If I Could…

If I could…

These 6 1/2 years later than the day after your death that I never thought I’d survive…

I would approach you hesitantly…

I would rush into your arms…

I would stand in wonder…

I would stare disbelievingly at you…

I would shake my head back and forth…

No.

Yes.

Of course…

It would feel so normal, seeing you standing in front of me again.

I knew you weren’t really gone I’d breathe.

Even though I knew you were dead.

Even though I knew you couldn’t be dead…

Because, really, how could you be dead

When you are so alive in all the pictures of you and I together?

You’d reach for my hand as I reached for yours…

And our bodies would touch so closely that all light between us would disappear…

You and I again…

Me and you…

Us.

Yes.

My world would be bright again.

It would shimmer and glow and fireworks would explode around us…

Us again. 

Me again.

Love again.

You again.

If I could…

This Confusing Afterlife~

It’s been 6 years and 5 months since Chuck died.

I kind of feel like I need to put that identifier in so that anyone who reads this will have a gauge.

Except that those newly living this widowed life might look at the time since and then read this blog and shudder. 

Or shrink back in dismay.

Because….really?

The confusion lasts that long?

And I don’t mean to convey that.

It’s all personal, right?

That’s what we always hear, anyways.

So, apologies ahead of time to anyone who reads this and is discouraged…

I’ve come in off the road, with the aim of settling in for up to a year, for the first time in a little over 10 years.

Chuck and I were on the road together for our last 4 years, and I’ve spent the last 6 1/2 years solo on the road.

Truthfully, I’m fucking exhausted in all the ways I can be; physically, emotionally, mentally.

And I know it’s time to take my Odyssey of Love to the next phase.

To do that, I want to be in one place so that I can put together all the puzzle pieces floating around me.

To that end…

As I approached Arizona a few days ago, which is where I’m planting myself, the thought popped into my head, and into my heart that I’m so excited to see Chuck again! It’s been so long! Just a few more miles!

Followed too quickly by the stomach clenching, heart shredding, soul shrinking reality check that nope, you’re not going to see him again. Ever. He’s gone. He’s dead.

All I know how to do is bite down onto that thought and just let it be.

Just…FUCK.

So that’s part of what happened.

Over the weekend I met up with my daughter and talk turned, invariably, to our grief. 

And she told me something that I’d not considered.

I miss Pop, she said, and I miss the woman you were. The mom you were.

I know that I miss the woman I was, but I’d never thought about my kids missing that woman also. 

Further conversation brought out that she (and I think my other 2 feel this too) that it feels as if I’ve drawn away emotionally.

You know what? She’s right. 

I have.

I was 55 when Chuck died. I’m 61 now, and I’ve spent all these years out on the road, traveling the country. I do stop and visit with my kids and their families but as I think of it, I own up to the fact that I keep my distance, emotionally. 

Not that I don’t show them and their families love. I do. I feel it towards them and I do show it.

But I’ve been so fucking intent on not being a burden to my kids and their spouses and families that I’ve gone way over the other direction to be independent in every way that I can. 

I don’t know how to explain how that shows up other than what I’ve already written and I can’t even really define all of it.

I just know that I’ve done it.

And I don’t know how to be otherwise.

They have their own lives, with their own families and busyness of lives and I never want to need anything from them.

The first few years of feeling emotionally needy was enough and they don’t need that burden. I don’t want them to feel that I’m dependent on them, because they have enough of that as they grow their families/careers/etc.

Widowhood is an incredibly confusing life for me.

I don’t know where to draw lines so I draw them far away.

I don’t know how to make my needs known to them without showing desperation or looking, well, needy.

So I draw bubbles around myself.

How the ever loving FUCK do we figure any of this out?

Seriously, I’m asking you, my community.

How do we navigate family in this afterlife?

Where the fuck do I fit now?

Chuck’s death blew our world apart.

It just did.

We were strong before, as a family.

Have I failed our kids?

I don’t know.

I just know that his death blew me into smithereens and I don’t know how to come back from it.

Or if it’s even realistic to think that I can.

Just…

FUCK.

Roads, Places, and Memories~

70. 20. 10. 65. 85. 60. 1.

East to west to north to south and back again.

The Oregon coast. The road to the Keys. New England. The Southwest. Deep South.

Roads and directions and places and, most of all…memories.

We…you and I…were everywhere together.

I travel to as many places, the same roads as we did.

I don’t go to places though.

I don’t go to National Parks or monuments.

I’m not much interested in places since you left this earth.

Since you and I parted.

None of it carries the same meaning for me.

The thrill isn’t there, alone.

Or with others, really.

So I don’t go places.

But I do go. I do see.

I travel the roads you and I traveled and my eyes light on a roadside picnic table and I think to myself…we sat there under an umbrella and ate lunch, marveling at our surroundings.

I suddenly realize that the road I’m on is one we were on in our red Escape.

I’m on that same road now, in my pink car, towing my pink trailer that bears hundreds of names written in red pen.

