A Yoke and 2 Buckets~

What I knew instinctively as soon as Chuck died, and what I knew I had to immediately institute with myself and my body language, my behavior, my thinking:
Even though my brain was fogged with devastation.
Grief is isolating.
Do every damn thing you can so that you can’t, you don’t, isolate.  Whether you want to or not.  Don’t isolate.  Therein lies your own living death.
Make yourself visible.  You want to disappear.  Don’t allow it to happen.  Make yourself so visible that people will pay attention and, if you try to disappear, they’ll wonder where you are. This will be your saving grace.
When you walk, don’t allow your chin to drop.  Don’t allow your shoulders and posture to sag forward.  You want to do this, but don’t.  Always make sure your chin is up, your shoulders back.
Write. Write about this grief.  Write about this widowhood. Write about the devastation of living without the man you loved more than life. Write, and then write some more.  Keep writing. Always write.  It…this living, breathing, thing called grief, will putrefy inside of you and become toxic if you don’t write. What you write doesn’t have to make sense.  Just write, as if your life depends on it.  Because it does.
Be honest with those around you, whatever their response. It may not matter to them, but it will matter to you, both in the long run and the short run. Be raw and honest and real about it. Even if it hurts. Which it will.  Even if they judge you. Which they will.
Allow yourself to go into the darkness of this devastation.  Yeah, it’s scary to do so, but maybe maybe maybe, somewhere in the darkness, you will find that your other senses will sharpen, and you’ll find your way through this to whatever degree it can be gone through.
None of this is okay and it’s okay to acknowledge that.  It sucks and you don’t have to pretty it up for anyone.
However devastating, unbearable, impossible, lonely, soul-shattering this grief, is…and it is…remember remember remember every damn day, every minute of every damn day, every second of every damn minute, the Love that Chuck left behind for you and fucking make it balance as much as you can every nanosecond.  Carry the bucket of Love and carry the bucket of grief and know that, even though they slosh over during the day, making a mess, as long as they’re mostly equally filled at the end of the day, then it’s been a manageable day.

And manageable is okay~   yoke2[2458]

Love’s Guiding Force~

Today is the 21 anniversary of my brother Kysa’s death.  January 26, 1996.  Two decades plus one year.

I sat with him as he transitioned and was with him when he died.  It was the first time I’d ever been with anyone who died and it was a very physical process for him. None of it freaked me out, really, as much as it left me in awe and wonder.  What I was privileged to witness gave me a glimpse into what I believed was a world beyond ours; it was enough to leave me shaken for years as I strove to make sense of it and find a place for it in my life.

In the month before Kysa died, family and friends sent lengths of colorful cloth to wrap him in for cremation.  My brother-in-law made a sturdy and lovely oak body board for him.  We were all very hands on in his last hours, talking to him, moistening his chapped lips with ice cubes, wiping his brow, drumming softly with animal skin drums and fanning him with feathers.

I felt like a cheerleader as he died, quietly encouraging him to relax into what was happening.  Near the very end, as he choked and the death rattle took over, I found myself chanting go Kysa you’re almost there keep going as if I was cheering him to a finish line.  And indeed, that’s how it felt.  It felt like I walked right up to the veil between this world and the next and pulled it back aside and then stepped back, because this was his time, not mine.  And as I gazed upon his quiet body, relaxed against the sheets, I felt, of all things, pride.  Pride in him, that he’d won some invisible marathon and was now beyond the veil, hands triumphantly raised in the air.

We, all of our nearby family, went with him to be cremated.  We held a service over his body on the gurney, tucked flowers into his shroud, murmured blessings, quoted poems, and then stepped outside to give his widow her time with him. 792143_10152488276805441_1728747169_o

It was the most powerful moment of my life.

Until Chuck died.

What we did with Chuck in hospice, how we tended him and loved him, and the way we cared for him as he lay dying, the way we bathed him ourselves, and dressed him, then shrouded him with soft blankets…supported his body as they lifted him to the gurney to take him away, went with him to be cremated, covered him with flowers, tucked notes into his shroud…the Love that guided my finger to press the switch that opened the doors of the crematorium…the grace that held me up as I heard the loud swoosh of the flames…

I knew to do what I did for Chuck because we’d done it for my brother all those many years ago.  Because of Kysa I knew to challenge the narrow parameters of thinking that I might otherwise have had.  Our homage to my brother opened my heart to light and Love.  What I learned at his bedside in 1996 remained in my soul and as I watched my beloved husband die, as I gazed upon his still body after a death that was unbearable to witness, I knew that what I did and how I did it was only about Love, not about fear.  All that determined how I and our daughter and Chuck’s daughter did what we did was the law of Love.  Tending the body of my husband after death couldn’t be left to strangers, as careful as they might be.

