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.

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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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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~

Dance Partners~

I used to dance with my beloved husband…

We danced dreamily, to Clint Black, to Chicago, to Elvis, to whatever tune happened to be playing, wherever we were.
Oh, how we danced…his right arm around me, my hand clasped in his.
At the end of the dance, he’d always dip me back in his arms, and then kiss my hand.
I dance still, these 4 years and 10 months since his death.

I dance the Widow dance.

Sometimes I dance what I call Spirit dancing, which consists of turning on music we used to dance to, and putting my hand in his hand that is no longer there to clasp mine, and placing my other hand on a shoulder that no longer supports me.

My feet move in the same pattern and I always close my eyes, remembering back.

But mostly, now, I dance with an intangible partner that is hard to name.

Grief, but so much more.

Loneliness is a consistent and dependable partner. It’s an awkward partner, this one. Moving my feet with it, not feeling, yet feeling everything. I don’t like how Loneliness is always just there, insisting on every damn dance.

My partner named Dislocation is always there too, waiting on the sidelines. Our dance together entails quite a bit of bumping into sharp edges and uneven ground beneath us. Kind of like Elaine on Seinfeld; uncoordinated stumbling, but with flair, if such it can be called.

Heartache is a gentle dance partner. Our dance is one of synchronization, shadowing one another gracefully, our toes pointed, our hands reaching to the Universe, or wrapping tenderly around our bodies. The lights dim when Heartache and I glide out to the dance floor. We are familiar with each other and we move separately and in tandem, with no hesitation. We know each other well.

Emptiness doesn’t dance with me as much as it jumps up and down in a crazy free style frenzy, demanding my attention, causing me to wonder why it’s always there and never seems to change, or go away, even if I accept a dance from…

Adventure. Adventure seeks my hand and leads me into steps that have no particular direction or pattern, and allow me to feel unfettered and open. Where might this partner lead me, I ask myself. We slide from one type of music to another, tentative at times, but sure nonetheless, never knowing where our feet will take us. Quick tempos with swirls and dips, holding hands or, even sometimes, sending me spinning off on my own. Adventure is quick but steady and sure. We work well together out there on the floor.

My dance is a widowed dance now, and it isn’t anywhere near as satisfactory or fulfilling as it was with my beloved husband, but it is powerful and even, I think, abandoned.

And maybe, in the abandon of this whirling dervish of a dance, I’ll find my beloved somehow. Or find me. I don’t think I’ll know which until I stand breathless from exertion, breathing it all in, when the music stops.
Maybe both.
It’s all about the dance, meanwhile~

Because Love Must…

I must write about Love, because I will go fucking insane if I write of the painful past. I will go fucking insane from..I don’t know…rage? World stopping anxiety? Despair?
It goes by many names, this feeling that is the experience I shared with Chuck in his hospice time. In the cancer time. In his death and dying time.
How I torture myself by reading the blogs I wrote on my private page, of those times. And yet, how unfailingly drawn I am to read of those times…
The horrifying morning where I drove Chuck to the ER because this man who had a massively high pain threshold could no longer absorb the pain of the cancer that returned and ate his ribs, and made it difficult to walk.
The determination of me, of our kids, to make his hospice time one of Love, not instead of fear, but as a cup for the fear.
The horror of realizing that my beloved husband was dying and I couldn’t stop it.
And the sharp in breath I took when I recognized, somehow, that the breath he was taking at that moment, would be his last breath.
The…everything…as I put my hand on his heart and knew that he was gone.
And that my entire life was somehow, also…gone.
My god, the dread, the panic, the purity of that moment of sheer Hiroshima level shock…
I must focus on the Love. Or go more fucking insane than any person since time began.
The Love.
His Love for me, and mine for him.
Chuck was my life, and I, his.
With kids and siblings and parents and friends we loved deeply…still, and all, it was me and him, always.
I recall his Love more than I recall him, weirdly. He is so gone, has been so gone since he took his last breath. It was as if he and I had never been a we together. The mind fuck began at that moment he drew his last breath.
I try to remember him as a man, as the man who was with me in our Love story, but it seems so distant. And that, too, is a mind fuck.
Did we even ever exist as a man and a woman together?
The mind fuck waits patiently for me, at the corners of my mind. Remember the agony of those last 3 weeks, it bids me. Remember that you can barely remember who you were together. Remember that there is only pain if you give energy to any of that.
No.
I may not remember much of us, in my mind. But my heart remembers being loved well and truly and passionately. It wasn’t a figment of my imagination, though his continued absence tries to tell me otherwise.
There was a man named Chuck, many years ago, and a woman named Alison, who fell in love and beat the odds against them. They were real people…there are pictures to prove it. And oh, how they loved each other and danced through time and kissed and held hands and were strong together and oh, how cherished and nurtured that woman felt.
Love did live for those 24 years, no matter what tricks my mind attempts to play.
Love lived.
It lives still, in a very unsatisfying way, because he isn’t here, but in a manifestly huge way, because he isn’t here.
Love fucking lives.

I Believe~

I believe in Love.
I believe that Love enriches and empowers and creates and morphs mere humans into magnificent beings.
I believe that life dares us and bids us, at our best and our worst, to open our hearts to Love.
I believe that life challenges us, through strife and perplexity and awkwardness, to continue loving in the face of all that it throws at us.
I believe that life entreats us and whispers to us…allow, yield, concede, open, persevere,
In spite of and because of…
Love. Just Love.
Because Love makes living worth…living.
Love will, and does, always, as it shifts and slides in subtle and magnificent fashion, from present to future to muted past,
Demand its’ own lofty price,
As Love morphs into dimensions not of this world.
Oh, but Love…Love, my Love, all Love, and the reckoning we who love, face…
The reckoning we bear…
Yes, well worth the cost to our hearts…
My heart flaunts a colorful stamp that loudly and fiercely proclaims…PAID IN FULL
Loving you, my beloved, was worth all that is my now.
Love, in our time, was strong and viable and tangible.
It remains so, though you are gone from me.
I will always and emphatically profess to the compelling beauty of Love found
Love lived
Even…maybe…Love lost.
Perhaps…on some yet uncharted plain, found again.
I believe in the paramount power of Love
To transform, lighten, brighten, stun, envelop, wrap, enfold,
One life, two lives, the lives of millions
The lives of many and all.
I believe in the power of Love to carry me through hellfire.
Carry us through this burning inferno.
Through grief
Through life again.
Love lived and spoken,
Transcends all lives,
Love, lived, grows and sharpens and softens and compels.
Love is, ultimately, our most spectacular power.
Carry it faithfully~