It isn’t the same.

I didn’t expect it would be, of course.

How could it be?

It’s powerful.

To me and to so many others.

What my pink car and trailer represent, I mean.

I’m passionate about what I’m doing.

I’ll do it as long as I can.

But oh, my dearest Love, my eyes search for you on these roads.

My heart searches for those memories. It searches for all we felt for each other.

I try to feel it again and it’s there but distant…a memory of my mind because it’s been so long.

So very long since I glanced over at you in the driver’s seat and reached out my hand to massage the back of your neck as you steered us into adventure and you returned my glance and smiled and rested your hand on my knee.

Oh, my Love, my dearest Love…

I wish you back, adventuring with me.

I miss you~

This Uncertain Terrain~

The landscape of widowhood.

Of grief.

The Alaskan tundra.

The Sahara Desert.

The Australian Outback.

Every side road in between cities and towns.

This parched landscape

Of devastation.

This existence of one where there was once two.

I picture nothingness

In the midst of these tundras and deserts.

Nothingness under bright blue skies and a sun so piercing

It makes me squint my eyes.

The only water available streams from overheated eyes…

The eyes he used to look into, and smile.

Crawling on hands and knees, searching for something familiar,

Aching muscles and shattered self…

I don’t know where I’m going with this.

It’s been a rough day emotionally.

All I want is the life I had with Chuck,

And that life is dead and gone,

Same as he is.

Do you ever get tired of being brave and courageous,

Even though that’s a very real part of you?

I think of myself as Thing One and Thing Two now and wouldn’t a shrink have a field day with that?

I’m that woman with parched throat and hollow self, crawling through the tundra and desert,

And I’m the woman decked out in pink, foraging for hugs so that I don’t lose my sanity,

Keeping the Love front and center, so that I don’t lose my fucking sanity.

I’m Thing One and Thing Two and both are real.

I desperately miss my beloved husband, Chuck.

The longing for him, the yearning for his touch…that’s my desert. My tundra. My Outback.

And I don’t know what to do with any of it.

So, I write this…

A Thousand Years Ago~

A thousand years ago

I leaned down

Placed my hands to each side of your sunken cheeks

Closed my eyes,

As yours were closed,

And so very gently kissed your lips that had gone completely white

As you took your last breath.

A thousand years ago

As I kissed your lips,

As I’d kissed them thousands of times before

This time now, for the last time…

My heart shattered,

And my mind went blank,

As I stared into a future without your kisses,

Without your touch,

Without your arms around me,

Without our feet moving together in dance…

Without you.

Without us.

Without.

A thousand years ago~

This Woman Who Showed Me the Way~

I don’t write about my mom too often. Not because she wasn’t important to me but because, since Chuck’s death, all I can think about is him, and my life without him.

I’ve always known that I inherited some very clear traits from my mom. She passed along her love of reading to me. Her inability to suffer fools gladly…that she got from her mom. Her sense of humor.

This morning I realized I got a trait from her that I’ve not given much thought to, but one that looms large in my life. The one that has brought me to where I am, 6 years after the death of the man who was my life.

Betty Catharine, my mom, passed along to me the tenacity, the determination, the grit, that has kept me grounded and sane, to the degree that I can claim any sanity at all.

My mom, Betty Catharine, was an active alcoholic for most of my growing up years. There were some rough years, especially in high school.

She got sober, cold turkey, on the day my younger brother Kysa was diagnosed with cancer, and set about making amends (without calling them such) to her eight kids.

How she managed to get sober on her own, without medical intervention, after 30+ years of heavy drinking, I don’t know how she didn’t suffer delirium tremens or anything life threatening, and she never spoke of it, but she did it and stayed sober until she died one and a half years later, of breast cancer. Six months after Kysa died of Hodgkins cancer.

Honestly, as I’ve grown and matured, in the years since mom’s death, I’ve come to know her in more ways than I knew her during her life. As milestones have come and gone in my life that were nothing in degrees to what she’d gone through, I’ve wondered about how she got through the challenges in her life.

She was an Army wife at a time when the military did a bare minimum in supporting families, moving, as she said often, 29 times in 30 years. She had eight children born in 5 states and 3 overseas, and was always either pregnant or had just given birth with many of those moves. My dad frequently reported for duty ahead of her so she’d be in charge of kids, supervising packers/movers, adapting to new homes/countries, knowing nobody, far away from family.

I don’t wonder at all that she took up drinking. The family story is that she went to a doctor for stress (this was in the 50’s) and he told her to have a drink of sherry each evening after the kids were in bed.

She was the daughter of a Presbyterian minister who, in adulthood, converted to Catholicism. She was a nurse. She was the most intelligent, well read person I’ve ever met. She never remembered the punchlines of jokes. She had a droll sense of humor. She adored the royal family and, the older she got, the more like Queen Elizabeth she looked. She left me notes on my pillow as a young teen and called me every morning at 7:30 AM after I left home, cluing me in on political news and encouraging me to call the White House comment line to express my opinion. She’d given me the phone number and I kept it next to my phone on an index card.

