The Rhythm of Memories~

 

Here is the deepest secret that nobody knows.  Here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life….

I don’t know why the rhythm of this particular poem rings so deeply in my heart, around so much of what this widow life is for me.  Chuck kept a copy of this poem in his wallet for years;  I’d printed it out many years ago to give to him, and I read that copy at his memorial service.  The rhythm and flow of the words, e.e. cumming’s lack of capitalization, this poem above all resounds through my heart continually.

The words of e.e. cummings fit my soul as I think of Chuck today.  I think of him every day.  I think of him every minute of every day and every second of every minute.  I think of his life and our life together and his death and how it was for me, how it was for him, as he lay dying, and what this life is without him.  What my world is like without him. These are the things I think about as I go about my daily life.  I’m looking at you and talking to you and working and doing and I’m present in that moment at the same time as I am fully present in the life I live with Chuck in my heart.  Before he died, ten thousand years ago and 10 nanoseconds ago, I thought that a person could only have one thought in their head at any given moment but I’ve found that to be untrue.  I consistently and continually have 2 thoughts, 2 lives, in my mind and heart at the same time.

Here is the deepest secret that everybody who reads anything I write knows.  Here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of this tree called life…

 

I am still very much in Love with my husband.  I am still very much in Love with Chuck Dearing.  As much in Love with him now as when he was alive.  More, if such is possible, because I was very much in Love with him when he was alive, and I told him so daily and I showed him so daily, and now that he’s dead, he is the very rhythm of my life.

 

His absence has only made my heart grow more with Love for him.  Not in such a way that I’ve raised him to saint status, which is what many do when a loved one dies, but in a way of remembering him as he was, which was as a real man who walked on this earth and swept me off my feet for each of our 24 years together.  I don’t even have to dress him up…his life and his character and our Love speaks for itself.

I’m still very much in Love with my husband.  In Love with Chuck.  The only thing is about this is that…he’s dead.  I’m in Love with a dead man.

And I don’t believe that I will ever not be in Love with him.  How, after all, does one make oneself fall out of Love?

Distance isn’t enough.  People love over distance all the time; they have through the centuries.  Of course, this distance is incalculable, for I’ve no idea where Chuck is.  If he is.  Perhaps I’m in Love with a dead man who has no existence in any realm any longer.  I fully acknowledge this. And that is the fuck of widowhood.  Love with nowhere to go…

 

As these ten thousand years have passed, as each 10 nanoseconds pass in the here and now, I remember how he loved me, how I loved him.  I remember his calm spirit and his groan-worthy jokes.  I remember his dedication to the military and how glad he was to retire, having done his time.  His quiet rebellions that grew from holding his own counsel and just going about business in the way he knew he needed to do.  It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, he told me many times, and that carried him through his military service.  I remember how he not only read the Big Book of AA but read what it all meant, and the history of it; he gave context to AA and the 12 Steps and Tradition, and living a life of sobriety.  Chuck lived his sobriety as honestly as he could, every day.  Not perfectly, but as well as he could, and he earned the respect of many because of it.

 

His promise wasn’t given lightly, and I could count on his promises being kept.  His promises were his word, given as a gentleman of old times would have given his word.  It was his honor, and he held true to it, whether that promise was made to me or one of our kids or a friend or anyone else. 

 

He would, as knights of bygone days of chivalry and honor, have given his life for me.  Sometimes, in my mind then, as he was living, and now, since his death, I picture the two of us strolling through shadowed hills of a glade, or the bare red rocks of the West, and, if this were times of old, he’d have my hand in his, and a sword in the other.  It is as if, when he took his marriage vows, he not only promised to care for and cherish me, but to protect me with his body and his strong arm.  And I can hear those who are less romantic minded, scoff at such imaginings, but here’s the thing that will make you secretly drool with jealousy…Chuck was that man.  I knew he would protect me with his life.  He was a lover and a warrior both, and I was the most fortunate of women to be his chosen.

 

His kisses melted my knees and left me desiring more.  He was the loveliest of slow dancers, holding me firmly against him and guiding me around the dance floor, smiling down at me, sometimes humming along (in a voice that was kind of always off).  He was the most passionate of lovers and I returned that passion in spades.  We were well suited to each other in our strength and passions.

