Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Today delivered a bit of an light-hearted reprieve from the otherwise heavy grief laden days of late.
Now that was a wordy sentence!
I find that my day to day emotions don't always follow any set format, or a direct cause and effect relationship with other factors. Some days I am just down, and some days I am just up. Of course lately my emotions have been weighing heavy around my heart, and tied to the memories of where I was a year ago at this time.
Last year I was preparing my husband Michael for death. I was busy meeting all of his physical and emotional needs. Some things I was feeling, but mostly I was putting my emotions, and needs, aside in order to focus on his. This year I find that my body, and mind, are following a pretty specific road map, which entails all the bumps and turns that are the emotional landmines that were laid into place last year. I can either chose to look for them, and carefully navigate each day, or I can just go about my business, and be open to what ever comes my way.
There is no correct way to do this. Some days it is helpful to know why I am feeling about the way I am. There will definitely be days that I will want to anticipate so that I can surround myself with either support, or space, to feel what it is I need to feel that day. And yet what I find is that if I over anticipate my emotions I will likely limit what the experience of each day might actually be.
Today has been a surprising reprieve from those more difficult and sorrowful days. My heart is light, and my worries are fewer. I seem to be wearing a natural smile on my face, and there is a bit of a bounce to my step, which I have enjoyed. I don't think that I could have planned this type of day. Most days I do wake up wanting to have a good day, and to not feel that intense pain of loss. Yet if the pain is due to come, then I don't find it helpful to deny it. I may delay it for a more convenient time in the day for a full expression of it, but I don't have the power to completely control it.
Light hearted days, like today, are little jewels during periods like this. I know that having a day like this likely means that there are more of them on their way, as the difficult days have somewhat dominated for some time. It's a nice built in reminder that grief has it's ups and downs, or as others like to say, peaks and valleys. It is neither linear, or completely predictable. For me, I am trying to adopt the notion that with time, the lighter days will be what I can count on, and the difficult days will be more familiar, thus less threatening.
I accept this reprieve with gratitude.
Late night add on:
Tonight at my yoga class one of the other guys was standing next to me as I removed my shirt. He turned to me to say that he had not had the opportunity to see all the tattoos that I had on my back up close. He then reach over to outline one of the tattoos, which was the lotus with Michael's initials on it. "I especially like this one" he said. I felt so much warmth come over me. I just smiled, and said thank you. He has no idea what the tattoo means, or what this simple gesture did for me.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Tonight I decided to test the waters, and go out for a change. I had been looking at the website for the local LGBT Center, and saw that they have a weekly Monday night men's discussion group. The description said it was for isolated members of the community, or new members of the community. I decided that since I appear to fall into both categories that it might be worth looking into.
It was a little different than what I expected. It was a very large group, probably about 30 men. Most of them were older than me, I'd say 60's to 70's. Now in all honesty there were likely several men my age, but everyone seemed to fit more into the category of gay seniors.
They went around the room, giving everyone an opportunity to introduce themselves, and to say if they had an idea for the night's discussion. And while I didn't take an active part in the discussion, everyone seemed to be very nice. I don't think that I will return, as I just didn't see it being what I am needing right now.
After the meeting, I brought the boys some dinner, as I knew they would rather sit and be hungry, than to open the refrigerator to make something to eat. As expected they both said that were waiting, hoping that I would bring some food home for them. We had a nice late dinner together, and I announced that I was going right back out. One of the local bars was having a karaoke night, which sounded like it could be entertaining. I sat at the bar, ordered something to drink, and proceeded to listen to many not so good singers, and a couple of fairly good singers.
Again, I decided it wasn't really my thing, and there didn't appear to be anyone else in the bar alone, so I decided it wasn't conducive to meeting anyone knew. I finished my drink, and headed home.
So, first night out, socially, and I didn't really find what I was looking for. I'm not quite sure what I was looking for, but I will still consider it a success. I tried a couple of new things. I realized they were not really for me. Yet I feel good about the effort I put out. It was another step forward, and that's what counts.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Last night I decided that I didn't want to go to sleep right away after climbing up to my bedroom. I turned on the television, which I don't actually do that often, and found that a movie was just about to begin. It was called "The Time Traveler's Wife." I thought, perfect, just the right type of fluff I am in the mood for.
It was an interesting concept, about a guy whose DNA made him travel time, forward and backward, without his control. Well, let me first of all put out a disclaimer of sorts. It didn't hurt that the promo showed one very handsome Eric Bana, moving from time to time, always showing up somewhere in the nude. Thank you very much! Even though I am lost in my grief these days, I am still your typical, visual, oversexed male. Anyway...
The time traveler meets a young girl in a field, and they quickly becomes friends. Through the movement of the story you realize that this young girl is to be his future wife. There is good acting, beautiful scenery, and lots of cute Eric Bana to go around. Being in the type of mood that I have find myself in as of late, I must admit to shedding a tear here and there. What I wasn't expecting was to suddenly become completely engulfed in deep sorrow.
There is a scene where the characters accidentally witness a moment of Eric Bana's character coming forward into present day, where you see him dying. The couple, and their friends, stands there horrified by this image of a man so vulnerable and broken. It happens so quickly, and so unexpectedly, but the look upon the wife's face, and the visual of looking down at her husband, dying, hit me like a ton of bricks. This has never happened to me before. The moment I saw this I completely lost myself in emotional agony. It was just as it happened the moment that Michael died.
I remember holding Michael throughout the night. I was soothing him, and administering morphine to keep his pain a bay, and to help his labored breathing. When he suddenly took that last breath it felt like my last breath was also taken out. I felt like something larger than life had hit me right in the gut. I screamed out loud from the deep recesses of my being, fell to the floor and sobbed. It hurt, and there was nothing to prepare myself for this.
Last night the image of the husband had that same effect on me. It was as if it unlocked a part of that experience from a year ago that was too much for one soul to bear. As I watch the television, I bent over in pain, and sobbed out loud. I cried more than I have in so long. It hurt. It felt too big for me, and I questioned what I should do. I knew that my cousin was asleep downstairs, and thought perhaps I should go wake him up. I thought that I should quickly get on the floor in case I felt faint. I wondered if I should run to the bathroom in case I got sick. It was that bad.
What I chose to do was just keep breathing. I sobbed, and I breathed. I sobbed, and I breathed. During this I had the television on pause, and once calm, decided to move forward with the story. From there the experience of watching this story got easier. That is, until the very end.
The wife's husband has died, and you hear her daughter acknowledge that she has remained alone, and sad over the years. But then, when I should have known it would happen, the time traveler showed up again. He was talking to his young daughter, who quickly wrapped her arms around her father. She screamed out to the wife, who started running as fast as she could. She kept calling out to the traveler husband to not leave before she got there. Of course in the end he is able to remain long enough for that one last embrace. That's when I felt the pain of being stabbed in the heart.
Isn't that what we all secretly crave? To have one last time to hold them in our arms, to kiss them and taste their lips on ours. To feel their breath upon our face, and to find ourselves breathing along with them? Well, another avalanche occurred in my room. Sobbing, and more sobbing.
I thought to myself, what the fuck am I doing? Why did I choose to watch this? And why do I put myself through this?
