Sunday, January 31, 2010
Today I have thinking of better times. I miss being in the throes of love and passion. I remember the early days of dating Mike, as he was known back then. He didn't become Michael to me until he moved in. In the early days he lived about 45 miles away, so an evening out meant a real evening out. We would go someplace nice for dinner. Dinner started out with drinks, and it went on for hours. We would talk about everything. That early time in a relationship is so much fun. You are getting to know the other person, and you are slowly getting to know what they like, what really piques their interest, and how they like to flirt. After a long dinner we would go for a walk, talking, more flirting, then stop to have ice cream or coffee. The ride back to his place, never mine as I had three young impressionable minds waiting, we would be reaching across, running our hands over each others. That early touch was so exciting. It almost felt like electricity. Sometime the wandering hand to hand action would "cross the line," and become more overtly sensual, resting on one's thigh as we drove.
Back then Mike shared a condo with a friend. In their back yard was a wonderful hot tub. We would pour each other glasses of wine, turn on some romantic music, and sit into the hot moving water. For me it was a time of having no other worry in the world. New love is so exciting. New passion is so much fun.
I remember one night I was on the freeway driving over to Mike's place. Mike and I had been dating about a month, and my parents had recently come into town for a weekend. A couple of weeks had passed, and as I was driving my mother called my cell phone. She could tell that I was in a very good mood, anticipating the evening ahead. She asked why I was so happy, and of course I mentioned Mike. To my surprise, my mother told me she thought he was perfect for me. The last time my mother had told me someone was perfect for me was likely when that someone was of the opposite sex. I heard the words coming from her end of the phone, and I must beamed brightly. It occurred to me in that moment, I was in love.
Later that night, after the drinks, dinner, hot tub, and wine, well, we had moved on to the sexcapades time of the night, and someone, I'm not exactly sure who, said the magic words. "I love you." I tell you, I would swear on a stack of bibles that it was Michael, and if he was here he would tell you that it was unequivocally me. What I do know is that whatever we were doing at the moment, we stopped to really flesh this out. Michael wanted to know if I truly loved him, or if this was one of those in the throes of passion moments of weakness. At one point we laughed and began singing the song that would become our own, "Something Stupid." We both made mention about the Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman version and the fun scene with the riding crop.
Well, about a week later I was back on the road, heading to see the man I loved. I walked excitedly down the steps of the parking lot, and to the door of his condo. As I knocked on the door my left arm went directly behind me. He opened the door, and smiled his wonderful smile. My left arm came back around to surprise him with a beautiful long-stem red rose. Michael accepted the rose with an ever bigger smile, which very quickly turned into a devilish grin as upon closer inspection he realized that rose was tied up with not only a lively green fern leaf,and a fresh sprig of baby's breath, but also a black leather riding crop.
Calling all Widowers!
For quite some time several of my fellow bloggers have been referring to the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation's 'Camp Widow' which will be held on August 6-8, 2010 in San Diego, CA. Initially I didn't feel comfortable inquiring about the Camp, as the pictures of last year's event had many smiling faces, but all women. I later learned that actually, one widower was in attendance. This year there shall be at least two, as I have made the decision to attend.
My experience through my care giving role with Michael's cancer, and with my blogging through my grief, is that there are not as many men who seek shared support. I would like this to change. I think it is time for us to learn from the women who do this so well. I for one, am willing to step out of my comfort zone, and take the risk in order to benefit from such camaraderie. Please join me.
I don't have too much information about the Camp, as I don't believe the workshops have been identified as yet, but I am banking on the word of mouth, that this will be a transformative experience. I must also say that the opportunity of meet many of my fellow bloggers from around the world, is a substantial draw.
And for all the rest of my fellow widow (read female) bloggers/readers, please join us as well. Think of this as 'our time.' I am really looking forward to this. If you decide to join us, let them know that 'Dan, in real time' sent you.
Here is the link for the Camp: Camp Widow 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
rain drops on my window...
Originally uploaded by *Mandana
Well, last night turned into a night of heavy rainfall, both outside my window, and inside my bedroom. I don't always see these big emotional outpourings coming on, and I don't always find a reason why one night is more difficult than the next. All I know is that last night my sitting quietly led to heavy tears.
This morning I dropped off my youngest son at the Church, where he takes a religion class. I did some grocery shopping, then walked around a bit to get a cup of coffee. I found my time out a bit heartbreaking. I don't like to sound bitter, or to express my mourning in a way that sounds like whining, but here goes. I just can't be around people these days. I see so many happy couples enjoying a sunny Saturday morning. There are very young couples, and there are quite old couples. They seem oblivious to the possibility of loss. I'm sure many of them have experienced a loss of a loved one, but when that loved one is your spouse, you lose that significant person that stands by you through all the tough times. I don't like the way I feel when I am in the mix. It feels bitter, and I end up feeling bad about myself. It's not like I'm wishing anyone harm, I just get caught up in feeling sorry for myself. I get a bad case of the why Me's.
I know that this will pass, and that I will soon re channel my thoughts in a more positive way. I also know that these type of thoughts will return, and when I least suspect them. This is a process that I don't always think others around me get. There is nothing linear about the grieving process. When we say it gets easier with time, it's not as simple as we want to think. I think of it more like a roller coaster ride, only it's not exciting, and in no way fun.
Originally uploaded by TimOve
Last night I kind of indulged myself. This will explain why the tears filled my room. I was missing Michael terribly. I had my candles lit by his urn, but last night that didn't seem to offer me the comfort it usually does. So I sprayed the air with some of his cologne. I went through the room and started touching his things. I needed to see him, so I then moved onto my photos. I have parts of our wedding ceremony on this computer, but for some reason it would not play the video. I tried over and over, but I couldn't get it to work. This became so frustrating. I wanted so badly to see Michael in motion, and to hear his voice. Surprisingly, with this modern age, this is the only video I have of Michael. No where else do I find his image in movement, or hear him speak.
I finally gave up my feeble attempts. I told myself it was probably not what I needed to hear. I'm a bit stubborn, but after walking into a wall a few times I do finally realize there is no current entry. Maybe I was meant to not dip into the familiar waters. I often think that another force is at work, telling me that I need to not go there tonight. I try to honor the message, as perhaps it is part of the letting go, the healing process.
I realize that reading my experience may sound as though I am not willing to let go, or to accept what life has dealt me. All I can say is that it is too soon to fully accept, and keep walking. I would rather go through this process, and learn from it. If you have been reading my posts from the beginning I hope you see that I am continuing to walk. But what I am learning, and want others to understand, is that the road I am on is long and winding.
In an online exchange with another widowed friend this week, we discuss how our emotional response to grief can take us right back to where we started. The difference now is that we know that we will get through it. That is how I know I am on the right track. In the prior months my reaction to missing and losing Michael would take me to a very dark and lonely hole. I felt as though I would never come out of it, and at times I wished I would just sink in forever. These days the pain can be just as gut wrenching, but I know that it will pass. I have to remind myself that I can't always control how much it will hurt, but I can reassure myself that I am surviving.
This is what progress look like. This is what healing feels like.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Originally uploaded by Dalmatica
I'm thinking that blue works for me right now. It has such natural beauty. Blue can be bright and open like the sky. Blue can be cool and refreshing like water. Blue can be somber, melancholy.
Blue can also speak of a remote distance, such as someone vanishing into the blue. This is how I experienced Michael's death. I held his face in my hands, and was kissing him gently on his lips, then with one last breath, he vanished. For a few seconds there was silence. From the body he left behind, to the room that he once occupied. Silence.