He was all that I’d never dreamed to be possible.  Until it became possible one day when he knocked at the door of my mom’s house and I answered it, wearing my military issue ugly frame glasses and holding a book in hand with a finger marking my place.  He remembered that moment to me often over the years.

And now my lover, my warrior, is dead.  And I love him, am in love with him, no less now than when he breathed the air I now breathe alone.

If this is all that I will have for the remainder of my life…the memories of his kisses, his arms around me, his glances at me across a room, the feeling of swaying against him in a dance where only he and I existed…if all that I have forevermore is the memory of his body and mine twined together before sleeping…well, then, that is more than many, if not most, find, and I will be content in journeying back to those moments of ten thousand years ago, ten nanoseconds ago.

Memories don’t keep me warm at night, but oh, they are such memories and I hold them close. 

Yes, I’m still in Love.  It’s just that I’m in Love with a dead man. And my heart aches.

Ah, well, we must each have our quirks, I suppose.

And that is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called…my life….

 

Just Love~

When calls my heart

To the distant past that is both yesterday and incalculably forever ago.

When calls my heart

To those feelings and emotions that seem so far distant

And so deeply buried

That they are unreachable.  Unrememberable. 

Cherished.  Loved.  Nurtured. 

Secure.  In Love.  Joyous.  Passionate.  Spontaneous.  Upbeat.

What becomes of this heart

And those words that described a life, and a man,

Who gusted into my life and took my breath away with a whoof!

I knew, of course, the possibilities of Love happening in my life before he came into my life.

Zero possibility.

And then.

He called my heart and Love opened my heart

And I breathed Love and I lived Love and I loved him and he loved me and our passion burned brightly

And non-stop

For all of our years.

As we lived our Love story.

Until and then

An ugly and relentless and starving beast took that man who called my heart and opened my heart.

Took him into a world I couldn’t know.

Couldn’t go.

And left behind, calling my heart?

Still Love.  Only Love.  Always Love.

Not enough.  Never enough.  But has to be enough.

Love.  Love more.  Love hard.  Love always.

His words.  His life.  His actions.  His message.  My words.  My life.  My actions.  My message.

Only Love.

Pink in the Midst of Black~

The colors of widowhood.

I reflect on them sometimes.

The colors we wear.

The colors we strive to wear personally and the colors social structures put on us, or expect from us.

Maybe not so much in words, maybe not conscious.

But still there.

Black widows are the female spiders that kill their mates after…mating.

It is the term used to refer to human women who kill their mates.

Or families.

Interesting, isn’t it?

I, of course, didn’t kill my mate.  My husband.  My lover.

But as time passes in this widowhood, I feel the pressure of widowhood and it colors my perception of self and I feel like the Black Widow.

Though I struggle to not let it color who I really am, who I strive to be in the days and months and years since my beloved husband died.

I freely admit that I am dark.  Darker than I’ve ever been.  I’m the party pooper, the one to rain on your parade because I’m not me anymore.  Or, at least, not the me I used to be.  And I have no idea who this me is now.  The lightheartedness that used to make me the life of the party, the joie de vie that guided my life…that’s gone dark.  The smile, the humor, the sparkle in my eyes…gone.

Oh my god.  Have I become the Black Widow?

To counter all of this, I wear pink.  Chuck said that to me, you know.  Before he died.  Black isn’t your color.  Mourn for me in pink.

And I do.  Not a gentle pink, though.  The pink I wear is such as the great female warriors of times past might have worn.  If they wore pink.  Which they didn’t, to my knowledge.  Though glowing pink armor would be totally radical, dude.

Pink is my armor.  My clothing.  My hair, on occasion.  My car.  My trailer.  Whatever bags I carry. Jewelry.  My boots are brown, but they need to be.  They are my Fucking Warrior Goddess boots.

I’ve been asked why do you need armor?  Why do you call yourself a Fucking Warrior Goddess?  Isn’t that all kind of a violent perception of yourself? Of widowhood?

