Holding on~

I’ve put off writing this blog as long as I possibly can this evening. Fiddled around on face book, pinned some pins to pinterest. Organized some of the pictures cluttering my desktop…

This blog must be written. Not for any other reason except that the words are burning in me and need to be gotten out of my system and onto paper. The idea of zoning out to a stupid show on my computer, with my glasses off as I nod into sleep and wake a few minutes later only to nod off again, is tempting, rather than acknowledging in words where I am right now, emotionally.

Honestly?  Emotions are roiling my insides and it feels like I’m swirling in the confusion of the days and months after Chuck’s death, dealing with memories and devastation anew. The reason for this is that today I underwent my first EMDR, which, for those of you who maybe unfamiliar with the therapy, has to do with the bilateral rhythms of the brain and reconstructing them.  Or something.  I can never remember the exact terminology but it has to do with reliving traumatic events while a trained therapist taps (in my case, on my knees) which somehow, (and even the trained brains don’t know exactly how or why it happens) causes a re-processing of said traumatic event, easing the level of distress and trauma.

All of which is to say this will hopefully help me break through the blockage that has me stuck in this godawful grief.

Isn’t it funny how conversations can start casually, and meander along for a few minutes, seemingly innocuously, and then suddenly BAM! you’re in the midst of this massive groundswell of emotional vomiting?  All my therapist did was mention about moving boxes of books this past weekend so she could de-clutter, and I mentioned how I’m an artist at living small now, since I live in my T@b, and then about how Chuck and I sold everything in Jersey and went on the road, which is where he died, when we were in southern California, and, well, there you go… all the stories and details of his final days in hospice and his death were spilling from me.

Which was good, insofar as I was suddenly talking about exactly what I needed to talk about, and she began her tapping.

Without fancy detail, here’s the gist of it:

Initially, before beginning tapping, the therapist wants to establish a safe place to which a client can return, if and when talking becomes too emotional. Trying to establish a safe place was, for me, a fail; I couldn’t come up with a safe place because, pretty much, there is no safe place for me since Chuck died. So we’ll revisit that next week.

I spoke of washing him after he died, and turning him over and seeing a hole the size of a quarter on the base of his spine, which allowed me to see inside of his body. The bed sore in the tumor had eaten his skin away.  And, yes, in response to the unseen person asking the question…yes, I needed to be the one to wash him after he died.  It was a final act of service to this man I loved so deeply, and I have no regrets.

I spoke of the night his daughter laid on his bed sobbing, with him begging her to tell him what was wrong, what had happened to her, while, in the hall outside, I held my sons back as they fell apart because it was their last night with their dad but they couldn’t go in with her there and she wouldn’t leave (and we didn’t feel we could barge in on whatever was going on).  When she finally came out, they only had a few hours left with him, and he fell asleep and they left in the morning and never saw him again.  Chuck told me the following morning what she’d told him and he was in tears (it was something pretty bad and he was in agony that he hadn’t been able to protect her).  When I remarked upon that information in the months after his death, she denied telling him any such thing.  For the first 2 years after he died, I’d wake from nightmares, my heart pounding and riddled with anxiety that she’d spoken to him of what she told me had actually happened to her.  (I don’t mean to sound mysterious but that part is her story, not mine).  It made me physically ill that he had to bear any of that on his death bed.

I spoke of my almost breakdown brought about by the horrific things said to me by her after he died, about how I’d agitated him, how he questioned my care and love of and for him, how he’d dated other women during our engagement;  horror, once again, brought about because, in my broken state I allowed her words to penetrate my brain and I actually questioned whether I’d even known the man I was in love with and who loved me.  And I spoke of the rage I felt at Chuck when I lifted the cover of his cardboard coffin prior to cremation.  Rage because he’d never said to her what needed to be said, enabling her to feel free to behave as she did and say the things to me that she did.  It horrified me to have rage be my last feeling for him before his body disappeared, when I’d never felt that emotion towards him in my 24 years with him.  I felt like I’d betrayed him.

