For the first time since Kim passed, I had a dream in which she was a major player, animated, and talking. It was the strangest dream, and did not leave me feeling relieved, or happy, or even satisfied. And it was the darnedest strange dream… Jessica had put one of those barn doors in her house – oddly with windows and a normal swing door on it, complete with curtains and flower pots – and some guys I worked with twenty years ago were telling me about it at Home Depot. I went over to see it, and, sliding it open, there was Kim. Oddly, she was both as she was when we were first married, and simultaneously as she was before her diagnosis. I recall that we spoke, but I don’t recall what she said. I also recall knowing that we were separated.
Like I said: strange. (The door on the sliding door opened, too…)
Today, driving out of the neighborhood to pick up some things for today’s dinner reminded me so much of all the trips to take Kim to her chemo appointments. Bright, blue sky punctuated with nice, fluffy white clouds. It was a difficult day.
I have noticed that I am having an extremely difficult time getting out of bed unless I have something important to do for someone else. I have the alarm set for the same time every morning, but will hit snooze over and over again, unless I need to take Vanessa to school (the alarm goes off an hour earlier for that, and I generally get up more easily).
Based on the Vanessa school alarm, you’d think that I might be oversleeping by an hour on “normal” days, so setting the alarm that hour earlier is the solution, but no dice: I’ll still hit the snooze, or change the alarm. It’s not a duration of sleep or quality of sleep issue – I’ve used sleep apps to monitor things like motion and snoring ever since my first (and hopefully last) experience with clinical depression six years ago. Most nights, I get at least eight hours, and most nights my “snore score” is zero, and my sleep motion shows a majority of bedtime is spent in deep, restful sleep with a good heart rate dip. This difficulty getting out of bed is a depression response, I’m sure.
And it’s a vicious cycle: when I sleep late, I invariably feel depressed throughout the day because I have wasted it.
If I recall that episode correctly, I imperfectly corrected the issue by forcing myself to get out of bed at the alarm and ensured I got up the same time every day. Many weekend mornings had me up and about long before Kim, having coffee in the back yard during warm months, or putzing around the kitchen during cold months – waiting for Kim to get up so we could go about our day. Sunday was my favorite for this as we would go to Mass, and then, most Sundays, to Grandma Sue’s afterward. Saturdays normally saw us going in different directions, coming together sometimes mid-morning, sometimes at lunch, sometimes later – but coming together.
I think I’ll try forcing myself to get out of bed at my alarm again. It won’t be as pleasurable as I won’t have Kim’s awakening to look forward to, but the mastery of myself may help in other issues I’m finding in her loss. If I’m successful and get back to where I actually want to get out of bed, maybe I can bump the alarm up that hour, and start an exercise program – I recall spending an hour on the stationary bike each day during that episode in 2014, and I remember it helping me a lot!
I look around at all the young parents, at all the parents with teenagers – all those busy growing their families, and I think “That was us.” Kim and I were a bit of an anomaly to the thinking of our day. Five kids in an era where a “family car” barely fit four people total.
Five glorious kids.
When we were planning our marriage, Kim was hesitant on the subject of kids. She wasn’t really sure that she wanted any. I wanted a barnfull. In any case, she said she wanted to go five years before we had any children. Jeanette was about 5 months old at our second anniversary…
I remember Jeanette’s and Christopher’s births with almost crystal clarity. With Jeanette, Kim labored for over 24 hours before they finally took Jeanette by caesarian section. Afterward, Kim looked like she had been in a prize fight – blood vessels in the whites of her eyes had burst from her straining, her face was swollen… I have no idea why they let her go so long before finally deciding to go the route they did. After that, I told Kim that maybe we should only have the one – I didn’t want to put her through that again. She simply smiled a serene sort of smile and said no – she wanted more kids.
