A Bottle

There was a post in the Nextdoor app about how a woman met another woman at the checkout line in a store. The one stranger, “Mary,” gave “Sue” some words of encouragement and kindness that Sue very much needed. It was a thread from a local county. Sue posted it cause she just wanted Mary to know how touched she was and how it made her feel. You see, they were both widows.

I then posted a comment about how I’m dealing with my loss of Steve. Others suggested group counseling. I took a dear friend to a group counseling session years ago, and I wasn’t impressed. It seemed like everyone was focused on only one person’s loss and the others in the group never could express their grief.

But that’s not for anyone.

I stated in the thread that a good bottle of wine is what gets me flowing and brings my true feelings to the surface. But that’s just me!

So now you all know I have possibly consumed at least 62 bottles of wine since I’ve been writing this blog.

That’s my way of coping, you may do something else… divulge in a decadent dessert, go to a special place, complete a routine as if your loved one was right by your side. I’m sure, in most cases, they are.

A lot of people offered to listen or connect with “Sue.” Again, she may want to but as for me, right now, I’m fine with the family and friends I have.

Some are those that I can open up to and they get it. Even though they haven’t had the loss of a spouse, I’m okay with telling them things, how I feel, and crying at any time during the visit. They knew Steve, so they get it. They offer support in many ways. But I try to only ask for help for things I can’t do or have no knowledge of… electric… some power tools… etc

For instance, I have a friend whose husband is my plumber.

My cousin’s husband is my electrician…

While I do pay them for their services, it saves me a ton of $ by not having a contractor come.

I use my daughter for emotional support, only because she’s in a different time zone from me and then my son, for all the other grunt work… hanging a cabinet or splitting wood.

Not only do they save me money but they save me the agony of getting multiple estimates of jobs.

Maybe that’s why they say you can never have too many friends or don’t burn bridges. Some or many of these sayings, have merit.

Another saying is… it’s true, the older you get the wiser you get. That’s because you can’t change the past but hopefully you learn from it.

I posted my info for my blog on the thread for those that are curious or would like to read it. They may feel the same way… or maybe not. And either way, that’s okay.

Grief is different for everyone. We all express it in different ways. It’s your way or my way of dealing with loss and that’s okay. Just because someone says “widowhood looks good on you,” like I’ve heard already, doesn’t mean that you were a total wreck while married. I think they just expect the worst now that my other half is gone. And that’s okay too. It all takes time. Four months after Steve passed, I left a retirement party in tears. It was the second group event since he had passed and I couldn’t linger by myself any longer. I was hiding in a safe zone because I couldn’t find myself being that sociable or happy yet. It still brings me to tears how I felt that day.

But you wonder, if I don’t go, when will they stop inviting me? What if I end up losing my friends in my grief? So… I go!

So, now you know… I rescued another bottle of wine that was trapped under the cork!

See you all next week ☮️

Never Judge a Book by its Cover

I am pretty much available all the time, except for our daughter’s weekly scheduled music therapy and her companion takes her two days a week from 9-5. That’s when I schedule my personal appointments that I can’t take her with.

I find myself inviting people over now that the weather is nice, just so I have a reason to be happy and excited. Yay! Someone is coming over! It’s a big deal!

Most days it’s just me and our daughter. I love her to pieces and I’m so grateful she’s here and she gives me love in her own way and I will never put her in a group home until I’m not capable of taking care of her. But that’s another story.

I had a newer friend over, she’s only 35 and has been a widow since she was 30 and her daughter was about 2 at the time of her dad’s passing.

And I think I’m having a hard time…

She was at the time in her life when most of her generation were just getting started in their lives both personally and most of all, professionally, because that’s what society wants to know by a certain age… what do you plan to do for the rest of your life? And she was faced with losing a man she loved and raising a 2 year old… without a dad…

Most assume it’s because at that young age, when there’s no man in the picture, it’s either because they weren’t married or it’s a divorce situation. And it didn’t work out.

It wasn’t until one time, she heard her daughter say to another parent, and God love her, she said “No, my daddy’s dead.”

She’s only 7, and since her dad’s been gone since she was two, she hasn’t grasped all these concepts… will she ever? I don’t know.

I hope she feels the love of her dad. There are some videos, but he was hitting the downfall of his illness just after her birth. As if that was his goal, to see her being born, and then two years later he was gone.

I told her mom, you both are welcome here anytime. Just let me know. I won’t be so lonely… her daughter can enjoy the hot tub and Stella, our cat.

And I can be that neutral ground, if and when, she needs a neutral ground for a “new” interest.

See, you never know the why’s.

Why is that car driving so slow? Maybe there’s a crockpot in the car and they don’t want anything to spill.

Why is there no man in a woman’s life? Maybe he passed away.

Why did God take Steve? It was his time and maybe God needed him more than I did.

So, the next time you look at the cover of a book, actually open it and read some pages. You might be interested in what that cover actually represents.

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.