Valentine’s Day

Another heavily promoted day to share with those you love.   Coming out of Christmas and heading into Valentine’s, it just keeps the wound open.

For the three of four years before he got sick, Kevin and I would celebrate Valentine’s Day.  We would do it in style, with another couple we were friends with, actually it was a teacher he taught with.  The males would coordinate the meal, serve us and always there was a ridiculously expensive bottle of wine that went with the meal.  That was Kev’s contribution, anything less than $40 a bottle was ‘swill’, and it wasn’t unusual to have a bottle that cost a whole bunch more.  It was always a fun evening, especially if Kevin had a drink, he was not a drinker at all and so things could get pretty outrageous if he had a glass or two. These are the memories I have of Valentine’s Day.

Fast forward to the present, and all around me people are planning their special evening.  At work there is a fundraiser for the United Way, buy a bouquet and support the Way.  All I can think of is the reality that my husband isn’t here to buy me flowers anymore.  Not that he did often, he had a thing about buying something dead (flowers) and giving it as a gift.  Early on in our marriage he’d tell me that he could hear the flowers scream in pain as they were being picked.  Still, occasionally he would get me some.  He’s the only one I ever wanted them from.  No one else.

That’s what Valentine’s Day does for me, reminds me of sadness.  A dull throbbing sadness now, still just as deep, just not as sharp.  I don’t think I’m the only one.  I see people all around me who are on their own, with no one to make their day ‘special’.  I doubt that they get a warm fuzzy feeling about the day.  I suspect it wouldn’t be so bad if big box store marketing campaigns hadn’t made it into such a pressure to celebrate.  It’s really not fair on a multitude of levels, but I never ever thought about it until I was one of have-nots watching from the outside.

Don’t take advice from just anyone

It fascinates me how many people offer advice on things they know nothing about.  This is just a general observation – it’s not a poke or jab at my family and friends, Lord knows they know me too well when it comes to stuff like this.  This is about people in general. It’s a reflection on that line that everyone hears when they have something monumental happen in their life  —  ‘I know what you are going through.’  It’s a statement that is usually followed by advice of some sort.

I am not averse to advice, it is part of everyday conversation, and in normal circumstances it is taken with a pinch of salt. After something monumental, it’s not normal circumstances, and frankly, in my case, I wanted it all to just go away. All the decisions and problems and the mess I called life. I didn’t want advice – I wanted a miracle.

Truly I don’t think anyone ever really knows what someone else is going through.  So the advice, although well meaning, can be quite frustrating for a variety of reasons – you’re not ready to “move on,” you don’t have the capacity to “get back out there.”  You finding yourself feeling like a failure because you figure the advice was good, and that’s what other people do, so why-can’t-I? sort of thing.

I work in a place where, as of late, a fair number of my co-workers are experiencing  the death of a spouse.  More than once I have been approached by people I know asking if I could meet someone that I don’t know but who works somewhere in the building (and it’s a big building), who like me, is dealing with loss.  I will never say no, of course I will meet them if that’s what they want, but I also am unlikely to offer any advice to those I meet.  How can I?  I have no idea of their circumstances, what sorrows they carry secretly, what was said, or what was left unsaid.

What I will do is just listen, and maybe cry with them, hopefully find something to talk about.  I will give them the type of support I valued throughout my grieving process.  Family and friends carried me for the first while, and I can’t qualify that by saying ‘little while’ because it wasn’t.  They didn’t advise me, they assisted me, and they still do.  And, when I was ready, it was the confidence of that support that helped me make my own decisions based on my own circumstances.

This is my learning:  we have to find our own way, but it’s okay to take a hand to help you on your way.  And if you are really floundering, see a professional.

The Constant Struggle

I was driving home tonight after a game of cards with my sister-in-law.  It was late and the roads were empty.  I had the radio on to keep me company and a commentary came on called “push and pull.”  Basically it was all about how life was either one motion or the other.  As situations and events occur in our lives we are either pushed into them or pulled into them.

