Decisions decisions

One of the biggest mental adjustments has been realizing I can do stuff for myself, and not for the 2 of us. I don’t have to consider what he would like anymore. I am figuring out that much of the time I bent my opinions and tastes to fit his, for the sake of…something…harmony or maybe simply streamlining decision making. Don’t misunderstand, he was not autocratic or anything, and was quite willing (in most things) to let me have my way.

Sometimes, though, for the sake of harmony or maybe simply streamlining, it was easier to say “ok, sure…let’s watch (yet another) James Bond movie (again)” I would chirp something about “popcorn or (something not popcorn)” knowing full well he’d want the popcorn, and to keep from having to make 2 bowls of stuff, I’d have popcorn too.

That sounds so complainy, but the point is, I am find of finding my voice here and it’s interesting and frankly, rawther liberating.

A case in point:  We have (had, now! WHEE!) this big brown rocking chair. VERY BROWN. And big. He liked it because his big frame fit in it. And it was BROWN.  I was happy that he had a comfortable chair, but hated BROWN. So brown, in this brown living room with the brown leather furniture and light brown walls and brown oak stuff and so BROWN in there. I would try to spice it up with bright quilts on the backs of the couch and pretty throw pillows that the dogs would take over for sleeping on and….bleh. So brown.

The other day it occurred to me that keeping altars for dead husbands isn’t really something that needs to be done. Don’t get me wrong…but I have photo albums and a beautiful sewing room full of furniture he built and a lovely jewelry box he made way back in 1987. I didn’t have to keep that BROWN chair BROWN. So I went to Lowe’s and got 2 cans of primer and 2 cans of glossy enamel paint in a lovely shade of BRIGHT RED. Not really a scarlet orangey red, but more like the color of a ruby with the sun hitting it. Textile dye people in The Industry would know it as Halliburton Red, the color used by the Halliburton Corp on all their hurricane generation equipment and uniforms. It is an amazing bright deeply saturated (that means bright) red, very strong and vibrant but not orange. So that chair is no longer BROWN. Now it is RED. 

rocking chair

Ok on my monitor that looks a little orange but I assure you it isn’t orange at all.

This whole process of finding my own self, after 30 years of sharing self with someone else, is kind of effervescent. As hard as it has been, the process of being torn in half, being rebuilt (rebound, patched up, whatever) is an adventure. My voice is different from his in many ways. I miss his voice. I miss going to Lowe’s with him and his opinion on stuff and the proper way to fix biscuits.

One of our first arguments after getting married was about biscuits. The other one was about cole slaw. And dumplings. We had vastly different opinions about those things. I will probably go back to making a vinegar based slaw and thin crusty biscuits and thick fluffy dumplings.

But the red chair….that took a little bit of hurdling, mentally. Was I dishonoring him, by painting the chair he was so adamant against having painted? Am I dishonoring him by packing up the James Bond and WW2 movies and choosing documentaries? Maybe. I don’t know. I choose to believe he is too busy doing other stuff right now, to care that the chair is red or the slaw is vinegary.  I know, if he weren’t busy not caring, that he would be kind of hurt and feel a bit disrespected. He was incredibly sentimental about nearly everything, and wanted stuff to remain as it was. And that was part of his charm. But I wanted that chair to be red for years.

And in this BROWN living room (which likely will get painted this Summer, when I am not off gallivanting), a bright red chair will cheer this place up.  If I end up not liking it I’ll paint it black or something.

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Grief 1.2

There are all kinds of warnings out there for new widows, that grief comes in waves, that people might try to take advantage of you, that sort of thing. That I am aware of, no attempted advantage-taking has happened. Grief in waves though, oh yes indeed.

3 months out, we are. 3 more days will be the 3 month mark. I won’t say anniversary because by definition those are an annual thing. It would be easy to get all worried about these emotional moments…days, really. I think by definition a moment is just a pinch of time, and the emotions have been running pretty high here for about a week.

