The Flip Side

Every time I expose myself and my “warts and all” brutal truths, I wonder if I have gone a step too far.  Generally, I get responses or messages from people saying that it helps them understand or that they don’t feel as alone in their own thoughts.  I hope that’s true as it does feel good to be helpful in some way.

I wonder if I portray myself as this miserable, unappreciative Eeyore of a person.  I hope not.  Because if you know me, you know that generally I can be found joking around and laughing.  So, while I shared my truths and these are things that I believe, there is more than one side to these truths too.

1. I hate that others have moved on with their lives.  But, honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way.  I certainly wouldn’t wish misery or unhappiness  on anyone.

2.  I am an absurdly proud person.  I imagine that I could have made life a little easier on myself by accepting offers of help.  I certainly appreciated every offer and everything done for us.  If I had swallowed my pride a little more often, it would have been okay.  I just couldn’t.  But if I had to give advice to someone else, I would tell them to do just that.

3.  I hate it when people bring Dave up to me when I am not expecting it.  The reality is that I talk about Dave all the time.  I bring him up at every opportunity.  I probably have put many people in the position that I have described – especially my kids and his family.  It’s a double standard.

4.  I have judged people for not being there for me.  Well, this is just fact.  I have.  It’s not that I am proud of this fact.  It is just me being honest.  Being there for someone is hard.  It is sometimes being pushed out of your comfort zone.  I can say that before this experience I was never there for someone in the way that I expect/want others to be there for me.  I think this is really only learned through experience.

5.  I hate the expression “rest in peace” or even worse RIP.  I do.  But I also realize that when people don’t know what else to say they rely on what is generally acceptable.  We all do it.  I just feel that now I have a better understanding of what message I want to convey and how I want to say it.

For every truth, there are many underlying facets.  We grow and learn and evolve.



True Confessions – The Not So Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Look me in the eye


and repeat after me – I promise not to take offense to the words I read here.  And if I do take offense, I promise to be forgiving.  We are all doing the best that we can.

Thanks.  Now that we have that out of the way, I can share with you my five ugly truths.

1.  I hate that others have moved on with their lives.  They don’t think about Dave every day.  They aren’t faced with daily reminders of his life and their lives together.  I hate that life goes on for others when I want to world to stop turning.  Misery likes company?  I don’t know.  Jealousy?  Maybe.  Of course, life goes on.  But for those grieving, it goes on much differently.

2.  I am an absurdly proud person.  I don’t do well with offers of help.  Honestly, I hate the idea that other people would think that I need help.  I can cook for my family.  I just chose not to.  I can clean my own house.  I just don’t want to.  We do not need any financial help. We are absolutely fine.

The best kind of help that I received over the weeks and months after Dave died is the help that just happened without my permission.  My brother came over the morning after to get the house more back to normal before the kids came home.  Dave’s sister and her husband came over that afternoon with supplies and tools in hand.  If I have accepted your help in any way, then that is a HUGE deal.

3.  I hate it when people bring Dave up to me when I am not expecting it.  If I bring Dave up, it is because I am feeling strong enough to talk about him.  If we have a relationship where we often discuss Dave, then I can usually handle that too.  What shocks me if when someone brings him up randomly.  But I would hate it if no one wanted to talk about Dave and share stories or tell me how he impacted their lives.  So, this is pretty much a can’t win scenario.  I never said I was a rational person.

4.  I have judged people for not being there for me.  This truly is such an ugly truth.  The strange thing about this process is that not only have I been monumentally self-centered (while also being focused on the kids), I have been extremely judgmental about people I thought would be there for me who for whatever reason haven’t.  Perhaps they are struggling to cope themselves.  After all, we are all just doing the best that we can.  I have also been humbled by people who have been there for me in ways that I would have never imagined.  I guess that in troubling times your true colors show.  And I am lucky enough to have many friends whose colors are the brightest of colors in the rainbow.

There is someone who I don’t know (at least I don’t think that we have ever met).  She sends me a card every week to let me know that she is thinking about me and the kids.  I sense that experience has taught her how important it is to be remembered regularly.

5.  I hate the expression “rest in peace” or even worse RIP.  In fact, I pretty much hate all of the standard sayings “He’s at peace”, “His suffering has ended”, “He’s in a better place”.  Hate it.  Hate it.  Hate it.  I mean he was at peace when he died so I guess he is resting in peace.  What choice does he have?  He’s not in a better place.  The best place for him to be, in my opinion, is here with me.  I will never use any of these sayings.  Instead I will say, “I am so sorry.”  “Ugh.  This sucks.”

So, there you have it.  For whatever it is worth.  (Perhaps not much.)  My unglossy honest truths in my post-Dave world.



