Monday, May 31, 2010

A Nice Piece of Ash

...I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Okay, that's it for the heavy biblical references, from here on out it is going to get quite irreverent. I bet you are wondering...where the hell is Dan taking this...?

As many of you may know, or not know, no, this isn't a test, just me being in a somewhat playful
mood, I no longer wear my wedding ring. I officially took it off at the 7 month anniversary. Why you ask? What was the significance of the 7th month? Well, there is the 'seven times seventy seven meaning. Oh, yeah, I wasn't going to go biblical on you again. Sorry. There is the seven pounds of flesh, as used in the Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, the seven deadly sins, seven wonders of the world, and yes, Snow White had her entourage of seven short in stature men. What was the real reason? None other than the fact that I wanted to kind of dole out the various changes that one would expect at the one year anniversary. I wanted to take away from it being such a big momentous occasion, where I attach too much meaning to it. The other real reason is that I have never been one to wear jewelry. When we got married I was quite stressed about needing to wear a ring. They always feel so foreign on my finger. I end up playing with it all day long. So it now sits on the bookshelf, right next to Michael's ring, which is right next to Michael.

Michael's ashes sit in a beautiful hand crafted ceramic urn that a local artist made. You can find a picture of it on my Dia de los Muertos post. For those not familiar with the holiday, it is on November 1st.

Now, since I no longer wear my ring, I have been feeling like I am missing that physical connection to Michael that the ring gave to me. So for a week or so I put the ring back on, but eventually put it back on the shelf. I gave my dilemma some careful consideration, and came to the decision to buy myself a different piece of jewelry, something I can wear around my neck. I bought a beautiful sterling silver rectangle urn. I know many other widow(er)s have one of these, but it did strike me kind of strange. I am wearing my dead husband around my neck. I usually don't wear anything around my neck either, as it feels like it will choke me in my sleep. Michael had a very strange sense of humor, and he did say he would try his best to come back for me. I wonder if he had something to do with me feeling the nudge to make this purchase. Maybe he is thinking of this silver necklace as more of a noose. After all, the urn came with a complimentary 20" Rope Chain. Hmmm? What caused me to choose this? Did I choose? Or, was it chosen for me?

It's already purchased, and already around my neck. If perhaps I don't wake up in the morning one of you can tip off the police about the likely set up.

Okay, so I had this silver rectangular urn for several days now. About an hour ago I decided it was time to get Michael into this urn where he belongs. Now Michael was not exactly a small guy, and the hole that he was to go through was extremely tiny. For much of the years we were together Michael had been wanting to lose some weight, you know eat well, hit the gym more often. Well, I bet he wished he had done it now. The screw on the back of the urn was so tiny. It didn't come with anything to open it. Fortunately I happened to have an eye glass repair kit, which included the tiniest of tiny screw drivers. Okay Michael, we are back in business. I laid out all the tools for this project, which included a tiny clear plastic bag of Michael's ashes. If anybody had walk in on me they would have found me bent over a small white table, with a white granule powder, and some tiny tools that I was using to further crush the powdery substance. Now I'm not saying I ever did any illegal drugs in my day, but if I did, I would have to say that this looked a lot like a coke addict getting his fix. It's a damn good thing that my son Remy didn't walk in on this, right?

The urn comes with a tiny little teeny weeny itsy bitsy funnel, along with a complimentary everyday toothpick meant for shoving Michael's ashy ass down the funnel. Well, for those of you not familiar with human ash, no not ass, but ash, it is very grainy. The cylinder part of this funnel was about the size of a needle. So, there I was following the directions, pouring a bit of Michael into the funnel, and poking him with that toothpick. I mean I was really going to town. I kind of built up a rhythm with that toothpick, poking and poking at Michael's ash, but it was not going down! That's when I thought about the biblical saying about the rich man's chance of getting into heaven. Now Michael was far from rich, or was he? Maybe there is some Swiss account I don't know of. This is all getting a bit suspicious. When the toothpick failed me I went in for the kill. I got me a nice sewing needle. Once again, I picked up my previous rhythm, poking and poking at Michael. After a while I had more of Michael on my hands, on the table, and on my shirt. I mean, Michael was every where. I picked up my beautiful silver rectangle urn, turned it over, and found that Michael had scratched it up! Damn him!

I didn't know what to do. The kind people at Memorial Gallery, where I ordered the urn, left me a phone number that I could call with any questions. Yet, they seemed to forget that I am a man. We don't ask for help. Shit, we barely read directions. So what was I to do? Now Michael's ash was stuck in the cylinder part of the funnel. Like any clear minded, and desperate person would do, I blew him. I huffed and puffed, but Michael wasn't having this. He could be a very stubborn man. Just ask his mother. Eventually after some more poking, blowing, and banging him on the table, I got Michael out of there. I thought to myself, that's it! You already got all over me. You scratched my beautiful silver rectangle urn. You are damn well going to get into there if it's the last thing that I do! I took some of Michael's ashes into my own hands. Now, Michael was also a very sensitive kind of guy. He liked to be handled gently. No rough play for him, which was a damn pity for me. So, without taking his feelings into consideration, I pinched off a bit of Michael and began shoving his ash into the back of that urn. Get the hell in there!

I'm really a very sweet and gentle man. Well, maybe not as sweet and gentle as Michael was, but I can be gentle when I need to be. But when push comes to shove, well, I'm going to win.

Now that I am quite composed, and I am wearing this beautiful, and tasteful, piece of memorial jewelry, I am going to saunter over to the mirror to admire myself, along with Michael's ash, hanging from my neck. Tonight he may have the last laugh if by chance his ash is too heavy for my neck. and I begin to choke. I can't say that I would mind exactly, as I have always been quite fond of Michael's ass-sh.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Originally uploaded by .never have i ever.

Last night I was watching the film "A Beautiful Mind." I'm sure you are all familiar with the story. Russell Crowe plays an gifted mathematician who suffers from schizophrenia. The film illustrates how a person's life can be so tragically altered by this mental illness. It also shows how equally difficult it is to be the spouse of the afflicted as well.

The film does a great job in the telling of the story, allowing us at first to only see what Russell's character can see. Only later in the film are we given the opportunity to step back, and to see what the world, and people, around this character do not see. It also walks us through a marriage, one with a loving partnership, that becomes tattered and torn by this illness.

The story had me in it's grip from the beginning. Although we are all aware of such debilitating illnesses, and their symptomatology, none of us go about life expecting them to land on our front door. The person we love may begin acting in a new way that can easily be attributed to fatigue, depression, apathy, or selfishness. They may begin to verbalize complaints that don't merit any significant concern, and our frustration level with the person might be building, not knowing, of course, that 'something evil this way comes.'

When Michael began suffering from his brain tumor we had no clue. There were no significant symptoms. He was not passing out, or having any seizures where he fell to the ground, or losing control of his nervous system. It began with him not waking up easily in the morning. It was the beginning of the summer, and who wants to get out of bed to go to work on such nice days. He began to complain about headaches when I would encourage him to get out of bed and start preparing for work. He would respond with complaints of having no energy, or feeling sickly, when I said that he can't stay in bed all day. It would be months before these mounting symptoms would lead the doctors to conclude that he had a brain tumor. It almost became a daily joke, that kind that intensified in time, that he might have something serious, like a brain tumor. He wasn't experiencing anything too strong, or painful, so our humor is what got us through these frustrating mornings.

I often thought that life was too cruel to Michael in choosing this particular affliction. He was a very bright individual, he had an MBA, and worked as a budget analyst. The majority of his self-esteem was tied up with his intellect. It would be another year and a half until the serious symptoms would take control of his mind and body. When I had to start reminding him of how to do things, or gently break it to him that he wasn't remembering what had just happened less than an hour prior, is when he began to feel the devastating fall out. I remember sitting in bed after a evening of his having to struggle to feed himself, that he started talking about not wanting to live like this. He shared with me that death didn't scare him as much as losing his mind did. He prided himself on all things cerebral. As a way to keep his brain stimulated he spent hours doing crossword puzzles and Sudoku.

