It’s a journey

Life goes on.  A week ago I was worrying about my sister-in-law.  Another surgery in the books, and not an easy one.  A full five hour operation, so a lot of anesthesia that can make for a lousy recovery.  She came through it okay, but nothing is ever easy for her.  By day two there were some issues and worries, but here we are just over a week later and she’s home and on the mend.

It was tough walking into the hospital again.  The last time I was there I was with Kevin, my Kevin.  It didn’t end so good for him.  Fortunately, the outcome was better this time.   Still, it was an emotionally draining seven or eight days riddled by recollections of Kevin and worries about June.   And so the memories are all back up and fresh in my mind.  This has been a week of tears.  A week where I have said his name so many times, hoping for a sign, a message, anything.  I miss him.

It doesn’t help that there is also emotion and sadness in my workplace as one of my co-workers goes into her final decline.  Not someone I worked with, but a person I knew of and admired for her spirit and determination.  Her immediate team will be pierced by loss, and that loss is imminent.  I recognize that this news has destabilized me, I feel so deeply for the family she will leave behind, even though I have never met them.  My loss is old, their’s will be new.  It has nothing to do with me, and yet it has the power to make my heart ache.

Kevin used to say he was a man of extreme highs and extreme lows, and he was.  But really isn’t that what life is, a series of highs and lows.  Sometimes it feels like the waves will pull you down and drown you and other times you just float on the surface and bask in the sun.  We are all at different points and that’s all it is.

 

 

One foot in the present, one foot in the past

I think about the challenge it is to have a long term relationship end.  In my case it was my husband’s death, for others it may be divorce.  But loss is loss, and who’s to say how it should be, what one should feel, how one will cope. The thing is managing the memories.  Memories that weave through families: in children, in places, in events.  They are invisible, those ties, strands of emotion that can tangle you up before you know it.

I was worried after Kevin died that I would forget.  Forget the times we shared, the life we led, his voice, his laugh, his presence.  I realize now that I will never forget.  The ties are just too strong.  I’ve mentioned before that I hear him in my head, and I do.  Sometimes not loud enough, sometimes too loud.  Just like in life.  Last night I had a dream and I woke up knowing he had told me to do something.  But I couldn’t remember what it was he told me to do. If it was important then I suspect that he’ll be back to remind me tonight. I’d  better put paper and pen beside the bed because I don’t want to piss him off by forgetting again!  (It’s humour folks, I’m not losing it.)

These next couple of weeks will be tough ones.  Our anniversary on the 24th, his death on the 29th.  I find myself flashing back and forth between the present and the past.  Unavoidably.  I never would have ever thought he would have been my past, that wasn’t the deal, and yet now he is.  But he is still my future, because life with him made me who I am, because I will always know how he thought and what he felt.  Because the lives he and I created together continue to grow, more grandbabies – twins.  Because he would have loved that.  So I send you my love Kevin, and I say: ‘How I wish, how I wish you were here….’

February and March – I need a strategy

I recognize that, quite likely for the rest of my life, I will need a strategy to get through these two months.

Last year, February of 2016, I went off for a cruise with my sister and, despite my reservations, I enjoyed myself.  So we decided to repeat the event again this year, extending the invitation to two more of my sisters to join us (bringing the count to four out of a potential five and a half – yes I have a half sister).  And they did join us. It was the first time in decades that just us sisters did anything together.  My two sisters live in Newfoundland and my other sister and I live in Ontario, so it is not exactly conducive to family outings.  It came together for us though; the weather was great, the sea was calm, the food on the cruise was amazing.  It was a good thing.

We had one small glitch to deal with in Miami Airport.  It could have cast a pall on the vacation but fortunately it just wasn’t important enough to let it.  We had booked rooms for the night at Miami International Airport – paid way too much for inferior accommodations, but the convenience was the deciding factor.  In the morning we went downstairs to eat at Margaritaville, a chain restaurant located immediately beside the hotel lobby in the airport.

Our server was churlish to say the least – she had a chip on her shoulder so big it was a wonder she could lift a tray.  She took her time coming to our table to take our orders.  She forgot a couple of items we ordered.  Refills on the coffee – you’re kidding me right?  Just a gem.  Anyway, the bill came for the meal – it was $60.  We put cash down of $65 and prepared to leave.

The server was quick to grab the bill.  She walked away and opened up the black plastic bill holder and then came steaming, yup, steaming back.  “That’s not enough!” she said and slammed the bill holder on the table.  She flipped the cover open and stabbed her finger at a line on the bill.  It’s a beaut – it says “Recommended gratuity 15% – $8.99.”  She was royally pissed at us and said, “You need to leave more tip.”  And then she stormed off leaving us and the bill at the table!   Are you kidding me?  That’ll do it, give us a yell lovey and then we’ll pay you more.  Needless to say she didn’t get her $8.99, she got her $5.  In hindsight we should have taken the tip away completely, but the reality is that servers in the US typically don’t have a great hourly wage and rely on their tips, but bullying the customers to get it defies comprehension.

That exchange was off-putting until we realized that we were leaving the place behind for a week of sunshine and laughter.  That bitter little server was stuck in a hell of her own making.  She’s not doing much for the reputation of the restaurant though.  I gotta think that if she treats the customers like that she’s probably a nightmare for the manager to deal with too. Regardless,  I’ll never eat at that chain again.

 

 

 

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.