Letter # 2

Dear M,

I have been avoiding you all weekend and then I saw one of your hats in the van, which I still think of as your car. So I decided it might be time to write. It was a good weekend. I do kind of dread the weekends. Butter dreads after school time, but it’s getting better. You would have been proud of them both this weekend. Butter is now scuba certified. iMac performed with the Ocean of Sound on Saturday at the Music Performance Assessment. They received a Superior rating for the first time in the history of their band. They both did their homework tonight without protest or drama. Their report cards were good too, which is a miracle given the missed school days when you died and the all consuming nature of losing you just four weeks ago.

I sent Maya Angelou’s poem, When Great Trees Fall, to our dear friend Sophie in the Republic of Georgia. She had written to say she had been meaning to write, but just couldn’t. It was as if acknowledging your death in writing would make it real. I understood. I re read the poem myself and was struck,as I am every time I read it, by how accurately it captures the experience of being left behind by death. Remember I read it at my Dad’s memorial? I wore that same dress to your memorial too, my funeral dress.

Midday I have was in the garage going through old toys to give to the Salvation Army. It was hard to put those Playmobil sets in the bag today. We are getting ready for something new, or rather someone new, our dog. I’ve told the boys that dogs are like toddlers at first so we must baby proof. This having something to look forward to makes the clearing out easier. I was thinking about putting my pajamas on and staying in all day. I had already done a couple of loads of laundry, been on a walk, done dishes, so why not? Just then MK sent me a text about a car wash fundraiser for the school solar club. That text is what got me out of the house, with the car loaded up with bags of books and toys, I stopped at the ATM and gas station on my way to the car wash. I even thought to bring my grocery list and went to the store. I made some cards yesterday too. I was so relieved to read Alain Botton’s article in the NYT today, entitled Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person. Relieved because we all marry the wrong person, merely by thinking and expecting that there is a right one. During your eulogy, Joel said these words “Most of all M came to compete.” It was a light bulb moment for me. I wished he had told me sooner, like on our wedding day, not that I would have known what to do with that information at the time. We were such opposites. I came to love. I never understood that your competitive drive had a life of its own, and never saw it for what it was. Our marriage made me braver or rather gave me the opportunity to exercise the brave that had been ther all along. Marriage also wore me out, the “for worse” part so much easier said than done. I underestimated the impact that both of your illnesses alpha 1 anti trypsin deficiency and metastatic melanoma would have on me. It was brutal. I stayed the course. I hope you can see that we are all here doing a darn good job with life.
Love,

S

My Fancy Dog and Being a Bad Example

So it looks like I am about to purchase a fancy dog. By fancy I mean purebred. If you know me you know that I do not have a fancy dog history and you know that I have allergies.

It so happened that we evacuated hurricane Matthew with our neighbor K and her two fancy dogs Amber (a 2 year old chocolate labradoodle) and Dandelion(a five month old golden labradoodle). Butter, iMac and I had done some pet sitting over the summer, taking care of Amber and the three cats before Dandelion came into the picture. The night after we returned home K knocked on our door holding Keefer, an 8 week old apricot and cream labradoodle. I opened the door to hear K say “Meet your new dog!” Butter was right behind me. “Is she serious Mom??? Is he really our new dog?”

“No, of course not! She’s joking.” Butter talked about Keefer for the next few hours until bedtime. I realized at some point that I alone get to decide about such things as whether we will get a dog. The next day I talked to the allergists at work. I already knew that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. One suggested we get more exposure to these three labradoodles to determine if the kids’ asthma would flare. I called the breeder. Keefer is not available. I looked into the guardian program which would allow me to get my fancy dog for less expense by agreeing to breed her four times. Then I noticed in the requirements that I must have a fenced yard to be a guardian home. The dilemma being that my yard isn’t actually my yard so I cannot fence it. I am renting. The further dilemma that my lease stipulates “No Pets.” I’ve clearly already broken that commitment with Cha. Now I find myself about to pay full price for a fancy dog because then I don’t have to have a fenced yard. All toward the purpose of deceiving my landlady as long as possible. I am such a good role model for the kids. Yikes!

Letters to my husband

Yesterday I received the first of four booklets on the topic of grief. It was the best I’ve read on the topic. Processing grief is hard work. It gets stuck and then makes things worse. So I thought I would try one of the suggestions here by writing letters to Melanoma Man.

Dear M,

It is Sunday morning. I dropped Butter off at Charles’ house at 4:15 this morning. Charles, David, Will M and Butter are headed to Manatee Springs for Day Three of Scuba Certification training. iMac got home at midnight last night after an all day marching band competition. They were all so happy they made it to finals. I went to watch them perform the preliminary round. MK was there of course. Seeing MK is like my bit of sunshine, reminding me that I am not in a foreign land. I do live here on earth. I feel so detached sometimes, but she grounds me. I’m not sleeping well. I wake up with headaches every night. You are not here and neither is the sound of your oxygen concentrator cycling on and off. Cha is sleeping in the bed every night, on your side. He is disregarding the fact that I am allergic to him. I did get restarted on my allergy shots though.

Yesterday I walked 4 miles with Pam and I got a pedicure. I think you would be pleased by both. Katherine called too, which was great. She just passed the two-year anniversary of Dave’s death. She understands the panicky moments, the not being able to remember people’s names, the feeling crazy. We talked about a lot of things, about the fact that we were single for so long before we married. We were both operating with so  much extra responsibility in the last years of our marriages. Then when you died I kind of forgot all that I am capable of juggling. I think I am just plain tired, tired of juggling. I want to say “you do it. I am tired. I will be doing yoga and walking on the beach. When I get back, you should have all this done: house cleaned, meals planned, groceries shopped for, summer for the kids planned, bills paid. And of yes,please teach imac to drive.” Then I will come home and take a nap.