As his spouse, it broke my heart. I knew that I had to be there every step of the way, and in time, every minute of the day. I could see the humiliation in his eyes. I would explain everything that we needed to accomplish, and always told him we could do it together. All of this of course was meant to soften the daily blow to his ego, but deep down I knew it was of little success. In the end he was so confused at times, sometimes child like, other times clearly himself. It was the most cruel way I could imagine for Michael to have to be taken from this life.

What was most difficult to watch in "A Beautiful Mind," was how the husband and wife worked side by side so that he could continue to feel, and be, successful. Toward the end of the film they are both quite old, yet they are still quite the same. At the end you have this couple standing side by side, and one of them reaches out to the other in a very familiar, and soothing way. They then walk away, hand in hand, to continue their journey together.

This is when I felt a familiar stab in the heart. I find any reference to growing old together to be cruel, and I feel it quite personal. I hear it on so many television shows, in so many films, and in so many books. It is what we expect, and it is the sign of a life well lived, and a life well loved. I feel so denied this natural process. This is where I get stuck the most. I get angry. I feel hatred. I am filled with jealousy. It is also something I hear all around me. It's one of those phrases you don't really give much thought to when you are in a loving relationship. It is something you take for granted. Of course "we will probably grow old together." And everyone around is doing just that. They don't have to be old by anybodies standards. The process of Michael and I growing old together stopped on September 13, 2009. For everyone else I see, they have had the luxury of growing 8 months older together already. It doesn't matter how many years they had before September 13, 2009. I count every one's good fortune from that day forward.

I feel like my life was derailed. To be honest, it was derailed two years prior to September 13, 2009. We were told that Michael would die from this. We were told what the odds were for one year survival, for two year's survival, and so forth. We knew that for Michael to reach two years survival, he would have to be in the 5% that found themselves to be so fortunate. So I knew. Michael knew. We knew that we didn't have the time to grow old together. Our plans for the future fell to the floor on October 17th 2007. When they fell, there was a loud sounding crash. Splinters from it's prior solid pieces were quickly fragmented, and several pierce my heart.

Sometime I tell myself, "what did you expect?" "You choose to keep growing in your love in spite of knowing that it would quickly end." It's my own damn fault for loving him so much, that it hurts so much today. Why should I be angry at anyone else? Why should I begrudge anyone the expectation of a future, when it was what I expected as well. How do we put that expectation aside? Being told my partner at the time was going to die didn't derail my love for him. Exchanging the vow of matrimony one year later didn't take away my expectations for a future. I knew we didn't have a far off future, but I did expect some kind of a future, and certainly one that was longer than only eleven months after marriage.

I pray each night that I won't grow to become a bitter old man. Yet in some ways that is what I have become. I feel old beyond my years. When we think about the day we might lose our spouse, we most certainly picture ourselves as quite old. So in this way, I have arrived. And, bitter, yes I am. I can either pretend that I am not bitter, or just feel comfortable with my bitterness. It has found a solid place in my heart, and outside of a bitter-ectomy, I will have to wait until it works itself out.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Originally uploaded by

This evening I was driving with my 12 year old son. We had spent most of the day clearing out his bedroom, sorting things to donate, and things he will be keeping. All this work was in preparation for new carpeting that will be going in this week. Even though it was a lot of work on his part, he seemed to really enjoy the process with me. Throughout the afternoon he would pause and thank me for helping him with his room.

As we were driving, he said to me, "now Dad, this may sound strange, but I want to say that I am so proud that you didn't turn to drugs or alcohol after Mike died." Yes, I did find this kind of strange. As he knows, I don't use alcohol or other substances. But I do understand his thoughts. I turned to him and said thank you for saying this. I then shared with him just how devastating this has been, which he is quite well aware of. I then explained that there were many temptations along the way that occurred to me as a way to escape the pain. He then said that he agreed with my thoughts, and was glad that I didn't give in to those temptations.

Tonight as I sit here writing I am keenly aware that it would have been far easier if I was able to numb the pain. But instead I have chosen to accept the pain and sorrow into my life. I chose to face it head on. I don't want to run away from it, as I don't want to later find that I had only repressed my feelings, and then find myself thrown off at another time.

This was one of those moments where I was able to step back from my own process in order to see that something good is coming out of all this pain. My son is learning how to deal with loss. He has been here with me more than my other two older kids. He has seen me doubled over in pain, with loud wailing tears, and he has been here lying beside me many a night as I am writing on my blog. He often will ask what I am choosing to write about each day. I sometimes give him a brief description of what I wrote, then try to explain it in his terminology. In this way, every moment is a teaching moment.

A couple of days ago I was speaking to my father on the telephone. He was asking how the kids were doing, knowing they each have so many challenges. He then asked if I had heard anything about the job in San Diego, and where was I with the possible move. I gave him an update about the kids, then let him know I had not heard anything yet about the job. My father then said that I have certainly had more than my share of challenges as an parent, and that I have experienced so much pain and difficulty throughout the years. He wanted me to know that he was praying for nothing but good things ahead for me. My father told me it was time for life to go my way.

I love my father, and his choice of words are always so supportive. As I write this I am feeling both a sense of love, and of sorrow. I do feel that I have been given more than my share of burdens, yet at the same time these burdens have been filled with so much love. I really do cherish the decision to become a parent, and I would do it all again even knowing what I know of my reality today. I do also feel blessed in that I was able to meet Michael, and to experience the mature love I had always wanted. And even though I continue to live with so much pain in my heart, I would without a doubt walk down this road with Michael once again. Our relationship was very fulfilling. I loved what we had together. All of it. I loved caring for him, and I loved helping him prepare for death.

Of course thinking about all of this is making me connect with the deep sorrow within me. Yet I know that this sorrow is present because of a love that changed who I was in this world. The love isn't gone, but he is. I'm really trying to sort through all of this, and trying to construct a way for me to experience my world with a different sense of joy. I know that it is out there for me, or at least I want to believe that it is. For today, I can say that I am open to new experiences, and hoping for new opportunities to find happiness.

Someone is proud of how I am dealing with my grief.

Someone wants life to begin going my way.

I am humbled.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hi, my name is Dan, and I am a gay widower.

I just finished doing a quick read through my Facebook account. I was reading what other are posting, and was especially drawn into the delicate conversation about the choice of words used by various widows and widowers in describing their experience. It's funny how some of us take so much of what other's say as personal, while others of us kind of just throw our thoughts out there and let them land where they may. I think many of us feel battered and torn, so we might be a bit sensitive about certain areas in our journey.

As I was reading through the comments I considered participating in the discussion, but my usual apprehension got the best of me. Now I'm aware that I will be beating a dead horse here, as this is not the first, or second, time I have spoken of this topic. Some may think, "can't he just move on?" or "I don't think people really feel that way anymore." Can you guess where I'm going?

Being somewhat of an entity here in the Widowed Blogsphere, I quite often feel like the 'odd widow out.' I'm not the only male widowed blogger, but one of only a few active male bloggers who regularly address these topics. Where I am the odd man out is in being a gay widowed blogger. Like being widowed, unless you have experienced the deep pain and challenging journey that comes with this identity, you can't really say you completely understand what it is like. It is a very unique experience when you grow up as a minority, and experience prejudice and discrimination based how people perceive you. Fortunately, most minority people come from a family who shares in their identity, and thus share in their experience. Growing up gay, I had to fear prejudice and discrimination from within my own family. I had to hide this very important part of who I was for fear of rejection.

That fear of rejection never really goes away. As a gay Latino man I have had the opportunity to learn a lot about tolerance. I have had to tolerate the beliefs and opinions about who I was from strangers, friends and family. Whenever I meet someone new, there is always going to be that decisive moment when I come out to them, and then try to read the reaction I receive. If they are put off, or back away, then I have to understand. I can't hate them, or even dislike them, for they just don't know better. Not everyone has had the opportunity to learn tolerance like I have, so I should feel empathy for them. I usually just try to just make the other person more comfortable by showing them our similarities rather than have them just feel our differences.