I bought cigars to pass out at work. They were in a white and pink “It’s A Girl” cigar box, which, afterward, we used to house incoming bills so that I would know where they were when I would pay bills twice a month (my pay frequency at the time). We still have that box to this day, on my old desk (which needs to be emptied, broken up, and discarded…). I recall that those cigars were actually pretty tough to get rid of, even in 1991 – Ford had just disallowed smoking at ones desk the year prior to my being hired, and we would either step outside to smoke, or you could smoke in the lavatory or inside the high-ceilinged pilot plant. A short time later, smoking in the lavatories was also banned, followed shortly by smoking in the pilot plant. In deference to those who wished to continue to smoke, but did not want to go outside, they had created what we lovingly knew as the “gas chamber” – a glassed-off cube – in the cafeteria. I smoked until May 1994. I no longer recall the specific day, but I recall the actual incident of my quitting with crystal clarity. I was in Oakville, launching the 1994.5 Windstar body shop. I stepped outside to have a cigarette in the afternoon, lit it up, inhaled, looked at it, blew the smoke out, and said “I’m not doing this anymore.” I crushed it out, crushed the pack, and quit smoking cigarettes. I tried a pipe briefly after that, but the liquid tar and nicotine that would come rolling into your mouth from the stem turned me off on it pretty quickly. And then I would have a cigar now and again until one day in 1997 while launching the 1998 Ranger body shop in Edison New Jersey, I quit those, too. (With that history and my former penchant for high-risk activities, we were right to structure things as if I would go first, even though it did not work out that way…)
Christopher decided it was time to be born as we were attending Kim’s five-year reunion. We had already dropped the kids at my mom & dad’s to babysit while we were out, so we shot over there and let them know what was going on, and then off to Oakwood Hospital for kid #2.
For Christopher’s birth, her obstetrician was out of town, so we had another. I only met him that one time, but I remember his name – that’s how deeply the incident was burned into my memory. I think he must have been a doctor in a soviet gulag or something – he had a bedside manner similar to that of a drill sergeant. And he was dead set that Kim would deliver naturally. His assistant had to continually get between him and me because he kept triggering my protective instincts, and I wanted to knock him out. In the end, Christopher was born naturally, which we had previously been told wouldn’t be possible once someone has had a caesarian section. Each child afterward was also delivered naturally.
Oddly, I don’t recall a lot around Jessica’s delivery other than Kim laughing as she was in labor because her obstetrician and I were watching late-night reruns (I remember C.H.I.P.S.) on TV in her room while she was doing all the work. She used to chuckle about that often, showing mock offense over it. She used to cite that as an example when she would tell me how, no matter where we went or what we were doing, people seemed to gravitate to me like that, and we’d find some common thread and end up “best buds,” at least for that instance in time. I was at Michigan Truck on the Plant Vehicle Team and studying for my first master’s degree at the time so, except for being buried in books, papers, and homework, I was home the whole time.
When it was Kenneth’s turn to arrive, I was in Norfolk, Virginia launching the 1999 F-Series body shop. This was to be an induced labor because Kim had developed worrisome gestational hypertension during her pregnancy with him, and they didn’t want it to go beyond her due date for her safety. I remember my Vehicle Line Specialist and I racing west on 80, trying to stay ahead of an incoming hurricane as we dashed back to Michigan – I had packed up my apartment as I didn’t expect to be returning there and, sure enough – I never did. I remember the delivery being fairly quick, and that the room Kim had after Kenny’s delivery overlooked Greenfield Village (now: The Henry Ford”…) in one direction and the Ford test track in the other.
Kim and I went to Las Vegas that fall. We left the kids with Aunt Cindy and Uncle Mich and their brood for the long week. Kim and I had a great time, but I remember her pining away for her baby the whole time.
And finally. Little Miss Oops: Jillian. I remember when Kim discovered she was pregnant with Jillian. She was petrified that I’d be upset. I remember her look when she told me, and I replied with, simply: “Well. I guess we should pick out some names!” And that was truly how I felt – not upset, happy for another beautiful gift!
I was home for the entire time with Jillian as well. Ford wanted me to go to Japan to pursue some issues with the die supplies for the 2003 Mustang. My passport had expired and it would have to be renewed in order for me to take the poorly-timed trip. I had brought it to work with me to get it an expedited renewal started by the Ford travel agency. I had left it in a fancy folder on my desk, and someone stole it. Since I no longer had the old passport, expedited renewal was out of the question., and to replace it would have put me outside the window for the trip, so someone else went in my place. I honestly did not plan that and worried for years afterward regarding my identity – but I think the sticky-fingered miscreant was after the folder and tossed everything that was inside of it. In any case, it meant I was home for Jillian’s delivery as well. Our last child, and, I think, one of the last children delivered by Kim’s obstetrician as I believe he retired that same year. I remember that they would not release Jillian to us to take her home because her blood oxygen level was lower than they liked, so we went each day to visit her in the NICU until they finally let her come home.
