Some days you feel like a…

Yesterday was an emotionally terrible day. I felt like a hollow man. Nothing seemed to have any value or meaning to me. Many things conspired against my mood, making it seem to me as if any elevated mood I had up to then must have been just a masterful fa├žade. Just felt empty.

The first day after the end of a pleasant vacation with Sheila, my girlfriend. First day back to work. Counseling and consoling some around me. But I think it was that I had none of the close companionship I had enjoyed on our trip since last Wednesday. None of the feeling of “normalcy” that came with it.

But today, I have a fresh perspective. I’ve clawed my way most of the way up from that pit, and have been able to label those things that caused that (thankfully) brief slide into deep depression.

I have most of my clocks set to display time in 24 hour format. This is a reminder to me that each new day is also a new beginning; a new opportunity to live. Each day as the clock moves from 2359 to 0000, I try to push all that I’ve gathered from the prior day out and start anew. Successful all the time? Absolutely not – but it gives me perspective. And it is that perspective that lets me heal myself from such dark, troubling days.

Sorry if yesterday’s post scared anyone.

Only the swamp-dwellers know…

Here’s an analogy I’ve made to the grief of losing a spouse and the inability of those who know no such loss to understand why we are the way we are: Unless you’re standing in the middle of the swamp, you have only a vague idea of the monsters that live there – no-one outside of the widow’s or widower’s skin can understand how the loss impacts them personally. Even those standing in the swamp dealing with the monsters are dealing with THEIR monsters. Everyone’s experience is different.

I guess the point is that, though people will tell you that they know how you feel, or they understand, they really can’t. Widow(er) to widow(er) has the best chance of understanding; however, everyone came to where they are by different paths, each which imprints differences – some small, some vast – in the experience.

For those looking to comfort a widow or widower, you really need to understand this. Telling someone you understand where they’re at really doesn’t give comfort. Just talk to them. Be aware of their pain, but don’t avoid them because of it. And to those widows and widowers who take offense at the usual platitudes, keep in mind that the goal of the person is rarely to be dismissive. They really don’t understand, and only want to give comfort.

The swing of it all

Driving my granddaughter to school today, my mind locked on the memory of how Kim would always tell me how “amazing” I was when, faced with some esoteric problem, I’d figure out how to resolve it and implement the fix. I don’t know why, but this memory made me cry. I guess it was self-pity – who will find me amazing now?

Then, driving to pick her up from school, the Luke Combs song Forever After All came on the radio. I don’t know if I just hadn’t paid attention to that song in the past, or maybe that was the first time I’d heard it, but it seemed it was modeled after Kim’s and my life. And it, too, made me cry.

The obvious solution is, I guess, that I can’t drop Vanessa off at school or pick her up…

I can’t determine what seemed to make me so emotionally raw today, unless it was the reduced amount of sleep I normally get on the days I have to drop Vanessa to school, or, simply, that I’ve been feeling “up” for so long now, that the pendulum has begun its descent along its repetitious path?

Time and more experience with this will tell.

In other news, I “graduated” from physical therapy today. They provided me with a few more exercises and sent me on my way after telling me how much they’d enjoyed working with me these past few weeks. As a testament to what they have accomplished, I hit a patch of ice on my way off the porch this evening and did the “Fred Flintstone Dance”; the end of which had me still standing, and keeping my record of never having fallen on the ice at home intact. Thanks, Kelly and Eric!

Lots going on

Sometimes you have one of those days that everything seems to happen at once. Today is one of those days. Sometimes on those days, certain aspects just “come together” for you. It was one of those days, too!

I’m still wrapping up some of the financial issues that come about when your spouse passes away. That activity sometimes requires notary service. Ordinarily, you just pop into your bank or credit union,. and request it – not so in the age of COVID: you have to make an appointment to get it done. So, I had that.

For better than a month, I’ve been planning to send some Kowalski natural casing hot dogs east to my sister – apparently, they can’t get them there. The document I needed to notarize also needed to be next-day shipped via UPS, prepaid.

I had vetibular therapy today, and it is right next to the grocery store where I have been unsuccessful for the past several weeks in getting some dry ice to pack the hot dogs in. They had it today.

All of that, plus my normal work schedule, literally consumed the day from early morning until 3:30 pm.

My trusty iPhone 8 plus has ballistically met the floor too many times and is beginning to fail in ways beyond what I can tolerate, so I bit the bullet Monday and bought a replacement for it. THAT arrived today, so a major swath of the day was consumed in prepping for its use. iPhones are a bit notorious for giving issues transferring your photos to a pc. Mine decided to follow this route. More time consumed parsing the photo and video files to determine which one was causing the file error every time I tried to copy them over.

I bought a roast Saturday with the intent of making the kids a batch of jerky. It’s Wednesday, so that had to be done.

Finally, if you haven’t noticed in any of my writings, I’m a wee bit on the religious side. Tonight started an online bible study on the gospels of Mark – my first, true bible study since the 80s when I had temporarily walked away from the Catholic church.

That’s a lot of activity packed into one day.

Add to this that the mother of my friend is having complications after surgery, and my own mother was taken to St. Joe’s with what appears to be a repeat of an infection that devastated her in September…

When it rains it definitely pours.

All of this gave me little time to think about Kim, though I managed to do so, anyway. Certain happy, and certain melancholy remembrances surfaced. But, I have to say that I think happy recollections outnumbered the sad today. I think that’s a first since she passed.

Do I think I’m not going to have empty, lonely, sad, sad, sad days in the future? Certainly not. Do I think I’m making progress in my growth and healing? Most definitely. And to what do I credit this? I think writing of my experiences helps me – even some of the mundane stuff, like how busy today was. Moreso, I think my involvement in the Widowers Support Network contributes as well. It’s a place that I can talk about the things that are bothering me and get the perspective of a couple thousand other widowers in various stages of grief – but it’s also a place where I can give others my perspective; where I can try to console others – and I think it’s that last bit that helps me more than any other.

I’m no fan of facebook, but if you are a widower, I highly recommend this group. Search for Widowers Support Network – Members Only. It is primarily for widowers, but they also invite men who are the caregivers of their terminally-ill spouse. Frankly, I don’t think I would have found the time to interact with them when I was Kim’s caregiver; however, I sure could have used their support at the time. Check them out.

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.