This has obviously become quite a sensitive subject for me. Now if you are here reading this, you are obviously not among those who are uncomfortable with who or what I am, and I thank you for being here. But I often think about those that are not here. At times I will visit other blogs that are similar to mine, and realize that there are a lot of people that participate in the other blogs, but not mine. I sometimes wonder at what point do people opt out of reading what I have to say. Is it in the sub-heading that sits under the title of my blog, "One gay man's journey through love, life and grief?" Or do they not notice the phrase, as it is purposefully presented in a more muted hue. Or maybe it's when they glance to the right hand column, and see that there is a photo of two men in a somewhat intimate pose. Perhaps they don't notice this at all, but get thrown off when they read my words describing my deceased husband, then quickly glance back to the name of the blog, "Dan, in real time."

Whatever the case may be, I get a lot of drive bys. People who stumble upon my blog, but exit rather quickly. I wouldn't be honest if I didn't admit that it bothers me. I know we can't be everything for everybody, but it would be nice to think that who I loved, and who I lost, didn't matter to all the others who have loved and lost in a similar manner.

Some time back I did add a comment in one of those Facebook discussions, and my comment went unrecognized. I checked back several times to see if perhaps I just overlooked someones response, but unfortunately that wasn't the case. It is one thing to be standing in front of a person, and having to experience the cold shoulder, or nervous response, but it is very different in this world of words. As was the discussion on Facebook, when we read someones words alone, we don't have the benefit of hearing their inflections, or seeing their facial expression. We are only able to read what they write, or read into what they don't.

So there I was, reading this discussion about the choice of words, or another discussion regarding the use of the label widow or widower, and hesitating whether or not my entering the discussion would be welcomed. There I was wondering if by my speaking of losing my husband, I might disrupt the flow of the conversation, because I may not be seen as similar enough.

So let me say this. I will continue to speak from my very personal experience. In my discourse of loss, I don't ever try to water down that I am a man who loved and lost a man. And to those of you who have been here throughout my journey, you have never blinked an eye, or made me feel the need to explain myself. I have really appreciated this, because as you may have noticed, there appears to be a bit of a shortage of gay or lesbian widowed people hanging around the block. In some ways, my existence here can be very comfortable, as long as I don't venture out too far. And, as many of us have shared, I too am planning on attending Camp Widow in August. If it hadn't been for all of you wonderful ladies urging me to do so, I would never have thought to place myself there. It would have been too awkward not knowing how I would be received. And, as the Facebook discussion so clearly exhibited, we are all going through very sensitive times, and our vulnerability is at an all time high. I'm sure there are people, many of you in fact, that also feel vulnerable in various groups, for various reasons. In this way, we are all very similar.

Dan, in real time.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

On being my own best friend.

Time for bed
Originally uploaded by

Well, it's 11:20 pm, and I am just now getting to today's post. Since getting home from work I have been busy with the kids. Mostly bossing them around, making sure they get all that needs to get done, done. After getting each of them off to bed, I came down to my room to begin writing, only my computer wouldn't connect to the Internet. I have been sitting here for 20 minutes, quite frustrated, trying desperately to figure out the problem.

As I sat here, tired, mentally and physically, the thought came to mind, "why don't I just go to bed?" Easy answer, "because I made a commitment to posting on my blog every day. No exceptions. I am my own worse enemy, and I am my own best friend.

In these days of having to fly solo, it is important to know what I need. Or, at least try to have a sense of what I need. Without my love, my husband, around, there isn't anyone else who is going to take it upon themselves to remind me of what I had planned to accomplish. There also isn't anyone else who is going to make sure that I take care of myself. This is not to negate the friends I have who constantly remind me to take care of myself, yet once I begin my trek home, I'm pretty much on my own.

These last couple of days I have found myself doing a lot of talking to Michael's image in the frame across from my bed. I have had a very strong need for that connection with him at the end of my day. I have needed to share my thoughts out loud, and specifically to him. He was the keeper of my intimate thoughts and needs, and I was of his. As I am talking to his image I am very aware of why I am doing it. It's really not for him, as I really believe he is off to some other place. What I recognize is that I cannot always stay so silent. Yes, I do get to express myself here each day, and that is why, tired or not, I discipline myself to stick to the plan. I get so much out of this. Yet it does get very busy in my head if none of my thoughts ever get to be verbalize

I find that it is getting easier to give myself permission to do what I need to do for my own well being. If that means talking out loud to my deceased husband, then I must have a real good reason. Right? For the most part, I am trying to meet the needs of my kids, but careful to not lose sight of my own needs. Life is very different after your spouse dies. That person who helped to keep you well grounded, and to remind you to take a break after quite a hectic day, is no longer there. In response to this situation, I have decided to tell myself what type of things Michael would say to me if he were still here. He would be telling me that I have done more than is humanly possible, and now it is time to take a break. He would probably continue standing next to me with that look in his eyes, which told me he was serious. That would be the moment when I would stop what I was doing, and minimally sit and take a short break. Easier said than done, but by channeling Michael's responses to my daily activities, I am better able understand what I need in that moment.

I think he would be pleased to know that I am beginning to look out for myself.

What Michael's voice is telling me right now is that I am in dire need of sleep. I need to wrap up this posting session, and get to bed.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Two Thousand

Cash register
Originally uploaded by
M Skaffari

I am in need of some comic relief, but not necessarily in a funny mood. I was just looking back over my recent posts, and I can feel the collective weight of my emotions. I miss the days when I would use my wit, or sarcasm, to come up with some clever way of expressing myself. I'm going to have to start digging deep.

I remember a few years ago when Michael and I were spending a lot of time fixing up, and painting, his Aunt Nancy's home. She had been quite ill, and was in an out of the hospital. It felt good to go over there, work on the yard, or work in the house. Also during that time I had finally succumbed to all the pressure from Michael and the kids to get hearing aide, because I am partially deaf in my left ear. I met with the doctor to discuss my options. He had tested me many times over the years, and each time said it was up to me as to whether I chose to use a hearing aide. I explained that my family was tired of me misunderstanding everything they said, especially my partner. So we began looking at all the hearing aides available. I chose one on the high end, thinking it would last a long time, and because it provided different settings for various environments or activities. I paid the piper, and waited for the order to come in. That weekend we were back at Aunt Nancy's working in her dining room. Michael and I were painting, and were moving up and down ladders, painting and having an ongoing conversation with Aunt Nancy. At one point she and Michael were doing most of the talking, and she interrupted him to ask a question. "Michael, has anyone ever told you that you mumble too much?" Michael was aptly offended, and tried to puff out his chest to counter this ridiculous claim. I just laughed at their interaction. She wasn't satisfied with his response. "Michael, has Dan ever told you that he cannot hear you or understand what you are trying to say? You talk so softly all the time. I can barely understand anything you say!" Michael knew where this was headed and quickly looked away. I simply turned back toward him in a deadpan manner, "you owe me two thousand dollars."

Michael's Aunt Nancy died the day after his brain surgery in 2007. It was a bit of a turning point for his mother and I. We had just been through a horrific week of Michael's tests, brain surgery, and receiving the grim diagnosis, and the next thing we knew we were driving an hour away to be with his aunt who was dying in another hospital. There was nothing left for the doctors to do for Aunt Nancy, and it was time to make a decision to take her off the ventilator. That decision was put on Michael's mother, who in turn reached out for me. So there we were, holding Aunt Nancy's hands, nodding that it was time to turn the machines off, and standing there while the room fell silent. Michael should have been there. This was Michael's place in the family. He couldn't be there to fulfill his role as the responsible son and nephew, so there I was in his place. Michael and I were not yet married at the time, but that day I became a member of the family.