I wish I had a clever answer to give you, but in times like this I don't think clever enters into the picture. It might have been fate, meaning that I needed to let down my drawbridge. Perhaps it was just a coincidence that this particular movie was on. I don't really know what to think. I don't even think I have a good conclusion to this post.
Maybe it was just to make me realize how big this loss is in my life. In a way, it allows me to appreciate how well I am doing. Look how vulnerable I am to have completely fallen apart by a simple movie. Sp much has happened to me in the last few years. My husband got cancer. My husband died. And I am here to survive.
I am surviving.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Today was a nice change of pace. I had planned a BBQ, and was having my cousin, my daughter and a friend of hers over for dinner. I got up early, got the house in order, then went shopping. I took my time at the grocery store, looking up and down every isle. I told myself to take my time. There was no hurry, so I wanted to enjoy the fact that I was out of the house, and among other people. Of course one of the downsides to this is that the grocery store is in the gay section of town, and there were couples at every turn. I think every gay couple in San Diego was also planning their own BBQ. I wish I didn't feel so envious, or heartbroken, when I saw couples. I found myself studying them carefully, trying to remember that feeling of shopping with my husband, planning for a dinner with guests. I watched how they spoke to each other. I watched how they touched each other with purpose when they spoke. I realized that this is why I stay home most of the time, as I was fighting back tears the whole time. In between stores I did in fact find myself in tears, but then I am in tears every day lately. Don't throw too much sympathy my way. It's just part of my survival these days.
While shopping I decided to buy a bottle of wine. It's not that often that I have a drink, but thought it would lend to the festive occasion. I quickly got out my iPhone to see what was a good wine to pair with poultry and pork. As I was doing this all I could think of was Michael. He loved a good bottle of wine, and knew all the right types to buy. Of course with this realizations were more tears. Only this time they were joyful, as I remembered how important these decisions were for Michael. After hitting a couple of stores I ended up at another nursery, this time looking for some house plants. Wouldn't you know it, one of the couples from the grocery store were doing the same. I couldn't escape them, those damn happy gay couples!
I've been spending some extra time setting up my back deck for such occasions. I had purchased some seat cushions, more plants and a BBQ grill. When we were out there one of my neighbors looked out over his deck and commented on what a nice job I have done making my deck so cozy. It felt good to get this acknowledgement. He probably doesn't realize what a small gesture like that did for me.
The rest of the evening was all of us, including the boys, eating, telling stories, and laughing. Lots of laughter. I haven't laughed that much in a very long time. It felt really nice. For the first time this house started to feel like a home. When my daughter and her friend left, and the house was suddenly quiet, I went out to sit on the back deck alone. I had some time to talk to Michael, and to look out over the city lights. It was another chance for me to sit and cry. Now I hesitate to write this, because I don't want people thinking I write this for sympathy. That is not the case with me. My reality is that I rarely cry in front of anyone anymore. And I don't usually let people in close enough to even know that I still cry for Michael almost daily. But I do want those that read this blog to know what my reality is. If you are reading this to gage how you are doing with your grief compared to another widower, then I want to be open with you about my experience.
I had been doing fairly well for the past month, but there has definitely been a change as of late. During these past couple of weeks the grief is much stronger. It's likely because I am coming closer and closer the the one year anniversary of Michael's death. I think about this way too much, and need to take breaks throughout the day to cry a little. As I was sitting outside, I turned to look back into my home. I looked into the softly let dining room, from the vantage point of an outsider. It looked warm, and comfortable. I could sense that a nice time had occurred in that room quite recently. It made me smile, and at the same time made me sad. I'm pleased that I had this social time, and sad that I had it without Michael. I suppose that is a theme that I will need to get used to more and more. I want to move forward, and I want to be happy. I also realize by my having such strong reactions to all the couples today, that I want to be in a relationship again one day. I don't want to be alone and lonely. I want to be loved, and to plan such evenings with that person. It's also what Michael wants for me. This I am clear about.
I have decided to give myself these next couple of weeks to feel what I need to feel about the one year mark. I then want to do something to push myself forward. I want to start meeting people, and going out. I need to engage more with people. I don't want to sit at home and cry all the time. And, I don't want to keep myself in isolation. I want to have more of these evenings, and to have more laughter in my house. It's time. Well, it will be time, soon enough.
Friday, August 27, 2010
"Dad, how was your day?"
My day was rather quiet. I did do some gardening, which is always nice, but mostly it was quiet.
"I don't like it when it is quiet. It makes me think of Mike, and I feel sad."
Yes, I think of Michael whenever it is quiet as well. So I guess the better answer to your question is that my day was sad.
This was a short conversation with my son Remy this evening. He always seems to capture and meet me, where I find my emotions at any given moment. I think because he was with Michael and I the most during Michael's illness, death, and those early months that followed, he is well in tune with his grief and mine.
I know that I have had a couple of clever posts this week, but I'll share with you that mostly I have been greatly depressed and hurting. All week has been a struggle to get through my days. I feel as though I am living in a different atmosphere. One that is thick, like jello, causing all my movements to be slow and purposeful. I keep thinking I should take myself out, and do something pleasurable, like to go a movie, but in the end I decide to just sit here at home.
When I am like this I need to stay away from the local nursery. I went there earlier to look for one particular plant I have been seeing around the neighborhood, but I ended up coming back with so many more plants and ceramic pots, for both indoors and out. Some people collect cats when they have really lost it. Weeks, then months go by, and friends start to wonder what happened to them. They go by the house and get no answer. They call the police to request a well-being check, only to find their friend trapped in their house with hundreds of feral cats.
That's what my fate will be, only my house will be filled from floor to ceiling with plants of every type. I will have created my own jungle, or rain forest. It will take them days to find me. And in the end, I will have been half eaten by some large carnivorous plant. Everyone will be in shock. Over the water cooler people will be recounting the last time they saw me, and how well I seemed to be doing at the time. Nobody will be verbalizing what is really on their mind, which is how guilty they feel for not thinking to look beyond the facade, and insisting that I get out from under this heavy burden of grief.
The county coroner will conduct an autopsy, and make a curious find. Under all that soil, insect and larvae will be my face, with the biggest, and most peaceful, smile. My death certificate will say cause of death; "happily consumed by plant life." Upon further inspection the coroner will find that my veins are void of blood, instead filled with the roots of many species of plants.
My children will be so torn as to what to do with my body. They will remember that I was to be cremated, and my ashes mixed with Michael's. Yet they would know that I would not want to terminate the life of these plants that have taken root within me. In the end I will be buried in the back yard, without a box, and with Michael's ashes scattered all over me. By next spring a beautiful exotic garden will have emerge. It will be naturally laid out beautifully. The kids will go buy the large image of Buddha that I always looked at, but never bought. They will place it in the garden, along with a small koi pond. Two large stones will also be placed there for people to sit, and reflect.
Years will pass, and my children will have passed on. Yet generations of people will have come to this garden to experience it's peace and tranquility. There will be tales of how this garden came to be, yet no one will ever quite believe. They will instead choose to remain in disbelief, but never question the garden's healing and soothing properties.
Now, where was I?
Oh, yes, it was a quiet day.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
No clever stories to tell tonight. Just a very long day, moving slowly through the thick air of my existence.
