The Choices We Make

A year ago, we went on what would turn out to be our last date. I wrote about it here –

Dave was so proud of me. The kind of proud where you stop the proceedings to take pictures of your wife on stage. The kind of proud where you talk about her to everyone you meet. Everyone needs that kind of cheerleader in their life. I miss that.

I just upgraded my phone since my old one decided that it didn’t want to charge anymore. I spent some time listening to voicemails on my old phone and came across one from Dave. He was calling to say that he appreciated something that I had done, and he just wanted me to know how grateful he was. Before Dave died I would have said that I didn’t need that kind of validation. But now I fully realize how nice it was. I miss that.

That’s not to say that our marriage was all sunshine and roses. Dave struggled with some pretty mighty mood swings, and I am plenty flawed myself. There were times in our lives where we rolled up our sleeves, dug in, and fought for our marriage. There were times when we had to tune out the voices of well intentioned friends and family, look one another square in the eye, and pick each other.

During the height of Dave’s cancer journey, we had make that choice again. I think that Dave had reached a point in his treatment where we both kind of knew how the story was going to end, but neither of us was willing to admit it. At that same time, an old friend of Dave’s who reappeared in his life when he was diagnosed, seemed to become more and more a daily part of his life believing that she was providing valuable support. Dave really liked talking to and spending time with this person because she provided an escape from reality – a connection to simpler times and a place where cancer was not a prominent feature. At one point, out of desperation I believe, Dave decided that spending time with this person was more important and preferable to dealing with the reality of his situation and the impact it was having on his family. Just to be clear, I am not suggesting or hinting at any kind of infidelity or romantic relationship. Dave was the most loyal person I have ever met. But he decided to leave. I will never forget overhearing a voicemail from a helpful and supportive family member offering to take him apartment shopping. It was at that moment that I knew I could let it happen or hunker down for the biggest fight of our marriage.

So, I fought.

At the time I was so angry at everyone involved. Now when I look back, I realize the good that came from that time. What followed was probably one of the strongest periods of our marriage. Dave got long overdue help with his mood swings. We were mindful of each other. We were respectful and kind. We were grateful and connected. We chose each other.



Remember when I posted some song lyrics here? They probably make more sense now, right?


Tony and Flash

Dave had this habit of adopting/buying reptiles. Each time, he would utter the following – I got a _________, but don’t worry it’s going to live at school. Eventually all of these school pets would find their way to our house.

Dave rescued Tony Hawk, a cherry headed redfoot tortoise, about ten years ago. We also have Flash, who is another type of redfoot. Dave showed up with her about 13 years ago after a trip to Florida. During the summer, they live outside in our backyard and love the heat and humidity. During the colder months, they live at Hayfield. I feel very lucky that Coach Hill, a biology teacher and wrestling coach extraordinaire, is willing to house them in his classroom.

It has been warm enough outside to bring them home, but to be honest, I have been avoiding going to get them. Being at Hayfield is difficult. I dread going. But like many things, my visit today wasn’t nearly as bad as I anticipated. It is hard to see Dave’s picture in the main office. It is hard to quell the “if only” feelings. But it is always good to see friendly faces, and today I saw some of my favorites (and Dave’s too). I didn’t stay long – I have learned my limitations over this last year. I am hopeful that in time I won’t feel so gutted at the idea of being there.



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I saw this article posted on Facebook and scrolled by it several times.  Last night, for whatever reason, I clicked on the link.  At first when I started reading, the story sounded too familiar.  The wife was diagnosed with cancer after it was “too late”.  Then crazily enough their dog also died in the midst of everything.  I thought it was amazing how similar our lives sounded.

The more I read, the more I realized that our journeys were so very different.  Thankfully.  For us.  I have struggled with and continue to struggle with the fact that Dave was doing okay one day and then gone a week later.  I have not been able to make sense of it.  I picture him in those last days, and my heart breaks all over again.  I see pictures from this time last year and shake my head in disbelief.