But then there is a lot going on as well, baby-prepping, camp-prepping, being-alone-for-the-Summer prepping. And all of it without the benefit of Himself’s input and commentary. It has been really lonely and hard. Not really painful, unless you count an ache as a pain, which I don’t. At this point, now that finances are settled and I know when to expect a bill, the biggest source of stress is gone. Now that I am fairly sure (finals are this week) that #4 is going to make it through the 10th grade, the school stress has simmered down. All that dust of rearranging life has settled and it is time to get back to the grief, I guess.

That is why I don’t see it as a bad thing. I don’t want to be cheered up and talked out of it. It would be like going to the gym and talking someone out of doing the hard work of weight lifting because it is hard. Grief is hard. It is unpleasant. It hurts and aches and our natural response to pain and hardship is to want to escape it as fast as we can. But, if you were wanting to get into shape by going to the gym, you wouldn’t do it by walking through to the smoothie bar, would you? No, you’d stop in the middle and do the work. That is why you’re there.

Grief is like that. You can’t avoid it or pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s work and you have to do it. Everyone has their own method. Mine is to take the evenings and remember all the stuff we did. It makes me cry because we won’t be doing any more stuff. I like out stuff. The trips, whether it’s 10 days on Route 66 or half an hour to Lowe’s for pipes and geraniums. You know, we always held hands. Always. I miss that. He had big meaty hands that swallowed mine up, and he held on very gently. I remember way back when he said once he was afraid his hands would break mine so he was very careful.

So here it is, the work of grief. I’d rather be at the smoothie bar, but that will come later. For now, I will do this.

Who knows what will come in a month, or 6 months? Hopefully a baby will be here in a month, and that will be another tough thing to plow through. Joy and sorrow at the same time…I have no idea what’s going to happen there. There was a taste of it at a baby shower last weekend. #3 and I both felt it and had to step outside for a while. A friend is getting married in July, the day before our wedding anniversary. I have volunteered to help set up the reception. I am pretty sure being at the ceremony will be too big of a weight, I am not ready for that yet. I am so happy for her, she lost a husband 4 years ago and has been so wonderful helping me through this weird transition. But being there…no, I don’t think so. Setting out food and drink and flowers would be easier.

As for the holidays, those will come what may. I have heard of women who completely avoided them altogether the first year, and that sounds kind of nice…but there are kids and parents and others to consider. Come what may, I will deal with it then. After the smoothie.

But for now, it is this 3 month not-anniversary to deal with. The grief is here, and it’s real, and it is a weight to lift. It is heavy and hard, but not so hard I can’t lift it. I’m not alone, spinning out there with no guidance or rope to hold. There are friends and family, church and God (oh how wonderful to have God here! I am learning there is more to salvation than just that one definition…it also comes in the form of that rope to hang on to. Recognizing His grace and mercy for us is only the beginning.)

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Patchwork

Life is like a quilt, isn’t it…made up of pretty bits and not-so, stitched together by time and experience. Sometimes it all comes unraveled, or so it seems. Maybe it’s just being remade. I’ve done that…taken a quilt all worn out and patched places, maybe put a new binding on it., making it useful again.

P1020072

I feel like I am being remade, patched up, rebound. Thankfully. Getting ripped apart is painful and it’s difficult to see the purpose behind it. One tends to focus on how it used to be, how pretty that quilt was, or maybe how strange, or even the ugly bits. Have you ever seen a quilt with ugly bits? If it was made of exclusively bright and lovely pieces, they would all kind of bland each other out. Too much of a good thing and all. The ugly bits make the pretty ones even nicer.

Life is like that, isn’t it…with the ugly parts making the nice ones stand out a bit.  We choose which parts to focus on. Do I want to look at the rough polyester brown parts, the arguments and hardships, or the pretty calicoes, colorful and full of delight?  Right now, it’s the lovely bits. They jump out at the strangest times.

I was sorting through the jewelry box recently, and came across my engagement ring. Due to Widow Weight Loss, it fits again. I haven’t been able to wear it for 10 years, and now I can. I remembered choosing it, at Ware’s in Auburn. Himself didn’t have much money, and the ring I really wanted was a big natural emerald that was so far beyond what he could afford I didn’t even say anything about it to him. What I chose was a dark sapphire with 4 tiny diamonds, 2 on each side, set in a split band. $275 it cost, and that was a tremendous amount to him. They let him make payments on it for a few months.  I love that ring. The memory of choosing it is a bright piece of calico.  There are many happy memories of that 6 months or so before we married…and the year leading up to it.  Now that I can wear it again, every time I look at my hand, the happy memories come back.

