Brain Activity. Or Something~

I’m so fucking lonely without Chuck. Not because I don’t know how to be alone, duh…but because I loved being with him and around him and breathing in his scent and looking into his eyes and because I was in love with him. Duh. What does me being lonely without him have to do with not knowing how to be alone? If you love someone, I’d think you like to be with them, but maybe that’s just me.
My body aches for him.
I wish I cared that I don’t care about the future, but I don’t care that I don’t care.
I wonder what it would be like to kiss another man. Will it freak me out or will it intrigue me?
Chuck hoped that I’d find another man to love someday.
I don’t care that Chuck would want me to be happy. Let him be the one to live this life without me, then we’ll talk.
I hate drama of any sort. People who get upset over bullshit irritate the shit out of me. And naming something as bullshit is a personal judgement, yes.
Do I hate being on the road or do I love being on the road? I don’t know. All that I do know is that it’s the only life I have, and the only life I can imagine.
I dream of a pristine hotel room with clean, soft sheets and a nearby, equally pristine bathroom with a huge soaking tub even though I don’t like taking baths. Lovely scented lotions line the rim of the tub.
I feel so hardened. Not bitter, just hardened from surviving. From doing it on my own.
I can’t say that I’ve learned anything of value with Chuck’s death. I was already deeply compassionate and loving and caring. What exactly am I supposed to have learned from Chuck’s death? How strong I am? I already knew I was strong before he died. So did he.
This is bullshit.
I love my kids deeply. Also my grandkids. And none of those relationships replace what I had with Chuck. Why does that surprise anyone?
Chuck was the handsomest man I ever met. Still the handsomest man I’ve ever seen. It seems to me that there are an awful lot of men who don’t take care of themselves physically. For god’s sake, stop wearing what I consider pedal pushers; those baggy shorts that hit right below the knees. Especially denim ones. You look stupid. Wear a clean t-shirt. Know how to dress up if the occasion calls for it.
Are there any real men left in our world? Masculine men? I don’t think there are.
I miss Chuck’s sexiness. He was an excellent lover. He could turn me on with a glance.
I feel aimless in life. Mostly it’s just something to get through each day, til I can go to sleep again.
I used to hate night times. Now I appreciate them so that I can be completely alone and not have to put forth energy into interacting with others.
I cry frequently, when I’m alone.
I look so strong on the outside.  Looks are deceiving.
I long to dance with Chuck again, moving against him, his arms around me.
I look at women who have their husbands around, who seem to hate having their husbands around, who bitch and complain at them and micromanage them and get pissy especially over shit that doesn’t matter, and I wonder what the fuck is wrong with this world, that my husband is dead and theirs is alive.
I also look at women who look at me, as a widow, those who judge my grief and wonder why I’m not over it, and think…yeah, just wait and see what it’s like for you, sister. Just wait. And I hope to god you have compassionate people around you when it happens. Because it’s pure, fucking, unadulterated, fucking hell that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
I get that death is a part of life. When someone says that to me, I just want to respond to them What the fuck does that have to do with anything?
Sunsets make me cry. So does looking at a full moon. The beauty of both reminds me of watching them with Chuck. No, the memories don’t make me feel better. They make me miss him more, okay? What the fuck makes you think that remembering the good times makes me feel better?
I do remember the good times.  That’s why I’m sad, for god fucking sake. There are no more good times to be had with the one I had them with, and…that makes me so sad that I can’t stand it.
How do I keep getting up each day? And why do I keep getting up each day? I hate that about me.
Sometimes, like a comet flashing across the sky, images of Chuck on his deathbed come to me and freak me out again. When was the last time he was conscious and looked at me, I wonder? Did he glance at me for a last time and I wasn’t aware of it? Did I miss his last glance?
Does he know that all I do is think about him, even as I’m doing all the goddamn shit I’m supposed to be doing to re-engage with life?
My heart hurts for our kids. Their dad should still be in their lives.
My heart hurts for me, too.
Chuck still had so much living to do.
I really don’t want to be here but I don’t say that aloud very often because people will think I’m unstable or ungrateful for life or some stupid shit like that.
But I really don’t want to be here. Life without Chuck is lacking in color and energy.
I loved taking care of him. It was a turn-on, actually. And it turned him on to see me ironing his clothes, of all things. He also loved it when I wore his shirts. I wear his denim shirt to bed now, or when I’m alone in my trailer, even though he isn’t here to turn on anymore. I also put his favorite Key West t-shirt under my cheek when I sleep. I curl my fingers around his flag that rests next to me on my pillow.
I cry a lot when I’m alone. I already said that earlier, but believe it or not, I don’t let myself think about my emotions very often, or admit to them. So, I’m saying it again. I cry a lot when I’m alone.
As a liberated woman, I don’t think I’m supposed to admit that my life revolved around my husband, around what I could do to show my love for him, show my Love to him, but it did and I loved loving him. Chuck made it easy, because he did the same for me.
Life without Chuck is unbearable but you’d never know that by looking at all that I’ve done, all that I’m doing, in the years since his death.
It freaks me out that I’m headed towards year 5. I close that particular gate in my mind whenever the thought intrudes.
Chuck is only dead one day at a time for me. Otherwise I can’t do this.
I’m in love with a dead man.

