the New Normal ain’t here yet.

Spring break is here now. Yay. That’s my enthusiasm level right now. Even though it means an entire week of not getting up until I want to, not going to bed too early unless I want to, all that. Big deal, y’all.

Call me Merry Sunshine.

Good news is we are going to visit some family this week. I am going to spend time walking over a piece of land, to choose a spot to build a house. Then I’ll spend some time with a friend who lives near there. Also celebrate #4’s 16th birthday. He isn’t quite ready to drive yet, as that broken collar bone has prevented us from being able to get out with the car and the checklist to see that everything is covered. O well. As long as he has it by Summer, I’ll be ok.  He is going to need it to get back and forth from UFD’s and the Grands.

Everything is all colors and blooming and lovely things right now and normally it is my favorite time. Typically I would be outside every day, looking at the roses and making note of how big/how many buds are on them. Now though? Meh.  I did go to the store today and buy plants for the veg garden- an assortment of herbs, tomatoes and peppers. The squash, cukes, melons, and sunflowers are already started from seeds and will be ready to transplant after Easter. Doing it before then is an invitation for a late frost. All the stuff will go into the (tiny little, actually just a shelf unit with a plastic cover) greenhouse before we leave. #4 is looking forward to sunflowers. I planted 8 pots for giant ones, and 8 for the smaller multicolored types. All are good for seeds for the birds.

Enthusiasm…it ain’t here. I am not worried about it, it’s just kind of unfortunate. Well, given the circumstances, understandable as well.  I am weary of all of it. The worry for my kids, the constant paperworks and appointments and one-more-damn-thing-I-forgot-to-do. The “Oh…I forgot about that bill that Himself always paid online 3 days before it was due and now it’s late and there’s a fee.” And the “Oh right, Himself isn’t going to call and see if I need anything so I will have to make an extra trip to get the milk we ran out of with my last cup of coffee.”

You don’t even realize how much you rely on the other person until you can’t. I imagine how he would be if I were the one who was gone. He would run out of underwear, and by the end of the first month, be living out of a laundry basket and off frozen dinners. Eventually a routine would get in place, but these things take longer than a month.  I need to weed the gardens terribly, but days normally spent pulling weeds and baking bread are now spent at the social security office, or with an attorney, or a banker, or trying to decipher Affordable Health Care online. There is no time for such luxuries right now. Soon, however. I am almost at the top of the paperwork mountain and preparing to slide downhill.  Maybe by the end of this month, everything will be in place…insurance, investment income will be starting to come in, then the gardens can get tidied up and look less…whatever. Untidy.

At this point I have no way of figuring out what to expect, what a new routine will involve, deciding whether to find work or start school. There has been no discernible “normal” for a month. Every day, every single one of them, has had some sort of abnormality to it, even if you take Himself out of the equation. Some sort of crisis, normally nothing much, but compounded by the crackling feeling of hypersensitive emotions, adds drama to the normally not-much of appointments and meetings. Those are also dramatically increased, thanks to ALL THE PAPERWORK. It seems like everyone needs a piece of Himself or me, or both, some sort of proof that we existed together for more than half our lives. I have learned to keep a file folder with many documents all notarized…proof of our existence from birth to death. So much for that whole ‘paperless society’ fantasy from the 1980’s.

I will say something I said a while back. Do not speak unkindly to me of Government workers. Every last one of them has been kind, helpful, and understanding. Even today, at the social security office, the woman helping me noticed that my driver’s license was fixing to expire, and that the name on my social security card differed slightly from the one on my license, so she issued me a new card with a name that matched the license. “They will give you lots of grief if the names don’t match exactly, so I’m changing this for you.” It was merely a matter of how I dropped my first name when we married, because I never used it, and picked up my maiden name as my middle name. So nothing fishy was going on, but she caught it and fixed it. Same with the person at the Health Care marketplace thing. I didn’t understand the proof on income requirements, as they would apply to my situation (since I don’t have income right now, just a lump sum), and he explained carefully how I could come up with some kind of acceptable proof. He could have talked to me like I was a ninny, but didn’t. Thank you, Government Workers.

