Today was the follow-up with the ENT who was treating me for the balance issues I developed while caring for Kim. The vestibular therapy is complete, and I am very nearly back to normal – I get a little “queazy” when moving my head certain ways under certain conditions, and have issues still when one or more of the vestibular inputs are removed (amazing, the things I’ve learned about how we sense balance!), but as functional as most, I think.
The doctor was much more personable today than he had been – this could have been because he had a medical student in tow, or maybe the former “professional detachment” had to do with his expectations for my recovery, but it was a very pleasant visit – my last with him!
I was surprised by what he had to tell me. And, I think, he was probably more surprised by my progress. As he put it to me, he didn’t want to give me his prognosis at the time, but he wouldn’t ordinarily have sent me for therapy: the threshold for therapy is 23% difference between the two ears. I was at 38%. He told me that he frankly did not expect that I would ever recover my balance.
So good news! I beat the odds! Thank you, Lord!
They say that the typical widower will suffer some major health setback or other within the first year of widowhood. The likelihood of something untoward occurring, though, decreases as time goes by. Hopefully, this was mine, and I’ll remain sound going forward. God willing…
Simple things get us. Stupid, silly things send us spiraling down to where we can only stand in place and sob. Tonight, as I was putting away the dishes from the dishwasher, I was thinking how I never had any doubts about Kim when we were dating. I never had to guess if my feelings for her were reciprocated. And then, picking up a packet of graham crackers that she had received during one of her chemo visits to throw away, I broke. “She loved me, and I ruined her,” I sobbed. And “How could this have happened to her.”
In analyzing my feelings after recovering myself, I find the first lament is related to her alcoholism. No matter how much I’ve read and have been told that an alcoholic is the only one responsible for their alcoholism, I cannot help but think that I had a big hand in triggering its onset. The time away from home for my job had to be incredibly hard on her. My response to emotional displays – to clam up and run away – was likely another. My manner of focusing so keenly on tasks to the exclusion of all external input is another. I know she was jealous of some of the women who worked around me in our early years, too – having an absentee husband can play havoc on a woman’s mind. But, again, I remained faithful to her through the whole time, and she remained married to me – feats that many of my contemporaries and their wives did not achieve.
The second lament is similar to something I voiced to her shortly after her diagnosis: things like this aren’t supposed to happen to us. We were to grow old together, getting along through retirement as our parents did before us.
And the lever that opened the floodgates was a simple packet of graham crackers…
The thought occurred to me that grief is a manifestation of self-pity. I know that is a significant oversimplification of the maelstrom of emotions that we, the bereaved, face in our grief – but what, exactly do we grieve?
We grieve our loss. OUR loss. Something that happened to us. This thought occurred to me yesterday and immediately took residence, continually popping up like a bad neighbor peeking over the fence. What, exactly, are we grieving? Our spouse is beyond the suffering of this vale of tears. There is no more pain for them. We grieve the loss of someone in our life, a partner, confidant, lover…
Again, an oversimplification. Kim died of a horrible, painful, wasting disease. I feel great sadness thinking of her last months of life; that she was uncomfortable and in pain and couldn’t enjoy the things she loved to do. I feel sadness at how that disease robbed her of everything before finally taking her life. But, in grieving over her death… again: is it just self-pity?
An article I came across discriminates between the two by saying self-pity has to do with the want of something we need (or, I’d argue: simply want,..) but cannot have, and grief has to do with the loss of something you had. Sounds a bit like splitting hairs to me. This one does a little better job, perhaps – even so, it seems there is ample overlap.
So it’s a question, I guess, to be explored by brighter minds in psychology than mine. Maybe now that I’ve written it down, it will stop shaking my mind like a puppy shaking its toy.
I have always been a cloud-watcher. As a kid, I’d lay on my back for hours staring up at the clouds. As an adult, I’d point out the things I saw in the clouds to Kim or the kids as we were driving along from wherever. Finding things in the clouds became a favorite pastime for the kids when I’d drive them home from school, and it was a great exercise for their developing imaginations.