In those moments after he died, I remembered Chuck’s words to his doctors after the many surgeries resulting from his first cancer a year and a half earlier.  His left arm and right thigh from knee to hip looked like hamburger from grafting of skin and blood vessels and muscle tissue.  The bandages required twice daily renewal and the dr. wished to set him up with a visiting nurse.  Chuck thanked him and refused, telling him that he was sure they’d do a good job but I would do better because you see, Dr. my wife loves me and that makes all the difference in the world.  Mind you, I’d never done such a thing before and was most definitely not a nurse.  But Chuck was right.  I loved him and it was a service I could do for him. Did for him. With Love. 043

Which is precisely how I felt when he went into hospice in April 2013 and died 3 weeks later.  I looked at the man I loved lying on that bed, his breath forever stilled and knew that no stranger could care for him in the same way I could.  And in my mind I saw him smile at me as I dipped a clean cloth in the warm, soapy water and began washing him, and then dressed him in street clothes again because I knew he hated the hospital gown and, finally, wrapped him in colorful blankets.  A week later I gently pressed the switch to open the doors to admit his body into the flames and turn his beloved body into ash. photo

My brother Kysa in 1996 and what I learned from being with him as he died empowered me to do the same, and more, with my beloved husband Chuck after his death, many years later.

Love gives me the power to do all that needs doing and it opens my heart to possibilities and deeds never imagined.  Love is all that matters.  collage

I’ll Be at my Hotel~

I remember these words from my mom, spoken many years ago at a time when one of my younger brothers was dying.

Family and friends had gathered from around the country to say final goodbyes.  As it happened, he didn’t die until many months later, but it seemed like the end, so…there we were.

There were 8 kids in our family;  our folks were divorced, but we were all there that long ago weekend, and, as is normal at such a time, emotions were running high.  It’s funny to me, really, to think of my mom at that time.  She’d been alcoholic for decades but, as I came to recognize as I grew and matured, that was only one aspect of her personality.  Mom was also an intellectual, wise beyond wise, realistic, and she had a hugely funny cynical sense of humor that I totally loved.  She’d been an Army wife for 20+ years, a demanding lifestyle that took her overseas frequently, and around the USA, oftentimes as she was ready to deliver another child, or having just delivered a child.  The strength that was molded into her bones didn’t come easily or lightly, and there was much to admire about her, in spite of her alcoholism.  In the decades since her death (she died of breast cancer just 6 months after my brother Kysa succumbed to Hodgkins), I’ve come to admire her even more and sometimes wondered, given all that life pushed on her, why she wasn’t also a drug addict. (I say that with a sense of humor, because, really, looking at her life, who wouldn’t want to anesthetize themselves as thoroughly as possible?)

Anyways, back to the topic at hand…my brother dying and all of us gathered together to say goodbye and emotions running rampant, except that mostly it seemed none were being expressed (our family didn’t do emotions well, if at all). Which made for very dicey possibilities, none of which sounded good.

A meeting was called at a sibling’s house, to discuss…shit, I don’t even remember anymore what exactly needed to be discussed. I do recall that there had been a few angry outbursts and there was an air of uncertainty floating about, as if anyone in the area might need to take cover momentarily. Like the  heebie jeebie feeling that I imagine might crawl along one’s spine prior to a major engagement involving weapons (not that any of us were packing).  In any case, my mom, being the smart woman she was after raising 8 kids, beckoned me over to her and in a very calm voice requested that I drive her back to her hotel.  But don’t you want to join us at the meeting?  I naïvely asked.  Mom shot me this deadpan look as if taking my crazy temperature, and said if you think that I’m going to put myself in the middle of whatever is going on, you’ve got another think coming.  I’ll tell you what. You go and then come tell me all about it. I’ll be at the hotel.  Watching TV.