In the immediate days, and weeks, after Michael's death, I sat in silence. I did this for hours on end. Much of my days were spent in tears, aching for him, feeling my body in physical pain over my loss. It felt much like what I would expect physical withdrawal from a drug to be. My body, my psyche needed him. I couldn't properly breathe without him adding carbon dioxide from his breath to the air available to me. So I sat. I sat in silence. I sat looking into the blue, wondering where he went. Friends that came to visit, or to sit with me, found quite a stunned individual. My whole being was confused, lost and shaken. Everything I previously understood, or believed, about the afterlife disappeared.
Into the blue he went. I would cry out in tears, "Michael, where are you?" I received no answer. So I sat, and I sat. It has now been more than four months, and yet still I sit, looking into the blue. Each night I sit in silence. Across from my bed is the urn with his ashes. Next to it is a candle that burns each night. I keep vigil, for what I do not really know. I find that I do not want any distractions, being oh so careful not to miss anything. Miss what? Again, I do not know.
I sometimes wish I didn't have to go to work. I have thought many times of quiting my job. The security it provides me no longer makes me no longer hold the same weight. Financial stability is no longer what motivates me. Everything that I have to do each day feels like it is taking me away from what I feel compelled to do, which is to sit, to listen, and to wait.
Into the blue he went.
Vanished, into the blue.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Originally uploaded by *MSM*
In the English language, blue may refer to the feeling of sadness. "He was feeling blue". This is because blue was related to rain, or storms, and in Greek mythology, the god Zeus would make rain when he was sad (crying), and a storm when he was angry.
Blue is how I would describe my mood today. It's not a deep dark blue, like how you would imagine down deep in a well of despair. I have had many days like that in the past. It is hard to know if those days are now behind me. I certainly hope so.
Today's blue is calm, cool, but not collected. I actually feel a bit scattered in my thoughts. Earlier I was looking out my bedroom window, and could feel the coolness of the air permeate through the glass. When I looked up at the sky I saw that it's color was becoming deeper the longer I sat.
Deep Blue Dreams
Originally uploaded by harikrishnanbhaskaran
One thing that I have noticed, and I don't know if this is primarily a male thing, but when I am feeling sad, or blue, I can easily get angered. The kids might say something to me, and without warning I erupt. So much for the calm and cool. I don't like when this happens, as then I am suddenly seeing red. At least I have some awareness of this, and am trying to work on this. (Note to self, "cool it")
I really feel for my kids. This cannot be an easy time for them. They also lost someone. They too tried to prepare for his loss, but as we adults know, all the preparation in the world is not going to necessarily make it any easier. What I worry about is not only did they lose their step dad, but for the past four months they have lost a big part of me.
I am just not as present as I used to. I go through the motions each day, waking them, reminding them to be prepared for their day, and making sure they have homework done, and something to eat before the end of the night. What is lost is the parts in between. I suppose it is what we consider the joy of living. I tend to take a lackluster approach to life these days. I am trying to work on it, and some days I have a better handle on it than others. My kids need more, probably more than I can give at the moment.
I'm aware that I am in a much better place psychologically these past few weeks. The kids don't find me completely falling apart. They see more of the quiet side of me. I am often lost in my thoughts or teary eyed. That part seems okay with them. And, I suppose it could always be worse, right?
I tell myself that what I am doing is enough. This is a message that a previous therapist used to tell me. When your kids need so much, it often feels like you are always falling short. My 16 year old son just called to talk to me on the phone. During the week he lives in a residential program for boys with emotional challenges. I am currently looking for a new school for him here in San Francisco. The idea that he will be back at home full time has him very excited, yet also quite anxious. Tonight he called to talk about his feelings, and to let me know that his day didn't go very well. As he was speaking I found myself feeling anxious as well. He then stopped and asked how my day went. I told him it went fine, and that his younger brother had a couple of appointments I needed to get him to, so I was only able to work half a day. He said that I sounded sad, which I confirmed that he was very perceptive. I assured him that I would be fine, and that this was just part of what my days are like. He seemed to understand.
Just thinking about that conversation makes me appreciate my son. Even with all his challenges, he offers me so much. I know that we will have some difficult times ahead as a family. We are all grieving, and we are all needing to keep moving forward.
Originally uploaded by ARTeTǝTЯA
My mood appears to be picking up. Taking the time to write is such a powerful medium for me. The process always helps me to better identify what I am feeling. Once I can identify it, then is doesn't feel so burdensome or overwhelming. I am then better able to just sit with my sadness, sit in shades of blue.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Yesterday's post was meant to be humorous, but of course had a message to relate. I find myself in an emotional state that feels like it is here to stay for awhile. The initial three months of my grieving process were quite difficult. I spent many days throughout that time in tears, and feeling like my world was at an end. There were times that I wished my life to be over. Yes, it was that painful. For those who might be new visitors to my blog, I have been a widower for the past four months.
In the last few weeks my experience has begun to change. I find that I am in a less acute state, but definitely still feeling that my mourning, sadness, is chronic. It feels like a deeper sense of depression. I do have some happy times, and can laugh with friends and the kids, but in between I can honestly say that I am definitely feeling very sad.
I think about Michael continuously. I miss him in a very significant way. I know that he is gone, and I accept that I cannot change that. What I also can't change is my love for him. That love didn't die with him. It lives on, and until enough time passes, my feelings will remain the same. I know that eventually I will learn to love him in a different way, but for now I would rather just say that I still actively love him. I still look for him instinctively. When something happens with the kids I immediately think that I should tell Mike. It is still difficult to sleep alone, something that will take a long time to get used to.
I am becoming a bit comfortable with the state of my emotions. Sadness feels right. I don't expect that to change for quite some time. I love(d) my husband/partner very much. I talk to him at night, and keep a candle lit for him whenever I am in our bedroom. I miss his touch, both sexually and non-sexually. Grief is an odd experience for me as a sexual person. There are periods where sex is the last thing from my mind, and there are times when I feel compelled by it. Mostly I miss making love to Michael. I miss the intimacy that two lovers share, and the joy that it provides.
If you visited our bedroom you would think that Michael was still here. His bathrobe is where he left it, his toothbrush next to mine. I find much comfort in seeing his things next to mine. I wear one of his t-shirts to bed each night, and cling to his pillow. I have started to stack some of my books on his bedside table, which tells me that I am slowly taking up some of his space. I don't think he would mind.
I keep Michael's ashes on the book shelf in our room. Around the urn I have a collection of various small treasures that were important to us, and several small gifts that my son Remy brings home from the local flea market.
I occasionally spray some of Michael's favorite cologne into the closet or bedroom, and give it time to settle. It's just another way of soothing my senses. At times when I can't fall asleep I may get out of bed and begin going through his things for the hundredth time. I like to hold his things in my hand, especially things like his watch, a pen he used or his Sudoku book. I have an electronic frame that contains many images of us and our friends and family. Most of the time I have the frame set to an image of him that I took in Puerto Vallarta during our honeymoon. I love looking at this image. It makes me smile and feel loved. I see his eyes sparkling with delight, knowing he was looking directly at me.
I have many happy memories of Michael. The memories are of both pre-cancer, and post-cancer. Michael had a brain tumor, which in the end caused him problems with memory and movement. I love all those times. There was joy from the moment I met him at Badlands, a gay dance club, to the early morning that he died. I know this sounds strange. The moment that his life ended I began howling in pain. But up until that moment, I was consumed by love. It was such an honor to take care of him. He depended so much on me, and gave me so much trust. I love him for that. The way I see it, he gave me so much. So much love, so much joy.