When Kim was in the hospital last August to have a stent put in her bile duct, the clouds put on quite a show – we spent a lot of time looking at the clouds through the 11th-floor window, and I took tens – maybe hundreds! – of pictures. The picture of Kim in the header of this blog is a composite I made with one such picture. In fact, the image of her I used in that composite was captured as she was looking out at the clouds as I described what figures I could see in them.
Clouds have always been beautiful.
I noticed a “new creativity” in the cloud patterns after Kim passed, reminiscent of obvious brush strokes. The following pictures are details from a single photo taken on my way home from some appointment or other 10 days after Kim passed.
The clouds today were a masterpiece: at the same time dark and brooding, but with pondwater-like waves that exposed cheerier, sunlit clouds in an almost unnatural pattern. It is my conviction that God gave Bob Ross some time off, and Kim is now brushing the clouds. In any case, I look up at them and invariably smile – so, at least to me, it is the truth.
Kim’s Dad is back from his sojourn in Florida and Georgia, so, after Mass, Vanessa and I (Jillian is at a pageant in Tennessee) made our way to his house to accompany him to Holy Sepulchre to visit Kim’s grave and her Mom’s grave as has been the practice since Kim’s mom passed in 2019.
Afterward, in his house, it seemed I was viewing it through AR lenses: everywhere I looked, I could see the house as it was today and as it was when Kim and I were dating and first married, so many years ago. I could see where the couch was that we would plop ourselves on after I picked her up from work on each weekend day. I could see the bedroom that was hers as it was when we were first dating, and then the one she later moved to in the front of the house. I could see her sitting in front of the fireplace to distribute Christmas gifts as was the tradition in those early days. I could see her sitting there as our children, nieces, and nephews took over the role as they grew. I could see Kim working in the kitchen with her Mom and sister at each holiday family gathering. So many memories. So much captured in the vaults of my mind.
It can be maddening at times.
A few years back, we were having a conversation regarding retirement, and how we would get along during it. During the conversation, as we were discussing the things we’d like to do when we no longer had to worry about going to work, she stopped and smiled and said that she believed we would get along just fine…
As the song says: some loves are meant to last forever. Despite the issues we had in our life together, I believe we had that. It definitely had its downs, but we weathered them. Sometimes weathering the storms was easy; other times weathering them was exhausting – but we made it through each one with our marriage intact. The ship of our marriage, a shiny, white, and sleek craft when we launched it, was battered by time and became dented, worn, and rusty – but it remained afloat, and definitely remained seaworthy. We would have been just fine through retirement if only she was allowed to experience it.
I was asked today “what were you doing a year ago today?” An innocent enough question brought on by the commemoration of a grandnephew’s first birthday combined with the comment of “Where does the time go?”
Where does it go, indeed.
A year ago today, Kim was in Florida at her sister-in-law, Vee‘s, condominium with her sister Rhonda; they had accompanied their father there so he could visit and clean out his trailer in Florida with the thought that it would be sold. She would go the next day to Harry Potter Land at The Universal Studios theme park, Harry Potter being one of her favorite things of all time.
I was at work in my office on this day. We wouldn’t have been sent to work from home due to Covid for another week. At home, I would recommence work on the annual torture we’re put through by our benevolent government: our income tax return. I spent the weekend on them while watching Bohemian Rhapsody and The Mandolorian to help ease the mind-numbing tedium which is tax preparation.
It would be another month and 12 days before we would receive the news that destroyed life as we had known it. All of our pettiness, all of our little squabbles, all of our irritations with each other still thrived. Oddly, that’s what I remember most about this time: despite my cheerful replies to her texts, I recall feeling irritation over that trip. Irritation with the cute texts she would send me featuring Hufflepuff, the stuffed purple unicorn that Kenny got her for Christmas, at each of their stops and in the car along the way. Irritation that they were going to the theme park. Irritation…
It’s interesting how the passage of time and the accompanying revelation of life’s events changes perspective: those are now some of my most cherished images, and I would give anything to have Kim having fun in Florida while I do the taxes at home right now.