Last week I went to the beach with some friends…that quilt-block is probably made of something with sequins. There was a baby involved, and a loud argument over the rules of Mexican Train, and lots of sunshine.

There was a baby shower for #3’s wife and due-soon son this past weekend. About 3/4 the way through it, there was an overwhelming sense of loss, that Himself won’t be here to be Grandpop. #3 felt it too, since he won’t have his Dad to guide him through fatherhood. I can’t decide if that is an ugly brown piece in the quilt, or a bit of binding across my life-block and #3’s.

Thinking of all of this life, the last 50 years, and the central 30 years with Himself, as a quilt, each block being a separate story, it helps keep it whole. I am not coming unraveled without reason. Unraveled, yes, but only to be stitched back together into something different.Yes, it hurts, but so does anything like this.  I can’t see it, and probably never will, at least not from this earthly perspective. But, there is comfort in knowing that it isn’t random or ugly. It may be finished into something quiet and simple, and that’s ok.  Even the plain quilts have their own charm and warmth.

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To dream the impossible dream

What a difference a day makes, eh. Yesterday was A Good Day. Optimism, thankfulness, all that wonderful stuff. A trip is planned for next week, with #2 staying here with #4, making sure school happens, all that. I am trusting them. Nervous a little, especially last night for some reason. It’s the “getting up and getting to school on time” issue mainly. Oh well, you have to trust them some time, right? At 16 I was able to do that, and I didn’t have an autocratic older brother to help.

Last night was full of those dreams-within-dreams. You know the kind, where you’re dreaming and you wake up then something really weird happens and you realize you’re still dreaming. 3 times this happened, all in the same dream. First, I dreamed Himself was dead, then I woke up and was incredibly happy it was a dream, then I realized we were in the wrong house, and it was a dream. Oh well. Carry on. Then I woke up again, Wow! It was a dream he was dead because there he is fixing breakfast! Except he was wearing these weird pajamas that didn’t fit and I knew he didn’t have any like that. Oh well, carry on. Normal dreamy stuff ensued….ok fine…Wake up…WOW! There he is! All this, it really was just a dream and he’s right there next to me in the bed, the right house, the right bedspread, I am wearing the pajamas I actually put on last night OH WOW I AM NOT EVEN MAD AT HIM FOR THE LAST 10 WEEKS OF EVERYTHING BEcaus….crap. It’s a dream.

Dear Brain,  you suck.

I woke up from that, waiting to see if it was a dream or real, and the dog started barking her “let me outIgottapee!” bark and now I feel completely deflated. This was better than Christmas and a trip to Six Flags and walking away from the preacher holding Himself’s hand the day we got married and every good thing….for a few moments this morning I was so incredibly joyful because it really was JUST A DREAM all this mess of the last 10 weeks. except that the 10 weeks wasn’t the dream.

The reality is, he is gone. There is grit on the floor because I haven’t swept in a while. 7am is as late as I get in the morning because the dog has to pee and if I want breakfast on the weekend I have to fix it myself. There isn’t a warm Himself laying next to me anymore. Reality is the bowl of yogurt and granola right over there because that’s all the ambition there is for breakfast. It’s the wanting to walk away from all of this, packing up a couple of changes of clothes for #4 and myself, and simply going away.

I know, running away from something doesn’t solve anything. The easy way out is almost never the way to handle it. I can’t run away from my brain, not legally anyway, and the side effects of doing that chemically are ill-advised.

So, I am going to suck it up and try to forget last night’s roller coaster. The floor will get swept and the lawn mowed and supper planned. Smiles will be forced until they feel normal (as if…what does “normal” even feel like anymore?). #4 is having a friend over later and they can disappear into the virtual world of whatever it is 16 year olds play these days.

