Bittersweet day. A very difficult day for the family. For my sister-in-law, it is loving the children that are here, but mourning the one that she lost. For me, it was acknowledging how big of a part my husband played in making Mother’s Day an ‘event’. This year it seemed as though the two of us hit the crazy zone at the same time and were absolute nut cases going into Mother’s Day.
I know I was a little crazed. I didn’t really even want to celebrate the day. I went to bed the night before thinking about how hard it must be for many people, not just for me. For those women who had lost children, women who never had children, women and men who never knew their mothers, or who had and had never liked them, for those who suffer or suffered abuse at the hands of their mothers. This ‘one size’ day of celebration could be a nightmare for many. Fortunately I woke up to the smell of eggs benedict and sausage cooking, an effective way to banish such thoughts!
Through the years Mother’s Day has typically been an awesome day for me. Because I had my children and their father to make it special. With Kevin gone it has lost a lot of its lustre, it carries a tinge of sadness that it shouldn’t. Now, what I hope is that my children, each with their own spouses, will make each and every day special for them, for their partners and their children. Look to their future, love what they have. I loved what I had and I am thankful that I had it. But now for me, as to Mother’s Day as an event, meh, I can do without it.
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….’
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.
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.
It’s a new year and that means a fresh start. In theory. It’s not like something magic happens and all the baggage and stuff from the previous year(s) goes away. It is a crazy notion that some people really believe – “I’m glad to see the end of that year!” – they say, like the slate’s been wiped clean.
So new year’s comes and goes and finally we are through the madness of Christmas. I don’t remember Christmas 2015 – but made an effort to try and be more “Christmas-y” for 2016. It was better but still hard. I envy those families that have no sorrow or stress at Christmas – and I know a few of them. Perhaps they never will experience loss to the extent that others do, that I did. Perhaps they will, who knows and what does it matter really. What is hardest is trying to maintain the false bravado associated with the day, for that matter, with the whole season.
So I was asked what my resolutions would be for the new year. I actually do think that it is a good thing to engage in some retrospection. It’s important to look at habits, opinions, tendencies and figure out if they are beneficial or not. So I did make one resolution, after much thought, for this year – to put more effort into my interactions with others. I find it so easy to retreat, and I am comfortable with being on my own, but I don’t think it’s always healthy.
I will never be that outgoing person that everyone wants to hang out with, but not too many people are. Most of us are the periphery that orbit around the star to grab bit of the glitter that they spin. It can be fun, but it takes some effort. I lost my star in 2015 when Kevin died, and at the same I lost all interest in people other than my immediate family. I had limited capacity. So maybe what my resolution really is, is to exert more effort in my relationships, to work on building my capacity and to start caring again.