These things I’ve carried with me and in me.  Rationally I know that he loved me and I loved him and I cared for him and made an impossible time as sacred and beautiful as I could for him and he knew it and loved me more for it.  In my heart, I’m carrying all the trauma from those 3 weeks when I went into auto pilot, (as we all do at such a time). Those 3 weeks where I was as present as could be to the best of my abilities as he and I said our goodbyes and my heart broke into pieces that were so huge and so small that they became invisible shards, but 3 weeks where I wasn’t really present at all to myself because I couldn’t bear what was happening.

My favorite military term that I learned from Chuck is the word clusterfuck. That’s what it was then, and that’s what it all feels like now. T ruthfully, it has never yet stopped feeling like a clusterfuck, and that’s what I’ll be addressing in the next few weeks as I continue the EMDR. I need to deal with the trauma of it, and then we’ll get to the grief.

In some ways, as emotionally exhausting as today was, as done in as I am at this moment, it is also kind of freeing to just fucking openly say You know what, world?  My husband’s death was traumatizing.  The months afterwards were equally traumatizing and I don’t know how I didn’t end up in the looney bin.  I don’t know how I’m even walking around.  I don’t know how I’m upright.  How on earth am I making any kind of sense when I speak?

But you know what, part 2?  In spite of the trauma, I’ve still gone out and done shit and I’ll continue to do shit even while I deal with this and maybe, maybe, maybe, this will make a difference for me, but even if it does, I know that this treatment isn’t about not missing him, not longing for him.  It’s about easing the trauma, and I’m not going to apologize to anyone for what remains after I work through this part.  I’m not going to pressure myself to be better, or feel happiness or joy or any damn thing because for me, life isn’t about such words.  Life is only about letting love be stronger than grief.  I’m going to get to the other side of this trauma, at least in part, by admitting that, yeah, the word trauma pretty well fits what it was and what it is and it’s actually liberating to hear someone identify it as that and speak that word openly to me and then work with me on the trauma itself and not worry about trying to make me feel better or dose me with medications or label me as insert label here.

Work on the trauma and that will free up the grief. It sounds simple and it kind of is simple to me.  I’m okay with going through it and reliving it because I know it has to be done.  The way to it has been presented to me, so it’s time to saddle up, right?

Isn’t it strange, though, when my first thought in approaching this therapy is the entirely unrealistic thought that, hey if I go through this trauma and get through it, and prove that I can do it, that I’m strong enough to get to the other side, then maybe my prize on the other side of it will be….Chuck.  It isn’t real to have that thought, I know, but somewhere deep inside of me….well, there you go.

Onwards and upwards. Onwards and upwards.

The Too-Traveled Road~

15 steps up.  This is where we were last year at this time, me and Handsome Husband.  We’d gotten to Cathedral City, and our 3 month rental.  We were going to seek medical treatment for him, get him better, and continue on with our travels.

These 15 steps confronted us and I knew things had changed irrevocably when all that Handsome Husband could manage to carry up those stairs was our camera and a small pillow.  I walked up behind him so that I could catch him if he fell.  I would have fallen too, of course, but at least (so went my thinking) I could break his fall.  He was in pain and coughing.  IMG_1100

These 15 steps loom large in my mind.  Today, one year ago, was the true beginning of the end.  And yet.  As I look back to his first cancer, I begin to think that his first cancer never really went away.  To one degree or another, we never stopped dealing with it.   Massive radiation to stop the growth of the terrible and horrible Wilson, as we named the tumor.   5 surgeries, 3 post-cancer screenings, systemic fungal infection, and what we thought was a bad back or kidney stones that was actually the pain from the cancer eating through his ribs and the tumor in his lungs and the tumor in his groin that made it more and more difficult for him to walk easily.  (We thought that was a pulled groin muscle).

My mind is a whirling, swirling, violent twister these days.  I’m walking and talking and doing and appearing oh so normal but thinking that in 9 days it will be 3 years since he had his 10 hour surgery to remove the dastardly tumor.  I’m remembering all that led up to it-his 3 week drive from Oregon to New Jersey after dropping me off at the airport so that I could fly back to Jersey to be with a dear friend who was dying of cancer (I didn’t arrive in time-she died while I was in flight), his return to our rental after dropping me off and noticing a tiny, tiny bump under the skin of his left forearm, which, by the time he arrived in NJ,  had grown to the size of a small orange.  And so the horror began.

