Back out there, first date

The first official try at dating was a bit of a disaster.  Fearful of dating sites, I thought I would start out with someone I’ve known a very long time.  A man who had kids the same ages as mine.  I had worked with his wife years ago, and they’d actually socialized at my house, but had divorced about 10 years ago.  I knew him … so no worries about his sanity.   Call him Fred.

So Fred had asked me out several times in the past year or so, and I’d always declined.  The invitations were to stop by his place for a drink, or hey, the kids will be home on the weekend, why don’t you come over and see them.  I never felt inclined to do so, simply because he wasn’t my type.  So, one night I’m out for dinner with a friend, and my friend says to me, “The next time someone asks – go.  Don’t over analyze, don’t think twice, just go with the flow.” Ironically, after we finished dinner and as I am heading home, I duck into the grocery store, and there he is – Fred.  And, as always he says – come over for a drink.  Just a quick one, before you head home.  I say yes.

Looking back I realize that my concern had always been that by going to his house I would lose all my power.  Just like when you get into a car as a passenger, you cede control to the driver.  I am, most assuredly, a control freak.  So, it was outside of my comfort zone, especially on a sort of informal first date, to spend it in a man’s home, and yet I made it through.

As I left his house a couple of hours later, Fred asked me if we could get together again, and I said sure.  It had been a pleasant evening, we had lots in common, why not?  By the time I got home I was plagued by guilt, filled with doubt and all the emotions associated with infidelity (at least I think that’s what it was).  Was it right, what would the kids think, what was I doing, what would Kevin think, what would my friends think, was I even ready?  The emotional churn was exhausting.  But at the end of it remained the ultimate and most important question: did I, do I, want to be alone for the rest of my life?  I knew and I know that I don’t.

So I resolved to give this a dating thing with Fred a try.  A day or so later he asked me out for the second time to a party set a couple of weeks away.  I accepted, totally unaware he was taking me to a family pre-Christmas party.  Who does that on a second date?

A Vacation

I just got back from my first vacation.  The ‘first’ since Kevin died.  Since his death I have heard repeatedly from different sources to never say no to new adventures.  To try new things, not discard them out of hand.  And so, when my sister suggested a cruise, I decided to try it.  A cruise is completely outside of my comfort zone, not high on my list of things to try.  Give me an all-inclusive on the ground any day. But, as a nod to the suggestion, I decided to say yes, and then spent the next three months wondering why on earth I had.

There was apprehension on my part for several reasons.  I wondered if I would be able to enjoy it at all – my heart aches so.  It’s coming up 11 months and I miss Kevin every day. I worried that I wouldn’t enjoy the cruise experience, would I get seasick.  I was afraid of what would happen to my family while I was away, what if something went wrong and I wasn’t there for them.  Finally, I hoped I wouldn’t be one giant drag for my sister.

I’m back and the world carried on just fine.  The kids got by without me for a week.  Even the pets did!  I didn’t get seasick or have any issues in that regard.  The cruise was great fun; my sister was excellent company.  I did have my moments though, it was inevitable. One morning we met a couple of sisters travelling together just like us, one married, one widowed.  The conversation with these ladies was the hardest one I had on the trip and served to remind me that my experience is a shared one.

I am happy to be home, no doubt about it.  I have lots of observations about the cruise experience.  In a confined space with so many diverse people travelling together it was interesting just people watching.  One thing for sure is that most people are highly self-conscious and insecure.  So much posturing – to what end?  We were a ship of strangers, no need to impress; it’s about relaxing not stressing. Perhaps this was the biggest difference in my first vacation without Kevin, I spent more of it thinking rather than doing.

I Never Ask

I never ask myself anymore ‘who’s next.’  I stopped a long time ago.  Truly, right now it seems as if family and friends are under siege.  Could it be that we baby-boomers are a defective bunch?  Or is it just that life here in Canada is so harsh that it takes a greater toll physically?  That was always Kevin’s belief, he’d often say, ‘No, my dad couldn’t chose Australia.  He had to immigrate to Canada, where the winter is six months of the year, and the temperature is f***in’ 30 below for most of it.’