All of this to say, and why I’m telling you this, is that my mom gave the greatest response ever and I think of it whenever I’m with my kids and their spouses and their kids, when emotions are running high and it’s all kind of chaotic and undecided with the almost sure outlook of exploding fireworks and I just want to tell them, seriously,  I already did all this when I was in my 30’s and figuring it out and I don’t need to be part of all of your figuring it out, so thank you anyways, but…

I’ll be at my hotel.

I graciously extend the invitation to all of you, dear readers, to use this response, especially those of you who are parents with adult kids. Especially when the hackles on your neck rise in family situations that are beginning to sound explosive…listen to those hackles.

This is a mighty useful phrase to use at such times.

Thank you to my mom, Betty Catharine Miller~


Things and Stuff~

Grief, at least mine, has run a scorched earth policy through my life and its’ made me think about things.  In this case, physical things and stuff.  Stuff that can cause so much uproar when a loved one sickens and dies.  The stuff they leave behind.

I’m not preachifying.  Things and belongings, and our reaction to them  affect us humans in different ways.  We become attached to things and rules and “shoulds” and “have to’s”.  Maybe too attached, do you ever think?

Handsome Husband and I spent the last 4 years ridding ourselves of external, material things.  Every time we went to our storage unit, we rid ourselves of more.  When I stopped there on my way East, after his death, I stopped there again and went through everything of ours, his and mine, and donated more.  All of his stuff was either donated or given to our kids or to his friends.  Recently I sold the car we’d traveled in these last few years to our older son.  I had to remove his name from joint accounts, start my own bank account, and close his phone account.  That was really hard.

All of it has been hard to do, I won’t lie to you.  It’s been fucking impossible. In many ways I feel like I’ve wiped him out of my life physically, and in most external ways, I guess I have.  What I  travel with now is a small bag of his clothes, his cremains in a box next to me on the seat and the flag that was given to me at his service.  I have pictures of the two of us plastered all over the dashboard of my car so that I can look at them and remember and feel as if he is with me.  I want these few reminders because I don’t feel him around me psychically.  I also have a small filigree cylinder around my neck that holds some of his cremains.  His wedding ring remains on my right hand ring finger, as mine remains on my left ring finger.  I change them around frequently, uncertain about what to do with them but still wanting them.  I still feel very much his, and I like that I do.

There are very few traces of him left in a physical way and that in and of itself is kind of fitting.  He was Buddhist and practiced non-attachment, and he and I together certainly practiced simplicity in our traveling life.  As we shed the external material things, we started looking at the internal things we could also shed:  behavioral patterns, old thinking, social expectations, whatever came up was studied with a critical eye and held onto or shed if we realized it was more about habit than thought.  The same holds true in a different way for me in regards to his physical possessions.  The fewer of his possessions that I hold, the stronger my memories and the love of him become.  There is no external distraction.  What I hold inside is so much more valuable than anything he owned.  He left everything to me in his will and I’ve willingly shared things around with our kids and friends and strangers and anyone else I thought might like to have a part of him.  He would appreciate that.  There’s been no arguments regarding any of his physical possessions.  Any struggle about ownership, so to speak,  has been of him, of his memory, in a more emotional way, in our family.  Which has been resolved by letting go of needing to have ownership.

I always swore I’d never get a tattoo.  Why pay for pain, I asked?  In the last 2 weeks, I’ve gotten 2 tattoos and nobody is more surprised than I.  One on the back of my neck, saying “Nothin’ but Love” and the other on the inside of my left wrist that says “Love” in very graceful lettering.   I thought to have his initials put on the inside of the circle on the back of my neck, but this, my new life, is about more than just him as my husband.  This life, and the tattoos that reflect it, are about what he truly left behind for me, which is all the love and passion that he and I shared in our 24 years together.  Does it make sense to you when I say that is bigger than his initials?  This life I’m creating for myself is about his spirit and mine and that very passion, and the initials would be kind of meaningless.  The stuff I have can never be taken from me by anyone.

Which brings me back to what I think about when I think about material possessions left behind by those who have died, or who are downsizing for any and all reasons.  People fight about them, families are ripped apart, and general chaos and mayhem and ugliness results.  What we’re seeking, when we rip and pull at each other about such things, is affirmation that we mattered to our mom, to our dad, to the one who is leaving this life.  That we are loved and acknowledged.  We can get trapped into thinking that it really is about that THING, when if you really look at it, it isn’t.