My mind is a maelstrom of images and emotions:  tumors, gauze pads, waiting rooms, loving faces of friends who rallied around us, going back on the road as quickly as we could, snapshots of places he and I traveled, remembered joy at seeing monuments and towns and family and friends around the country, talking endlessly in the car about everything under the sun, my hand massaging his neck muscles as he drove, his hand on my knee across the console.  Him holding doors open for me, me grabbing him and kissing him just because I loved him so much, him encouraging me constantly to go one step further out of my comfort zone.  Adventuring with this wildly handsome, passionate man.

I’m completely out of my comfort zone now.  Emotionally and physically.  I’m living a life I never thought to live:  full-timing in a T@b trailer, camping.  How unreal is that?  (Believe me, its unreal in every way and Handsome Husband would be completely and totally disbelieving and also proud).  Emotionally I’m a raw wound, bleeding out pus and poison, much as his wounds did post-surgery.

All of this, the toxic memories and the pain, is enfolded in the love that wrapped us then, during the Wilson tumor time, the nightmare time of his hospital stay at Eisenhower Medical Ctr in Palm Springs, CA, his hospice time in Palm Desert, and all the love that has come to me as I’ve traveled in the almost year since.  The grief is enfolded in his love for me and the promise he made me that he will never, ever, leave me and that he will see me again.

His missing-ness from me is a physical pain.  I run out of words to describe it.  Equally so I run out of words to describe the love that is on the other side of the scale.   On any given day, I strive to keep a recognition of the love to balance the grief.

These are very hard days.  phot2o

It’s Out There~

This will be a short week, as all weeks must be when a deadline approaches.  Time has dragged, now it flies.

This Sunday, December 1, is my own personal D-Day.  I call it L-Day, for Launch Day.  It’s the day I’ll hitch the Pink Magic Combo together and head South.  My official goingoutontheroad launch.  But, you’ll say, haven’t you traveled thousands of miles since the day you walked down the steps from that condo in Cathedral City, CA where Handsome Husband died?  And I have, yes, but all of it has been from a place of just getting somewhere.  Get to Arizona and our 2 older kids.  Get to New Mexico for the family wedding.  Get to Indiana to see Handsome Husband’s mom.  Get to New Jersey for his memorial service.  Get to Connecticut to see Fireman Nick.

None of it has been about traveling for me.  Its’ been more of a just take that step, steer the car and go.  That will change on Sunday, not because it’s in my mind that it will change but because circumstances will dictate such.

Fireman Nick will ride with me for a couple of weeks on the first leg as we wend our way to Key West, Florida, stopping to visit family along the way.  I told him to choose wherever he wanted to go; he wanted warmth, not unexpectedly, and Key West will be warm.  It’s where Handsome Husband and I spent quite a bit of time in our travels and yes, the gone-ness of his physical presence will be huge for me.  How can it not be?  Fireman Nick and I plan to take a trip out to the Dry Tortugas while in Key West; Handsome Husband and I adventured there for a day and loved it.  It will be the first place I’ll scatter some of his cremains.

This going out on the road again is no small venture emotionally.  I’ve spent the last month with Fireman Nick and his lovely girlfriend, SugaPie, here in Connecticut and it will be difficult to leave, not only because I’ll miss them both dreadfully, but because it’s been a safe place for me.  Each stop along the way since that devastating April 21 has allowed me to cocoon myself.  In spite of the emotional pain, I’ve still been protected, and each leave-taking has been a wrenching away.  Panic generally rises up in me.

Which is why I’ve always known that I need to be back out on the road full-time.  Since the day Handsome Husband died, I’ve known that the way I’ll best deal with this grief is out there.  Driving on unexpected roads that will suddenly be familiar to me from having been there in past years with Handsome Husband.   Being somewhere, anywhere, alone, with my deepest thoughts and emotions surging to the surface.  Bombarding memories.  Feeling the alone-ness that he isn’t here with me to help me, support me, map it out, share the thrill of the adventure with me, take his hand as he helps me climb higher, not just physically but emotionally.  This will be total immersion in pain and memories and remembered joy and love.

