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.

Oh, Now I Get It

Remember that elderly person that lived in your neighborhood? The one who maybe you found annoying. You would try to skip past their house as you walked, jogged or were out with your dog. Maybe you were in a hurry to get somewhere, but whenever you passed they would see you, want to stop you for some chit-chat. So you would try avoid their house. It was as if they could smell you coming by, they knew your routine… And now I get it.

It’s not that they were creepy or nosy or busy bodies… they weren’t stalking you. They were just watching and waiting. I know, it still sounds creepy. But…

Now I get it.

Chances are they lived alone. Their spouse had passed on. They might be confined to their home for lack of driving or transportation. They did the same things every day, at the same time, without fail. 

And now I get it. 

They were looking forward to someone passing by on a regular basis, like clock work, to help pass the time. To have someone to talk to. 

And now I get that. 

My father had a stroke, and multiple mini strokes. He was confined to being home after that. I was raising 3 children under the age of 7, and still he would call me every day, all the time, and want to chat, for what felt like forever. He would call my mother-in-law, and every person he could. I would talk as long and as much as possible but, sad to say, I remember asking my mom to get him to cut it back. I’m just being real. Yes I did. She said she didn’t know what she could do. She was still working full time. I regret being self-centered but she didn’t complain. 

And now I get it. 

Why do I get it? Because even though I consider myself young at 61, that’s me now!

I try to settle into a new routine that basically just involves me. I can change it up anytime, but I understand them now.

They’re lonely, they have no one to talk to at home. But when they find someone, it breathes a little life back into them. And we listen, take a deep breath and think, “there’s ten minutes I’ll never get back.” But you gave them ten more minutes of life… and you didn’t even know it. 

And now I get it. 

I find if I text someone, I can have a full blown conversation with them but then I have to mentally disconnect from texting or else I could go on and on and on. I try not to appear at all like I’m desperate for any kind of conversations. I realize their lives are busier than mine and I don’t want them to see the next text and say “Aw jeez, now what?”

But I understand why that elderly neighbor might need the conversation, and why my dad did. Now I get it.

I look outside our house a lot. It’s winter, too cold to be outside, but I can’t continuously look at the walls of our house… our “cottage,” as Steve and I would often call it. I love it so much, it gives me comfort and it’s my new world – maybe because I feel closest to Steve here. Maybe that’s why most elderly don’t like going into a care facility. 

Now I get it.

I always look for things going on in the neighborhood. I hear a chainsaw or machinery and wonder where the action is. I’m also a free security service! I’m not nosy, but that’s all I have. And now I get it.

I look and wait for the mail to be delivered. The truck has a familiar and particular sound. I get excited, even though I have the app and can check what is going to be delivered to me today – I was someone’s priority today. Thank you USPS! 

And now I hope everyone has gotten it. 

What if you were the last person that they talked to on your walk? Or the last person they set eyes on with visual contact, just being friendly… 

I was the last person Steve laid eyes on and the last to see him alive. I was the last to talk to him. 

Now I get it. 

So, when that individual, whether young or old, friendly or otherwise, no matter what they say or their tone, they may have been to emotional places where you haven’t or have yet to experience.

I hope now you get it, too.

After Life

Have you seen it yet on Netflix? Ricky Gervais plays a widower going through the grieving process, like many of us are. If you Google it, it’s categorized as a comedy, of all things! My daughter said I should use it as a topic for this week but I’m not sure I found it funny, it was more identifiable to me. It’s only three seasons with about six episodes each. I’m going to rewatch it and maybe talk about it in the future.

Today I had to have an exterminator come to the house for an exclusion, which I think is very expensive. I heard some random sounds in my bedroom walls… and naturally couldn’t sleep, so the technician spent the better part of 6-7 hours taking care of my house. I was fine with that. My mom always said what doesn’t pay rent must leave! I agree but I randomly cried off and on through out the day. There are lots of reasons that I cry now, and today I realized that one was fear… not fear of critters, but fear of the expense of taking care of them. It’s another monthly bill I have to work into my budget and will end up paying five thousand more if I don’t pay it off in a timely fashion. Then I think, what if I need another major thing taken care of? It seems that there are always hands in my pockets. Cost of living keeps going up and I could never grow that “money tree” no matter how hard I tried.

The fear is real… making ends meet, paying for repairs, utilities, and even food. But the biggest part of that fear is that I now have to go it alone. Sure, I can ask for advice from others, they can have their opinions, but the decision is ultimately mine. It would be my mistake… my debt… or my triumph.

This is true whether I listen to myself or anyone else.

Bottom line is… the after life. In my case, my life after losing Steve is my “after life.” Now it’s going to be all up to me, and no one else. No one can push me, I hope I’ll just evolve.

