Dave and I got married at 27 and 22. Not too long afterwards, he wanted to start a family as he felt his biological clock ticking. I never really thought too much about the timing. I was the first of my friends to get married and have kids but someone had to be first. When those ages and decisions impacted me was after he died.
In retrospect, I am glad that there was a little voice in his head urging him to get going. When we lost him, the kids were 19, 16 and 10. As far as shitty situations go, we were lucky. He was there to drop Sam off for her freshman year of college. He was there to have man to man talks with Grant about topics and ideas that guys like to talk about with each other. He had time to do with Parker many of things that he did with the other two – reading together at night, teaching her how to ride a bike.
This is a year of milestone birthdays for my kids. Grant turned 18 in March and although he and I are close, I know he misses those talks with his dad. Sam turns 21 today. Words can’t even describe how proud he would be of her. A summer internship in biology? Kid after his own heart. And this fall, my youngest will be a teen. He would love her raw enthusiasm for life.
There is a bittersweet feeling to these milestones. One LARGE part so proud of the amazing people they have turned out to be. Also, one BIG part longing to have him here with us to celebrate. To be able to look at each other, share a smile, and say “Hey, we did a pretty good job!”
Today, we celebrate this kid. It was love at first sight.
Sitting at a stoplight I was suddenly overwhelmed by heaviness and fatigue. Getting home was an act of concentration and sheer will. I am not sure what brought it on. Maybe it’s –
- Mother’s Day and thinking about Dave’s always unique gifts that let me know how much he was thinking about me and how I appreciated I was
- June 16th looming in the horizon
- Grant’s pending graduation and the idea that it is time to launch another kid into the world – this time on my own
- The dismal weather that has settled over this area lately and is too slow in pushing off
Whatever the cause, I am fighting the good fight. Today I mowed, paid bills, did laundry, ran errands. Determination triumphed over hiding under the covers.
Today has been an emotional roller coaster.
I started off my day on a high note. A card was delivered through the pony (our internal mail system). It was a thank you note from one of our scholarship recipients. He expressed his gratitude but also shared some words of advice that Dave had imparted and that he has taken to heart.
“He said always to follow and lead with your strength but to work and build on your weakness so that it can also be your strength. That has not only helped me become a better leader but a better person as a whole.”
I love that. The silver lining.
But the depressing news has been hitting ever since. Prince. A local firefighter who has been missing. A 16 year old high school student in our county. So much sad news. Trying to hold onto the good. Need to turn off the news.
When it was the five of us, we would gather around the dinner table and review our highs and lows of the day. So in that spirit, I share my highs and lows of the week.
My low was definitely when I got the Wednesday morning text from Erin letting me know that Pete had died the previous night. My heart broke for her and their children. I selfishly also felt sorry for myself and my kids. It isn’t possible for me to hear her story and not go back to June 16, 2014. Parker and I were able to stop by later that day for a few minutes to give hugs and drop off a few things. I was happy to see that she is being surrounded by friends and family. (If you have the means, please consider contributing to their Go Fund Me account – link is in the previous post. As a teacher and mother of three, I know that they will be able to use every penny that is sent their way.)
My high happened today. Parker, Grant and I went to Hayfield to let the students who are receiving scholarships this year know. I get a knot in my stomach any time I have to go to Hayfield but that was quickly erased by meeting these exceptional kids and spending a few minutes talking to them. It was so rewarding to see their faces when we shared the reason for our visit. We were also joined by some of my absolute favorite Hayfield folks. I understand completely why Dave loved working there. He was among some of the most positive, intelligent, humorous people around. I am happy to report that the scholarship committee definitely made the right choices. I am excited for these young people and the amazing futures they will have.
This was a week of extremes – the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I feel like I could sleep for days.
PS In a VERY distant second place, my other high would have to be these clips. C’mon now.
Shortly after Dave died, I connected with Erin. Her husband, Pete, was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer a few months earlier. We have communicated periodically over the last few years. Last night, I found out that Pete is in the final stages of his battle. My heart is breaking for them all especially their three children.
I spoke to Erin last night, and she is dealing with so much now – disability paperwork, legal documents, not to mention supporting her kids and dealing with hospice. She also expressed concern over finances. Like Dave, Pete is their primary breadwinner. Erin is a teacher in the county. Sound familiar? You shouldn’t have to worry about money during this time but the reality is that it is scary and stressful.
I remember those last days. One of which I spent dealing with the crappy social security office. If I could go back, I would take those hours back and spend them with Dave as that turned out to be his last relatively normal day. Erin shouldn’t have to worry about all of this. She should just be able to focus on her husband and children.
While we can’t take care of the paperwork, we can help ease the worry about paying bills. If you can, please consider supporting this family. I am quite certain that any amount would help.
A month or so ago I wrote about a random memory I had involving Dave and the theory that basset hounds smell like corn chips.
One morning last week I woke up to the distinct smell of Fritos permeating my airspace. When I rolled over, sure enough, there was Gunner happily snoring next to me on my bed. My first thought was that Dave had found a way to mess with me. In 14 years of basset hound ownership I have enjoyed (or not) many an aroma but never a corn chippy scent. I smiled to myself, didn’t think too much more about it, and went on with my day.
A few mornings later, something else happened that really left me wondering. After Dave died, I started wearing his wedding band on a chain around my neck. It is always tucked out of sight, but I find it comforting wearing it close to my heart. On that particular morning I got up and went downstairs. As I was making coffee I noticed that my chain felt very light. Sure enough when I inspected the necklace, the ring was gone, but the chain was still fastened and intact. I went back upstairs to see if I could find it and discovered the ring on the floor next to my side of the bed.
I am not one to believe in visits from our loved ones after they are gone, but these two back to back occurrences have left me a tiny bit more open to the idea. Mostly I just found comfort in the connectedness.
Today I had lunch with a friend whose husband passed away from colon cancer not too long after Dave. We talked about lots of different things, but when she was reflecting back on the end of her husband’s life, I was reminded of how much those who are left behind deal with. There are lots of memories. Many of them are good but the ones at the end are so painful. There is regret and shock still at how it all went down. There is questioning – did we do all the things that we should have when we should have. It’s a lot to bear some days.
Every day I am another step further away from the last time that I held Dave’s hand and promised him that I wouldn’t leave his side. We are getting ever closer to the two year mark, and I have to wonder if I am as far along as I should be in this whole being a widow thing. I think that if I graphed my moods over the course of two year’s worth of blog entries, it would probably resemble an EKG readout – lots of ups and downs.
I know women who have been through similar losses. Some have gone back to school and others have changed jobs. Some have moved and others have remarried. I have thought about changing jobs or getting another degree. I have considered dating or moving somewhere else. But none of my thoughts have actually turned into completed milestones. I wonder if I shouldn’t be ahead of where I am. Are they more tenacious? Braver?
I went shopping for new bedroom furniture but only ended up buying a new dresser for Parker. What allows others to charge forward when I haven’t even sorted through Dave’s clothes? All in good time, I suppose, but I feel that 2 year anniversary looming.