Things I Dislike

I actually wanted to title this “Things I Hate,” but I don’t think that word should be in any vocabulary. What you “hate” today, as you ate it, saw it, read about it, smelled it, in another perspective, you might be okay with it.

I dislike going to sleep at night now. I don’t know why. Maybe because I still don’t sleep well. I’ll be dozing off, in a “zone” and then, all of a sudden, I’m wide awake. It’s as if I was waiting for Steve to come to bed at the end of a movie he was watching, and I realize he’s not coming to bed. He’s not, he’s gone.

I don’t like it that I have to struggle pulling up the back zipper on my dress by myself. Mind you, I don’t wear a dress that often, but when I did last week, when I went away for my first trip by myself, it became a dilemma. I managed – I squirmed and squeezed. I got it done.

The second part of that equation was my “fine” jewelry. It’s invaluable to me, after all, my birthday is in April, the diamond month, and Steve honored me with some gems. I felt funny and thought it risky to ask anyone to help me out in a bracelet or necklace because it just felt too personal. Steve would put his hands around my wrist or neck to do it for me. So, I went to my winemakers dinner without my fine jewels.

I don’t like it that when I went to said dinner, I didn’t have Steve to ask his opinion of what I should wear, what looks best – these shoes? That skirt? That dress? This purse?

I’m also feeling inadequate about my meals. I cook, using my same recipes but sometimes I’ll tweak them and there’s no one to tell me how it was – good, bad, or blah.

I actually don’t like that no one suggests that we have plans or goals for any other projects around the house. Steve and I always had a “list.” When I need something done that I can’t do, my son puts it on “the list.” But that’s his list. I have the original list, and I guess that’s all that matters.

I dislike appointments. Now that I’m home full time, I love my freedom! I dread the morning that I have to get up because a contractor is coming here at 8 am to do a service. Not that I’m upset that they are, but it’s on their time and availability, not on mine. Oh, yes, I’m available at 8 am but do I want to be? Heck no! It’s my time, I’m paying for it.

I’ll always put off making a phone call to what ever entity I have to. It’s the wait time, the outsourcing, two hours with social security, and the IRS and the list goes on. I have the time, but when it comes to this, I’ve run out of patience. And I think, I try to stretch things out, bide my time, so I’m always busy. I’ll put the call off until next week which turns into a month… or two!

But, I really dislike that it’s just me… making all the decisions, trying to figure it out, not having a sounding board because that’s what relationships are all about. I’m totally responsible. It’s not that I’m single by choice. I’m a wife whose husband just happens to have wings! And maybe that’s what I dislike the most.

Life is a journey

When you lose a significant partner in life… you go on an emotional journey.

Steve and I used to go to our favorite winery 4-6 times a year. It was Childress Vineyards, in Lexington, NC. We started going there as we were both big NASCAR fans, and Steve was a fan of Richard Childress. We weren’t even big wine drinkers the first time we visited, but we quickly fell in love with the winery and the people who work there. The winery had become like a second home to us over the years, and the people there became a second family.

I went back to the winery in 2021, just three weeks or so after Steve had passed. I went with my sister, but she wasn’t a great emotional support, sad to say. She didn’t want to hug me or talk about anything other than to say “That’s an emotional purchase,” when I bought a souvenir that Steve had wanted to get the last time we were at the winery together.

And while that may be true, it was something we talked about and I wanted to complete his chapter and his wishes. I knew that this was what he wanted.

I booked multiple trips in 2021 while Steve was sick, to keep him motivated to hang on. But that never happened.

So fast forward to June, 2022.

I’m using those unused travel credits from 2021 to take a trip to the winery, by myself. The winemaker, a good friend of Steve and I, was having a birthday and the winery put together a nice dinner to celebrate, complete with wine pairings of course. But the timing couldn’t have been worse – storms in North Carolina caused my flight to cancel, so I had to book a new flight, which got delayed, and then when I finally made it to North Carolina, the rental car company wouldn’t honor my reservation.

So I’m caught up in all this mayhem, just to get to our favorite place on earth… never a dull moment. I really could have used someone with me for company, for support. To let me know everything was going to be okay. I could have used Steve.

