Love…in Time~

Where, my Beloved, did you go,
That long-ago night when you left me?
Where did you go,
That darkest of nights forever ago,
But yesterday?
Watching as your chest quivered in and out,
Until it quite simply…didn’t.
And my heart that was your heart that was my heart again, and yours,
Shattered and splintered,
Even as it crystalized into nothingness and everything.
Even as my traitorous mind went blank, searching for memories of you and I and us.
Frozen in time.
Time.
That time.
You, gone.
Me, still here.
Grasping the starkness of my new world,
Without you.
Where did you go, my beloved?
As I placed my hand on your chest something I’d done so often…
And didn’t feel you place your hand over mine something you’d always done.
Two hearts. One heart. Your heart. My heart.
Your heart and your Love into my heart and Love magnified in me.
Where you went, my beloved, was into nothing and into everything that is my world without you.
Spirit. Essence. Heart. Soul. Green eyes. Strong shoulders. Warm embrace.
We became me, and us and who we were, became who I now am in my world without you.
Love.
Magnified.

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Missing Him on 40~

I’m on the road again.
I left Arizona, headed to Arkansas, a few days ago. Or maybe it was a week ago, now. I’m kind of tired after driving some long ass days.
Tune up on my car. New tires, brakes on my rig, PinkMagic, fixed.
Our daughter was road tripping to Arkansas with me, to see the opera camp where I work for the summer. It’s my second year back there, as the groundskeeper.
We were planning a fairly easy trip, stopping to visit family in Denver, taking our time.
Well, as they say…
The best laid plans of mice and men…
We were only 200 miles out when we heard a loud pop from the rear of my trailer, followed by smoke billowing out, and brake fluid trailing behind us.
Fortunately, I’d just pulled off the highway, so that we could drive the main drag of Winslow. You know….
Standin’ on the corner and all that.
Again, fortunately, I have roadside assistance and called them and they sent a tow out to us. He quickly diagnosed major problems and I followed his tow truck, very slowly and carefully, to his garage.
Where he removed the drums and discovered that all rubber parts had melted and all metal parts had turned to dust. They dissolved to the ground as soon as the drums came off.
Not good.
But better than what could have been, which was a fire from the massively overheated brakes, which could have easily burned my rig into nothingness, and taken the car too, I suppose, since it’s all so small.
Scary shit.
We ended up camping out at the garage for 3 days and 2 nights while they sent for parts and worked on the brakes.
High Chaparral Garage in Winslow, AZ; the best people EVER. They went above and far beyond what was necessary to keep us safe while there and take us back on the road.
Hooked us up to electricity so we could sleep comfortably. Put a large mat outside so we didn’t track grease inside PinkMagic.
Worked diligently on the brakes. We were right on the famed Rt 66, so people stopped in to say hi and take a tour of the inside of my rig.
Gave us great tips for exploring the area while we were stranded.
We’d go downtown to the corner and drink chai while watching the world go by.
Before leaving, even though it was late at night and we were all tired, the wonderful guys at High Chaparral tightened up the spare, power washed my car and trailer, signed the back of it with loving words, gave us hugs, told us to keep in touch…and away we went.
During our stay at the garage, I met 2 other widows who were 5 years out, as I am now. We spoke of the ravages of cancer and how it changes lives.
Because I was stationary, albeit unexpectedly, I had the opportunity to speak on the phone to a radio host with a program called Bringing Love to Life, about my Odyssey, and my marriage to Chuck.
Because we were stuck, so to speak, for the time we were, timing was set into place that brought us to a rest stop further on where we met a young couple, themselves stranded, trying to get to Montana to see the young man’s dad before his dad died of liver cancer. Remembering that desperate feeling, we were able to buy them a tank of gas, some groceries, and give some cash to help them on their way.
It’s the kind of thing that Chuck would have done, and all I asked in return was for them to remember the name Chuck D.
Our continued travels took us from Arizona to New Mexico to Texas to Oklahoma and then into Arkansas, and every mile along the way was filled with memories of my and Chuck’s travels, what seems so many years ago now.
How is it possible that it is 5 years since his death?
Next month I’ll have been on the road alone, as a widow, longer than he and I were, together.
That thought messes with my mind.
He is everywhere along Rt 40, through the middle of our country. He is at every roadside rest stop, at the picnic tables where we’d stop to eat lunch. He’s at the national monuments and parks, where we’d visit to learn local history. He’s in the wildflowers growing in the median strip and in the flat lands of west Texas with the huge sky overhead.
He is everywhere, in memory and in my heart.
I missed him for the entirety of 40.
I miss him on that road and every other road that I drive.
And I also know, more than ever, after the experience in Winslow, that his legacy is strong and vibrant and that our Love story is as strong as it ever was, and that I am doing just exactly perfectly heart wide open what it is that I am destined to do…
Live this Odyssey of Love. For him. For me. For all my widow brothers and sisters and their ones. Live it for all those I meet along the way, for all those whose path I cross or who cross my path.
Just, quite simply, live the Love that he left behind for me.
Fiercely. Strongly. Powerfully. Confidently.
Always.

