Still Learning

Last night, I stayed up late catching up with a friend during a marathon phone call.  Shortly after Dave died, her life took an unexpected turn.  While our situations are quite different, they are also similar in many ways.  We’ve leaned on each other heavily this past year.

We talked about friends and family.  About changes in relationships.  We each talked about the shock of having people, who we always believed would be there for us during the tough times, who haven’t been there much at all.  I talked about how I have even gone an extra step making those people feel better about not being there – “It’s okay.”  “I understand.”

We talked about being alone.  And about dating.  I mentioned that I never expected to be navigating this season of my life by myself.  We talked about decision making and agreed that while we are both smart, capable women that we miss the partnership and having someone to help carry the burden.

We talked about finances.  Our kids.  Where we live and where we might live in the future.

We talked about resentments.  We talked about obsessing.  Obsessing over things that we can’t control.  How hard it is to realize that your position in life has shifted.  That relationships have changed.  That for us it has been JUST a year.  One year.

I think that I have changed quite a bit in this last year.  Small, subtle changes that others likely wouldn’t notice.  I still believe that it is better to be kind than to be right.  I believe that I have become a better listener.  I believe that I am more generous with my words – sharing compliments, sharing love, not letting important words go unsaid.

One very meaningful gift that Dave gave both of us was saying everything that needed to be said before he left.  I can’t help but wonder how much richer our relationship could have been if we had always taken the time to do just that.  He was always very good at letting me know how appreciated I was.  I am not sure I was his equal in that regard.

My friend and I ended our conversation talking about how it is the little things that were once taken for granted that are now noticeable gaps in our lives.  To sum it up in 20 words or less – I miss reading the newspaper together and having someone to talk to about what I’ve read.

xoxo,

Robyn

Father’s Day 2015

This is actually our first Father’s Day without Dave.  Since it is a roaming holiday, last year it was on June 15th.  I thought Dave was going to die on Father’s Day which seemed especially cruel, but he lived into another day.

We have been marking the occasion in typical fashion.  Whenever we see or hear an ad that starts off with “Give Dad his favorite _________ this Father’s Day.”  We respond with “Well, we could try.” or “I guess we could leave those ______ by his ashes and see what happens.”  We are all kinds of hilarious that way.

As I look through hundreds of pictures over the years, I realize that in many of them, I only captured Dave’s back or shoulder or side.  But I am struck by how present he was in our lives.  He couldn’t necessarily attend every single event the kids were a part of but he sure went to a great majority.  When he was there, he was focused on his family.  I am thankful for the countless memories the kids will have for the rest of their lives of doing things with their dad.

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I would like to honor my dad on this day too.  I was lucky enough to be raised by the kindest, gentlest, most understanding and loving man.  My dad has been there for me in too many ways to count.  He loves spending time with his grandchildren (and his grand pets).  He is willing to jump in the car at any time night or day to do whatever needs to be done.  He is willing to offer advice or just listen.  He personifies what it means to love your family.  I am grateful beyond measure.

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xoxo,

Robyn

To Celebrate and to Honor

My oldest nephew graduated from high school yesterday.  We celebrated his big accomplishment (and the Blackhawks victory) with Dave’s family.  It was a pretty typical family gathering lots of loud, enthusiastic conversations and good natured teasing.  It honestly felt pretty normal.  Dave naturally came up in conversation a few times but in a happy memory way.

I also wanted to honor the day by doing something with the kids.  Dave loved getting up on a weekend day and heading out for a little adventure.  Many many times these involved zoos or aquariums.  That is something we definitely had in common.  So, yesterday, we played hooky from school and the kids, Jeff and I went to the aquarium in Baltimore.

There is a beautiful black tip reef there.  It is mesmerizing.  I swear I could stand there all day and admire the rays, sharks and the giant green sea turtle.  There is also a hands on exhibit that allows you touch moon jellies, horseshoe crabs, skates and rays.  So incredibly cool.  Towards the end of our visit, the kids found an area that allowed you to create a message using a given list of words that would be projected up on a large screen for others to read.