Multiple texts and conversations with my kids, gave me comfort that I was not alone. And my daughter-in-law gave me a good luck turtle before the trip.

And with good luck and by the Grace of God and Steve …I made it there. To our happiest place on earth.

I only broke down twice during the trip. It was during my first lunch dining out by myself as a party of one… all the travel stress, along with missing Steve, was a lot to handle at once.

But my new lucky turtle gave me hope.

My kids were on hand to offer their assistance in the mayhem, because that’s what they do. They still look out for me even though they’re at work. They offered to call Uber when I couldn’t pick up my rental car, they offered to send me spending money since my rental car refund wouldn’t go through right away, they tried to think of who they knew in the area who could help.

I can’t give anyone a formula for being a great or good parent, I know I wasn’t. But somehow, I raised some amazing human beings!

I’ve come to realize, after I talked to several other friends at the winemaker’s birthday dinner, that widowhood looks good on me. So I’m not living under a rock, after all. And I’ve learned that it’s a compliment, not that any one wished it on me. I always dressed well and would ask Steve for his opinion. And now, I still think about his opinion, and if I still look good… thank you, Steve. Because I still want to please him and make him proud… I can hear him say, “this is my wife… honey, you look good in anything.” I guess love IS truly blind!

Since I was by myself, I had to figure how to zip up my dress and put on my better jewelry, or not wear it at all! It’s hard to secure a clasp with one hand while trying to fasten it with the other. Small things we often take for granted. But I survived, it wasn’t the end of the world and I made it back home safely without any issues.

I’ve come to the conclusion that if you have friends at your destination, you don’t need to bring a friend. I had a lovely time. Our friends in the area looked out for me, offered rides if I needed, had lunch and drinks with me, just as if Steve couldn’t make the trip and was at home.

We got caught up on our lives… a new baby here, a new house there, and I learned all about raising chickens.

So I’ve decided that since this trip went well, even though it stared out against all odds, I’ll continue to journey. After all, that’s what life is – a journey.

Time for Plans

I have previously talked about how life goes on – how my life has changed directly, while others say they feel or felt Steve’s loss, they don’t feel it every day like I do.

Some of our friends are still working full time jobs, a few here and there are retired. I get the craziness of work/life balance. It’s tough, there are sacrifices to be made by all. You miss a cook out here and there… can’t attend a party or get together. I worked retail before I retired, so much of my time and attendance revolved around corporate schedules and requirements. If I was lucky to have a district manager who was compassionate, that was a blessing.

But now there are many regrets that while I climbed my way into being a district manager, starting as a department manager, assistant manager, store manager… Was it really worth it? Time away from family and friends, events, reunions, birthdays… No it was not!

But now – regretfully, but luckily – I have time for plans. My life at my age isn’t turning me into a social butterfly by any means. I have many home projects started and plans to finish. But I’m more flexible now. If it’s going to rain for a few days, I have indoor projects like painting and cleaning. If it’s nice out, I have outdoor projects like grass cutting, weeding, pressure washing, deck staining. Right now, both lists are endless. My biggest fear is running out of projects.

So, to keep projects going, and so that it’s not all work with no play, I invite friends over for cookouts because that’s what Steve and I did. I’m trying to stay in touch with everyone we enjoyed in the past get togethers . But – and that’s a big but – I’m not going to beg anyone to visit.

If I ask you once, I might ask again or send you a reminder, but then that’s it. I know it may be out of the box of when Steve and I would have had you over, you’re working, you’re busy, maybe you can’t handle it that Steve is gone, maybe you think it’s not going to be a fun cookout because Steve isn’t here. And that could all be true. But I’m still here. And when I mention Steve, hopefully I won’t cry but share a great memory and hope it’s not awkward for you. We can’t pretend he was never here or had an impact in our lives. He was, and still is in our lives. I’ll always defer to him in my mind… how long do I cook these burgers? Should I add more mayo to this potato salad? Is this too spicy? And I always have an answer.

Even though I’m busy, I now have the time to be flexible. It’s the flexibility that I wish I had all the years with Steve and our kids.

So, if you call me on a whim, I may have plans and I can be flexible, but don’t for once even think I’m desperate for your company. Because I asked you before.

But I still like to make plans. Because even though I have the time for plans… Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned.