Upon arriving at Kim’s grave after Mass today, I found that they have installed the marker and have planted grass seed over her. The marker is in place. This put my emotional state into a power dive. Odd. She’s been gone almost 5 months, yet the marker being set lends such an air of finality. It’s as if seeing it in the ground, my mind says “Yup. It’s not a mistake. You’re not dreaming. She’s gone.”
I keep remembering little things. Our first campout with Jeanette over the 4th of July with a dog who was terrified of fireworks and a brand new tent that leaked in the rain. Stopping at Busch’s in Pinckney after Mass on a camping outing probably 10 years later to pick up a few things we had forgotten – it was my first visit to a Busch’s store and I remember marveling, to Kim’s flustered enjoyment (she wanted to get her things and get out of there…), at the variety of produce and cheeses and breads… Our many trips to the lake lot both before and after we were married – BC: Before Children – return often. Like the time we went out fishing on my birthday in the boat we’d bought that summer… My mind rebels at each one. “How can it possibly be over? How could this have happened?” And I remember her in her bed that last day, dead. How I woke at 2:48 am on that Tuesday morning, ostensibly because I had to use the bathroom, but I think I must have sensed her passing – she was still warm, even her fingers. How I wish she could have had a miracle – even as “bad” as life with her seemed to be prior to her diagnosis, struggling to cope with her alcoholism and depression, it was still better than I find this life without her to be. The desolation that often swamps my thoughts, no matter what I may have to look forward to or to be grateful for is… paralyzing. I know my family doesn’t understand this paralysis, this disdain for being dragged out of the house – my sanctuary.
I wonder how often my psyche will take these dives? This one has been settling in for some time and doesn’t seem to be alleviating. Not even cloud gazing makes me smile at the moment. I just feel so lost. When I get like this, I just want to be alone, but I fear being alone will only deepen the depression, and I never again want to go into that particular pit.
I pray that those reading who have not lost their spouse don’t. And for those who have, you can probably expect this emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on to be yours as well. It has been better. I expect it will be better again. and I’m hoping that these valleys become less frequent as this voyage through loss continues…
Today was a bit dreary. Warmer than it had been, but cloudy with drizzle most of the day. It started with me going to mom’s since, looking at my phone upon waking, I saw what looked like a panic on the part of my sisters – luckily, I woke up inexplicably earlier than I do even during the workweek. In any case, once again, the firm providing my Mom’s care, Home Instead, appeared to have dropped the ball, and they didn’t know if anyone would be there today or not. This happens far too often, and, if it were up to me, I’d be looking for other arrangements – but I’m not the ringmaster for this particular circus – nor do I wish to be.
Upon arriving at Mom’s, I found she had a caregiver, so it wasn’t as bad as I feared. Unfortunately, I’m not “strong” enough to assist Mom with her toileting if needed, and, if Home Instead had not been able to find someone to take the shift, I likely would have had to.
Four hours later, I returned home to try and get some other things done. Because of the drizzle, I wasn’t able to cut the grass as I had hoped – instead, I managed to clean – thoroughly clean – the litter boxes before my oldest son needed help hanging a new TV he had purchased. At his house, I set the hanger, and cut in the AV boxes for him, and, after Kenny, Chris, and I manhandled the monstrous thing onto the bracket, his nice, new TV is now hanging on the wall with no wires showing. This whole thing, looking at the clock on the way back home, took significantly longer than I thought it did! Time flies, I guess.
Kenny and I got home, and I finished processing some pumpkin seeds I had put in the oven to dry earlier in the day, then I made spicy bean burritos for Kenny’s and my supper. And then the day was used up.
It’s odd how we think about time. Without Kim, shouldn’t I have more time for other things? No, no – that’s not how it works. Without Kim, my brain sallies forth each day into the fog that used to be my ordered, structured mind and nothing is as efficient as it used to be. Thankfully, though, there’s another thing has changed in the After Kim as well. In the past, when she was away, I’d stay up WAY too late ’cause she wasn’t there to come down and say “Aren’t you coming to bed?” If that “stuck,” I’d be in real trouble now, since I do not function well in a sleep deficit, and I’m already dealing with the fogginess of “widow brain” as they call it. But I seem to wind down and want to hit the hay early enough on my own now.