Return To Me~

Return to me…
Please come back…
Return to me, with your strong arms
That wrapped round me…
And made me feel safe and secure
No matter what was going on around us.
Return to me, with your broad shoulders
Upon which I rested my head
And listened to your heartbeat…
Until our breathing became one breath and I felt reassured and knew, always,
That my world was good, and would always be good
Because you were in it.
Return to me…
With your smile that lit up my world
And brightened my days
Even if we were on the phone and you were far away
I’d feel your smile and…
My world was serene.
Return to me…
With your green eyes that would catch mine across a crowded room
And the one would crinkle in a slow wink
Meant only for me…
A wink that carried promises of passion and flirtation and teasing
And my heart would grow giddy and butterflies flutter in my stomach.
Return to me…
Take my hand in yours again, wrap your fingers around mine…
Return to me, my beloved
I beg of you…
Hold me, touch me, love me, dance with me, put your hand upon my knee, kiss me, envelop me.
My body longs for you
My heart beats for you
My mind wanders to you and me and what we had…
My pulse is your pulse…
And I die inside a little each day, that I don’t have you any longer…
That you don’t have me any longer…
That we are gone and it is just me here on this earth…
Return to me, my beloved…

Birthdays~

Chuck threw me a huge birthday party for my 50th.  To be honest, our daughter, Rachael-Grace, helped out with it quite a bit, but it was lovely.  A dear friend, who died the year before Chuck, baked a red velvet cake.  My friends were there from all walks of life.  Our kids were there; it was a memorable 50th.

Life changes quickly, and the following year, for my 51, we were just beginning our new life on the road and Chuck surprised me with a trip to Graceland.  I’d always been a huge Elvis fan and he knew this would be a huge hit. As it was.  I didn’t have any idea where we were headed until I saw the sign that said Memphis.  We stayed in a hotel that had framed Elvis pictures in each room, a guitar shaped swimming pool and Elvis music playing throughout the grounds. All songs which I knew and Chuck got such a kick out of me singing along with them.

One of my earliest birthday memories, after Chuck and I married, is the year he took the time leading up to my birthday to get my address book and ask everyone in it to call me on my birthday.  He also alerted his family and friends.  I spent the day answering our, yes, land line phone, and hearing Happy Birthday, Alison!  Chuck made my birthdays so special, every year.

My next few birthdays were spent on the road; I don’t even remember where. What I do recall is that I spent them with him, hiking and exploring the USA.  We had all the time in the world together and that was the greatest gift of all.  With lots of wild and crazy birthday sex.

The last great present I received for my birthday, my 55th, was the news that Chuck’s first cancer had been eradicated numerous surgeries.  He was cancer free, with really really really good odds that it wouldn’t return.  God, did we celebrate…I knew a cancer survivor! and that cancer survivor was my beloved husband.

I’m 59 today.  Chuck has been dead for 4 years.  Fucking cancer got my cancer survivor after all, and my birthdays have never been the same.