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Holding on…

Last night and this morning have been hard. The one handle I hold on to with every bit of strength is that “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) because I refuse to give in to the despair that tries to overwhelm my spirit. It isn’t going to it. Knowing that God has a plan through all of this, every single piece of hardship and pain, knowing that He will take this and make something wonderful out of it…even though I have no idea what that will be…that gets me through the dark nights and lonely mornings.

I see how this is affecting my children and want to take every bit of their pain and confusion on myself so they won’t have to carry it, but it is their story, too. Something will come out of this for them. Their pain is mine as well, but we all lean on each other, cry together, get angry, all the stuff that has come from this, we are all feeling it in our own way. I am profoundly thankful that they aren’t alone in it all.  Sometimes it feels lonely, but that’s normal.

I miss being touched so very much. Getting a hug, or having a beard tickle my neck…realizing slowly that may never happen again is daunting. Honestly I am trying not to think of it and take each day as it comes but sometimes it is just THERE…

Last night I pulled out the envelope of pictures I put out at his memorial service, all those memories from our wedding, all through the life of 28-1/2 years of marriage, children growing up, all that washed over my mind and I am so very thankful for those years together. They weren’t perfect years, we are humans and flawed, but even in the hardest times I loved him deeply, as he did me.

One of the people he loved the most was his grandfather. It gives me a great deal of comfort knowing that Himself is with God, and with his grandfather. I imagine the 2 of them seeing each other, and Himself being guided into the Kingdom of Heaven to meet God face to face, and that is an incredibly joyful thought.

So even though I am very teary-eyed today, and even though I worry about my kids (even though I am not supposed to worry…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7) , through the whole thing, this convoluted mess of life, I am coming to terms with it. I know that in the face of eternity, all this mess is nothing. i know eventually here in this life I will be ok. My kids will have to come to terms with it in their own ways. I am here for them to help as best I can, but eventually they will hopefully realize that they aren’t required to carry the weight of it on their own, and can walk with God, who loves them more than I can ever imagine to.  He doesn’t promise to make us happy, but He does promise to guide us, and promises an eternity that is better than anything we can imagine.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, (2 Timothy 1:7-9)

A friend told me all this is sanctification, that through the pain and hardship, I am coming closer to Christ, and that is true. There is NO WAY I could do this by myself. I simply don’t have the strength to. but God’s grace and guidance gets me dressed in the morning, makes me put one foot in front of the other every day, and do what must be done. I don’t like it, and sometimes I want to lay down and sleep through all of it. That isn’t going to happen. It just isn’t.

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It’s not easy being teen

#4 is having a rough time of it. We all are, but he is a 15 year old young man who looked up to his father as a role model and hero, and that is gone. His misses him terribly and right now he is in that place where he wants to go into his room, turn out the lights and hide from life.  He also knows that isn’t the way to go about it and it won’t accomplish anything except to feed his sorrow. Bless him, though, he really is hurting and I can’t carry that for him. I want to, and would willingly take it all on myself but I can’t.

The last 2 days have been particularly rough. Even with help he isn’t sleeping very well, due to a broken collar bone that keeps him from getting comfortable. This morning he woke up with an eye bothering him. It looks and sounds like what I had recently.

School is starting to overwhelm him, with notes from teachers admonishing him for missed work. They have been gracious about it but up to a point something has to happen. I am trying not to put any pressure on him about it, and have told him I don’t except super grades this semester, I just want him to pass.  He said the expectations from the other students, for him to smile and be cheerful, is more than he can deal with right now. It’s all he can do to not punch someone who asks “what’s wrong”, or they start making “heart attack” jokes. I told him to go to the sanctuary when stuff overwhelms, for quiet and a chance to catch his composure. He is also to inform his teachers at the beginning of the class that he is having troubles, and might need to step out for a minute.  I know they will allow that, particularly if he is making the effort to be there and do his work.

It hurts me more to see my kids like this, than my own sorrow does.  Once again I feel like getting angry at Himself, for doing this to us. I want to get angry at God for doing this, but I am not so special that I should get a pass on pain. I also know that this will all come to something good in the end, as much as I hate it right now.  Someday, #4 will know a 15 year old who’s father dies, and will be in a position to really help  Somehow, this whole thing, all the bits and pieces that are piling on him right now and feel so unmanageable, will work to make him stronger in his faith and in his life. They will for me as well.

