Two (Still) Impossible Weeks Later

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Two weeks before Dave died, we attended that jazz and gospel brunch. He thoroughly enjoyed the food and the company and was so sweetly proud. That was our last date, and I still can’t comprehend how quickly things changed after that day. The kids are actually doing amazingly well. They have their moments, of course, but I am apparently the only one out of the five of us who hadn’t accepted what was going to happen.

When Jeff and I were waiting for the car at the hospital, he said something to me along the lines of how surreal the feeling was – “kind of like when you bring your newborn home from the hospital”. I responded with something like “except this time you go home alone.” I do feel so alone. It doesn’t make sense. I am surrounded by my incredible kids. Yet, I feel Dave’s absence so profoundly in everything we do.

I am trying so hard not to wallow or feel sorry for myself, but it hasn’t been particularly successful so far. I’m definitely doing my best not to drag everyone else down. It is beautiful here. I have been reading, swimming with the kids, enjoying the feel of the sun soaking into my skin, and wishing so hard that he was here.

xoxo,

Robyn

Memories

I was married to Dave for almost 22 years.  Half of my life.  Nearly all of my adult life.  We spent a lot of time over the years on I95 headed to Savannah or the lake or even Disney World.  So the drive down south was chock full of memory land mines – inside jokes and little stories.  The kids and I talked about him a lot, and when it fell silent in the car, I thought about him even more.  When we turned off of 95 and headed towards Myrtle Beach, I felt my mood shift.  I had the distraction of rows of cornfields and small towns dotted with mom and pop businesses.  The kids and I found new things to point out and discuss.

The resort upgraded us to a 5 bedroom condo.  It is absurdly big for the 4 of us, but you can’t beat the view.

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xoxo,

Robyn

Healing

I originally wrote something different to post here today. Basically it was me trying to make sense of the events over the last two weeks of Dave’s life. Many keystrokes and tears later, I had a chronological account of his last days. I guess I thought in remembering as many of the details as possible through my fuzzy lens that I would better understand what had happened. I was going to share that here, but then I realized that maybe this kind of healing is in the writing and not the sharing.

The one part I did want to post is this from Sunday, June 15th – “ Kris (Dave’s sister) spent the night at the hospital with me for which I will always be grateful. Her husband, Franck, and her son, Max, brought us sandwiches, pillows and blankets. We dozed on and off throughout the night, talked about Dave, and shared thoughts and memories. It was a special time in an otherwise horrendous nightmare.”

So, since I decided not to share that original post, I’d like to say this instead – I have faced the scariest and most devastating moments of my life. I watched Dave take his last breath. I read his death certificate and hated every last word of it. I have seen Dave’s ashes. Literally. And I survived. I am still here. I am sad and missing him most minutes of every single day. I am angry that we didn’t have enough time, and none of it makes sense. Sometimes, I am probably a little bit crazy. But I know that we are going to be okay. We have to be. He wouldn’t want it any other way.

As we try to begin this healing process and start to make new memories, the kids and I are leaving for the beach today. Dave’s family arranged everything, and Sam’s friends are housesitting for us. We have already agreed that cell phones and technology will be left in the room during the day, so I’m not sure that I will post here while we are away.

This seems like a good time to say thank you for walking this path with us. Whether we are long time friends or internet acquaintances, we have felt your support and love from across the street and around the world.

xoxo,

Robyn

PS Don’t forget to mark your calendars for November 22nd to celebrate Dave’s almost 50 years in this world. It’s going to be a party worthy of him. Trust me. And if you can’t be here in person, I hope you will don some orange, blast some Van Halen and just have a good time in his honor.

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Thank you Bob Pass for this photo of Dave’s quote.  It’s perfect.  

Our Amazing Kids

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(We teased Dave so much about his “lady glasses”.  He was so proud of his Target clearance rack purchase.)

