The necessity of sorrow

The past several days have been difficult, but necessary. All the things have been done, and business is managed. Days are no longer filled with paperworks and phone calls and endless driving around being all official and doing of important tasks. A while back I kind of griped about all that stuff, because there was no time to mourn.

Now there’s time, and I am thankful for it, even though it hurts. There is time to sit and remember 30 years of a relationship, with moves and house renovations and arguments and hurt feelings and making up and delight in each other. There’s time to remember how many times he called me beautiful and I called him handsome. So many times he would come home with a new dress he saw in a store window, because he knew I would never buy it. So many times I encouraged him to get that power tool and make that cabinet. I have been looking at pictures from beach trips with tiny children and car washed and weddings. All of them cause joy, for the memories, and 30 years of life with this wonderful man. They also cause sorrow, for the loss of 30 more years, and the what-might-have-beens.  All of this, every emotion, is so necessary. I need to feel all of it.

We shove sadness away, don’t we, in this culture. Sad people are told to CHEER UP. Sorrow is viewed with concern and sad people are avoided, in case it’s contagious. Sometimes (often) I wish we had the mourning customs of Ethiopia, with it’s head shaving and many people in the house and so much noise. Get it all out! Don’t hold it in and pretend to be strong!

I hear that so much…”You’re so strong!” and such like. I guess because I am keeping it private. Sort of…this isn’t so private, but whatever. Public displays of anything aren’t really my way. But, this sorrow, the tears and remembering and heartache, it is so incredibly important. It feels deeply necessary.

It’s not despair, don’t think that. It’s not self pity or fear for Himself’s afterlife, or anything like that. It’s…missing him. The shortest verse in the bible is “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). He is crying because he feels the sorrow of the loss of his dear friend Lazarus, and sympathy for Mary and Martha. (read the whole chapter for context). Nowhere in the Bible are we told that feeling sorrow is bad. Jesus felt loss, I feel loss. He wept. I weep. It’s fine. It hurts, but so do many things that are good for us. It is a comfort beyond words that God knows precisely what I am going through.

It’s important, this grieving process. I can’t tell you exactly WHY, because I am still in the middle of it, but I can tell you that it is RIGHT. I am still going to do it in private, because that’s how I roll, but be assured that I am certainly going to do it, for as long as it takes. I want my children to do it, and Himself’s family, and all the people who feel the loss in their lives. And I am going to always thank God for the 30 years we knew each other, and that Himself is in God’s presence, singing (in tune!) and probably making furniture with Jesus, the other Great Carpenter.

I think all the busy work and paper stuff and hoopla that has taken place, keeping me from grief and such, was a good thing. The shock of it has worn off, and the grief can happen peacefully, with order and I can mix the joy in with it.

There’s no telling how long this is going to last. I don’t really care. It will last as long as it takes.

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That Oh Sh*t Moment

The day started out perfectly normal. #4 needed harassing to get up, the coffee was lovely, breakfast went well, kid to school, all that nice and comfortable morning stuff. O how I love a routine. It’s like living out a list and O how I love a list.

A grocery list was made, nice and normal-like…chicken, juice, avocados. The usual thing. I even trolled around looking for something to eat while taking half a day off to watch mind numbing TV (O how I love a good couple of hours of mind-numbs). I didn’t find anything. Between the “no appetite at all” and the “wow the scale says I’ve lost 15 pounds” food was causing a “meh” reaction. A lot of that happens these days, with food and doing stuff and general lack of enthusiasm for most anything.

Whilst loading groceries into the trunk, this thought landed on my head like a bag of wet cement:

I am a Single Mother.

Honestly, Rootie, that never occurred to you? Sure it did, but only in a purely intellectual sort of way. This was a thought most philosophical and even a bit spiritual. A single mother. That is something I didn’t think would ever happen. 28-1/2 years of marriage, we were so committed to staying together and boom, he’s gone. It was discombobulating. Here I stood, loading a few bags of groceries into the trunk of my car, A Single Mother.

Then I whispered a prayer of thanks to God that this happened when it did, and not while there were 3 rebellious and recalcitrant teenage boys in the house. That probably would have sent me right around the bend. I think, but it doesn’t matter because that isn’t what happened.