Glimpses of Dave

I have mentioned before that I don’t really believe in signs.  It is the same doubt that I have when someone talks about Dave watching over us.  That is not so say that I don’t feel his presence, but for me this comes from within.  I have experiences that I associate with Dave because they remind me of Dave.  We all find comfort in different ways.

A few weeks ago, the kids and I were driving to my parents’ house.  On the way we saw a large bird of prey.  I always assume these are hawks but truthfully it could have been a falcon.  I can’t really tell them apart.  Naturally this made me think of Dave.  Right afterwards, this song came on the radio.


Dave and I took Samantha and our oldest nephew, Max, to a New York Dolls/Poison/Motley Crue show a few summers ago.  We particularly appreciate this song for the cheesy little sigh that Bret Michaels does right at the beginning.  It felt like a Dave moment, and I texted Sam to share it with her.

More recently I was tidying up the tv room in the basement when a paper drifted down from the top of one of the bookshelves.  It was an old french assignment from one of the kids.  I have no idea why it was up there or for how long.  When I looked up towards the top of the shelf, I noticed Grant’s DS was hiding up there too.  (Due to a recurring issue with missing homework assignments Grant had lost his electronics but had clearly found a way to work around that punishment by playing in the basement and keeping it out of view.)  While I don’t believe that Dave sent that paper soaring to get my attention, I did pause for a minute and consider what his reaction to the situation would be.  While he always had the bigger bark, he was also the bigger softie when it came to the kids.  I could hear him telling me to give Grant a break.  So while I didn’t reinstate all electronics, I did let him pick one.  I also let him know that I was on to him and had found his hidden device!

Parker and Grant have both had some fun opportunities lately – Grant with his swimming and Parker with her school play.   I can picture Dave’s face and the huge beaming smile he would have with this news.  I can hear his voice and the excitement and pride with which he would be praising and congratulating them.  I don’t believe anything made him happier than when the kids were happy.

So, while I don’t believe in signs, I do believe that Dave lives on within each of us.  We see and hear things and attribute them to him because we know exactly what he would say and do in those moments.  It is not the same and it is not enough, but it is what we have.  And I am grateful to at least have that.




Looking Ahead

Parker is going to camp this summer.  For a week. Two different people, whom I have never met, reached out and told me about a camp that is offered to children who have a parent who currently has or has had cancer.  The camp is an opportunity for kids aged 6-16 to just be kids.  When I talked to Parker about going, she didn’t even hesitate.  She said she wanted to go.  When I offered up the different locations in VA, she picked the most familiar spot.  The camp is staffed by college students and is offered free of charge.  I am hopeful that this is going to be an amazing experience for her.



Find out more here –

Looking Back

During the hour long drive to Dennis’s funeral today, I had lots of time to think – there really is nothing worse than being alone in the car with just your thoughts to keep you company.  Even the radio wasn’t enough of a distraction.

I thought about what a sweet soul Dennis was.  We loved him from the get go.

I thought about his wife and daughter and how they must be feeling.

I thought about those first days which now seem so long ago.  I tried to remember what I found the most helpful during that time.  I decided that it was people just being there.  Showing up at the doorstep.  Sometimes with a meal or cookies or something (a vacuum!).  Sometimes with cups of coffee and a listening ear.  It didn’t matter what they brought or didn’t bring (although that’s not to say we didn’t appreciate how very well we were provided for too).  It was a blessing to not feel alone.  It was a blessing to have people to talk to, who were willing to listen and cry and just be present.

So I plan to show up on their doorstep on Wednesday morning armed with biscotti, a listening ear and a willingness to help in any way that I can.  In those early days and even now, there are many times when I didn’t even know what to ask for when offered help.  I will never forget my friend, Lori, taking a thank you basket to the hospital for me when I mentioned in passing that I wanted to do something for the incredible staff there.  She really listened to me and found a way to help me that I would have never thought of myself.  I hope that I can be that kind of friend.



Another Goodbye

In October 2012, Dave and I attended a couples’ retreat hosted by Johns Hopkins.  There were six couples in attendance each with a “patient” and a “caregiver” living with metastatic colon cancer.  After the retreat some of us got together occasionally for meals and tried to keep in touch.  Today the final warrior in that exclusive and unfortunate club passed away.

Goodbye, Sweet Dennis.  It was an honor and a privilege to know you.  And to your incredible wife and daughter, I wish them strength and peace in the upcoming days and months.



Another Day, Another Month Gone By

When I was walking downstairs this morning, I was thinking about how there is a memory attached to everything in this house.  I can look at anything, with the exception of a few new household accessories and a few too many new clothes, and associate it with Dave.  (Truthfully, even with the new things, I know he would have been happy that I did some things for myself and he would be thrilled with the new little touches of organization or decoration.)  Parker’s tennis racquet leaning against the cubbies, his slippers on the shoe rack, a photo from National Harbor on the wall take me back to his Sunday mornings with his youngest, his feet so achy that only slippers were comfortable, and our quick getaway with the kids.  These memories are comforting some days and on others make me want to move away from here.  The next thought that popped into my head was that it is the 16th and another month has gone by.

