Attitude Adjustment Needed

On Facebook I seem to be relentlessly, aggressively cheerful. So do others. I am not. Many days I am so far from cheerful even the dogs avoid me. It seems like this whole Happy Housewife Look At How Well I Am Doing is a cloak to wrap in, with the fervent hope that eventually it will grow into my skin and become real.

I am not happy. Sometimes things don’t seem too bad, the ducks are in a row and all that. That’s not really happiness, more like satisfaction that for one more day it’s pretty much ok. That’s enough for now, being pretty much ok.

Some things are very confusing, and those are beyond my control. Stuff like Health Care Insurance. The Federal Gummint says “ok, we’ll pay for this. But we need all sorts of documents (that don’t exist). No, really. They don’t. They want my paycheck stubs from the last 2 months. If I don’t have that, they want my w-2 from last year. Himself’s won’t do, it has to be mine. At this point I would tell people to get a job, even if it’s just a few hours a week, just so there’s a paycheck stub or W-2, in case it’s needed. So I get all the stuff i can find, every sort of document with some kind of income thing on it, and all the certificates that prove Himself and I exist, were married, and he died, plus a terse (yet polite) cover letter explaining the situation, in the futile hope that a Real Person will read it and take pity on The Poor Widow. Federally speaking, hasn’t happened yet even through 5 sets of stuff. Except that I, inexplicably, am receiving insurance statements declaring that I am, indeed, getting coverage. Ok Then. The State Gummint (which, naturally doesn’t communicate with The Federal Gummint) actually has a Genuine Person attached to it, who, with great patience and good humor, has been very helpful and while it isn’t in Order yet, seems to be getting there. As yet, I do not know if the state insurance will supplement or replace the Federal, but whatever. you’d think they’d have this figured out, but apparently not. no wonder this country is so deep in debt.  So now what I do, every time they send me yet another letter describing my book keeping inadequacies, is send them yet another stack of every sort of certificate and statement. I have not yet gotten to the point of sending them originals, as those are not free.  I will keep it up until someone Real contacts me. So far, the Real People have been most helpful.

My attitude, at this point (well, has been since mid March, really), is “Fine then. you can’t do anything worse than has already been done. Asshole.” Perhaps this can continue for 2 years, at which time I will disappear into the ether and become a chicken-goat-cat lady who smells funny and has organic home-grown kale perpetually stuck in her teeth. Or marry a lawyer.

honestly, 30 years of being a hard-working, honest, Kept Woman has meant there is precious little patience for all this and the paperwork when someone dies is RIDICULOUS. Thank you, Mr. Attorney Man Who Is Well Compensated For His Time, for handling much of it. And Thank you, Himself, for your life-insurance wisdom. And NO THANK YOU Nancy Pelosi, for your “guys! Guys! Let’s pass the health care reform act and THEN read it! That’d be great!” But on the other hand, thank you, Good Dr H, Dr Courage, and Dr P, for taking cash. Because really.  NO thank you, Dr. R’s Office manager, for NOT accepting cash payment and turning me away entirely…I mean…what. The. Heck.

Sorry. I’m on a rip-tear here.

Simple fact is, it’s not as bad as it could be and I should be thankful for that. And I am.I’m just having a temper tantrum because I am a Princess. Sorry…(not really)


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Oh…now I get it…

One of the things that has come out of my…whatever you want to call it….Journey (some people call it…but that seems/feels kind of sappy)…is an intense empathy for other people experiencing loss, or potential loss, or any sort of event that causes the heart-stopping breath-losing howling sort of heartbreak.

Himself used to say I was too logical and not feeling enough. He isn’t the only one who’s said that. It’s true. Emotions are untrustworthy and sketchy and bound to lead you into trouble. Ask anyone who’s ever had to  cope with an emotional disorder and spent many hours trying to figure out how to evaluate them, to determine if they were ‘legitimate’ or not.  I think he would be pleased to see that I am having feelings for other people’s situations.

spock logic

A friend had a couple of close relatives killed in a car accident, and the news made me sit and weep. A cousin of Himself found out her husband has cancer, and the news was breathtaking. Literally.

Now, this is not a bid for sympathy like “oh feel sad for me because other people make me sad!” It’s more of a…sort of…awareness that wasn’t there Before. Hearing about other people’s tragedies didn’t really do much more than…well, didn’t do much. Not really. I mean, yes, I wanted to help but as far as the actual real visceral response…never really had that until now. Because now I know what it feels like.

