I honestly don’t know what was so special about today that I felt so utterly empty. I don’t have any better term to describe how I felt today. Just. Plain. Empty.

The sinus infection/upper respiratory infection is resolving, and I had the best sleep last night that I’ve had in a long time. I was able to get up with the alarm clock, rather than repeatedly poking “snooze” for another ten minutes of laziness. Got up, showered, dressed, went down to let the dogs out, feed the cats, and start my morning – pretty much as usual. And then I just sort of emptied out emotionally.

All day long, I just felt this void at my core. Nothing seemed able to pull me out of the doldrums. The weather – gray, snowy, rainy, bleak – didn’t help matters either. For having loved having four seasons my whole life, I’m really beginning to hate winter; especially the winter sky.

I had my first “vestibular therapy” appointment today. Waiting was a bit painful as every song that played over the speakers in the place reminded me of Kim, and I hadn’t been prepared for a wait. I really had no activity to pull my mind from thoughts of her. And, the act of waiting in a medical facility itself pulled me back to her last seven months – especially the last two, when they allowed me to accompany her on her appointments. These appointments were supposed to be in the same building Kim went for her chemo. Thankfully, they were booked solid, and they had another facility also very near my home. I don’t know how I would have handled pulling up to that same building, parking in the same lot, walking into the same lobby… Win-win, I guess – except for the associations my mind made with her appointments and the music in this other place.

During the therapy session, they did some more testing to see what’s going on, but nothing caused any dizziness or nystagmus (“eye wiggles” that belie issues within the cochlea). They identified a tracking issue with my eyes (eye/ear tracking, they said), and some, for lack of a better term, structural issues or misalignments in my neck, back, and ribs that could be contributing by limiting my head’s range of motion.

The young lady who did the testing was very pleasant and kind, and the young gentleman who took me through some of the exercises was as well. And, as a bonus, I think the crick in my neck I’ve had since last March may resolve through this. That would be nice, as it’s more of a problem when I’m laying down than sitting or standing, so getting that resolved may help more with the quality of my sleep. I was given some exercises to do at home and was jettisoned back out into the bleak, dreary January afternoon…

Hopefully, tomorrow will be better. There’s nothing particularly interesting on my work calendar, though.

I really miss Kim. Knowing her suffering is over helps blunt the pain, but I still miss her terribly.

From the mouths of babes…

My youngest, Jillian, and I were having a rather frank discussion about friendship, school, religion, and then Kim. I told her that Kim was depressed most of her life. REALLY depressed. But I didn’t know if that depression was driven by my job that made me an absentee father and husband most of the time, or, another facet: when we met, Kim was all of about 115 pounds. Maybe 110. After each child, she found the weight harder to lose. Kim’s body image, I believe was another source of depression, if not the predominant source. Oddly, though, looking back on some pictures, it is clear at some points in time she was really heavy (as is typical with married couples: so was I!), neither Jillian nor I could think of a time of ever thinking of her as “fat.” But I know she was unhappy with herself.

I also have a lot of “perfectionist” tendencies, and a teacher’s heart, I guess. When I see something going sideways (which could simply mean “not as I would do it”), I’m not shy about pointing out a “better” way to get it done. This led to Kim thinking she could do nothing right, no matter how often I explained that there was nothing wrong with the way she was doing it; just offering a different perspective. And just like a hound dog can’t help but bark at the squirrel, I just couldn’t seem to not do it.

Kim’s depression led to a problem with alcohol. Alcoholism. And, assuming her body was the major source of her depression, her choice of alcohol – Labatt’s beer – didn’t help, as the empty calories from that just added on more weight.

Lots of little things like that fed the demons that chased her.

