Memories and Remembering and Love~

Chuck never wanted to be one those people who retire and die the next day or the next week.  He wanted time to enjoy his life without work, time to relish waking up together and lingering abed. Time to travel and be with each other and grow our marriage even more.

In April 2009 he sent an email to me at home.  This is what it said.  And this was my response….IMG_2851.pngWe put the house on the market, sold or gave away most of our belongings, and packed everything else into a U-Haul truck to put into storage for future use.  We’d need some shit to start up again, right, when we settled down?

On May 29 we closed on our house, and Chuck immediately got in the truck, I got in our SUV, and we headed west, the first of many times we headed west from Jersey.  And we never looked back.

May 29, 2009.  The day we began our Happily Homeless adventures.  We tossed what was left of our belongings in storage and continued further west, state shopping, so to speak. Where did we want to settle down?

Until, 3 months in, we looked at each other and said why on earth do we want to stop doing this? and continued on.  And on and on, for our last 4 years together. We drove over mountains and through desert valleys and crossed miles long bridges over breathtaking rivers and we climbed to the highest points of various states and laughed when they were barely above sea level, and danced among the waves of the Pacific Ocean and visited family and friends and made new friends along the road, and stopped to have lunch and wander among out of the way cemeteries and paid our respects at National Cemeteries and had wild and crazy sex in towns and cities around America and fell more deeply in love and managed our way through Chuck’s first cancer with its’ 5 surgeries and went back out on the road to fucking live by god and visited National Monuments and Parks and learned American history from a local standpoint and we danced to Clint Black in hotel rooms and in military lodgings and we sat 1 foot across from one another in our SUV and discussed marriage and relationships and men and women and roles and our kids and family gossip and our hopes and dreams and we lived and we lived and we fucking lived until we danced our last dance in Death Valley and this man who lit up my world died in a hospice in southern CA, eaten up by cancer but strong in spirit and with love until his last fucking moment.

On May 15, 2013 I began my Odyssey of Love.  I walked down the 15 steps from a condo we’d rented for our stay in Cathedral City, CA, carrying Chuck’s cremains in my arms.  I returned to Jersey to give him well-deserved military honors. I bought PinkMagic.  I’d never towed and I’d never camped and my world was incinerated around me and beneath me and my heart was shattered into glass and my chest felt as if a meat grinder was continually slicing away inside of me. I couldn’t breathe, I didn’t know how to do what I was doing.  I didn’t have a plan, or a destination or a goal.  I was like Sgt Schulz on Hogan’s Heroes, but not in a funny way.hogans-heroes-cbs-198-b

All I knew then, all I know now, all I will ever be able to tell you, all I really care about telling anyone, is this…

Love must be stronger than this grief. It must both be bigger than the emptiness of life without Chuck and fill that emptiness.  It has to be, or I will cease to exist.  I push every day, every every day, to make his left behind Love bigger than anything else.

I don’t know how else to do any of this.  Without that Love I couldn’t have driven over 100,000 miles on my own, tracking down highways and side roads Chuck and I traveled together, stopping to eat lunch at roadside stands where he and I lingered over lunch, seeing the mountains and deserts and bridges and lakes and rivers and prairie grasses and beauty of this country through eyes wet with tears and my heart shattering again and again.

The thing is, for anyone who doesn’t know this already…yes, I have incredible memories. Everywhere I go there are memories. I have memories to look at and memories to hold in my heart…but those memories don’t make this better. Indeed, those memories serve as a stark reminder of 24 years gone, never to happen again. Those memories, though I cherish each and every one of them, are a double-edged sword, reminding me of my alone-ness in the world now, without him. And I struggle with that.

Each day is a decision on my part to get up and make Love bigger than anything else. I don’t ignore my grief; I hold it within the Love Chuck left behind for me, I hold it within the Love I had for him, still have for him.  And it fucking hurts, no matter how I do any of this, and it’s spiritually exhausting, so I feed the Love every day by reaching out to people, giving and receiving hugs, and being of service where and how I can.

