Unlikely Tearjerker: Crying at Catalogs

No man to shop for. Incomplete. Halved.

(FYI: I mention brand names sometimes. I’m not getting paid for it. Not that I don’t hope to get paid for it someday, to be honest, but please be assured that I wouldn’t accept payment to endorse something I don’t like or don’t use. There’s a name for that. I’m not that.)

Labor Day Weekend. So far, it’s been a weekend of funerals and public mourning here in the US  – Aretha. John McCain. Rainy here in Chicagoland. But Labor Day weekend is still and always, regardless, the informal “official” beginning of the fall season.

My favorite season.

Break out the pumpkins and gourds, the red, orange and rusty leaves, the deep blue October skies, the fall excursions, the clean, brisk chill.

Here come the catalogs.

For a while there, I was the catalog queen. I delighted in finding obscure, funny or “just right” gifts for family and friends in the deluge of catalogs that start arriving in the mail this time of year, anticipating my other favorite season, Christmastime.

The volume of catalogs in my mailbox has decreased markedly, probably because I don’t buy so much stuff from them anymore.

I used to buy Mike a lot of stuff from catalogs.

Clothes, mostly. Like many men, Mike hated shopping, couldn’t stand having to make decisions about which shirt or what color or how many pockets. So I bought most of his clothes for him, primarily from catalogs.

Mostly from the L.L. Bean catalog

I get catalogs from L.L. Bean regularly, I suppose because I buy stuff from them regularly. And the fall L.L. Bean catalog is one fat-ass catalog.

These catalogs are usually neatly divided into women’s clothing, footwear, outdoor gear and men’s clothing.

When I first collect the catalogs from the mailbox, I still find myself reflexively flipping to the back half, where the men’s clothing is featured.

That’s when the tears start.

It used to be fun, joyful, even, to peruse, study, contemplate and even agonize a little over which shirts, what pair of shorts or trousers or which color sweater I would buy for Mike this year. Always something muted – he liked misty ocean blues, olive greens, greys. He surprised me once, on our annual pilgrimage to Renny’s, an old-fashioned all-goods mini-department store in Bath or Damariscotta, Maine, by choosing a bright, rosy orange t-shirt. But for the most part, navy, dark green and greys would do.

Now, looking at the L.L. Bean catalog just feels sad, incomplete. Diminished.

What do I need with a new flannel shirt? Another expensive (always v-necked, I’m short, it helps) cashmere sweater? I’ll only forget and toss it in the shared laundry basket at the top of the basement stairs, where Angelic Daughter will collect it and with her beautiful, helpful, eager-to-please, utterly innocent heart, wash it in hot water and put it in the dryer, to emerge, a pint-sized shadow of its former self.  I have hundreds of dollars worth of such boiled-wool sweaters. I’ll cut them into squares and stitch them into a blanket for my grand-nephew, one of these days.

That raggy sweater up there in the picture was one of Mike’s stalwarts. So much so that it got snagged and torn during bouts of fall yard work. I kept it and, submerged in it, used it in the deep of winter on sub-zero mornings when tending the chickens. Those birds are gone now, but I still have the sweater.

But the catalog. There it sits, on top of my “mount to-be-read” (an expression I am borrowing from a member of a a listserv and website for Patrick O’Brian enthusiasts), half of it now dimmed, shrouded in sad irrelevance.

No man to shop for. Incomplete. Halved.

I’ve learned to give these catalogs a glance, anyway, silently thanking L.L. Bean for their neat organization, making it easy to avoid the back half of the book, where the men’s clothing is grouped. There might be something there my daughter needs. I’ll  give it a look for that.

Boots, hats, gloves, socks. Perennially unprepared for winter before it comes, I’m determined to fix that this year. We’ll have enough to muffle ourselves up in when we go to hang an autumn decoration, obtained on a fall excursion, on the shepherd’s hook by his gravestone, and when the time for winter wreaths rolls around.

Muffled, with that ever-empty space beside us, where Mike, the anchor of our little family triumvirate, should be.

We walk with that empty space beside us, inside us, now, through every moment of our days.

