Flower Power

Dave’s first surgery after diagnosis was days before our anniversary and a week plus before my birthday.  One of the things that he did in the days leading up to his surgery date was stop at our local florist and order two deliveries.  He was worried that he wouldn’t be up for such an errand afterwards and wanted to make sure I had something special on those days.  I have to admit that this year, when those dates rolled around, a small part of me was hoping that somehow he had managed to pull that off once again.

I buy myself flowers on a pretty regular basis now.  I like how they brighten up a room.  Even a cluttered, dusty room.  Trust me on this.  It is based on heavy duty research.  The flowers that were delivered here after Dave died were so lovely.  None of them were funereal.  They brought lightness and beauty.

Today is Dave’s mom’s birthday.  Her first after losing her oldest child.  I cannot for a minute imagine what it is like to be in her shoes.  She and my father-in-law have just returned from a trip during which they scattered some of Dave’s ashes at some special places they revisited.  That is a journey that I am not yet ready to take, and I am in awe of their strength.  I imagine today her heart might be a little heavy.

We sent her flowers, of course.  (I might have been drawn to the orange flowers.  Maybe.)




15 Weeks Later – Alone

We spent the weekend at CNU visiting Sam for Family Weekend.  It was great to see her and spend time together but also challenging too.  She has a life and schedule there that have nothing to do with us so I tried to be mindful of her time while also secretly wanting her to pick us.  But we can’t compete with a fun party, can we?  She’s 19.  I understand, and I remember.

We talked about Dave a lot over the weekend.  After all, he was just there with us this time last year.  We found a dive-y greasy spoon place for breakfast and all commented immediately on how much he would have loved it there.  Music on the Bluetooth made us think of him.  Drifit shirts in the school shop made us think of him.  Our memories were shared almost entirely with smiles though so that’s progress.

Last night as I was lying in my bed, I looked up and stared into his closet with its partially open doors.  Tee shirts are stacked and orange button downs are hanging neatly.  And I felt so alone.  I AM alone.  It is just me.  I am not going to say that I am okay with it.  I don’t really have a choice.

I go out with friends regularly.  Some weeks probably too much.  My family checks in on me, and Mom and Dad have been there whenever and wherever needed.  There is nothing that anyone can do to fill the gap.  It is the shared history.  The jokes.  The looks that meant something that only we knew.  It is the shared parenting and decision making.  And even the shared stress.  Throughout Dave’s journey with cancer, we were us, fighting it together.  He turned to me on that last Saturday night and said he didn’t want to be alone.  And I said, “of course.”  So, I slept on the couch and he slept in his chair and I slipped my hand into his.

This past week I dealt with the water main break, finishing touches on the roof replacement job, hired a guy to replace the fence, and worked on Dave’s party.  It’s not that I can’t handle things on my own.  It all would have just been so much better and less stressful and more fun if he was here.  Who knew that work would be a pleasant escape?

I am muddling through.  Some days are more successful than others.  I have a little chalkboard of things that need to be done which is separate from the calendar of things that need to be done TODAY.  I’ve checked some things off and added some new items.  It will all get done eventually.  Or it won’t.  I guess it’s up to me.






Every day I choose to do my best to remain positive.  I try to stay focused on the bright side.  I try to find the good in people or situations when it would be easier to gripe.  Some days this is easier than others.  I have avoided wallowing.  I have gotten out of bed every day even when I’d rather pull the covers back up.  To be honest, I don’t necessarily do this for me.  I do it for the kids.  Or for my friends and family.  No need to make people worry.

I have always said that I don’t believe in luck – that some people get to be lucky and others, well, not so much.  When I came home today to water gushing down the sidewalk in front of my house and a likely water main break, I had to wonder though.  I might have mentally compared myself to Job (minus the skin sores part, of course.)  We were utterly devastated to lose Dave.  We were heartbroken again when we said goodbye to Winnie.  Now, in the midst of replacing the roof and back fence, we are hit with another expense and inconvenience.  Why right now?  (Granted, compared to the first two losses this is peanuts.  And, no, I don’t have the water main insurance.  And, yes, I am beating myself up about this.)

This is a selfish point of view, I know.  After all, there are many people who have much worse situations.  People lose their children or have a spouse die without warning.  Others can’t afford to feed their children or have no place to live.  I understand all of that.  But can I just have a month or a few weeks to just exist as life is now?  I would be so thankful.



What I Have Learned – 3 Months Later

1. I am, at times, both stronger than I think and not as strong as I imagine.

2. I leaned on Dave a lot.  We leaned on each other.  I identified this as “codependent” to a friend, and she more accurately described it as “a 22 year partnership”.

3. I have to do things myself and be okay with it.  I can’t wait for someone else to take care of it.  Sometimes (lots of times) it sucks to be the only grown up.

4. If I am still and listen closely, I can hear his voice in my ear.  His voice agreed and prodded when it was time to take Winnie in.

