The Twins

This past weekend I paid a visit to my son and his family.  They live around five hours away when travelling by car.  Two weeks ago his wife gave birth to twins –  boy and girl.  How his father would have talked up that!  No history of twins on either side of the family.  A completely unplanned pregnancy – especially since they already had three little boys, 6, 4 and almost two years of age.  Now they have 5 little ones.  Such a crazy chaotic life stretches before them!

It was awesome to meet the two newest babies – and they are perfect in every way.  Hard too, since it was the one thing that Kevin would go on about – how after he retired he planned on taking the grandchildren, the boys, there were no girls at that point, and have them come and stay with us for the summer.  He loved those kids and had great plans for them, plans he would never get to see through- so it was hard.  I have six grandchildren now, three of which never met him, that will only hear stories about their larger-than-life granddad.

When Kevin was close to the end, my son’s wife found out she was pregnant with her third child.  I couldn’t tell Kevin about the pregnancy, it would have broken him even more.  It was a hard thing to do, I know my son wanted his father to know.  But I couldn’t tell his dad, a man that family was everything to.  To know he wouldn’t be there for the birth of a child would have caused him so much pain. Right or wrong, I made the decision, Kevin had suffered so much, and he had anguished over everything, I couldn’t add to his burden.

As he got sicker, Kevin would tell me over and over that I got a bum deal when I married him.  How sorry he was that he got sick, for letting me down. He told me that I had to be there for the kids because he wouldn’t be able to.  His family was everything to him, and I like to believe that it still is.  Somewhere, somehow he carries a light to guide us forward.  That when I cradled those little ones on the weekend their grandfather was right there with me.  I believe his love certainly was.

What a crazy thing emotion is, that so much joy and so much sorrow can be in one’s heart at the same time.  But that’s how it was when I heard about the babies, so happy and so sad at the same time.  I say this often, because it’s true, I miss you so much Kevin.

 

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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.

A New Day

Things have changed at my house; good things fortunately.  It’s been 17 months since Kevin died and since then I had elected to stay in the house and live by myself.  Whether that was the right thing to do, or perhaps it wasn’t the best thing to do, doesn’t really matter.  It was a choice I made and it brought me to this point.

At this point, things have now changed.  My house is full of energy and life again.  My daughter, her fiancé and their 18 month old have now moved in.  Actually, I suggested it.  The timing was right.  The real estate market here has gone silly, with prices that were way beyond what a house should sell for.  So, I thought, why not see if they could sell their house and capitalize on the market.  No harm really.  They could afford their house, it was a bit small, but a good house, but they could also see if there was interest in buying it.  If they could make a good profit on it, why not.  They could move in with me until the market corrects, and then the money they make will go a bit farther.  A good plan I thought, it just depended on whether the house sold or not.

It sold alright, in one day.   Craziness!  They had a viewing before it even hit the market.  Only three weeks to closing date, which, with a small child, is quite the push.  They managed though and now are residents of the family homestead.  There will be some growing pains as we get used to each other, but that’s to be expected.  There will be some adjustments for me, yikes, old girl that I am, I forgot what it is like to have a toddler around.  Baby goes to bed and we whisper, no matter what room we are speaking in, we whisper.  We could be in the garage and still speak in hushed voice, Lord knows we don’t want to wake the little man child up.

It’s not forever, it’s just for now.  I think a year ago I wasn’t ready.  I needed to face my loneliness as well as my needs.  To do some hard thinking, preferable to avoid, but necessary on a multitude of levels.  And writing, wow I have written out my thoughts throughout the months that have passed.  As I got the house ready to welcome the kids,  I found steno pads, index cards, notepads; any blank writing sheets, I filled them up.  I don’t recall writing half of them, but I did date and number them all.  There are whole weeks of time that I know better than to look at, I wasn’t in a good place.  Likely it will be years before I revisit those thoughts.

I am glad to have some activity back in the house.  Glad to hear voices other than my own and those on the darn television.  Happy to have people to just coexist with, especially ones I love.  So I will enjoy it for now.  Hopefully it will work out fine for the duration, but what will be will be.  When the time is right they will move into their own home again, which they need to do and are already planning.  I think though of how hard Kevin tried to get them to move in with me as he got sicker and sicker.  I wouldn’t hear of it, I didn’t want them to see me at my lowest, hell, I didn’t want to even be in my own skin then.  Kevin was so worried about me and was still trying to take care of me even after he was gone.  Funny how it turned out.  He would be pleased.