The tear-dampened back half of that catalog flaps limply as I fold it under.

Recycle.

 

Hoping for a hummingbird, to remind me we’ll be OK,

I remain,

Your loyal, devoted, I hope not-too-self-pitying, incomplete but trying to recycle and carry on,

Ridiculouswoman

Fly Away – It Will Be OK

Because of that preening bird, I know Mike thinks it’s OK…

My oldest brother warned me about this: there would come a day when I didn’t think about Mike at all.

And I’d feel guilty about it, but it would be OK.

In truth it has already happened a few times, and I did feel guilty.

But yesterday was the first time I had a really surprising, truly upsetting lapse of remembering Mike: I forgot that we had planned an observance of the second anniversary of his death.

I scheduled the installation of new carpet, in what had been his room, on that very day: tomorrow, the 24th.

How could I?

I was caught up in a project for our daughter.

Who last week suddenly declared she wanted to turn his room in to a “computer lounge.”

I had already taken his bed (yes, separate bedrooms, long story, you’ll have to read the book if I ever get it published) out of there so we could make it her “art room,” and I hauled her art desk and her electric keyboard up from the basement to put in there.

The room is on the other side of her bedroom wall.  They had communicated to each other through the thin drywall barrier, like kids after the adults have gone to bed – knocking on the wall, whispering and laughing together, buddies, pals.

But now she wanted to take the art and music stuff out of there, and get a laptop, a desk and a chair for her new “computer lounge.”

I think she’s trying to recreate the quiet “break room” from the day program she just quit. That’s ok. It’s what she needs now – a space like that, but at home.

So, back to the basement go the keyboard and the art desk and back into her bedroom goes the guitar.

The carpet guy called as we were driving to the hardware store (phone on Bluetooth, both hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, no worries) to get another paintbrush and a few more of those little angle-tip spongy things that get the paint into the edges of places but not beyond.  He said they could come pretty much anytime.

“Do  you want to do it sooner rather than later?”

“Well, we’ll be finished painting today, so sooner, I guess…”

“We have Friday or Monday.”

“How about Friday?”

It wasn’t until I had parked the car at the hardware store that it hit me – we were supposed to picnic at the gravesite Friday. We were going to blow some bubbles and maybe let go of a balloon to symbolize setting his spirit free – letting him know that we wouldn’t try to hold him here anymore, that we’d be OK with our memories and his whispers from beyond – the songs, the hummingbird, the butterflies.

Our daughter saw the panic in my face.

“They’ll call in the morning to tell us when they’re coming, and after they’re done, we can go see Dad, like we planned.”

She was disturbed: somewhere in her over-connected, autistic brain, she must have realized that she also had forgotten, for a moment, the significance of tomorrow.

I cried when I was prepping the room for paint. The project felt like a kind of erasure, like we were obliterating something about Mike. Tears were streaming down my face as I brought the supplies into the empty room.  As I set everything down, I looked up for a moment – and was startled by a really bright red, fat, young male cardinal, fluffy and preening, in the branch of the big maple tree, very close to the window.

Mike loved birds. More of them came to the birdbath in the back yard when he was here. It wasn’t just hummingbirds, he was interested in all types of birds.

So it didn’t seem out of place to ask, “Mike, is that you, hon?”

I swear to you, that bird looked right at me. And then it opened its mouth wide, the way baby robins do while chasing their exhausted parents around the yard – “feed me! Feed me! Feed me!”

That was a running joke between Mike and me, when it seemed our daughter could never stop needing more food – cook for me, more for me, feed me, feed me, feed me!

“Oh, hon, I’m sure that’s you! I hope you’re OK with this, with us changing the room!”

That bird looked right at me again, sideways, with a look that said, “of course it’s OK – about time!” And then it flew away, up over the top of the house.

It is supposed to rain tomorrow. That forecast was why we scrambled to get the paint done, so we could keep the windows open without the damp slowing the drying. But we also wanted to get it done so we could visit his grave on the anniversary day.

But the carpet is coming instead.

