they wish).
Pfft.
As you may know, I’m about four months into the first regular job I’ve had since 1989. I love it. However, the part I never liked about working has reared its head, and I am unsettled regarding my closest colleague at work. Not my doing or hers, but she’s hurt and I’m implicated though innocent. I don’t navigate office politics well which is one reason I refused to work until I had to. I’m quite upset about this.
Was hoping to have a little beach escape this weekend, and know that the only way this will happen is if I do a little prep every day. Today’s job was to replace the seats that had been removed from my hauling vehicle when the kids moved back to school. Two of my three kids (one kid is borrowed) had used that car regularly over the summer and it was a sty. Since the seats had remained on the garage floor for so long, my old cat peed on them like she pees on everything. I found a couple of thongs on one of the seats, a beer-bottle cap and a contaminated blue-ice thing under my seat. I’m just trying not to be mad but wondering why I’ve let people borrow my stuff without respecting it. I didn’t insist. Because I was exhausted. Too exhausted to examine, too exhausted to argue.
Finally, after exuding two liters of sweat and suffering enough mosquito bites to ensure a raging case of Zika, I got the seats installed, vacuumed, and treated with urine cleaner, the car vacuumed though not cleaned of soda drips, blew 6 months’ worth of debris out of the garage, and got the car back in the garage with the windows down so hopefully the urine cleaner will do its job. Honestly that is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m too tired to go on.
The point of all this complaining is that I don’t think there will ever be a time when I am not overwhelmed because I have to do this job all alone. I do realize I am not the lone ranger here. I just write this to you because you might be wondering what others are going through.
And finally, I have to say, if I have habits you don’t like, just remember that this is why. I am just trying to cope.

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Medusa-Headed Harpy

Grief is multi-faceted, a snarled snake-headed harpy. Just when you think you’re doing ok and the waters are steady, she snarls at you from behind her doom-twisted rock with its deep, watery caves and lashing waves. I’d like to call her a nasty name.

You may have noticed that I avoided Facebook last week. I was practicing avoidance and it was very effective. The theory was that if I didn’t think about the anniversary of Adam’s death then all the feelings that came with it were less likely to take over and smash me under the harpy waves.

But she’ll find a way. You may think I’m being melodramatic when discovering that what brought me down today was a simple email from my financial advisor. I’d sent her spending reports. “When can we talk about this?,” she replied.

In the midst of the heartache and shock of the last four years, at least I have been stable financially. Our advisor and Adam planned well for an event that was never supposed to happen. I was relieved beyond measure not have to make any changes on that front when so much else was shifting.

Much as society likes to pretend death doesn’t happen, leaving us unprepared when it inevitably does, we don’t talk about our financial lives; doing so is coarse and embarrassing.

Since I’ve spoken unabashedly about death on this page, I might as well dive in to the financial realities of a loved one’s death.

No, I don’t want to and that’s probably a big part of the problem. My advisor has been asking me for spending reports for a good four years, but it’s finally come down to brass tacks. I produced it. I sent it. And she wants to talk. Well of course she does.

I’ve continued to live as I always did. In fact, I’ve had to take on lots of expenses to cover the contributions Adam made to our household. I’ve had to spend a lot on the deferred home maintenance that was a surprise to me and continues to cause issues. And I’ve continued to pay for life’s small luxuries that make things bearable and make me feel like a human being. And (and this is a big one), keep me in touch with my friends.

“What?,” you say. Well think about it. Our lifestyles are largely based on our incomes, our friends group, our interests. At my stage of life, for most of my married friends, and most of them are married, incomes are at their height and children are graduating from school and going out on their own, freeing up even more income. Social lives consist of expensive experiences, requiring lovely wardrobes, maybe travel, restaurants and bars, all sorts of stuff.

I know I sound like a big whiner. It’s not like I’m going to be out on my tush, in the swirling ugly waters of the snaky-headed harpy.

But I have difficult decisions ahead. I don’t want to lose my home. I don’t want to give up certain of my regular experiences that make me feel like a human being.

It’s time for deep soul-searching about what is important to me in this physical life–which is house and home and that includes the Taj. I can’t leave my house, but neither can I watch it fall to ruin. I just don’t know how to prioritize.