It is just so hard to see your own kid hurting so much. All his life, as a mom, I have been with him, helping him figure things out and do the hard stuff, encouraging and cheering and sometimes dragging him and yelling, but always with the goal of growing him up to be a good man who knows how  to serve and love. I always had Himself with me doing this. We each had our roles and now…now what do I do? How am I supposed to be father and mother to a teenaged boy? Sure, there are men in the church, but they aren’t here in the mornings when we talk, or the evenings when we discuss the day and figure out a better way of solving a certain problem.  I don’t have Himself’s masculine perspective on stuff, just my own feminine one. #4’s brothers have their own things to work through, and lack the experience to be a father type. I know they want to help, but they can be so hamfisted in their approach, where Himself was thoughtful, careful, and diplomatic.

I can see that I don’t get the role as Grieving Widow.  I have to be administrator, counselor, Quiet Port in the Storm for other people. And that’s ok. If that is what it takes for us all to get through this, then that is what it takes.  I am the head of this household now. Thankfully Christ is the Head of me now, and keeps me solid so I can do my job.

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Last night I had too much wine and went to bed at 7. #s 2 and 4 assured me that the kitchen would get cleaned up, etc, and shooed me upstair. Good lads, they are.

Isn’t there something delicious and self indulgent about waking up to the sound of soft rain on a tin roof, while wrapped in old soft quilts and there’s a lightweight cat snuggled into the small of your back? Gosh yes, even when it’s 3am.  Hot coffee, cool breezes that make the fuzzy red bathrobe welcome, and getting the stink-eye from 4 dogs who know that dark:30 is stupid early to be up, I like this.

I love the early, early hours. It wasn’t always so, but now it is. No one calls, no cars drive by, it’s dark. Then you’re awake at this hour, you get the gentle privilege of hearing the world wake up and stretch. First, it’s that aggressive mockingbird that nests in the neighbor’s lorepetalum- the one he never prunes and is 20 feet tall. Then it’s the bluebirds in the little birdhouse Himself finally got mounted last Spring. Then all the rest of the birds, pond peepers, guy who starts first shift a 6 and doesn’t understand the concept of “muffler” on his truck.

The weekend was exhausting, physically and emotionally. Thus the over-generous bottle of wine. Also steak. #2 and I were sitting in the dining room yesterday afternoon, after the last of the people left. I looked at him and said “I really want a steak.” and he said “If you’ll give me $20 I’ll go get some.” I stared for a second and realized there was absolutely no reason why we couldn’t have steak, especially since he had asked about frying potatoes. Steak it was. Ribeyes, and it was meant by God that we have steaks because at the store there was a package of ribeyes, nicely marbled, marked down $6 due to turning a wee bit brown. Totally a sign.

By 4 we were eating cast iron pan seared-in-butter ribeyes (seriously. get the pan super hot, melt the butter and sear those steaks, they get a wonderful toothsome crust on the outside while staying delightfully rare in the middle O yes), thin sliced homemade potato chips with a blue cheese dip (equal parts mayo, sour cream, and blue cheese, a bit of garlic powder and black pepper, and just enough mild rice vinegar to thin it into dip consistency), and a lovely fresh tossed salad. We ate like a Queen and her Princes. Steaks cooked like that don’t even need any sauce, just pour the dripping from the pan on top and let them rest for about 10 minutes before eating. O yes, my word, and Yum.

My hero!

My hero!

There is still a solid lump of sadness in the middle of my gut. I am still crying myself to sleep each night. I hate that but I have learned not to fight it.  I read about people who say they see these signs from their beloveds after they have passed away. Other than that picture the time I was printing stuff, I am not seeing anything. Not that I can tell, anyway. Am I supposed to? Occasionally it feels like maybe I’m doing it wrong, somehow, because I don’t see signs. But things are going so smoothly…pretty much. I am not having roadblocks or huge issues, no one is fighting over anything, people are stepping up and helping…it’s like…I can’t really say. It’s wonderful beyond explanation even in such awful circumstances. Maybe that’s the sign I’m not seeing. Himself was stellar at making things run smoothly in bad situations. It was his gift at work, solving problems… I called him a Dragon Slayer and Stomper of Rats. Maybe God has Himself at work in this, smoothing the way, and stomping the rats before they get to me.  Maybe that’s it.