And. Not Or~

We all know the power of words, especially in widowhood.
Words stream at us in loving support, with awkwardness, clumsy grace, and, unfortunately, in judgement.
We hear these words and phrases and they make us stronger or they make us want to hide.
We begin, as time passes, to hide ourselves. To isolate ourselves.
We present artificial selves to protect ourselves from judgements and maintain our daily lives, while our hearts and souls go underground.
Early on, in what I will presume was good intent, a friend told me to just fake it til you make it.
Instinctively, I knew that wasn’t an option for me. It felt like an unhealthy response to a genuinely traumatizing event.
As these few years have passed, I’ve spoken about life without my beloved husband, and the struggles of widowhood, in as real and authentic a way as possible.
I refuse to hide myself from it. I refuse to allow the world and its’ judgements to force me into isolation. I can’t, for my own sanity’s sake.
And I’ve also had to create a life and do my daily tasks, which I can’t do if I’m sobbing my way through my days.
So I’ve put on the face, so to speak, in order to get shit done, like we all do.
But this isn’t a fake it til you make it face.
In what I consider a healthy response, I’ve morphed into two people. Which, as a Gemini, is no big deal to me, honestly.
And I’ve learned that this widow life isn’t an either/or proposition.
It’s an and situation.
I am this person AND I’m that person.
I am devastated empty lonely yearning sad missing him AND I am creating and creative engaging being and showing and receiving Love…daily.
I am a shadow of myself AND I am shining more brightly than ever.
I don’t want to be here on this earth without him AND I am more determined than ever to carry our Love story every day.
I feel empty AND feel so full each and every day.
I am this AND I am that AND I am perfectly okay with this duality.
This duality, for me, is how I widow~

Looking at the Numbers~

Almost 5 years.
5 years without you.
Don’t ask me how I’ve gone 5 years without you.
I don’t know.
Sheer grit and determination.
And a whole lot of the Love that you left behind for me.
It isn’t enough, you know.
Living on memories of your Love for me.
Mine for you.
But it has to be. Enough, I mean.
24 years with you wasn’t enough.
We thought we’d have at least 35, calculating our ages.
We had 24.
23 of those in marriage.
We had 4 years together, living on the road.
Adventuring and loving and bonding more deeply than we’d ever thought possible.
4 years. Our last 4 years.
I spent 3 weeks after your death, alone in that condo in southern California.
And then returned to the road, alone.
It’s almost 5 years now that I’ve been on the road by myself, on my Odyssey of Love.
I’ve been on the road alone longer than we were on the road together
115,000 miles solo.
North, south, east and west.
8 times around the country.
I will never stop missing you,
No matter how many miles behind me,
No matter how many miles in front of me.
I miss you, D.
I just miss you.  2018-03-21

If What is Left, is This…then, Yes~

As 5 years without you, edges its’ way ever nearer to me, and as my heart and soul hear the shuffle of time coming closer, creeping past, zooming closer, flying past..

As these ten thousand years have passed, since his death, as each nanosecond passes 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 thought 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 give 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’d 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 strengths and our joy in each other.

He was all that I’d never dreamed to be possible in the dark days of my first marriage and in my years as a single parent of 3… 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 a book in hand with a finger marking my place. He remembered that moment to me often over the years. He loved when I wore my glasses, and he bragged to any and all about my reading prowess. Alison reads at least 50 books a week, he’d say proudly.

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 the 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 because of his gone-ness.

At the end of each day, after doing and being and connecting and engaging and interacting and peopling…at the end of a day, these memories are what I take with me…

As I gently and quietly close my bedroom door…

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In Absentia, as Was Presence~

We spend our lives with an awareness of our physical bodies. We dress our bodies, we move our bodies. Our hands hold the hands of people for whom we feel affection, or love. Our arms hug. Our lips meet in exquisite kisses. Our lips smile and laugh. Our eyes sparkle as we gaze upon life and our loves. Our feet dance, in rhythm or not.

