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.

Once Upon A Time…

It seems so long ago but at the same time just like yesterday.

Steve was home on his second week of hospice. We were at the week before Easter. We hosted a family egg hunt here at our house. It would be Steve’s last Easter, no matter how hard we prayed.

We were blessed to be the hosts of all the major holidays in 2020. Thanksgiving and Christmas. Back “then”, as if it was so long ago, Steve was still battling back. He helped with Thanksgiving dinner, and made the Christmas ham.

Who knew it would be his last hurrah? His joy of cooking, seeing the entire side of my family, but I’m so grateful that things worked out this way.

In November of 2020, we had actually taken our last trip, to our happiest place on earth… the winery.

Those who knew us best, knew what we were talking about. It was Childress Vineyards in Lexington, NC. We went there so often, the employees there became our friends , part of our extended family. So, I’m grateful he got to visit it one last time. It was his last trip.

Now back to the week of the egg hunt.

That weekend, our son and his wife brought us their electric recliner. It was so great when others were thinking of Steve and wanted to help make it all easier for him and me. It was another pivotal week, as all the weeks from that point on were. He only used the recliner once or twice since it quickly approached the point where he no longer had the use of his legs. The doctors told us that as the tumors multiplied, he would lose the use of them. And that was this week, right before Easter.

We were fortunate enough to have my brother’s wheelchair and my brother-in-law’s ramps we had built for his visit 2 years ago. So, we were able to make his watching the egg hunt possible. It took 3 of us to get him lifted into the wheelchair, we rolled him out the front door, down the sidewalk, into the back yard. And of course, it was a damp and cloudy day in Pennsylvania, so he was cold and not his usual self.

Little did I know, this was the last day he would get out of bed, to celebrate a family tradition.

Steve was still eating fairly well. I tried to give him more well balanced meals but made sure to ask him what he was hungry for. It was like he was on death row waiting for that last meal. I didn’t know when that would be, so I tried to keep it interesting. I honored all requests.

The hospice nurses would come Monday, Wednesday, Friday and then on Tuesday and Thursday, they would come and give him his baths and shave him. Make him feel like a man again. And he loved the visits.

In between hospice visits, numerous family members and friends paid him a visit. Some days, he was too tired and had enough of the visits.

This would be the last week that he could feed himself. But, he still ate.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, we were living our dream life. Once upon a time…

What Do You Say?

What is my response to someone who has no idea that I lost Steve? They didn’t even know his name. They never met him. They don’t know what he did for a living. They never shook his hand or saw his smile. Yet they assume he exists, he’s just at work or at the store… or just “out.” 

I had a contractor over the other day. The project was to install new garage doors. It was the last project Steve and I had talked about on our infamous “list.” We would choose one thing, save for it, then get it done. 

These garage doors were ordered before Steve died. Due to the shortage of everything, it took the better part of 10 months for them to arrive. 

The contractor was installing them and I told him I came within days of canceling before he called. After all, while I’m going to enjoy the benefits, Steve’s not here to see the final product. Some things aren’t important if you have no one to share with. It’s just a thing that needs to get done.

The man proceeded to tell me that we ordered one of the best quality they offer and he was sure my husband just wanted to please me…. 

And there you have it! 

What do you say?

Do I be honest and tell him my personal business? That could set me up… either to be taken advantage of, or get some sympathy and maybe throw something into the deal for free. 

What do I say?

Do I not say anything and just agree with him? YES! My husband wanted us to get what I really loved. And just move on after this. 

What do I say?

Do I not say anything but talk about Steve in the past tense? For instance, “he would have really loved this.” And then, would the contractor really pick up on it? Probably not. That leaves the door open – am I divorced or separated? I’m neither of these.

What do I say?

Do I say he’s going to love this, like when he gets home from wherever he is? 

At the end of the conversation, I sauntered up the small hill to the house. Tears were starting to run down my cheeks. I knew the story of the garage doors and how they came to be. At the same time, I knew how we… the new Steve and I …. are still coming to be. I knew he saw them, loved them, and he was saying “Honey, as long as you’re happy, I’m happy.”

That happiness was bitter sweet. Check that off the list, but it was the last thing Steve physically had a part in. I know he’ll always be a part of my decisions, because we’re a team. He’ll guide me. 

I think, in the end, I can’t worry about what I say. People are always sorry because that’s the societal thing to say. But, they don’t get your heartbreak, the hurt, the emotions which you can’t control over silly garage doors. 

What do you say?

Sometimes it’s best to say nothing at all.