Many of us dwell on things – both good and bad – that occurred during our marriages. It’s natural. It’s also natural for some that the “bad” incidents cause great remorse, making us wonder what we could have done differently. But remember: you cannot change the past. You cannot command the future. You have only today. So don’t squander it ruminating over past incidents and don’t waste it in trying to force the future to your will. Plan what needs to be planned for maintenance of life and living. And let the past live only in memory; not in the forefront of your thoughts. Lessons of the past can only inform the future; they cannot be changed.
As I continue to trudge down the path of life without Kim, I come to realize all of the things she had in hand that I wasn’t aware of in the least. Not the least of which was helping my oldest with her daughter.
This came to the fore today with Jeanette and Jillian planning for a pageant in another state, and Vanessa wanting to stay the weekend with “Poppop.” For Jeanette’s plans, it would be better if I could pick Vanessa up at school in Monroe, a little more than a half-hour away. Normally, this wouldn’t have been a problem – except that I had FINALLY located the perfect desks to set up my office upstairs with, and had already missed an appointment to pick them up last weekend because the boys were unavailable to help. I have a light afternoon tomorrow, Kenny doesn’t work on Fridays, and I had already corralled him into helping me pick them up tomorrow afternoon. If I skip out on them again, I’m sure I’ll lose them.
Back in the day, we would “divide and conquer.” Unfortunately, I’m not capable of dividing myself, and, sometimes, I have to take care of myself.
I recently read a post in the Widowers’ Support Network group on Facebook that sort of troubled me. Basically, they cited the Gospel in that no-one is married in heaven (Matthew 22:30). This troubled me; made me sad.
Being that marriage is one of the greatest acts of love a person on earth will enter into, this concept just feels… I don’t know. It’s hard to describe. In a way, since I yearn for that closeness and companionship that was part of my marriage to Kim, it’s a bit “liberating,” but at the same time, it seems to diminish our marriage bond. We do promise “until death do we part;” however, I’d thought of this as the death of the soul, ie: damnation, before dwelling on Matthew, cited above, and Luke 20:27-38, cited in the Crosswalk article. It’s hard to describe the very strangely-mixed emotions this brings to the fore.
Many, including me, sally forth from our loss with hope in the knowledge that, assuming we’re worthy, we’ll be reunited with our spouse in eternity. But our human mind cannot grasp what that means if it does not mean that we are reunited in our marriage. We have no concept of what “love” means beyond our human experience of it. And the concept of remaining bound by marriage vows in heaven causes many, including me, to question whether becoming involved in a new relationship here on earth is the right thing to do. The Crosswalk article cited above does a VERY good job of laying this out. I feel a lot better about pursuing a new relationship; that pursuing one is not an affront to our marriage or to Kim However, my very human mind still rebels at the concept that we are not still bound to our spouse in heaven…
Today is the anniversary of our first date; its first occurrence after losing Kim. I expected it to be a hard day, and, so far: it’s delivering. Everything so far has been tinged with sadness, and I’m afraid for the first time since she left that I might be slipping into depression.
Part of this, I think, is that I’m no longer having the regularly scheduled interfaces with real, live human beings that were occurring with my vestibular therapy. I may need to seek out a “grief group” or some other means of regular social contact. But, on the other hand, if it is not an “enforced” thing like the PT was, will I feel motivated to leave the house? Catch-22: two opposing manifestations of my grief response – a need for social contact, and a reluctance to leave the house…
A change at work isn’t helping, either, with recent shifts of management. Based on those changes, I fear the “people first” attitude that has prevailed since I joined this department last January is going to be a thing of the past. Hopefully, I’m wrong.
Doran, Kim’s oldest brother, is in town and will be stopping in this afternoon. Maybe that will perk me up.
In any case, and as always, I rely on these words to pull me through today and to help me to find a bright spot: Jesus, I trust in You.