Well, with Jillian out of town, I opted for no Grandma Sue’s tomorrow so I should be able to knock a few more things off my list tomorrow after mass and the cemetery. Wish me luck…
Jillian is reading The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch in her Lit class. They listen to the audiobook version in class, and since Jillian is remote, I hear every bit.
Randy Pausch died of pancreatic cancer in 2008.
I sit in the family room, working remotely while she’s in this class. I often find myself tearing up listening to the audiobook – so much of what he relates hits home. Particularly, in today’s segment, he relates his wife, Jai, asking him “Please don’t die.” I often asked Kim “Please don’t go.” to which she would invariably reply “Well, I’m trying not to.” But the book is written from his perspective; not Jai’s. In a lot of ways, when he talks about his relationship with his wife and family and what he’s going through, it’s as if I am hearing Kim relating her experience. As I mentioned before, she was so staid, serene in her situation. I get that same impression from Mr. Pausch’s statements.
In some ways, the parallels are comforting. I think Kim found the same Zen-like peace in her situation. Most of the time, though, it plucks a chord on the emotional harp that sends me to that place where I just want to be alone.
Today is “Family Friday.” Jillian, Vanessa, and Jeanette are on their way to Ohio for a pageant. I made steaks, fries, and a salad for Chris, Jessica, Kenneth, and me. Dinner was good. Now they’re gathered in the kitchen talking and listening to music… mostly music I don’t like, so I went to the basement and finished breaking up that cabinet I said I’d finish a couple of weeks back (yeah, I know… but one task has now officially been focused upon and completed!), and then took the bottles out to the garage, and the recycling out to can in the side yard… I truly believe music is like candy – you should throw the wrappers out. But then Chris pulled up some Imagine Dragons (sounded a lot like early Zeppelin) and ELO to redeem them… Well, not all their taste in music is crap.
One of my coping mechanisms is to pile on too much to do, and then just power through them to keep me from having time to dwell on anything (I think I’ve mentioned that before). Well, today seems to have been a breaking point. I have a bit of a cold, I think, and the congestion is playing havoc with my vestibular system, making me feel a bit woozy. The combination did not serve me well today – I just could not get anything done; couldn’t seem to focus on any individual task.
Hopefully, tomorrow will be better. The weekend is here, and I think I’ll just pick ONE task and pursue it to its completion. Hopefully, that success will break this lack of focus…
So, despite them having removed the snow from the forecast, we got hit with it anyway. All the flowers that remained from Kim’s efforts, the flowering trees, the lawn… All covered with snow. The temperature has stayed low as well, so things don’t look good for them. I’m sure any crocuses will survive, but all the other flowers will likely not. Sigh.
I blame global warming. I’m sure they have some explanation or other how mankind is at fault, and how this perfectly fits their predictions. Like their prediction that we were all supposed to be dead in ten years – made over 12 years ago…
In any case, this cold and snow has dampened my spirits to the point it was pretty dammed difficult to roll out of bed this morning. It is difficult in general – the mornings are my most “depressed” time of day – but today was extra difficult. Since Jeanette got cancelled last night for work, she came over for a pizza dinner (and wings! Love Pizza Hut’s wings!), and she and Vanessa went to their own home last night, removing the incentive to “spring out of bed” at my normal time, since I didn’t have to drive Vanessa to school, and languished between the sheets until I had to start preparing for my first meeting. I’ll pay for that throughout the day as I encounter the shoulda-coulda-wouldas that extra inactive time invariably results in. Oh, well.
The sky is clear with a scattering of cotton ball clouds, and the temperature is slated to hit 45° today (but 30° tonight…), so I expect the snow that, surprising, accumulated everywhere will be fairly short-lived. As, I hope, will be the blahs that came with it.
I seem to be getting into the “swing” of being single. The thought of not having someone to hold was, until a couple of days ago, “front of mind” most of the time. It seems to have receded. I’m still interested in, and will likely have dates in the future, but I don’t have the same feelings about doing so as I did up to now. And I cannot put my finger on precisely why it’s place of importance to my mind may have changed. Perhaps some of the fog from having lost Kim has lifted, clarifying my thoughts on the subject. Don’t know. But, looking forward, I kinda like it.