Chuck was Love.  I was his Love. He was my Love. He was my beloved, as I was his.  We were in Love for 24 years.  He died loving me and I kissed him for the last time with my heart overflowing with Love for him and the Love he’d brought into my life.  His left behind Love pushed me into my pink car and has fueled me for 4 years and I have to I must always always always carry that  knowledge in my heart and plant it in my mind every damn day so that I don’t lose my mind. 

Love Love and Love harder and more, no matter anything else.

I repeat this to myself now, at this moment, as my heart takes me back to May 29, 2009, watching Chuck climb into the U-Haul, as I remember turning the key to follow behind the truck, headed west, as we began our Happily Homeless adventures…

Love.  Only Love.  C8D2FCE2-F53C-43D6-9CF4-C9D600907140

 

 

 

These Few Words~

 

I will sing you to me…..

These words curve around my lower right leg, from knee to ankle.

My 3rd tattoo.  My first one says nothin’ but love, our credo in hospice.  Those words swirl in a circle on the back of my neck, with the circle ending in a small heart, and the circle is left open.  As my heart must be in this new life without him.

My second one simply says Love, and is on the inside of my left wrist, in the exact location where the tumor I named Wilson, first showed up on Chuck.  It took a 11-hour surgery and 4 reconstructive surgeries afterwards to rid ourselves of Wilson and reconstruct Chuck’s arm.  His right thigh looked like hamburger when they were through.

Each of my tattoos carry special meaning, as all tattoos must.

But…my 3rd tattoo…

Chuck and I both enjoyed watching the movie Australia; a movie set in pre-WW2 Australia, dealing both with the invasion by the Japanese, and the kidnapping of mixed race Aboriginal children from their parents.  The kids were sent to orphanages where they were taught white ways. 

One of the most charming characters in the movie is a little boy named Nullah, a mixed-race boy, taken in by the character of Nicole Kidman.  The two are separated, in the movie, by the kidnapping of Nullah.  As she stands on the pier, desperately trying to keep him with her…as he is taken away to an island for orphans, he says to her I will sing you to me.

And she responds and I will hear you…

In our Happily Homeless travels, Chuck and I visited the huge bike rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.  We didn’t go there specifically for it, but it was going on when we were there, and we walked around and admired the bikes and fell in love with the state.

In the second year after his death, my daughter, Rachael-Grace, went on the road with me for 6 months, supporting me in my Odyssey of Love.  We crisscrossed the USA, and, in the process, ended up in Sturgis, SD, and, again, happened upon the Sturgis bike rally.

South Dakota is home to Crazy Horse National Monument, one of the places Chuck and I visited together, and the final place he’d asked me to return to, to scatter his cremains.

Rae created a beautiful ritual at Crazy Horse, and was the one to scatter her dad’s cremains there.  And then we walked around Sturgis.  Which is where I found the tattoo artist who created my 3rd tattoo.  I’d told him about our Love story, about my Odyssey of Love, and though I didn’t know when I first got there to SD what my tattoo would look like, the words came to me as I walked about, and he did a quick sketch.  Unfortunately, the cost was too much for me to justify, and I was honest with him about that.  Another of the artists, who had listened in to my story, told me that he thought I really needed to get the tattoo there…it was the last place Chuck had named, after all, and given the words I wanted, it was perfect. So, he offered to pay for half, stunning me.

I will sing you to me….

Words spoken in the movie Australia, among the Aboriginals, when saying goodbye to a loved one, with no idea whether that one will be seen again.  Words of hope for the future, maybe…

I’ve no idea whether this phrase, and the concept behind it, are true to the Aboriginals or not.  I honestly don’t care; the idea of the words touched my heart years ago, and they touch my heart now.  And I seek comfort where I can find it.

I will sing you to me…

These words that wind around my calf speak of my wish to believe, even as I struggle with believing, that I will see Chuck again someday.  Somehow, maybe, he will greet me when I die.  Maybe.

Meanwhile, in this life that I must live without him, maybe I can sing him to me in my heart, by living the Love he left behind, by reaching out with kindness, in service to others. 

I will sing him to me…

And the other half of the meaning of those words for me?

Maybe, maybe, maybe, I will sing my future to me even as I live each moment without him, as I continue this Odyssey of Love.  The future that I still don’t want, that I don’t care about, but one that seems as if it must be lived for all the days of my life until my own death.