I’m feeling a little better now. The pain in my neck and head is subsiding. I think I can go on a walk and have breakfast, or maybe grocery shop. I can’t decide. I’ll write more soon. I miss you and love you and just wish you were here even though you aggravated me so.

 

Love,

S

Back at Work, Finding my Way

I took a planned day off on Monday to take Butter to appointments. Monday night I was freezing cold,  running a barely fever. My temperature was 100. I wished I wasn’t a nurse for that moment. Then I could have dramatized the FEVER!! But alas I knew that we nurses are very know-it all-ish about fevers. It isn’t a fever unless it’s greater than or equal to 100.4 degress Fahrenheit, I can hear myself saying. I ached all over. A bit of chronic sinusitis trying to become acute. Tuesday I took a day off to either get my body to fight it or go to the doctors. After 25 years of sinusitis I can tell whether it’s worth the time and money to go to the doctor. It wasn’t worth it this time. Rest, tea, lots of fluids, Mucinex and the usual medications. I worked Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I realized at lunchtime that there was no one waiting for my midday phone call or text. My co-worker Tori agreed to text me periodically so I could be part of the lunchtime reindeer games. We sent emoticons back and forth to each other. I have continued to adjust my hours backwards rather than forwards. At some point prior to returning to work I had this delusional idea that I would be back to full time by my third week of widowhood. Yesterday I surrendered and realized that won’t likely happen within the next few months. The kids need my time and presence and so I will give it to them as long as my employer will allow me to work part time.

Tuesday was the 18th anniversary of my Dad’s death. Wednesday was the 3 week anniversary of Melanoma Man’s death.

I found things to laugh at this week too. I called the realtor/rental agency about my leaky kitchen sink. We had an amicable chat at the end of which I said “Kermit can come work on the sink anytime. Just have him call my cell number first.”

Friendly receptionist said “Ok,  I’ll let Dermot know.”

Me: “Wait a minute, did you just call him Dermot?”

Friendly receptionist “Yeah cause that’s his name.”

Me: “Dermot! Dermot is his name?? I have been calling him Kermit for four years and he has never corrected me.”

Friendly receptionist: “No, he wouldn’t. He’s not that guy.”

Me: “I wish he’d said something. Like ‘Hey I’ll stop calling you Miss Piggy when you stop calling me Kermit!!!”

That had me laughing for the next hour and feeling a little bad too for Dermot.

And we have gone from being frequent pet sitters and dog walkers for my neighbor K, to serious contemplation about becoming dog owners. Some have pointed out that I need to be responsible for another creatures survival like a hole in the head. Others have pointed out that it will be great. I’m not a stranger to living in a menagerie, having spent my childhood in one. We simply hadn’t planned on having pets due to all of Melanoma Man’s overseas work and the uncertainty that it brought to our lives. And oh yes of course due to me being allergic to everything.

I am thinking ahead to summer and yet I can’t even seem to plan dinner or two days from now.

Words

My head is so full of words. I practiced being a widow before I became one, but it wasn’t the same. The words keep me awake at night, along with the scheduling and figuring and calculating of each day. Then I can’t remember if I wrote it down. I get up to check. Is it on my phone? Did I tell the kids what tomorrow’s schedule would be? Every day I have to tell at least one person Melanoma Man is dead, usually five to seven people. Yesterday at Butter’s dentist appointment, his dentist remarked, “Hey Dad usually brings him, is everything ok?” I had called ahead to tell them, but the information hadn’t moved past the front desk.  I went back to work too soon, last week, then crashed mentally and physically. I didn’t even work my full schedule. Going to church on Sunday was excruciating. I want to change services or churches. I want to change everything and nothing. Sunday was the longest day ever and I cannot believe we have to have a Sunday EVERY single week. It’s too much. Then there will be the time change, which I also think is ridiculous.

When we returned from our hurricane evacuation we were relieved that the house did not flood. I ‘m sure we owe it to this guy, Andy McCauslin. The house we rent has flooded at least three times in the last twenty five years according to neighbors. When the kids, Cha and I evacuated the day after Melanoma Man’s memorial I felt sure the house would not withstand the storm with our paltry two layers of sandbags and furniture up on cinder blocks. That it would be no match for Hurricane Matthew.

The power had been out so I needed to trash almost everything in the refrigerator. There were so many reminders of Melanoma Man in the fridge : olives of all kinds, New York Style potato salad from Publix. He was just here. He was just here, not long ago, less than three weeks ago.

It was hard having him be so sick. He was cheerful and sweet and scared that last week.He learned to move his wheelchair from room to room by taking the brakes off and walking it forward with his feet. He followed me from room to room until his last morning at home. We waited for the private ambulance to arrive to transfer him to the inpatient unit where I hoped they could control the pain. While we waited, he whispered to me, “I am crossing the river now Saire. I’m crossing the river.” It is the last thing he said to me that I understood. He tried to talk more but he couldn’t ever get enough air to finish a sentence. We had been preparing all week, reading from Crossing the Creek. He had me re-read chapters to him. It was strangely appealing to him. Strange because it was not at all an intellectual book. It was not his style. The appeal made me know he was experiencing it just as the book described, moving in and out of our earthly world and the world hereafter. I would ask him if he had seen his mother yet and he would become very quiet. I knew he had.