I Do. Over and Over Again~

I do.

Again, and over and over.

Even knowing that you would someday leave me.

Not of your own will, but because cancer is an evil and twisted demon that seeps into the pores of a healthy person’s body and wreaks havoc within.

You left, not of your own free will.

And I, also not of my own will, stayed.

In the first years that followed, as I stayed, not of my own will, I tried desperately to remember you and I.

You, and who you were with me,

And I, and who I was with you.

I forgot how to move my feet as they moved with yours in a slow dance around the room.

I forgot how we moved together in our last dance, there at the side of that long and Picture1distant road in Death Valley, as the canyons glowed gold and music wafted from our car.

That I could no longer remember horrified me differently, but in the same way, as your death.

I remembered again, though, somewhere in my 4th year.

I remembered how to stand with you, as if your body were pressed against mine,

And raise my left hand to your broad shoulder…

Curl my fingers over your hand,

And dance…

Clint Black…When I Said I Do

Chicago…You’re the Inspiration

These two.

Over and over again.

This night, as I remember what would be 30 years marriage…

Blended family, military life that took you away from me so often, scratching our pennies together, sitting on our swing in the back yard admiring our colorful gardens, retirement, traveling together in our last 4 years, that strong hand of yours on my leg, my hand on your arm as we sat a foot across from one another and explored and adventured…

This night, as I remember saying I do to my life with you, as you slipped a simple silver band on my finger… 24174380_1518274098227519_8389293166807736662_n-226x300

You and I are dancing again, my feet moving in tandem with yours.

You are my heart, always.

We are dancing in the dark and starlit skies of the Universe.

Always~

Memories and Remembering and Love~

Chuck never wanted to be one those people who retire and die the next day or the next week.  He wanted time to enjoy his life without work, time to relish waking up together and lingering abed. Time to travel and be with each other and grow our marriage even more.

In April 2009 he sent an email to me at home.  This is what it said.  And this was my response….IMG_2851.pngWe put the house on the market, sold or gave away most of our belongings, and packed everything else into a U-Haul truck to put into storage for future use.  We’d need some shit to start up again, right, when we settled down?

On May 29 we closed on our house, and Chuck immediately got in the truck, I got in our SUV, and we headed west, the first of many times we headed west from Jersey.  And we never looked back.

May 29, 2009.  The day we began our Happily Homeless adventures.  We tossed what was left of our belongings in storage and continued further west, state shopping, so to speak. Where did we want to settle down?

Until, 3 months in, we looked at each other and said why on earth do we want to stop doing this? and continued on.  And on and on, for our last 4 years together. We drove over mountains and through desert valleys and crossed miles long bridges over breathtaking rivers and we climbed to the highest points of various states and laughed when they were barely above sea level, and danced among the waves of the Pacific Ocean and visited family and friends and made new friends along the road, and stopped to have lunch and wander among out of the way cemeteries and paid our respects at National Cemeteries and had wild and crazy sex in towns and cities around America and fell more deeply in love and managed our way through Chuck’s first cancer with its’ 5 surgeries and went back out on the road to fucking live by god and visited National Monuments and Parks and learned American history from a local standpoint and we danced to Clint Black in hotel rooms and in military lodgings and we sat 1 foot across from one another in our SUV and discussed marriage and relationships and men and women and roles and our kids and family gossip and our hopes and dreams and we lived and we lived and we fucking lived until we danced our last dance in Death Valley and this man who lit up my world died in a hospice in southern CA, eaten up by cancer but strong in spirit and with love until his last fucking moment.

On May 15, 2013 I began my Odyssey of Love.  I walked down the 15 steps from a condo we’d rented for our stay in Cathedral City, CA, carrying Chuck’s cremains in my arms.  I returned to Jersey to give him well-deserved military honors. I bought PinkMagic.  I’d never towed and I’d never camped and my world was incinerated around me and beneath me and my heart was shattered into glass and my chest felt as if a meat grinder was continually slicing away inside of me. I couldn’t breathe, I didn’t know how to do what I was doing.  I didn’t have a plan, or a destination or a goal.  I was like Sgt Schulz on Hogan’s Heroes, but not in a funny way.hogans-heroes-cbs-198-b

All I knew then, all I know now, all I will ever be able to tell you, all I really care about telling anyone, is this…

Love must be stronger than this grief. It must both be bigger than the emptiness of life without Chuck and fill that emptiness.  It has to be, or I will cease to exist.  I push every day, every every day, to make his left behind Love bigger than anything else.

I don’t know how else to do any of this.  Without that Love I couldn’t have driven over 100,000 miles on my own, tracking down highways and side roads Chuck and I traveled together, stopping to eat lunch at roadside stands where he and I lingered over lunch, seeing the mountains and deserts and bridges and lakes and rivers and prairie grasses and beauty of this country through eyes wet with tears and my heart shattering again and again.

The thing is, for anyone who doesn’t know this already…yes, I have incredible memories. Everywhere I go there are memories. I have memories to look at and memories to hold in my heart…but those memories don’t make this better. Indeed, those memories serve as a stark reminder of 24 years gone, never to happen again. Those memories, though I cherish each and every one of them, are a double-edged sword, reminding me of my alone-ness in the world now, without him. And I struggle with that.

Each day is a decision on my part to get up and make Love bigger than anything else. I don’t ignore my grief; I hold it within the Love Chuck left behind for me, I hold it within the Love I had for him, still have for him.  And it fucking hurts, no matter how I do any of this, and it’s spiritually exhausting, so I feed the Love every day by reaching out to people, giving and receiving hugs, and being of service where and how I can.