My day started out very nicely. I had a job interview that I was actually looking forward to. I got a good vibe off the person who initially called me to request an interview. As I was searching for the building I started to worry about making this move back into active employment. My life has significantly slowed down these past six weeks, and I would say that the new pace agrees with me, and I with it.
Anyway, I got to the interview, and sat before three individuals, placed across a very large table. They said they had 15 questions in all, five each. I thought to myself, How did I get so lucky? Many people would find this situation a bit intimidating, but not me. I love to talk about my experience, and about what I would like to do for their agency. But most of all, I love talking to other adults. How often does that really happen for me? I was answering all their questions, yet also throwing in some of my humor, and had them laughing during the interview. It was marvelous.
I was sitting there at the table, thoroughly enjoying myself, and thought, I need to interview for a lot more jobs. I would never be lonely again! When I am at home, I do get the occasional five minute contact with each of my sons, who always have lovely things to say, and quite often stop to give me a hug, but then they are off to their rooms, playing whatever the hell they were playing. Just short little sound bites. But hey, I'm not complaining. If it weren't for them, I would be spending all of my time talking to my dog and cat.
Earlier in the week I went to a friends for dinner. She was so gracious, and asked me so many good questions about how I am doing, how the kids were, and about my blogging and widowed community. It was also one of those rare opportunities where I was in heaven. An active listener, right there in front of me. I couldn't get enough of her attention, and willingness to exchange thoughts with me.
After leaving my friends home on Monday night, and the interview this morning, I realized that I am quickly becoming an attention whore. I'll take any opportunity that comes my way. You don't have to offer me much. Throw some food in front of me and you can have your way with me. Tempt me with a possible job in the future and I will be your love slave. You see, I need to have that attention. I need to talk out loud. It doesn't take much to satisfy me. You don't even have to be all that interested in what I am saying. Just nod your head, and tell me to go on with what I am saying, and I will sell you my soul. Oh yes, it's that bad.
I worry that I will soon become like many of the senior citizens that spend way to long in the check out line, wanting to share stories with the cashier. Or do lots of shopping for things I don't really need, just to have the opportunity to exchange words out loud with another adult. If the person is real friendly with me I can stretch out my hand to shake theirs when I say what a pleasure it was to speak with them. And the minute my hand comes in contact with theirs, well, it's almost better than sex. Well, maybe that's a stretch, but when your not getting any sex, a simple hand shake can awaken all those stored away endorphins that have been not been launched by the brain in a very long time.
I'm pathetic! Look what's become of me. How did I get here? Am I that easy?
You bet your sweet ass I am!
Wait a minute, this isn't what I was going to write about.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
It's interesting that quite often I find that when something of significance happens in my day, it has also appeared to be present for one of the other widowed bloggers. Yesterday Chelsea wrote of a sweet dinner conversation that occurred with her two young daughters. Today my 12 year old son brought up a similar topic, dating.
Today was another of my forced outings for the boys. They can get so lazy, and just want to hang out at home all the time. I too can get into chilling from time to time, but with school starting soon I wanted us to do a little more exploration of our new city. We got in the car late this morning, made an important pit stop at the local donut shop, and then headed off to our destination, the San Diego Air & Space Museum. Remy, my 12 year old was very excited, as they were having a exhibit regarding our perceptions of Aliens as found in books and media. Dante, my 16 year old, just put on his headphones, and looked at me with that teenage look of indifference, and with his monotoned voice said, "Really?"
At this point I don't really care who thinks they will enjoy the outing, because I know that end the end, we always enjoy these forced outings. As we were driving into Balboa Park, which is a beautiful large park, filled with museums, the zoo, theatres, and recreation, I was telling the boys that we should come to one of their evening concerts. Of course neither voiced much interest, but it seemed to get Remy thinking.
"Hey Dad, what if we did go to one of these concerts, and what if you met someone new. What would you do?"
I was being coy, and answered, Well, I would probably introduce myself.
Of course that is not what he wanted to hear.
"No, Dad, I mean, what if you met another gay guy?"
Well, Remy, I would say Hi Gay Guy, my name is Dan.
"Dad, you know what I mean! What if a gay guy asked you out? Would you go?"
Well Remy, I have been giving this some thought. I think I might be ready to start making some new friends, and would enjoying doing things with other gay guys, but I'm not really ready to start dating yet.
"But if you liked him, would you date him?"
I guess, if it just happened, then I might decide to date him, yes. I think I would tell him that I'm not ready for something serious yet, but I think I wouldn't be opposed to it.
I looked over at both of the boys, and they looked at each other and smiled.
Like Chelsea was saying, we often don't realize that our kids are moving along this journey as well. Sometimes they challenge us to face these emerging issues that we tend to remain quiet about. I'm pleased that my son felt comfortable asking me this.
Later, on our way out of the park I was looking at a new condominium that opened right across from Balboa Park. I told the boys that it looked like a nice place to live. Then I noticed that they only had one and two bedroom units. I looked over at the boys and joked about them having to get their own place, as there were only one and two bedroom models available. Remy misunderstood what I was saying, and responded with, "You want us to get our own place so you can live with a model?"
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
It has been 345 days since you left this earth. It's been the same amount of nights since you have slept in our bed. And, it took 345 nights before you came to me in my dreams.
I have often wondered why I hadn't dreamt of you. I have been telling myself that it is because I need to keep moving forward, and to dream of you, might just set me back. I worried that if I was somehow capable of conjuring you up in my dreams, along with the perfect scenario, then I would want to sleep all the time. You know that is a very strange thought coming from me, the person that rarely sleeps.
In our years together, I spent a good part of it, sitting up and watching you sleep. You were always so peaceful. Now I can't say that I always liked that I was wide awake, while you were off in dreamland. There were the occasional nights that I would 'accidentally' wake you up. Oh, I'm sorry dear, were you asleep? But then I always made it worth your time, and attention, to be wakened from your sleep. At least, you never complained.
Well, last night was the night you appeared. We were living in a very large loft sort of building. People were arriving from all over the world. Everyone was so excited, and they were all trying to get settled into their spaces, or rooms. We were all preparing for a big event. You were asleep in our bedroom, but once in awhile you would come out to check on things. I would stop what I was doing with everyone else, and quickly go to you. You were rather advanced into the late stages of your brain tumor, and were not too steady on your feet, but you didn't seem to realize this. You wanted so much to help out with the festivities, but I had to remind you to take care of yourself, and keep rested.
At that point my dream seemed to shift to a slightly different scenario. It was as though I was watching a different story unfold. There were these women, who seemed to be from a Middle Eastern country. They were helping one of the women find her child. He had been missing for quite some time. For some reason, the reality of him being missing had always been accepted, then at some point the mother decided she really needed to know the fate of her young son. The other women traveled with her to try to seek out this child in the country that she was originally from. They met with so many people, and looked at so many children, but the woman never recognized any of them as her child. In the end the women decided that it wasn't meant to be, so they gathered all around the mother, and gave her comfort. All of the women, but one, returned home with the mother. They helped her move on with her life, and helped her adapt to the reality that she may never know the true fate of her child. The woman who remained behind chose to keep looking for the missing child, only her search took on a different direction. She began talking to the men in the village, and tried to get to know who among them were either alone, or widowed. In talking to each of these men, she learned so much about their inherent loneliness. Eventually this woman came across a man who said he was caring for his son, and that the mother of his child had been missing for quite some time. Without truly knowing if this was the child the mother was searching for, the woman suggested to the man that perhaps he should begin his life anew in the country where she lived. She let him know where this was, and left him to decide for himself. The woman returned home, and picked up with the other women where they had left off. Some days went by, and one morning, a child appeared on the shore. In the distance was the father, who was wading in the water. The mother, who had all but given up on finding her son, saw this child standing at the shore. For some reason she felt drawn to him. As she walked toward the child she was filled with immense love. As she approached the child, the man took notice, and began walking toward her. Their eyes captured each other's gaze, and then both turned to the child.