 

“Don’t forget. Kids are resilient.” This is something that Dave would remind me whenever I would worry. And for the most part, they are doing amazingly well. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t tears, or in the case of Samantha, moments of serious anger. After all they are grieving, and they miss their dad. As Sam tweeted, “Miss him every damn day.”

Dave absolutely loved spending time with his kids, and he was so happy when they looked out for each other. I know he would have been so proud of Grant when he took Parker under his protective wing during the candlelight vigil. He would be giving Sam a big fist pump for inviting Grant to go to a movie with her and her friends.

That last Saturday, Parker decided to spend the night at my sister-in-law’s house. I suggested to Samantha and Grant that we watch tv with Dave. I know that it was a little scary for them to be in room with him because of the hospital bed and oxygen tanks not to mention all the medicines lined up in a row. I explained that in all likelihood Dad would be sleeping but that if he woke up, he would see us and that would make him happy. We nestled in for a few episodes of Family Guy and watched and chatted like any other night. At the end of the second show, Sam asked Grant if he wanted to make a Taco Bell run. (This is their thing. Every time Sam was home for a break this year, they would go.) Dave sat up in his chair, clapped his hands 3 times as if to get their attention and then gave them each a thumbs up. A powerful reminder of his expectations and approval.  I am so grateful that we had that time together.

Today we stopped by Hayfield to pick up our red foot tortoises who winter in Coach Hill’s science classroom. This turned out to be a much harder visit than we anticipated. We pulled into the parking lot to discover that one of the rocks was painted in the orange and white check of Dave’s famous suit – the words “Tremaine Strong” written on the side. There were flowers under the windows where Dave’s office is. Once inside we couldn’t help but notice all the pictures of a healthy happy Dave. Tears were definitely shed once we got back in the car to head home.

I keep telling the kids that they have to be true to what they are feeling. If they feel like laughing, they should. If they feel like crying, that is okay too. I guess I have said it a few too many times since Sam finally called me out, “You keep telling us that.” Maybe I am also trying to convince myself.

When I feel overwhelmed I try to remember what Dave said about it being okay to be sad, to take it one day at a time, that we will be okay and to remember to allow room for happiness to come in too.

xoxo,

Robyn

If Only.

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We were supposed to be leaving for Hawaii today. When Dave’s doctor gave us the “3-6 months” speech, Dave wanted to go big. Immediately he suggested we take the kids and go to Hawaii for two weeks. Stupidly, I thought we should wait until after Grant’s end of year exams. We should have left the next day.

Dave’s doctor was supportive of the trip up until one of his last appointments. His bilirubin was starting to rise and the edema had started in his legs. Dave brought up Hawaii although I am quite sure he already knew what the recommendation would be. It is the only time in the last year that I can remember him being truly angry. He was so frustrated that in the midst of all the crap he was going through that the trip wouldn’t happen. Insult to injury. He wasn’t upset for himself. He just really wanted a big, blow out, memories to last a lifetime, trip for his family.

I am thankful for the amazing trip to California we had earlier in the spring. Dave also fully enjoyed every minute of his trip to Chicago in late May. But I know that I will always wish that I had been less the practical me and more the spontaneous Dave. Eventually the kids and I will take that Hawaiian vacation, and we will bring a bit of Dave with us to scatter in the Pacific. But, of course, it won’t be the same. We won’t be able to duplicate his brand of fun, but we will do our best to try.

xoxo,

Robyn

One Impossible Week Later

I can still picture myself sitting there, holding his hand, unwilling to allow my gaze to move from his face. I remember being utterly confused as to what had just happened, unable to comprehend what I had just witnessed. I still feel like that. I just can’t believe it.

I keep thinking about what an amazing father Dave was. He cultivated a special bond with each of our kids over a shared interest. With Parker it was cheering on the Blackhawks in their matching jerseys. With Sam, it was a shared love of reptiles and their recent purchase of Ellie, the king snake. Grant and Dave shared a similar (often highly inappropriate!) sense of humor, and Dave was introducing him to classic movies like Caddyshack, Airplane and Stripes.