Michael fully embraced being a parent. I loved when he started referring to 'my kids' as 'our kids.' Having been a single parent for so many years was difficult. I never imagined that being a parent was going to be as much work as it has been. I loved being able to share the experience with Michael, and the kids loved having two parents, two fathers to turn to. Michael and I were a nice balance to each other, and the kids benefited greatly from his influence.
I'm finding that I don't enjoy the things I used to enjoy with Michael. Maybe in time I will return to them. For now, I don't really find too much enjoyment in anything. I suppose it is part of still feeling numb from this whole experience. I tend to do a lot of sitting, thinking, writing and reading. Time can go by, hours at times, and I don't feel bored. I just sit with my feelings, and it feels right. Time moves very slowly for me. I like it this way. I haven't been spending too much time with meditation in a formal way, but I am being very mindful of what I am experiencing.
The best gift that Michael gave me was this computer. It is constantly before me. It has given me the opportunity to express myself in ways I knew were there, but needed the right time or outlet. I come home from work each day, and the first thing I want to do is write a new post for this blog. I never know what I am going to write about, and I try not to put too much thought into it before I sit down to write. I truly enjoy reading the comments left here, or on Facebook, from those that read my blog. And while I enjoy reading the comments, I try to not let the comments influence what I write. I also don't give too much thought about who is reading my blog. This is the best way for me to feel complete freedom of expression.
When you read my blog, keep in mind that it is what I am thinking, or feeling in the moment. Sometimes I write specifically about what my day to day life is like, as in today's post. Other times I may use creative license to express the tone of my experience rather than the specifics. To get a true sense of me, you would need to step back, read many posts, then reflect on the tone of my words. I very much look at my writing as my art form. It is open to interpretation. I like when people mention that they read it, and offer their perspective, or their own experience. What I may not want to discuss is the specifics of what I wrote about. I would rather not focus on small details, rather look at the themes.
Try not to feel offended if my thoughts or experiences don't match your own, or what you think of as your experience of me doesn't match what you read. When I sit down to write, I write for me. I write what I need to express. It may makes sense to you, or it may not. I also write for those, like me, who are grieving. Unless you have lost your husband, wife, partner or spouse, please don't tell me you know what I am going through. While you may have experienced a similar loss, or you may feel that you understand my loss, you don't. This is not meant to sound rude, it is just meant to clarify how I experience my loss. Before losing Michael I thought I understood what this would feel like. I now know that I only understood a small part of it. If you think I am grieving the wrong way, or getting stuck, then please keep those thoughts to yourself. I appreciate your concern, but trying to put your perceived understanding onto my experience, is not helpful.
Remember the name given to my blog, Dan, in real time. It is about me, written by me, for me. I write in the present. This is what is really happening for me. I try to keep it real. I don't want to hide what I am going through. I don't want to sugar coat it, and I don't want to over dramatize it. I do, however, take creative license in the way I express myself at times.
I now identify as a widower. It best describes how I now experience myself. I don't feel single, and I am slowly losing my previous feeling of being married. This doesn't mean that I won't change this in the future, it is just where I find myself at this time. I know a lot of people don't like labels, but for me they sometimes help us cut to the chase. If I tell you that I am a gay widower, it spares me from having to go into more detail than I want to at the time.
In many ways I am now an open book. I like living my life this way. I know that it is not for everyone, but it is the experience I wish to have at this time. I am walking through this experience for all to see. It is my hope that my experience will offer others just that, hope, and for others, understanding.
There, I have said a lot. This is me. I offer myself for your observation.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
When approaching the recent widower one must use caution, and a watchful eye, upon any attempt to engage. The recent widower is known for not being completely self aware throughout his day. He can enter a state of emotional detachment at a moments notice, causing him to appear less than focused on the task before him.
The recent widower is a unique person indeed. His sense of well being, and equilibrium, has been thrown off, not unlike that of a lizard who has lost one of his appendages, such as a tail. He knows that the appendage is missing, causing him to feel broken. The widower will then require much time to begin the regeneration process. Until the missing piece is regrown, he is left less than whole.
The recent widower can often appear to be lost in a fog. He may be found roaming around town, aimlessly wandering, for what he may not know. If you come across a recent widower in such a state of mind, kindly redirect him to his home. You may also invite him over to dinner, but do not allow him to linger for long, as he may wish to speak of his loss, and he might bring you down.
A widower is the last person you should add to your party guest list, less you wish to not have a rockin time. The widower of late is not likely to enjoy a large crowd, or gathering of folks, and his choice of karaoke tunes, or should I say hymns, are usually not crowd pleasers.
In observing the day to day behavior of the recent widower, you will find that he walks around with a painted on pleasant smile. Do not be fooled, or taken, by this disguise, as the recent widower is truly very sad. His every waking hour is dedicated to the unrelenting desire for his loved one to return. Take pity on the recent widower, as he will live a life of unfulfilled desire, or at least for his first year of mourning.
The oddity that is the recent widower is found to be in the shape and form of an ordinary man. Make no mistake about this, the recent widower is not an ordinary man. He is prone to shed tears at a moments notice. He is found to push a shopping cart in endless circles at every grocery store within a 5 mile radius. The recent widower does not have the capacity to make up his mind as to what he, or his remaining family members, might wish to consume within the next week. Upon close inspection, the kitchen of the recent widower may be found to contain slowly rotting food, as he fails to gather up the energy to actually follow through with cooking meals throughout the week.
The recent widower's mating habits are definitely one for the history books. The recent widower may have long periods of no interest in the opposite sex, or the same sex if that is the team he bats for. He may appear asexual in nature, causing one to be curious about the correlation between widowhood and decreased levels of testosterone. Just as the ladies begin to feel remarkably safe around such a widower, he may surprise them, even shock them with with a cunning transformation into what is commonly known as a horn dog. A warning should be sent out to the local homosexuals, as the recent gay widower can at times be found surfing the web, seeking a temporary fix to his lonely predicament.
In conclusion, if in casual conversation, one finds that they are actually in the presence of a recent widower, fear not, a sticky situation can be easily averted. Firstly, take a deep breathe, as the recent widower may require a reserve of patience and tolerance. The recent widower may need to speak of his internal sadness. Secondly, do not attempt to cheer up the widower, or to deny his sadness, as your efforts will be futile. Allow the recent widower to to wallow in whatever state of mind he may find himself. Affirming his long journey ahead, and giving him reassurance that his response to grief is normal, will give the recent widower the comfort needed to remain in his habitat, without further harm.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Across the meandering path
Originally uploaded by Iftekhar Mahmud
There are breaks from the unhappiness, like this weekend, or at dinner out with the kids tonight. But even there, they all could see that I was unhappy. They said it in therapy tonight. I'm just not the same person anymore.
I feel like my soul has been badly bruised. I've been kicked in the gut, had the wind knocked out of me, and had my heart stomped on. I feel as though there is a dry puddle of blood always around me, like at a crime scene drawing. It is always there to remind me of how victimized I feel.
Today I kept thinking about the life we thought we would have. I remember sitting on your mother's porch three years ago, talking about growing old together. We had spent the day building a stone retaining wall. It had been such a hot day, and we were both filthy, sweaty and tired. We sat there and talked about moving out of the city so that we could have our own garden. We wanted a porch that we could sit on each night, and could picture ourselves as two old men. I remember smiling and holding hands as we talked. As we looked ahead we felt like the possibilities were endless. We had it all figured out.