It spoke about the willingness or reluctance of our individual participation.  The monologue was really about striving more to have it be the ‘pull’ than the ‘push’ that influences what we do.  The word ‘pull’ was interpreted more as an attraction or desire drawing us in, versus the ‘push’ which meant resistance, disengagement, lack of interest. The positive and the negative.

It really resonated with me, because over the last couple of years, for the most part, life has been a ‘push’ for me.  I consciously have to battle with myself to make the effort to participate.  With Kevin’s death, I found I had no desire to do much of anything, after all for 30+ years he had been my world.  After he died pretty much everything was a ‘push’ for me.  It’s only lately that I have begun to feel a ‘pull’ with respect to any activities to occupy my time.  I feel the urge to write again – and for me that’s a tremendous relief.

Such a simplistic representation of life, and it describes my challenges completely.  To be ‘pulled’ or to be ‘pushed.’  My gratification and satisfaction levels raise exponentially when it’s the ‘pull’ that is the source of my motivation, so I guess I need to focus more on finding things that I am ‘pulled’ toward.

I’m Okay You Know

Sometimes after I write a post I figure that people think I am sad, depressed or down.  I’m not really.  I am actually pretty far past that.  I have my days, days where I would have to say I am feeling lost and alone, but overall I feel that I have adjusted to my new world order.  And I think that, in general, everyone has those types of days.  I’m not special.  Life for all of us is complicated.

I believe that for the balance of my life I will feel a foreboding going into the winter months, because so many losses are condensed into that timeframe, because my anniversary and Kevin’s death are just five days apart.  How could I not feel blue about that? But I believe that I am justified in my feelings and I accept them.

I also feel comfortable in being a little withdrawn during this time.  In recognizing the hole in my life that developed when Kevin died.  It exists and it is my reality, and to pretend that everything is the same as ever isn’t honest, because it’s not the same.  I live in an altered state, and that’s okay, because I am living, breathing and moving forward in life.  It’s my choice as to how I will grieve for the things that I have lost, so if I do it quietly, so be it.  It’s a matter of getting by, just getting by. And I am.

 

February

We move into a month that has mixed emotions for me.  I think of the birth of my grandson, my daughter’s little boy, one month before my husband’s death.  I think of the shocking news we received on the same day as baby was being born.  While Lennox was arriving one of my husband’s good friends was dying, in the same hospital on the same day.  Tom, died suddenly of a heart attack that had been giving off warning signs for days.

The warning signs had been mistaken for heartburn.  We all hear about the similarities between the two, yet sadly can’t recognize the symptoms when they present themselves. Tom died and Kevin was devastated.  He resolved to do what he could for Tom’s widow and helped with the musical arrangements.  He also wanted to go to visitation.  And he did.  Barely able to walk, a friend of his phoned ahead to the funeral home and they held everyone aside as we arrived.  Kevin walked with a walker, no wheelchair for him that night.  He consoled Tom’s widow and left every single person, and there were plenty, absolutely dumbfounded that he had attended.  He was just that kind of a guy.  You give a 100 percent to those you love.  He loved his friends.

Three weeks after Tom’s funeral, and just a few days before Kevin died, Tom’s widow stopped by.  She brought flowers.  A quick hug and a word of thanks, and a sad smile as she told me privately, as she got ready to head back home, that there were some big black birds hanging around my house.  She couldn’t help but think that one of them was her Tom. ‘He had no sense of direction, so he’s probably hanging around waiting for Kevin to help him on his way.’  Funny if anyone else had of said something like that I would have been upset, but with her I wasn’t.  You see, I needed those small comforts, like the thought that there was someone Kev could hang out with as soon as he left me, and Tom was a pretty great guy.  So I laughed with her and told her I hoped Tom wasn’t in a hurry because Kevin, even after he died, was likely to want to stop and check out everything on the other side as he passed along the way. He always did.

So February is a month with mixed memories for me.  The highs and the lows of being alive.  I look at my grandson and think how lucky we were that he arrived in time to be held by his granddad. Although he won’t remember it, I do, my daughter does.   I just wish that there had of been more – more time to make memories, more days to share, more opportunities to talk and more importantly to listen.  I miss him.