I’ve always been a total immersion kind of gal and that’s why I know I need to do this.  I’m not so much afraid to do this as I am of the pain that will accompany it.  I have my toolbox ready, mantras and blessings to murmur when the pain arises.

“I wish you were here with me” will become “Thank you for the blessing of having had you here with me”.

“The pain is too much” to “One breath, one heartbeat, one step”.

“I can’t do this” to “I’m doing this”

“I feel so fucking alone” to “I am surrounded by his love and the love of so many who travel with me in spirit”.

Out there sounds like a nebulous place to most people, I expect.  Not so for me.  Out there is where I’ll find Handsome Husband again, his spirit, his love for me, our remembered joy in the time wealth he spoke about to people met along the way.  Unremembered memories will be sparked.  Pain and joy will be my mead, and that’s okay because, for me, it is a necessary fire to walk through so that I can, to the best of my ability, get to the other side.

These 7 fucking months since he died obliterated my true knowing of Handsome Husband.  I don’t remember what it felt like to have him touch me, be next to me, kiss me, and that is just as wrenching to me as the actual grief.   It doesn’t mean anything that others say that he’s with me.  He’s gone.  He’s dead.  I don’t believe he is lingering here on this Earth.  But his love and his spirit are a part of me and all those who knew him and that is what I want to find again.

This is an entirely new life I face on the road and stuff will happen and plans will go awry and every emotion in the world will knock at my psyche and that’s okay with me.  I’m going to let it happen.  I’m going to immerse myself and let myself sink to the bottom of this ocean and lose my breath and struggle to see in the darkness around me and be blind and then, as the panic sets in, I’m going to remember my husband and his love for me and that love and his spirit and I’ll use that knowingness to calm myself and gather my strength and take a breath and allow myself to kick my feet and rise to the surface and see the blue skies above me and the beauty that is around me and I’ll start paddling and grow stronger and make my way to solid footing and the life that is still ahead of me.

Love will carry me through.

Today~Capital Letters in my Heart~

This is the day that has been going to happen since April 21, last Spring, when my Handsome Husband died.   During these months I’ve traveled from California to Arizona through the Southwest (with my sister-in-law accompanying me partway thank goodness), to Indiana to New Jersey to New Hampshire and Maine, then to Connecticut and now…well, here I am in New Jersey again, with the day at hand that all of this has led me to.  Today I don’t know how many people will converge in Medford New Jersey to honor and remember a good man.  A man who blessed my life for 24 years.  A man who will live in me with each beat of my heart.  A man who loved me.  A man whom I loved beyond life itself.

My life is less without you, D.   I’m not looking ahead to my new life without you, not only because it doesn’t do any good but because my heart and my mind and my soul are incapable of anything beyond this very moment.  Today so many of our friends and family are gathering to remember you and it’s good and right and necessary.  The kids and I will be surrounded and immersed in the love they had for you and that they have for us.  We have an extraordinarily powerful circle of love in our lives who have brought us through to this day and will carry us through the rest.

I think you would be proud of me, dear heart.  I have joy in my heart as my efforts to ensure your legacy pay off.  The Patriot Guard Riders as escort-four months ago I’d never heard of them.  A piper.  An Honor Guard.  Friends and family from around the country.  Music.  Hooping.  A short film as tribute.  Love.  Love.  And, yes, more love.

You brought love into my life.  You brought passion and taught me to broaden my boundaries.  You and I lived and loved  and had a joyous love affair for all the years of our marriage, but most especially in the last 4 years as we traveled the country.

The price of love is grief when that love is gone.  I miss you with every heart beat and I shudder at the thought of my life without you.  In the days and weeks after your death, I begged you to find me.  You knew where I was.  I had no idea where you were.  I still don’t.

Find me today.  Take my hand one last time.  Let me feel you as we say goodbye.  Touch my heart where the love lives still.  Help my voice be strong as I welcome those who love you.