After Aunt Nancy died, and while Michael was home recuperating from his surgery, I would drive over the bridge each day to finish the painting we had started. Aunt Nancy was an animal lover, and had four cats and two dogs. Friends were trying to find homes for each of the pets, but three of the cats were still in the house. I had painted throughout the morning, and then went out for lunch. When I returned there were white paw prints across the table, down the chair, and across the freshly refinished wood floors. I was lookin to skin me a cat. When I found the guilty feline, I realized it was Carelli, Aunt Nancy's favorite cat. Meow. Carelli and I quickly became constant companions during that week. After a few days I came home with a request that Michael and the kids never would have expected from someone who is quite allergic to cats. I was smitten. We had to take him in.

For those of you who have been reading here since the early days, you may know Carelli by his alias, "The $2000.00 Cat."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Sweetness of Life

in shadows
Originally uploaded by
Arno Arno

Last night I struggled with two things. First, I was in extreme need of Michael's comforting arms. When I am faced with an emotionally trying time as a parent, there is no payoff at the end of the day. There is no comfort or reassurance for me. That is a given. Secondly, I am coming into an awareness, with the help of my therapist, that I am closing myself off from any potential comfort, especially in the form of touch, because it isn't Michael. When I was talking about my feelings, and was beginning to cry, my therapist asked if it would be okay if he came over to hold my hand, or put a hand on my shoulder. I said it was fine, but then stopped him from proceeding.

I'm in a no win situation, and it is getting me stuck.

In the wake of meeting Michael, and allowing him to love me, I learned about how sweet life can be. Throughout my adulthood I had dated here and there, but I had only imagined what it would be like to love someone on the level that I had with Michael. I had only imagined what it would be like to have not only my emotional needs met, but my physical needs met as well. I was finally able to experience what others took for granted when they are part of a two parent family.

Since I chose to be a single parent I was used to having to deal with tough situations, then later talk myself down from the stressful aftermath. When I went to bed at the end of the night I knew how to tell myself that things would be alright, and that perhaps one day there would be someone to hold me and make be believe that things would be alright. In meeting Michael, that which I always needed and wanted, became realized. When I was in a difficult, or stressful situation with the kids, he could be the calming factor. And when words could not reach me, his arms and body could.

In the short time that Michael and I were together my mind and body became in tune with his. The sound of his voice could calm me. The touch of his hand could soothe me. It became an autonomic response. I didn't have to consciously accept his touch, or his comfort, I simply responded. Now in his absence my mind and body know what is missing. And, likewise, I can't just consciously tell my mind and body to stop needing him, or to not anticipate his touch. Sometimes when I am lying in bed, missing or needing him, something might shift in the bed, causing perhaps a pillow to shift as well. This might ever so slightly cause it to brush across my shoulder, causing in turn a memory of his touch. It is no wonder then that I reach out for these objects when in the grip of pain and sorrow. These inanimate objects are then charged with the responsibility of getting me through that moment. It is desperation at it's finest.

Today's epiphany was that with each of the ongoing challenges I am having with the kids, comes the ongoing trauma of needing Michael in such a desperate way that cannot be fulfilled. I then go into physical, or emotional, isolation because any one's attempt at comforting me is a cruel reminder of what I no longer have. And before anyone gets too close, for comfort, I push them away. It is too painful to have a little, when I need and want so much.

As my therapist has pointed out, this cycle is not allowing me to move through this part of my grief. Because my children's needs are so significant, and ongoing, I never have the opportunity to move past the trauma cycle. I never get to the point of testing the waters, and allowing myself to taste the sweetness of life through other people. I have become a person who very strongly needs touch. I need to feel life's sweetness. I need nourishment. I cannot have, and do not want, a life without it. I know that I am not ready to seek it in a major way, like in a new relationship, but I need to find it in small ways. There is no moving forward without it. If there is no sweetness in my life, then I don't want it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

In Isolation, No Comment

Originally uploaded by

Life has got me beaten down. Nothing feels rational any longer. I know what to say, and what to do, but I want to just give up.

I wonder what goes into the making of each person. Why do some have so many challenges?

I don't know if I'm one of those people. Am I the challenged? Or, am I the person charged to care for the challenged?

When I was a little kid I thought the world existed for me. In my mind I pondered the idea that when I slept, the world failed to exist. With this line of thinking, the world was all a creation meant to busy me, challenge me, or entertain me. I had created my own little Truman Show where there were no accidents. It was all carefully orchestrated. Perhaps everyone had their own individual existence. Yet, if so, who was the mastermind who was manipulating my world, because he or she seemed to have it out for me.

My evening went so horribly wrong, so now I am sitting here in my room, isolating myself. I wish I could stay here forever, with no one knocking at my door. With no one needing anything from me. And, with no one being able to reach me.

I want to sink. I want darkness. I want to feel total isolation.

I wish the lights in the garden would go out. I don't want to see its beauty. Beauty no longer has it's place in my world. Joy no longer brightens my days. Optimism is for foolish. If I could find the master switch I would turn off all the power. Everything in my world would just shut down.

I don't want to be that survivor anymore. I want to be that broken person that cannot be fixed. I want to be lost beyond return.

I have sealed all the doors shut. I have raised the draw bridge. I cannot be reached.

Do I want anything out of life? No comment.

Do I want to be saved? No comment.

Will anything ever really matter again? No comment.

There is only one person I want right now, but the mastermind took him out of my life.

So tonight, no comment.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


♪♫♪ The sun will come out tomorrow ♪♫♪
Originally uploaded by

First off. Thanks to all those who left comments regarding last night's post. It was one of those evenings where I question whether I should be taking the time to post. It was a typical, if not less seldom, painful night of grieving. On nights like that I wonder if I should just post some short explanation about not being available to write, or do as I did, and describe exactly what was happening, in real time.

I think it comes down to being vulnerable. The guy in me, not like I have an inner woman, tells me to buck up, and not share with the world when I am knocked down by my grief. I also look carefully at my intentions, careful not to be overtly seeking sympathy from the crowd. But in the end I remind myself of the commitment I made to myself about this blog. Of writing in real time. I also remind myself that I have developed a great community of support here, and why not look to all of you during these challenging moments.

But to those who might fear drowning during one of these undertows, in my experience, I always wake up the next morning feeling much better, and with a renewed perspective. This is how I choose to walk through my grief. I purposely walk through it with my eyes wide open, and my heart bare, and vulnerable. I am of the belief that we should not run or hide from such pain. We should safely pace ourselves, but be willing to go through it. Anything that we choose to skip, or to turn away from, will only catch up with us later. I think that trying to sort it out later can be very difficult. You might lose the perspective that you would have today. When I am in pain presently, I clearly know why. It is raw, but it is also in clear correlation with where I am on my own time line of living through this loss.

For some reason the song from Annie keeps playing in my head. "The sun will come out tomorrow"...blah blah blah. "So I got to hang on till tomorrow, come what may." I guess you use what gets you through. If it takes the sun rising to shine a light on things so that you have a different perspective, then that's what you depend on. If it takes a little red headed curly mopped girl to sing you out of the darkness, then so be it. For me, I just need to go through what I need to go through. I have done this long enough now to know that while tonight may feel endlessly painful, tomorrow is indeed a new day.

"Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I love ya, Tomorrow, your always a day a way."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day's End

Time For Bed
Originally uploaded by
Andy Valde


Just walked down quietly to my room. I didn't say good night to any of the kids, or to my cousin Fred, who is visiting. I suddenly needed to detach. I was at my limit, and couldn't sustain.

Sustain what? I don't feel like I accomplished much today. Bought some groceries. Busied myself all day, keeping my emotions at bay.

Today was not a bad day. On the contrary, it was a nice and relaxing day. One where I pause now and then to be sure there was nothing I was forgetting about. When I have days like this I often end the day feeling guilty, like I should have been more productive somehow. Maybe the guilt is less about productivity, and more about feeling detached. Detached from everyone.