Who is that mythological character that had to drag the rock up the mountain every day, just for it to roll back down every night? Sisyphus? Or was that the guy who had his liver eaten every day, and it grew back every night? That’s kind of how it feels…rest at night, with the potential escape of dreams, then you wake up in the morning and there it is again…the rock and the mountain…or the bird that eats your liver…

I can see how stuff like this drives people to drink or drugs. I am not going there, as the side effects of such are more than I want to fool with, plus there are offspring who need a good example of How To Deal. Not to mention all those people around here who keep saying things like “I don’t know how you do it!” and “You’re so strong!” and such.  I am not. I am weak and terrified and frustrated and want to dump the whole thing and move to Kansas and get a job as a Waffle House Waitress and live in a tiny efficiency apartment and name myself Kate. But then there would be no one to let the dogs out at 7 am, and there is a 16 year old who just lost his father and to lose his mother as well would be grossly unfair. My hyper developed sense of responsibility (Agnes McCalvinox) will not allow that.

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Whoa, Nelly

So, now it has been 12 weeks since Himself left us. 3 months. That long? that soon? Wow, huh. It’s gone from Winter to Spring. Damp and grey to blooming and warm. I wish he could see the shrubs we planted last Summer, blooming and pretty. The garden looks pretty too, he’d like that, the peas and greens, and watching the tomatoes, counting the days until he can have the first tomato sandwich of the Summer. He did love him a tomato sandwich, and I always planted a Big Boy for him. Roman Meal bread, Duke’s (of course!) mayo, a warm thick sliced Big Boy and some black pepper. 2 of those for a Summer supper and he was fine.

I’ve compared this journey with that of having a baby, how fresh and new it all is. I have a couple of friends who had babies in March, and let me squish on them for Grandma Practice. There is a grandbaby due in June…I can’t wait! Do I want to be Grandmom, Grandma, Granny? No idea. Anyway, watching these little ones grow and smile and turn red, keeps me mindful of the whole life process, birth, life, death. I am as accustomed to Himself being gone as they are to their babies being here. They are getting their schedules, learning how to manage the immense changes, as am I.  They are relying on friends and family, so am I. Plans for the future, some happy, some scary…check. It gives me pause and reason for thoughtful consideration of what’s the right way to go.

I continue to be mindbogglingly grateful for what I have, family, resources, a church, friends. It moves me to tears more than the thought of Himself being gone. Seriously. I miss him still, but the realization that I am not alone, spinning in the wind…what on Earth…

And so, plans for the future continue. I am working with Dad on house plans. We drew up a design and he is getting it to an architect for the fine touches and logistical stuff (wiring, plumbing, etc). Next weekend we will walk off the area chosen, and stake-and-string it, to get it oriented to make best use of sun and shade, for solar panels. That’s right. It’s going to be a Green House. Or maybe Green-ish. Sorta. Minimal electricity, whatever. If it can be worked out to be completely off-grid eventually, that would be amazing. Lots of research is happening with this thing. We’ll see.

College? Maybe. There is a major university where I am moving, that I went to 30 years ago and could re-enroll. To what end? I don’t know. Education. Geology is interesting, all those rocks and tectonic plates and stuff. Physiology Of The Planet…fascinating stuff, that. I am old enough the students walking around would automatically think I am an instructor and be nice to me.

Or not. Cultivate 3 acres and grow enough to feed all of us. Get some chickens. Take care of Mom as her health declines, or Dad when he falls off the roof and lands on his head. (I am working on that. He is getting better about roof climbing, but he still acts like he is 40 at times).

Who knows.

When I read the assorted widow’s forums, it seems so many of them take several years to get to where I am now. Am I doing it wrong? I don’t know. I have always recovered from stuff quickly, kind of like “Ok, that was bad, now get on with your life.” It doesn’t mean I don’t miss him less, far from it, but there’s Stuff To Be Done and staring at the photo albums all day makes me twitchy. Once a decision has been made, it needs to be acting on immediately. Once an event has happened, it is dealt with (for the most part). His stuff is still in the closet. The bourbon is still in the cabinet.  Some things, like cooking and sweeping the floors, have been neglected because I don’t really see much point in it. Who’s going to notice? Himself was the one who commented on things like that. What 16 year old boy is going to care? #4 doesn’t really, except for the food thing.