Physical presence is a big deal in life, in love.  Physical presence makes Love tangible, it makes who we are, and what we represent, an entity.  Our physical bodies were very much a big deal with me and my husband, Chuck, for our 24 years. We touched often. My husband’s physical body and presence was measurable in my life, as mine was in his.

His absence from my life is just as palpable and I’m uncertain how that might translate scientifically but his absence is, to me, as strong as his presence ever was. In fact, now that he’s gone, his absence is almost stronger than his presence ever was, which causes anxiety in me. It has seemed, since he died, that he’s so gone that its as if he never existed. Chuck died forever ago, or 4 years and 11 months. Long ago and no time at all ago.  I suppose I could say, he’s been gone almost 5 years. Dead almost 5 years. Absent from me for almost 5 years. But why rush the years, right?

Presence and absence. My external life has changed drastically since each of my last April 21sts of these 4 years and 11 months but not quite 5 years. I’ve changed drastically, or at least it feels like I have. Nothing is the same, either in my external world or my internal soul world. He disappeared the night he died and my life did too.

And yet.

Weirdly,though, his absence from my life really is as tangible and measurable as his presence ever was. His absence is an entity that breathes and walks and moves with me as I stumble along, and not in an oh, look! He’s still with you! way, but in a fuck, I can’t believe he’s not here but he’s clearly not in such a massively huge way, so….

As the months have passed, because he is so very gone, I’ve held onto, and purposefully courted, the love he left me. I cherish his last message to me, left on my phone at my request the week before he died. I still listen to it with a sense of disbelief that I’m not seeing him say he loves me, that I’ll never see him say that to me again, with his green eyes glinting with Love and passion.

Those words though. That love he had for me. That love I had for him that beats as strongly today as it did for all of our 24 years. The love is a physical presence to me now, and co-exists with his absence.  Presence. Absence. Love, no matter the mind fuck of it.

I can’t explain how presence and absence can both be real. It just is. He is here with me in his absence.

He loved me. I loved him. That is still real.

It was our blessed gift to each other.

With Chuck for me, for me with him, it was always, always, always, about the Love we shared daily. How our bodies moved together, even when we weren’t in close proximity. How our hands automatically entwined when we fell asleep.  The rhythm of Love was our SOP…standard operating procedure.

And I ache for its’ absence, as I ache for him.

This Still Beating Heart~

When was the moment you realized you would survive this?
Your person’s death…this new life…
I never doubted for a moment that I could and would survive this.
From the time Chuck was told that the cancer was everywhere.
My fear was that I would indeed and unfortunately, survive this,
And live the rest of my life without him.
I did.
I have.
I cursed myself daily, that I was surviving his death.
Surviving this widowhood.
I didn’t want to survive this and I cursed whatever it was in me that made me keep on living.
I researched broken heart syndrome, and was disappointed to meet all the criteria, yet continue to live.
How was that possible? How?
Did I really not love Chuck enough? Was the stress of his illness and death and the fucked up family dynamics that sent me into meltdown anxiety attacks, not enough?
Why did I not qualify for broken heart syndrome? Why?
And yet, here I am, 4 years and 11 months later, widowing.
Fuck.
I suppose I’ve lost all that energy I spent wondering why I didn’t die.
Lost the will to search and curse that I still lived, that I still am, that I still must.
I’ve driven thousands of miles since Chuck’s death, following highways and backroads of our country.
Honoring and remembering him.
Missing him.
More aware, each mile, of how he is missing from me
And my life is less without him.
Now I wonder…
Is there death from empty life syndrome?
I’ve learned so much about widowing
About living in the after
How it isn’t only about healing our hearts
But healing our minds.
Reframing
Plugging in
Honoring the process of grieving in a world that has no patience for grief,
Or anything that requires more than a pause in doing and rushing and performing.
I’ve insisted on doing this my way, which we all know, is the only way to get from here to there.
I don’t know where there is
Mostly I don’t know where here is.
And I wonder still, in passing thought, how it is that I’m still here,
Without him.
It’s a mind fuck of the Universe.
Some would say that I’m still here because I still have work to do.
To which I say…
Poppycock. Baloney. Hooey, and bunk.
I’m here because I haven’t yet died.
Whether there is a reason for it or not is up to an individual’s personal beliefs.
I cringe, still, at the thought that I may yet live centuries without him,
Which is what it already feels like,
Only 4 years and 11 months in.
No broken heart syndrome here.
Fuck.
Just plugging away, reaching out where I can, living on Love.
An emissary, a servant, a courier, of Love~