I get it.  We’re human.  Shit about stuff happens.  But those things really don’t matter.  Who gives a flying fuck about any of it?  How about instead we connect with each other, as we nurse our loved ones through their final stages of life and then bury them?  How about instead of talking about THINGS, we talk with each other about the memories, the love, and what really matters?  How about if we connect with each other in love instead of hate and vitriol?

Death happens in life.  We acknowledge that in principle but I think we don’t really take it in until it happens and the person you love so much is lying in front of you, their body frozen in death, white as a sheet, unmoving, unblinking, heart stopped.  Death is cold and heartless and we can get protective of what stuff is left when the physical body is no more.  In our need to feel loved, we can end up one-upping the love quotient.  He loved me more.  I was her favorite.  My grief is stronger than your grief.  She wanted me to have this particular stuff of hers.  No, she wanted me to have it.  Disagreement.  Anger.  Shredding of self and others.  All over stuff.  Stuff.  And Things.  Here’s my test for you.  If this person you’re arguing with about stuff were to die tomorrow, would you feel guilty about the argument?  Have regrets?  Wish you’d done it differently?   Feel just plain stupid? Hopefully so, I say hopefully.  If the answer is yes, then open your heart to the discussion about the stuff.  Or don’t even discuss it.  Just let it go with love.

Enough about Stuff.   I know you all know this, so I’m preaching to the choir.   It isn’t Stuff that matters.  It’s Love.  That’s all there is.  Not in a song title way but in a very serious way.   Don’t. Allow. Things. To. Be. More. Important. Than. The. LOVE.

Road-tripping with a sister~

I picked up Handsome Husband’s sister yesterday so that she can road trip with me to Indiana.   She flew into Albuquerque from her home in Washington state.  She’d been with us in hospice and is grieving her brother deeply, and her innate kindness led her to offer to drive with me on this, my maiden voyage of being without him.

Life is full of pain right now and I’ve accepted that, even while striving to look beyond it.  Or, rather, I’ve striven to let possibilities of happiness exist even as the grief is my baseline.   As seems to be the case since HH’s death, the prospect of goodbyes and being on the road on my own, causes anxiety to run through me and such was the case yesterday morning as I faced the farewells with my daughter and son-in-law.  Leaving them, leaving Arizona-another step away from the living time with Handsome Husband.  We spent last winter in Arizona; that’s where his sickness started becoming pronounced. Our daughter has been with me from beginning to end regarding his cancer and has stood strong, even while grieving with me.  So, yes, hard to say goodbye.  My sister, mom of my niece who got married and was the reason for me being in Santa Fe, stopped by for a final goodbye and words to cheer me on.  She’s been nothing short of all that is love and encouragement.  I’ll miss them all.

The short road from one point to another?  Yep, as I gazed out at the wide open skies of New Mexico, the pickax hammered away at me.  He would have loved this.   Driving there alone is perhaps a necessary therapy for me; he’s gone and he’s not coming back.  This is my new life.

His sister, D, and I will find our way to Indiana, which is where his mom lives.  We’re not rushing but we’re not lingering too much.  Today we’ll cross into Texas and stay in Amarillo for the night, maybe check out some Route 66 scenery.  I’m not terribly interested in adventuring, honestly, but this is good therapy too, I know.  Mini trips with someone else.  A way of getting me out there, while having someone with me.  Dipping my toes in the pool.  And even though I don’t like it, and the grief rises to my gullet constantly, this also is necessary.

We’ve already spent so much time just talking, and that’s good.  Grief, starting life again, our memories of his hospice time, family, relationships, anything that comes to mind.  This is going to be healing for both of us in so many ways.  Handsome Husband would be incredibly happy that she and I are doing this together.  Family meant everything to him, and, well… here you go!

