Monday, Monday

August is almost in the books and school here in Canada starts up shortly.  This time of year also brings with it the memories of birthdays past.  It would have been Kevin’s birthday tomorrow.  It was a week long event, at minimum.  His sister’s birthday follows two days later.  It was busy, and demanding, and absolutely exhausting, and I miss it so much.  His poor sister is left dealing with the hollowness of what was and now what is.  She’s actually talked about moving her birthday celebration to a different time.

Although Kevin’s birthday was a good thing, the impending return to work was not so good.  So while we celebrated birthdays, there was always the underlying awareness that soon structure would return to the house with Kevin going off to school.  He’d get his old 10 speed bicycle out and check the brakes, make sure his carrier basket was sturdy and well attached and that was about it.

As he himself would say, he was a man of extreme highs and lows.  Returning to work started the journey to low, and the first day of school when he met the kids in the classroom could either take him right to the bottom or level him out.  I remember one year he had a class with a couple of “identified” kids in it, not unusual, but it was the six or seven that should have been identified that were the problem.  When you have 28 kids in the class, having eight or nine identified kids  could result in chaos for everyone, a poor learning experience for others, and frustration for the teacher.

August this year started off poorly with the death of a very remarkable woman who was my daughter’s best friend’s mom.  She was also a former teaching colleague of my husband, a fun loving, kind and personable woman.  Her drive took her out of the classroom and into administration and her legacy is enormous as it was her incredible vision, passion and commitment that moved forward Indigenous awareness, education and opportunity within our province.  That was her day job, her full time job was as a mother, wife and friend to so very many.   She was only 52 years old.  Her loss is tremendous and will resonate for some time.  I can well imagine how the family is feeling.  Her death took me back to a place that can swallow you up in darkness instantly.

Today I heard a song by the Strumbellas and one line really  hit home.  “And I don’t want a never-ending life, I just want to be alive while I am here.”  That’s what is left for us to do, be alive while we are here.

 

 

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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Gone

My coworker passed away tonight.  News travels fast and, it seems, bad news spreads especially quickly.  It will be a sad group that arrives at the office on Monday.  Fortunately, I am off that day.  This sort of news and how people will mourn can catapult me into darkness.  Tuesday won’t be much better but at least the initial shock will have worn off.  Those first raw conversations will have been replaced by numbness as people reflect on how brutal cancer is.

It is brutal, it is arbitrary, and it is shattering.  Life turns upside down in one fraction of a second.  You hear the words and everything drops away around you.  I vividly recall when Kevin got his diagnosis.  We went to the hospital for a pain in his back.  He left 12 hours later with a death sentence.  But that moment when the doctor came and sat with us to tell us what the pain truly was, I remember so well.  His words,  cancer, advanced cancer, stage 3 at minimum.   That moment in time felt both long and short, the time and place we were in seemed to stand still.  Everything fell away in that one moment of time.  The noise and the chaos of the hospital, we didn’t hear it.  We just looked at each other.  The shock of the moment created a connection through pain.  There is no thought, just pure anguish.

We went home, we were far different people than left that house 12 hours earlier.  Prepared to fight, scared beyond words.  And so it began for us.  It ended, just as it did for my coworker and her family today.  Heartbreak, desolation and despair.  Dark days and darker nights. Here I am two years down the road and I still find that the darkness can press against me.  You never stop loving, you don’t.

A Question or Two

It’s odd how few people feel comfortable asking the things they really want to ask.  It takes a brave person to do so.  I mean, how often have you been in conversation with someone and in the back of your mind you have a question you would so love to ask, but you know it would likely be overstepping the bounds of good taste, privacy, or appropriateness, and so the question goes unspoken.

Interestingly, last week I had a conversation with a woman who dropped the pretence and asked me some of those questions.  It caught me off guard, but nevertheless, I answered her as best I could.  By way of background, she is married, does have children, and whether her marriage is ideal or not, I don’t know – I don’t  know her well enough.  Maybe that’s why she could ask me those questions.

She asked, “What do you miss the most?”  I answered, “A number of things, intimacy will always be high on the list, but there are so many other things.  Having a warm body to snuggle into when I am cold, exchanging a knowing glance about someone or something absurd, the warmth and banter of debate and discussion, silent companionship, having a reason to rush home … so many things.”

She asked, “What do you find the hardest.”  I answered, “Simply adjusting.  Sounds like a cop out but it’s not.  The adjusting never seems to stop.  I had to adjust to living alone, to living on less, to looking after everything – and I still am.  It all takes effort, and it gets tiring having to work at things especially when you don’t have the energy or inclination to do it.  The hardest thing for me has been adjusting: physically, mentally, emotionally.”

She asked, “Don’t you find it less stressful only having to worry about yourself?”  I answered, “It’s not that simple. I still worry about my family and friends.  I especially worry about my family; because I have had such an intense loss, it feels like at any time someone else could be wrenched from my life.  That sense of grief is indescribable, and as close to unbearable as anything I’ve ever faced.  So I do still worry.  Is it less stressful being on my own?  Sure, in some ways.  I don’t have to factor in another person’s views, needs, feelings, calendar.  It’s just about me, so that’s easier for sure, but I don’t consider this a glamorous or desirable state, because I didn’t ever want to be here.”

She asked, “Would you ever join a dating site?”  I answered, “If you are asking –  have I joined one, then the answer is no.  And, for the future, I can’t see me joining one.  Right now I’m not looking for a relationship, and I have plenty to keep me busy.  I’ve heard so many stories, and from people I know, about the predators on those sites, chatting you up and then asking for cash.  It just isn’t worth it for me.  I know that there are some good, strong relationships that can come out of them and so they serve a purpose for some, but just not for me.”

She asked a few more questions but the conversation ended pretty soon after with me gently admonishing her.  “The grass isn’t always greener – just like the saying goes.  I bet your life is a little chaotic right now and by comparison mine looks pretty good.  But trust me, I’d give so very, very much to have that chaos back.  Don’t wish your time and love away.”

And I didn’t cry once through the whole conversation.

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.