Hear the voices of your friends and children as they speak of who you were in their lives.  Who you still are, because your spirit is still with them in so many ways.  I hope, wherever you are, you do hear them and know that you made a difference on this earth.

I love you I love you I love you.  And as much as I love you I miss you I miss you I miss you.

You are my heart beat.

Image

If.

I had to put the book down, to catch my breath.  Not just catch my breath, but remind myself to breathe at all.   My ending is different from the author’s and the reality of the difference is just too much for me.

It’s been a good read.  “Dinner With the Smiley’s”.   A woman and her young boys dealing with the year-long deployment of her Navy husband, and the inventive way they dealt with his absence.   The end, where he comes home, where they greet him, is what is too much for me.  Because he comes home.   I know that joy they felt as they welcomed him at the airport, having him safely back with them again.

The reality of Handsome Husband never coming home to me again is a stark and vicious stab into every part of me.  A pick-axe flailing madly into me, like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie.   I’m Jennifer Leigh, in the shower scene.   A movie, by the way, which I’ve never cared to see,  but who doesn’t know about the movie or that particular scene?

In our early days together, when Handsome Husband was active duty, he was away a lot.   As in, weeks out of every month.   Sometimes I’d know where he was going, most often I wouldn’t.  I wouldn’t know how long he would be gone, or when he’d be back.   I don’t know how I managed those times.  I just did.

Is that how I’ll look back on this time, this year of his being gone, this life of his being gone?   Will I be able to look back and know that I just did, in spite of the fact that I know that this is a time of  never returning?  Tell me, how does a person do this?  How does a woman continue to care about living, when her very heart has been ripped from her chest?  Not only been ripped from her chest while she is still alive, but watches as her heart is then attacked with a sharp-edged axe, and bludgeoned into a bloody mess on the floor in front of her.

Yes, that’s how it feels.

I remember once, when Handsome Husband was due to return from a TDY, he left a message on our answering machine, telling me that he hoped to be able to meet me that evening at a regular meeting that we both attended.   I quickly found a babysitter for our kids, and fairly flew to the meeting.   He hadn’t been 100% about being there, but I knew that if it was humanly possible for him to be there, he would.  Because that’s how he was.  He made things happen.

I listened to the speaker and heard nothing of what he said, at that meeting.  I sat there with my eyes glued to the door, waiting, all my senses heightened, just waiting, just knowing, that the man I loved more than anything else, was going to walk through that door and my world would be alright again.

What amazing self-control I employed when, yes, he did walk through the doors!  It was in the middle of the meeting, someone was speaking, so he came in very quietly.  I knew, my body knew, as the outside door was opening, that it was Handsome Husband.  The adrenalin picked up speed and my heart knew he was there even before the door opened.  It was all I could do to not leap from my chair and catapult across the table, stepping over the speaker, to leap into his arms, to feel him wrap himself around me, to lose myself in the warmth of his embrace and his love.  But I’m courteous and polite and I waited the 10 minutes until the break to do just that.   There has never been a better feeling.  I belonged in his arms.  His arms belonged around me.

I can’t, and won’t, sit here and tell anyone that any of this pain of grief has diminished.   That, no, I’m not finding a measure of peace, or of acceptance, that my husband is forever gone.  I feel no peace about it whatsoever.   In some ways, the pain is only more intense as time goes by, because, with time, comes the continual recognition that this is my new forever, and I can’t stand the thought of forever.  My brain struggles with even computing the word forever.

I wish, I wish, I wish,  that he was deployed, that there would be an end-game in sight for him, for me, for us.  I find myself begging him, begging the Universe, begging whatever powers that be, for him to be returned to me, knowing all the while that such a thing is impossible.  But the abject pain won’t allow me to not say it.  Sometimes that’s all I can say.  Please.  Just please.  Return him to me.   Don’t let this be forever.  I’ll bear up as I must, if he’ll only come back.  I can do this for a year, if I must.  I swear I can.  If only I knew that, at the end of that time, I could leap across space to be in his arms again.  If I could put my arms around him and inhale his scent.  If I could be in his arms and feel safe again.

If.

Please.

I beg of you.

Come back to me.

Don’t let this be forever.  IMG_1872

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

Taking Leave~ (of my senses?)