But what this family went through for a significant amount of time was so devastating.  I cannot even begin to imagine.  I didn’t want Dave to suffer.  I didn’t want the kids to see him do so.  I know in my head that I should be grateful, and I am as grateful as anyone can be with an outcome they were desperate to change.

The point of the article is about friendship, and while I appreciated that part, it was so much more to me.  It was a perspective I probably needed to read.  It doesn’t miraculously change my feelings, but it does serve as a powerful reminder of what could have been.

(Warning:  Details in this essay are pretty graphic.)




In case you are interested, I also wrote about how awesome Matt and Jeff are here

and here

Yesterday, Matt shared with me that the reason he flew here when he did last June was all due to his wife, Michelle.  She told him he needed to get to Virginia and not to delay.  He said he will be forever grateful that she had that intuition.  It literally made all the difference.  I am also very grateful.  Thank you, Michelle.



Happy Brother’s Day

I successfully navigated my first Mother’s Day alone. Dave and I weren’t big on the traditional celebrations, but he never let an occasion go by without flowers. He also loved buying me anything and everything technological because he knew I would never buy it myself. One Mother’s Day morning, I woke up to a trail of apples leading from the foot of the bed. I followed the path to its end and discovered a new iMac waiting for me.

This year my kids stepped into his size 13s. Since Samantha was in charge of the shopping with one sibling only allowed to contribute money and the other allowed to come along for the ride, they filled a gift bag with lots of my favorite things. I was reminded once again how amazing my children are. They are my biggest gift from Dave.

I woke up this morning wondering why there isn’t a Brother’s Day. Why don’t we celebrate our siblings? I am blessed to have grown up with an amazing brother and gained two more through marriage. Matt and Jeff flew into town within 24 hours of each other last June with plans to stay as long as necessary. I have often wondered how they knew to come. I expect our parents played a part in it, but if they had come a day later, they wouldn’t have had the chance to spend time with Dave while he was still Dave. His very last text, which he never sent, was to wish Matt a Happy Father’s Day.

Beyond Jeff, Matt and Franck, Dave had the most incredible friends whom he would call his brothers. I don’t want to begin to list them for fear of leaving someone out. He had his brothers who stood up for him at our wedding. And his brothers who spoke in his honor after he was gone. He had his Fantasy Football brothers. He loved football season, but he really loved the camaraderie, whether in person or on the phone, and being connected with these funny, talented, smart guys.

He had his work brothers. Men he admired for their exceptional abilities at work but also whom he loved to hang out with and share a beer and a laugh and even a tee time. He had his Gamecock brothers and his California brothers. He jumped at any opportunity to spend time with any of these guys because he just knew it was going to be a great time. He had his tennis brothers. Men who were brought into his life through their mutual love of the game but stayed because of their mutual love and respect for each other.

I know I am leaving some group out which means I will need to come back in and edit this later. Dave cherished his relationship with his own brother first and foremost. And although he did not spend as much time with some of his other brothers as he wanted, he loved them and appreciated them and was always rooting them on through the moments in their lives. And I know that he is in their hearts still doing that to this day.



There is No Easy Way to Say It

Twice today people asked about Dave.  They didn’t know Dave.  They certainly didn’t know he had died.  Awkward.  I never know what to say because inevitably it makes people feel bad. And I don’t want anyone to feel bad.  But saying nothing would be weird too.

The first time was at the hairdresser.  She is a very direct sort of person.

H: Where does your husband get his hair cut?

Me: Ummm.  (Do I say it? What to do.) Well, uh, my husband died.

H: Oh.  I am so sorry.  I didn’t know.  You never said anything.

(Unavoidably awkward moment.)

H: What happened?

Me: He had colon cancer.

H: Did he like meat?

Me: Uh…yea…I guess so.

The second time was when the car service department called me to let me know the car was ready to be picked up.

Service Guy: Can I speak to Dave Tremaine?

Me: Uh..this is his wife.  (Am I still his wife?  I mean technically I guess I am not?)

Service Guy: I am calling to let him know that his car is ready.