Can we ever truly empathize for something about which we have no real experience? I can’t. Imagine a little bit, yes. But truly? I don’t know. Now I know what it actually feel likes to be turned upside down, ripped apart, and glued back together. How that hurts on every single level, right down to the roots of one’s hair.

That’s the biggest part of it, really, knowing exactly how that feels and not wishing it on your worst enemy, because truly I wouldn’t. Far better for those worst enemies to wake up and smell the coffee, realize the errors of their ways, and repent, while there’s still time.

So this…empathy thing…it is yet another bit that is being learned through the Process (I like that better than calling it a Journey). Things keep coming up, new stuff to be learned. Growing pains, perhaps. I am not sure what they are. Reluctantly, I know that. A reluctant yet inevitable process, with a lot of incomplete sentences and probably improper punctuation, both literal and figurative.

I guess the Process is like those needlepoint tapestries, stitched quietly over time, with 100 different colors of yard, where sometimes you stitch all the stuff of one color before moving to the next, and other times you make a few stitches in red, then a few in green, until the design is done. In the Process, you go along, stuff is the same for a while, then the color changes briefly, then again, then again, and there isn’t really time to get accustomed to one before it changes and I suppose that keeps things interesting.

I guess the newfound empathy is a good thing. Himself would say so. But it is odd, and uncomfortable, but aren’t most really good things like that at first?

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Slouching toward the New Normal

Not much has changed, other than basically everything. How does that happen? What’s it feel like? I’ll let you know.  The sameness involves #4 going to school, and my daily householdy housewifey stuff.  They say don’t make any major changes for a year. I am about 6 months in now. The major changes have all been the ones forced on me and honestly, I think those have been handled fairly well and with a minimum of screaming and alcohol. I won’t say none, just ask the kids when they come in and see a 6-pack of hard cider with death threat notes attached if anyone touches it. Also cashews. For some reason a bottle of cider and a handful of cashews are as good as any tranquilizer.

Some things have been let go, the past 6 months, but seem ready to get some attention now. Particularly the garden. Poor thing, I picked some tomatoes and a few green beans, and the sunflowers were glorious…but other than that, it was a bust this Summer. Oh, and there was a cantaloupe. It was wonderful. But everything else, all the stuff Himself would have applauded…the squash (nope), peppers (meh), potatoes (ok, got like 3 of them and are going to replant and try for the Fall)…Nope, nope and nope. It hurt to go out there. Himself wasn’t in his shop 20 feet away, not listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd and making noises and furniture. I didn’t want to be there.

Now, though…i think it’s time. #1 is coming over later today and we’re going to pull stuff out and weed and prep and generally make it ready for a Fall planting of root things and brassica things and salad things. All the lovely stuff that will actually grow through the mild Winter and keep us in delicious food. Optimism for the future is returning…in small ways to be sure, but there it is. Himself would approve.

All the Gummint Paperwork and Legalities are just about done. His estate has gone through Probate (he didn’t have a Will) and I am officially the Administrator and can tend to business.  Insurance funky stuff (holy cow the funky stuff…) is just about done…I hope. He is probably stirring up his own ashes that we are using the despised Obamacare, but private coverage would cost more than half my monthly income. I don’t despise it one bit. He contributed many many tax dollars over the year, and I consider it as using those. But oy…the paperwork and phone calls and more paperworks and confusions and having no idea of what to use for verifications…thank You, God, for intelligent advisers at the bank who know what’s what and how to do things.

One thing I wonder, though, somewhat angrily at times…If it is this complicated for me, and I am a relatively intelligent person who has successfully navigated the legal waters and investment shores…how much more ridiculous is it for someone with little education and intellectual skills to figure this out? How do THEY get the insurance twists and turns dealt with? I will say this, though…A woman from the Health Care Marketplace Gummint Agency Thing called me, having discovered a mistake in my favor, and walked me through it all. Maybe that’s how they do it. She was amazingly helpful. And, after getting a couple of letters from the insurance company fussing at me, I checked online to pay, and the corrections had already been made. awesome. She told me she was going to handle that for me. God bless her.