I hold these words to me, written as clearly on my heart as they are written on my calf.

I will sing you to me…

 

Dark Veil Included. Of Course~

My Odyssey of Love began almost 4 years ago.  Chuck died April 21, 2013, and 3 weeks later I loaded our belongings into our red Ford Escape, gently placed his cremains on the shotgun seat, the jacket from his BDU’s on the back of the seat, climbed into the driver seat and turned the ignition.

I’ve been on the road ever since and I’m just shy of 100,000 miles, having crisscrossed the country 8 times. Not bad for a chick who had no idea of how to tow a trailer, or camp.  Directions were never my strong suit, which has worked out well, because my only plan all along has been to head north, south, east or west. Once I learned to back up my rig, I lost all fear of getting lost and having to turn around and getting stuck because I didn’t know how to back up. Mostly, I’ve gone where my heart has led me to go.  In so doing, I’ve met hundreds upon hundreds of lovely and loving people who have reached out to me and I’ve given and received as many hugs. Love has been my compass. It will always be my compass.  My Odyssey of Love will always lead me.

Grief is isolating, something I well knew from my hospice training, so I set out to fight back against isolation.  I painted my rig pink to draw people to me. Telling one’s story is a necessary component of grief, and I’ve told my story to as many people as I’ve met along the way. Creating a new life for one’s self after being widowed means trying new things and I’ve pushed as many comfort zones and boundaries as come to mind and I say yes to most everything, endeavoring to find something that grabs me, hoping for something to make me care about life again.

So many times, I wish that I had the luxury of hiding under the covers.  I wish I’d had the time after Chuck died to do that.  To just grieve. To fall apart and have someone care for me while I fell apart. I’ve had moments, of course, and my kids have been so amazing as they’ve sat with me through those meltdowns.  But you have to stand back up again, right?  So, I did.

As I approach the 4-year mark of widowhood, as I consider mygodhowhasitbeen4fuckingyears, I marvel that I am alive at all.  How has a broken heart not killed me? The answer is, of course, that it isn’t as easy as it sounds.  I wish.

I consider, too, what I’ve learned in this time.  Nothing great, really.  I don’t value life more. I’m not more grateful. I have not become a better person; I’m pretty much the kind and loving person I was; just sadder and heavier feeling now. I’ve had no great epiphanies other than life can suck a great deal and, yep again, it isn’t as easy to die of a broken heart as I’d heard.  My life is not better for Chuck’s death; on the contrary, it’s quite a bit tougher financially, emotionally, and physically. 

I am amazed and taken aback at how I keep going. 

I’m also amazed and a bit dispirited at the realizations about the social aspects of widowhood that I didn’t know about before…because, well, I wasn’t widowed, you know.

Mostly, the people in my world have been supportive and I don’t know where I’d be without our kids. Yes, I do. I’d have driven into the desert and disappeared.  My support community is pretty awesome, fortunately.

Chuck and I had a conversation while in hospice, about what kind of widow I’d be.  Dark humor, you know. We talked the pros/cons of tragic widowhood, merry widowhood…but never about being a dark widow, the title that seems to have become mine simply because I’m not the happy, cheerful person I once was, and the world is very unforgiving of that.  Not that I chose the dark widow title; it sort of just became an awareness on my part that I have become that, and there is a degree of pariah-hood that comes along with the title.

Grief now, for me, is more personal than ever, in that it has gone deeper, no matter how much I’ve tried to keep it in the open, because who wants to hear about it constantly, right? Or even sometimes? Christalmighty, I’m tired of me.  But I’m in my body, so, yeah, and believe it or not, you can’t just flip a flipping switch to change grief, despite what the positive living gurus tell you.

Grief isn’t just sadness; it is everything else that goes with the death of your person.  It is your entire life, and it takes more than 4 years to recalibrate the obvious shit, never mind the hidden bugaboos and treacherous grenades that explode in your face without warning.

I get it, though.  I admit and acknowledge and understand that it’s tough to be around me and in my world.  I wonder if that’s why, in part, widows way back in medieval times entered convents. A life away from society at large…it’s tempting, actually.  No need to put on a happy damn face.  No need to talk, really. Just meditation and quiet.  I swear I could do that.