Our House

While we didn’t buy a house for a life we would never have…

It was bought for a life we would enjoy!

It isn’t spectacular with a two story foyer. There’s no glitz or glam about it. But buying it felt right… it felt like home… our home, even though we weren’t married yet. The owner, Jane, was at the open house, talking to every prospective buyer, back in 1997. Steve and I walked around the outside and the inside, and all I thought at the time was that we could never afford it. It was just over an acre of land, 4 bedrooms, two baths and a powder room. But only 1800 square feet. I loved it! It was small but cozy and took me back in time when I grew up and most houses were the same… brick, 1 1/2 story, cozy, no “open” floor plans. But it was solid!

It was built by Jane’s husband, start to finish. We’re only the second family to occupy this house since 1952 when it was built. Jane talked to everyone at the open house and she chose us! We had a family with kids and Steve always had a way when talking to people. He was always sincere and respectful of their beliefs and accomplishments and what Jane’s husband had done. I still don’t know why she chose us or our offer… we weren’t married… we were both recently divorced… I don’t know what he said to her to say yes… but I’m ever grateful she accepted.

I look around at our house, every day… and I see Steve’s fingerprints and foot prints all over the property.

The sidewalk… our picket fence… the backyard patio… the bump out on a bedroom… not to mention the finished basement.

Jane had paid us a visit back in 2016. It was to be her last visit before she passed away in 2017 at the age of 92.

Oddly enough, her husband’s name , who had predeceased her was Paul… the name of my son. Jane’s brother was my childhood neighbor, though at this particular time, we didn’t know. Her nephew was our current neighbor… again, we didn’t know!

It was like playing Six Degrees of Separation! Maybe someone in there knows Kevin Bacon…

Anyway, we didn’t buy our house to impress anyone. It’s a humble place but homey. Not stuffy or impressive… but cozy. It survived pig roasts… high school parties… sleep overs… and impromptu neighbor cookouts… we had the house where people could gather, and we loved it!

Every family has a history and a story and so does every house they live in. I might start a journal of our journey in this house so that maybe some day, when I’m unable to take care of this house, or can’t remember or I’m gone, maybe the new buyer will read it and know that everything in this house was done with love of family, love of friends and… just love of living.

I think that’s what Jane felt on her last visit… and I know that’s how much Steve loved this house… and so do I!

Live a life to enjoy… never to impress!

Many a Day

Many a day will pass which takes me back in time, where I’ll be remembering when Steve and I did this or that… a random thing will pop into my head. I envision him still being here, sharing the moment as we did so many times in the past.

As I write this, on 5/21, we hit highs of 95/96 degrees Fahrenheit in the Northeastern part of the US. On days like this, Steve and I would always sit out on our front “country” porch, sip some wine for a few hours, enjoy some music, feel the breeze of our porch fan, and await the first lightning bugs of the night to start flashing, signaling the beginning of a long Pennsylvania summer.

That’s what I’m doing right now. And other than typing my thoughts, I’m talking to him, in my mind and in my heart. I’m telling him that I hope I’m making our “cottage” look good. I’m trying to keep up with everything in our yard. It’s a lot of work this time of year, because it’s our growth season.

We had many conversations about projects spliced with singing songs from our bluetooth speaker. It was our chill time. This was our time of the year – spring going into summer. I could plant whatever I wanted, wherever I wanted – the catch was, I had to be the one to maintain it! And I’m an amateur at gardening. If I like it, I plant it. It’s my garden, my rules.

As I plant, as with everything, in my mind I’m asking Steve what he thinks. Are you proud of me? Does it look good? Great idea, or not?

To the outside world, everything looks good and like nothing has changed. But my inside world will never be the same. I will just have to learn to live with it. As long as Steve doesn’t mind my ongoing conversations with him, I’m good.

It’s mating season for the tree frogs, and even though my life has changed, it’s nice to know the other cycles of life haven’t changed. It’s a small part of a continuum that I have to embrace. After all, the only world that stopped when Steve passed away was mine. Everything and everyone kept going, moving on, in the rhythm and cycle of life. But my cycle has changed and I need to keep learning how to adapt to that.