Himself would be proud of me for managing everything.Of course, if he were here I wouldn’t have to be, so I don’t really like that I have to, but I have discovered a person inside that has sense and fortitude, that I didn’t know was there. Gradually, things are getting taken care of. People are being patient and helpful, but the part I have to do, acquiring the papers and mailing them off and keeping track of everything and the stuff I didn’t really pay any attention to until 6 months ago. I reckon single women do this all the time and probably wonder what all the fuss is about.

Try seeing it this way…the opposite happens to you. You go from being independent and handling it all, not having to consider another person’s desires for anything…what to fix for dinner, when to go to bed and what to do when you get there, any of that stuff…then suddenly without any warning at all, another person is thrown into your life and you have to make these radical changes…and you don’t even get to think about it first, or get to know him or anything…just BOOM there’s another person living there, sleeping with you, eating the food. imagine how that would feel.  If you’ve ever had a baby, remember the dramatic change when he/she was born?

So many changes, and it all looks the same. That giant axe he bought for chopping wood (since the fireplace was cleaned and all ) still leans against the hearth. I still sleep on the left side of the bed, not even messing up the right side. His glasses are on his dresser, that still has his clothes in it. Really, looking around, the only thing that has dramatically changed is the size of the food in the freezer. Pints of soup instead of quarts. Half gallons of milk instead of gallons and so on. And the dining table is full of paperwork and a big bag of dog food, because #4 is pretty busy in the evening and I’m not setting the table for myself. Maybe I should declare a Family Night Supper and have all the boys (and girlfriend) over once a week.

I still have to remind myself he’s gone.  Yesterday after getting some news about one of his relatives, I thought “oh he needs to know this!” then thought “crap.” that wasn’t the word I used but I am trying to be less crude. Whenever there’s a leak or a rattle or something amiss, i have to remind myself that I am the one who has to deal with it. There’s no more making of notes to ask Himself about it. No more asking Himself about some piece of mail or official phone call or gathering juicy tidbits of stuff from the Soap Opera that was His Work.

Sigh…I’m making it. Kind of grudgingly and not with much dignity…but making it.

Image result for reluctant dog

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Old and crunchy

A friend told me that you never really get over the death of your spouse. I always believed her with that. Way back 25 years ago, when depression was sittin on my head like a soft black bat, whispering in my ear and saying things like “you know…if you die now, in about 2 weeks they won’t even remember your name” I kind of believed that, and was worried by it. Now I understand, there is NO FORGETTING. I wouldn’t want to. Sure, all this really, really hurts, but the sharpness of it, the broken glass feeling in my heart that takes my breath away…that’s lessening. I almost said it was getting easier but that is the wrong way to put it. It’s more like those shards of glass have been rolled around in beach sand (maybe that’s why I have been so drawn there) and while still hard, have smoothed around the edges.

The shock is gone, the desperate blind fumbling because the world has turned upside down…that’s kind of easing. It still, sometimes, feels almost like a part I am playing and soon the curtain will drop and I can return to Real Life. Then again, it doesn’t…it is Almost Real now. When something quits working, when the check engine light came on in #4’s car and there was no one to listen to it and say “oh it’s probably the (whatever), get it in when you can, no emergency”, that was a real sort of hit. I am not accustomed to having to take vehicles places. But I don’t know if it’s the catalytic converter or the double jointed rasterizer.

That right, folks, All the Pain of Death and Loneliness can be yours, but New And Improved With Even MORE Inconvenience!

It’s taking a toll, that I should have expected but didn’t. Or at least..I don’t know…what was I expecting at 50, anyway? This morning, while fluffing the hair and checking the teeth for green bits (usually all that ever gets looked at in the mirror), a spent a minute actually LOOKING at my face. There are parts that are…well…drooping. I don’t know how else to put it. Weight loss? Possibly. Weary Gloomy Grief? Maybe. The seamstress in me looked and thought that a bit of a taking in here, at the ears, maybe 1/2 inch, not much at all, is all that’s needed to take care of those lines by my mouth that make it look like a ventriloquist’s dummy.  Seriously…just a little in there, like that tuck at a waist when your butt’s big and the band gaps.  I pondered plastic surgery for about 2 seconds and was horrified at the vanity of it…I have always taken great pride in my lack of vanity….and THAT thought made my head explode and I had to go to church.