There was nothing that would so thrill me, in my past travels with Handsome Husband, as a new day of travel dawning and an open road in front of us.  Packing up the car, waiting for the moment when he’d be behind the wheel, I’d be shotgun as co-pilot, and he’d turn the key in the ignition.  Oh, the thrill of that road in front of us!

This evening, I’m leaving Arizona.  Well, at least leaving my daughter’s part of it.   We’ll spend the night in Flagstaff and drive to Santa Fe, New Mexico tomorrow, to attend my niece’s wedding.   All of which is exciting-there will be many of my family there whom I haven’t seen for quite some time.  Or, it would be exciting to the old me.  Oh, how to explain my emotions these days, that can be all or nothing and everything in between!

Before I can even be in the excitement of seeing family, I have to muck my way through the panic and anxiety that turning the key in the ignition means to me now.  What I have to do first is say goodbyes.  To our older son Snads, who has been solid in his support since Handsome Husband died, gifting me with words spoken to him about me from his dad.  Words that brought not only comfort to me but brought HH’s love for me palpably into the room as Snads repeated his dad’s words.

Each move I make since Handsome Husband died  (and there have been 5, big and small), instills in me a sense of panic.  Each move is further away from my physical time with him.  Each move has taken  me further away from  his planning for us and brings me closer to him no longer being a part of my life.  He’d made reservations for us for Santa Fe, which I cancelled early on, due to my change in finances; those were the last reservations he’d made.   I so looked forward to the wedding with him, he and I holding hands through the service and  thinking back to our own wedding 23 years ago, thinking about our love and our life now, dancing with him at the reception…

I feel so rootless.  Homeless in a way that never even occurred to me in the last 4 years.  Bouncing around from one place to another.  I suppose this feeling is nothing more than a reflection of what is truly going on internally.  I’m lost.  That’s it plain and simple.  The man who anchored me to life, who owned my heart, who was my home, as I was his, is gone.

I’m a perfect example of not grasping something until you’re in it.  I’ve grieved hard before, with some very close relationships, but this death of my spouse thing is as if I’ve never grieved before.  HH’s death affects my life in every way, practically, financially, emotionally, physically, verbally-every way.  He was in my every day, every moment, every way, even more so in our last 4 traveling years.   So I know all that I’m feeling is normal and I guess that could mean something to me, but it takes too much energy to contemplate what’s normal and what isn’t, and I don’t really care.

All I know is, I’m leaving Arizona and I need to be aware of my breathing and I need to believe that somehow, somewhere out there, Handsome Husband is waiting for me again and he’ll find me.

That is my greatest hope and my only comfort~  10642_387498104684129_451272267_n

 

 

If I could~

There isn’t much I would change about Handsome Husband’s time in hospice.  I certainly wouldn’t change the overall scope of how it all played out, because I was able to give him exactly what he deserved: he was surrounded by all the love that he’d given to so many over the years.  From the moment we checked him into the hospital and I started making those godawful phone calls, I had an idea in mind and everyone came on board to assist me in making that love felt by him.

Yes, there is one major, huge change, I’d make, in hindsight.   Oh, how I’d change this one thing!

The nights would belong to us.  To us, as husband and wife.  No matter who else wanted to be there with him, we’d have our nights together.  After dinner, after the kids or our friends and his buddies visited with him, we would say goodnight and I’d close the door to his hospice room, pull the chair up close to his bed, and the two of us would talk.  We’d talk about our wedding day, about raising the kids, about the difficulties, about our triumphs, about our decision to retire and go on the road, about our favorite travel stories, our favorite places, our favorite memories.

I think I would even move the other bed that was in the room over next to his, so that I could sleep next to him again, without fear of hurting him.  I’d put my bed in the up position, same as his, so that we could be level with each other.  As he tired, we’d whisper of our love for each other, how glad we were that he knocked on my door that long ago October day and found us.  We would say to one another all the words that two people who are in love with one another and saying a forever goodbye say to one another.  We’d say it in words, and we’d say it in the touching of our hands, and in the love that shone from his eyes to me and back again.