With this in mind, I made the comment about Kim’s depression and stated that she didn’t have a very happy life. That was the focus of the conversation until I related the cream of celery soup story to Jillian and my conviction that there is a God, and that He listens. I included the comment about not knowing His mind or why He would help me with the soup, but not by curing Kim. (And choked up a bit.) And then the gold nuggets began spilling from her mouth, to wit (paraphrasing a bit since my memory didn’t capture it word for word, but the gist is the same):

Mom’s diagnosis brought the family together; made us closer. Mom liked that. I think God was saying to her that He didn’t like this either, but it has a purpose that she would like, and that she can look down on us and see how much closer we all are, and how much a part of each other we are now. He told her her suffering wouldn’t be that long, but the results would last.”

I agree. And I couldn’t have said it better myself. Such a great perspective!


I really feel alone at the moment. The ear thing seems to have made way for a virulent sinus and upper respiratory infection that made it VERY difficult to sleep last night. Coughing, bringing things out of the sinuses and throat, choking on it. If I got three hours of sleep, I was lucky. And, unfortunately, laying in bed, unable to sleep, battling this crud has made me depressed in a way I haven’t experienced in a very, very long time.

It’s a bit of a ‘little boy” depression, I guess. It has its root in memories of how Kim would take care of me when I would get bronchitis – and bronchitis has been the bane of my existence. Now it’s just me. At least when I’d get hit with something like this away from home and had to take care of myself then, I had the knowledge that she was at home, and I could call her up and whine to her in my discomfort – a compassionate voice, albeit hundreds of miles away. And now, it’s just me.

It was a hard realization, in the dark unable to sleep.

I guess there will be more of these realizations as life continues onward.

Wonder of wonders!

I woke up last night because something was amiss. As I laid in bed trying to figure out what it was, I realized the pulsing, rushing sound in my right ear was gone! Happy day – back to sleep. Upon awakening, I noted that it is still there, but so quiet that I have to want to hear it to pick it out, and it is easily masked by other sounds. And that feeling of fullness in the ear is much diminished as well. Cool! Maybe it is resolving itself. I’ll still go to my next ENT appointment as it wasn’t ever-present with the balance disturbances I’ve been experiencing since October. It just may be that it is episodic, but that the episodes are long? Let the doctor figure it out – better safe than sorry.

I’ve used the Snore Labs app on my iPhone sporadically for about five years. Whenever Kim would tell me my snoring was bad, or I’d wake up with a dry mouth, I’d start using it again to see what was going on. With this issue and the head cold I seem to have piled atop it, I started using the app again. Yup. I’m snoring like a bull moose in full rut in an echoey canyon. To compare (I mean: maybe not in full rut?), I flipped back through a few records and happened upon an episode this past August where Kim and I had awakened together and were having a bright, cheery conversation. With all the survivor’s guilt that comes with my new lot in life, it made me feel good to hear me cheerfully telling her “Love you, sweetie!” as we started our day. Plus, I really, really liked hearing her voice. Needless to say, that audio has been “protected” within the app and exported. I have so few recent recordings of her voice sounding so clear and good.

Back to the rushing sound, and being better safe than sorry: I find it difficult sometimes not to have a sort of nihilist attitude toward the like. Thoughts like “What if it’s something bad?” bring the answer “So what?” This really bothers me. It’s not like I’m suicidal or anything, and I haven’t ever necessarily been afraid of death, but I really don’t like this feeling of indifference toward the potential. I think it is a combination of grief and survivor’s guilt that drives these thoughts. In any case, I have a LOT of work to do before I go to see to it that the kids don’t have to give away too much of what I want to leave to them when my time does come. I don’t like leaving things half-done (Kim might have argued that last bit, with all the projects I have going all the time).

This is another testament to how having my kids to support me and worry about is such a grace during this time. Aside from bolstering me up, they give incentive to not letting myself wallow in emotions that can become so self-destructive. If you’re young ‘uns considering whether or not to have children, take my advice: have ’em. Raise them up with love and care (I think that’s what we did), and they’ll return it to you seven-fold when you need it. Sometimes in ways they don’t even realize.

Happy memories!