And I’ll cry when I need to, I’ll be fearful when it’s warranted, I’ll laugh when I actually find something funny. After all, I have the rest of my life to figure my after life out.

Validation

I don’t think I’m one of those people who are totally helpless. Granted, I don’t know everything about any one thing, but I think I’m pretty self-sufficient, and sometimes I’m just looking for some validation.

Here’s my situation: My daughter lives 3000 miles away in California. So there are a lot of things I don’t bother my daughter with, because she’s in an entirely different time zone. So most of the time I just try to text her with the important things because she can’t help me with some of the smaller things or the things that you do to maintain a household on a daily basis.

My son, on the other hand, is local and close by. He lives less than 20 minutes from us so I will often just text him with little stupid stuff because we’re in the same time zone. I text him about the things that I’ve done on my own without needing his help or anybody’s help, and he feels the need to always respond. I told him, look, if I really need you to respond or if it’s an emergency, I will let you know. I don’t expect a response for every little thing, sometimes I just want to talk or text just to get it out of my own head.

But sometimes I do wish someone would tell me, “Good job, Mom. I’m glad you could climb onto the roof and change that spotlight.” Or “I’m glad you figured out how to correct whatever was wrong all on your own.”

There are so many other widows that don’t have a clue, and that’s okay. But I try my best not to be a burden on anyone. I never have in the past, and I don’t want to in the future. There are so many new things I have to do now on my own, or figure out on my own – for example, I had to insulate the pipes for the winter and get all the equipment ready for winter storage. In the past if I was doing something like this, Steve would always compliment me and say, “Honey, you’re doing such a great job” on maintaining the lawn. Or “The gardens look so good, you’re doing a great job.”

But I no longer have that validation. And sometimes I don’t think my kids or friends realize how hard I try to keep things maintained. In my mind, when I’m taking care of the household maintenance, it’s as if Steve was still here and giving me guidance or a pep talk.

I’ve had to figure this stuff out because I’m not helpless. I always feel I’m empowered and I’m capable of figuring a lot of stuff out on my own and I consider it an accomplishment. I just wish sometimes one of them would say “Good job, Mom. You’re doing great, but let me know if you need my help.” Just the acknowledgment that I’m doing stuff on my own, because I am capable and I can probably figure out most things. I’m not a hopeless widow that need someone here 24/7, and I really only need help when it comes to the big things, things that involve power tools like a chainsaw or a log splitter. Otherwise I think I’m doing pretty well, but I just wish sometimes I could get some validation.

My kids always get back to my messages in a timely fashion, but recently, my son seemed annoyed. He called me and said “Come on, Mom. I’m not busy, just get it all out, tell me what you want.” I had nothing important to share with him, just those little things that I was so proud of, or how my day went, or what I did. Then I realized, I must be annoying and a pain in the ass… He must be thinking “Now what?” and hates reading my messages.

So I decided to change that. I didn’t message him for 5 days. He finally called me to make sure I was okay. Obviously, I was. But I said to him – This is what it’s going to be like when I’m gone and you and your sister will wish I was annoying you two.

So, make sure you acknowledge someone’s smallest accomplishments, even if it doesn;t seem like a big deal. But always tell them… whether they’re old or young… that they’re doing a great job. It inspires them to keep going on to the next project… it validates that what they did was great… no matter what it was.

At What Point…

At what point do you stop saying certain pronouns? Specifically, plural pronouns – like “ours” or “we.” So many times I find myself saying “We talked about this… We decided on this…. This is our plan.”

When do people find it off putting? Do they think I’m crazy? Do they think to themselves, “She does know her husband is deceased, right?”

Of course I do, but when you’re part of a couple for so long, it’s hard to stop using group or inclusive terms. Just like for some of those who are newly wedded after being single for so long, you have to make sure you’re including your other half. Well, I’m in the opposite situation… a loss of my other half rather than a gain of another half.

I asked my sister in law who has been widowed for 6 years now – Does it ever change? It was called to her attention after two years that there’s no longer a “we.” But, to break that habit is easier said than done. And until you’ve been here, it is easy for you to say.
I’ve tried to take everything with a grain of salt if I felt someone said something to me that I thought was out of line.

Now that Steve’s gone, are you going to get your hair cut?
When are you getting rid of his toothbrush?
Will you ever sleep on his side of the bed?

The truth is, I don’t have an answer to any of these questions and I might never. Things will happen when it feels right, not because someone said it should.

And I’m sure I’ll continue to say those inclusive pronouns for a long time. And I don’t want to change that just because others think I should. If it offends anyone, it just shows our love and commitment. Even if I say “I” out loud, I know in my heart and mind, it will always be “us” and “we.”