I also think of all the places we talked about traveling to. There was so much to see together. You had already been to so many places, and I hadn't traveled over seas since starting with the kids. You commented about how easy it was to travel with me, as I was happy to do whatever you suggested. It was true, I was happy to just see the world along side you.
For some reason I kept comparing my life today with that of my brothers. I don't usually allow myself to go there, but I can't deny that I didn't. They are fortunate enough to do all the things that you and I never did. They have all been married for so many years. You and I finally had a window of opportunity, and I am so glad we did. I just get jealous when I think of time. How much they have, how little we did. I hear about one of my brother's and his wife looking for a new house, another brother and his wife going on a vacation, and another brother and his wife becoming grandparents. I can do all these things, but it will be alone.
It doesn't end there, does it. At this point in life all our friends are married, or in solid relationships. I see, and hear, them rushing home to dinner, or planning for the weekend, or considering their next vacation. I never feel rushed to get home. I sometimes feel in a panic, and need the comfort of home. Or at times I am rushed to pick up the kids from school, but getting home is just another reminder that you are not here.
I hate this.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
big sur campground & cabins - night 5
Originally uploaded by gorgol
I had a very nice weekend. It left me missing Michael in a profound way, but the experience was well worth the tears.
My boys and I arrived in Big Sur in the early afternoon. It rained the whole way there, but was a very soothing rain. We checked into the campground, and went straight to our cabin. Both boys were very excited, as the cabin was a beautiful pine wood, and everything well cared for. After eating some sandwiches we had brought we headed over to Nepenthe Restaurant where some of our group had gone for lunch. Driving over the hill to that end of Big Sur was amazing, as it was completely dry, and full of sun. Nepenthe has these long rows of outdoor seating. They are set up as very long outdoor counters, with chairs along them. You have a meal, glass of wine, or dessert, and just gaze at the grandeur of nature. It's breathtaking. Anyway, the boys each ordered a slice of their 4 layer chocolate fudge cake, which each looked like a quarter of the cake. They were huge. It was actually very funny to see their expression when the cake arrived. I enjoyed a tall coffee with Kahlua. Mmmn, very tasty.
The view south
Originally uploaded by hjw3001
After catching up with our friends we headed back to the campground so that everyone could get ready for a long hike. It started raining a bit harder, so my boys decided they would rather stay at the camp and play basketball. The rest of us headed over to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park for our hike. By this time the rain was really coming down, but it just added to the fun time. We first headed up the Valley View Trail, which takes you through the beautiful redwood trees, which are contrasted with eucalyptus. All this, with the fresh falling rain, was just spectacular. The smell of the eucalyptus always makes me feel as though I am walking through a large outdoor spa. Once we got to the top of the trail the rain stopped, and the sky opened up with the glorious sun shining down on us. This gave us the opportunity to marvel at the wonder of mother nature. After taking all this in we headed back down, the across to the Pheiffer Falls Trail. I had not been to the falls before, as both times Michael and I tried to hike there the park was closed for one reason or another. Today it was open, although the direct area around the falls was closed off with ropes and warning signs due to the rain induced mud-slides. I stood there and thought, what are they going to do? Escort us out for trespassing? There was no one around, so it was a perfect time to venture up on our own. This is where I got out some of Michael's ashes. First I let some fall into the water that moved down and around the hills. I then put some into the stone wall where the falls come down.
pfeiffer falls, up close
Originally uploaded by monkeycat!
I miss Michael so much, but today's missing Michael was a bit different. I missed him in a very communal way. Everyone I was with loved Michael so much. They all had so many stories to tell, and each had eyes full of tears when sharing them. I love these people, and appreciated all that they did for Michael. Each of them contributed so much to our relationship, each contributed so much when Michael was sick, and each has contributed to me since his death.
After breakfast we checked out of our cabins, and drove further south to the Partington trail, that surprisingly lead to the Partington Cove. It's a beautiful cove that is currently all underwater, but surrounded by high cliff of large rock and boulders. This was the site for our memorial celebration of Michael. Craig brought the small urn I gave him after Michael's original memorial, and another friend, Jen, brought a colorful bouquet of flowers. We all sat of the rocks, and shared thoughts and memories of Michael. Craig then carefully walked over to the edge, and poured some of Michael's ashes into the ocean. The rest of us, one by one, took a flower to toss into the water below. When everyone was finished I went and sat at the edge, and quietly scattered more of the ashes I had brought. Soon my son Remy came and sat next to me. Which was quite brave of him, as he has a fear of heights. I tell you, I sat there looking down into the violently splashing water, and for a moment thought, "just jump in." I didn't mean it in a harmful way, but there was definitely a voice within planting the idea. The others must have heard it too, because I was soon surrounded by a few friends, wanting to engage me in other thoughts. I made a comment about floating in the water with all the flowers, and the others quickly said, "that's not going to happen."
Originally uploaded by fotios
Once I was away from the edge, a few of the others came over to give me very tight and loving hugs and kisses on the cheek. I realized in that moment that it had been so long since I've been held by another adult. I've had some short hugs by friends at work, but to have a prolonged solid hug, well, it felt as though Michael was holding me. It was such a nice feeling.
After all of this, the boys and I climbed into our car, and started our drive back to San Francisco. The boys were noticing every detail of the view as we drove. They said they had such a good time, and loved getting to be in a place that Michael loved. It was wonderful sharing this with them. I promised the boys we would come back during the summer, and stay at one of the resorts for a week.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
In looking for the photos of my last visit to Big Sur with Michael, I found that we had gone on March 24, 2009. It was a little later than I originally remembered. But how we spent the day itself, I remember so clearly. We drove down in Michael's convertible, and put the top down. Michael loved his car, and really enjoyed when we took short trips by ourselves, as we could leave the larger family car at home. On this day we drove straight to Big Sur after getting the kids off to school.
Once we got to Big Sur, we stopped at a small deli, and bought sandwiches, and bottles of water. We drove over to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. We parked the car, then walked over to the McWay Falls Overlook trail. We walked along this trail that provides the most beautiful view of the ocean. The trail takes you along the edge of the cliffs, and ends with a couple of benches, where you can sit and enjoy the view of the coast line. There we sat, and had our lunch. I remember feeling happy, eating, holding Michael's hand, and listening to him retell his stories of past times in Big Sur. Michael was a wonderful story teller. He was horrible at jokes, which the kids said were never funny, and became fondly known as "Mike Jokes." Let me just say, I loved the "Mike Jokes." He would always have the biggest grin when telling them. Then look so disappointed when the kids would just stare straight at him and say, "I don't get it." We would all break into laughter, including Michael. I got them, but then the kids would say, "oh Dad, you just laugh because you love Mike so much."
Yes, I did love him so much.
As you see, Michael, was actually known to all as Mike. He was a guys guy. When the kids first met Michael they looked at me confused. "He's gay?" Michael would come to the house for dinner, and we would then settle in to watch a movie. We would always end up watching some science fiction or action flick. Again, the kids would look at me strangely, and then say to Michael, "you know, my Dad would never watch that kind of movie if you were not here." He would just laugh, as he kind of knew that I was indulging him.
Anyway, back to Big Sur. We finished up our lunch, and Michael began to talk about spreading his ashes there in Big Sur. He said he would love to have a memorial bench somewhere in the park so that people could stop and enjoy the natural environment. I listened to him talk, and fought back tears.