I know that at this point I sound like a broken record, but I still have such a sense of disbelief.  It is not that I think he is going to walk through the door at any moment; I just can’t believe he isn’t.  I am beginning to wonder if this feeling ever subsides.  We are seven months into our after and the feeling seems as strong as day one.

But we move forward, sometimes shuffling our feet with our heads hanging.  Other times, more often than not, we hold our heads up and charge ahead.  The three of us are heading to Baltimore tomorrow to the aquarium.  In true Dave fashion, I decided we needed a destination this weekend and to get out of here for a day.

Happy Weekend everyone.  Onward and upward.



A Realization

I have mentioned several times that I have not really been cooking since June.  My thinking has been that I just haven’t wanted to make the effort or come up with the menu or do the shopping.  Basically that laziness has precluded any kind of culinary action.  What I realized this week is that I think there is so much more to it than that.

Dinner time was a family ritual.

The five of us (or four when Sam left for school) would sit around the table most nights of the week and have dinner together.  We shared our highs and lows of the day, told stories, laughed.  Sometimes one person or another would be in a snit about something but even that was something that was hashed out over our evening meal.  When Dave felt awful from chemo, he almost always still joined us at the table.  Sometimes eating.  Sometimes just sitting with us for a few minutes before retreating back to bed.

Dave and I shared cooking responsibility.  It might be that one of us had something in mind or a hankering.  Maybe the first person home just got the honor.  Dave loved to experiment in the kitchen and on the grill.  I believe that we have had dozens of variations of beer can chicken.  He finally stopped when we begged and pleaded.

The three (or four) of us sitting down to a home cooked meal is a completely different energy.  So mostly we have avoided it.  For the first time in my life, we have eaten our occasional home cooked meals in front of the TV.  In front of the TV.  I shake my head at the thought.  It is something that never would have happened in our before.

For now, I think it is okay.  I am hopeful that in recognizing IT that I can somehow work on IT.  Time will tell.




Tonight’s meal made possible by Blue Apron.  It eliminates the planning and shopping element!

I’ve Stopped Counting Mondays

I’ve stopped counting Mondays. I am usually vaguely aware that another Monday is going by, but I don’t watch the clock like I used to thinking about where I was at that time. At some point in the last month or so, I’ve stopped tracking time by weeks gone by. Now I refer to months and their fractional parts. It will be 7 months on Friday. I don’t think this is a sign of healing more that my brain can’t regularly keep track of numbers as big as 30 weeks.

Silence is the enemy these days. Memories are a blessing and a curse. It used to be that everything would hit me hardest in the car but now I find that any quiet time takes me to a place of loneliness and melancholy. I’ve been reading to fill the void – 6 books in 3 weeks if that tells you anything.

A friend shared an article she read about grieving. In it the author talks about how exhausting it is to put your “I’m doing fine face” forward to the world. I understand this. People want to know that you are doing okay. I find myself doing it all the time. A question as simple as “How are you?” usually gets a standard “fine” response. I mean who really wants to hear that it’s tough? Most days.

I know that this was exhausting for Dave. He always put his enthusiastic, positive face forward for others. He would only really show his true emotions to me and even those were guarded at times. I guess it is human nature to not want to be a burden on others. Even when sharing bad news with family and friends he would temper it by being upbeat and positive when inside he was feeling frustrated and knocked down.

I guess that I am finally at that point where outside help is an option. I have avoided counseling and support groups (shudder) at all costs. The idea of sharing my experience and having to talk about everything makes me feel queasy. I talk about Dave all the time – what he would say or think, what he did say or do. But I am loathe to really revisit those last days/months/years or my feelings about them. I have shared in this space more than anywhere else and that has been helpful, I think. But it is probably time to call in the professionals – for their expertise and maybe for their prescription pad.

It is not that I am not functioning. My to do list is getting done, bills are being paid, I am showing up at work and doing a decent job, I think. But I just don’t know how to make my heart stop hurting or how to quiet the sad thoughts in my head. Those just make me want to go back to bed and pull the covers up. I guess it is a victory that I don’t.

I know that counseling is beneficial. I know that many of you will encourage me to seek it out. Please don’t. It takes courage to make that step, and I am building up to it. One step and day at a time.



Last Update, I Swear…

The Dave Tremaine Charitable Fund ended strong. The total is a little over $107,000. Did you do a double take? I know I did! Thank you everyone. Your money will go far to help kids enrich their lives through tennis, drama and post graduation education. Thank you for making that possible.

I don’t even have the words to express how incredible it all is.  I am so very grateful.



PS We are happy to take donations any time, but the online site is now closed.  Please contact me for more information, if you are interested in donating.  Thanks!