Today was interesting! Instead of the usual pain of loss, happy memories were at the fore of my thoughts. Particularly, the playful way Kim would sometimes zoom in and give me a quick kiss and then back off and smile at me with a playful gleam in her eye. I miss that. And the sneaky hugs from behind when I’m working at the kitchen sink. It was nice that these surfaced, rather than the memories that trigger the “I could have been a better husband” introspection.

It was another “different” Sunday, as well. Kim’s dad is still in Florida, and our former neighbors had requested mass intentions for Kim at the 10:00 mass today, so, instead of going to 8:00 mass, we went to that one. I was surprised to see how much better attended it was than the 8:00 mass! In pre-COVID times, it was pretty well attended, but, I figured with the dispensation from the Archbishop, few would bother. It was heartening to see so many there.

After mass, we had a nice conversation with our neighbors and caught up a bit. A few “chokey” moments, but, in all, I was able to carry on a conversation with them regarding Kim and what transpired between April and December. It is starting to feel oddly rehearsed, though: that narrative. And I feel compelled to go through it. Maybe I’ve transitted to another phase of grief? It’s hard to say as, since April, I’ve been in all of the phases several times. Except for, maybe, anger. I never felt anger over it – though I was plenty angry with a couple of her doctors and with the conditions that the politicization of COVID had thrust onto us; just not with God or nature.

After that conversation, we went off to the cemetery to visit Kim. First, we stopped into the mausoleum to satisfy Jillian’s curiosity and then drove around to Kim’s grave. At first look, it appeared someone had stolen her grave blanket! Getting out of the truck for a closer look showed that the rotten cervids had flipped it over onto her mom’s grave. It only took a few minutes to set it right. A lot of fresh graves this weekend. Sad.

Then off to Grandma Sue’s for brunch with most of the gang – Jeanette and Vanessa were off to a pageant in Ohio, and Jessica and Noah are busy moving into their new house. Just Jillian, Chris, Tiffany, Kenny, Kelsie, and me – still a big bunch! It was a nice visit, and Grandma Sue enjoyed playing Uno with them for a few hours. Listening to them, in the corner of my memory, I could hear Kim joining in on what was one of her favorite things every Sunday – playing cards at Grandma Sue’s.

Upon arriving home, I reassembled the old Bowflex in the basement so Jillian can work out and, as Jessie says: I can get “rrripped.” Later an old friend – people I’ve known since four or five years before I met Kim, but haven’t seen in probably 20 years – called to offer their condolences. It was a nice conversation, and I managed through it without breaking down. Christopher bought a house around the corner and down the block from theirs. We’ll have to get together for a barbecue once the Wicked Witch of the Governor’s Mansion lets people live their lives without the threat of prosecution.

The weird ear thing seems to be escalating – the pulsing, rushing sound in the right ear is getting louder as this head cold progresses. No pain and my hearing doesn’t seem to be impacted. Probably being exacerbated by sinus pressure, which I have a ton of (no pun intended). I’ll be happy when someone can say “this is what it is, and this is how we fix it.” If not, I will still be OK with the added ability to take my own pulse without using my fingers to find it.

Sad food?

Yesterday, my youngest was craving a meal that Kim used to “throw together” in a ginormous frypan. Kim was going to show her how to make it, but, for whatever reason, that lesson never occurred. So, based on what we remembered was in the meal, we ventured to the grocery store (and were dismayed to find them actively remodeling it…) and bought zucchini, yellow squash, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and chicken tenders. I thought some extra fiber and protein would be nice, so I added a can of light kidney beans and a can of great northern beans to the cart.

I put the meal together as I remembered Kim would do, chopping the onion, slicing the squashes, cubing the chicken, tossing everything into the pan, and bringing it to heat. I seasoned it as it cooked until what I tasted triggered my chef’s memory of what Kim’s rendition tasted like. It was very close. And that triggered a tidal wave of emotion I didn’t expect – one that stayed with me into today, as I’ve struggled with, for instance, answering a text to the affirmative with the phrase “Yea, verily!” which led to a memory of the Danny Kaye movie The Court Jester, which we enjoyed long ago (much to the surprise of my youngest son at the time – he didn’t want to watch it, and ended up mesmerized by it! One of his favorites to this day.) – but, more pertinent to this telling, a movie that my youngest son and I watched as we sat at dinner in March of 2020 while Kim was in Florida with her dad and sister – the last trip she took without the specter of cancer hanging over her; the trip where she began to acknowledge that her “ulcer” was getting worse.