Here’s the thing. I know that everyone who loves me would love for me to be grief-free, pain free, happy go lucky, embracing the world, joyful, connected to life…call it what you will. Call it everything you want to call it.  Basically all the things I’m not. mea culpa mea culpa mea culpa, etc…

But I am so many other things. I’m determined, unafraid to challenge myself or accept challenges. For god fucking sake…I have gone out and done shit I couldn’t ever imagine doing in these 4 years and I’ve done it in fucking pink.  I haven’t let grief and trauma or sadness or fear stop me from anything. I’ve gone out and done 4 years of shit instead of burying myself under the covers.  Not because I didn’t want to bury myself, not because I’m running from this sadness, but because I knew that would be a downwards spiral for me. Instead, I’ve fucking done new shit left and right and up and down.

There are times when I want to scream to the world, to people in this world what the fucking fuck do you want from me?  I’d be proud to know me.  I know Chuck is proud of me, if he’s anywhere where that matters, and I’m not sure that he is, but, whatever. I’m a damn amazing role model for my daughter, for my sons, for my grandgirls. I’ve touched the lives of more people than I can count as I’ve driven this Odyssey.  I know because they write to me to tell me. They tell me that they tend their marriages more consciously because of what I write about the Love story Chuck and I shared. They tell me that I inspire them to suit up and show up, because that’s what I do everyday. They tell me that they’ve learned to live more simply, because of how I live. When the time comes that I finally die, I know I’ll leave behind a bigger legacy than many can own to. No, I’m not joyful, no, I don’t give a fucking damn about life. Yes, I’m sad, yes, I find life overwhelmingly lonely at all times, yes, life sucks without Chuck and that has only intensified in this time since his death. But so fucking what, right?  It hasn’t stopped me, it doesn’t stop me, and that’s what matters.

Godalmighty, world, just fucking accept me as I am, for who I am: a woman who does shit even as I’m weighed down with missing my husband.

The fucking dark widow, if you will.  *Dramatic black veil available upon request.*

 

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….

 

Love and Magic…Does it Still Exist?

 

“Sometimes I feel like there’s a hole inside of me, an emptiness that at times seems to burn. I think if you lifted my heart to your ear, you could probably hear the ocean….I have this dream of being whole. Of not going to sleep each night, wanting. But still, sometimes, when the wind is warm or the crickets sing…I dream of a Love that even Time will lie down and be still for.  I just want someone to Love me. I want to be seen.  I don’t know.  Maybe I had my happiness.  I don’t want to believe it, but…”

These are words spoken by Sally, one of the characters in one of my most favorite movies…Practical Magic. She writes them to her sister after she, herself, is widowed.  Wondering about Love and life, as so many of us do.  As I wonder, often.

Did I have my Love story?  So many women and men don’t get one Love story; how greedy is it to think that I could have two?

And yet, I hear of second Love stories happening in the widowed communities.

I also hear of the nightmare stories of dating again.

Of the first I think how amazing and beautiful and unlikely and brave beyond measure.  What kind of Love must it be that a man or woman willingly opens his/her heart to Love again, knowing the ultimate outcome?  You’ve lived it once and you’re willing to live it again.  That’s purple heart brave in my book. But that, folks, is the power of Love.

And the nightmare stories that I hear?  They sound all too familiar to me, from my dating days back when I was first divorced.  I wasn’t good at it then, and I’m fairly sure I’d be a whole lot less good at it now.  I’m older, I’ve loved a man fully and completely, and been loved the same way in return.  Very high standards and no willingness to lower them in any way.  Add in the whole widow thing…i.e. talking endlessly about my dead husband and what a lovely man he was…I’m thinking buzzkill. But how can I not speak of Chuck?  I am the woman I am because of my life with him and my life is what it is because I am his widow.  Jesus, a mere explanation of all the pink in my life, which is unavoidable, opens everything….