I know, I know…I can hear it now.  But you must celebrate you! You must grab life and savor it and live it!

Here’s the thing.  I know, because I’m a smart, loving person, that I must allow our kids to celebrate me. I must allow my friends and family and all who love me, to celebrate me. And I do and it means so much, especially since Chuck is no longer here to wrap me in his arms and plant a huge, lonnnngggg kiss on my lips, leaving me dizzy.

In just the past month, I’ve received 2 gifts that touch my heart in the only ways that matter:  I was reunited with my younger sister, after many years of estrangement, and my wee grandson, Owen Charles, was born.  Each of these huge events touch my heart.

But there is a loneliness that goes along with my birthdays in the years since Chuck’s death and that’s just a fact of life.  It’s the new world that I live in.

So, today, here in the Ozarks, at the opera camp, on my 59th birthday, living a life I’d never imagined or planned for (emotionally), my gift to myself is telling each person that I meet that it is my birthday and I want hugs.

I want hugs from every person who comes within my radius today. Hugs, hugs and more hugs.  All the love that comes with those hugs is what keeps me going, and my heart expands with each hug.

And that’s what I ask of you, too.  Anyone who is reading my words today.  For my birthday, your gift to me is to hug people you meet along your way today.  Stop for a minute, share some time with them, connect with them, and don’t leave them without hugging them.

And maybe, whisper a word to Chuck, whether you know him or not, that you’re all looking out for his girl.

Thank you.

Happy birthday, me~

 

Words. And Words. Yet…none~

My dearest D,

It’s been 4 years and one month since you left me. I know that you didn’t want to leave me. If it had been possible, you would have fought tooth and nail, with every breath in you, to stay with me.  You couldn’t…the cancer that ate away at your body demanded nothing less than your life as its’ price.  And on that April night, when the night air was filled with the fragrance of oleander and orange blossoms, you took your last breath and gave up your spirit.

I don’t know where you are, D. Do you know where I am? I’ve made everything as pink as I can, just in case you can see me from somewhere.  From anywhere.  Can you see me?

I keep going. I keep trying. I swear I do, D. And I will always keep going, but I need to tell you that I’m broken inside. My heart is so broken that you are gone, that our life together is no more.  The heart that was yours for all of 24 years is shattered into pieces of shard glass.  The heart that was yours is still yours; it always was and it always will be, but it is in pieces.

I wish I could tell you that I’m getting along without you. I suppose I am, to the outside world. I put all my energy into the outside world, living on your legacy of Love.  I invite people into my world every chance I get so that I can bank the love and support they offer me.  I do everything I can to keep my heart open and willing.

But at the end of the day, I’m alone and I look around my tiny trailer that is my home, and I stare at the pictures of you and I through our years together and I shatter inside because you are no longer here with me and I don’t know what to do with the sadness and emptiness.  I am adrift in this world without you and I make no apologies for it.

How am I supposed to do this, D?  Year after year?  Yes, I’ve gotten through 4 years but what accomplishment is that when my heart is yet broken and I yearn so desperately for you, for your touch?  Oh, to have you touch me again, to have your hand take mine, to feel your kiss upon my lips or my forehead..to feel loved by you again, protected by you…to make sweet and wild love with you again, our bodies twisting and turning each with the other, sweat pouring off of our bodies, words gasped between breaths…

This life is agony without you.  I long for your touch, for your eyes catching mine across the room and lighting up, for the sweetness of your smile at me and your slow wink as your glance and mine meet, for the entwining of our fingers at night as we drift off to sleep, safe and secure…

You are ever my beloved husband, the man I loved above all, my cherished lover, my dearest heart, the man I love still.  I carry you, always, in my heart, and I am bereft without you…

Ever yours,

 

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…

 

Tu Me Manques…

 

My beloved husband,

You have been gone from me forever and a day….mere minutes ago, as measured by my heart’s yearning.  One thousand four hundred and fifty nine days, as measured by the Roman calendar.  I love you.