Some days I find it easier to just stay a bit physically, and emotionally, detached from everyone around me. When one of the kids move in to give me a hug, I try to tolerate it, but find some excuse to move myself from that particular spot. It's not about who is trying to get close to me, it's about not wanting anyone to get close to me.

It hurts. In a real physical way, it hurts. When I get like this I feel like I cannot breathe. I can feel my skin crawl when someone enters my space. It's a terrible way to feel, but it is truly how I feel. I don't want to be touched. I don't want any one's affection. I would rather be sitting alone in my room, surrounded by empty space, and silence.

I walked into my bedroom. I washed my face, and brushed my teeth. There are Michael's things. I run my finger across his tooth brush. I open the cabinet and see his things. I grab two tea candles from the shelf in the closet, and place them gently in the candle holders that flank the ceramic urn that houses Michael's ashes. I light the candles, take off my wedding ring, and place it along side Michael's. My hand runs across the top of the urn. I then reach out, and place my hands firmly on the sides of the urn. I take in the texture, which is beveled, but smooth. I whisper to him. I tell him of my love, and turn away to get into bed. My chest begins to ache. I now realize how tightly I have been holding down my emotions all day. My chest muscles are sore and exhausted. A deep breath in, I wait, I listen to the silence, a deep breath out. Tears, doubled over in pain. I try to keep my sobbing to a quiet pitch. I don't want anyone to hear me. I don't want anyone to interrupt me.

I wonder why I am here. I wonder why he is gone. I try to remember what all my efforts are for.

I have an image of myself. I am sitting here in my room, sitting comfortably on my bed. One small pillow being held closely to my chest. I am needing some kind of soft object to take up space. I have walked this earth too long without his body close to mine. Death is so cruel. Death is so final. Why does he not appear in my dreams? Why do I not even remember my dreams? I know that are there, for I feel their presence in the night. Yet within moments upon waking, they float away. Some kind of abstract mix of emotion and emptiness.

I begin to breath easier. I purposefully stop typing, and feel the pulse within my body. I hear the static white noise within my head. It is so familiar, and brings me comfort. I grab his pillow, and breathe deeply within it. Even if his scent is gone, particles of his essence are there. The fabric has not been washed. I am not ready to release that part of him. Why am I left to find comfort in the night with something so random as a pillow? Why is everyone else around me lying in bed with a warm body beside them? I am alone, yet not alone in my predicament.

I know many of you reading find this oh so familiar. I hurt for you. I know, you hurt for me.

Another day comes to an end.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A House Is Not A Home

06 Empty House
Originally uploaded by

Tonight's post has a music accompaniment on my PlayList. If you like, just hit play.

I am a big Burt Bacharach fan. I have his whole collection of songs song by all the original artists. Somehow his music transports me to a very happy and loving time in my childhood. I used to hear all of Burt Bacharach's music around the house, and in the car radio. As I got older I continued to seek out his music, and collect some of his recordings. A few years ago he collaborated with another of my favorites, Elvis Costello, and they made such gorgeous music together. It was the perfect collaboration in my mind.

Recently Burt's music was profiled on an episode of Glee. I'm a late arriving fan of the television show, and found myself in pure ecstasy listening to the cast perform some of my favorite songs. And throw in Kristin Chenoweth, well, it was simply a gay man's heaven.

This all got me thinking about why I am planning this move. I love my house, and I'm proud of all the hard work I put into it over the years. It was quite a fixer, and it has taken quite a bit of effort to get it to where it is today. It has provided me with many happy memories, and has taught me many new skills. Then four years ago I provided me with a space to welcome Michael into my fold, and join my family. Up until then I always considered my house to be a home, and indeed it was. But I had no idea how much more transformed it would become. When love came my way, and I invited it in. Everything I had took on such new meaning.

This couch that I sit on became a place where Michael would sit in each other's arms, or with our legs wrapped around one another, reading, doing Sudoku, or watching a movie. That kitchen became a place where we put our love into the preparation of meals for the kids, or for our many visitors. That small kitchen at times transformed into a ballroom where we would spontaneously dance around, arms firmly around each other.

I go down to my bedroom each night, and it screams of his absence. Yes, at times it easier. At times I can absorb the essence of his spirit, or the memories of all the wonderful intimate moments shared. But most nights it brings my spirit down. Most nights it causes me tears.

He is not here. He is not here.

I think the kids feel this too. If not the same feelings, they feel my difference. I am no longer the same in our home. I have lost my joy. I feel beaten, and I feel betrayed. Not by my home, but by life. Some nights when sleep won't come I sit up in my bed and say out loud, "okay, you won." I'm not sure who, or what, I am talking to. I just know that I have lost that which I cherished the most. I deserved to be happy, and I was. I just thought I would have it longer than I did. I didn't expect it to be forever. Just a day or two shy of forever.

All of this weighs so heavy upon my chest. I can barely breath anymore.

I am slowly suffocating.

I pray for some relief.

And yet, misery is becoming quite familiar. At times it is my only company.

"A House Is Not A Home"
by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

A chair is still a chair, even when there's no one sittin' there
But a chair is not a house and a house is not a home
When there's no one there to hold you tight
And no one there you can kiss goodnight

A room is a still a room, even when there's nothin' there but gloom
But a room is not a house and a house is not a home
When the two of us are far apart
And one of us has a broken heart

Now and then I call your name
And suddenly your face appears
But it's just a crazy game
When it ends, it ends in tears

Pretty little darling, have a heart,
Don't let one mistake keep us apart
I'm not meant to live alone, turn this house into a home
When I climb the stairs and turn the key
Oh, please be there, sayin' that you're still in love with me

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lonely Widow(er)s Wanted, All Encouraged to Apply

Help Wanted
Originally uploaded by
Melissa Gorostiza

Being that I am currently dipping my feet into the job market, I got to wondering, what type of ad would encourage me to apply? Now of course I am looking for a job, and I suppose I should be searching the web for one right now. I can't just stop with the first job I came across. Right?

I have also been thinking this...some days I get a lot of visitors to my blog. Some stay and read awhile, others do a bit of a fly by. I have my regular net-friends, and I have my regular chat pals who leave comments, but I also receive many who appear to leave as quickly as they arrived.

What happens? Am I not what they were looking for? Was the blog not about the subject they expected? Were they looking for a male point of view, but not a gay one? Were they looking for a younger point of view, but not a young middle aged guy? Was the Latin flavor a bit too spicy for their taste? Are my posts too long? Is my hair too short? Okay, get my drift?

These are the crazy things that go through my mind when I finally come up for air. Earlier I was thinking that it would be interesting to conduct a bit of a social study. I could begin a few different blogs, with different identities, but with almost identical content, and see which one picks up the most steam. I sometimes wonder if we limit ourselves by seeking those that are most like us. I also wonder if we look for commonalities because we don't seem to find anyone like us.

When I first started this blog, I thought it was a way to reach out to other widow(er)s who identified as gay or lesbian, and who might feel a bit marginalized. Some have come and gone, but currently we are a rare breed in the world of grief related blogs. Actually, I might be it. Perhaps I'm extinct, but didn't get the memo.

When I look at the group of people I have come to know well through the blog, I get a sense of many feeling like a bit of a nomad. Some have chosen to hit the road, some had to move out due to extenuating circumstances, some yearn to be transported to far off galaxies, and some just think it might be nice to rest in the shadow of a large palm tree in San Diego. Perhaps what ties this group is a sense of isolation, or a sense of needing to reach out. I have previously discussed feeling like an outsider in many ways. Is that what joins us? I have sometimes noticed that my phone doesn't ring very often. Is it simply a matter of us paying our phone bills? What is it?

I know that I have had the good fortune to meet, by way of the written exchange, many wonderful and struggling people. There are many ways in which I identify with these individuals, and there are many ways that I see our differences. What I do feel though, is that we all welcome each other into our blog worlds. We encourage each other to lean on us, and to accept the mutual support.