So we went there today. We blew a few bubbles.  Most of them sank to the earth quickly, but one drifted high above the trees, into the clear blue of today’s rain-free sky.

We came home and ordered a desk, and began looking online for a laptop and a chair.

Claiming that room as her own is, I think, a sign that our daughter is beginning to understand she can live, maybe even happily, without her Dad physically here. She can keep him in her heart and memory, even as she comes to accept that he will never again be right there on the other side of her bedroom wall.

And it’s OK.

And because of that fat, preening, joking cardinal, I know Mike thinks it’s OK too.

Wishing you relief from sadness, and joy in little moments of progress, I remain,

Your loyal, grateful, starting-to-heal, trying-to-hope,

Ridiculouswoman

Divestiture, Episode Two

We sit quietly in the dark…with no chickens to feed..finally, truly absorbing his absence.

Is there any such thing as “Empty Coop Syndrome?”

The chickens are gone. Deliberately. I gave them away to a nice couple, who have much more land than I do. The lady of the pair teaches others how to have backyard chickens, so she knows much more about them than I ever bothered to learn. She may even help me find someone willing to buy the coop and take it away.

I can’t eat three dozen eggs a week. Six chickens for two people, one of whom doesn’t really eat eggs, were way too much.

Plus, although frozen chicken poop is much easier to clean up than fresh, I wasn’t looking forward to another winter of dark, 15-below mornings, and worrying about if I had kept both the chickens and their water from freezing.

So, buh-bye, chickens.

And I miss them.

Wha?

How could that be? I found them amusing, but also pretty disgusting, and I was getting lazy with them. They are better off where they are. And the nice lady who took them let me know that they have already adjusted very well.

I guess it is just a habit I developed over the last year, looking out the window to check on them – replenishing water and food, tossing them the occasional treat, letting them out for a romp in the yard.

But I also know that I got them in the first place sort of as a way to hang on to Mike – we had talked about it, but he got sick before we got around to it. And even if we had done it when he was well, I know I would have been the one dealing with the water, the food, the bedding and the poop.

Thinking about that got me thinking about how I’m spending my time: spinning my wheels. Getting and leaving the same kind of job I had when he was sick. Doing the same kinds of things. Occasionally trying to make the same kinds of food he made, for our daughter.

August 24 will be two years since Mike died, and it is time to stop doing backward-looking things in memory of him, for him, and start looking forward, figuring out how to live complete lives, for the of the rest of our lives, without him, for us. With joy, love and laughs – for where we all are, now. Mike in the next world, and as our daughter keeps anxiously repeating, the two of us, still here in this one.

Certainly not doing things that only remind me of things he would have left me to do on my own, anyway.

He might not even have eaten the eggs. He never was that into the fresh vegetables I grow in the back yard, either.

The chickens were a distraction, a form of “displacement activity,”  from the things I’m trying to focus on right now – love and laughs, and my adult child, who really needs my time.

Because as soon as I quit my job, she decided to quit her day program. The “Mommyitis” I wrote about in “Fatherless Days”  has intensified – she needs me to sit by her, stay by her, be by her, all day.

Her other caregiver, a wonderful woman who is a genius at getting her to get out, do stuff, play, shop and interact with the outside world, went on a well-deserved vacation. Should be back now, but we’ll give her some time to recover.

But that made my daughter very nervous. Was this another abandonment?

And then the horse she rode most often at her therapeutic riding center died.

How much of this is she supposed to endure? Life is full of loss, but c’mon, this is kind of piling on.

So, that sing, speak, write thing? We’re going to have to figure out how to do that very early in the morning, or in the evening when other helpers are available to keep her company.

In the meantime, we, together, she and I, must learn to sit with Mike’s absence in this house. Something she didn’t really get the time to do, two years ago. I thought maintaining her routine would comfort her. She had so much to go through – leaving her transition program, learning to use public transportation, starting her day program, getting a job. But she never really got the time to just feel the grief, the sadness, the starkness of his departure, and his absence, from this life. From ours.

She deserves that time, and I need to give that to her.