Three out of four of these messages were written by my children.  Can you match the message to the kid?

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We honored Dave with laughter and together time.  I know he would have given us his signature thumbs up for the day.

xoxo,

Robyn

PS We are thankful for every message, email, text, flower, and card that we received honoring this first anniversary.  Thank you for so generously sharing your love and support.  I spent some time reading everything this morning and appreciate each one so very much.  The show of love for Dave and for our family has been humbling.  It is a definite reminder that we are not alone.  Thank you. xoxo

The Longest Fastest Year

I have learned and experienced a lot in this past year.  But for today, I will let other peoples’ words speak for me through Dave’s favorite art form, the musical.

You always said how lucky you were that we were all friends. But it was us, baby, who were the lucky ones.  (RENT)

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most, to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…

(WICKED)

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xoxo,

Robyn

Memories

I wonder if watching your husband die can trigger some sort of minor derivative of PTSD?

A year ago at this time Dave was fighting. He was fighting and working so hard to stay. Even in the hospital when he was essentially unconscious, he was trying to get out of bed. He is the strongest person I have ever met.

A year ago, when he was in heart failure (which I did not know then but I am certain of now), he was still trying to figure out how to get us to Hawaii. He was reassuring us through our tears. He was our biggest cheerleader.

I don’t dwell on Dave’s death. I do talk about him. A lot. I imagine this makes some people uncomfortable but those closest to me talk about him too. Because they know I need to. I don’t consider myself depressed and still maintain that if you didn’t know me before, you would have no idea.

Sometimes there is a trigger for a memory and other times an image pops into my head out of nowhere. These are not happy moments. These are the most devastating.

I think of Dave telling me he was scared. I replay my responses and wonder if I was comforting enough.

I think of Dave in the hospital where he was asleep except for one brief moment when he opened his eyes and said hello. I wonder if I imagined that moment.

I think of the EMTs coming in the house seemingly everywhere.

I think of the moments at home when he stopped breathing and I thought “Holy shit. This is it.” And I begged him to breath.

I think of him struggling and growing weaker – how he faded by leaps and bounds in a matter of minutes and hours.

These are not my daily thoughts. I don’t usually wake up with these memories fresh in my mind. But these are the things that pop into my head as I am driving home from work or sitting in front of the TV. Actually, it can happen pretty much any time and always knock me flat. These are the images that I cannot control because if I could, I would tell my brain to only remember the good times.

I know I have said it before, but I have heard that you spend the first year remembering how your person was at the end of their life and then after that you just remember who your person was. I really hope that after we cross this last “first” that this is true.

xoxo,

Robyn

June 11, 2015

June 11, 19_ _  – A young and enthusiastic Robyn Thompson graduates from Robinson Secondary School eager to make her way in the world.

Many more June 11s.  None of them memorable.

June 11, 2014 – A shitty day in the now much older, wrinkle-y-er, tired-er Robyn Tremaine’s life.

June 11, 2015 – A much happier day.

The kids and I got up, donned our finest orange and went to Hayfield.

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We had the opportunity to give away six scholarships.  The winners were determined based on their embodiment of Dave’s ideals to 1) make a difference and/or 2) remain positive even in the face of adversity.  Selecting winners was SO difficult.  I loved each one of the applicants for different reasons.  I am so glad that I had a group of people willing to read applications and help with the decision making.

I have talked about how it is difficult to be at Hayfield, but I always LOVE seeing the people there.  I appreciate the hugs and the smiles and the “How are you guys doing?”  When we got there the kids and I slipped into our seats and talked about last minute logistics.  The new associate principal kicked off the morning.  He made a comment about not wearing his orange shoes for this more formal occasion.  I couldn’t help but smile to myself.  Formality certainly never stood between Dave and his giant orange sneakers!