 

Wish You Were Here

The tension continues to build in me.  I feel it pulling tight across my shoulders and down my back.  It doesn’t matter how many stretches I do, I can’t release the band between my shoulders or the ache in the small of my back.  I know what it is and can’t do anything about it.  As the week progresses, I suspect the constriction in my chest and the sorrow in my thoughts will intensify.

My youngest son is home, he arrived home a few days ago.  His long-time girlfriend arrives here on Tuesday.  On Wednesday my eldest son and his family will make the journey here.  My daughter and her family live nearby as does my sister-in-law.  So, in a few a days the core of this family will be together.  What’s left of the circle will be unbroken as, for a brief time, the family unit will gather to remember Kevin, my late husband, on what would have been his 62nd birthday.

I lay in bed thinking and crying over what is ahead, wondering ‘what would Kevin really want this day to be about?’  The fun and celebration just simply can’t, won’t happen this year.  So, if the circumstances don’t lend themselves to a party, then how should THE DAY be recognized?  To not have a strategy or game plan going in will continue to add to the tension which clouds my mind and dominates my thoughts.

So for his birthday what do we do?  Kevin loved his family and friends – no doubt, that’s what he would want the day to be about – family and friends.  He would want to be remembered in peace and love.  For us left behind it will be more than that, it will include memories of laughter and craziness and outrageous comments that begged debate.   It will be a day without a man who was larger than life, whose personality was boundless and whose loss is immeasurable.  We miss you Kevin and love you and wish you were here.

The Grief Group

It’s now almost five months since my husband, Kevin, died.  I’ve accomplished my return to work and have tried to create a new normal in my life, both things which were extremely hard to do.  Since his death I haven’t had a lot of down time as I feel there is a collective conspiracy between my family and friends to make sure that they keep me “busy”.  This weekend was one of the first ones that I’ve had almost all to myself (minus a little sister time yesterday morning).  It’s allowed me some time to think.

Life is still rocky and I definitely have my moments.  One of the key pieces to me getting back to work was I needed to have my own space, an office with a door – not a cubicle.  Moments of sorrow hit out of the blue and there’s no stopping the tears.  It is awkward for some coworkers, and for others, who have suffered a loss like me, it’s too painful a reminder.  Just this week past I was talking to a woman I work with and the tears were trickling down her cheeks – we were talking about work, not about life and death.  Finally I asked her what was up and she told me that it would be 15 years the next day since her husband had died. So, for a few minutes, we talked about her and her deceased husband.  It was the right thing to do, she needed it; obviously the pain is carried in your heart forever.  However, tears are contagious, and after that I went to my little office and sobbed away.

I decided to pick up the phone and call the funeral home that had held Kevin’s service.  They routinely run grief counselling sessions.  Right after Kevin had died the doctor had talked to me about these sessions.  She encouraged me to wait at least four to six months before I joined.  ‘There’s a process you need to work your way through’, she’d said, ‘you’ll know when the time is right.’  Shortly after Kevin’s funeral service I had spoken to the funeral director who had handled Kevin’s arrangements; she’d said the same thing, but had qualified it by adding, ‘unless you really need it sooner.’  So I’ve waited, and now at almost five months down the road, I called.  The next session will start the end of September and I plan to be in it.  In the interim I have received some copies of a publication called AfterLoss distributed as part of the AfterLoss Grief Recovery Program.  It’s a generic, one-size-fits-all support that provides some generalizations about what to expect and how to cope; generic because everyone is so different in what they experience.

In years gone by I would have anticipated that the grief group would be dominated by older individuals, people in their 70s and 80s, or by adults grieving the loss of their aged parent, but now I am not so sure.  Lately it seems that in my little community death has been unsparing, from the very young to the very old and everything in between.  Needless to say, the service is offered by the funeral home to anyone who has had the need for their services, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will use it.  Death, although such a public event, is an intensely private experience.  It strips away our pretensions, erases our security, depletes our energy levels and physically hurts our hearts and minds.  There are some individuals too private to ever air their grief in public.

For me, Kev’s death meant a full stop. I was transfixed, life was still coming at me but I couldn’t fire up the neurons necessary to get out of the way.  The return to functionality has been slow despite my own relative good health.  So was my response the same as most others?  This is one of the things I hope to understand better through the grief group.  I don’t anticipate it will be easy sharing a physical space with a bunch of strangers all self-absorbed in their own losses; a space clearly, if invisibly, labelled ‘heartache’.  I wonder if any of them, like me, have tried to get some answers or insights through the books available on death and dying.  I wonder how the session counsellor will manage the session.  I wonder if I will even benefit from it.  I don’t know and won’t know unless I put myself out there.