I am at that “ok why bother” stage. I haven’t seen it listed in all those Stages of Grief things, the ones that tell you what to expect and when. I am not depressed, far from it, I just simply would rather be doing something else. Sweeping is boring. Food doesn’t interest me. (because of that, I can wear my engagement ring again, something I haven’t been able to do in more than 10 years.) Being at home in general bores me. Poor dogs, I have been giving them as much time as I can but really…boring.

Can’t #4 just take some sort of test so he can graduate and move on? There’s the GED, but he wants to go to a University and those generally require a diploma.  So no. The educational hoops must be jumped through.  Why can’t I get a double-wide and put it on that spot? No. Dad is building the house and wants a nice one. That is a gift horse I am NOT going to look in the mouth.

And there is much to be done here. Not just physical logistical stuff, but metaphysical, spiritual, all that. There is growing and learning to be done. This baby is only 3 months old, not even crawling yet. There are hurdles I don’t even know about.

ok fine then…I’ll go sweep and plan a nice dinner.

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Ceviche or lutefisk?

I turned 50 the other day. It wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be, due to the kindness of friends who noticed, what with the constant reminders I’d been dropping for the last week. I know, shamelessness…but it has it’s rewards, such as a Waffle House breakfast and a morning at the beach. Also, the boys came over last night and cleaned up the kitchen after dinner (steaks, baked potatoes, and cherry pie…no vegetable beyond the herbs chopped up and sprinkled on the baked potatoes. Here’s a hint, rather than just boring chives, go ahead and chop up a bunch of stuff and mix them together. Rosemary, oregano, parsley, thyme, chop them all up and mix them together for your potato. Yum, y’all.)

I guess grief has turned bittersweet. No longer is there hysteria or sobbing or that incredible shock of being ripped in half. Now it’s a pervasive sadness, sometimes right on the surface, sometimes deeper down. I have been systematically (and very very slowly) going through rooms, culling stuff, making decisions about what to keep and what to give away. Last night #1 got Himself’s Galilean thermometer. It’s a cool thing but I didn’t care about it. #1 did, so he got it. Each boy has permission to ask for this thing or that one, reminders of Himself that they can keep and enjoy, that don’t matter much to me at all. I want photographs. The jewelry box that was one of the first things he made for me, and the furniture in the sewing room.

I’m not ready to go through his clothes yet. They aren’t bothering anything, or taking up needed room. I am used to them being there. Letting them go would feel, I think, a bit like taking off my wedding ring. I still feel married. I still have no interest in anyone but him. Maybe one day that will change, maybe it won’t. It doesn’t really matter.  Maybe it will be like it was with sleeping in the big bed we shared. I couldn’t do it for a few weeks, it felt all wrong for him to not be there. Then one night, something in my head said it was ok to go back in there, and I did, and it was. I figure one day something will tell me it is time, and it will be done. Until then, all those clothes and shoes will stay right where they are, not bothering anyone and not in the way.

I have been giving some thought to taking a trip. I don’t know where. Maybe the tropics. I love a tropical place, with the heat and humidity, the ridiculous flowers and all that fruit. And a beach. Panama looks nice, it’s inexpensive and they like Americans down there. Or maybe a road trip. Change the oil in the convertible, gas up and drive somewhere I’ve never been. Take a trip Himself and I would’ve done, with a photo of him taped to the dashboard. I can hear #3 now “WHAT?” and then admonitions to call him every 2 hours to ensure that I haven’t been captured and sold into sexual slavery or dismembered into someone’s back country BBQ. He gets his vivid imagination for awful scenarios from me.

And why is it, when a woman takes off on her own, there is all this concern for her safety? A man I know recently hopped on his motorcycle BY HIMSELF and road 4000 miles, nary a concern, just people saying “ok, have a good time!” I would get all kinds of concern and advice and warnings about serial killers and truck stops. Because I have boobs and the in-hole. It irritates me to be reduced to someone mindless, when truth is, I am competent to do this, and if something goes wrong, am competent to manage that as well.  I will even check with concealed carry laws to make sure my permit is accepted in the states through which I am traveling, and tuck Maybelline under the driver’s seat. Is that good enough? Probably not. I remember Himself telling of driving from South Georgia to Chicago in a 1965 VW Beetle, he was 17 and there were NO CELL PHONES. He stopped in Indiana to call his parents and let them know he was fine. I remember the time I took a bus from where I lived to where I used to live (I was 17), and at the stopover in Atlanta, was solicited by several obvious pimps, and managed just fine to tell them to piss off I wasn’t interested. So yeah. I think I could manage a trip on my own thankyouverymuch!