She loved me the best she knew how and gave me what she had to give me, in spite of her struggles.

And what she gave me the most of was the grit and tenacity and determination that made her keep standing up when she was knocked down. She never gave in, in spite of what my young eyes saw growing up.

My mom was more than her alcoholism, and it didn’t take me long after her death to realize that.

I’ve no regrets, no blame. Only Love and the heartwarming memory of sitting at the kitchen table with her and my younger sister, Maggie, sharing Hollywood gossip, family stories, politics, everything under the sun, while laughing over our coffee or diet pepsi, in the last year and a half that I had with her, sober and loving and joyful, holding her hand over her mouth when she was doubled over with laughter.

My mom, Betty Catharine, gave me everything I would need as an adult, and it was my privilege to call her mom.

I hope, this Mother’s Day, that, if she is somewhere…and she believed in Heaven so I’ll picture her there…that she has found Chuck, and I hope that they share a hug with each other, from me, the woman who loved them both. Who loves them both so much, still.

I miss you, mom. Thank you for who you were.

What you gave me has helped me continue standing up again and again.

And I always will.

Just like you did~

6 Years. And 6 Centuries~

This Sunday it will be 6 years since Chuck died.

Just writing that number leaves me breathless, and not in a good way.

Jesus.

How can it be 6 years?

Though it might as well be 6 centuries. That’s how it feels.

So, my thoughts on these years/centuries as they meander through my mind…

I spent last weekend with our older son and his family, which includes two grand-goddesses, 5 and 3 years old.

I love them so very much.

And I love my son and his wife so very much, as I do my other kids and their spouses.

But-and I don’t know if this is just me-it’s almost…painful…to be with them. Well, maybe not so much in being with them, but after I leave.

Grief surges up in me as I drive away from them, or any of our kids, after visiting.

Thinking about Chuck, and driving down the road with him. 

Now, looking out at the desert and the mountains…I feel so fucking empty.

Where the ever loving fuck did he go?

If tasked to respond to the question what is it like now, as opposed to those nightmarish days right after he died, this is what I’d say:

It is exactly what a dear widow sister of mine, who was further along than I, told me in my 3rd year of grief.

It isn’t that it gets better. We just get stronger to carry it.

Yes.

I’m definitely stronger to carry it.

6 years out, and contrary to what I look like on the outside, I’m wiry and my arms are strong and my back is straight and my stride is sure.

I know in every part of me that I am living Love out loud.

I approach everyone I meet, whether stranger or family, with Love. Even people I don’t care for.

I’ve learned the subtle art of not giving a fuck. With all the Love in the world, of course.

Anyone who chooses to see me as desperate, depressed, dark, too much, fill in the blank, chooses to question me or my life/methods of navigating this widowhood, etc…oh, I am WAY too strong to be taken down by such judgement.

I wish I’d learned this strength much earlier on, but it happened as it happened, and believe me, that strength is who I am now and it comes from such a place of Love and surety of the Love that Chuck left behind for me, and certainty of what I’m doing along this Odyssey of Love…it makes me absolutely unbeatable. I cannot be taken down by others’ opinions of me. 

This life isn’t easy in any way. It is painful beyond unbearable. It’s impossible. 

And I’m fucking doing it anyways.

I remember what was told to me by a woman I met in a Target store early on my Odyssey of Love. She didn’t know me, had no way of knowing anything about me.

But she purposefully caught my eye as I browsed in the clothing dept of that store. After catching my eye a second time, she approached me and asked if she could tell me something.

I’m always open to whatever comes my way, so I nodded yes. She put her hand ever so gently on my lower arm and looked right at me and said this…

I need to ask you -do you know that you are surrounded by angels? You have so many around you that I can’t even count them. And you are protected. They are protecting you in whatever it is you’re doing. So keep doing it. Just keep going. They are all around you and you are protected.

I didn’t know how to respond, so I thanked her and we went our separate ways. 

But I’ve never forgotten her words.

She was one of the people…the markers…that Chuck told me in an earlier message he’d left for me to help me find my way on this Odyssey of Love. 

I wouldn’t leave you without a road map. I’ve left markers for you along the way, both physical and metaphysical. Look for them.

Those words were told to me, a message from Chuck, by yet another woman, just a few months after he died. Also a woman I’d never met before, who sought me out.

So here’s the thing, world.

Don’t fuck with me. Because, yes, I’m protected and I know it.

I’m protected by a legacy of Love that is more than most people know in a lifetime. By the Love of a community I created for myself around the country. By the Love of 3 adult kids who live their dad’s legacy every damn day. 

I was loved by Chuck.

Five simple words that carry the power and force of forever in them.

I was loved and I am Love.

And no matter what else happens, 

That makes me the fiercest woman alive~