And, on a side note:  yes, my car is getting looks.  How can you miss “Chuck watchin’ Over Me” pink?  The server at our table last night asked to take a picture of it.  Yes, of course.  And, side story on that:  I explained to her why the pink and she offered to me that her own husband died just 4 months ago.  We shared pictures of our loved ones and thumbs up as we left.  And, yes, there goes another moment to put in my heart~e1cb25dfeef995bd6d5c1709adf15b88

The Love That’s Here, the Love I Miss~

My niece is getting married today.  I traveled here to just outside of Santa Fe New Mexico to join in with the festivities.  More goodbyes began the trip, to our older son Snads, to Arizona, where Handsome Husband and I spent last winter.  The lines between him being alive with me and where we were together are thinning, as I begin my travels East.  He had made reservations for our time here in NM, attending this wedding together was high on my list of “looking forwards to”.

Most goodbyes entail hellos somewhere else, and it holds true here.  My daughter Rae and her husband traveled  with me to this most beautiful spot.  My niece will be married at The Hacienda, right outside of Santa Fe.  The Sangre di Cristos mountains surround us. 66907_10152398636565400_159529439_nIMG_1445Last night all branches of the family-Millers, Wilsons, Cronins, Royems, and many of their branches, gathered for dinner, hosted by the groom’s parents.  The seating, the feel of it, was close-knit and informal.  Many of us were strangers but it didn’t stay that way for long.  Young and old mixed freely, new friends were met easily.

Just a quick digression here.  Ever since Handsome Husband went into hospice, and I determined the energy that I wanted to have around him, and us, was nothing but love, I have continued to be conscious of my surroundings and whether or not that energy is projected, no matter what situation I might be in.

And here, last night, as we all gathered, yes, that was here.  I’m still all over the place emotionally and I choke up easily with my grief.  I’m in a safe place here with that grief.  I miss Handsome Husband acutely-it feels similar to what I can imagine it would be to have a cheese grater constantly scraping against skin and bone and heart. BUT, what I can also say is that I’m finding what I hoped to find.  My grief is strong, but the love around me is equally strong.  Love is grief is love is magic is grief is love is magic.  It’s here and it surrounded me and immersed me last night and is ongoing today.  My siblings who are here, my nephews and nieces, new friends-my heart is wrapped up in the warmth of theirs.  And, yes, I miss him miss him miss him.  I want to dance with him at the reception, I want to stand on the patio overlooking the beauty of New Mexico and have him wrap his arms around me as it soaks into us.  That can’t happen, will never happen again.  And I hate it with all that I am.

Again, BUT, there is so much love here that the grief is almost overwhelmed.  With all the planning that has gone into this by my sister, her daughter, and other family members, they already, yesterday, created all that is magic here and the wedding itself is icing on the cake.

Love is here, passionately and wonderfully and all encompassing-ly (is that a word?).  We are all surrounded, immersed and enveloped.

Nothin’ but love.  And how beautiful is that?  IMG_1487

Philosophically, the Biologic Imperative of Grief~

This is running around in my brain because of a post that I recently saw reference Handsome Husband, and I hadn’t given thought to the possibility, until I saw it.

Handsome Husband’s death, like any death, has brought up emotions and questions that weren’t necessarily front and center during his life.   Marie Rilke, the philosopher, long ago suggested that life doesn’t always give us answers, so become comfortable in the questions.  (I’m hugely paraphrasing her there).  I’m able to do that in life, for the most part, and actually find a great comfort in not having to have the answers to so much of life.  It makes me think, and opens me up to possibilities.

My mind, my soul, my heart, and my body have been immersed in nothing but grief, (that’s news to all of you, I’m certain), so I have an appreciation that the post gives me an opportunity for my mind to be otherwise engaged.   Is there a biological imperative to grief?   Not that we grieve because we are human, but what more along the lines of is there a difference in a person’s grief because they are biologically related?  Is there something that happens in the body itself that might prove that out?    I’m posing that in a genuinely being interested in feedback way.  Let’s step beyond the immediate gut response to “of course there isn’t”  to, is that a possibility?   Social scientists, bereavement folk, feel free to jump in and offer an opinion here.  I’m a voracious reader of memoirs, of books about the human condition, I’ve done non-stop observation and discussion with people in grief over the past decades, plus I have my own personal experience, so that has to suffice for me.  Which is why I invite any and all of you to comment on this.  This is the stuff that I find fascinating about humans.