It’s working, I think. She has started to think about what an independent life might be, outside this house. She has started to think about ways we can update her spaces in this house, until she’s ready for that next huge step (although she seems to want to replicate a space from the abandoned day program – a quiet, computer-lounge kind of space – but that is a more adult kind of thing than a play space, and I want to support her in that.) She’s become open to rearranging furniture, or getting some new carpet,  and she wants a new desk, if we can afford it.

Because she can’t live independently outside this house until she learns how to live without her Dad in this one, I don’t think. Not without the happy memories, the Journey songs, the butterflies and the hummingbirds – but without the expectation that he will ever be here again, that anything we do can bring him back or that things could ever be the same, that we could recapture him here, somehow – conjure him up like some immortal interactive hologram to keep her company. Not going to happen.

So we sit quietly together, in the dark after sunset, with no chickens to feed (but with a sad-eyed, fat, arthritic, aging cat that Mike had a sort of love-hate relationship with), the two of us (well, the three of us, because the cat seems to miss him, too) finally, truly absorbing his absence.

And maybe just starting to get a glimmer that, even carrying that absence with us, life can go on. And that it will be OK.

I’ll keep you posted.

Until then I remain, your humble, devoted, struggling but trying,

Ridiculouswoman

Fatherless Days

Exhaustion, like grief and panic, comes in waves.

Days like today, sunny, not too hot, I’ll pop out of bed, get breakfasts and lunches ready, do necessary chauffeuring, and then head into the yard to get dirty.

Generally I’m of the opinion that there is no bout of sadness a good round of yard work and gardening can’t cure, or lessen, at least, and today is the day of the week the yard waste bin must be filled, to make it worth having at all. So dig, prune, divide, transplant, mulch, weed and…..collapse.

Father’s Day hit us both hard – it’s nearly six weeks ago now, but somehow this second one without him seems to have magnified the impact of his absence.

Our daughter (I’m dropping the pretense of referring to her in a genderless way, because I think it must be blindingly obvious to any reader that the only reason I’d try to protect “our child” by doing that is because “our child” is female, therefore blowing that cover anyway) began to act out in rare ways around Father’s Day, and developed a severe case of “Mommyitis,” as my sister-in-law used to call it. Calling me far too often when I was at work (and you can’t really safely talk on the phone while driving a forklift – in fact there’s really nothing safe about driving a forklift at all); needing me to sit by her for hours at night, when she used to be able to amuse herself just fine with music, TV and drawing.

It is not for the neurotypical among us to know or understand how an autistic mind conceives, or tries to conceive, of something as abstract as death, nor how long the autistic mind will need to process the permanence of the absence of the missing person. Where’s heaven? Why can’t Dad come back? I know his love never ends, but how do I feel it with me? You’re here, right? You and I, we are here on this earth, right? You’re fine? We’re living our lives, days without Dad. Sigh. BIG sigh.

Dad used to (insert “cook this,” “take me there,” “play this CD,” etc.)

Which I hear as, “do I really have to be here with just you, Mom? Just us two? Because you’re not him. And you’re not enough.”

Yes, hon. I’m what you’ve got. Yes, you’ve got uncles and aunts and cousins, but they are occasional visitors (or visitees). I’m the one who is with you most of the time.  I know I’m not enough. And I miss him too. But I think he would want us to find a way to be happy, here on this earth, without him.

I’m honest with her, though, because she’s an adult and I think I owe her that, the stark truth: there is nothing that will ever fill his absence, for either of us. You only get one Daddy. And even if I find another man, I will always be Mike’s widow. We will have to carry the presence of his absence around with us for the rest of our days. I try to help her imagine putting the weight of it in a beautiful decorated box, keeping it somewhere special in her heart, visiting the sadness when she needs to, and then putting it back in the box, and turning to a happy box of memories that make her smile.

We still try to find some joy in the Steve Perry songs she seems uncannily able to tune in to every time she plays the radio in the car; I tell her that I think of monarch butterflies as little “hellos” from him from the next world, because the first poem I remember him reciting to me was a Robert Duncan poem that begins, “Sail, Monarchs….”