Chuck was Love.  I was his Love. He was my Love. He was my beloved, as I was his.  We were in Love for 24 years.  He died loving me and I kissed him for the last time with my heart overflowing with Love for him and the Love he’d brought into my life.  His left behind Love pushed me into my pink car and has fueled me for 4 years and I have to I must always always always carry that  knowledge in my heart and plant it in my mind every damn day so that I don’t lose my mind. 

Love Love and Love harder and more, no matter anything else.

I repeat this to myself now, at this moment, as my heart takes me back to May 29, 2009, watching Chuck climb into the U-Haul, as I remember turning the key to follow behind the truck, headed west, as we began our Happily Homeless adventures…

Love.  Only Love.  C8D2FCE2-F53C-43D6-9CF4-C9D600907140

 

 

 

Ghost Dancing~

No, I’m not crazy.  Yes, it might appear that way to anyone observing me last night in my daughter’s living room.  She was there.  My daughter, I mean.  Last night was 10 weeks since Handsome Husband died.  Since my life changed forever.  Since so many lives changed forever.  Ten weeks. 10 weeks.  How many ways are there to write that and what do those simple numbers really reflect?  Ten weeks of pain and grief and hitched breathing and achy body and turmoil and doing what needs to be done, and confronting change on a daily basis.  Since this dear man died in southern California, I’ve given away many of his possessions, I’ve brought a new car, sold our old one, traveled to Arizona, stayed for a month in the final place where he’d made reservations for us, welcomed a new grand-daughter to the world and…well, now, I’m with my daughter and son-in-law and organizing for the next part of my life on Thursday when I’ll leave here and drive to Colorado.  None of what I do is done willingly.  Everything is done under the cloud of grief.  No, I don’t feel hopeful for my future.  No, I can’t see my future at all.  No, I don’t want to see my future, because it is a future without him.  No, I don’t feel any excitement about, well, anything.  On the contrary, I’m either numb or in extreme emotional pain.  I’m enduring.  And, in a convoluted way, that’s kind of okay with me.

Which brings me to last night and why it might seem to some that I’ve tipped over the edge.  My daughter and I were talking about Handsome Husband and I played some of the voice mails I’d saved to my hard drive.  Our grandson Soren telling his papa how he was the best grandpa in the world, and wishing him a Happy Veteran’s Day.  I found that message on his phone and thought well, if he wanted to save it, then I do too.  Another saved message from our older son wishing me happy birthday a few years ago when death wasn’t on my radar and I was, yes, happy.  And I played for our daughter the barely able to be heard last message that Handsome Husband left for me on my phone, telling me how much he loved me and that he would always, always be with me, no matter where I was and that he would see me again, no matter how much time passed.  And, “P.S. I love you.”

We both cried.  The missing of him is so deep.  And then talked about his memorial service and what music we might choose, what were his favorites, what did he love?   This younger daughter is a hoop dancer and I suggested to her that she might like to do a hoop performance at his service.  Grief is a spiral, and hooping is up and down spirals and so appropriate.  Maybe some wild music for the hooping.  He and I used to go to the PA RenFaire and there was a tribal drumming/bagpipe band there, called Albannach.  We loved them, and would catch every performance.  It’s wild, primal drumming that makes you want to spin and whirl and be nothing but energy.  Whatever she does, it will be beautiful.

From there, I played some of the music he and I danced to, music that I’ll put together for the memorial service.  He loved Clint Black and Alan Jackson, and we’d play their tunes as our tires trod the roads.  He loved dancing to their music.  He’d put one on iTunes-maybe “Easy For Me to Say” by Clint Black.  We really loved that one.

So, last night, I put that one on my iTunes.  I pictured Handsome Husband coming over to me, holding out his hand to me, pulling me up from my seat.  I rose and stepped to the middle of the room and felt him in, my mind’s eye, put his arm around me and take my hand in his.  I placed my hand on his shoulder and felt him wrap his hand warmly around mine and we started moving together.  He used to tease me about not letting him lead, and he was right.  I’d been on my own for so long as a single parent that it was a new for me to learn that it was okay to lean on a strong man, to allow him to take the lead, to trust.  It was a lesson I learned and, ultimately, loved, and I especially loved to dance with him, to feel his strength radiating to me, enveloping me.  Feeling his love enveloping me.

I danced with Handsome Husband last night, with his spirit, with his love.  I followed him within that small space, moving my feet forward and back as he gracefully turned me and guided me with nothing more than familiarity.  My eyes closed and I felt his body against mine and I remembered his love and our love and how we danced over the years-in the kitchen, in the living room,  at AA dances, at our daughter’s wedding, on the side of the road in Death Valley.  He and I will always dance.  Our love called for the movement and the music and the magic of dance.  Nothing fancy, mind you.  Nothing even near Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but more than just standing together and moving our feet back and forth.  (Though, if that’s all you know how to do, then do it, because dancing together is, I think, a necessary component for expressing love and passion in a marriage).

Handsome Husband showed his love for me in many ways on a daily basis, over our lifetime together.  Dancing together was just one of the ways, one that I loved, one that I will always remember.  Dancing with him last night was the closest I’ve felt to him since he died and I’m going to dance with him again as my days and weeks and months without him continue.  I’m going to play our music and I’m going to take the hand he offers me and close my eyes and turn and spin and find his magic again.

My husband, my lover, my lead.  Always loved. Always missed.  And always my partner in dance.

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