Observationally, for an overall picture, we have to add into the mix (of being Humans), the grief that can hit a nation in the gut when someone famous and loved, whom we don’t know at all personally, dies.  Think Diana, Princess of Wales.  (I just saw the movie “Queen” the other day).  JFK, of course, comes to mind-there are a few who touched people’s lives dramatically and were truly grieved.  Now, was that in a removed enough way that people didn’t actually mourn for a lengthy time, or did it impact their daily lives, as grief does?  It clearly didn’t require a personal relationship, yet people mourned deeply, each time.  Where does that grief fit?

Handsome Husband and I had a blended family.  He brought one daughter to the marriage, who is the eldest, and I brought one daughter and two sons. All of them were very young when he and I married-his daughter no more than 2nd or 3rd grade (I’m horrible at remembering these things-he was the memory of we two), my youngest was just out of diapers (sorry, Fireman Nick).  My ex chose not to be a part of their lives, with no interest in seeing them or paying child support, so  Handsome Husband, when he signed on, did so with an open and knowing and welcoming heart.  He parented my 3 and they became his and it was the rare person who knew they weren’t biologically his, because he never called them his “steps”.  He remained an involved dad with his daughter-truly involved in that he traveled a long distance 3xs weekly to be in her life for home and school, with telephone calls and all the love he had in his heart.  One day he had one kid, the next day he had four.   Shortly after we married, when we contemplated adding yet another child to the mix, he told me that he’d always wanted to have a large family; though clearly  he hadn’t given thought to just the hows of it happening.   And he’d given thought to adopting my 3, only not doing so because my ex wouldn’t allow it (it was an ownership thing).   And life happens that way, doesn’t it?  There are ten thousand ways to get what you want, including a family, which brings us back to…grief.7296_10152710801865198_116611773_n

So, to keep this all to the point:  all 4 kids grew up knowing him as their dad, and the only thing that separated them was, and is, DNA.  But is there a biological DNA imperative involved when it comes to grieving?  I’m thinking of adopted kids who are raised by parents un-related by DNA, of kids who might have horrible parents but find that one person who makes a difference in their lives, even briefly  (a teacher or a mentor).  Further, let’s add gender into it,  which took me a bit by surprise, honestly, because it just wasn’t on my radar.  Prior to his death, Handsome Husband took aside our oldest son, Snads, and passed the torch, so to speak, of being “the man of the family”.   (Another blog there, regarding my instinctual strong woman vs you can’t fight nature and it all comes from his heart response).  Do each of the people in these various situations grieve differently because they are DNA related, or does it have more to do with love, and shared history?     ( Like most of life, if we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty of it).

Even as I’m writing this, I’m realizing the depth of the topic.  I suppose the true question is:  is grief measurable?   And, if so, how is it measured?  Does a person’s grief run more deeply because they share DNA?   Because they were chosen (think adoption). Because they shared a life, as in being married, or partnered?  Because they loved and were loved?  What if you love someone but they don’t love you?  Is that a different grief?  Does length of relationship make a difference?  Does the type of relationship matter?  (Wife, child, friend, ex, etc).  How about daily exposure to a person?  If you were with someone every day vs only occasionally, what is your grief?   Perhaps, at times, the question that would be more accurately posed, what people are truly meaning, is:  did I love him/her enough, did he/she, love me enough?  Often, in a grieving time,  people jockey for position, seeking out their part in that loved one’s life, needing reassurance.  We each bring something to the end of life, whether your own’s or a loved one’s.   Which is why this is an incredibly fascinating philosophical discussion in my mind.   It can seem very convoluted, but honestly, I love questions such as these.  There is healing to be found in this discussion.  As a bereavement counselor, sure, I’ve got a pretty good handle on the answers, both professionally from training and because these are the questions that arise in grief support groups, which is why I’m posing them here.  As my husband’s widow, I’m grieving-no news there.  Each of his four kids is grieving deeply, each according to the relationship they had with him.  Not in a DNA way, but in an “I miss doing things with him/talking to him/having him in my life and I miss my dad” way.  His friends are deeply grieving him-I hear that from them in regular phone calls from them as they check in on me, not only out of their love for me, but because they know that Handsome Husband would like for them to do so.