I planted that garden up there, with the two chairs from our first tiny townhouse patio, now on the new bluestone patio he never got to see, as a sort of memory garden, with flowers and shrubs that are supposed to attract butterflies. And look who showed up:

IMG_20180725_101019189.jpg

He liked hummingbirds, too, which is why I buy the fuschia every year, and though I couldn’t catch a photo of it, the hummingbirds he loved visit it occasionally:

IMG_20180627_104731735.jpg

But it still seems so lonely for us both to be in this house, on the deck, or looking at that fuschia, without him.

I quit my job. Because even though I’m not enough and never will be, the Mommyitis says to me that I still haven’t given our daughter enough of my time and attention. We haven’t gotten to the bottom of it yet, all the way down through the fear and the grief and the anger and the bargaining to the acceptance – and she needs me with her to help her get down there, and to climb back up.

I need to get there, too.

I have a plan for that. But that’s enough for today. I’ll tell you about my next move in my next post.

Just My Luck; or, An Out-of-Synch Life

Is this all there is?

……” Gonna pack my lunch in the morning
and go to work each day,
and when the evening rolls around,
I’ll go on home and lay my body down,
and when the morning light comes streaming in,
I’ll get up and do it again. Amen.”

-Jackson Browne, The Pretender

I snapped that picture up there, of my crabtree in full bloom, in mid-May, intending to write about it – in mid-May.

Well, here we are in mid-June and the blossoms on the tree have gone by – just my luck.

For more decades than I like to admit, I’ve been doing things too late, living a kind of “pretend” life by putting things off, expecting to get to them in some imagined future that never comes, and now I look up and find I’ve lived two-thirds of my life in a sort of  prolonged delay – “I’ll start living the life I want, right after I get all this other stuff done” —  my life never seemed to “synch up” with my hopes, dreams, talents, whatever.

Examples:

I met Mike at 30, married him at 32, gave birth to our one and only child at 35; nothing so wrong with any of that, but if you think about it now, it means it took me thirty years (well, ok, let’s say, twelve, in adulthood) to find him.

What if it takes that long again? I don’t have another twelve good woman years left in me, I’m afraid.

Just my luck.

The Fourth of July, a/k/a Independence Day, is a big deal in my little home town – more people come home for the parades and parties than seem to come home for Christmas around here.

And having attended decades of the same front-driveway-parade-watching party, watching decades worth of acquaintances, two generations at least, bring new babies to show off at that party, I finally got my chance, at 35.

And for the first time in 100 years, the parade was rained out.

Just my luck.

And right when Mike and I had the chance to rebuild our marriage and plan a retirement together, when our child was gaining more independence and growing into adulthood? Cancer. Gone in 18 months. It’s not like Mike could choose when to die, but it felt so unfair to us, so out of synch. Husbands are not supposed to die right when things could get good again. But it happened.

Now, here I am, nearly two years later, trying to be positive, to look ahead, to be open to a new relationship, to really want a new relationship with a kind, nice man, and what happens?

Kind, nice, men who like and respect women have sounded the retreat, afraid of saying so much as “how do you do?” because the lid has blown off the disgusting, abusive, boorish behavior of the unkind, not-sweet, not-nice men. Everywhere.

Just my luck.

Right when I’ve been trying (failing all too frequently, but trying) to become a nicer, kinder person, to live with love and laughter, my phone blows up with dozens of emails daily alerting me to some new atrocity to be furious about.

Fury is way out of synch with my efforts to respond to this world and people in it with kindness and love.

I feel guilty – selfish, trivial and ineffective. I sign petitions, I try to give money, but lately I’ve just felt peevish and out of sorts and jumpy-jangly all the time. In addition to being lonely.

Nobody wants to be around a person who is anxious, pissed-off, negative and jumpy all the time. Not exactly attractive.

Just my luck.

What do you do with an out-of-synch life? If you feel that time has passed you by?

Gratitude. I’m supposed to be working on being grateful, for each moment, each breath I am yet granted on this Earth.