I’ve been told frequently, as I’m sure you have, that I must keep my heart open to Love, so as to be ready for it when it happens.  How exactly does one know that one’s heart is open, I wonder?  And how the fuck can anyone know for certain that they are ready or not ready?  My brain tells my heart to be open, and I believe that it is.  I know that Chuck would want that for me but, seriously, how the hell do I know the answer to either of those questions?  For the most part, in any case, I believe that life is random.  Good things and bad things and everything in between happens.  Or not.

I met Chuck randomly.  I wasn’t necessarily ready to meet him.  I’d been divorced for a few years, had 3 kids and was very sure that I’d never meet a man with any desire to take on a woman with, you know… 3 kids.  My heart was actually kind of sealed.  I was angry at men, disillusioned, seeking recovery in AA, going to counseling…the whole nine yards.  And one day he knocked at my mom’s door, seeking an after-school babysitter for his daughter.

 

Remember Tienneman Square in China in the 90’s?  College students protested and the government sent out the troops.  The picture that went around the world was one lone student standing implaceably  in front of a huge tank, the gun pointing directly at him.  And he stood there, refusing to move.

 

I was the tank.  Chuck was the student.  He didn’t move.  In the face of my lack of ability to trust, my anger, all of my self-defenses…he didn’t move.  He stood there and loved me and he loved my kids and he showed me a way to life that I’d never known existed.  I learned to love, to be in love, to trust, to discuss issues…it was beautiful and hard and we found our flow and got better at it every year.  I absorbed him and his kindness and his love and humor and caring and oh, the romance that he brought to my life! And my spirit thrived.

 

I wasn’t ready for any of that, and my heart wasn’t open.  Now, without him, I consciously strive to be open and ready, but what the hell do I know if I really am? 

 

Is there a check list somewhere?

 

My heart craves to be someone’s one.  To be someone’s sweetheart, as I was Chuck’s.  As I still am.  As I will always be, no matter what.  My spirit craves a human and present connection.  I crave to be swept off my feet with romance…the kind that comes truly and genuinely, not just as grand gestures meant to impress.  I crave, again, a love that even time will lie down and be still for.  But even as I crave that, I can’t imagine it and I don’t even know that I want it or can accept it from another man.  And even if I can and do, I will still and always crave it from Chuck and how the fuck does that work when he’s, you know…dead.  There cannot possibly exist in real form, a man who can be all Chuck was, be his own, and fully accept that Chuck will always be present in my life, always in my heart.  Is there a man out there strong enough to be all of this?

I don’t know.  Who does know, really? 

But still…

 

I dream of a Love that Time will lie down and be still for…in my heart or in reality…I don’t know….

 

 

 

Kind of, yeah..Done~

 

I’m tired.

Done, I think.

At the end of this month it will be 3 years and 11 months since Chuck died.  On April 21, at 11:25 pm, it will be 4 years since the breath was crushed out of him by the liquid buildup in his lungs.  Those liquids built up in his body, showing itself in the horrid swelling of his feet and legs and hands as edema. It sweated through his body until his cancer ridden body could no longer absorb it and then it sweated out to such a degree that we had to change the hospital gown every 15 minutes or so, along with the linens on his bed.  The death rattle sounded loudly from his throat.  His eyes stared.  I don’t know when his spirit left his body.  I hang onto the thought that, in those final hours of his life, his spirit was on its’ way elsewhere…wherever that might be…if anywhere, but not there to experience physically what we were seeing, as he drowned in his own fluids.

As I’m supposed to do-how many of us hear oh, ,you must remember the good times!  Focus on the good memories!- I do remember our years before cancer took his body.  I remember the joy and our Love that grew between us daily for our 24 years.  We were as much in Love the night he died as we’d been when we first said our I do’s.  More, really, because we’d been through the worst and the best and seen each other at our worst and our best.  We’d been tested numerous times and come through it with flying colors.

When I remember Chuck, I don’t see him through a veil of death where he is now perfect but really only in my mind because he’s, you know…dead.  I remember him, and us, exactly as we were.  In Love.  Passionate about each other, about life.  I have 2 decades, plus, of pictures and words that remind me what real Love, true Love, looks like.

I took all that Love into this widowhood.  I took the words he would say to his sponsees in AA and I’ve lived them.  Suit up and show up.  I’ve done that and I’ve done it in a big way and I’ve done it in as much pink as I could.

