I keep thinking that I need to write a recap of Dave’s party. For now I will say that it was definitely Dave worthy – the right mix of ceremony and sloppiness, a few tears and lots of laughs. More on that later this week.
I have decided that I don’t think that it is the holidays that are going to get me. It is the days and weeks surrounding them that are full of land mines. Yesterday at the mall, I could barely stand to look at the signs that said “Gifts for Him”. Families standing in line to visit Santa (Frozen themed complete with Olaf, no less), made me melancholy for Christmases past. Last year, I was annoyed with Dave for one reason or another and so he took the kids to see Santa, while I walked off in a huff to look at shops. I can’t beat myself up over that, but I would do it differently if I had the opportunity.
Each year we drive out to a Christmas tree farm, drink hot cider and then trek around the hills looking for the perfect tree. Dave always wanted a short, fat tree. I was always on the look out for one that had sturdy enough branches to hold the ornaments but not so prickly that you had to wear gloves while decorating it. Somehow the five of us would come to a consensus, cut down the tree, drag it down the mountain and then face the challenge of tying it to the top of the car. Last year we decided to just put it in the car with us. Poor Parker had quite the crowed ride home. This year, we are going to Miami and Key West for Christmas so we are talking about getting a small artificial tree.
The thought of decorating makes my heart ache. Dave and I always tackled the job of getting the tree in the house, putting it into the stand and then stringing the lights. Then the kids would join us for decorating. Each ornament that comes out belongs to someone and has a story behind it. Whoever took out monopoly man handed it to Dave since that was his favorite ornament. Many of the ornaments tell the history of our family. Some personalized with just my name and Dave’s. Then as our family grew, so did the names inscribed. Dog bone shaped ornaments bear the names of family pets past and present. There were always laughs and stories told as we decorated the tree with Christmas music playing in the background and sipping on eggnog along the way. I cannot bear the thought of looking through those ornaments this year.
Dave and I always made a date night out of Christmas shopping for the kids. Armed with their wish lists in hand, we would head out for dinner and discuss what we might buy. Then we would hit the stores with a vengeance determined to finish as much as we could in one night. Inevitably, we would have an equal number of gifts for each child and Dave would find something that he just had to get one of them. That used to make me crazy. I would then go out and even things up for the other two when he would return home again in the week or so preceding Christmas with another random extra gift. Then the cycle would begin again. He couldn’t help himself.
A sort of heaviness has been sitting with me today. I don’t know if it is because Sam is on her way back to school or because we are facing the next holiday or a combination of several factors. I have been told that the six month mark can be challenging for many people. We will hit that milestone just before Christmas. I believe that I always try to look for the positives in any situation no matter how difficult. I guess that will continue to be the game plan as we move through these upcoming days and weeks.
For 22 years.
For countless belly laughs and amazing memories.
For the endless support and pride in my accomplishments.
For our 3 incredible children.
For the inside jokes.
For helping me grow in so many ways.
For reminding me repeatedly that the kids would be okay.
For being the ultimate dad up until the very end.
For preparing the kids to go on after you were gone.
For embracing life.
For loving me.
Hayfield was the promised land – the pinnacle of Dave’s career. He loved everything about it. And as I told Scott Brabrand on Friday night, I will forever be grateful to him for getting Dave there.
Today we met Dave’s family (his brother and his family, his parents and his uncle) there to see the newly christened Dave Tremaine Spirit Shop and also to see the benches that were installed in his honor. The spirit store rename came about because of students, parents and staff writing to the school board. I have the letters and they are amazing – so full of admiration and praise for Dave and the positives changes he made at Hayfield. The bench project was spearheaded by Jeff who worked with the school to create a serene sitting area flanked by raised flower beds.
I fought tears the entire 45 minute drive to Hayfield. It is always when I have been feeling strong that I am floored by the grief that percolates so close to the surface. We walked through rain and enormous wet, fluffy snowflakes into the school. And as we stood in the office waiting for everyone to be ready, I stole a few glances at my beautiful husband’s picture up on the wall.
Our first stop was the spirit store. I distracted myself by swinging my niece and nephew around a bit and then hoisting them up to get a better view of Dave’s many photos. Kids are great for keeping your tears and emotions in check. They especially liked the photo of Dave wearing an orange and white wig while standing next to a kind of budget Barney.