So when I feel selfish for not being the person who has the snappy comeback or who can cite the verses that say what I’m thinking back at the person I want to cite them at, I’m grateful that someone else has done it for me. I’m reminded that many, many people are feeling what I’m feeling, and can respond to it better and more eloquently than I can right now.

I’m grateful for that.

Father’s Day. People innocently asking our child what we did for Dad yesterday.

“Dad’s in heaven,” is the reply. Which makes them feel bad, but it’s not their fault. They didn’t know. So I explain gently that we had a nice picnic by his grave, as a sort of “meet up” with his spirit.

I had a very vivid dream of him last night – our child announcing, “Dad’s here!” and me finding him there on a couch, and able to give him a hug, before he flew out the window, chasing something. I really needed to give him that hug. So I’m grateful for that dream.

A monarch butterfly, flitting past as I waiting for the train to the Allison Krauss concert. A perfect show. An angelic voice. Comfort in that.

I’m grateful for that.

But it can’t be denied that the second year of widowhood is hard – our child and I both going through a relapse of grief, trying to figure out how to carry it around with us without letting it define us.

There are no more ritual “first this-es” and “first thats” without him – it’s the second, which will lead to the third, and on and on, for the rest of our lives, without him.

Which magnifies the emptiness, intensifies the loneliness, makes what should be a good day a bleak one.

Out of synch.

Is this all there is?

“I want to know what became of the changes
we waited for love to bring..
were they only the fitful dreams
of some greater awakening?
I’ve been aware of the time going by
They say in the end, it’s the blink of an eye
When the morning light comes streaming in
You’ll get up and do it again
Amen”

(Note: “Out of Synch” came from a wonderful book called The Out-of-Synch Child that helped me understand my child’s sensory challenges – highly recommend for parents struggling to understand a developmentally different child’s sensitivities. It really has nothing to do with this post, just thought I should give credit where credit is due.)

 

 

By Heart

“…This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.”

-Shakespeare, Sonnet 73

Mike preferred his poetry recited aloud, from memory.

Even when he was reading poetry alone, relaxing in our little “library/music” room, he’d read it aloud, to himself, to hear the rhythm of the words, and feel the breath within them.

He wooed me with poetry, recited on an answering machine (see, “Academy of Ancient Technology, recording devices, cassette.”)

Early in our marriage, when I was stressed out from the job, and the commuting, and the worries of providing for Mike and our child, he would read aloud to me, in bed, to help me sleep. He had a beautiful reading voice – smooth, gentle, beguiling, soothing. And I’d be out like a light in five minutes.

I could make requests of him – “tell me that one about the butterfly,” or “find me that Wallace Stevens poem” or “which sonnet was the one about the summer’s day?” and he’d know, immediately, and recite that poem to me. He rarely remembered a word I said to him, but he remembered every poem he loved, and recited them to me. By heart.

May 2, 2018, would have been our 26th wedding anniversary.

And I forgot.

The significance of the day didn’t hit me until, in the midst of my “maintenance Mom” morning, checking our child’s calendar for the day – do I need to make a lunch, should I send money, I better remind about taking the phone, etc. – I saw the date, and it registered.

Although we were married on May 2, 1992, we actually met on April 27, 1990, and always considered that our “real” anniversary.

Twenty-seven was Mike’s favorite number. His birthday and our child’s birthday both were on the 27th of their respective months, and there were a bunch of other significant 27s in his life.

So last year on April 27, which would have been the 27th anniversary of the day we met, I took myself on a kind of memorial tour, visiting the place we first met (although I knew it would be closed for remodeling) near our old neighborhood in the city, now so built-up and gentrified as to be almost unrecognizable to me.

But something about marking that 27th “real” anniversary seems to have caused a sort of release -not closure, exactly – but a lessening of the need to mark such such days or to make an effort to recognize their significance.

This year on April 27th, which would have been our 28th “real” anniversary, there was a gala benefit for the organization that provides our child’s day program. I raced home after working a full day at the warehouse, zipped through shower and hair, and whipped on infrastructure to support the new dress,  fresh and wrinkled from its Amazon package, and headed out to the train in a Lyft and splurged on a fancy car ride home (because the late trains stop at every single stop and take forever and I can’t do that late at night anymore).