At that point, Michael, the dream turned back to you. The same woman who brought these people together was also present in your part of the dream. She was decorating a banquet room for a big gathering. As I was helping her, I realized that what we were doing was preparing a big goodbye dinner for you. I was filled with so much love and appreciation. There were beautiful flowers, full of rich colors, on every table. People were beginning to mull around, so I started walking back toward our room. Again, you were walking out on your own, but obviously needing some help. I walked up to you, and you had a very child like innocent look on your face. I wasn't sure if you recognized me as your husband, or just as someone who took care of you. I put my arms around you, and held you tight. I remember breathing in your scent, and moving my face right next to yours. You looked into my eyes with a realization that this was your going away party, and that you would be dying soon. You didn't seem scared, although you did seem quite tired. People were walking by us, and as they did they would reach out to touch you, or to whisper soft sentiments in your ear. I could feel that my heart was filling with so much love. I knew that in your heart, you were happy. I could see the light of joy in your eyes.
At that point I woke up. I realized that it was very late in the morning, and I had a splitting headache. I felt like I had been asleep forever. The headache took my focus away from the fact that I had finally found you in a dream. As the day has gone by, I have been feeling something coming over me. I didn't know what it was, but slowly, and piece by piece, I have been remembering. As I prepared to return to our bed tonight, the realization of the dream came through. This is why I have been feeling so much emotion today. This is why I needed a day of sitting, thinking and feeling. It wasn't until I returned home from yoga that I had the ability to let go, and allow the memory of this dream rise above to my consciousness.
You know dear, I love you more today than even before you left. Is that possible? I am losing my breath just thinking of you. Tears are welling up in my eyes, and falling upon my face. My skin needs to meet with yours, and yet I know that is not possible.
Help me to be strong.
I need to survive the night.
Some days we wake up in another state of mind, or one we didn't anticipate.
Today has been a rather odd day emotionally. I have felt tired, worn out, or as some may say, spaced out. It started with a headache in the morning, which a couple of cups of coffee, and some Tylenol took care of. My youngest son asked if I was okay, saying that I looked as if I had been crying. No, no tears this morning, just a headache.
Later my daughter asked if I would give her and a couple of friends a ride to an art class. I of course said yes, thinking this would be a nice diversion from the funk I am feeling. I dropped them off, came home to relax, then went back to pick them up. On my way back home I was feeling a need to cry. I don't exactly know why. I wasn't feeling sad, or even thinking about anything in particular. I got back home, put on some meditation music, and was fooling around with my computer. My older son then asked if I could drop him off at his jiu jitsu class. I said fine, and we got up to leave. He turned to me to ask if I was angry about something. No, why do you say that? I found myself feeling a bit annoyed with his question, wanting to be just fine, rather than think there were some negative feelings rising to the surface.
Once back at the house I found myself doing a whole lot of nothing. As I sat here on the couch I found myself once again fighting back tears. What the hell is going on! I shouldn't be feeling like this. I started to wonder if maybe I was just wasting my day, or just wasting my life. I know this is a bit dramatic, but when in a strange mood, strange thoughts tend to come with it. I started to rethink my evening. Perhaps I will skip my yoga class tonight. After all, I'll just go, participate, and go home without much of a conversation with anyone. Won't I just feel worse in the end?
Something tells me today is significant. Perhaps something happened on this day last year that my body is remembering. It's likely a memory tied to some heavy emotions. I'm sure if I try to trace back what was happening last year, there is a reason for these feelings. But I won't fall prey to this type of search. If the avalanche of emotions is heading my way, then there is no use in trying to prepare for it. It's like standing on a beach when someone announces that there is a massive tsunami heading our way. You can turn and run, knowing very well that you cannot out run it, or you can just lay on the beach, relax, and let it hit.
I think I will go to my class, and just see where all this takes me.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Those familiar with my writing know that I love to explore the various meanings associated with words. Often I turn to the Internet for this information, and all to often that source is Wikipedia.
Origin of the word Checkmate (according to Widipedia)
What I learned is that most people have the misconception that having your king in checkmate means that he is dead. This is because when the game of chess reached Europe it was by way of the Islamic world. But the origin of the word is actually from a Persian phrase, which would translate to mean that the kind is ambushed or defeated. If you separated out the word “mate” it would be translated to mean the king is abandoned, or that he remains.
So as it seems, I have two ways of looking at this term that immediately popped into my head when I sat down to write. I can either identify with the incorrect usage of the word to mean that the King is dead. Or, I can identify with the use of the word as the King is ambushed, abandoned, or left to remain.
Curious. In my household we had two Kings. Well, that's at least how we wanted our kids to see us. We both ruled in very different ways. I was the king you had ruled the household for many years. I ruled with from a voice of authority. And while I wish I could say that I ran a democracy, in reality, it was much closer to a dictatorship. My kids would likely say I ruled with an iron fist, figuratively of course. Enter the new king. He is gentle. He is kind and soft spoken. He obviously has not had to rule over children before.
Anyway, unfortunately in our game of chess, one king was put into checkmate far too soon. And even though Wikipedia would have us believe that to say the king is dead is in incorrect, I would beg to differ. My king was taken out of the game at age 48. He had much more to do in this kingdom, and we had much more to benefit from his way of governing those who he loved.
But why does it feel that the person who truly lost in this game is me, the other king. I am the one who now feels ambushed, abandoned, and left remaining. I feel it coming at me from all sides, and often don't know which way to turn. When Michael was still here he had the most calming effect on me. When I would find myself becoming very rigid with the kids, he could take me, his mate, and put me in check. This was not something I initially appreciated, but with time, grew to depend on. Now that my king is gone, I have to put myself in check. I have to rely on that calming gift that my husband gave me, and remember that it is still here.
When the one we love has fallen, we begin to feel like we will fall too. What I am learning, in time, is that my image of Michael is not as a fallen king. Yes, he no longer rules here on earth, but his spirit remains, standing tall.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Yesterday I had the pleasure of being invited to my nieces home, just 30 miles north of me. Also there was my older brother and his wife, as well as both of my parents. We were all enjoying our barbecued burgers when the discussion turned to the subject of my nieces father in law. I have met him on at least a couple of occasions, and he is a friend on Facebook. You see, he and I have the distinction of both being widowers. His wife died of cancer two years ago.
I remember hearing a lot about him, and about the years that he cared for his wife through her illness. His wife died about a year before Michael died. I remember visiting at my brother's house one day, and by chance he dropped by. All the family had been curious about the two of us meeting, as they knew that my life was somewhat mirroring his. He was very kind, and shared a bit of his experience with me during our brief introduction.