I still have a lot of “son,” “dad,” and “grandpa” responsibilities that limit any sort of social life, so maybe it’s a pragmatic reaction. Can’t say – but whatever the source of this new sentiment, it’s as if a weight has been lifted. Don’t get me wrong: I still miss waking up with someone. I still miss the closeness and familiarity one attains with one they have spent the lion’s share of their life with. But, that “someone” I miss is Kim. And, I no longer feel any urgency around changing my current state.
Funny. It didn’t seem like this week was any busier than those since I started this blog, but there you have it: a three day gap! I did do a lot of yard work the past few days, plus, I wrapped up all the kids’ tax returns and started focusing on mine in earnest. Plus, I started another educational program, heaping it upon the several bible studies I’m currently waaaaay behind on…
I guess it was ripe to occur: one of my “coping” mechanisms seems to be stacking up so much to do that I cannot possibly get through it. (The other appears to have become late night snacking, which I need to work on eliminating before I reverse all of the hard-won weight loss I’ve achieved until now…)
The weather is playing its pure Michigan games – we were up to 80 a few days there, and then they were predicting a snowstorm for 20 April. Upon hearing this forecast, I predicted the snowstorm would fall off of their prediction (which it did yesterday), but it is still not as warm as I’d like for mid-April. Still: it was warm enough to follow up on some tree trimming I had begun last fall, and to clear a copse of “voluntrees” and some deadfall from the park along the fence bordering my yard. I still have to bundle and discard the trimmings (they’re neatly stacked along the fence line in the park), or, maybe, I’ll have a bonfire this week.
Kim’s tulips (or crocuses – I don’t know the difference) are in full bloom in the front yard, and a few in the side yard – yellows and pinks and one purple one. I don’t recall there having been any purple ones in the past, and it is only the one. Maybe she’s talking to me – after all, purple is her favorite color, and those purple ones I talked about a few weeks back were the first to pop on the scene. It is odd that there’s only one purple one out of the tens of yellow and red ones. Anyway…
I’ve started getting ready for summer – I’ve laid in 80 lbs. of charcoal for the smoker, designed a plate to incorporate a propane burner on the thing to sustain some of the longer cooks more readily, and have the lawn mower pulled out and the snow blower stowed away for the summer.
The TV in my bedroom was Kim’s and my “theater”. There are two easy chairs at the foot of the bed that we would sit in and watch movies when we got the time. Kim also liked to watch some of her old favorites – particularly “Murder, She Wrote” from the bed when she didn’t feel well. (Our middle daughter, Jessica, got her name from Kim’s enjoyment of that show!) Saturday night, for the first time since I left the bedroom in order to stay with Kim when she couldn’t make it up the stairs anymore, I turned on the TV in our room and watched a movie. I honestly don’t understand why I watched the whole movie, because it was pretty bad – probably the worst superhero movie since “Superman vs. Batman” a few years back, and that’s saying a lot: “Wonder Woman 84.” Until then, I just couldn’t turn it on. Besides: nothing really interested me. Now, it’s like having touched a hot burner: I probably won’t be turning it on again any time soon – thanks to either DC Comics, Patty Jenkins, the group of writers, or the producers – someone made some pretty rank decisions, particularly on bringing the inane storyline to “film”…
And, it was a “usual,” if a bit “long”, Sunday: 8:00 Mass with Jillian, popped over to Holiday Market for flowers, then to Kim’s Dad’s to take him to the cemetery. Nick wanted to go, so there were four of us. Upon arriving at the graves, I found the flowers from last week still intact and actually in pretty good shape! I added the new flowers to each, and then dropped Nick and Dad home. Jillian and I spent the rest of the day at Grandma Sue’s – a delicious “egg casserole” for brunch, then Jillian finished the puzzle they were working on last weekend. We then watched some crime shows on Oxygen with Grandma Sue – seemed like she really didn’t want us to leave, but we finally did at 6:30! Yikes!
All pretty “normal” stuff. But (there’s always a “but”), likely due to the vacillating thermometer, the vegetation is in a survival panic and cranking out pollen like nobody’s business. This brings on allergies, LOTS of congestion and – you guessed it! – my new friend, Vestibular Imbalance (no introductions necessary: you’ve met…). I can see it is going to be a challenging summer.