I know there are many people who read the blogs each day. I often wonder if some feel like they may not have something to contribute, but I know that is not true. Today's post is a calling out to each of you. It's my way of saying everyone who visits is welcome. Everyone is encouraged to quietly read if that is what they need. And, everyone is encouraged to share their thoughts, no matter what your journey is, or what your journey looks like, or how you identify.

So here is a bit of a starter. My title says "lonely widow(er)s wanted," but you don't have to be one to share. The fact that you take an interest in our struggle, is enough for me to say "welcome." Even if you were looking for the video of the film "Dan in real life" and you got "Dan, in real time," you are welcome to stay and chat.

So...What brings you here? If you are grieving...What do you find online that you can identify with? And, what is it that you may not have found quite yet? Are there parts of your experience that still makes you feel like you are still searching for members of your lost tribe?


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal

I'm kind of in a holding pattern. Until I hear about the job, I don't want to put too much effort into figuring out the logistics needed to make this move. I think I would prefer to be given a deadline, and be forced to make it happen quickly. Yet, I have to remind myself that things don't always move as quickly, or a smoothly, as I would like them to.

I am also really troubled about my daughter, and the chaos that is her life right now. It is so hard as a parent to watch them make mistake after mistake. Then watch them sink deeper and deeper into the hole of consequences. I'm not really sure what the answer is.

Like my losing my husband Michael, I ultimately have no control over the choices my children will make. I'm not sure exactly what to do. I spent the last two years battling a tiny brain tumor, that out sourced, and out smarted all of the doctors and me. In the end I see how powerless I was, and yet I fought until the end. I was determined to keep Michael alive. I was determine to keep him here with me.

I suppose the same can be said of my children. I am battling genetics. I am battling prenatal substance exposure. And I am battling unknown demons that tempt them in directions I know will only bring heartache, for them, and for me.

Our lives are so fragile. Nothing is ours to keep. This is a lesson I am being taught over and over. Yet I must find some sense of hope.

This afternoon I went for a massage. The spa that I go to had a new massage therapist, so I thought I would give him a try. When I undressed and laid out of the table he was surprised to see all the ink on my back. For those that are new here, I am a bit of a tattoo collector. He was gently tracing the tattoo of the cherry blossom tree and small sparrow, and asked what they represented. He did the same for all the other tattoos on my back. When he came to the last one, of a Kanji symbol, he stopped and traced it as well. "What does this one symbolize?"

"Hope." It rests above the monogram initials for Michael, 'M W L' and a lotus blossom. I explained that it was a reminder to have hope when my husband was battling his brain tumor. It was a valentines day gift for Michael, to show him how committed I was in getting him through his ordeal. After offering his condolences, the massage therapist said he would stop asking questions, and get on with the massage. He was very sweet. After we stopped talking I laid there thinking about hope, and wondering where it fit in my life today.

I find that I am now a bit jaded where feelings such as hope once resided. In it's place has become a sense of utility, where I just focus on concrete things I can accomplish. These days it is the simple every day tasks that require so much energy, and anything beyond them is beyond me.

I wonder how we replenish hope in our lives. Is it something that can be returned by our own efforts? Is it like grace, something that is bestowed upon us? It's not surprising that so many people in this world suffer from learned hopelessness. They must have ran out of hope long before I did. Perhaps they lost hope in prior generations.

Hope is a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life. Hope is the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

If I really think about it, I would have to admit that I do believe that hope springs eternal, even when faced with adversity. I wouldn't be sitting here, writing, facing the harsh realities of life, if I didn't hope for better days.

A few Hope quotes.

In reality, hope is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs man's torments. ~Friedrich Nietzsche

If one truly has lost hope, one would not be on hand to say so. ~Eric Bentley

Some see a hopeless end, while others see an endless hope. ~Author Unknown

When the world says, "Give up," Hope whispers, "Try it one more time." ~Author Unknown

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

Moving forward.
Originally uploaded by
Jason Lisiewski

A good day over all. It's not often that I have the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone. Recently I made the decision to do just that. Of course, my decision was to relocate to San Diego. I have lived in my current home for 17 years, and in San Francisco for 25 years. I have been at my current job for 21 years, now I am choosing to walk away from it.

I don't know what the outcome of the job interview will be, but I know what the outcome of this process, and today's adventure, will be. It will be successful.

It was during my month long struggle in April that I realized that I needed to make a change. Since the beginning of my grief journey I have been feeling a pull to walk away from my current life. Dramatic, right? It doesn't have to be. Of course in my fantasy I just walked out the front door, and kept on walking. I walked through many sunrises, and many sunsets. I stopped when I got exhausted, or when I found a place that felt like home. This was all a fantasy, as I knew that I couldn't really do this. But when I was experiencing me deep sorrow and depression last month, I decided that not only could I make a change, I desperately needed a change.

Today's job interview gave me a good jab of renewed energy. I felt confident, and I felt energized. Whether or not I'm what they are looking for is beside the point. I realized that I have a wealth of knowledge and experience, and that I enjoy sharing it with others. I know that there can be many opportunities for me in the future. I just need to set my mind to finding them.

After my interview was done I set off for a day in the area of San Diego where I want to live. I wanted to be sure I was remembering it correctly, and being realistic in my expectations. I found that it was exactly as I pictured it. I know that I can live there, and I know that I can begin rebuilding my life.

Sometimes we need to step outside of our comfort zone to see who we really are. Sometimes we need the room to fully stretch out our wings. I realized that I need breathing room. Making this move will give me that breathing room. I know this is not for everyone, and I know some are concerned that I am making a move before the one year anniversary. I have been advised many times to not make any major changes in the first year. Well, that's not how I operate. I have decided to go with my gut. Speaking of which, is growing ever bigger. That's another topic.

Now that I am back in my home, and here sitting on my bed, I am feeling the comfort of my familiar surroundings. But I realize that the comfort will go with me. Those things that remind me of the love I shared with Michael will always be with me. He will always be with me. Where ever I go, I take him with me. Together, he in spirit, we will be stepping outside of our comfort zone, and look toward new beginnings.

I'm not walking away from anything. I am walking toward something new.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rapid Cycling

Shifting between being happy and being sad....hard
Originally uploaded by

As many of you know my two sons suffer from mood disorders, and I have written in recent past about the cycles of a mood disorder. When your child goes through a manic phase it can be quite distressing. They have little control over their emotions, and you as the parent have even less.

Today I was preparing to go to work. I thought my day was starting out well, but I kept finding myself sitting back down on the sofa rather than walking out that door. Each time I thought I was feeling strong, I got up to gather my things, but then found myself distracted, choosing to do one more thing, then back to the sofa again. It was one of those mornings where I find myself taking deep breaths, and doing some moaning out loud. I guess it is more like a very long, and loud, sigh. When I get this way I feel like I need to create some kind of noise to go along with my sigh. Somehow I feel like I am not fully catching my breath without the sound.

Eventually I got into my car and began my drive. Nothing on the radio sounded of interest so I eventually just turned it off. Actually, I did sing along to Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now." I just can't seem to get enough of that song. Anyway, I arrived at the office parking lot, got out of my car, and began walking toward the building. Suddenly without warning I began crying. I stopped walking, took a deep breath, and pulled myself together. I started walking once again, and was thinking about how odd this was. I told myself that this would be a fine day, as it really was my day off. I was only going in for a meeting, and would be done in a few hours. I promised myself I would do something special for myself, and to spend some time preparing for tomorrows interview. This made me smile. As I did this I imagined Michael standing beside me. He would be running his hand down toward the curve of my back, and give me his devilish grin. This grin meant I love you, and I will have you later tonight. I smiled again, and kept walking.

A few feet forward, and I felt like the wind had just been knocked out of me. I began choking up once again. I stopped, and thought that I need to get a hold of myself. I have an important meeting with a client and many service providers. I need to keep it together.