We walked back to our car, and headed over to Nepenthe Restaurant. They have the most beautiful view. We sat outside in the sun, drank coffee, and shared a dessert. When we got back to the car Michael again began talking about wanting his ashes scattered in Big Sur. With that I lost all control, and just began sobbing. I couldn't handle the idea that there would really be a time that he was not around. Michael came around the car, saying "Honey. Don't be upset," and he held me there in the parking lot for quite some time. We then got into the car, and began the long journey back home.
A couple of months later Michael was busy typing something on the computer. When he was done, he printed out a document, and brought it over to me. It was instructions about what he wanted done with his body when he died. He said after looking into the idea of a bench, he learned that the state parks no longer have benches available as memorials. They are now trying to get people to make donations to provide picnic tables in the parks. As I have said before, Michael wasn't sure he liked the idea of random people eating, and dropping food, all over a table inscribed with his name on it. Instead, he had written a new plan of what he wanted. Michael's new plan was that he was to be cremated, but that he wanted his ashes to stay with me in our bedroom. He said that he hoped that when I died, the kids could have our ashes combined, then placed or scattered somewhere together.
Michael really knew what I would need. I have been so comforted by having his ashes here with me. The urn I selected is called "A Walk in the Woods." Every night I light tea lights in front of it, and their soft glow provides the perfect warmth for him. After Michael's death I decided to share some of his ashes with his mother and best friend Craig. The three of us had become such a solid team of support to Michael, especially along his journey with his cancer. I wanted his mother and Craig to always have a part of him with them. This weekend, Craig will share some of the ashes with Michael's friends as we celebrate his life.
In looking at the photos from our visit to Big Sur in March of last year, I found the two you see in this post. The first is of Michael posing along the picket fence which overlooks the ocean. The second is the same spot, sans Michael. These are both photos I took with my Blackberry on that March afternoon. I'm not sure why I took a photo of the fence alone. Perhaps I was preparing myself for the day that I would return to the McWay Falls Overlook trail, knowing that he would not likely be with me. I am likely there as you are reading this post. It is here that some of Michael's ashes will be scattered by me. It is a place where I plan to return each year.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Big Sur 01a sm
Originally uploaded by ray fischer
Tomorrow morning I will be packing up the kids, and driving down to Big Sur. It is a beautiful region of California, where the mountains meet the ocean. It also has the wonderful distinction of being Michael's favorite place on earth. Well, he might have picked some other more exotic places to have this distinction, but in California, it was his favorite place to be.
I am going to Big Sur for the weekend, to spend some time with Michael's friends. They have organized this memorial weekend to celebrate their multi-decade friendship with Michael. These are all his Peace Corp frieds, those that love him, and that he loved and trusted with all his heart.
When his friend first proposed gathering for this purpose I chose to not commit to the idea. Early on, I was in so much pain, that I didn't think I could endure such a weekend. The last time I was in Big Sur, which was last March I think, was an occasion for Michael and I to scout out where he might want his ashes spread. While it was a really nice day trip for us, and we ate at our favorite lunch spot, Nepenthe Restaurant, it was also a sorrowful occasion. I was in tears for much of the trip, being a bit overwhelmed by the nature of our visit.
When Michael was a teenager he worked at one of the resorts in Big Sur for the summer. They way he told the story, it reminded me a bit of like the movie Dirty Dancing. Anyway, I'm pretty sure the resort is where he and I stayed for his birthday a couple of years ago, Big Sur Lodge. For this weekend we are staying at the Big Sur Campground and Cabins. So while I am now loving the idea of spending time with his friends, celebrating his life, and scattering a bit of his ashes, I am also a bit apprehensive.
I don't want to get worked up about the trip. I don't want to expect sorrow and pain. There won't be too much room for that, as all the kids are joining me. And while it's not like they haven't seen me cry a lot in the past four months, I don't see this as the perfect environment to just fall apart. I will though, find time to walk around by myself, and have a private conversation with Michael. Michael's best friend is the one who will kind of put some structure to the celebrating of Michael part, and he plans to bring the small urn of ashes I gave to him after Michael's memorial. What I plan for myself is to just bring along some of my own Michael-ash, and scatter it while talking to him in private.
Since this will only be a two day quick getaway, I will still be here blogging. For those of you that read me regularly, you know that I write every day. This is a commitment I've made with myself. I don't know how long I will do this, but right now my goal is to write daily for a year. So far it hasn't been a problem, as I always seem to have something to say. For tomorrow's post I will likely write something late tonight, which I often do rather than sleep anyway.
As you may have realized, I am writing this from work. It's Friday afternoon, and my brain is completely fried. Rather than leave the office early, I felt that I could at least be accessible, and write today's post at the same time. I may wait and post this after I get home, as I wanted to add a picture of Michael taken in Big Sur. Maybe I will post this anyway, and add the photo later.
Thanks for dropping in if you are reading this. Don't be shy about leaving comments. I, and all my brother and sister bloggers, always love the feedback.
Think of me and Michael this weekend. Know that he is being celebrated. And know that I am most likely walking around with a peaceful smile. If I'm not, then I will bring you up to date later, and we can all have a good cry at the end of the weekend.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Experiments in Anger - Relentlessly Grim
Originally uploaded by Gavin Liam Levitz Russell
How to let go of anger. This has been my struggle for a week now. I was wronged, and there is no way to make it right. I just have to let go, but how? I know I'm being vague about this, but I'm not sure that revealing the situation makes it any better.
Lets just say this. If Michael were around, he would be having a calming effect on me right now. He would be angry about the situation as well. But he would also be affirming who I am, reminding me that what happened was unjust. To simplify the situation, lets just say my parenting was called into question.
I find myself quite hurt that anyone would question me in this way. I have gone through so much with my kids, and have gone to such great lengths to see that they get the type of help they need. To have someone suddenly questioning my ability to respond appropriately has me feeling demoralized.
I know that I am probably in the most vulnerable state that I have ever been in. To say that I have had a rough go in my time as a parent is to put it very lightly. Having Michael come into my life when he did was like the heavens opening up, and God rewarding me for all that I had sacrificed. I had never been happier. To then take him away from me so soon was, well, shall we use the term 'devastating?'
I'm back to where there is no other adult around to see what it is I go through. There is no one here to try to normalize what is often a very difficult dynamic. There is no one here to hold me in the night, to tell me that I am loved, and to make me feel good.
Experiments in Anger - You tell yourself
Originally uploaded by Gavin Liam Levitz Russell
Life can be so defeating at times. Actually, it can be that way a lot. But I can already hear my own words coming back to me. "Who ever said life was fair?"
Life can be very hard. It can test you, and it can drain you of all your reserve.
I don't want life to drain me dry. I don't want to walk around angry at life. I don't want to become bitter or jaded.
I'm trying my best to be optimistic. I really want to find happiness, or to be content with life. I want to evolve. And I want to evolve with my heart still filled with love. Sometimes I worry that the bitterness that comes with grief, will be what takes permanent residence in my heart. That would be a shame. It would break Michael heart to think of that as my destiny, or the end result of all this.
I just need to say, he was the most wonderful man I had ever met. He wasn't perfect, but he was perfect for me. If I close my eyes I can still see his beautiful face, his smile, and his boyish grin, it all makes me feel so much love. If I stand still, I can still feel him come up from behind me, put his arms around me, and kiss me on the neck. If I breathe in real deep, I can still smell the combined scent of his 'Michael' cologne, and the sweet aftertaste of Starburst candy.