I guess the thought started to gel last night, as we were getting ready for bed. I was tucking in, #4 was tucking in, and we were saying good night to each other from across the hall, and the bed seemed too big for one.

I used to kind of hate it when Himself went on trips, and would make light of it by saying something like “I get the middle of the bed and all the pillows!” or “I can watch girly things without running Himself out of the room!”, that sort of stuff. Now I get all those things, and more, and don’t want any of them.

But this whole Single Mother concept, especially since it happened so suddenly, is confusing. Even a little nauseating. In the mornings, I came down while Himself was in the shower, and fixed 2 cups of coffee, and had his waiting on the chair side table. Not fixing it this morning was upsetting. Realizing I have joined a group never before considered was disconcerting.  A total paradigm shift.

But you know, looking around at the world, lots of women do it, for all sorts of reasons. They survived. As will I. Once again I am made aware of how incredibly blessed I am, how utterly undeserving I am of all the help and kindness and everything…it’s humbling, really.

So that saying that is so often heard rumbles around “To those whom much is given, much is expected” or something like that. Which begs the question “What is expected of me? Where am I supposed to go with all this? How is God going to use this stuff I’ve been through?” Truly, I have no idea, but the knowledge that He WILL use this is a comforting one, even exciting in a way. So, now the waiting happens. All the ducks are in a row now, and there is time to breathe and see what will come of it all.

I still miss Himself so very much. I resent the empty spot in the bed and the too many pillows and the tiny chicken in the fridge. I resent having to rely on other people to diagnose car problems and such. and the whole money thing, the making out of bills and working a budget and all that? Whoof…don’t EVEN get me started on that. But all of it, the having to do it alone, that’s just the dues of being a Single Mother, and it’s time to get over it and deal.

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+2 months

It’s been 2 months since Himself had his heart attack. We’ve made it. All the paperwork has been done and is in place…the official Big Decision stuff that had to be done, even in the middle of the admonitions by everyone to make no big decisions for a year.

People. Make a will. Go ahead and make your family mad for being morbid, and make funeral plans. Get yourselves in order. If at all possible, have some savings set aside to cover costs because death is expensive and the people grieving can’t think clearly and if all that stuff is set up and in place, they will be grateful beyond words. If they aren’t there will be people who will make sure they know how fortunate they are.  I am in the best possible circumstance here and it was grueling. I cannot imagine the hardship death would be on someone who doesn’t have the kind of support I have had.

Here’s another piece of advise: Get yourself a group. It might be a bookclub or a church ladies group of some sort, or whatever. Group support, the sort of emotional and physical support I have had has been beyond value. Having people step in and do the stuff I was not capable of thinking about, that is what the group is for. Laundry, feeding everyone, holding my hand, praying, going to the beach, talking to, crying with…so incredibly important. I can’t even emphasize how important support like this has been. Even if it’s just a couple of people…this is something that would be incredibly difficult to do alone, and I am a very loner type of person…groups make me nervous but having spent 5+ years working on relationships with a group of ladies has been an incredible blessing through the whole mess.

Ok, that’s my advice for today.

So much has changed in the past 2 months. Not just outwardly, but inside as well. I’ve gone from being soft and dependent to being organized and confident. Not that I was not confident before, but the things I am doing now…phone calls, arguing with people, looking out for the best interest of our children…pretty amazing stuff. I would look at a thing and hand it over to Himself “here, you do it, you’re better at this…” now I am better at it.

A lot has been shoved to the side as well. Leisure things like yard work and gardening. No time, y’all. Now I get it, how people who work have to do other stuff…the yard is a mess…but eh…not really a priority and I will eventually deal with it. The house is the same way, not a priority.

Hopefully all that stuff will swing back around into do-ability but good grief, the paperwork, phone calls, forms, this, that and the other. Just about the time everything seems to be settling in BOOM, someone gets sick or something breaks or a phone call demanding a signature…what…ev…er. Leeme alone I wanna watch Orphan Black.