I don't like when I get this way. Maybe I should point out here, that I don't often get this way. My grief, my sadness, usually settles in like a dark rain cloud. I usually see it coming, and it often stays awhile. All I can say is that this was a bit different for me. I felt a little less in control.

Suffice to say, I don't like being out of control.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

To Have and to Hold

Hug it out
Originally uploaded by

Today's outing was a brunch hosted by our good friends Steve and Nancy. Nancy is one of Michael's dear friends from back in his Peace Corp days. They hosted all of the bay area peace corp gang, which I am now an official member. In my mind I think of this group at the 'friends of Mike.' This is the same group of people that gathered in Big Sur for a memorial weekend in Michael's honor. Each person hold so much love of Michael, and each carries part of Michael's history. It was a lovely day, with lovely people.

As you may guess, it also makes me miss Michael even more. He is my connection to all of these people. They have become like family to me. When I talk to them it comes directly from the heart. When they listen you can see the love and care in their eyes. It's almost heartbreaking. Well, it is heart breaking. I know that they each have their own feelings of loss, yet they are so good to me, being very observant of my feelings.

I will miss each of them very much when I move. And yet, I will have several other of Michael's good friends around when I move to San Diego. Those peace corp people are just everywhere!

It's amazing to me that individual people can carry someones history with them, every where they go. It like each of us holds a piece of the puzzle. Some of those pieces join right up next to each others. Some pieces may not be necessarily connected, yet understood. Some of the pieces of history shine light on what we knew of our loved one. Some pieces shared shed light on something about them that we never fully realized.

I love this concept. There is no way I could know everything about Michael. I only had him for such a short time. Yet in the time I had him I got to know a very deep and personal side of him that others don't necessarily know. Some of my knowledge of him can be shared with his friends. Other parts were just for me. I love to hear what they know of Michael, and then put that along side my memories of what he shared with me. It often give nuance to tangential information that I picked up along the way.

When I am around people that carry so many years of history with Michael, I often feel closer to him. His energy is there. Today I could feel his love. Today I carried an image of his smile, and of the love he easily conveyed in his eyes. When I saw his friends interact with their spouses, it reminded me of how Michael and I did in their presence. It was as if he was standing right there beside me. When I saw his friends touch, or share affection with their spouses, I could remember how comfortably we shared our affection in their presence. It was all so bittersweet.

As time goes on I sometimes feel like it has been a life time since he left. I sometimes fear that I will lose that physical memory of how he was with me. Being in his friends' presence today brought that sensation right back to me. As I sit here I am filled with mixed emotions. One second I am smiling, the next I am crying. It's as if he is holding me, allowing me to feel his love, and allowing me to express my pain.

I loved being held by him. I loved holding him.

To have and to hold.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Better Things

[All good things must come to an end]
Originally uploaded by
Fabrizio C. Carta

After last nights heavy sobbing, I have moved to a place of numbness.

This evening I watched a very haunting film about a girls early death due to a heroin overdose, called "Better Things." It was quite poetic and quiet in it's presentation of all the people in this girls community. Each of the people in the story were dealing with their feelings of isolation. Some were truly alone, other's were feeling a sense of lost attachment to the people around them. There was definitely a tone of sadness, yet I found it quite moving.

I clearly got the sense that these people had not realized how detached and lost they had become. Somehow this girls death created both fear of their emotions, and clarity of where they didn't want to be. As is the reality of life, many of them were either too deep into their isolation to know where to turn, or so hurt by life to dare to step outside their dark shelter.

What I liked about the film was that these interwoven stories we told through the lives of young teens, and elderly individuals. We usually look at the young, and think about how they have their whole lives ahead of them. We sometimes envy their naivete, and wish we could go back to that age with the wisdom we now have. What was interesting though was that the young people appeared so jaded by their harsh realities. They had lost their wonder and amazement with life. The older folks seemed to be reassessing the trauma's in their lives. One couple spent their days in silence. The wife longing for the lost connection with her husband, who sat just a few feet from her everyday. She had wronged him many years prior, and she feared that his loved had waned. In one scene the husband talks about being in a nursing home, where he witnessed another elderly couple who were never apart. Their love is what filled their days. When the wife died he recalled the husband just sitting in a chair, staring out into no where. The husband telling the story said that as he looked at the elderly widower he realized that he no longer looked the same. His appearance had physically changed.

This story within a story really hits home. I understand what the husband was describing. When the other man's wife died, so did he. What was left was somewhat of an empty shell. The widower was too old, and too tired to figure out how to carry on. They appeared to have lived out their last years in this nursing home. Without the his lovely wife by his side, he was devoid of his spirit.

I know that I am too young to find myself where this other widower had been left, but that's not to say that I don't identify with those feelings. I continue to stare into the mirror to find some part of me that has been missing for many months now. During these eight months the air around me appears to have thickened. Either that or I am now moving quite slowly. I know that the muscles in my face have suffered some atrophy, for they rarely move beyond a blank joyless expression.

And like the youth, I often wonder what life truly has in store for me. If I make the effort, will their really be something there waiting for me that is worth it? I know that I don't want to wither and die. Well, last month I did. Today I do look toward my future with a small sense of hope. The hope comes from the stirring within me that has motivated this possible move to San Diego. I have chosen to trust it, as it is the only voice within me that offers a glimmer of this hope. At the same time I know that life can never be what it used to be. I just hope that I can recognize a new opportunity to grow, or be happy, and continue to trust where ever it takes me. I suppose this is my challenge. To believe that there are better things ahead for me.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Scattered Thoughts

(4) Stories for lonely shots - No Matter Where
Originally uploaded by
Gavin Liam Levitz Russell

I'm sinking again. I had a fine day, but since leaving the office I could feel myself going under. It's that familiar feeling of not having the strength to keep myself afloat.

I came down to my room so that I can feel free to cry out. The boys have sensed this as usual, as they have asked a few times tonight if I'm okay. I don't want to worry them. We need to have a good weekend. Tomorrow is my youngest son's 12th birthday. His birthday request is to not have to go to his religion class. He's so funny. I suppose God will understand. He just wants a day to do what makes him happy. Part of that happiness will be when we head out to the Guitar Center with his best friend to buy a new electric guitar. He has been playing for over a year now, and is getting very good. I'm excited about this outing as well, as I love music, and am so happy he has found his passion with the guitar.

I'm feeling better now. It helps to look ahead, even if it's just looking toward tomorrow. I didn't sleep well last night. I kept having these uneasy dreams that just didn't make any sense. I woke up several times, feeling physically sore from all the tossing and turning. In my sleep I kept reaching out for Michael, but finding only pillows. They had to do, as there was nothing else there. That's the feeling I'm having tonight. I feel like I am going through withdrawal symptoms. I physically ache for not having Michael here with me. I can find no comfort. I haven't felt this bad for quite some time. It feels like I am back where I started.

Unfortunately I have some secondary parenting issues going on with my daughter at the moment, which makes all of this doubly hard. As we all know too well, the rest of our life doesn't suddenly get easier just because we are going through the trauma of loss. No, it all seems to hit you at once. Right now it's a heavy load, and I am feeling less capable of managing the weight of it all.

This whole post feels so scattered. I have no clear direction, and I'm feeling less than inspired by my own words tonight. This tells me to put the laptop aside, and put my energy somewhere else. I probably just need a good night's sleep.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

8 Months, Still Climbing

The Steep Climb
Originally uploaded by

The things we do for our kids.

