Birthdays~

Chuck threw me a huge birthday party for my 50th.  To be honest, our daughter, Rachael-Grace, helped out with it quite a bit, but it was lovely.  A dear friend, who died the year before Chuck, baked a red velvet cake.  My friends were there from all walks of life.  Our kids were there; it was a memorable 50th.

Life changes quickly, and the following year, for my 51, we were just beginning our new life on the road and Chuck surprised me with a trip to Graceland.  I’d always been a huge Elvis fan and he knew this would be a huge hit. As it was.  I didn’t have any idea where we were headed until I saw the sign that said Memphis.  We stayed in a hotel that had framed Elvis pictures in each room, a guitar shaped swimming pool and Elvis music playing throughout the grounds. All songs which I knew and Chuck got such a kick out of me singing along with them.

One of my earliest birthday memories, after Chuck and I married, is the year he took the time leading up to my birthday to get my address book and ask everyone in it to call me on my birthday.  He also alerted his family and friends.  I spent the day answering our, yes, land line phone, and hearing Happy Birthday, Alison!  Chuck made my birthdays so special, every year.

My next few birthdays were spent on the road; I don’t even remember where. What I do recall is that I spent them with him, hiking and exploring the USA.  We had all the time in the world together and that was the greatest gift of all.  With lots of wild and crazy birthday sex.

The last great present I received for my birthday, my 55th, was the news that Chuck’s first cancer had been eradicated numerous surgeries.  He was cancer free, with really really really good odds that it wouldn’t return.  God, did we celebrate…I knew a cancer survivor! and that cancer survivor was my beloved husband.

I’m 59 today.  Chuck has been dead for 4 years.  Fucking cancer got my cancer survivor after all, and my birthdays have never been the same.

I know, I know…I can hear it now.  But you must celebrate you! You must grab life and savor it and live it!

Here’s the thing.  I know, because I’m a smart, loving person, that I must allow our kids to celebrate me. I must allow my friends and family and all who love me, to celebrate me. And I do and it means so much, especially since Chuck is no longer here to wrap me in his arms and plant a huge, lonnnngggg kiss on my lips, leaving me dizzy.

In just the past month, I’ve received 2 gifts that touch my heart in the only ways that matter:  I was reunited with my younger sister, after many years of estrangement, and my wee grandson, Owen Charles, was born.  Each of these huge events touch my heart.

But there is a loneliness that goes along with my birthdays in the years since Chuck’s death and that’s just a fact of life.  It’s the new world that I live in.

So, today, here in the Ozarks, at the opera camp, on my 59th birthday, living a life I’d never imagined or planned for (emotionally), my gift to myself is telling each person that I meet that it is my birthday and I want hugs.

I want hugs from every person who comes within my radius today. Hugs, hugs and more hugs.  All the love that comes with those hugs is what keeps me going, and my heart expands with each hug.

And that’s what I ask of you, too.  Anyone who is reading my words today.  For my birthday, your gift to me is to hug people you meet along your way today.  Stop for a minute, share some time with them, connect with them, and don’t leave them without hugging them.

And maybe, whisper a word to Chuck, whether you know him or not, that you’re all looking out for his girl.

Thank you.

Happy birthday, me~

 

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This Ugly World…but, oh….the Love~

It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?  The ugliness of the world, I mean.  At a time when I, and many other widow/ers are trying to figure out our own smaller worlds, without our beloveds in our life.   At a time when the world already seems so unsafe and so uncertain because that person, our person, is no longer here, and then…another big ugly thing happens.

Chuck was active duty during 9/11.  He wasn’t able to come home until near midnight on that day and I was filled with anxiety, anticipating that McGuire AFB, where he was stationed, would be the next target for the terrorists.  But he did come home and I felt safer and reassured as soon as I saw him and was able to hug him.  He was able to tell me things  in the days and weeks after that made me feel more okay even though the world remained insane.  He was there with his solid presence, his calm manner, and…I felt better.

There have been numerous terrorist events since his death, and at each one, I have missed him more.  I’m grateful I have my adult kids, my friends, to whom I can speak about my anxieties, about the ugliness of it, but, at the end of the day, his side of the bed is still empty and the conversations continue in my head, because his arms aren’t around me.

My world felt safer with Chuck in it.

I was at a Where Womyn Gather festival in the Poconos when Orlando happened.  I didn’t hear about it til the late afternoon;  I was off the grid.  As a group, a couple hundred women stood around a huge fire that had been kept burning through the weekend and we offered our prayers to the skies above, and we hugged each other.  A lot.

That’s really all I know how to do since Chuck died.  Hug people, I mean.  My brain doesn’t seem to function as well as it did as far as figuring shit out, so I don’t think much.  And so much doesn’t matter to me anyways.  Mostly it seems that much of what our culture, and the world at large, values, carries no value for me.  And I feel overwhelmed and helpless when it comes to the ugliness of the world.

So, I hug people.  And I accept hugs from people.   Then I drive somewhere else and I hug people there, wherever there happens to be.  The pink of my car and trailer bring smiles to those I meet on the highways and  backroads of this country, and I’m glad for that; smiles are good.  The color of my rig draws people to me and they tell me what is in their hearts or what lies heavy on their minds as we sit in the pink chairs that I put out next to my trailer.  Sometimes we share a glass of pink lemonade that I make sure to have on hand.

In a world of what I can’t do, I find what I can do.  I can, and do, open my heart to Love, more fully than ever.  I hug more people, and I hug them tightly.  I’m a really good hugger.  In some circles, I actually have quite a reputation for being an excellent hugger.  In that, if you’ve been hugged by me, you know you’ve been hugged.  I like that I have such a reputation.  If that is the only legacy I leave behind, then I’m pleased.

I have to focus on the Love that is bigger, or go insane with grief.  Not only personally, because of my own grief but grief for  the world at large.  Yes, another man took his rage that had many sources, and murdered 49 people.  And a man in France, using the same excuse, horribly stole the lives of a husband and wife and left their 3 year son an orphan.  Yes, yes, yes…the ugliness continues on and on, forever.

But so does the Love.  I insist upon the Love.  It’s all I can do.  It’s the only power I have.  I don’t have it in the huge, world sense, but I do have it in my small world sense and the Love I give in my small world has the possibility of rippling out into other’s worlds, again and again and again.

I hold onto this, in this time, again and again and again, when I cry out for Chuck to put his arms around me and tell me that, in the midst of nothing being okay in this ugly world, it’s still okay, because there is always, always and forever, Love that is always present and bigger, even though it seems not present and much smaller than hate or grief or uncertainty.

My soul insists and demands that Love must be stronger.

Remember that.  Hold onto it.  Surround yourself with it.  Immerse those around you in it.  Send it out to the loved ones who are new to the world of grief.  Send it out again and again and again and never stop.

Please, never stop.

#LongLiveLove