Um..yeah, it’s necessary. What do you think this is, this widowhood?  What do you think it takes when your world is incinerated around you and it’s now just you, after having been two for so long? I do this not to protect myself from anything, but because this widowhood, the grief and the Love that propel me daily…it’s a battle.  A struggle.  For my sanity, in some ways.  To hold on when I don’t want to go on.  A reminder, daily, to myself more than others, that I am a force to be reckoned with, though I don’t feel very strong most days.  An outward symbol, perhaps, and maybe hopefully, that this pink…this pink…it’s kind of like the S on Superman’s chest.  An outward symbol of strength and determination. Yes, I’m a widow, but I don’t need pity.  I’m not needy.  I’m not here to be taken advantage of or to take advantage of anyone. 

I’m sad, yes.  I miss my husband desperately, yes.  I need to talk about him, yes.  I even need to talk about how he died…because his dying was one of the most powerful things ever to happen to me. It is part of my history now. His death and his life and everything else that has changed, continues changing…this is my life.  This is what I need to talk about with whatever warm body happens to be near me, because I don’t have my warm body near me. It’s as simple as that.  And as complicated, I guess, to the outside world.

Perhaps the term Black Widow exists because that color best describes what happens to our world when our person dies.  It goes black.  The black holes in space have nothing on what happened to my world when Chuck died. Perhaps, too, it exists because people don’t know what to do with widows.  What to say, how to respond to them, either in words or actions.  Perhaps it best describes their discomfort with us, with our intensity, as we navigate a new life.

Are we too intense for normal folk?  It really does seem so.  I’ve seen friendships end, family relationships blown to bits, I’ve heard about it all from my widowed community.  It’s kind of mind-blowing, really.

Widowhood is a world and a language that continually presents itself in new ways to me as I navigate the world, post Chuck’s death.  PCD.  There’s a huge learning curve in it for me, and, I suspect, for many.  It’s confusing and bewildering and honestly makes me feel more vulnerable than I’ve ever felt in my 58 years on this earth.

Which is one of the reasons I do it in pink.

I am the Black Widow, in pink…

(I wonder if being a Black Widow involves endless amounts of glitter?)

 

Slow Dance. Last Dance.

I first wrote this blog in 2014, just a couple days before Valentines Day, a few days more before our 24 wedding anniversary.  It holds as true today as it did then..

So, here I am, writing my first blog right before Valentine’s Day.  Right before what would have been our 24th wedding anniversary. I’m getting ahead of myself, I know. I was going to introduce myself, give some back-story, and I promise I will.  But maybe, because of the timing of this first entry, I’ll give you a glimpse into the world that was mine with my beloved husband, let you peek through the keyhole so you can understand the missing-ness of him in my life.  This, dear ones, is the memory I carry with me in my heart and soul.  The only memory, really, that I can easily call to mind. (Why is that?)

As I remember him, and me, and our full-time travels of the last 4 years, this Death Valley dance lingers in the nooks and crannies of my heart.  Exploring Death Valley National Park in California was a dream of ours, and for 3 days we drove up and down the Valley, exploring the muted colors of the Canyons. Chuck was already sick and in pain; we thought it was the die-off from a fungal infection.  We thought it was a pinched nerve.  So this last day was taken slowly.  He’d managed a short hike back into the rocks.  Our last hike, but we didn’t know it then.  All we knew was that it was getting late, he was tired, and it was time we returned to our ranch cabin.

But, as I steered the car over the road to the ranch, looking at the changing colors of the rocks around me, my instinct told me that here was a memory that we needed to imprint on our hearts.  I’m relieved now that I listened to that instinct that made me maneuver the car to the dirt on the side of the road and say to him “Let’s dance”.  We loved to slow dance, and Chuck was a master at it.  He wasn’t quite sure of the footing on the rutted ground but I said let’s do it anyways.  And he smiled and got out of the car.
 
It was that most beautiful part of the evening that the Scots call “the gloaming”.  The quiet moment when the day is done but right before full dark sets in.  Silence surrounded us as I met him in front of our Ford Escape.  The strains of “You’re My Inspiration” by Chicago wafted from my IPOD.  Our song.  He put his right arm around my waist and clasped my right hand in his left, wrapping his fingers around mine.  In spite of everything, his body was strong against me.
 
And on the side of the road, there in Death Valley, in the setting sun, we danced what would be our last dance.  