I remember hearing people's thoughts about his response to widowhood during that first year. Some were concerned that too much of his life had changed when he lost his wife, and that he was now strongly identifying with the widowed community. I couldn't understand why so many people were concerned. He is an adult, and can deal with life as he sees fit. I also remember telling others, like my brother, that when something like this happens to you, your life can't help but change. I added that perhaps he has found the type of comfort he needs in various widow groups, and that other's should just support him, rather than worry.
Anyway, the topic came up about how he is now in a new relationship, and how this is uncomfortable, or difficult, for other's around him. I was hearing my niece describe her feelings, and the feelings of others, while my parents, brother, and sister in law listened. Throughout this my older brother kept looking my way, knowing that this would bring up some strong feelings in me. Eventually I had to speak my mind. I told my niece, and other family members, to remember that their experience with loss is very different from his and mine. While most at the table have experienced the loss of a parent, sibling or other relative, they haven't experienced the loss of their spouse. I tried to acknowledge that any loss is quite traumatic, but when that loss occurred, they had their spouse to turn to for support. Who did he or I have to turn to?
I reminded my family at the table that while all of them have been very compassionate to me, and to him, they have been living their own lives, while I, and perhaps he, have sat with our grief on a moment to moment basis. I explained to them that outside my relationship with my own children, my most central connection to people has been through this computer. I told them of all the widows and widowers who have been there for me, and I for them. I spoke of the emptiness that Michael used to fill in me, and how it is now a very dark place of loss. I shared with them that while they may feel that I am rebounding quite well, that the reality if that I cry for Michael every night. I experience a very deep feeling of loneliness, not just because I am alone, but because I am alone without my spouse.
I then explained how rare it is to feel someones arms around me. I went from having someone who loved me, who shared my bed with me, who told me each day that I was loved, to suddenly being quite alone. I asked them to try to imagine going from the place of love and intimacy, to being completely alone. I also reminded them that as humans, we seek to love and to be loved. And, while not everyone will choose to seek out a new partner, most of us will recognize the need to have one. This is especially true for us if we had a good relationship. We know what true love brings to our lives, and at our core, we still desire that.
I asked my niece to consider that no matter how hard it is to consider her father in law with someone new, try to consider him completely alone, hurt and lonely. I shared with her, and the rest, that Michael was very clear with me that he wanted me to find love once again. He wanted to know that I was being cared for. I am sure that is what my nieces mother in law wanted for her husband as well. Because of this, everyone should put this in perspective. Yes, perhaps his family will find it difficult to see him with someone new, that is expected. But unless his family is actively doing something to deal with this difficulty, they are doing him a disservice.
What I have learned through this process of illness and death is that time is very precious. If we allow our emotions to build walls around certain relationships in order to protect ourselves, then we will in effect be limiting how much love we can share. Saying to someone "I am not ready to meet that new person in your life because it makes me feel..." is not okay in my book unless you are actively doing something to work through those very feelings. What if that person should be taken from this world sometime soon? Would we be okay with the reality that we chose to not participate in a big part of their life? What about that other person? Did he choose to be in a place where he lost the love of his life? Should he now be penalized for wanting, and finding, love now that time has gone by?
Because I am a gay man, I can truly say that I know what it feels like to not have your relationships recognized. It is painful, and it tears at your heart. People can say they love you, but when it comes with conditions, you have to wonder what it is that they love. My relationship with Michael was recognized by most of my family and friends, but there were several before that few wanted to be a part of. There are still some family members who have never acknowledged that Michael existed in my life. They don't realize what a wonderful person they missed out on. Now that he is gone, those people have no place in my life. To come back later, and say I am now ready to recognize him would be a nice step forward, but it will not allow us to step back and correct what has already occurred.
If you love me. See me. Put your feelings aside for just a moment, as you will be returning to your life very soon. Recognize that which is significant in my life. Share in my joy, sit with my pain. When you leave, I will thank you for your time, and your unconditional love.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
I'm struggling with the thought of what direction my writing should go. I tend to be one of those people who is always looking ahead, trying to map out somewhat of a direction. When I first started this blog, I didn't really know where it was going, or what I wanted to say through it. In a short time I realized that what would help me, and maybe others, was to commit to writing on a daily basis. I wanted to have a chronicle of my grief, with all of it's nuances, written for those that follow me on this path.
As a refresher of sorts, I came to this because I was looking for a widowed voice that sounded like mine. I looked for current writings from male widowers, and I was looking for writings from gay widowers. Unfortunately for me, there wasn't much out there. That is what led me to write something myself. September 13th will be the one year anniversary of Michael's death, but not the one year anniversary of beginning this blog. That date would be October 19th, which was our first wedding anniversary, which I celebrated without him. The one year anniversary of the "one year" commitment to write daily would likely be October 31st.
What I worry about is becoming a professional widower. Does that make sense? It's a touchy subject, as I have been party to some conversation about this on more than one occasion. While I am a widower, will I still be a widower if I were to remarry? Some would say that I was a widower, but if newly married I that just that, married. And no, I'm not getting remarried. At least not that I am aware of. Along this same frame of mind, would continuing to write about grief lead me to plant my feet a bit to firmly into the widowed ground? Can I truly move forward if I only identify as a widower? If I begin to write about other themes, would my readers feel like someone changed the channel when they left the room?
I sometimes already feel some of this self resistance building up within me. Like many others, I want to write a book. Not some book for a massive audience, but a book for people like me. So in beginning to write this book I have to think, who will read it, and what do I want to convey to them? I would have to say that in my adult life there have been two very significant "movements," if we were to describe it as music. There is the parenting portion of my life that has been quite challenging, yet one which I have used to help others in many arenas. I have done plenty of speaking about public adoption and gay parenting. I have also helped others in navigating the mental health system and special education system. As a husband, I have had significant experience in being a caretaker, and widower, all while navigating a system that is not necessarily gay friendly.
Maybe because I am raising kids with special needs, I don't have the luxury to focus all of my attention in one place. This could be a good thing, and this could be something that prevents me from ever accomplishing my own personal goals. Unfortunately, that has been the fall out of my adult choices. I rarely seem to have a period of time that is conducive to achieving these goals that I have set.
I feel like these past few years have been like an enormous forest fire. And now, after all this time, the ashes will begin to settle. Well, likely not. But I want to believe that my life can get easier, and that my time can be more self managed.
If the figurative dust begins to settle, what do I want to say?
Friday, August 20, 2010
I'm finding myself becoming more and more aware of the upcoming one year anniversary of Michael's death. I keep trying to remember what It was I was doing at this point last year. Rather than get out a calendar and try to pin point exactly what was happening, I would rather just consider in general where our lives were.
It was around this time that hospice came in the picture. It is likely that by this date hospice was already active in our home. I remember knowing prior to contacting them that with brain tumor patients, the hospice period is often very short, as the tumors eventually grow very fast, and the end comes quickly. This was also the case for Michael. When the doctor and I decided it was that time, Michael was aware of what was going on, but was suffering from considerable memory loss. I also wondered exactly how he was processing information. Intellectually he seemed to understand things, but his thoughts didn't always seem connected to emotions at that point.