Me: Actually…um…you need to change the name in your computer because…um…Dave died and…um…it needs to be in my name.  And I’ll be there to pick it up later this afternoon.

Cringe inducing, right?  For everyone involved.



Mother’s Day 2015

I think there are times when you don’t fully realize how stressed you were until you come through on the other side. I slept 22 hours out of 48 afterwards, if that tells you anything.

I kept my focus outward – on people, events, to-dos. And I think that kept me from going down the rabbit hole of “what ifs”.

The long story short is this – Samantha has been dealing with chronic hip pain for year(s) now. In February, she slipped on the ice, and although she never fell and hit the ground she did twist and turn to prevent herself from doing so. We assumed that she had tweaked the existing condition in her hip. The pain subsided although it was always there. She went on with the life of a college student.

Towards the end of March she called me in severe and debilitating pain. I urged her to go see a local orthopedist. He sent her for a CT scan to make sure that there wasn’t a small fracture that x-ray wasn’t picking up. I went down for her follow up appointment where the doctor didn’t seem overly concerned but did note that the radiologist had mentioned a possible solid soft tissue mass. A repeat MRI with contrast was ordered. The results of this were that they still didn’t know what they were looking at but it ranged in possibilities from nothing much to osteosarcoma. You can imagine what a trigger that was for both of us.

The recommendation was that she have a biopsy done by an orthopedic oncologist. Last week with met with a doctor in Washington DC. He felt from looking at her MRI that a biopsy was necessary for his diagnosis of “neoplasm of unspecified nature of bone, soft tissue and skin”. (The only time that stress REALLY reared its ugly head was, while waiting in the exam room, Sam and I argued about the way Dave and I handled sharing his diagnosis information. But that is a story for another day.)

She had the biopsy done on Thursday. We had to be at the hospital early and spent the waiting time like we tend to do – laughing, making fun of people, quoting Family Guy. The nurse actually came over and commented about all the laughter. It’s how we cope. Dave and I spent our fair share of time laughing over ridiculous things too to suppress the nerves.

The Interventional Radiologist came out and spoke to me afterwards. He said he felt a lot better after looking at the CT scan compared to how he felt looking at the MRI and that he was 95% certain that it was benign.  We will get the pathology results back next week. I felt my blood pressure lower as he spoke. I never really believed there was anything terrible wrong and even the possibility of it was too much to imagine or bear. So, I didn’t. Or at least I thought I didn’t.

It is Mother’s Day, and I sit here thinking about what we do as moms –

We jump in the car and drive to be with our kids when they need us.

We cover our own feelings in order to protect theirs.

We worry in secret while outwardly putting on a brave face.

We don’t eat after midnight on the day of the procedure out of solidarity.

I can’t imagine life any other way.




Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive

Good morning, everyone!  Let’s celebrate Mother’s Day a day early and hopefully help out some mothers in need.  The post office is collecting non-perishable food items today.  I put out things like canned vegetables, rice, pasta, tuna, granola bars.  If you leave it in a bag near your mailbox, your mailman will pick it up for you.  What an easy and awesome thing to do.  If we all just put out a few things, our food banks will have much needed resources. The link below gives more info.  Happy Mother’s Day!


xoxo, Robyn


Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.

This Time Last Year

It’s amazing how easily the mind travels back in time. Mine has been doing it for almost a year now. With every passing day though, the frequency seems to increase.

This time last year.

This time last year we were celebrating Samantha’s 19th birthday. We went to a reptile show in the middle of nowhere and came home with another grey banded king snake. We teased Dave about his lady sunglasses.

This time last year the weather was just as beautiful. We took our daily walks and had our talks about what would be and what might be.

This time last year we found out that Dave had three to six months left to live. In my mind that meant minimally until August but surely through the new year. He was gone less than six weeks later.

This time last year.

In an effort to prevent myself from hurtling head first into the abyss of self pity, I am making an effort to look outward. To appreciate others. To celebrate others. To support others.

I am hopeful that it will make this path to June 16th a little less bumpy.