Every bit of this Odyssey has been about the Love story Chuck and I shared and it’s been genuine and every word, every gesture, comes from the Love that he and I had and that he left behind for me.

I’ve been as honest and raw as I can be about this Odyssey, about this widowhood.  Which I know makes for uncomfortable reading.  When I write I don’t hold anything back.  I’ve never tried to dress this up or put it in a nice, neat package with a lovely bow.  Widowhood isn’t a fucking tiptoe through the tulips and I’ve never lied about that.  With all of that, I’ve also, I hope, been clear that I do not want pity, will not accept pity.  I’m just calling a spade a spade and bringing the reality of it into the light.

There is much that I don’t write about, except in a way that touches on the surface.  Not for any other reason than there are literally no words created in this language that speak to the devastation of living without him, of creating a life without him.  Mental exhaustion as I deal with the daily rigors of living on the road, the financial hardship of being one instead of two, the soul-cutting impact of the loneliness of widowhood that is not alleviated by dating, by being with grandkids, by being with friends, or our kids.  And yes, over and over again, I am so god damned grateful for each of those relationships, so please don’t raise your eyebrows in question for my lack of gratitude.  But at the end of the god damn fucking day, I go to bed alone.  I have to figure this life out on my own.  I have to live this life on my own.  Even as I’m with any of the aforesaid relationships in my life, I am alone, because they are not mine, if you get what I mean, and I hope you do.  I’m not anyone’s priority any longer, and let’s face it, that’s a hard and painful thing to lack, after having it for so long.

I wish I could be one of those widows (I’m not sure where they are, but I think I’ve read of them), who blithely sail on with life.  If I knew where to find any such a specimens, I’d study them under a microscope intently.  What do they do?  How do they do it?  Where is the fucking switch? Is there one?  Where and how does anyone reach the balance where the memories make you smile and the missing-ness become manageable?  Where is the switch that makes a woman care about life again?  Where is the switch that turns on the energy again?  Where the god damn fuck is it?

I knew, as soon as Chuck died, how easy it would be to disappear and fade away.  It was a tempting thought, honestly.  Instead, I painted my car pink, to honor his last wishes, and began this Odyssey of Love, knowing that if I did it this way..if I did this Odyssey in color, if I tasked myself to go public, than I’d have to hold myself responsible for showing up.  People would know that I’m out here and I’d have to show up for them.  I’ve made it as tough as possible to disappear when that’s all that I’ve wanted to do.  All the pink had a purpose.  It has a purpose.

Now, almost 4 years later, I don’t know if I can do this any longer.  I’m spinning my wheels.  Life and all that widowed life entails (which is much of what normal life entails, with the added topping of grief and missing-ness and sadness and all the other lovely shit) has reached its level in me. I don’t know that I have anything left in me to continue the upstream struggle.

A seed of thought in me is that maybe I’ll find a small town out west, a cowboy town, and find a room to rent and a job that is enough to keep me financially fluid, and fade into normalcy. Yes, all the grief and missing-ness will be right there with me, but maybe I can just fade into routine; go to work, go home, sleep, go to work.  Carry my memories in me and live on my memories. Stop writing publicly and live on remembering when, you know?

Please don’t read this as self-pity. It sounds pathetic even to my ears, but I’m trying to think things out.  And it isn’t depression, thank you very much. It is more a weariness of the soul, of my heart.  These almost 4 years without Chuck have taken everything in me to live it, in spite of and alongside of all that life without him entails. (which is much of what normal life entails, with the added topping of grief and missing-ness and sadness and all the other lovely shit) and, quite simply, it’s at level point.  Overflowing the banks, really.  I miss him, I miss the romance, I miss being a priority to someone who is also my priority.  I miss being held, I miss his wink at me from across a crowded room, I miss having someone know me.

Maybe all we get in this life is one amazing Love story and I’ve had mine.  It feels like that was the greatest part of my life and well..it’s gone and done.

The hard truth of all of this is that Chuck is dead and my life with him is over and I get it. I fucking get it. What I want to know is where is the goddamn switch?  Where is my spiritual awakening, the Big Top event that will make me give a damn again?

It’s all just too much, really~

 

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