Next we headed back out into the rain and snow mix to see the benches. I have to admit that I again started to get choked up so averted my eyes and chatted with the new principal and one of my absolute favorite hawks, Alfonso. Apparently FCPS, the school and the landscaper really moved mountains in order for the installation to be complete so we could see it this week. For that, I am extremely grateful. (I am also so grateful to Cheryl who has been instrumental in helping us with this and our fundraising effort.)
Afterwards, we all piled into our separate cars and went our own ways. The kids and I drove home in near silence. I think we were all lost in our own reflective thoughts. When I am at Hayfield I can’t help but think of the what ifs. But I am also thankful that Dave had a chance to make his mark there. There is always a kernel of amazing even in a pile of heartbreak.
Today should have been Dave’s 50th birthday. We should have been celebrating this milestone birthday with friends and family. Back in April, I had convinced him to let me throw him a party.
For his 40th, we had his party at the house. The basement was like a mosh pit. I really had no idea my basement could hold that many people. All the levels of our house could not contain the number of people who are ready to celebrate his almost 50 years though.
I shared this picture on Facebook this morning. It is bittersweet for me. He is so healthy and happy and so it is again so hard to wrap my mind around the fact that he is gone. This was on one of our many family trips to Disney World. He had been taking a chinese language class and was eager to try out his new skills. The kids and I were doubled over laughing when he inadvertently told a young worker from Beijing that he loved her. That was Dave though – never afraid to try something new even if he ended up a little bit red in the face afterwards. One of the many things I admired about him and learned from him.
Happy Birthday, Babe. I love you and miss you.
My life took an unexpected time out last Tuesday. I woke up feeling a little off and had a slight twinge in my right upper thigh that I blew off thinking it was just related to that special time of the month. Midday I was walking around getting some things done when suddenly I could not catch my breath. I was breathing in but the air didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Terrifying would be a fairly accurate description. Also, heartbreaking as I couldn’t help but think of Dave during his last day or so and how he must have felt. I caught my breath after sitting for a few moments and thought that perhaps I had had a panic attack. But as the afternoon went on, I had this nagging sense that perhaps this was a bigger deal. I called my mom and told her “I think that I need to go to the ER.” She picked me up and we headed straight there.
If you want to get seen quickly in the ER, check the “shortness of breath” box. Within minutes I had an EKG and the doctor was in to talk to me. The good news is that I wasn’t having a heart attack. However, my blood pressure and heart rate were through the roof. I tried to explain that I was stressed about my breathing but that I was also anxious because my husband had died in this very hospital in June. I am sure it was difficult to understand me through my tears, but the nurse could not have been kinder or more comforting. I wish I knew her name as she was a Godsend. The doctor ordered a big dose of Ativan to calm me down.
It was a shift change so a new doctor came in to see me. I happened to mention the twinge in my leg earlier in the day. He ordered a chest x-ray, CT scan and an ultrasound of my leg which I had quickly all in a row. Apparently I had experienced a pulmonary embolism – a large clot traveled from my leg and I ended up with clots to each lung in the pulmonary arteries. Sadly for me this meant that I had to be admitted to the hospital where I most definitely didn’t want to stay.
The long story short is that I spent Tuesday through Friday night there. Fortunately, I wasn’t lacking in visitors to keep my company. My parents held down the fort at home and also visited to check on me and bring necessities (hello, deodorant and toothpaste). I had an echocardiogram done as well to check on my heart. There is some effect but the damage should be completely reversible and heal over time. In the end, the assortment of doctors couldn’t quite agree as to whether something seen in my heart was another clot or not. At first they said it was and then one said he wasn’t convinced. Perhaps they were looking at the part of my heart that broke this summer when Dave died.
So I am home. And very happy to be here with the kids. I was tired of being in the hospital and all that comes with it. The constant blood testing and vitals checks were making me crazy. I am thankful that, as many of the nurses and doctors told me, “things didn’t turn out differently”. I am trying to take it easy and keep in the forefront of my mind that my kids should not be screwed out of having both parents. I am tired and a little anxious but as my lungs and heart heal and my breathing gets easier, I know those effects will also resolve themselves.