5. It is okay to be kind to myself – this might be in the form of a nap or a little treat like a pedicure or a new sweater.  Dave always encouraged this, and I was usually reluctant.

I miss him every single day.  My heart hurts as much today as it did three months ago.  My automatic response when I think about the fact that he is gone is to shake my head and mutter “God damn it.”  I still can’t believe he is gone.




Grant’s Turn

Yesterday Grant and I had a mother/son day.  It started with a run to Dunkin’ on our way to watch the Redskins play.  It was a picture perfect day as we sat in some amazing seats and cheered the Redskins to victory.  Later in the evening we went and picked up swim gear and attended a team meeting.  On the drive home, I glanced over at Grant and discovered big, huge tears streaming down his cheeks.

Me: Why are you crying?

Grant: I think that you are trying to have the same relationship with me that I had with Dad.

Me: Well, that wouldn’t be possible.  You and Dad had a special bond.  You and I can never have that same relationship, but we have our own different one.

Grant: Remember the other day when I asked you “What if we lived in a world where sequels weren’t allowed to exist?  You just kind of said that would be weird.  Dad and I had that same conversation.  We talked about it for hours.

Me: You and Dad had a really unique relationship.  You guys could talk about lots of different things.  I am so sorry that you don’t have him anymore to have those kinds of talks.

We arrived home and hugged.  Grant cried some more and so did I.  There are many days when I miss Dave so much that it hurts but that doesn’t compare to the pain I feel when I realize what my kids are missing.   Grant has a distinct point of view in this world, and Dave was the person who absolutely understood that the best.  They would talk about all manner of things.  I wish I could wave a magic wand and find someone who could be that person for Grant, but there will never be anyone who can stay up until the wee hours discussing the topics that made their relationship one of a kind.




Ashes to Ashes

Yesterday I picked up Winnie’s ashes.  When we went to the vet that final time, Dr. L asked us what we wanted to do with him “after”.  He asked if we would want his ashes returned to us, and my instinct was to say no.  Grant had a different idea.  He did want Winnie’s ashes returned and to scatter them when we scatter Dave’s.  It is actually what Dave wanted too.  On one of our walks, after we learned of Winnie’s awful prognosis, Dave half jokingly said, “If he goes when I go, sneak him in the box with me for cremation.” Now this could have been Dave trying to save a few bucks ($400 or so actually), but I think that he meant it.  He wanted his dog to keep him company for eternity.  Done, big guy.

After we picked up the ashes and tucked them safely with Dave’s, I really thought about the fact that we all end up like that one way or another.  People often say “Life is too short for _____” but then quickly revert back to whatever filled in that blank spot.  But it really is.  Dave’s 49 years or Winnie’s 2 1/2 years were not nearly long enough.  Every day we need to remind ourselves that life actually IS too short.  It is too short for constant complaining, intolerance of others, misery at work or in personal relationships.  Yes, there are certain things in life that we have to do.  But there are also lots and lots of choices to be made every day.  I need to make myself a sign and hang it on the mirror so that on days when I am feeling a bit out of sorts (like many days last week) I remember that  “Life is too short.  Make the choice to enjoy it!”




Is It Me?

Yesterday left me shaking my head in confusion. Am I the crazy one?

*I got my third notification that my paycheck would be short almost $700 due to my going over my sick leave balance in June. The first time I was told about this was during the summer via phone call. This was followed up by email in August. Okay. Understood. Yesterday I received yet another email alerting me to this information. Am I missing something? Why so many notices? I understand I will not have the money come payday. Is there something else I should be thinking of? On a separate note, it is a shame that the 70+ hours of annual leave that Dave was not entitled to as part of the payout (caps at 240 hours), was not something I could use.

*Last night Parker went to a “tween” dinner at the Life with Cancer Center. She was enthusiastic about going and actually enjoyed being around other kids who were in a similar boat. While the kids were crafting, eating pizza and talking, I spoke to a couple of moms. The inevitable questions about our spouses arose from type of cancer to when they died. One conversation went something like this –

Mom 1: When did your husband die?

Me: June

Mom 1: This June? This past June?

Me: Yes, it has been 12 weeks.

Mom 1 & 2: Ohhhh.

They both looked at me with concern. I wondered what that meant. Were they surprised we were there? Did I look like I was holding it together pretty well for 3 months out? Did they think I might meltdown on the spot? Mom 2 wanted to be sure that I knew that the 6-8 month range might be when it hits me hard. I half jokingly said that it hits me hard every other day. Crickets. They again both looked at me with concern. I felt like I should go home, crawl in to bed, and stay there.

*Maybe it is me. I do think that there are times when I over estimate what I can handle. I have been to Hayfield 3 times since Dave died – for the vigil, to pick up the tortoises and to pack up his office. So when my boss approached me on Friday after getting a phone call from the interim principal at Hayfield who was inquiring about Dave’s phone and computer, I didn’t think it would be a huge deal to return them and touch base about the fundraiser while I was there. I was wrong.

