The Search is On

I had this conversation with Steve in my thoughts.

I always was in some form or another in retail management, so personal relationships were frowned upon, and the hours that I worked were long and unpredictable, especially during the holidays. So, I never had a “bestie,” a gal pal, or anything of that nature.

Steve was my bestie. We knew what to expect of each other, how we would react and respond to any situation.

We both had friends, mostly Steve, that we would go out with and have some great times. Steve’s best friend was Brad, not to be confused with Steve’s son. Brad was such an integral part of our lives. I called him our son, he called Steve Pappy. He is one hell of of great friend! We could count on each other, Brad would fall asleep by our bonfire… just checking to make sure it was safe… 😉

Brad suffered a stroke in his early 40’s. And while he could no longer work side by side with Steve, life’s sneaky snake has its twists!

When Steve was going through his treatments in 2020, some restaurants were starting to re-open, and we set aside Tuesdays for “Pappy ‘n Brad” night. It was great to see the two of them carrying on like they were 20 years ago or so.

I’m not sure either of them knew that they may never pass this way again, but I knew this was Steve’s best friend for life and it felt good.

So, what I’ve come to realize, is that I’m now searching for a bestie. Maybe I’m trying too hard because I’m lonely. My bestie is gone. Our kids have been very supportive and understanding. I love them for all that.

Maybe I just need more time. Maybe I’m trying too hard to fill that “bestie” void.

After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Easing My Way

So, as my life has been learning to deal with the loss of Steve, in every aspect… daily mundane conversations, weekly plans, what are we having for dinner… blah blah blah. Since all our kids have flown the coop, and Steve isn’t here, it’s all totally on my plate to deal with my special needs daughter who is 37 years old .

And I’m good with that.

Steve never was selfish enough to ask me to put her in a group home so we could have more freedom and less challenges than other couples who were in our age bracket but not in our situation. Maybe there was a divine plan in action so that I would truly never be alone.

After Steve passed, I decided to get my affairs in order and finally apply to be her legal guardian. Great under the law but more paperwork for me.

So I approached her dad about this and he immediately signed off. “I can’t take her.” And that was his personal decision. I wasn’t asking him to.

And all that I can say is no one knows her better than her sister or me.

She’s not a handful, at least to me. But if someone new was thrown into her life, not having any experience in being a caretaker of someone with special needs, it could be a challenge. If you’ve ever had a two or three year old, in some respects, that’s what I deal with. But her cognitive levels are all over the charts. She’s smart, sometimes sneaky. She has echolalia, which means she pretty much just repeats or “parrots” what she hears, so sometimes it can be difficult to understand her needs and wants. But as long as she’s in her routine, she’s good – she’s always a pleasure.

I’m starting to take her out into the community more. In the past, she went to a day program so Steve and I had our breaks. But I also worked full time even after Steve had retired. So, he dealt with most of her care to make my life “easier.” He would cook her meals, give her baths, and tuck her into bed if I had to work nights. He’d get her dressed, give her breakfast, and send her off on the bus to her day care if I had to work mornings. There aren’t a lot of people who would embrace this situation, but Steve did. My kids were his kids.

Now that he’s gone, she’s my go-to for some outings. So far, they have been successful. You have to understand, she likes and needs her creature comforts. Don’t we all? I just have to be prepared knowing that my plan may not work out. So far, now that I’m easing my way out into the world again, we’ve been to Niagara Falls and to a local hamburger festival. Both were wins!

I’m contemplating a short beach trip next year and probably another festival locally.

You have to understand the beauty in this – as I get accustomed to my new life, I thought we could journey together. She’s my new partner in crime.

Easing, easing back into a life… outside my house… outside my comfort zone… outside not having Steve with me. I know he’s here and is still taking care of me. He’s helping me ease back out into the world.

Calculating

Here’s what I found to be calculated:

I know I’m lonely. I know I need daily conversation about nothing. I also know that I’ve discovered some of the best times to text and network with my kids, family and friends. Why? Because I have all the time in the world now to discover this and figure it out.

My son works second shift. So he’s unwinding just around the time I can’t fall asleep between 12:30 and 3 a.m.

My daughter is on the west coast, so, I’ve mastered… or tried to master… the 3 hour time difference.

My sister in New Mexico is a two hour time difference. So I plan accordingly.

What I’ve come to realize is that after we’ve exchanged a few messages, there is no longer a response. Why?

So, do they roll their eyes and think… or do they get back to me?

It’s that they are getting on with their lives. And mine, well, mine is not so exciting or eventful.

Yet, I’m so happy someone is responding and I could and can and will go on… responding… but that eventually ends.

Just when I feel I’ve sparked a conversation with someone who might possibly be interested in what I have to say, offer, or what I’m doing… the line goes dead.

That’s when I realize they are going on with whatever it is in their life right then… right now… at that moment, and our text conversation was the only thing I had going on .

And as much as they say they are here for me… they really don’t know… but they mean well.

When push comes to shove… I am the only one here for me, all the time, at any given moment.

I always hope, with all my friends and navigating the different time zones, someone will surprise me and say, “Hey, sorry I couldn’t text last night, yada yada yada.” But they don’t.

So I’m left to feel left out and needy…

So, now that I found this out, I’ll take a deep breath and be thankful that they’re still in my life, while they are continuing to enjoy their life, which I’ve learned should be cherished.