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It is what it is

This weekend has been tough for all of us. Something about packing up Himself’s shops felt a little like packing *him* up, because so much of who and what he was, was represented in those shops. his creativity, his love of inventing and improving and quiet thinking…those were all represented by his shops.

About 80% of his woodshop was loaded on a trailer by UFD, the brother in law, to be gone through and sold off gradually. UFD was told to take his pick of whatever he wanted, since he is also a woodworker. There is also a pile of fine lumber he can have, walnut and oak, hickory, maple and cherry. Himself was going to make us a bunch of bedroom furniture out of the cherry and maple. It is fine stuff- curly maple and old growth wild cherry, which is much darker and more red than the stuff you see today.  I am ok with it going away. Himself made a couple of pretty small tables I will enjoy using. It was pretty hard on UFD and Himself’s parents to do that though. They kept having to come in to the house for break, so they could breathe. I only went out there a couple of times. I still get a little freaked out thinking about all that wonderful stuff, those fine tools and all, being gone. He made a couple of pieces of shop furniture that are staying, a tall workbench and a funky cabinet for small tools. That might even come into the house, because it is rather pretty.

#3, Dad, and Friends have been clearing out the other workshop.Even though it was in a small room, somehow Himself managed to fit more stuff into it than was in the 18×24 barn in the back yard. That has been hard on #3…and there is a lot of stuff that was Himself’s taste…WW2 propaganda posters, a bunch of GI Joes, things no one else wants, even in Himself’s memory. I am not sure what will become of those. For now they will continue to hang on the wall, out of everyone’s way.

Right now, the battle is the anxiety and sorrow of seeing stuff go. Part of me is screaming NOOO! but the practical part knows it needs to go. I am not getting rid of Himself, I have had to reassure the kids of that. I have a big photo album of Himself through the years, doing his thing and kid things and generally capturing his personality. There are all those pieces of furniture in the house, everything in my sewing studio (Desk, many shelves, a unique and incredibly practical cutting table, a pretty cabinet with a hutch) Every time I go in there, I will be surrounded by stuff he made. Every time #3 sits down to the work desk, he will be sitting at a desk Himself conceived and built. #2 gets the big recliner and funky lamp, #1 has the tall, tall bookcase, sturdy and oak. We all get to have something that was Himself’s, as well as wonderful memories.

Every time one of us feels puckish and frisky, we can pull out a gun Himself customized, and shoot at clay pigeons.  or turtles in the pond. or a target 1000 yards away. I can smile as I shoot the .357 Colt Peacemaker he gave me as an anniversary gift and we both laughed at the irony of it.

No, Himself isn’t put away. His stuff, that would have been a burden on my shoulders, that is being peeled off like skin, and it hurts, but it is burned skin and has to go in order to heal properly. I won’t be cheerful for a while, because I am hurting. But I also cannot run away from it. It has to be dealt with.  I am grateful for family, that is also hurting, being willing to help. I could never do this on my own.

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Excess baggage

Today is an anxious day. My son and father are coming to clear out one of Himself’s workshops. Himself’s brother and father are coming to clear out the other workshop. It needs to be done and they were both a source of real stress, as I had no idea what to do with either of them, and didn’t want to trust someone not family with the contents.

Himself was a very creative person. It is the first thing I noticed about him 30-odd years ago. My family is very creative, and finding a man who didn’t think it was strange, and for him to find a woman who thought the same, was a lovely thing indeed.

But, those workshops are a real part of who he was. They scream of his personality, which, to the outside observer, was incredibly disorganized (all you have to do is look at those shops!) but he had his own System, and it worked for him. I stayed away, and said nothing, because those were his territory, and he didn’t say anything about my compulsively tidy kitchen and sewing studio.