Dave was very purposeful in his conversations with the kids during his final few weeks. He made sure to let them know how proud he was of them. He talked to them about how it would be tough when he was no longer here, that it would take time but they would be okay. He made them secure in his love for them.

The kids said their goodbyes to Dave at home. We had a few scares Sunday morning, and it was obvious that we were turning a final corner. Because his family and I realized that we would not be able to keep him comfortable, we decided to take him to the hospital. Before we went, the kids took turns talking to him and in his last fatherly act, Dave mustered up the strength to connect with each one of them. Parker told him she loved him and he told her he loved her too. Then he puckered up his lips so she could give him a kiss. Samantha told him she loved him and that she would talk to him later. Dave made a great effort to look at his watch and told her “okay”. He blew her a kiss as she turned to walk away. Dave saved the last bit of his energy for Grant, the one of our three kids that he worried about the most. Grant told him he loved him and Dave said, “Relax. Take it one day at a time. I love you.” He left them with all of the tools that he could to insure that they would be okay. I love how much he loved them.

I think about him when I fall asleep at night, when I wake up in the morning, and most moments in between. I just can’t believe it.

xoxo,

Robyn

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Forever Words

Mornings seem to be the toughest part of the day for me.  I wake up, and he’s not here.  So, I have been sitting down at the computer and writing here.  I think it helps.

Over the last five days, I have gone over the details and events of Dave’s last 36 hours or so.  I comb through trying to remember each word or gesture.  I wonder what I could have done or said differently.  I think (hope) this is part of my healing.  

That last Friday, when I went in to check on him, he was sleeping soundly.  So I left a big bowl of raspberries on the table beside him.  A little later when I went in, the bowl was empty.  Dave never was able to resist some delicious berries.  Later I teased him – 

Me: I see you found the berries.

D: I was so happy when I woke up and saw them.  <BIG GRIN>  You are one in a million.

I will hold those words forever in my heart.

xoxo,

Robyn

Tremaine Men

They are handsome, of course.  They are fiercely protective and amazingly strong.  But they are also sensitive.  And funny as hell.  That was true of Dave and is definitely true of our son, Grant.  Dave came by it honestly since I believe his dad and brother share the same traits.

I could not have made it through the last week without them, and I couldn’t possibly list all of the ways in which they were helpful so instead I will share the greatest impact they made on me.

After we watched over Dave, and he had been gone from us for a while, I felt the overwhelming need to go home.  It is a conflicted feeling because I didn’t want to leave him, but I also didn’t want to be there anymore.  As we walked slowly to the car, I suddenly felt the extraordinary heaviness of the last days like someone was pushing firmly down on my shoulders with all of their might.  I sat in the car and started to cry.  Jeff reached over and took my hand and it felt like the only thing keeping me afloat.  I think I gripped on with both hands.  Through his heartbreak and devastating grief, he selflessly supported me.  I wish I could say I did the same, but I didn’t.  I was too lost in my own emotions.  I don’t think I will ever forget that journey home from the hospital.

While we watched over Dave during what would be his final hours, each of us talked to him, kissed him, reassured him that we would be okay and that he could rest.  I sat by the bed and held Dave’s hand but when others approached I tried to look down to give them some privacy.  Dave’s dad came up to him numerous times and told him he loved him and rubbed his shoulder and kissed him.  As the day went on, he also seemed to be holding Dave’s hand.  It wasn’t until later that I realized he was actually feeling for his oldest child’s pulse.  So, as the time got near and I remained completely unaware, Myron, was able to get the family back in the room.  When we knew that it was almost time, we cried and said the final things we wanted Dave to hear.  I can’t explain it, but it felt like a gift to know that his time was growing close.  I will never forget the love from a dad to his son in his final hours.