It wouldn’t have been so bothersome if there had been Himself there, making me feel beautiful like he did every morning.  I used to hear that every day, and now it’s been 5+ months and the affirmation is fading.

on the other hand, #3, Wife, and The Burrito (now 6 weeks old) came for the weekend, and no one seemed appalled by the lines, and Burrito looked at me and gave a big toothless grin, to which I replied “Ok, whatever you want, I’ll do it. you want cookies? What’s your favorite? A pony? A go-Kart? Name it. It’s yours, just do that again.”

The weekend, once again, as many of them are these days, was emotional. Highs and lows. Grinning babies and realizations of Old and No Longer 30.

Tho i swear, just that 1/2 inch pull to the side, and I looked 30. Except for the hair all grey, the bingo Wings, cellulite thighs, and crunchy knees.

It would be nice to hear someone say I’m beautiful, tho…and by someone, I mean Himself.

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easily impressed

Last night a friend was over and while we caught up on the last 2 episodes of Poldark, we played a game of some sort on her touch screen phone. This morning, as I was waking up with a fresh cup of coffee, sitting in a comfortable chair , I held an iPad, one of those small touch-screen things, and by tapping with my finger in various places on the screen, was able to read an excerpt from a book by Charles Spurgeon, check email sent by an assortment of people who wanted me to buy their stuff, and read short statements posted on Facebook by people with whom I have chosen to be in contact. Shortly after that, by handheld wireless phone the size of a deck of cards chimed. It was a friend wanting to know a good time for her to come over this morning. Right now I am tapping on a keyboard (the wireless iPad thing touch screen is fine for short statements, but I prefer the big and real feeling of a genuine keyboard for such as this), reading the words I type on an electronic screen. The device I am using to do this work is roughly the size of a notebook, and the screen is about 1-1/2 times bigger. Not only can I use it for typing things, it can be used to designing artwork that is, with the touch of a spot on the screen with an arrow guided by the heat of my hand on a patch at the bottom of the keyboard, is sent t a little device plugged into the side of the keyboard that is about the size of my thumb, which is then removed and plugged into the side of my sewing machine, and that information tells the machine where to position a hoop, as it stitches the design I drew on the computer, using the heat of my hand.

Think about all that. From the use of a piece of burned wood to make marks on a piece of thin bark peeled from a tree we have progressed to using the heat of our hand to move a thing that is essentially just an idea and has no ‘real’ connection (like wires) to anything. The heat of our hand, ideas, waves flying around in the air, and yet somehow we have managed to organize it all into something that functions and conveys ideas all over the world. I can, in an instant the speed of light, pass an idea on to a friend on the other side of our planet, and she can respond as quickly. I can have a desire for something (say, school supplies for #4), use my computer (not connected with wires or anything to anything else) to go to a place I have never seen, named after a river in South America, look around for the school supplies, ask them to send them to me and “pay” for them, using a number connected to a bank, where other numbers are regularly added to an account number associated with my name, those are numbers generated by a larger number in some place I have never seen, because himself bought a number many years ago and gave some of his numbers monthly to a numbered account, that promised to give me a bunch of numbers in the event Himself died and was unable to get numbers based on performance at a place that swapped numbers for labor. They call those numbers “money” but the truth is, I have never actually held anything more than a piece of paper once in a while that said “here, this is how many numbers you have.”

And yet, somehow, the device on my table converts commands based on where I hit the screen with my finger into an idea conveyed to people all over the world. Somehow the numbers work out to an ability to pay an electric bill that allows the devices to function, gas to make a car go (at least I can understand how THAT works), and being able to get in that car, go to the store and purchase food to eat.

Yeah, all that really impresses me. Sometimes it is confusing, and the desire to RETRENCH!, move to the country and grow my own stuff is intense. I think this is why I so deeply prefer to barter. I can understand how making a dress for this person in exchange for milk and eggs works. She has chickens, I have skills. Even steven.

My kids kind of think it’s a little silly, possibly even bordering on becoming a Luddite. I am not opposed to all this new stuff. I recognize it’s benefits (I am, after all, sitting here enjoying them right now). I just don’t quite understand how it all works. The numbers thing, sure I get that. Combine it with all the wireless computers and stuff, and how all those waves in the air (another thing I don’t quite grasp. I’ll never be a physisis…phhysacist…one of those guys who studies waveforms and such) are successfully sorted out and go to their proper places. I love that I can write a letter and send it to a person half a world away and it gets there in moments. Of course, a little something is lost in there, you don’t have this satisfying stuff to hold in your hands…but then back in the day mail didn’t exist either, so I am ok with the evolution of communication…it’s just that sometimes it is sad to see things with which you are so familiar change.