But all that is leaving today. Not entirely, the contents of one workshop is going to my son, the personal parts- the funky workbench he made out of a cast iron table base and a butcherblock top, all the fine tuned equipment. The personal parts of the wood working shop are going to our youngest son, the extra tall workbench he made, the fancy cabinet for his fine hand tools, those will go to #4, who is on track to be as tall as Himself, with his long legs.

Many parts of both workshops will be sold. Uncle Farmer Dude (Formerly Uncle Navy Dude but new and improved with tomatoes and a tractor) lives near Atlanta and believes there is a good market for the stuff in Himself’s woodshop, and has offered to handle all the stuff, sale and such. Himself’s family is like that, the kind of stand back until there’s a crisis then they’re all over it with practical help and not too much sympathy, which is lovely and wonderful beyond words.  The stuff Himself worked on in his other workshop will be sold off as well, as there is always a good market for those, especially in a town with so many golfers.

All this has me feeling very anxious, just the idea of Himself’s stuff going away, even though the important parts are staying.  The set of Japanese handsaws I gave him for Christmas, all  those pipe clamps he used to hold the pieces of furniture he made for this house, all those associations over the years.

I refuse to be the widow who won’t get rid of his 1/2 empty bottle of aftershave. I won’t do it. It’s pathetic. That doesn’t mean it isn’t hard to get rid of his pipe clamps and hand saws, just as that other widow has trouble getting rid of aftershave. It does hurt to think of it, but I am trying to compare it to the ripping off a bandaid. It isn’t getting rid of HIM, it’s just shedding excess weight so I can quit fretting about it.

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The Fear Factor


I am not a fearful person. Not courageous either, really, just not one to limit activities based on what might happen.  Or wasn’t, anyway. Tell me you didn’t see that coming.

There has, all my adult life, been a safety net. Himself and I, being a pair, were each other’s backup plans.  If one of us went out of town, the other one was generally here in the event of someone getting sick or injured. If one got a flat tire, the other one was close enough to rescue. If one was sick, the other was around to fetch chicken soup and a warm blanket. We relied on each other and it wasn’t necessary to rely on the kindness of others.

I was able to go out and drive extra fast and probably recklessly, when irritated or feeling frisky, comfortable in the knowledge that if I wiped out and died a dramatic Steve McQueenesque death, someone was there to tend to the boys. Of course, I didn’t tell Himself that I thought this way, as he was a careful sort and would have bee horrified. Tho I suspect he already knew and was indulgent enough to turn a blind eye.

now though…notsomuch.  #4 is spending the evening and into the night with a group of men at the church, smoking some 100+ boston butts for a sale. On the way home, I thought it was a nice cool evening and wouldn’t it be fun to go out and haul-ass on the back roads. Only, I think the Ghost Of Himself pinched the back of my arm and reminded me that he, Himself, was no longer a corporeal being who could fill in should I become a grease spot. Disappointment ensued as it sunk in that it is unlikely I will ever go out again and drive like a 17 yr old hooligan in his uncle’s Chevelle SS.  I guess that isn’t really appropriate for a Woman Of A Certain Age anyway.

Then fear sunk in. The Small Voice started listing all the horrible things that could happen if I went more than 5 miles away from home.  Savannah drivers are terrible, and I might get in a wreck! Atlanta traffic is so fast, I might get in a wreck! I better not drink that glass of wine/ favored martini/delicious vodka concoction, what if #4 gets hurt somewhere else and I can’t go get him? WHAT IS YOUR BACKUP PLAN??! What if I choke on that bit of bone? Don’t eat that! you might choke! Don’t go upstairs, what if you slip and fall! DON’T PLUG IN THAT APPLIANCE YOU MIGHT GET ELECTROCUTEDDON’TMOVESTANDBENDBRUSHYOURTEETHYOUMIGHT DIE

And that seems silly. Am I supposed to allow fear to control the rest of my life? Are what-might-happens supposed to dictate every single move I make? Am I going to be one of those sad women who cower and shake at the least little sound of something unknown?


I sure hope not. That sounds so boring.

But the thought that there isn’t Himself to call in an emergency, or that I am the only one in the house at night can be daunting. except for Maybelline and the box of hollow points.


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