Careful. Careful. If I indulge too much in this I may fall into that well of despair. I don't want to feel that anymore, at least not this week. I need to stay above the surface for a while. I need to breathe fresh air. But I miss him. I miss him more than I will allow myself to feel right now. I feel so incomplete, so broken.
Maybe angry is a better place for now. 'Angry' has kept my eyes dry this week. I can't believe I am saying this, let alone believing it. Maybe any emotional state that is different from the usual sadness is enough of a break. I don't know what I am talking about now. I don't feel like I am making much sense. I am getting so caught up in words because I no longer have someone here to say what I need to hear, and to say it without muttering one single word.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Counting my money
Originally uploaded by johnr71 (off for a while)
Money appears to be the theme of my week. Today at work we received our tax statements with our paychecks. A subtle reminder of the business of money, one that I don't particularly enjoy. And, one that I will have to face alone. As you might imagine, being married to a business analyst had it's perks. Michael and I couldn't have been more different when it came to the business of money.
While we are both somewhat responsible with how we spent our money, I kind of take a very different to approach to managing it than Michael did. I try my best to avoid any type of book keeping. I don't balance my check book. Ever. I just don't have the patience for it. For the most part it works, and when it doesn't, oh well. Michael, on the other hand, was constantly creating various spreadsheets, setting up budgets, saving receipts and so on. My approach did not exactly sit well with him. In this way we were definitely the odd couple.
In planning for his death, Michael set up a trust with some modest funds to help for the educational needs of his nieces and nephew. And who else would he arrange to be the trustee, but me of course. He did this not because of my business smarts, but because he knew that I would be the voice of reason when it came to making decisions on how his money would be spent. I am also the executor of his will, which meant that there was a lot of what I call 'the business of dying' to be done.
Now that I have been through the trauma of losing a spouse, I have learned how crazy it is that while going through such acute grief, the survivor is suppose to have the presence of mind to handle all the business affairs. For me, it was a surreal experience. It still is. On Tuesday, when I stayed home from work, something made me think about Michael's job. I realized I that I never followed up with his retirement funds. I called his employer, who said they were waiting for me to get back to them. I looked at my notes, dated in October, where I noted that I was waiting for them to get back to me. Can you tell that I was a bit lost during all of this?
Now that tax season is here, I will to need to figure out filing tax returns for both of us, plus filing a return for the trust. I certainly hope my tax consultant has all the answers, because I certainly do not. I don't even know the right questions. I am also dreading the idea of meeting with her, which is an odd thing to say, as I like her very much. What I am dreading is having to tell her that Michael died. I have known her for maybe twelve years. I see her only once a year. And we often use the appointment time for her to catch up on my life. She always wants to hear about the kids, and how Michael is doing.
I think I am beginning to panic about my lack of abilities to manage all these numbers. It is not my forte, and now I have no choice but to manage my way through all of this. It's funny, but at age 50, I suddenly feel like I have to be such a grown up. I now have more than just my kids to plan for. I have two nieces and a nephew, and actually, a brother-in-law to manage funds for as well. I have a bank officer calling me about accounts I don't fully understand. I some how need to start keeping track of all these accounts. I need to open up Michael's Excel program and try to figure where to begin. I should have paid better attention when Michael tried to explain all this to me. But, I know why I was so resistant to learning this. I didn't want to fully accept that he was going to die.
I suppose there is that part of me that still resists following through with all of this because it adds to the finality of his death. I now have to pick up those matters that were Michael's to handle. Now it's either me, or it doesn't get done. And suddenly many people are depending on me.
So here it is. This is my 'car stuck in the snow,' 'plumbing needs to be fixed,' 'finances needs to be addressed,' issue. I have to rely on me. There is no one else. That's a sobering thought.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Your heart may stand in the sun...
Originally uploaded by emaho
Today is January 19, 2010. This is the first January 19th I have celebrated since Michael passed away on September 13, 2009. Was there something previously significant about this day? I'll tell you. It was another day that I used to have Michael with me. It was another day that I actively loved him. I suppose it is another day which stands as proof that our relationship existed, and that our love was present. So why do some days get distinguished more? Shouldn't each day be a celebration? Shouldn't each significant prior celebration be mourned just as much?
I ask these questions to myself. This is going to be part of my new challenge. This is going to be my new attitude. Did I love Michael any more on January 18th as oppose to January 19th? No. I probably gave him more notice on the 18th, as that was his birthday. I was probably more willing to look past his flaws on the 18th. I was probably more willing to pick up after him on the 18th than on the 19th. But let me tell you, if he didn't pick up his damn socks by the 20th there was likely going to be hell to pay. Okay. Calm down. I'm only kidding.
But here is my thinking. I have been getting myself so worked up about the big emotional challenges of getting through significant anniversary days, yet each has been much easier once it arrived. And, the ones that have gone the best are when I plan some positive down time to really appreciate what we had. Keeping these days simple, has in turn kept me emotionally together, which means I did better than just survive them. I cherished them.
As for the more difficult times, I want to return to the practice of radical acceptance. This is a concept I continuously get exposed to when reading about grieving mindfully. For those not familiar with some of my early posts, I am trying to bridge my approach to my grief through some of the Buddhist teachings. In Buddhism, radical acceptance is known as the Middle Way. It is a way of not plunging headlong into our feelings, but also not running away from them. It also teaches us that there is an impermanent nature to our experiences, which helps us face our difficult emotions. The challenge then is to stay more centered during these difficult times, knowing that our emotions are not permanent.
For me this is saying that, especially during this Year of Firsts, I need to pace myself. If I am to make it through all of this successfully, then I need to keep returning to the concept of grieving mindfully. In this way grief is seen as a purposeful and meaningful journey. I cannot rush through it, and at the same time I should not purposefully get lost in it either so as to slow it down. There has to be movement. I think for some of us it may tempting to deny our pain, yet for others, we may find ourselves over identifying with our pain.
My daily challenge is to be as fully aware of what is going on for me as possible. If I am feeling sad, or lonely, then I want to be fully aware of this, not try to hide it, yet also careful not to purposefully add to it. This is something I have noticed myself doing at times. If I am having a difficult day of missing Michael, I sometimes find myself wanting to feel it stronger. Somehow I think it helps me to legitimize what I am feeling. Of course in doing this, I have made my day all the more difficult to get through. This in turn, seems counter productive, as my goal is to move forward in my grief, not get stuck in it.
I have to recognize that in moving forward in my grief, I may at times feel like I am choosing to walk further away from Michael. I need to actively dissuade myself from this type of thinking. I did not walk away from Michael. He died. As harsh as this sounds, it is what I need to keep telling myself. His dying has happened. It is a finite occurrence. I had, and have, no choice to make in the matter. It already occurred.
The machine of joy
Originally uploaded by Catch the dream
I want a new attitude. I want to embrace life, and to embrace all that comes with it. I don't want to walk around with this dark cloud over my head all the time. If there are dark clouds, then so be it. But if the sky is full of sunshine, and if I am experiencing a good day, then I want to embrace the sun, and walk with a smile on my face. I know this will not be easy right now. It will be a challenge. But I would rather challenge myself to be happy, then to live in sadness out of defeat.
I'm finding that it is too easy to live in defeat. It takes less work. Grief brought me a sense of defeat, but I don't want to get stuck here. I want more than grief's defeat. I want joy. It's time to ask, "What can grief offer in the way of joy?" And, more importantly, "Will it come in my size?"