Let’s see…here’s how it goes…the dog has a mysterious swelling that requires a vet visit. It’s an abscessed tooth that results in antibiotics and another vet visit. Meantime, #4’s asthma is getting intense thus a doctor’s visit, and a long consultation due to crappy insurance and a financial discussion with him regarding medications that both work and are affordable on my very fixed income.  Also, financial finagling, to figure out just how to deal with this very fixed income and trying to decide if school or employment would be better, and can I get a job that doesn’t involve fast food or night shifts. Fortunately I am not suffering, it is just a logistics thing and I won’t do both school and work because #4’s world has been turned upside down and the thought of leaving him at home in the evenings is not acceptable.

So much to think about. Happily I am better able to think. The waves of sorrow are still intense, but the constant rock of anxiety is becoming easier to bear, or maybe smaller…I can’t tell. Instead of bursting into uncontrollable tears at any time, it happens in the evening, and I can talk about Himself with fondness and love, mostly without the threat of tears (not always, but most of the time). I can pray without crying now, and thank God for the 30 years with Himself, without wishing these 2 months were all a bad dream. I don’t jump at seeing a big white truck, thinking it’s Himself. Now #4 and I share our sadness but are able to keep going and function. It’s still very new, but scars are forming and I can see we will be OK. And we will.

My attitude toward stuff that might be really upsetting is this: You can’t do anything to me that is worse than has already been done, so I am not stressing out about it.

Stuff like:

#4’s car making scary noises and leaking all over the driveway. Meh…get a tow truck and take it to the shop. Let someone else deal with it.

#4’s asthma: Medical science is a wonderful thing, and since he isn’t turning blue or gasping for air, we will get this dealt with. I am concerned, but not worried.

Health insurance: yes, our new policy kind of sucks compared to the coverage we had with Himself’s work, but we have it and a catastrophic event won’t bankrupt us. So I have to pay for Dr’s visits and prescriptions, the doctor is great at working out meds that both work and are relatively inexpensive.

Weeds: Call it a Wildflower Meadow, or maybe a Wetlands That Cannot Be Altered Due To EPA Regulations and we’re all good.

Dog poo on the patio: At least they’re going outside, right?

That brown spot on the ceiling from water: That’s why there’s Kilz. It will get dealt with before we move out. No hurry.

image by

See, no real worries. Nothing that can’t be handled. I suppose those things could be looked at as an assortment of straws seeking to break this camel’s back, but I see them as ordinary stuff that I just don’t have the time to manage at the moment. Except for the medical things…all that other stuff…meh. If someone doesn’t like it, they can come cut my grass and paint my ceilings.

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#4 and I are making a quick trip to Alabama today, just an overnight thing. I have an appointment with The Good Dr. H. tomorrow. In preparation for that, I’ve been doing a whole lot of personal evaluation.

One of the biggest issues with bipolar disorder is a deep mistrust of emotions. Feelings, due to the nature of this disorder, are misleading. It is one of the reasons I keep wondering if I am doing this “grief thing” right. The primary one, really. So, reading over the stuff written in the past couple of months, it would appear that I am, for the most part. There are moments of intense anxiety, panic attacks, etc. Who wouldn’t, when the world is turned upside down? Moments of intense sorrow, because my life’s companion is gone. That’s also normal. My faith has kept me from despair, and that is a good thing. I don’t even want to imagine what this would be like without the confidence provided by that.

So, it’s all ok. Ducks are in a row, anxiety and sorrow and sadness are normal. I can report to Dr. H. that, all things considered, I am doing as well as can be expected.

#4 got The Dreaded Report finished. FINISHED. He is ready to turn it in as his rough draft for Mrs. W. to check over and edit. She gave him until next Friday, and I told him that if he wanted to come with, and not be babysat by #2 (a fate worse than being slapped by a cod), he would have to have it done by yesterday. He whined and complained and said things like “cruelty” and “unreasonable” and actually spent more time complaining than it took to actually DO the work. When he was done he said “Well. I’m done. That was easy enough.” Mrs. W makes them do things like outlines and bibliographies, and I make him do things like highlighting the quoted passages and work at the dining table to eliminate the distractions of beds and interesting comic books. Now it’s done and he’s very happy about it.