There is no meaningful way, really, to measure the depth of the grief in my heart that you are gone from me.  Perhaps the only true measure of this grief can be found in the exact measure of my Love for you.  In these four years and forever and a day, my Love for you has only grown.  I love you.

There is an emptiness to my life now, an emptiness that is the shape of you…your broad shoulders, your strong hands, the smile that lit your eyes as you looked out at life…as you looked at me.  That emptiness that is in the shape of your lips on mine as you kissed me, and the grasp of your hand behind my neck.  It is the shape of your arm around me as you pulled me into you as we danced, our bodies moving in synch across a dance floor.

The most painful thing I’ve ever done is watch you in that bed in your final weeks, tending to you, hurting for you, smiling for you, touching you, holding your hand as I sat in a chair next to you, exhausted but never as exhausted as you were, speaking to the nurses, trying to find ways to shield your body from the cancer onslaught and never succeeding, but trying again and again because it was unbearable and unacceptable that this was happening to you, my dearest husband. I loved you beyond measure in those moments, in a way that was more intimate than ever before.

The most painful thing I’ve ever done is draw the blanket over your face for the last time, kiss you for the last time, say goodbye to you for the last time.  I miss you.

Life is lonely without you, D.  I don’t know what to do with myself, don’t know what to do with the aching of my body without your touch, what to do with all the beautiful memories that remind me of times past and a future gone.  All this Love I had for you, have for you…I reach out and you aren’t there to receive it, so my Love lingers in the air, an energy of its own.  Love with nowhere to go.

I gaze up at the sky, day and night.  The bright blue skies and the darkest blue of night, wondering.  Wondering if you’re somewhere out there, seeing me, missing me.  Are you there, D?  Do you see me, wanting you, missing you, wishing you?

My soul requires broad open skies now, no hindrances blocking the way of the horizon in any direction.  My soul craves the skies we opened our sunroof to when we traveled, the skies that meant freedom of the open road to us. There is such vastness in the depth of my sorrow that it can be contained only by the endless expanse of sky and Universe.  Each cloud in the day, each star in the night…each is a marker for me.  Are you there?  Or there?  Maybe there?

It isn’t as simple as missing you.  Of course, I do, and there is no way to express the enormity of this missing.  But it goes beyond missing you, D.  More than me missing you is that you are missing from me.  The French have a phrase for it…tu me manqué.  You are missing from me.

I grow anxious at times, wondering what you would think of me now.  Would you be proud of how I’ve lived without you? Would you be disappointed?  I know that you’d hurt for me that I hurt so much without you, but I know you’d understand, too.  Mostly I know that you’d be proud of how I’ve done this, even with all the pain and sorrow and missingness.  I know this to the bottom of my heart.  I want to do you proud, D, and I believe I have.  I hope I have.

You are my dearest Love.  You will always be me and I will always be you and our hearts will always be connected, no matter how far apart we are, no matter how long a time we are separated.

What remains of you is Love, strong and sure.  You are Love and I am yours and you are missing from me and I miss you and I carry who you were and who we were in my heart day and night and I’ll carry our Love with me until my final hours and minutes.

And when the time comes, I hope, I hope, I dream, I wish, I demand, I whisper, I implore, I beseech…please find me.  I don’t know where you are, but you know where I am and I need you to come find me.

Until then, my dearest, my most beloved husband, my lover, my heart and soul…

Tu me manques.  Tu me manques.  Tu me manques.

 

From the Depths of my Soul~

 

My dearest love, my beloved husband.  D.

It’s 4 years since you and I drove to the ER at Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Springs.  It is now 4 years since you and I began our final Happily Homeless travels, travels that began on a sunny May day in NJ in 2009, as you got into the UHaul truck with the few of our belongings that we’d kept after the sale of our home, and I got in our car, having just signed the papers and closed on our house, and we headed west to drop those few things into a storage unit in Indiana and visit with your mom for a few days.

And then we headed south and west and our adventures began.

We had our last 4 years together traveling the USA, hiking trails, climbing to the highest heights, discovering history at our National Parks, visiting family and friends, gazing upon views I only ever thought to see in books.  I pushed boundaries I never thought to push, and we fell more in Love each and every day, rejoicing in the times it was just us, far away from responsibility and distractions.  Just us.