Monday, January 18, 2010
This is a picture of Michael's birthday celebration two years ago. He was three months post diagnosis, and surgery, from his brain tumor. He was a little self-conscious about still being a bit swollen from the steroids. As I look back I find that we don't have too many pictures during this period, as Michael was avoiding the camera. He was also self-conscious about the scar from the surgery. I used to tell him that I don't notice it. And when he would bring it to my attention I would kiss the scar, saying that I saw it as beautiful. That scar was evidence of how he was kept alive.
When Michael was admitted into the hospital for surgery he wanted to put it off until we returned from our cruise to Mexico. The surgeon had to let him know that one more week would cause so much swelling in his brain that he would have entered into a coma. If he didn't have the surgery he would have died within a month. Michael could be very stubborn, and kept trying to come up with ways we could go on our cruise anyway. His thinking was, if he was going to die, lets go out with a wonderful trip.
When I finally convinced Michael that I wasn't going to let him go anywhere other than the surgical room, he finally stopped with all his protesting. Of course, he was very scared, we all were. You wouldn't know it from me, I made it very clear to him that he was going to come out fine. Fine to me meant that we would deal with whatever we were presented with.
We did have lots of fun trying to decide who should go on the cruise in our place. Of course the ship left the day after he was admitted, so there was no time for anyone to get on board. This didn't stop the various nurses from competing with each other, hoping they would be the lucky one going on this cruise with hundreds of gay men.
In 2007 we spent Michael's birthday at his favorite California spot, Big Sur. We had a lovely one room cabin with a fire place. I had brought many candles from home to arrange around the room for a very romantic atmosphere. Oddly, it turned out to be a very warm January weekend. That didn't stop us from making good use of the fireplace. I laid out blankets in front of the fireplace, surrounding it all with the candles. We then popped an ice cold bottle of champagne, put on some music, and...well, we had a wonderful time.
The picture you see above was his birthday in 2008. For this birthday we had gone to the Napa Valley wine country. The hotel had a huge down feather bed, along with, you guessed it, a huge beautiful fireplace. In the bathroom was a an equally large sunk-in jacuzzi tub for two. Actually, we could probably have fit four, but it wasn't that kind of celebration. We had our choice of red or white wine, and delicious dark chocolates. That afternoon we drove to Calistoga, soaked in the mineral mud baths, and relaxed with side by side massages. We then went out to dinner, walking to one of the nearby restaurants in the freezing cold. Returning to the room afterward for a warm bath was pure pleasure.
Last year Michael and I took the kids up to Clear Lake, California, where his mother lives. It is about 2 1/2 hours north of San Francisco. The kids stayed with his mother, and we stayed at the local resort by the lake. The resort had a health spa, which we took full advantage of prior to bed time.
This year I am alone, with Michael in spirit, for his celebration. I have chosen to have a quiet day in our bedroom to feel as close as possible to him. I have had some of his favorite music playing for hours, and the room is filled with about a dozen candles burning around me. Now that the sun has gone down, I can look out our window to the garden, which is also dimly lit. All the flowers are in bloom, and our peaceful young Buddha sits quietly in the corner. If I turn down the music, I can hear the fountain gently flowing in the background. My daughter made dinner, so I didn't even have to break from my all day slumber. I did go up to eat, which was a wonderful pasta dish she created. In a short while I will climb back up the stairs to cut a slice of the cream cake covered with strawberries. It looks exactly like the cake Michael used to make. I'm sure it won't taste quite as good, as he was an excellent cook and baker. Yet, I will enjoy it knowing that it would put a big smile on Michael's face.
"Happy birthday my dear. I love you so much. Today I have been able to keep the tears to a minimum. I wanted this to be a day of reflection, and it indeed has been. I sit here on our bed, feeling the warm glow of all the candles around me. Michael, we have created a beautiful home, where we have had a beautiful life together. Again, I thank you for all the wonderful memories that I have with you. You made me so very happy."
I will not let Michael's early death tarnish what we had. I will embrace it with all my heart and soul. I will allow his love to live on within me.
Originally uploaded by 'SomewhereinAK'
Happy Birthday My Dear,
I can't sleep, or don't want to. It's your birthday, and I sit here loving you so much. I've had a candle burning all afternoon leading up to your birthday, and it still burns into the night.
Why does it feel like I am the one receiving a gift? I was feeling so sad earlier, then your birthday arrived, and I feel peaceful. I hope what I am feeling is your love coming right back at me.
People have often ask me if I feel your presence. I don't know if what I feel right now is your presence, or if it merely me reflecting on your love. Yesterday I bought you some flowers. They are a bouquet of white lilies and blue irises. The lilies are for me, the irises for you. Together they make such a beautiful arrangement. I know you would love them. Of course we both love irises, which did become your flowers. I happily concede them to you. When I bought the flowers all the irises had yet to open. Tonight I noticed they had all fully opened, and are so lovely.
Lilies & Irises
Originally uploaded by Timpy
Honey, for your birthday I want to say thank you. Thank you for choosing me. Thank your for accepting my love. Thank you for all the celebrations we shared together.
Michael, you were without a doubt one of the best gifts in my life. I was so honored to be chosen to be with you when it was time for you to leave. You must know that I have shed so many tears these past couple of years, especially these past four months. I want you to know that I would do it all over again for you Michael. You made me so happy, and made me smile like no other man could. Every night I lay here at look over at your picture. Your whole face is lit up by your smile, and your green eyes sparkle in the sun. You know that you have my heart.
Well, I suppose it is time for me to sleep. But let me sign off by saying once again, Happy Birthday Michael.
I love you.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Originally uploaded by ParanoidMonk
Today I'm experiencing a real craving for Michael, physically. His mother and I spent a bit more time this morning going through Michael's things. It wasn't a day of saying goodbye to much of his belongings, more of just looking at some of his clothing, and talking about what we will later do with the majority of his things.
Where Michael's mother lives, she has been actively participating in a grief group. She tells me that the group is sponsored by a local hospice, who has a couple of stores that sells second hand items. This is one of their ways of creating extra revenue for the clients they serve. Michael's mother asked me to decide which items of clothing I want to keep, and put aside the rest for her. She plans to then see what Michael's brother and nephew might be able to use, and donate the rest to the hospice organization. I think this is an excellent idea, and told her I would work on more of the sorting at a later time. She reminded me that there is no hurry.
I'm not sure if I mentioned yesterday, but the reason we did the sorting this weekend, is that it is Michael's birthday tomorrow. This gave his mother and I the opportunity to spend time together. It helped me feel like part of Michael was here, because his mother was here. I had bought a birthday sheet cake from the local grocery store, complete with his name written in icing. Yesterday, after dinner, the kids, his mother, and I sang happy birthday to Michael. I know it was two days early, but Michael's birthday celebrations always lasted a few days. Every year he and I would go away for the weekend to celebrate. Then on his actual birthday we would have dinner and cake with his, and our, family.
After Michael's mother left this afternoon I began missing him terribly. I can feel the gloom coming on. I went down to our bedroom to retrieve one of his sweaters, as it is a cold rainy day out. I settled into the large arm chair in the living room, to watch a bit of t.v. with the kids. I quickly became very tired, and was falling asleep. My daughter finally intervened, asking if this might be a good time for a nap. Back down to our bedroom, I lit a few candles, and covered myself with Michael's prayer quilt. Last year I was active in an online caregivers group. One of the women in the group previously lost her mother to the same type of brain tumor. She wrote me a letter asking if her church could make Michael a prayer quilt. The quilt is designed with fabric depicting ocean and beach scenes, as Michael loved the ocean. I climbed into bed, and covered myself with the quilt. Holding the quilt batting together are these many ties. Each of the ties have been knotted many times by the women who made the quilt, by myself, and others who visited with Michael last year. We said prayers for him every time we tied a knot. As you might guess, the quilt has a lot of sentimental value for me.