I remember when the hospice social worker first came to our home, Michael made a comment about not needing their help. He turned to her, and then to me to say he didn't really see that their services offered him much more than what he was already receiving from me and the hospital. I had to explain to him the the services were going to be more of an assistance to me.
It was also about this time that Michael has having increasing problems with his mobility, so we rarely left our home. In a way it made our time left more focused. We laid around in bed talking, or sat in the living room watching television. I remember feeling so sad because he could no longer work on his Sudoku. He loved Sudoku, and it really calmed him. When he wanted a break from Sudoku he would get out his crossword puzzles, and work on those. He would often interrupt my reading or writing to ask me some of the questions in the puzzle. In the past I would have told him not to ask me because I would lose all my focus, and then get quite obsessed with the puzzle. He would just laugh, lean over and kiss me, and go back to his puzzle. But when I could see that he was having significant problems remembering, I put down my book, moved in closer, and worked on the puzzles with him. Those puzzle and Sudoku books are some of my most valued possessions.
Today I been giving thought to how I want to spend the day of the actual anniversary. I know that some people hold gatherings for their loved ones on the anniversary, but most of Michael's friend, and all of his family, live in northern California. I suppose I could organize something with all of my family and friends down here in southern California. I'll have to really consider this, as I had told most of them last year not to make the trip up to San Francisco for the memorial. I didn't want anyone traveling far for the ceremony. Most of them had already been up to see us for our wedding 11 months earlier, and I knew they would be with us in spirit. Maybe having something with them this time around might be nice.
My other idea is to go off and do something alone. I don't mean check myself into a hotel, and just lay around and cry all day. I'm sure there will be plenty of that, but I would like, and probably need, something a bit more focused. I want to look into possibly finding some kind of meditation center where I can have some solitude, but that would lend itself to mindful meditation. I remember Michael's cousin telling me of a lovely Buddhist center near Santa Cruz, but I can't be traveling that far right now. I have a job interview next week, and who knows, I could be employed by then.
It feels good just to be thinking ahead about this. It feels a bit like self-preservation.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
A quiet peaceful day.
This afternoon I took some time out for myself. I drove north about 20 miles to La Jolla, where there is a clothing optional beach, Black's Beach. It was a beautiful beach, of which only the not so faint of heart could get to. You have to navigate down a very steep and winding cliff. Never having been there before I didn't count on the cliff being so steep, and so slippery. This was clearly a serious hike, and I was wearing a pair of very flimsy flip flops. I was also carrying a beach bag with a few things that I wanted to have down at the beach. As I looked around me, the other visitors were wearing tennis shoes, or hiking boots, and carried any beach wear in backpacks. How stupid was I?
Once down on the beach I found it was well worth the risk of falling, or sliding quickly down a rugged hill. The ocean was so alive, with big and proud waves crashing along the shore. I laid out my things, disrobed, and laid down on a blanket. The sun was sitting high, and quite warm. Up to the south of the cliff is what is known as Gliderport. It is the take off point for hang gliding and paragliding enthusiasts. These beautiful and graceful paragliders were slowly weaving across the cliffs just above me. They were like angels sent down to watch over me and the other sun worshipers. I thought to myself that Michael should be here. This is exactly how we liked to spend a warm, or hot, summer afternoon.
I just laid there breathing deep, and taking in all the natural beauty around me. It wasn't long before that the ocean began beckoning. I love an aggressive tide, and enjoy giving up control, allowing it to move me where ever it wishes. When the waves would come in bigger than life, I would just sink down to the oceans floor, and wait for the powerful wave to pass over head. While being pushed, and swaying to the oceans might, I realized that I was feeling soothed and comforted. It's as if some great powerful being was taking hold of me. It's the closest I have felt like being held in someones arms in a very long time. I haven't had that feeling since Michael died.
Later after arriving home, I quickly showered and went back out with my youngest son to pick up something for dinner. We were both very hungry, and I ended up eating more than I should have. Soon I realized that it was time for my yoga class, and here I was feeling overly stuffed. I sat there comfortably on the couch, and wondered if I had the strength, or desire, to get myself up and out the door. In the end I knew that I would regret it if I didn't go to my class.
Tonight's class was much smaller than usual. There were just six of us, and our mats were arranged in a circular formation around the room. Our instructor turned down the lights, and placed flickering candles throughout the room. At the sides were fans to help cool us down, as the room was quite warm from the day's sun. Having the added space around me gave me the feeling of being back on the large expansive beach. We went through our regular routine, and also learned a few new stretches and poses. At least they were new to me. Near the end our instructor had us laying quietly on our backs. At that point he turned the lights completely off, and the room was now lit solely by the soft candles.
As I lay there looking up at the ceiling, the flickering candles created an illusion of water reflected upon the ceiling. I imagined myself floating quietly, and peacefully, in the water. At that moment I felt so connected to Michael. This is the peacefulness he most loved. To be calm, to be one with the ocean, to be uninhibited, and to feel free. I laid there taking in deep breaths. Part of my wanted to cry, and I tried to not completely give in to this desire, but didn't block it out either. It wasn't a sad feeling at all. It was a feeling of connectedness and love. It was a feeling of freeing myself from all my worries, letting go of all the chaos that can fill my mind, and just being.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Well, first of all, I have exchanged some really nice emails with the program manager at the Michael's retirement office. He is really coming through for me. I do wish though that he would stop referring to Michael as "Mr. Lowrie" in his emails to me. I wish he was just refer to Michael as my husband. Maybe I'm being overly sensitive about this, but after all I have been through with this, I keep feeling like everything is some type of homophobic backlash.
To top off my quite stressful week, there was an incident Monday where I was locked out of the laundry room next door. It is where my landlord had told me I had access to. It appears that there has been an ongoing turf war between the other condo owners in this home owners association, and I don't think the owner of this house has been completely honest with me, or cooperative with them. The end result was that they changed the locks, in effect, to lock me out.
Due to this situation, there has been so much tension between me and the neighbors since I moved in. None of us had actually met, but were somehow put in an adversarial position. Well, I ended up going next door to address this once and for all. What ended up was a nice conversation between me and the residents next door, and I now feel that they were not the problem. The problem was the people who own this house. Since then I have had a very nice conversation with one of the neighbors, who has a new baby. I was also able to help her out, as she was trying to install a new baby gate that just didn't work for their front door. I happened to have one, and gave it to her. Suddenly I'm feeling much more at ease when outside my house, or over at their building where my car is parked.
You know, it's a wonder that I haven't had a nervous breakdown with all of this. You know, when I think about this whole move, nothing has actually gone the way I planned. I didn't get the job I wanted, the housing situation has been a nightmare, and I am having to deal with this death benefit issue from long distance. To top it off I have been having some fairly serious problems with my 16 year old. My hair is already salt and pepper, but should be completely white by now.
When I was in therapy I had told my therapist that I didn't believe that I was meant to be happy. By all accounts, the big kahuna in the sky appeared to have it out for me. Any time that I think things are going my way, they suddenly do an about face, and in the end I am fucked. Sorry, I really should watch my language. For a sweet guy I have quite a foul mouth.