Yesterday a good friend told me that her sister had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Not a dire prognosis, but anything with the brain is scary.  Her sister’s surgery is set for next Friday.  In this case everything is happening so fast it makes one’s head spin.  We talk and think about it in clinical terms because it is almost impossible to conceive of on a personal level. My friend has to wait and watch and feel powerless, because she is.  Then there is my sister-in-law who recently found out that her husband (they separated years ago) has been diagnosed with lung cancer, under much the same circumstances as my husband Kevin faced.  What to say?

The thought of anyone else in my inner circle developing a serious illness is a thought that I can’t entertain.  I remember a month or so ago stopping my daughter from talking about worries she had about her infant son.  They weren’t serious concerns, but the thought of anything, of any nature, occurring to one of my children or grandchildren destabilizes me completely.  I find I that swing to the extreme and my fear gets the better of me.  A residual effect from Kevin’s death, I am aware it is irrational, but that doesn’t make it go away.  And so, for my own sanity I never ask nor do I ever wonder who or what is next.

It’s Comfortable and Comforting

This weekend was probably the first one that I’ve had, since sometime last year, where I have set my own course.  The first weekend since Kevin died where I have decided what to do and who to see.  I’ve found through the months since my husband’s death that there was always something to do or someone to see on each and every weekend.  It culminated in Christmas and New Year’s Day, where there was a steady flow of family and friends. My sons were here for a visit, and now, this second weekend in January, everyone is gone and things have settled down.

It was okay, having a weekend to self-direct, to plan what I wanted to do. I didn’t find it lonely; I wasn’t consumed by grief or sorrow.  Invariably, each and every day, I think about Kevin at some point.  I would.  I live in the same house we shared for over 20 years – it is full of him, his artwork covers my walls, his books are on the bookshelves.  It’s comfortable and comforting to me.  I don’t feel any emotional pain from choosing to live here. Sometimes the sheer familiarity of my home can be accompanied by a sense of loss, but it is what it is.  I don’t know from one day to the next if I will react to something that exists in my surroundings.  Life just continues to unfold in its own crazy, unpredictable way.

After Kevin’s death, as part of a courtesy offered by the funeral home, they gifted me with a six month subscription to a leaflet/help letter on the Grief Counselling  I got my last issue this past week.  It was written on the recovery phase.  With respect to grievers, it states, “One of the greatest mistakes we make during bereavement is to compare our progress with others.  There are too many variables in each person’s experiences, personality, and coping mechanisms.  No two people will grieve in the same way – or even within the same time frame.”  (The AfterLoss Grief Recovery Program, Issue Six, AfterLoss Inc.)  My intent is to stop self-analyzing as to whether I am progressing or not.  I should not measure where I am at in my sorrow and grieving compared to someone else. There was only one Kevin and only those who knew him can feel his loss – each in their own way; me – in my own way.  I miss him, and I finally had a weekend to discover how that would manifest.

So, what did I end up doing this weekend?  I went to an afternoon matinee with a friend from work, I went out shopping at a ridiculous time of night (because I could), I cleaned my house, and, finally, I invited family over for Sunday dinner.  It all felt quite right.

Bedtime Blues

I don’t particularly like bedtime.  It strikes me that my sadness at bedtime hasn’t lessened one bit in the interval since Kevin’s death.  It’s been numbed somewhat by the sleeping pills I take but it hasn’t changed otherwise.

I still sleep in the same bed that Kevin and I shared. For a few days I moved across the hallway and slept in a spare bedroom but that just didn’t feel right.  So I moved back into our bed in our room.  The music in the bedside clock radio is still the last CD he ever listened to.  His reading glasses are in the bedside table drawer.  The last books he looked at were art books on Escher and Magritte and they remain untouched where he left them, little pink sticky notes marking pages likely for his next inspiration.  I have left everything as is quite deliberately. Here I can surround myself with placeholders and mementos recognizing the warmth and comfort they bring is fleeting.

This has been a long, hard week filled with stress and worry.  It’s almost over now and things are starting to look up, finally.  It was the last week of June 2014 when this journey started and it seems likely that it will be the end of June this year when things will finally end.  Tomorrow I will make a visit to the hospital, and by all accounts, it should be a good one with things progressing well.  However, until this is over, really over, it’s still the same routine.  I will go to my little refuge, my bedroom, and while I lie in bed waiting for the haze to envelop me I will look around and remember, and for that brief time in that hazy state I can believe that my family is complete.  If I time it right, the pills kick in and I don’t have to surface from my imaginings, they just fade into a solid six hours of drug-induced and dreamless sleep.