A short bit ago I woke up from my nap. In the course of my sleeping, the sun has gone down. As I opened my eyes the room was lit solely by the soft glow of the candles. It felt both soothing and romantic. Almost immediately, I began to feel a craving, a craving for Michael. Before the nap I was thinking about the place I currently find myself with my grief. I realized that I am becoming more comfortable with the fact that Michael is not here. It is sinking further into my psyche that he is permanently gone.
While I have only been a widower for four months, I now know the signs and symptoms of sorrow. My craving tells me that I will be in much emotional pain tonight. I already feel it coming on, and I am trying with all my might to keep it at bay.
My daughter came down to my room to check on me. She says a friend dropped off some food, as they had a part yesterday, and there was a lot of food left over. My daughter asked if she could fix me a plate, and if I was feeling okay. I said I would come up later to eat. I'm feeling a bit queasy while looking at this computer screen. I know this symptom too well. It is usually the first warning of a migraine. I need to go take something to stop the migraine from fully developing.
Knowing what's ahead for me tonight, I wonder if I am ready, or do I have the strength to endure it. I know that I do, and that I have no other choice. They waves of grief are beginning to break through as I write. Tears are beginning to well up, and my breathing is becoming shorter. I can feel myself chocking back my emotions, trying in desperation to not let them rise beyond my throat. It is far too early in the evening to begin this process. I have learned in these past four months that once the water works begin, they will carry on for quite some time. Better to fight it off for a couple of hours so that I don't become all consumed by it so early in the evening. I know that if I do the kids will become very worried, and their laughter will quickly turn to sorrow as well.
This process is horrible. I know that it serves it's purpose, and that I must mourn. I have to embrace it at times, otherwise I will get stuck. Better to let the tears come tonight, then to get lost in them tomorrow.
There is only one thing that will stop all of this. One thing that makes me feel safe in the world. One thing that fills me with so much joy, that all the rest pales in comparison. And so I crave. I crave for Michael. I know he is gone. He cannot be here to hold me. I can't hear his voice. I can't smell his scent.
I am being pulled under. This current has me, not I it. I give in to it. I concede to it's power. I give up my strength, better to stop fighting.
It is here.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Sorting it Out
Originally uploaded by lomoeye
Today was the beginning of the sorting through Michael's things. All my worry, and it is going well. My mother-in-law arrived early this afternoon. We hopped into my car and drove to my storage unit. We figured we might as well start there. Michael only had a few boxes in our storage unit, but it gave me an opportunity to get out of the house for awhile.
I could tell my mother-in-law was wanting me to take the lead, so I started with the first box. It was actually lots of fun going through Michael's things with her. Michael led such a full life, full of travel. One box was full of wonderful cookbooks. The only problem was that they were in Russian, French, and Norwegian. Oh well, the pictures were great. As planned, I wanted to her to have most of the things Michael had collected from his years before me. In spite of this she kept checking in to be sure that I was not giving away items I might want.
We then moved on down to the bedroom where I keep all of Michael's photo albums and personal items. This was the first time that Michael's mother had been down to our bedroom since the day he died. Up till now she has chosen not to visit our room. Today I asked if she would feel comfortable being in there. She thought it would be okay for her. I'll tell you, for me it was nice. We had spent so much time there with Michael this summer, taking turns attending to his needs. Today we went through his many photo albums. I had previously gone through them with Michael, and after his death by myself. Today it was a new experience listening to her stories and memories that went with the various pictures. After going through these we decided that this was enough for the day.
I'm finding that I had worried far too much about this. There is plenty of Michael all around me. There are plenty of memento's to go around. In the end, many of the items will stay here in my home for now. It just helps to know which things will eventually go to Michael's mother's home, and which I will retain.
My best friend, Peg, called me this afternoon to check in and see how the whole sorting process was going. She said I sounded remarkable well, not what she was expecting. Maybe I just got myself worked up about the process. Maybe it is easier knowing that most his things are staying here for now. Maybe it will hit me later. I think it will be alright.
In the end, I think I am realizing that I already have so much of Michael, that his "things" are not going to be the most difficult to sort through. With each day I'm finding that there are far deeper things to sort through. I have my thoughts and feelings about my life with Michael. I have the difficult first year of anniversaries. I have my new role as a widower, and how I relate to the outside world. Most of all I have to sort out how I get through each day without him. I have to sort out being true to my grief, with moving forward with my life.
Lots to sort.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Today we escape.
Originally uploaded by Manυ
This has been one of those weeks that make me feel like escaping from my life. I would love to just walk out the door of my house, my job, my life. Just walk, and keep walking. It can all be so much work, and frankly, not feel worth the effort.
Just to set the scene here properly, I am calm. I am not in tears. I am not numb. I think I am just feeling tired, and disappointed with life. Yesterday I ran into a peer while working. We were briefly talking about difficult situations within our families. She turned to me and said, "you have really been through the wringer."
I have been through the wringer. I often wonder what people think of when they see me coming. I mean people who know some of my story. There was a point in my life that everything came to me so easily. If I wanted to accomplish something I would just chart out a course, which would almost always lead me to where I wanted to go. Then something changed, and I don't know why.
When I decided to have a family I sought out adoption as my plan. I really loved being a parent, at least in the early days, before it all got so complicated. People have always said that my children's lives have been greatly benefitted by my willingness to persevere through all their difficulties. They come from a significant history of parental drug abuse and likely mental illness. So I shouldn't have been surprised, or disappointed with the challenges we would face as a family. But at this point it is really wearing me down. I'm beginning to feel like the victim in a very tragic tale.
Then Michael comes along, and my life begins to take a different turn. And even though the kids' needs continue to challenge me beyond my perceived limits, I am able to continue on because I am being fulfilled in other ways. There is balance for awhile. Then Michael dies, and I am left to manage all that I used to, and more.
Now, I don't mean to sound so depressing, it's not the tone I wish to convey. I just want an escape. I want to move into another dimension, or an altered state. I think I would like to go a little crazy. I would like to become one of those people who are somehow just not right. Maybe a little quirky. I would like to not always know that my life is not so good.
I suppose these are not nice things to say. I suppose these are not nice things to hear.
Maybe I should become reckless. I should throw all caution to the wind, and just look for trouble. Why not? Trouble seems to keep finding me anyway. And, if I go looking for trouble, at least it will be more of the fun type of trouble.
Do I make any sense? No? Great. Are you beginning to worry about me? Are you thinking, okay, now he's really lost it. I hope so. I think I'm ready for my midlife crisis. Am I old enough? Am I too old?
I wonder where I could find a sitter for my kids, so that I may begin my tragic demise. My kids might be a bit old for a sitter, but then again, they are far from mature enough to manage on their own. If I'm going to go crazy, then I should at least do it responsibly. Right?
I think I need a vice. I don't really have one. I don't think I have ever had one. Or maybe I do. Maybe I'm so crazy I don't even see the obvious.
I wish I smoked. I would be chain smoking right now. I would have a couple of ash trays around me, a lit cigarette in each.
I can tell this is going to be one of those late nighters. I'm not going to want to sleep, so I better find myself something to do, something to eat, something to drink, something to enjoy, something to...I don't know...something.
I want to be evil. I think I want to be Eartha Kitt!