And, later, my youngest daughter was in need of colored pencils for her art class. Kim was very, very artistic; very talented. And I knew that she had colored pencils in the bag she took to her chemotherapy sessions – a lavender cloth tote bag embroidered, simply “Chemo Shit.” Well, sorting through that bag yielded another flood of heartache. All her adult coloring books – most unfinished, some not started. Her puzzle books. A sketch pad. A couple of drawings from our granddaughter with the phrase “I love you Gramma I hop you fell betr” – one depicting Kim as an angel handing something to her – eerily prescient of the angel handing an unseen person a rose as depicted on the thank you cards from Kim’s funeral.

I’m finding lots of weird little triggers like that. Seemingly innocuous activities that will set me travelling down the road of sadness; sometimes at breakneck speed…

I messaged with the husband of the woman to whom I gave Kim’s horse, Roxy, today. Roxy is doing very well with them and seems to have adopted her new mistress. This is a testament to all the work Kim did with that once easily spooked, shy horse. And they absolutely love her. I made the right choice there.

Kim had wanted her sister to take the horse for her niece, and her sister told Kim that they would. After Kim passed was when I was told they couldn’t afford to take the horse as the farm where her niece’s horse was stabled was full, and her sister just didn’t have the heart to tell Kim that. I only discovered this by accident when I contacted the barn, and they told me not to worry: they were finding a good home for Roxy. Thank goodness I made that call! Though I’m sure Roxy would have been fine with whomever the farm found to place her with – they’re good people whom Kim trusted and I trust as well – Kim really wanted Roxy to go to someone she knew and respected. The woman to whom I gave Roxy used to ride Bert with Kim back in the day, until her husband’s job pulled them out of Michigan (he and I were good friends, too – and would brew beer together as often as we could). They’re back, they have taken Roxy, and I think Kim would be very, very happy with this decision. In any case, his message was that he’s not a horse person, and even he is enamored with Roxy; that she has given him what Kim used to call a “horse hug.” Again: the right decision was made.

I’ve also heard back from an old friend who lost his wife under similar circumstances over seven years ago. He told me that the hole in your heart never fills. He has found someone he loves who he has now been with for several years, but she doesn’t replace his first wife, nor fill the place in his heart she held. I can see that. The hole in mine is fresh and raw, but I honestly don’t see how it can be filled. It’s huge.

And, finally, an old friend from work who had been battling lung cancer for as long as I can remember finally gave up on all the chemo and radiation in December, about a week after Kim left us. He passed yesterday. I was sure that, if anyone, he would beat it. He seemed to be doing so well.

Sometimes it comes at you in buckets.

A different kind of Sunday morning

Today was different for a couple of reasons. Normally, my youngest daughter and I will go to 8:00 mass, then over to my father-in-law’s house. From there, we go, with dad, to the cemetery to visit Kim’s grave, and her mother’s, right next to her. But this week, dad is on the way to Florida with his son, and my granddaughter was with me since my oldest had to work last night.

Plus, we were planning to go to Gramma Sue’s for brunch after it all. So, we went to 8:00 mass as usual, but with my granddaughter in tow; then returned home to putz around for a while, going to the cemetery in the late morning. What a difference that made for traffic!

In any case, the deer did not do much damage this week. Since it hadn’t snowed in a while, I guess they had enough exposed browse to forgo the pine boughs on all the grave blankets and other winter decor on the graves, and I didn’t have to retrieve the blanket and put it back on her grave. But I did pry some stones out of the frozen mound over Kim. My youngest boy had done this when his grandmother passed a year ago last August – I guess a keepsake of sorts. When Kim was buried, there weren’t a lot of stones evident, and, with the cold, COVID, masks and all the activity in setting the flowers and such after the earth was put back in place, it was difficult for him to find any. I’ll clean them up and give them to him later. Maybe keep one for myself – I’ll put it at the base of one of Kim’s plants that I’m trying to keep alive.