One of the last things Dave said was, “Take care of each other.”  Baby, I don’t want you worry.  We will.

xoxo,

Robyn

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72 Hours Later – Brain Dump

I killed a HUGE man eating sized bug today.  All by myself.  It took a can of Raid and a really heavy book, but I did it.  It also took some Clorox wipes to deal with the aftermath.  Dave knew that if he came home and there was a book randomly placed on the floor that there was something I deemed scary underneath.  And he would take care of it.  

Last night we had dinner with his family.  Everyone was gathered in my sister in law’s family room.  Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw Dave walk in.  Of course it wasn’t.  It was his brother returning from the airport.  But for that moment, I thought it could be.  

The family is leaving over the next fews day.  They have families and responsibilities to take care of.  It is going to be really hard to see them go.  The help and support everyone provided can’t be measured.  I will miss them.  I guess I am feeling really alone which is silly because I know that I am not.  My family and friends are at the ready to help in any way they can.

This week, I will be dealing with paperwork and benefits related things.  Each time I get an email, I feel stressed.  We thought we had done all of the paperwork and covered all of our bases.  Of course, that doesn’t appear to be so now.  On Friday, I have to pick up the death certificate.  The death certificate.  I can’t believe it.

My neighbor set up a fundraising site for us.  I am feeling a little sheepish about it but I said okay because I can use whatever money to make the kids lives as full and normal as possible as we try to fill even a tiny portion of the Dave sized gap we have in our lives now.  He was he fun parent.  Now, I need to step up my fun game.

As Dave would be saying to me right now.  “It is going to be okay.  Just take it one day at a time.”  

xoxo,

Robyn

 

 

 

Some Answers

We have been touched by all of the emails, texts, messages, calls.  I have read every single one.  I just might not have responded.  There have been some common questions and I have answers.  Kind of.

When is the funeral?  Dave was very anti-funeral or memorial.  He hated the idea of people standing around crying for him.  He was very clear that he did not want one.  Instead he wanted me to throw a big old party celebrating life.  I am sure his vision included lots of people wearing orange, sharing funny stories and blasting Van Halen from the speakers.  So, that is what we will do.  I am thinking it will be sometime around when we should have been celebrating his 50th birthday – November 20th.  I’ll give out details when I figure it all out.

Over the last few weeks, we would take the dogs out for a walk through the woods and talk about everything under the sun.  This was such a gift that I didn’t fully appreciate until now.  One afternoon, we talked about his wish to be cremated.  I asked him where he would want his ashes scattered.  He told me he hadn’t really thought about that, but he would get back to me.  So, I beat myself up on Monday over the fact that we never got back to that discussion.  Then I had a thought that I shared with the kids.  They were on board so I talked to Dave’s mom and sister.  We are having his ashes divided up.  Each family member will take theirs and scatter them somewhere that holds meaning for them – maybe a place that they spent special time with Dave or brings back fun memories.  The only thing that I ask is that they take a picture of the place and write down where they went and why they picked that spot.  It is important for me that his kids know his history and have that as part of their fabric.

Can I make a donation somewhere in his name? We are in the process of figuring it out.  Dave’s family and I agree that he would have loved to support Hayfield in some way.  We are trying to figure out how to go about setting that up.  Again, I will definitely let you know when I have the details.

xoxo,

Robyn

PS There has been a fair amount of media coverage – NBC4 (local TV), The Washington Post (print and online), WTOP (local radio).  He was one of a kind that man.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/in-fairfax-students-remember-hayfield-secondary-principal-day-before-graduation/2014/06/17/99bfdb82-f621-11e3-a3a5-42be35962a52_story.html

http://www.wtop.com/149/3644087/Former-Fairfax-County-principal-dies

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Former-Hayfield-High-School-Principal-Dave-Tremaine-Passes-Away-263382421.html

 One more added today – 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/at-hayfield-graduation-principal-david-tremaines-death-looms-large/2014/06/18/bc7cde16-f6f5-11e3-a3a5-42be35962a52_story.html