Many a day will pass, as the days, weeks, months, and years, where something will pop up. It’ll be a memory I have of our time together, whether it’s going to be happy, sad, frustrating, or who gives a crap – but many of those days, I will cherish, for they are many a day full of memories.

I Gotcha

Don’t we all hope someone has our back?

I know I have some family and friends who, at any given time, has had my back. I asked for their help in the past and they were there for me.

They would listen to me or I could text them and they would have a timely and positive response.

But I hope that when the worst of our lives hit the bottom, those people still have our backs.

I talk about this, because my life is still dynamic. Even though it has now been a year since Steve has passed, I haven’t been able to settle into that peaceful time.

I think, even though I will not be able to accept he is no longer physically in my life, I feel and believe he still has my back.

When he was home on hospice, he always said more than once… “Honey, we’re going to be okay.” And I know we are.

He will always have my back.

I’m in the process of supporting one of my sisters through a difficult time. I’m not looking for anything in the form of payment or otherwise. Some of her things are the history of her life with her kids and happy times. And that’s what I hope to save for her… her memories… her life moments… furniture can be replaced… but not photos of times passed.

People have been there for me when I needed them, so when someone else needs me to have their back, I simply say… I gotcha.

The Best Part of My Day

It could be mornings, afternoons or evenings, but the best part of my day is by far talking to someone.

If my sister calls or texts me, I get back to her right away.

I spent two hours the other night chatting with Steve’s sister. I call her religiously every Tuesday to stay in touch, take away my lack of human interaction. The week goes by fast and then I think, OMG! It’s Tuesday, I get to talk to her.

I needed to drop something off at my friend’s place of work, she was kind enough to entertain me with conversation for over a half hour. I knew she was at work, so I thought it would be a “drop and go,” but thankfully, it wasn’t.

I’ve also come to find out, people don’t really like to share honestly in conversations. I don’t mind. I feel every one of us will be where I am today… dealing with a great loss. Maybe something I say or share may ring a bell and give them comfort and/or clarity down the road since I’m the only one in our group of friends , except for my sister in law, who has gone through this loss, the loss of her husband. People say they miss Steve, and I don’t doubt that they do. I feel good when they tell me they do, and I’m thankful for their support and friendship.

I’m always busy at home. And whenever I do something, whether it’s hanging a picture or rearranging a room or making a house improvement, I talk to Steve about what he thinks. And I hear him saying “Honey, it looks great.” “I love it.” And I wait to hear his approval, and I know he would approve of what I did, whether he truly liked it or not.

Hands down, that’s the best part of my day.

I Don’t Know What to Say…

And when I do say something, to anyone, I may not get an immediate response.

I’ve come to find out, that while I still live and do things now that I call a “life,” it’s mostly because I’m lonely. I just do stuff… stuff to keep me busy… occupied… and to me, I’m proud of my accomplishments. Mostly because I didn’t have a truly extraordinary experience that was phenomenal to talk about. And I did it all by myself, no help needed. 

I was overjoyed that on a rainy weekend, I completed some indoor projects… sewed some curtains, put casters on a table, watched the Kentucky Derby, cooked, glued a drawer, did laundry, looked for a silver chain necklace – all mundane things in life, but that’s all I have. 

While everyone else is also living their lives, and doing what Steve and I used to do, I’m jealous. I just want to tell them… enjoy and don’t take it for granted. 

I could make plans to go out for dinner, but with who? It’s not the same, even if I went with a friend, it’s not as if it were Steve and me. 

These are the things I have to figure out.

I realize I can’t expect an immediate response from anyone. They’re busy living their life… as they should be.

I’m trying to be busy living my life, my new life, but I have to learn how. I need to realize that my life will be so different from now on from all of our friends lives because I’m no longer a couple. And when one of Steve’s friends says he still really misses him and can’t believe he’s gone, I don’t know what to say. I can’t help him. I can’t say anything, because I was Steve’s wife and I’m still processing my loss. 

If I had an answer on how to help him, I wouldn’t be writing this. How do I try to console him… my loss was greater than his, but I’m not trying to minimize his loss of a friend either. 

Death is a very tricky subject, as is life and living, Part III. Part one was growing up, part two was being married and part three, is learning to be a widow. I’m sure it will all fall into place, as many of our roles do. 