Funny – there were a lot of peace lilies delivered to the visitation at the funeral home. When I moved out of my parents’ house into the apartment Kim and I would share after we were married, she bought a big peace lily plant for the apartment and admonished me not to kill it (it was a challenge: I’m terrible with plants.). So, we began our life together with a peace lily, and our life together ended with peace lilies. One of Kim’s plants I’m trying to keep alive in her craft room is also a peace lily. I guess I’ll put the stones at the base of that one.

Well, I can’t say I was jumping for joy at all today, but I think my mood was a little lighter after the visit. Still won’t get any participation awards from anything…

Tough day.

For some odd reason, today was very hard for me. I just didn’t want to get out of bed, and then, after I did, I just felt melancholy all day, and couldn’t put my finger on why. There were no obvious triggers. Just…. blah.

I don’t think I’ve had a day like this. It is the first time when just the act of waking up made me feel sad. I can’t blame not having to work, as I was on vacation for the entire month after Kim passed away. Come to think of it, I was a bit out of sorts the night before. Maybe it was the “Family Friday” that got me? I just wanted to be alone; or, at least, I didn’t want to participate. I thought maybe I was coming down with something, but I don’t feel my health is off today.

I think this is something I’ll probably have to deal with now and again. I miss Kim terribly, and, I think, every now and again, it is just going to spill over and set the tone for the day without any obvious trigger.

Maybe I’m not doing as well against depression as I think I am. Time will tell. I find that I do not want to go out of the house – opposite what I’ve read on some other widowers’ blogs I’ve come across: most want to get away from the home they’d shared with their departed spouse – one I read of went to the point of selling the home and moving to another state! Not me. I want to be here, though there is a coldness about the place – especially when I return from somewhere else.

Today, I visited my mother.

Before Kim got sick, I would go to my mom’s every morning before work with coffee for her. Even after COVID sent us all home, I’d make the trip there, and, instead of continuing east afterward to go to my office, I’d turn around and head back west to my home. I stopped doing that when Kim got sick as I needed to focus there. Instead, I’d go on Saturday (usually with Kim) and bring mom enough coffee to heat up in that microwave to last her the week. Once Kim couldn’t travel, any thought of that ended. But, before that occurred, though, mom had an episode that meant she would have home healthcare people in her home with her every day – again: God sees to it. I do my best to get out every Saturday to see her. I don’t think anyone realizes the effort it seems to take now, though. And I cannot put a finger on why it is so damned difficult or unsavory to leave the house. Like I said: I don’t think I’m doing as well against depression as I thought I was.

And, it was my niece’s wedding day. Their wedding was postponed due to COVID, and, once rescheduled, the invitations were held up in the mail for over a month. By the time most received them, it was too late to make any plans to go to Texas for the wedding. Me? I’m all travelled out. I have no desire to get on a plane or take a long car ride to anywhere – this isn’t a result of Kim passing, but a result of spending so much time away from home during my career – travel holds no allure for me. In any case, the church live-streamed her ceremony, so we got to participate at a distance – my daughter, my mother, my niece and I watched it at Mom’s house. The bride, church and ceremony were all beautiful, but I hope they didn’t pay the singer much. Wow! Reminded me of Ray Bolger as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz – but Ray could carry a tune!

In any case: congratulations to Erin and Thomas! May you have a long, happy marriage, and may you both be in your dotage before the good Lord calls either of you home.

Tomorrow is 8:00 mass, and then a visit to Kim’s grave to set her grave blanket to rights after the deer have had their evil way with it for a week. Oddly, though I feel great sadness at her grave, I usually feel a lot better after visiting it.