IMG_0761IMG_0825IMG_0841My bottom line is the same bottom line I carried when Handsome Husband was ill and there were so many relationships and emotions swirling around him, as each person sought their final time with him, their final words with him, their final time of showing him love and receiving his love.  The name of the relationship didn’t matter then and it doesn’t matter now.  I was intent on having the people there who needed to be there.   It wasn’t so much about the name of the relationship as it was the relationship itself, which is what enabled me too consciously step back from my alone time with him throughout his process, allowing things to happen that I knew needed to happen.  Not because I’m a very cool person, but because I knew what he wanted and what he needed, because he and I had just spent the last 4 years in a car together, ruminating over this very scenario and because, yes, I knew my husband.  Handsome Husband was all about the love.  For me, for his 4 kids, his sister, his nieces, for his “brother from another mother”, from his close friends, his AA buddies, his sponsees, those who weren’t able to be there physically but were there in spirit.  The love ebbed and flowed, according to what each person needed from him and what he needed from them.  Not all of ran clearly or smoothly, simply reflecting life at its’ deepest levels. I wanted him to have, I wanted the entire experience for him, to be about nothin’ but love.

And that’s exactly what happened.  155725_10151529368834378_928514197_n

Over My Shoulder~

2013.  Here we go!  One more year under our belts as Happily Homeless.  Not for the faint of heart, folks.  This life we’re leading can look pretty exotic from the outside, I fully realize that, but I’m owning up to the fact that it gets tiring at times, in spite of the  hotel stays, and no job to have to go to. We’re living the words of America the Beautiful  and yes, it does make for excitement.  I think of all the cool stuff, and I’m torn.  Keep traveling or settle down?

We’ve seen those spacious skies-IMG_7525

 Amber waves of grain-IMG_7185Purple mountains majesty-IMG_7345

We’ve been from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  This year we had, again, the joy of connecting with family throughout the country, renewing bonds that had grown lax over the years. We had the chance to see our grandson on his last day of school, and, right before we left Vermont, accompany him on his first day of 5th grade.  In between we hiked mountains, rode the rides at country fairs, watched our grandson learn to sail on Lake Champlain, hosted sleep overs and swims in the hotel pool, painted our faces like butterflies, and made memories that will be in our hearts forever.pizap.com13570917955681 We connected with family again-that was one of my favorite parts of this year!

pizap.com13570935153611We said goodbye to a dear friend-that was hard.  We miss knowing that you’re here on this earth with us, Baker Mike.IMG_1377

Handsome Husband and I were proud to meet my dad in DC for his Honor Flight.   We visited battlefields, forts and monumentsManassas, Saratoga, Ft Union,- and were hosted by our daughter’s in-laws. (I’ve had discussion with numerous people as to what exactly to call that relationship and the one I love best is that they, Sam and Angie, are, simply, part of our tribe.  I like that.  Except maybe I’ll say clan instead, seeing as I come from Scottish stock.) IMG_6219I pushed my boundaries on a zip line, accepting a double-dare from the friend who is so close to my heart as to really be my sister. (And we all know that it just isn’t done to refuse a double-dare!)  Yep, I took a breath and jumped~IMG_3751But, dear readers, if I’m being honest here, there are moments, amidst all of this, where Handsome Husband and I think “Is it time to settle down?”  Arizona has been steady ground under our feet for the past 3 months, and there is so much to do here, (hiking, belly dance, hooping, family dinners, the list is endless!) and so much that I’ve grown interested in, and so we do think sometimes, that maybe its time. There are so many things I want to do still-my idea of retirement and Handsome’s, are clearly two different things!  It’s a twist in me:  after having seen so many friends and family, I wonder, how much am I missing those permanent ties of staying in one place?  And the next second I think, well, if we were to settle down, it wouldn’t be possible to see everyone as often as we do now, by traveling. A conundrum, that’s what it is!  And, fortunately, one that doesn’t need an immediate decision.

So, in the meanwhile, we’re open to new travel and new opportunities as we step into this new year. What lies around the corner?  Next month will see us headed towards California for a few months,  a return to Arizona for the birth of our grand-baby, then New Mexico for a family wedding.  East again.  Its will be a full year, and then, of course, there’s always the unexpected that jumps into the middle of plan making of any sort.  Life is open in front of us!

What do you think?  Settle down?  Continue traveling?

Family moments~

Family.  We all have them of one sort or another.  Scattered.  Close.  Dysfunctional.  Working.  Big. Small.  All shapes and sizes.  Love.  Hate.  And everything in between.