Anyway there was one shining moment today. The boys and I were supposed to go to the beach today, but they both changed their mind and just wanted to stay at home. I cooked a really nice dinner and then announced that we were going on a forced outing. They both looked at me like I was crazy. "Dad, can't we just stay home?" Absolutely not. We are going out for milk shakes whether you like it or not. I surprised them by taking Michael's convertible out of the garage. We put the top down, and I went speeding down the Pacific Coast Highway. I drove to the furthest McDonald's I could find. The boys thought I had lost my mind, but were laughing all the way. Eventually I slowed down, and drove through some quiet neighborhood. Suddenly the boys started talking, rather than fighting, and we had a really nice time. A wonderful evening outing, all for the low price to three milk shakes.
Here's something funny that happened last night. I was at my yoga class, waiting for the earlier class to end. The instructor and I were making small talk while waiting. At one point he asked what I had planned tomorrow. I said I was going to take my boys to the beach. He then asked what beach, to which I replied "Ocean Beach." His response was, "What kind of dogs do you have?" I laughed out loud (LOL?). I then explained that my "boys" were actually boys. The yoga teacher is gay, as is most of the guys at my men's yoga class. I forget that I'm a bit of an anomaly. And to cut him some slack, Ocean Beach is the only beach that allows dogs, so I can see why he thought of dogs when I said my boys. To be quite honest, I sometimes think of dogs when I think of my boys as well. One would be a bull dog, the other a shaggy runt. Oh, I say this lovingly!
I wish I had something brilliant to say tonight, but I'm now feeling a bit brain dead. I have been writing non stop for the past 24 hours. Last night a wrote an extra post which will be posted sometime soon on the Widows Voice blog, where I will be doing some more guest writing. I am also working on a couple of other projects, one being a bit of my life story. At this point I have two versions, with very different starting points, as I can't seem to decide what type of framework I want to use to tell my story. I worry that when I do find a job that I will put these projects aside and never finish them. Too bad I'm not independently wealthy. I could get a lot done with a lot of money.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
The Joys of Tax Time!
Originally uploaded by M1khaela
You have a choice today. You can take my word, and know that this is going to be one fucking angry post, and quickly log off, or consider yourself warned, strap on your seat belt, and go along for the ride.
I have not mentioned this to many, but did have a lengthy conversation with Matt at Camp Widow about this very subject. The Gay Tax.
Normally when you hear the term "gay tax" it is used to describe the extra amount of money we pay in order to have our committed relationships. Since Michael and I were legally married in California, we were able to file jointly on our state taxes, but not on our federal taxes. This meant that we had to pay a higher rate of taxes as two separate individuals. Also, when Michael was first diagnosed with cancer, we feared that he may lose his job, and health insurance. After all, Michael was just finishing up his first year of probation as a Budget Analyst, and had not yet completed the evaluation process when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Now tell me that wouldn't scare the shit out of you. He needed his brain power to do his job, and he was having short term memory issues, lack of focus, and focal seizures. Because of this I needed to add him to the medical plan at my job.
The City of San Francisco allows for domestic partners to use their partner's health insurance, but the added benefit is seen as added income to be taxed by the federal government. So I, as an individual, was paying more for this benefit than my heterosexual friends.
When most people lose a spouse they receive a one time cash benefit from social security. Not people like me. Because the federal government doesn't recognize our relationship, I did not qualify for this benefit. I remember the dear man at the funeral home where Michael's body was being cremated. He was going over all the documents, and telling me where he would send each form. He listed items such as social security, and wanted to be sure that I knew of these benefits. I appreciated his naivete, and didn't have the heart to tell him that as a gay man, those funds would not be dispersed.
After Michael died I was a complete mess. Sound familiar? Anyway, it took me a month before I got the clarity of mind to begin all the filing of documents to settle his estate. Everyone wanted copies of the death certificate, copies of our state approved domestic partnership, and a copy of our marriage certificate. Even with these, there were many questions about why I was handling some of these things as opposed to his mother. When Michael had first started his job we had only been dating for a short time. We discussed the implications of his benefits, and decided to list his mother until we were sure that we were going to enter into a committed relationship. After Michael got sick, he secured the services of an attorney, who drew up all the necessary documents giving me power of attorney, and listing me as the beneficiary of his estate. We then made several trips to his employer to change the initial documents. Unfortunately, they kept losing the forms, but kept telling us everything was current in the computer. Well, these were lies.
After Michael's death is when I learned that the employer had never changed the records. So they questioned once again, why I was filing for these benefits rather than his mother. I reminded them that we were legally married, and that by nature of our marriage, all prior beneficiaries were null and void. I supplied them with their own benefits manual which clearly stated this. They responded by sending all the documents to "Legal" to make the ultimate decision. Many weeks when by, and they would not return my calls. Finally, I was able to get someone on the phone who told me that everything came back concluding that yes, I was the legal beneficiary. Her response to me was this; "If you want the money, then send a letter telling us you want it." Her tone was quite rude, making me feel as though I was trying to steal money from my husband's poor mother.
I was so angered by all of this. First of all, it was none of their business. Second of all, Michael had already made prior arrangements, and gave his mother a cash gift prior to his death. With the remaining funds, he arranged for a trust to be set up, whereby I would provide financially for the needs of his brother, nephew, and two nieces. The remaining funds were for the kids and I. The funds that were set aside for me, were those of his retirement from the state and his current job.
Back to my conversation with Matt. I was sharing with him all that I had to go through to secure the life insurance and other cash benefits, which in all took about four to five months. Of course not counted in this description was Michael's retirement funds from his most recent job, of which I still haven't received. As Matt listened to my account of this process he looked dumbfounded. He turned to me and said, "Dan, do you know how long it took me to receive all monetary benefits when my wife died? 8 days." Eight days?! Matt explained that he didn't really have to do anything. It all just sort of came together when word got out about his loss. Unbelievable!
I was explaining to Matt that I was still battling with the retirement office from Michael's employers, Marin County Employees Retirement Association. I had started the process in October 2009, but all my calls were being ignored. I was told that this person was in charge, but she was on vacation, and would call me next Thursday when she returned. It never happened. Eventually I gave up. Then in February 2010 I got the stamina to try again. After a month of phone calls, they decided to send everything to their legal department. It took two more months before I got a decision. After being served with the nasty response about my wanting the money, so write them a letter, I got so angry, and unfortunately turned it inward.
I began to question my own motives. Was I needing to be financially compensated for Michael's death? I had lost almost half of my wages for the two years he was sick, as I had burned through all my sick leave and vacation time. I ended up on state disability so that I could care for Michael. By April 2010 I was so distraught by all of this, that, well, many of you know, I became suicidal. Just prior to my deciding to quit my job and move my family to San Diego, I was sitting in our bathroom with all of Michael's medication in my hands, trying to decide which was the best way out.
Needless to day, I was able to get through the night without harming myself, and made the decision to live. In making this decision I knew that I had to completely change the direction of my life. That meant quit the job, sell the house, pack up the kids and move to San Diego. While planning the move I remembered that I still hadn't sent off that letter to the retirement office formally requesting the funds due to me. So, early in May 2010, I finally got it done.
At that point I started once again trying to reach anyone in that office to find out what the next step was. I still didn't even know how much the funds were, and how they would be calculated. The only person who had that information was the one who refused to return my call. In late June I was able to reach the program manager, to tell him I was moving in two weeks, and would at least like to know they had my new address so when they saw fit to help me, they could at least reach me. He apologized profusely, and guaranteed me that I was receive a call in the next week, and that I would have a check before I left. Well, it never happened.