I had a blast. The food was great, the music was fun, and I sat and chatted with a nice couple who were very kind.

On May 2, after I realized what day it was, I was driving our child to her train, and a song came on the radio that I think of as a message to me from Mike: One Call Away, by a kid named Charlie Puth.

And thus began another round of car crying, trying to hold it in so I wouldn’t upset our child, who seemed to sense the song was significant to me, and actually let me listen all the way through.

There’s a line in that song, “Superman Got Nothing On Me,” which is the reason I hear it as a message from Mike – because the first Christmas without him, when for the first time in years I had no man in the house to buy presents for, I bought a present for the Bulgarian, knowing that he would never come to pick it up, and that he would never tell me where I could send it to him.

It was kind of a joke, but significant to me because it was significant to Mike.

It was a Superman sweatshirt. I still have it, wrapped and ready, and I put it under the tree at Christmas to remind me of my ridiculousness, and of my last best year of loving Mike. There’s a story behind it –

When Mike was around 5 or so, as he told it, he was hit by a car in his dicey west side neighborhood. A little friend of his, a developmentally delayed friend, raced over to him, as Mike remembered it, leaned over him as he lay in the street with a fractured skull, and said, “don’t worry Mike, you’ll be OK. You’re superman.”

And in the middle of the remodeling job I put Mike through as he was enduring his illness, just to give him a nice kitchen for as long as he could use it before he died, there was a moment when I was nagging the Bulgarian about fixing something or other, and he, as usual, was patiently enduring it, saying he’d fix it.

“How?” I said.

“Magic,” he said, teasing me a little, reminding me of my ridiculousness. Of course he’d fix it.

And just at that moment our child blurted out, “you’re Superman,” to the Bulgarian.

I didn’t think our child knew who Superman was, but there it was.

And now here’s Mike with, “Superman got nothin’ on me,” from the next world.

But Mike, dear, even though you are only one spiritual call away, I can’t “run into your arms” as the song suggests.

Hence, the car crying, on what would have been our 26th wedding anniversary.

I took the rings off shortly after Mike died. Death had done us part, and I didn’t feel right clinging to the rings. I wasn’t married anymore. Mike was gone.

Since then, I’ve had some kind of weird arthritis in both ring fingers – starting on the right, where I wore my engagement ring after we were married, and switching, seemingly overnight, to the left, the wedding ring side. I guess I should see someone about it – I can’t bend that wedding ring finger all the way, and it is swollen and it isn’t getting better like the one on the right did, and if I accidentally whack it on something in the warehouse it hurts like hell.

Mike, hon, are you hanging on? Are you doing this to my wedding ring finger? Is this some kind of not-letting-me-go? Are you angry I took the ring off? Because at this rate I’ll never get any ring, much less my wedding ring, back on that finger.

Maybe it’s me, doing it, subconsciously. Maybe it is a reminder that it is time for me to let go – I don’t know. I certainly feel as if I am being pushed, shoved, hustled, into the next phase of my life, whatever it may be, starting with the job, that clearly came to me though divine intervention of some sort.

So I’m moving on, as much as I can. But I am grateful that I can remember the sound of your voice, dear, reciting poetry by heart, and that I can see you as clear as day, in your favorite places at your favorite moments, both when you were well and when you were dying, in and around this house and yard.

Even if the significance of days and dates begin to fade, I am so grateful, loves, that I still have you memorized, by heart.

Read that sonnet, number 73. Remember that every person you love, you will lose, “ere long.”

And may you always be able to remember those people you have loved, by heart.

Until my next post, I remain, your loyal, humble, devoted, etc.,

Ridiculous Woman

Let the Light In

Ask and it shall be given, seek and ye shall find? What if that’s actually true?

“Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in….”

-Sara Bareilles

A high school classmate, someone I haven’t talked to in decades, except for a moment’s greeting at the most recent reunion, emails me, out of the blue, and invites me to lunch.

Sure, why not? But why? Just curious – what made you think of me?

Just reaching out, she says – trying to connect and reconnect, after a divorce.