Life and reality hit hard with your first cancer and shocked us and horrified us through all the surgeries you had to endure, but endure you did…we did…and we didn’t let it stop us.  You came through it and we continued on.  You were a cancer survivor.  I’d never met a cancer survivor before.  The big C was a disease that had already taken so many from me, and I cried when I realized you…my beloved husband…you were the one I got to keep.

Until this time 4 years ago, when I took you to the ER, your breath raspy, your body doubled over in pain, your face creased as it had never been before as you struggled to maintain some sense of self.  For the first time, though, you couldn’t hide it.  You couldn’t reassure me any longer.  I knew the truth of what was in front of us even before you did.

These 4 years of widowhood, my emotions wouldn’t allow me to write to you.  I haven’t been able to speak to you.  All I’ve been capable of saying, as I’d look up at a night sky glittering with stars, out on my own travels across the USA, is…I love you.  Find me.  I don’t know where you are.  You find me.

I still can’t speak to you, but I need to write to you.  I need to force my fingers to type words to you.  I need to vomit words of pain and grief that you, my beloved, are gone from me.  Have been gone from me for almost 4 years now.  Speak to you of my anguish and horror as I watched the cancer decimate your strong body, watched the drugs muddle your mind even though we tried as hard as we could to minimize those drugs, wanting you to be as present as possible.  You were insistent on that and I wanted to honor your wishes even as it added difficulties into a confusing time.

There are those who say that power shouldn’t be given to memories such as pour from my heart and mind and soul; memories that deepen grief and pain and loss, but I disagree.  The very few weeks we spent, 4 years ago now, as test upon test occurred, as I watched you lay in a hospital bed, as our kids gathered, as you and I found tumors exploding in every limb of your ailing body, as doctors spoke to us of cutting edge treatments that sounded impossible to me, because I knew…I knew…on that very first night in the hospital, your time on this earth was so limited that there was no time no time, to even attempt such treatments.  I watched as if outside my body as I spoke to the social worker, begging him to tell me how to tell you that we had no time.  How do I tell my husband, this man who is my life, that it is time for us to find a hospice, that we must prepare as best we can for the impossible and unbearable time of his death?  How do I tell him that there is no time for treatment without him thinking that I want him to die?

And then going into your room and telling you that I will do anything you want to do I will make it happen I have your back but I don’t think we have time and I think we need to find hospice. 

Gazing at your face, D, in those moments, as I stifled my sobs through the words I had to speak to you…the look on your face is sealed into my being forever.  A few very quiet ticks of the clock passed and then you took my hands in yours and you said okay.  And I sobbed more, and we spoke of the magnitude of this, and we began to realize that we were saying goodbye to us, and you said how you would miss us more than anything else in your world.

You signing the papers that would admit you into hospice, the ambulance ride, the 3 weeks of multiple hearts breaking as the cancer gnawed at your body and ate huge chunks of who you were, you staring into the mirror, a look of confusion in your eyes, striving to recognize the narrowed face and sharp nose of cancer staring back at you and me taking your face in my hands, gazing directly into your eyes and saying you have been my hero you will always be my hero…god, every fucking moment of horror and drugs and breathing machines and treatments and doing slow jogs through the family gardens to work off my shock and anger and despair and every other goddamn physical emotion roaring through my own body…and returning to your room and your side to offer you all the Love that was in my body and soul, all the Love that you’d given so freely and willingly to me in our 24 years together, your vow of Love that you spoke, the vows of Love that I spoke, on our wedding day that we lived and honored and grew, every day that we had together and apart.

How can I not honor and remember our final days as we stumbled through the halls of hospice and spoke words to one another that I can’t remember?  How can I not honor every painful and loving and sacred moment of those moments that lasted for 3 weeks and for eternity all at the same time?

These almost 4 years later I remember, and I honor those days and I honor you and me and us.

“I remember the night.  I remember the sound.  I remember the light, when the moon came ‘round.  The night flowers bloomed, the air so sweet.  I remember you. I remember me. “ (Sara Watkins)

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