I don’t know if it was being asked to look at the pictures on the wall of the past Hayfield principals. The intent was that I admire the picture of a former principal who happened to be visiting yesterday. I could not tear my eyes away from the picture of my beautiful husband – taken when he was the picture of health and happiness. (Worth mentioning, the retired visiting principal, Mr. Lutz, was very kind and sincere as he expressed his condolences. I remember that Dave had only the highest of praise for him.)

Maybe it was being escorted back to Dave’s office which was the last place I wanted to be. Awkward conversation about Dave, his chair and the marching band ensued followed by me unpacking and unloading assorted items like Dave’s laptops, chargers, phone, keys. I stood there uncomfortably while the keys were tested in the door and desk drawers. Minutes felt like an eternity. In defense of the person I was with, he does not know me. He didn’t really know Dave. And I was clearly making him incredibly uncomfortable.  I am sure he is a fine man and leader.

I cried most of the drive home.

I went to bed last night wondering if I am doing this all wrong. In some ways, it would be easy to let the heartache and sadness take the lead. But I don’t think I have that option because of the kids. What kind of example would that be? If only I could protect myself from further situations that leave me muddled and distressed.



It’s Monday Again

Over the weekend I posted this picture on Facebook with a caption that said something like “some days are better than others.  today was a good day.”


The picture got quite a few “likes” and some very kind comments.  It really brought home for me the idea that people want us to be okay.  You are all rooting for us to have good days.  And we do.  Sometimes a good day means we did something extra fun or special.  In the case of Saturday, Parker and I went for pedicures and later that evening I went to see a very entertaining play with my friend, Alex.  I loved spending time with both these special people.  But that isn’t really what made it a good day.

The reason that I considered it a good day is because I felt really connected to Dave all day.  I always get my toes painted a shade of dark blue.  I am not sure why, but it is always my color preference.  Saturday I decided to get them painted orange as a good transition from summer to fall and also as a nod to my man.  It is a little thing but just something for me.  

Later while watching the play, I realized that one of the actors was from a show that Dave and I watched together called The Wire.  I was quietly flipping out because I knew that Dave would absolutely love that connection.  We were addicted to the show and this man played one of Dave’s favorite characters.  Of course, my initial response was “Oh my gosh, Dave is going to freak out when I tell him.”  And he definitely would have.

When I got home, I was reminiscing about Dave and decided to go and look for his wedding band.  He had to have it resized years ago when he broke his finger.  Over time his finger returned to its normal size, and the band was loose.  One day he was wrestling with Grant in the tv room, and it flew off of his finger.  We moved the bookshelves and looked all around but couldn’t find it.  I was telling my friend, Anne, this story a few weeks ago and she suggested that I look on top of the bookshelves.  Sure enough that is where it was.  Dave always wore his wedding band.  When he lost this one, he even got a replacement, but it wasn’t the same.  This one has been worn so long that the engraving I had done all those years ago is nearly worn away.  We searched high and low when he lost it, and I swear we checked the tops of the bookshelves but I guess Saturday was when I was supposed to find it.  

It has been 12 weeks, but it was really comforting to feel like he was still here with me on Saturday.  It was a good day.




Day 20 – Herndon Elementary School


On the first official day back to work, a colleague sought me out during our yearly bus tour. She wanted to give me a hug and some words of encouragement. She told me that I had the support of everyone at HES, and she wanted to be sure that I knew that. This person has gone through unimaginable tragedy so these words coming from her were very powerful and meant the world to me.

The first couple of weeks back to work have been much harder than I anticipated, but I have definitely felt the support and caring of everyone. They have excused my random tears, memory lapses or just my general being “off”. I feel very lucky to work with people who care so passionately about kids and their jobs but also for one another.

I wanted to say a special BIG, HUGE thanks to some amazing women who have also supported us through Dave’s fund and also the fund set up for me and the kids. Some of these women I have worked with for several years, some I have only recently started working with, and some I have taught their kids. 

Ann Godden, Joy Stets, Susan Miller, Karen Kranyak, Evelyn Breitback, Shermin Sirajudin, Marci Britt, Pam Galyean, Susie Doak, Caitlin Sansonese, Cheryl McGovern, Meredith Mani, Aimee Eliason, Kelly Horne and Mona Samaha

Thank you so very much. I appreciate you all so much. Our HES family is truly special.




Day 19 – Winnie

We said goodbye to our Winnie last night. To say that this is insult to injury would be a massive understatement. Having witnessed the last days and hours of Dave’s life, this wasn’t in the same ballpark, but I am crushed for the kids. They should not have to go through this right now. No matter how I sugar coat it with talk of Winnie going to be with Dave, it doesn’t change the fact that this just flat out stinks.

In my effort to focus on the positives I want to say that I have incredibly strong and brave kids who made the right decision for Winnie even though that meant heartbreak for themselves.

Winnie, go be with Dad. You were a sweet, sweet dog.