Chuck’s romantic heart met my even more romantic heart and we kept that passion alive for the 24 years we were together.  This Valentine’s Day is my first without him.  Our 24th wedding anniversary is the 18th.  I don’t know if any one particular day is more painful than another because right now every day is filled with immeasurable pain.  I miss him kissing me and holding me and dancing with me and loving me and that slow wink at me from across a room. 
 
I miss him with every beat of my heart, with every painful breath that keeps me living without him. 529438_552029828185289_1995679461_n

Sigh…(what people say)….

A friend of long standing, now a former friend for various reasons, recently accused me of dragging my good husband’s name around.  It is quite shameful, she stated.

Followed with I know things about Chuck, indiscretions (regarding women) but it would be unkind to say things about the dead, plus you wouldn’t believe me.

You think?

I only mention this because I guess I’m still floored when people get viscious to suit their own needs, and passively-aggressively attack Chuck, through me.   And, also, because I’m  a storyteller and such obvious dribble is rich in the telling.

Honestly, reading what she wrote immediately struck me as humorous.  I’m stronger now, 4 years later, than I was when a close family member threw similar ugly words at me, not realizing that she really wasn’t maligning me, but a person she claimed to love.  Similar to this latest attempt.

4 years ago, the ugly words sent me to my knees and it took me years to deal with the trauma.  Not the words that were said, because I knew them not to be true (as I know these words not to be true), but because, back then, days after his death, I was raw and on the floor with grief and I allowed her words to get into my bones for a brief second and I thought are those words trueDid I not truly know the man I was married to for 24 years? Because he couldn’t have been who she described, and be the man I  knew.  There was a clanging dissonance between those two images.  The words, by themselves, weren’t what caused trauma for me.  What caused the trauma was the idea that I’d even allowed a nanosecond of doubt, as a result of her words, to creep in, and that made me feel as if I’d betrayed Chuck, which devastated me.

It’s funny, really, how people, claiming to love a person who is now dead, while claiming that of course they’d never slander the dead….do that very thing, in hopes of destroying the one left alive.   Whoa.  Fucked up humans, right?

I guess I didn’t realize the strength that now resides in my bones and my heart and soul, since Chuck’s death.  These latest words only made me shake my head that this person, who knew of the first circumstance, couldn’t even be original;  instead, knowing my reaction the first time, she made an attempt to piggyback, hoping for….I don’t know…that I’d be destroyed once again.

All it did was make me realize my present day strength.  And more, it made me realize the ugliness that can exist in a person’s soul when envy and jealousy take over.   It made me realize that my mom was right, years ago, when she taught me to always consider the source when ugly words get thrown.

Oh, also…that part about dragging my husband’s name around?  I’m not quite certain what was meant by that.  Am I dragging his name through the mud, as she attempted to do?  Besmirch his reputation, as she’s trying to do?

Each day, as I travel this Odyssey, I honor Chuck’s name and I honor the legacy of love that he left behind, not just for me, but for so many others, and there is nothing about that that suggests dragging.  The love story that Chuck and I had is my story, one he left with me.  I own it.

And to those who would say otherwise, my response is the same as it was to the woman who accused me of the same thing early on…

Find your own damn love story.

*Names purposefully left out of this blog.  The names/relationships are un-necessary*

 

 

 

 

 

When He Smiled at Me~

Sometimes it can be too painful, after a loved one dies, to look at pictures of them.   Not because we don’t want to see their faces and remember back, but because the very act of remembering back is a stark reminder that those times are gone, never to return.

That happens to me when I look at pictures of my beloved husband, Chuck.  It tears into me that those lovely, loving days of being loved by him, of being his special someone…those days are gone, never to return.

And yes, I’m so beyond grateful that I had those years with him.  But that has nothing to do with this grief at his death, or the daily missing-ness of him.

But, even so, I look at pictures of him.  Often.  Even as it causes daggers to my heart and tears choke me.

I look because I know he’s looking at me.