My youngest son had a science project last month on Mt. Pelee. The culmination of the project was supposed to be a brief video, hopefully uploaded to YouTube, so the whole class could view. Fine. We didn't own a video camera, and my son was really stoked about this, so I caved and bought him a small video camera. Okay, the next day we set out to make this video, only he realizes he doesn't really have much material to cover. Never mind that Dad kept asking him to do a bit more research on the topic. Anyway, back to the video taping. We chose to do this at our neighborhood park, so he could do a roving reporter type story. Well, half way through the taping he had a big fit, and quit. What?! The star can't quit. We have a budget, and the studio, I'm mean school, has given us a deadline. The money has been spent, and we need to produce a video. So the director, um, Dad, secretly splices together a short video out of the limited taping that was done pre-tantrum. The problem is, Dad had no idea how to save the video to a video file. Teacher has been asking about the tape. Well, Dad has his's in the mail? Finally, tonight, when Dad was supposed to be writing today's post, he was busy trying to upload the damn thing to YouTube. No such luck. Dad tried to email it to the teacher. No such luck. Apparently the file is too big, and the processing of the upload is too slow. What the hell am I supposed to do? Try and try again? Okay, I did, I mean third person Dad did. Again, no good. Perhaps Dad will have to send his laptop with son to school for viewing. Eek! Wait a minute. Dad hasn't tried posting it on his blog...

Well, that didn't work either. Time to move on.

As I might have mentioned last night, today is the 8th month anniversary of Michael's death. It always sounds so harsh when I say "his death." I suppose that's because death is a harsh reality. It's been weighing heavy on my mind throughout the day, but I had to put my emotions to the side, as there was much to get done. I had a lot of work to get done at the office, as I will be taking a day off next week to fly down for my job interview in San Diego. I also contacted a realtor, who is coming by on Saturday morning to take a look-see at my house, so I was trying to tidy up the house as I shouted directions to the boys, and tried to keep the dog from attacking the cat. In all, it was quite a hectic day. There was one blessing though, and one that I didn't really expect.

In the course of my duties I visit various families throughout the week. Today I was visiting the home of someone who I knew by my file had lost her husband recently. In fact we lost our husbands within four days of each other. After conducting my business during the visit, I decided that I would disclose my similar experience of being widowed recently. I must say, it has been quite some time since I have been able to sit next to someone, and listen to, and share my story of loss. It's not very often that I meet another widowed person in my day to day life. As most of my readers would expect, it was a wonderfully fulfilling opportunity. I won't go into any details of our conversation other than to say that I left that home feeling blessed. It is moments such as this that we are able to give and receive grace and humility.

Tonight I have felt the increasing sorrow coming up from somewhere deep within me. By chance a friend and her daughters called me tonight to thank me for some belated birthday gifts I sent. It was perfect timing. I was able to discuss with her my concerns for my daughter, and to share the significance of today. This is the same friend who usually provides me with my morning hug and kiss when we start out our day at the office. Unfortunately, we have missed each other at work all week, and I definitely was feeling the need for our connection. Again, it felt like some kind of divine intervention, or a friend's knowing, that led her to call me. Because of our conversation I am feeling less alone tonight. She asked how my evening would go. I told her that I could sense that I would be falling back into my despair, but from my experience, I know that I will be okay.

I think we all need to trust ourselves, and trust in our own experience and short history with grief. I know the depths of pain, and I know how easily I can forget why it is worth getting through this. I don't want to run and hide from the pain. I want to face it. I want to embrace it. I then want to let it go. I know that it will always be a part of my reality, but to changing degrees. For the most part I am okay with this. I recognize that I wouldn't be going through this if I hadn't been blessed with the love of a wonderful man.

I will accept this blessing. Oh how it pains me to say this. The tears are falling as I write. I have to accept this. I have no other choice. hour later, I was able to burn the video onto a DVD. Father's Day is coming up next month, and the kid better come through for me!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Another Step Forward

moving forward...
Originally uploaded by

Chaos, utter chaos. I just spent the last hour rounding up my boys, and lighting a fire under them. I'm hopelessly trying to get them to see what needs to be done, and get it done before Dad comes to inspect. Their rooms are always such a disaster. We go through this every night. It's kind of funny in a way, because I couldn't be more different than each of my kids. I am your typical Type A personality. Every room is spotless when I leave it. When Michael first moved in with me he thought he was a neat and tidy person. Boy was he in for a surprise. I'm kidding. He was very neat as well, just not as crazed about it as I am.

I'm finding that the day to day effort of getting every body's needs met is just exhausting me. It's like I'm coming out of a fog, and just realizing what needs to get done, and how little time we have to get it done. Now that I am back to being a single parent, it's amazing how much more work it all is. Even during the more difficult period of Michael's illness he at least was able to remind the kids what needed to get done. "Michael, I miss you so much!"

Today I got a call from the San Diego Superior Family Court. I am scheduled for an interview next Tuesday morning. So I quickly went online and booked a flight. I'm planning on finishing my interview in the late morning, then heading off to the area of San Diego where I'm planning on living. I'm wanting to take another look before I get my mind set on where we will live. I also want to have lunch and walk around the neighborhood to get a feel for the place. I'm not exactly sure what I will do if they in fact offer me a job.

I have not made any major move like this in many years. I've had my present home for the past 17 years, and my job for the past 21. This is really going to be about teaching an old dog new tricks. I'm starting to get pangs of sadness about making this move without Michael. It was supposed to be our big move together into "our" house. I know that he would be so happy for me if this all pans out. I'm also not quite sure how you suddenly moved a whole house full of furniture and possessions, three kids, two cars, a dog and a $2000. cat. Okay, I need to calm the hell down, and not get too far ahead of myself.

I'm sorry that today's post is not very inspiring. I need to do some research for the upcoming interview before heading to bed.

On a different note, tomorrow will be 8 months for me. Eight months without his touch. I wonder if I will get an eight month chip at the Untouchables Anonymous meeting? Suddenly it feels like time is flying by me.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Desperately Seeking Serenity

Framed Serenity
Originally uploaded by

Therapy Tuesday.

Today's topic: Life's disappointments.

Apropos to yesterday's framework of discussion, 12 step meetings, I found myself dealing with the ongoing challenges, and disappointments, of parenthood today. It all brought me face to face with the fact that I have very little control over those things that are most important to me.

"God grant me the serenity..."

Without going into each of their histories, it is known that my children have many significant challenges in their lives. With each of these there are ongoing disappointments that seem to come my way. In dealing with my latest challenge, or relapsed kid, I realize how out of control I can become now that Michael is not hear to be my anchor. Throughout my years with Michael, we were faced with the ongoing turbulence that is my children's lives. I'm not talking about a sudden change of altitude turbulence, I'm talking about luggage flying out of overhead compartments type of turbulence. While I usually took the lead, as they were my children, Michael always stood by my side, either to give me strength, or to point out when I was trying to control those things which I couldn't.

"To accept the things I cannot change;"

When Michael was first diagnosed with his brain tumor, I quickly learned what the role of the spouse was when one is given a fatal prognosis. I was supposed to learn everything about brain tumors, and learn it fast. I was supposed to versed in the latest clinical trials, options in chemotherapy, and familiar with all non-traditional remedies. My main focus became keeping my husband alive, and as I soon found, the cards were stacked against me. As much as I wanted to believe that we were chasing down the right course of treatment that would put Michael in the 5% that lived beyond two years, I was also quite harshly reminded that I had no control over this. In time I realized what I did have control over, which was how he would die.

"The courage to change the things that I can;"

In all, I must say that today was a day of taking a good look at what life has thrown against me. This, of course, included lots of self pity, and plenty of tears. As my therapist pointed out, while it has certainly been a rough go for me, he has a hard time believing that the universe just has it out for me. Even in my pain and sorrow, I have to agree. The life I once imagined as a father, or as a husband, has been something I've had to let go of. The fact of the matter is, this is who my children are. They have these challenges for a reason. There is nothing I can do to change their history, and there is nothing I can do to control the outcome of their choices or dilemmas, just as there was nothing I could do about my husband dying. Things are what they are. I cannot will Michael back to life, and I cannot will my children's lives to be something that isn't so. All I can do is learn to accept what life has brought me, and find a way to keep moving forward. What I can control is how I respond to all of this. I can seek out the best way to take care of myself, so that I am available should my children need me.

"And the wisdom to know the difference."

Of course none of this is new, and none of this is easy. I suppose that's where the need for that higher power come in.

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things that I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.