Please bear with me, especially if you are early in your grief. This is but a stage, much like teething, and I’ll get through it. But right now I could use an ice pack.

Ghosts

It’s coming. Facebook has been quite reliable about reminding me on my personal page that this week is bringing memories I’d rather not revisit. A particularly evil “memory” from them began with me writing that Adam was in the last days of his life. Somehow this doesn’t seem consistent with what Facebook is after, but what do I know?
What I do know is that after having shut down my computer for the night, I woke the old woman because I had something to tell you all. If the world is nice to me, I’ll remember it long enough to share it with you here.
Honestly it’s a couple of things.
I try to avoid references to spirituality and the possibility of afterlife, because people believe different things and I really don’t want to alienate anyone. Tonight I’ve decided that I need to reference these things and I hope I don’t lose anyone.
Tuesday was my kids’ 20th birthday. It was a cruel, cruel thing, honestly beyond description, that their 16th birthday was “celebrated” in Adam’s hospice room, and half-hearted activities took place at home. Our friend Janet took everyone to the mall and Build-a-Bear, but that wasn’t a boy thing so Will was blowing in the wind.
That whole thing just stunk. I don’t know how I would recover from a significant birthday happening while my father was dying. The kids don’t seem so enthusiastic about celebrating the day. That could be just because they’re getting older and it’s not that important, or it could be because they don’t want those memories. It’s anyone’s guess and maybe they don’t even know.
While they were opening gifts Tuesday evening, a couple of small picture frames on the piano fell over without having been disturbed. Behind them was a picture of Adam made on his last Christmas day. It was startling to say the least. Mostly I felt bad for not having recognized him while we were having their celebration. The reassurance that he is still around with us, all the time, was both startling and reassuring. I questioned my interpretation of these falling frames, but honestly there was no other explanation.
Can’t remember whom I quoted under a picture of Adam recently, but he hypothesized that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Agreed.
As this coming week develops, I don’t know how I’ll feel. Maybe I’ll be immersed in activity in order to blunt my feelings. Maybe I’ll have myself perfectly together on Thursday, a day I’ve taken off from work just in case I fall apart. There’s no way of knowing. Endruing our wedding anniversary on July 8 took all the strength I had. That was a surprise. So who knows what’s upcoming.
He’s here and I feel his presence and his love, which sustains me during really awful times. That may sound crazy, but I believe it and I’ve not been looking for it. I’m really wondering about ” ’til death do us part.”
Sorry my writing isn’t up to par tonight. It’s late and I’m tired but I wanted to get some thoughts down before tomorrow drowned them out.

Ritual Grieving

Don’t know about you, but I hear and read a lot about creating rituals to recognize important days. I’ve never embraced this idea because my concept of a ritual felt forced and artificial.
As I’ve said, today would have been my 27th wedding anniversary. Despite having a big red flag on my calendar, supported by email and text reminders, it still kind of snuck up on me. Guess I was wishing it away.
As I opened my jewelry box this morning, there they were–my wedding rings, sitting stoically beside Adam’s wedding band and his high school class ring. I don’t wear them for many reasons which are irrelevant today. Suffice it to say that my gaze fell on them and I knew that wearing them once again, if just for today, would be my ritual.
I put them on and felt a return to myself. Emotional support, recognition of the fact that I was married to a wonderful man who gave me these lovely rings, thoughts of him as I glanced at them during the day.
Wearing those rings will be my ritual. I don’t have to bury stones or burn scraps of paper bearing words of despair and regret. I don’t have to hike the paths Adam once loved or make his favorite meal. Wearing the rings Adam gave me is the way I will feel comfortable remembering him.
I’ve decided to wear them the entire month of July, a month chock full of good and bad times, times of growth and times of loss, joy and devastation.
I wanted to share this decision with you in case you, too, are struggling to find a meaningful way to mark particular anniversaries. What I discovered today is that a ritual doesn’t have to be lengthy, public, time-consuming, something that makes you feel awkward or that you simply don’t want to do. For me, simply wearing my husband’s rings again reminds me of his presence, his life, his love, and the many other gifts he gave to me, large and small, material and spiritual, during our all-too-brief time together.
Happy 27th, my love.