In most of the pictures I have of him, he’s smiling.  And I know that he’s looking directly at the camera…at me…the woman he loved, as I snapped a picture to preserve that particular memory.  So even as the tears come, I smile, because I know he’s looking directly at me, smiling at me with all the love in his heart showing in his eyes as they crinkle, and on his lips.  Sexy smiles, devilish smiles, smiles of love and joy, his eyes glinting at me, sharing secrets that we carried between us. Smiles that conveyed promises of passion and enjoyment for both of us, later on when we’d be alone. Smiles of love.  I half expect him to wink at me from those long ago moments…

I’m the recipient of that smile.  I was the recipient of his smile for 24 years and what a gift it is to me to know that little ol’ me brought such a smile to his face.

I love you, D.  Always.  Collage1Collage2

This Ugly World…but, oh….the Love~

It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?  The ugliness of the world, I mean.  At a time when I, and many other widow/ers are trying to figure out our own smaller worlds, without our beloveds in our life.   At a time when the world already seems so unsafe and so uncertain because that person, our person, is no longer here, and then…another big ugly thing happens.

Chuck was active duty during 9/11.  He wasn’t able to come home until near midnight on that day and I was filled with anxiety, anticipating that McGuire AFB, where he was stationed, would be the next target for the terrorists.  But he did come home and I felt safer and reassured as soon as I saw him and was able to hug him.  He was able to tell me things  in the days and weeks after that made me feel more okay even though the world remained insane.  He was there with his solid presence, his calm manner, and…I felt better.

There have been numerous terrorist events since his death, and at each one, I have missed him more.  I’m grateful I have my adult kids, my friends, to whom I can speak about my anxieties, about the ugliness of it, but, at the end of the day, his side of the bed is still empty and the conversations continue in my head, because his arms aren’t around me.

My world felt safer with Chuck in it.

I was at a Where Womyn Gather festival in the Poconos when Orlando happened.  I didn’t hear about it til the late afternoon;  I was off the grid.  As a group, a couple hundred women stood around a huge fire that had been kept burning through the weekend and we offered our prayers to the skies above, and we hugged each other.  A lot.

That’s really all I know how to do since Chuck died.  Hug people, I mean.  My brain doesn’t seem to function as well as it did as far as figuring shit out, so I don’t think much.  And so much doesn’t matter to me anyways.  Mostly it seems that much of what our culture, and the world at large, values, carries no value for me.  And I feel overwhelmed and helpless when it comes to the ugliness of the world.

So, I hug people.  And I accept hugs from people.   Then I drive somewhere else and I hug people there, wherever there happens to be.  The pink of my car and trailer bring smiles to those I meet on the highways and  backroads of this country, and I’m glad for that; smiles are good.  The color of my rig draws people to me and they tell me what is in their hearts or what lies heavy on their minds as we sit in the pink chairs that I put out next to my trailer.  Sometimes we share a glass of pink lemonade that I make sure to have on hand.

In a world of what I can’t do, I find what I can do.  I can, and do, open my heart to Love, more fully than ever.  I hug more people, and I hug them tightly.  I’m a really good hugger.  In some circles, I actually have quite a reputation for being an excellent hugger.  In that, if you’ve been hugged by me, you know you’ve been hugged.  I like that I have such a reputation.  If that is the only legacy I leave behind, then I’m pleased.

I have to focus on the Love that is bigger, or go insane with grief.  Not only personally, because of my own grief but grief for  the world at large.  Yes, another man took his rage that had many sources, and murdered 49 people.  And a man in France, using the same excuse, horribly stole the lives of a husband and wife and left their 3 year son an orphan.  Yes, yes, yes…the ugliness continues on and on, forever.

But so does the Love.  I insist upon the Love.  It’s all I can do.  It’s the only power I have.  I don’t have it in the huge, world sense, but I do have it in my small world sense and the Love I give in my small world has the possibility of rippling out into other’s worlds, again and again and again.

I hold onto this, in this time, again and again and again, when I cry out for Chuck to put his arms around me and tell me that, in the midst of nothing being okay in this ugly world, it’s still okay, because there is always, always and forever, Love that is always present and bigger, even though it seems not present and much smaller than hate or grief or uncertainty.

My soul insists and demands that Love must be stronger.

Remember that.  Hold onto it.  Surround yourself with it.  Immerse those around you in it.  Send it out to the loved ones who are new to the world of grief.  Send it out again and again and again and never stop.

Please, never stop.

#LongLiveLove