This almost 3 1/2 years of traveling as Happily Homeless has been, for me, about family.  Discovering it.  Tracking it down.  Reconnecting with it.  Finding roots in a way I’ve never had.  Realizing that keeping it can take effort and time.  Which is not a bad thing.  How can any relationship be sustained if there is no effort?  A realization that isn’t new on my part, but definitely a new perception of it as we’ve traveled.

So, my family.  I grew up in a family of eight kids.  Twenty years between the youngest and the oldest.  Five boys.  Three girls.  I’m the youngest of the older four.  The middle sister.  My dad had a brother and a sister.  There are two cousins from them.  My mom had two brothers.  Her brother Les was born on her birthday seven years apart.  He and his wife Linda had two kids.  Numbers and more numbers.

My siblings and I grew up and scattered to live our lives.  Married. Children. Divorced.  Our family has never been easy.  We had our own way of keeping the “fun” in dysfunctional.  There were issues, but sometimes its been nothing more than time and distance keeping us apart, and not paying attention to the relationships.

This underlying theme of my years of travel has been about re-establishing and reconnecting with my immediate and extended family.  I have an overwhelming curiosity about my parents (who divorced), my sibs individual relationships with them, who my parents were as young adults, the relationships they had with their own siblings.  You know-everything!  And so I’ve sought out relatives as we’ve traveled, and I’ve grown my tribe.  I’ve met relatives I never thought I’d meet!

California:  my Aunt Linda, whom I’d met twice in my life.  I went and visited her and she gave me a big box of family papers left to me by my Uncle Les.  During my visit with her I met her son, my cousin Kevin.  I really liked him.  There was a strong family resemblance to my mom, who was an intellectual, same as him.  And I was so glad I stopped to visit Aunt Linda.  She died not a year later in a fall.  

Northern California:  my cousin Laura, Aunt Linda’s daughter.  I need to get in touch with her again.  I want to know her better.  Also in northern CA, I met Laura’s daughter Jessica.  What is that relationship-cousin once removed?  Not sure.  But Jessica had a daughter of her own.  Need to contact her too.   

Maine:  I attended my Uncle Ken’s funeral and was able to meet his widow, my Aunt Peggy again.  She’s a firecracker, even in her 80’s.  Her son, my cousin David, and his family-met them too!

Connecticut:  my cousin Sam and his wife, Jean, and their son, Jon.  I was able to take our son, Fireman Nick, who also lives in that state, over to meet them.  I wanted him to know them, and know that he has family nearby.   

Maine again:  I spent time with one of my older brother’s, David, and his wife Linda. David has that kind of humor where he says something funny, but he’s kind of non dramatic about it and a minute later you realize what he said and you kill yourself laughing.  He and I spent time perusing family geneology.   My older sister Catharine came to visit while I was there.  She and I have come a long way in building a friendship and I so cherish that!  

Colorado:  my dad.  I’ve loved spending more time here with him.  Today Handsome Husband and I went up to Estes Park to meet up with my oldest brother Ken.  I haven’t seen him in 7 years.  Not for any particular reason.  Just life, and our lives are different, so we didn’t.  But I’m going to stay in touch with him from now on.  And I hope he feels the same.  He reads my blog so he’ll see this (Hi Ken!  We had such a great time hanging out with you today!)  

Tomorrow, my youngest brother Joseph is coming up to Loveland with his two boys, my nephews, Finn and Arden. I last saw Arden when he was maybe a year or so old.  Finn was a couple months old.  Presumably he’s taller now.  My kids and I, who always make up nicknames for people, and combine names (how Hollywood of us!) call them FinnArden.  Lovingly, of course.  Joseph’s girlfriend, Tammy, will be with him, so I’ll meet her for the first time.  Joseph and I have spoken on the phone for the first time in these last couple days.  We’ve laughed a lot.  I’m going to really like connecting with him again.  And we’re going to stay connected, and I’m going to be present in his kids’ lives, even if its through the mail, and the internet.

It has taken me out of my comfort zone, reaching out to family.  How odd to say that.  But we haven’t been connected and I got out of the habit of reaching out, and nurturing the relationships.  I’m very glad I took that breath and picked up the phone.  It was worth it for me.  It is worth it to me.  It doesn’t always work when we reach out to others.  But sometimes it does.  And dear readers, it is priceless and heart-warming, and an altogether lovely feeling when it does.  Life is good.