And when I have this figured out, maybe then I’ll know what to say.

Every Day

On May 1, 2022, I grieved for the one year mark since Steve has passed.

It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t an easy year. And I’m sure it might never be easy. But it’s true that you learn to live around your grief, you hide it most of the time. No one understands it but you. And that’s okay, because no one has lived your loss in the same way as you. 

Last time I said I was going off the grid. My birthday was 5 days before Steve passed away. How could I possibly celebrate my birthday, knowing my husband’s end was so close to that date? All of the signs were there. He was no longer eating food – if he was able to take in soft foods like applesauce, I was happy and hopeful. 

But when he surpassed the doctor’s estimate of 4 weeks, and I saw his condition, I thought, okay – while I’m still strong and not a train wreck, I need to deal with the inevitable. 

I made an appointment with the funeral home. I just felt that if I had done this any earlier, I was putting him in his grave before it was necessary. After all, don’t we all hope for miracles?

His best friend came down to sit with him. I told Steve I had to go to the dentist, I didn’t want him to really know where I was going. It was the best little white lie I ever told. Who wants to say, “Honey, I’m going to go make your funeral arrangements”? 

That was on Wednesday, 4/28/2021.

Steve passed on Saturday, 5/1/2021.

Tonight, for some stupid, odd reason, an old song came into my head. 

I told myself, upon the one year after Steve’s passing, I actually survived. I made it through the first year of everything. Every holiday, every celebration, new celebrations, new milestones, me. 

And then, for some odd reason, the chorus of this song came into my head, by Elvis Costello…

Every day I Write the Book. 

Not all the lyrics sync after this.

But, as I try to keep moving on… it’s true… every day I write the book.

Hello

It’s me… again.. sorry I’m not Adele!

I took some time off, a hiatus if you will. My birthday was approaching, along with the one year marker of Steve’s death just around the corner. I wasn’t sure how it would feel this year compared to last year.

This time last year, I was living through the reality of Steve’s decline. This year, I went on a trip.

Every week that Steve was on hospice, it seemed like every Monday, we made or had a significant change. During his second week home, it was the week prior to Easter, so we held a family egg hunt here at the house. Our son brought his electric recliner here to help him get up off the chair or into it. He was having such a hard time – not that he was heavy, but he was too weak and could no longer support himself, so having to move him, or help him into his chair, it was a lot for me. We all tried so hard to make him feel that he was whole, and could enjoy not being totally bedridden. On 3/28/2021, it was the last time he would get out of the bed on his own.

We celebrated Easter Sunday with Alaskan crab legs. He was too week to crack his own, so I did it for him.

The Monday after Easter, the visiting nurse installed a catheter. This was for several reasons:

  1. He always felt like he had to pee due to pressure but he didn’t really have to. I would assist for what seemed like hours with his portable urine device, only to find out he didn’t pee but then would wet the bed. Sometimes, prior to this, at night instead of waking me, he would go on his own. Then afterward, sometimes he would knock his bottle off the table spilling it on our floors… authentic hardwood floors that had been part of the house since the day it was built. I had laid down some disposable bed pads every night in case it happened again.
  2. The catheter was a Godsend. But at the same time, while I knew it was making my life easier, I also knew, it was one more sign that we were closer to Steve’s end. Luckily for us, they were able to insert it because as his tumors grew, eventually, they might not be able to due to blockage.

I’m not sure how he felt about this. I’m sure he knew it wasn’t a good sign. But daily he would tell me, “Honey, we’re going to be okay.”

I’m not sure if he said this to protect me, as if I didn’t know he was dying or if he always chose to be positive or if his stubbornness would keep him going.

My response was always, “I know we will.” But at the same time in the back of my mind, I’d think I’m going to be okay but in his sense, he too would be okay. I wasn’t in physical pain as he was and his death would eliminate him from all pain.

Saturday, April 24, 2021… Steve ate his last semblance of real food. It was an Italian sandwich from one of his favorite sandwich shops and I got to record him saying “It’s the best.”

His voice was weak but his spirit was strong.

Hello, I’ll be back next week, as the emotions of this day and the week to come from 2021, are enough for me right now.