Maybe that’s why I like cooking over wood and gas so much. You can see the heat source and understand where it comes from. That’s right, even regular old electricity kind of baffles me. I sort of get it, something about electrons and wires and conductivity, but that’s about the extent of my understanding.

No, I leave the understanding of touch-pads and wireless networks the like to my son, who is studying electrical engineering and gets this stuff the way I understand biscuit recipes and herb combinations. It pleases me that such things as these exist. I love being able to touch my screen a few times and have a box full of school supplies brought to my doorstep 2 days later.  The logistics of getting something made in a country halfway around the world here to East Notmuch, Georgia and having it the precise thing that was asked for…that’s pretty cool, too! And all in exchange for some of my numbers moved over into a pile of numbers managed by some person who has a computer somewhere else.

It really is a small world, and, in spite of my confusion with it all, it is a wonderful place and time we are living in. Now if we could all just behave decently and tend to our own numbers….

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Its been a while, yeah? Sorry, I kind of dropped off for a while.

I don’t even remember how long ago…

I’m pulling out my widow card on this one. See? It’s my excuse. Gets me out of many things these days, especially social stuff.

I went and saw the Grandbaby…he’s still an infant and cute as can be. honestly I am looking forward to the 3-9 month stage. That’s when they start getting interesting. Right now he’s adorably cute in that cuddly baby doll sort of way.

Then I took Mom to Sanibel Island way down in South Florida. Theoretically it is an 8 hour drive. Reality is, due to her intense adversity to interstate highways and speeds over 55, it’s more like a 12 hour drive.  The island is nice though. It’s the wrong time of year for the interesting seashells but we got a ton of Calicos, those sort of scallops that are small and all colored purple stripes and stuff. Pretty things.

We ate an amazing meal served by a handsome French waiter named Jean-Claude…fresh caught grouper and scallops, blackened and served on a bed of dirty rice with fresh steam haricots vert…mmmmm

But now, I am exhausted. All that driving…the beach was nice tho. I got some great pictures and was protected one afternoon by a tiny superhero.

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Thinking again

The past several days have been put in the “pretty good not so difficult” file. Himself is always on my mind, constantly, but I have been able to think of him and smile, and do things with friends with (relatively) little sucking up of emotions.

I looked at his closet and dresser yesterday, and decided I am still not ready to empty it out.

Nights still feel a lot like he is gone off on a trip, and will come back. Logic, it hasn’t quite sunk into my heart yet. The bed is a lonely place. In 30 years, I have never gone this long without holding hands or sharing a kiss or a familiar snuggle on the sofa (or more). That hit me last night, sitting on the couch with the dog. The notion that it is entirely possible I may never do those things again is enough to…well…you can imagine. And no, the cat licking my forehead at 3am is not an acceptable substitute.

I have been wonderfully busy during the day, filling my time and turning my brain to simple chores and mindless stuff. I made bowties for a friend’s wedding. And went to the beach twice in a week. I bought hot dogs, played poker, and taught someone how to handle a revolver.

I have not pulled weeds, scooped up dog poop, or scrubbed a toilet.

I am, probably, going to name the dust bunnies. Might as well, they have taken up residence and are soon to develop personalities and free will.

I have learned how to use instagram (roo2toot, if you’re interested).

I have learned how to quit worrying about other people’s feelings and speak my mind. I don’t think I am an ass about it, but if someone asks “Hilton Head or Tybee Island?” the answer is definitive, and not the “Oh I don’t care, you choose!” of 2 years ago. Hilton Head has nicer bathrooms and showers, but Tybee has a much shorter walk from the parking lot to the beach. And I can hover, or just pee in the ocean. Oh come on…don’t lie and tell me you don’t do that. It’s the ocean. Everything that lives there pees in it. However, Hilton Head has nicer places to eat and a really great Goodwill.

Anyway, now that i am a 50 year old widow who might never get a juicy kiss, I am turning into my opinionated Aunt and speaking what I think (politely, I *am* still Presbyterian, after all).

And I think I really miss Himself.

I might even get a tattoo.

Something tasteful tho.


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