One of the lessons I have TRIED to teach my children (with varying degrees of success) is to do the work first, and as soon as it’s assigned, then there is time for revisioning and such, or maybe all this free time without the weight of impending deadlines. He seems to be the only one who has actually caught on to that (sort of).

Anyway, the anxiety and sorrow off the past couple of days is still here, but it is softened with the knowledge that this is entirely normal, and there isn’t actually anything WRONG wrong. Plus it has been raining the past couple of days and that always contributes to a moodiness.

I am determined, for the next few days, to look at the upcoming life with optimism. I will NOT allow myself to be overwhelmed with the amount of stuff, because there are 2 years to deal with it. I am going to think about work, what kind and how to approach an education for it. I am going to investigate an opportunity that a friend told me of, and consider what sort of training would be helpful with that. I am going to make a long list of good things that will happen soon…stuff like a grandbaby coming in June, and the peas that will be ready to pick in a couple of days.

I CAN do this. I can. I have a backbone and a support system and a God Who loves me more than anything I can imagine. There is purpose behind all of it, nothing is random. My job is to figure out what I am supposed to do, even the rest of today and into tomorrow. The anxiety is there, like a knot in my stomach, but it will not control me. The sorrow is there, like a weight on my shoulders or a fog, but it will not stop me. If I can make it through 2 years of coping with a mental illness that wanted to destroy me, and live, I can make it through this.

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It ain’t over yet.

I kind of lost it last night. While getting ready for bed, I spent some time looking at Himself’s dresser, which has been cleaned but not de-Himselfed (all his coin jars, the humidor, the beaker full of pens and pencils are still there), and it all came boiling up and caused a good solid 30 minute sobbing and ball-curling-up-into sort of thing. I dislike doing that on principle, but there is enough information out there that says sometimes that is necessary and a good thing. Apparently bottling up, doing that “Suck It Up” maneuver isn’t healthy. So, as long as there’s no one around to be disturbed by it (like #4, who would be VERY upset), I’ll cut loose. He was busy blowing things up in the game room (virtually, that is.)

and this morning it feels like a hangover. It’s raining and supposed to do so all day. That will make it hard to do the much needed and desired physical stuff like pulling weeds and…pulling weeds. And cutting the shin-tall grass, and pulling weeds.

What would be really cathartic would be packing to move. I love to pack up to move, as it is a chance to inventory things and decide to keep or discard. However (Lord Willing) that won’t happen for a couple of years, but I am still kind of itching to get it done. Maybe the game room.

One of the things that has been said many times is “make no major decisions for a year” and I totally understand that. Since #4 is due to graduate in 2 years, I decided we would stay here for those 2 years, and that is my “new normal” goal. We will Do The Best We Can for these 2 years, and when he is done with that school, and I am ready to move and start a new life Just Me over in Alabama, that will be the beginning of New Normal.

Himself has been gone 7 weeks now. Nearly 2 months. While I am getting used to him being gone, I am not used to him being GONE. It still feels like he is off on an extended trip or something, and then it will fall on my head, like last night, that this is FOR GOOD. He won’t ever pick through his cigars, trying to decide which one will go best with the bourbon he chose to that evening’s libation. He won’t ever leave every single piece of paper from his pocket on the corner of his dresser. I won’t wake up to the sound of his morning shower or fix his breakfast or pack his lunch. So much of my day involved HIM. Laundry, hanging up his shirts by color in the closet, making sure his pants got folded right. none of that.

I guess that’s what i am missing, those little things. I like taking care of him. I like taking care of PEOPLE. What I did for him I find myself doing for #4, without the former grumbling. Yesterday, I did his laundry and cheerfully cleaned his room. Today, we may clean the game room, an area I typically avoid because it smells of teenaged boy and Doritoes.  I feel a little bit at a loss when there isn’t someone to do stuff for in those personal ways. Probably because the last 28-1/2 years have been spent doing such. Wow…what will it be like when #4 is gone?

