Happy Birthday

Not much more to say.  This would have been Kev’s birthday.  We would have started celebrating days ago when he planned out exactly what he wanted.  The kids would have all been here.  Family and friends, helping us enjoy the day.  Enjoyment for Kevin, work for me.  What I wouldn’t give to be complaining about how much work it was.

Today’s reality was it was an easy day for me work-wise, but one filled with silent tears.  Great memories, but memories that are overshadowed by heartache and sadness.  Maybe one day I will be able to wake up on the 28th of August and not feel the sorrow, but that day isn’t here yet.  So for today it is Happy Birthday thoughts and wishes for a man whose melody continues on in the great cosmos as stardust, magical beautiful stardust.

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.

 

All tangled together

Sorrow is a funny thing.  It seems like it is always lurking out there, that it is always present inside my mind.

Today at work I spoke with a co-worker who had lost a sibling around the same time as my husband, Kevin, died.  I asked after her sibling, how things were going.  My co-worker replied that things were still quite rough and progress seemed to be rather slow.  ‘This I understand,’ I told her, ‘you see, your life has been entwined with another’s completely.  To have someone torn out of the fabric of your day-to-day life, leaves big gaping holes along with lots of dark holes that can swallow you up for days on end.’  It’s not about healing, it isn’t.  It is more about acceptance.

My past is all tangled up with Kevin’s, who he was, what he thought.  He will always be with me because of that.  When people ask me things that may cause me to think back, then there will always be that blend, of him and me, what happened to us, but that only I am here to recall.  It can’t be otherwise.  It can’t help but be painful to cast my mind back.  I loved him and he’s gone, that’s not easy.   Same for my children, when they remember growing up it has to be tough.

Memories can’t be caught in your hands or held in your arms, they can’t be weighed or measured.  They can be comforting and crippling at the same time.  Sometimes they come rushing to the surface without warning, and sometimes they get all tangled up in my mind, because I want what I can’t have but I remember so well.  Damn hard.

Can you ever have what you had before?

This is a question I have had float in my brain on many occasions.  When something is so good, so special, and the feeling so amazing, and in that moment you feel confident, strong and sure and intensely aware of the fact that you are in a very good place.  It happens throughout life, sometimes associated with the ‘firsts’ that we experience, other times when the stars seem to align in all the right ways.

I’ll answer my own question because I have thought about it many times before.  Life keeps moving forward so, no, you can’t ever have what you had before.  You can, and will, have new moments to savour, enjoy and cherish while living in the present.  Right now, at this very moment, you can work to sustain what you have or you can set out to create something new.   There is no going back.

I guess those few words are key: ‘living in the present’.  It’s a choice that has to be made after a loss, whether the loss is of a job, a relationship, or the death of someone dear.  To stop or to start.  To stop living, experiencing and feeling.  It’s easy, believe me, to stop looking forward, to want to stay in the past where things were known and established.  In this state, the pain of loss becomes familiar and there is no room for anything else.  To start living again opens up the potential of new experiences, feelings and, of course, hurt.  It means one has to reconcile what the past meant and continues to mean with what the expectations of the present and the future are.

For me, no, I can’t ever have what I once had, and that’s my great loss.  But I am coping with it; better as time goes on.  Sadly though, having gone through what I have, I realize that a great many people in this world don’t appreciate or cherish what they do have.  It’s a matter of slowing down now, to enjoy the moment, before life harshly forces one to stop.  When that happens, it seems the universal response is to look back at what once was, hopefully without regrets.

The Mystique of the Cottage

The cottage has always played a big part in my family’s dynamics.  It is a special place.  There are so many memories attached to the place that it made it impossible for me to visit it in the year after Kevin’s death.  In the early stages of our relationship, when we were still dating, I remember when he invited me to the cottage. I had met Kevin in a bar, he was playing in the band, and I was there with my mother and sisters.  Yup, my mother – it was her idea actually.  The bar was the Caribou Club, a large, rollicking, boozy club where Newfoundlanders would go to hear some downhome music, mixed in with a top 40’s band.  Kevin was the keyboard player for the band, “Reflections”, and he’d also back up ‘Mean Gene’ the star performer who’d reel out maritime tunes, while pumping away on his accordion, to the delight of the crowd.  Good fun, and my mother, a Newfoundlander, had wanted to go for the music and for the food.  The Caribou Club had a full kitchen and they would serve up traditional fare, like cod tongue; yum, there’s no place like home.

This is where I met my husband, at the Caribou Club.  It was his 28th birthday and he was feeling no pain.  He was working his way through the club on his breaks, trying to kiss most of the women in the bar, or so he said.  No small feat since the club was always overfull – I have no idea how many people, but well over 400.  Anyway, Kevin succeeded in winning me over and within a few months he had invited me to the cottage.  Word got out in the club and I was cornered by some women one night in the washroom.  Drunk women I might add.  They wanted to impress upon me that nobody, but nobody, got invited to Batch’s cottage – so I’d better not be jerking him around.  Sheesh, the last thing I needed was to be accosted by some rabid females defending him.  Anyway, I told him about the confrontation later that night.  He found it funny, but did say that yup not too many people had been to the cottage, it was a place he liked to keep private.

So the cottage factors huge in my memories of him.  We even spent our honeymoon there, and over the next 30 years would host a great number of occasions there.  There were family dinners with upwards of 20 people.  There were fireworks, games of Risk, card games, barbecues and swimming in the river.  It was entirely a family cottage.  The imprint of my father-in-law, Jack, is everywhere.  He build the cottage from the ground up, using hand tools for the most part since the electricity wasn’t in place for a good many years.  And my mother-in-law, a woman truly larger than life; even today we still call the main bedroom, grandma’s room.  I can still see her on the deck throwing orange peels, banana peels, whatever, over the side, laughing and encouraging my kids to do the same thing.  And then there is Terry, a nephew who died far too soon – I remember those times when he would eat too much, he’d try to lie down, his belly overfull, only to have my kids (or his brothers) jump and crawl on him. Or the time he did manage to pass out, the kids put a pork chop bone under his nose and then took photos.  He was such a good sport, Terry was. We did silly things, fun things; all the stuff that large families do.  Poignant memories of days now gone.  Hard to face, but it would be far worse not to have them.

This year the cottage has become a focal point for the family again.  Even though the gardens are overgrown, the siding needs to be painted, and there are a multitude of other maintenance issues, there is still a heart to the place, an essence that blends all the family back to one.  I don’t know that we will ever be able to make it what it was, but while we gather there it’s almost as if those gone are there with us and are happy that the cottage continues to unite us.

What a difference a year can make.  Last year the cottage was devastating to me because of its sentiment and I stayed away; this year I am drawn to it for that very reason.