Maybe I’ll drive to Florida, to the home of someone who invited me, whom I have never met. That would be interesting. (I can hear the howls of disapproval now. O person in South Florida, can you assure me you aren’t a serial killer wanting my body parts for a skin-suit?) Or maybe to North Dakota. Or Chicago. I don’t know, maybe nowhere in particular, just point the car in a direction and see what happens in 24 hours.

Mainly, I simply want OUT OF HERE for a while. Time to think and get my plans in order or something. A couple of weeks, that’s all I need, and I want to do it ON MY OWN. I have never lived or done anything ON MY OWN. Ever. I went from living with my parents to marrying Himself and living with him. I have never taken a trip BY MYSELF. They have always involved another person, either going to see them and being picked up somewhere, or going with, and having a back up plan. I need to prove that I can do this ON MY OWN. This is such a strong feeling it makes me grit my teeth and want to cry. I need to prove something, to myself and everyone else. That I am competent and intelligent and resourceful. I want everyone else to know, for a FACT, that I am what I know I am. That I do not NEED someone else to rely on, that I was married to Himself because I wanted to be, not because I was helpless without him.

I know in many ways here lately I have made it ok. Stuff he did exclusively for many years, I am doing, and successfully. Cars have been maintained, finances are in order, and the lawn in mowed…thanks to a friend’s husband who understands lawnmowers and fixed ours. I am going to learn how to fix it myself, as it seems a simple enough machine.  I see many, many single women out there, who are not victims of serial killers and pimps.

Panama sounds really nice. Beaches and ceviche.

Image result for hammock on the beach

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Let’s have a pity party…1…2…3…awwwww

Wow…the past couple of days have been one big pity wallow-fest. You’d think, being a grown up and all, I’d be past this and able to be a grown up about it.

But I am not, and I don’t want to. No. I want to throw down on the floor and have a temper tantrum and shout things like IT’S NOT FAIR and WHY AM I BEING PICKED ON and stuff like that. Like some 3 year old who didn’t get the red balloon or a teenager who didn’t get the car she wanted for her birthday.

I remember actually hearing a young person complain about getting the blue Camaro when she wanted a red one. We nipped that mess in the bud when the boys were little. If they whined about getting the wrong color/whatever, we said “fine then, you won’t get that one…or any other one. (you ungrateful snot)”

So now I am being an ungrateful snot. I have so much. A house to live in, income to support me for the rest of my life (even if the stockmarket crashes), kids and grandkid(s, hopefully). Food to eat, roses to bloom, a way to go. I have so much and yet whining is the default setting for today.

The stuff That Wasn’t keeps coming into my head. (get thee behind me, Satan, you’re an asshole.) Gratitude isn’t. It needs to. It must. Dissatisfaction is an ugly thing, especially now when there is so much to be grateful for.

It’s all working out. Really, it is. What am I cranky about, anyway? My birthday is coming up. The big 50. When Himself turned 50 I had a big party, a drop in thing and lots of people showed up to wish him a Happy, and he loved it. I want to stomp my foot and pout about it, because he isn’t here to make a big deal over me. Poor poor pitiful me, let’s have a pity party 1…2…3…awe. Get over it, ya pwecious pwincess.

So here’s what’s going to happen. The boys are invited over for dinner that night. Ribeyes will be grilled, potatoes will be baked, as well as a berry cobbler. yum. with whipped cream. The real kind. There will be a bouquet of flowers on the table and a tiara on my head.And a cold 6-pack of pear hard cider. Who said someone else has to plan my party? NO ONE.

There. I’ve talked myself out of being an ungrateful snot, and feel much better now.

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