We’d be us again.  Yes, we both loved the kids so, so much, as parents do.  But we’d always guarded our marriage, the me and the him in it.  When the kids were small, our bedroom was ours.  They had the run of the rest of the house.  Out there we were parents.  In our bedroom, we were man/woman, husband/wife, lovers.  The kids had to knock if they wanted to enter, even if the door was open. They didn’t lounge on our marriage bed, and (how I can hear the screech of protests on this) we didn’t cuddle with them on weekend mornings.  He and I cuddled on weekend mornings, (I’m keeping this clean, folks), then went out to the kids and were their loving parents.  Once the kids grew up and left home, we didn’t have to try to find each other as lovers again-we never stopped.   All it did was get better, once we had the uninterrupted time.  We loved our time together then, and loved it more when we started our traveling life.   We were strongest when together, as us.

So, yes, if I could re-visit that nightmare-yet-filled-with-love, time, I’d take back our bedroom, even if it was in a hospice.  The door would be closed to the world, opened only to the necessary nurses, until the morning arrived and I opened it and we’d be parents again, he’d be a patient again, all the other roles would continue.

Hindsight.  It serves no purpose, really.  Though sometimes, I do think it can soothe the heart.  IMG_1142

The Test~

What this grief feels like, but what I know it isn’t:

The PowersThatBe, whoever or whatever it/they, are, have decided to test my strength and endurance by making Handsome Husband disappear.  They want to see how many times I crumple to the ground and get back up.  They want to see how much gut-wrenching pain I can be in physically from this grief, and remain standing and doing.  They want to see how much determination I can have, in spite of.  They want to see how much my heart and soul can be cut and I can bleed out, but still stand.

THEN, when I have been tested to beyond my limits, THEN they will say “Okay.  Good job.  We thought you had it in you but we weren’t sure, so we had to run some tests to see what you had inside of you.  But now we see.  Here he is, back again.  Well done.”

And Handsome Husband will walk in the door and say “That was some shit.  Now let’s get on with our lives.”  And we will.  And I’ll love him more than I did before, (and I already loved him with every beat of my heart, so that’s quite a bit more.)

I’m not the only woman who has ever been widowed.  I know that.  Knowing that, actually, has been my saving grace ever since this fucking nightmare began. (Even as I typed that swear word, I hear Handsome Husband in my head, saying that using that word will offend people and keep them from reading my blog).   When the grief is sinking into my blood and bones, I’ve reminded myself right from the beginning of this, that millions of women the world over, since time began, have suffered this loss.  They’ve come through it and I will too.  I know that.  And somewhere inside of me, it helps that I remind myself of that.

But that doesn’t remove the grief and that’s what I need to get through now.  I’m not dressing anything up here with my grief.  My writing about it is for me, to help me get it out of my body and my heart and the words out of my mind, and put it out there, for no other reason than I need to put it out there.

Shards of glass, that’s all I can say what my insides feel like.  Beaten up, that’s what my body feels like. Blistered from the hot desert sun, that’s what my mind feels like.  Torn up.  Stomped on.  Bloody.  

Grief isn’t pretty.  It doesn’t go away when you’re tired of it.  I’ve realized, and find ease in this realization, that who I am right now, and who I will be, probably for a long time, is grief.  My baseline is grief and the agony of missing-ness, and I operate from that as I do all that needs to be done on a daily basis.  Which, surprisingly, helps.  I’m not trying to be something I’m not.  (happy, carefree, optimistic, etc).  I’m grieving hard.  And that’s okay.  On the outside, I’m participating in life, because that’s what must be done.  But I am different and it would be silly, and I expect, harmful to me, to attempt to be something I’m not in order to make anyone comfortable.   If you could see my insides, they would be a morass of hysteria, sobbing, pain, numbness, disbelief, just….raw.  If you could see inside my head, you would see the word “FOREVER” stabbing in a neon light frenzy as I try to absorb on a minute by minute basis, that I’ll never see my beloved Handsome Husband again, that he isn’t coming back no matter how much I run and pant and fall down and get back up and throw up and gasp and cross an invisible finish line.

He’s gone.  Forever.  

Grief tsunami.