I remember a business I saw a while back called Daily Daughters. The people would do stuff for folks who needed help but weren’t ready to go into assisted living. They would go to the homes, take folks to doctor’s visits and the grocery store, do cleaning and cooking, that sort of thing. Maybe I should look into something like that. I would enjoy it. When I move, I will be living very close to my parents (like 100 yards or so), and likely will be caring for them that way…Mom, especially. Dad can pretty much take care of himself. They have a house cleaner already. But cooking and such, driving, all that…I guess I will be a real Daily Daughter. Plus a grandbaby…I hope to be helping with him as well. Maybe a day or two a week so DIL can have a day off. When my kids were little, I dropped them into a day care one day a week, for that reason. I would love to have a grand once in a while often.

I am doing a lot of ‘thinking out loud’ right now. I guess in an attempt to talk myself out of the blues hangover. I know that episodes of sobbing out loud and missing him terribly are to be expected for a good long time, so I am ok with it. I wouldn’t miss him if I didn’t love him.

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Deeep Breath.

The hard part now is realizing that nothing will ever be as it was. Intellectually I understand that, and my brain says “alrighty then, let’s deal with it.” but the Precious princess emotional part wants to throw herself on the floor with a temper tantrum. Or act like a teenager and roll her her eyes and pout.

Strange and stupid things are throwing me off, like yesterday, the power bill came. AGAIN. I just paid it a month ago! What?! Same with the water bill, the mortgage and the car payment. Theheckyousay! I just paid them a month ago!

The attorney has asked me to refrain from paying everything off for now, until he does some attorney stuff.  Ok, he knows what he’s doing and I will go with that, but having those monthly payments is making me a bit testy. Any sort of debt does that. I don’t mind so much the monthly power, etc (even though they do seem to come so frequently), but outstanding debt, even though I *can* make the payments, is itch and anxiety causing.

It’s not just that though, it’s everything. All of it. The losses, the realization that it will be ME, The Widow Toot, in a house caring for her aging parents and young grandchildren. I will be one of those old single women people feel kind of sorry for. How do I fix that? How to I make myself interesting enough that people won’t feel kind of sorry for me, and invite me to things so I Won’t Be Lonely or something? When I move back Home, I will have to start all over again with a new set of friends and try to find a group of women who will trust me to not hit on their husbands (I hear that’s a problem) (as if I would anyway…not my thing, y’all), or a group of single women who are my age. I have no idea how to do that. Find a church, I guess. Do I even need to be worrying about that right now? I have no idea, I only know that it is something brand new that I never considered needing.

Now, I mostly don’t MIND caring for parents and grandchildren, I just don’t want that to be my identity. I never once thought about being 50 and single. My plans for the future always had another person right next to me, someone I’d known for most of my life, who shared memories as a young adult, of raising kids together, all that. My identity was tangled with Himself’s. I was A Wife. He was A Husband. We were Parents. Now it’s all so…singular. “We” is gone. “I” is here. I’m a “you” now, no more “y’all”. I hope, once I’m moved to Alabama, I can be part of a family of “we”, but I don’t want to be the one people feel obligated to include.  I want my own bit of life as well, and I am anxious about having to grow that.

I know, intellectually, how to go about it. I know how to find friends and get to places and be my own person with a life and interests. I actually know people who aren’t family in that town, people I have known for a very long time but haven’t had much contact with. So it’s not like I’m going to the moon or California or anything. I am also looking for pieces of glitter amongst the anxiety…stuff like…

There is a Publix there. I love buying groceries at Publix.

It’s only an hour (instead of 4) from my very best friend.

It’s only 1-1/2 hours from my very favorite city to shop in, Atlanta. I can flippen DAYTRIP to Atlanta! I can pick up My Very Best Friend on the way!

I will be walking distance from my grandchild(hopefully -ren)

There are a couple of excellent schools there, should I choose to educate myself (formally, that is) (one is never too old to get an education)

I will be moving back to where household Fixit Men reside. Both Pa and Son. Who will be walking distance.

This is how it is done. This is how, in the throes of fear and anxiety, I talk myself into looking forward to the change.

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Motivational Thinking

Today has been spent on the phone, dealing with the assorted Insurance Issues. Healthcare has been handled and is in place to start May 1, with a short umbrella policy to cover us from April 28, when COBRA runs out, until the new policy kicks in. As much as Himself griped about ObamaCare and despised the idea, I am thankful for it, as it means I can afford it. Car insurance, homeowners, I shopped around and found stuff I can afford.