When it was our turn, I went up to the podium and introduced myself.  I was taken aback and moved by the reception that I received.  In that applause and again in the same reaction when I introduced the kids, I felt the love for Dave in that room.  It was with some effort that I managed not to cry.  I appreciated more than words can describe that the school has moved forward and yet not forgotten him.

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My kids were amazing.  They were more than willing to take a turn announcing winners and tell a little bit about each student.  I loved that the four of us tackled this challenge together.  We also gave the recipients copies of Dave’s favorite book The Power of One tied in orange ribbon, of course.

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Every single student that came up seemed so genuinely honored and grateful to have been selected.  Again, that showed me just how loved Dave was because it meant so much to them.  I appreciated having a moment to congratulate each of them and give them a big hug.

We were also able to recognize one more student who did so much fundraising for our scholarship fund.  She is truly an inspiring and incredible kid with the brightest of futures ahead of her.

Today we had the honor of celebrating Dave.  I think that he would have been so pleased with the students we chose because they best represent what he held dear.  He would have been so proud of his own three kids.  Without hesitation they wanted to be there for their dad.  Today was a very good day.

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xoxo,

Robyn

Un-Unique Grief

Today my friend (who also happens to be my boss) commented that she has noticed that I am laughing more, and she is happy to see it. I guess that is not really something that you notice about yourself, and perhaps it is an outward sign that some sort of healing has been taking place. On the drive home mulling it over, I was reminded of my mom telling me my adoption story. Since I was 2 1/2 and spoke french, she wondered how I was adapting to my new life. She said she knew that I was settling in and getting used to things when I started singing to myself. I guess my laughing and making smart ass remarks is the adult version of that little girl singing.

As we barrel towards the one year mark since we last saw Dave, I guess I can say we have made some forward progress. There is still stuff to be done. I haven’t cleaned out his closet (or the arc of stuff around his closet) or his dresser. We haven’t scattered his ashes. I am just not ready. I know that his clothes are just things and shouldn’t hold so much meaning, but they are things that he touched or wore and feel like my last physical connection to him. I have this feeling that once I get rid of his things that I’ll have to fully acknowledge that it is all over. I realize that doesn’t make any sense.  One day.

This week quite a few friends forwarded me the post written by Sheryl Sandberg (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sheryl-sandberg/choosing-life-and-finding-meaning-30-days-after-daves-tragic-death_b_7503266.html?utm_hp_ref=technology&ir=Technology&ncid=fcbklnkushpmg000000420). I don’t know a lot of her details but I do know that Sheryl is a bigwig at Facebook and her husband died suddenly a month ago while they were on vacation. This week she wrote about the end of her sheloshim or religious mourning period and where she is now.

It was interesting and familiar to read her point of view 30 days into her grieving.  After reading Sheryl’s post, another woman that I know, who is also in this crappy dead husband club, posted to Facebook the post she wrote 30 days after her husband died. So, I decided to trudge back into last July to see where my mind was at that point (https://embracingtherollercoaster.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/10-things-that-i-have-learned-1-month-later).

I have come to the conclusion that grief is unique, and yet not, all at the same time. In reading 3 different posts dealing with the same general topic, we had some definite similarities. All of us talked about our grief, of course. All of us talk about moving on or moving forward or choosing to appreciate life in some way. Shannon and I both have used humor, I think, when things are tough. Shannon and Sheryl both talk about their children. Shockingly, I did not. I have been chewing on that fact for the last day or so. I am certain that I wrote about them either right before or right after that post, but on that particular day, I did not even mention them.

Sheryl and I had quite a few thoughts in common – other people not knowing what to say and how each of us thought that should be handled, asking for or accepting help, and being grateful. Two widows, 30 days into their “new” life writing about gratitude.

Of course, none of us could we say we know exactly how the other feels because grief IS unique. And so is the healing. Sheryl ends her post with quote from a friend who tells her “Option A is not available. So, let’s just kick the shit out of Option B.” I think that’s all any of us can really do.

xoxo,

Robyn