So I go to lunch with this classmate and another, also divorced, and hear their stories of the loss of their marriages.

And I tell the story of the loss of my husband, and what I was trying to push myself to do now – mainly, find a job, as much like my old job as possible. Close to home, where I can wear those beloved work boots, keep my head down, my mouth largely shut (except for necessary presentations to groups of volunteers) and otherwise do as I’m told, while staying on my feet all day, moving heavy things around and losing weight.

Where am I going to find something like that ever again?

And then the classmate who called me mentioned a place that she had volunteered, which I wouldn’t have known about or thought of if she hadn’t mentioned it.

After lunch I go home and check out the website of said organization, and right there, in the employment opportunities, is THE JOB.

The exact job. Warehouse work, on my feet, presentations to volunteers, the whole shebang.

I apply, writing a nice, not a snarky, cover letter.

Interviews came fast, followed by an offer.

An offer of a job with a regular schedule, good benefits, 10 minutes from home.

“Be careful what you wish for, ’cause you just might get it.” (I can’t believe I’m quoting a Daughtry song!) The job does, however, involve driving, and moving things with, a forklift. So that’s a line in my personal sand that I’m going to have to cross, have already started to cross, like it or not.

How did this happen, and happen so fast?

Ask and it shall be given, seek and ye shall find?

What if that’s actually true?

Well, Okay! In that case, I’d like to ask for a big, strong, kind, gentle man, between 5’10” and 6’4″, black hair, green or blue eyes, deep, calm voice, handy, 15 to 20 years younger than I am, and — hmm, now how shall I put this — “energetic?” “vigorous?” “frisky?’ OK, maybe “frisky” is a little too, erm, explicit. But you catch my drift.

That would make me feel fully alive again.

Spring seems to have come at last – today is a sunny day and the crocuses are blooming, the jonquils have opened and the tulips are coming up.  When the sun came out one day a few weeks ago, I found myself opening the drapes, and realizing I hadn’t done that in over a year. Most of the time, we’ve been sitting in a dark house, not letting the light in, muffled, dimmed, in the shadows.

Right when I felt myself sinking into another round of deep grief, which seemed to be happening to our child as well, a year and a half after losing Mike, right when I felt at my weakest, lowest point, right when all I wanted to do was curl up in a little fetal ball and disappear – I unconsciously, almost absent- mindedly, let the light in.

Before losing Mike, I was never one to “hide my light under a bushel,” as the saying goes – far from it. My problem has been much more blaring my light so brightly that it never gives anyone else the chance to let theirs shine.

Part of learning from loss to live with love and laughter is to learn to live with humility – to realize that I’m not really in charge, that if I could just shut it for a minute and be quiet, where I am right now, I might actually hear whispers of God, and feel divine influence, even in the most mundane aspects of my life.

I think God assigns that sort of thing to angels who know your minutiae – who know what you need even if you don’t, quite. So Mike’s involved, here somewhere, I’m pretty sure. (But let’s step up the pace on finding that black haired, green eyed, big, strong, kind gentle man with the deep calm voice, OK, loves?)

I’m not sure why I was whirled right into this job so fast. It sure didn’t feel like I had a helluva lot to do with making it happen – felt more like it happened to me and I was being led by the nose into it. OK, I’ll follow that lead, and see where it takes me.

It already has taken me places I’m afraid to go (e.g. , the driver’s seat of a forklift – but I’m picking it up fast) and reminded me of things I didn’t do so well in the past (see, “making children cry,”) but I’m trying, really trying, to take those things as second chances, learning opportunities, offers to live with humility and kindness, and to get over some of my fears and anxieties, which take up way too much of my headspace. I’m trying (with mixed success, but it’s only been two weeks) to dial it back enough, and to keep my big yap closed for long enough, to hear those whispers of the divine, and to see all those other lights, shining bright, right in front of me.

I’ll keep you posted. Especially about that big, strong, kind, gentle man request. We’ll see how that goes, tee hee.

Until then, I remain, your humble, obedient, loyal, etc.,

Ridiculous Woman