Financial stuff has always been extremely stressful for me, and Himself handled all of it for the last 20 years or so. I asked for a monthly allowance and kept myself ignorant of it all. I didn’t want to know. Now I have to know. It’s ok. I am not stupid and can do this. The change in habits over the last couple of months has been difficult. I forgot a couple of bills and had to grovel, but they are understanding of my situation. Everything was done online by Himself, and I am changing it all over to “send me a paper bill” so it can go into the Pay It folder, to be dealt with twice monthly until I can catch my breath and do it all on the first.

First though, all that Other Stuff has to be handled. Hospital bills (thank you GOD for insurance!), bits and pieces dribbling in from the ambulance, the neurologist, cardiologist, etc…I expect to see a bill from the room cleaner and the pharmacist at the hospital and every single thing. I understand that these are all separate entities but it would be nice if they were all consolidated.

There’s drips and bits of stuff I didn’t know about, bits and pieces of a payment to here and Oh here’s a refund and YooHoo this is late…

I guess that is all a pie my hand should have stayed in, at least a sort of.

Note to Married People: stay aware, even if you aren’t the one who actually makes out the bills. At least know what’s what and where and when. It was nice for 20 years to not think about this stuff but if I had known all this would be much easier.

I should be outside with my camera, taking lovely pictures of all the roses that are blooming. It’s my favorite thing to do and yet, talking to people about insurance and more insurance and geeze louise my house is worth HOW MUCH? I only really want to insure it for what it costs, not what it will cost to replace it because right now, I am not particularly caring if it burns to the ground. Really. It would be kind of disruptive and probably inconvenient but certainly not the worst thing that has ever happened to us.

It is funny how perspectives change and how people handle it all differently. I am reading a few forums where widows talk about their experiences and there are ones like me, who take an attitude of “ok fine, bring it on, you can’t hurt me anymore than I have already been hurt” and others who see every thing that happens as another rock on the pile they’re already carrying.  I don’t know what the difference is, personality wise. Why do some people become pugnacious and others so fearful?

About the only thing I worry about, I mean REALLY worry about, is #4 getting that English project done so he will pass the class and go on to 11th grade. Mind you, he is actually doing ok, but the project doth loom egregiously and giveth me heartburn.

Perspective has changed significantly. What’s important now is so very different from 3 months ago. The stuff I stress over now…different entirely. Same with the stuff I wish for. Wishful thinking…nowadays….I don’t even know what that means. If I could have one wish it would be for Himself to walk through the door at 5, but wishing all day for that won’t make it so.

I feel like I had to grow up, suddenly. So did the boys. boom, grow  up. I can’t stick my head in the sand and pretend everything is all sunshine and trips to the beach. It’s not.  I still can’t decide about work or school. Either one is doable, but I don’t know quite yet which way to go. I am still trying to get used to cooking for 2 and such. School SOUNDS nie, but would someone hire a 50 year old with no relevant work experience? the last time I got a paycheck was 1987. Maybe they’re hire me because I can….I don’t know what I can…

I do things and feel good about it. We have insurance, that is good and I did it. I have made some decisions, those are good ones, but every time (welcome to Adulthood, Rootie) I make a good one, or get things in a row, something else Happens. #4’s car, the one he is supposed to start driving, is making an ominous noise and feels weird, so it needs to get to a shop. 3 months ago, Himself would have diagnosed it and quite possibly fixed it. Now? Towtruck and days in a shop, and a lot of money that I need for living on…which I guess this could be considered a living expense but still…all my household mechanics are either dead or 4 hours away in Alabama. How inconvenient.

I guess that’s the biggest thing I am whining about, the inconvenience. I am used to having time to sew and putter in the garden and be all Household Queen and stuff, and now I am having to deal with the nitty gritty of life like normal people, and it’s making me cranky. It is time to start streamlining, getting rid of detritus and clutter, both real and metaphorical. That is going to be a big challenge.

If I can navigate the healthcare marketplace, I can do this.  I can. I can do this. Yes. Heigh ho.

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