After all, don’t we always wish the best for our family, friends and loved ones?

So I’ve found out that life is for all of us… worth living… until something changes our life… and then we have to recalculate.

And Just When…

And just when everything starts to feel okay with the world, while you do the most normal part of your daily routine, a realization will hit you like a ton of bricks, and suddenly you don’t feel so normal or okay.

I just let the cat out, and I let her back in at the end of the night. It’s just what I do.

I do my final routine before crawling into bed. We all do that – wash your face, brush your teeth, take out your contacts, put on your comfy pajamas.

Every day I feed the deer that come to our back yard. It’s what Steve did. It was part of his daily routine, and now it’s mine.

I grocery shop, I get gas for the car, as we all do…

But then, there’s that moment, when I’m doing all of this, and I realize it’s by myself now. And I cry.

My needs, the household needs, haven’t changed. Things still need to be done on a regular basis. But I’m no longer on a daily basis, or a rigid schedule. It’s more flexible now. I’ve decided to take things as I feel fit to do.

So, I keep a list of things I want to do. I allow myself to cross things off and I allow myself to think “I should really do that.” But it keeps me going… so I don’t run out of things when I just thought I was done.

Truth is, I don’t ever want to be out of things… just done… at least until I’m 80ish. Steve and I have so many plans and visions for our “cottage.” I’d like to be able to see them through. And then… just then… I’ll be happy and at peace… and just when that will be… is just then.

Let’s Talk About It

Anyone who has been in any type of relationship has talked about it.

“It” being… anything. Whether it was dinner plans, a future vacation or where we’re going that day… The talk about “it” could mean many things.

And I don’t mean that every day decisions like a meal should be a big deal, but you ask, you inquire, it’s not a big deal but there’s a response. It’s everyday conversations. But yet, in a small way, a short way… you talk about it. You plan. Sometimes you don’t talk because you know each other too well, you just know.

Now that I’m a widow, I don’t just know. I have no one to get any type of feedback from, even in the smallest of scenarios.

Whether I want to plan a meal and make something like eggplant parmigiana, or a chicken dish, or a salad or when I want to just ask… “Honey, what are you hungry for?” There is no response.

I’m the only one to respond and sometimes as much as everything sounds great, in the end, is it really enough to satisfy just me?

I’m hungry for it but after I eat it… it’s like… blah blah blah. There are no critiques, no “This was really good,” or “Next time let’s try this.”

It’s just… it is what it is.

That’s the end of the talk in my head.

Was it good? Could I have made it better? I don’t know.

We spend so much of our lives trying to improve what we do to make each other happy and to see other people enjoy themselves in a good meal, or any type of experience, because that makes us happy. And now, as we continue to live without their input on our everyday lives, we have to somehow find satisfaction in what we continue to do.

I’ll never forget one such instance – I made potato salad from scratch. It was so good, Steve said. It made me blush. We were still dating at the time. Every time I made it going forward, Steve reminded me of that first time I made it for him… and I blushed all over again. Something so simple and silly. I miss those times.

And after a year, the struggle is still real. I keep talking to Steve. I ask him all the time for his input.

I’ve learned to sleep on any major decisions, as well as his side of the bed. I run ideas by our kids.

But, in the end, it’s me talking and making the decisions.

So, I’ll keep talking… and talking… until it’s time for a decision. I know Steve will somehow guide me with some pros and cons. I can hear him. I know I’ll always hear him. But, like in any relationship, will I always listen? Hmmm…

So the next time you hear someone talking to themselves, make a note, that sometimes someone they know is listening.

Navigation

All of our lives, we navigate. We may not feel like we are the captains of our ship at times, but we are.

When we make decisions early on in our lives… and I mean primarily starting as soon as we are presented and given options.

What sports do we want to pursue? What are we passionate about? People guide us, hopefully, they point out the plusses and the minuses, but they ultimately make the decision ours.

Widowhood is definitely not ever a chosen path. It’s not on one of those career choices where we check that box. Graduating from high school… desire is to be a widow.

We somehow know, in the way back section of our brain and subconscious, one will die before the other. We all get that. But we hope to grow old together into our twilight years and celebrate many outstanding years of marriage and celebrate by taking a vacation or a cruise. Just like those that are lucky enough to post that in our Sunday paper.

So, Steve passed in 2021 at the age of 67, I was 61. Our twilight years were just starting. I know, so sad right?

Now, I’m navigating those years by myself. Oh, I talk to Steve all the time, I feel he is always with me. I’m trying to get on with life, as if he physically was still here. But he’s just in my heart and my mind.

Sometimes, people have said, “Well, she looks fine to me… she’s going here … she’s going there…” But the truth is… I’m searching…. Navigating those new seas.

I’ve lost my compass, and now I have to navigate my life without it.

I’m always searching… trying to keep the house in good shape, looking for that next trip , saying yes to any friends that ask me to go out to dinner. I start a few projects since I really have no focus. It’s just busy work, to keep my mind free of my anguish, my loss.

And I thought a lot about this lately, as Steve has passed on, am I so sad because I’m selfish? It’s seems to be about me. What I miss, who will go here with me, and when I choose a place, I feel guilty because Steve would have loved and enjoyed this also.

But, it’s not the same.

Life is a navigation.

Learning to live life without your compass… that’s a whole new world .

I wish everyone well in their navigation through life 💕

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.