After arriving here in San Diego, I began my futile attempts to once again reach someone willing to help me. After two more weeks of being ignored, I reach the new replacement for the program manager. Once again he gave me many apologies, and was very upset to learn of my situation. He went directly to the desk of the person who was ignoring me, and found my file sitting at her desk. None of the work had been done. He told me I would have an answer by the next day. I explained that I mainly needed to give them my new address, and needed to know how they would calculate the benefits. I told him that the prior program manager intimated that it wouldn't be very much money, and that they would disperse it quickly.
Well, today was a week since I had spoken to the new program manager. He had never called me back like he had promised. When I did reach him today he was clearly shocked that once again the worker had not returned my calls. He stated that the person was clearly told to calculate the benefits, and call me with this information. I once again explained that I was completely powerless in this process, and needed someone to give me an answer. He was quite embarrassed that he had relied on that person to handle this, and angered that she clearly had not. He asked if he could call me back. About an hour went by and he did get back to me. He stated that he had looked over the documents, and that I was due all of Michael's contributions, plus a one time death benefit from the retirement association. The amount that he told me was far more than the other manager had stated. I was once again in shock. "Wait a minute, you mean that nobody was giving me this type of information because of the amount? Did they not want me to know how much I was eligible to receive? Again, he didn't know what to say. Then the big axe came down. "There is another problem, which may not be able to be resolved at this point.?" What? Apparently, because Michael worked for the county and the state, his benefits calculation should have been tabulated by combining all the years, and funds included. He asked if I had received any funds from Cal Pers. Yes, of course. They responded within a reasonable time, and sent me a check about six months ago. He then said he was afraid that since they already sent me the funds, that I may lose out of the higher rate of benefits.
I am now feeling postal! It was at this point that I really lost it. You mean to tell me that because your workers chose to ignore me, and missed the timeline, I will now be losing some of my husband's benefits? I told him that I have not heard of any of my straight widowed friends having to go through any of this, and asked if he thought this might be because our marriage was initially questioned. He was silent. He asked if he could look further into this before I get too far ahead of myself. I let him know that I had recently discussed this matter with a new friend, who had then offered to connect me with a family member who was an attorney in San Francisco. I told him that I had chosen to give it one more try, but that it looked like I may need to secure the services of a good attorney, and that I may need to sue their office, and the worker who caused this situation. The poor guy didn't know what to say.
Well, I imagine he is having a careful conversation with their legal department right about now. I would also hope that the person, who shall remain nameless, who failed to respond to me, is getting written up right now as well. I am out for blood!
Okay, I'm not out for blood, but I do love a good vampire story.
Originally uploaded by Donna_ yeye
He said he would call me before leaving the office, and I'm sure he is worried that I am currently on the phone with my attorney. Little does he realize that instead of an attorney, I can gather up a couple hundred angry widows, and send them all in his direction! I can see the headlines. "Multitudes of angry widows stormed the Marin County Employees Retirement Association today demanding that a cash settlement be secured for one soft spoken, and long winded, gay widower. We are being told that hostages have been taken, and that one employee in particular has been singled out and strung up by the rafters. More at Eleven."
Let me tell you. If I do have to secure the help of an attorney. She will be the biggest, butchest, militant lesbian around.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Fed up with the news
Originally uploaded by L’État c’est Moi
Sometimes being a parent requires more than I feel capable of handling. Throw into that mix all the day to day frustrations of renting a home that has entailed nothing but problems. Then find yourself feeling slowly pulled toward the 12 month anniversary of the worst day in your life.
It's hard to have a positive outlook.
It's hard to even care.
All I can think about is when will this all be over.
Can I also say that I am tired of all the cheer leading that goes along with this widowed journey. No matter how many ways we try to put positive spins on it with clever little anecdotes, it's still just shit.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Originally uploaded by h.koppdelaney
Sitting in modified lotus position,
No major breakthroughs today. Just quiet, calm movement. I slept in this morning, something not done since my arrival in San Diego four weeks ago. I suppose I should correctly state that it was interrupted sleeping in, as my 12 year old knocked on my door for every conceivable concern throughout the early morning. But even a larger than life spider on the loose in his bedroom could not rouse me from my slumber. You will have to deal with it yourself.
I ended up missing my Sunday morning yoga class, which I was a bit disappointed about. I could have used it as a way to properly begin my day. I have sensed a change in the wind. The wind that carries my heart strings. I have chosen to have a quiet day, trying to balance my relaxation with some steps in new directions.
I have noticed that my worries of late have been about my finances. I am still struggling with Michael's prior employer to secure that small amount of retirement funds that are due me. I say due me, because I have spent the last 10 months trying to convince them to move forward on my behalf. It's a long story, and one that has too much negative energy to waste my time on right now. With that not finalized, and my house not yet sold, I am beginning to worry about spending down those funds left in my savings account. I have decided that the best way to alleviate my worries is to find a job. It's not necessarily what I had planned to do so soon, but it will help me in the end.
Today's job search led me to an agency that I worked for about 25 years ago. It was providing case management for developmentally disabled individuals. It was work that I enjoyed, and with people that were good natured. I filled out an online application, and emailed it to the local agency. It doesn't pay nearly as much as I'm used to making, but would be something worth making less for. It's a step in the right direction.
I have otherwise been reading online about things of interest, such as meditation gardening, and commenting on various blogs and websites about gay issues in politics. The boys have both been in very quiet places today as well. We did venture out for a late afternoon lunch. We were able to visit a local eatery called Saffron, which I have been eyeing whenever I drive down the road. It was such a lovely day, sunny, but not too hot. We sat outdoors and quietly enjoyed our food. Then walked further up the road for some gelato.
As I sit here on the back deck of my home, I can hear a balance of nature, birds and insects, with the sounds of industry, such as the airport. It is otherwise quiet, and calm. I am definitely feeling a deep sense of appreciation for what I have. The energy around me today is good. There is still deep pain in my heart, and more tears that I suspect needs releasing, but that's okay with me. Today's tears will not be out of anger or resentment. They will be expressed from a place less decisive. Sometime pure emotion is better expressed without labels or limits.
The sky before me is turning red as the sun goes down. The clouds hold it's color, and it surrounds me. The temperature is cooling down, and I can feel it's touch on my skin. There is such beauty all around me. This canyon that is my backyard is green with shrubbery and trees. On the far off hill I can see a man standing at his terrace, leaning forward, and taking in the very scene I have just described. Suddenly I am not alone, rather in harmony with another quiet soul. I find this comforting. No words need to be expressed between his soul and mine. There is so much open space and fresh air for us to share. How glorious is that?
I am burning incense as an offering before my garden Buddha. It's smoke carries up all my worries, so that they will weigh me down less tonight. They also carry up my message of love to Michael. He knows that I miss him, and that my body is craving his touch. I sense his sorrow for my tears, and his arms outstretched for my comfort. His eyes look down on me with love. There is not much more I can ask for.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Originally uploaded by eosnas
If I threw a pity party who would come?
If I threw a pity party who would care?
If I threw a pity party would it be fun?
If I threw a pity party, do I dare?
Stupid rhymes. Moronic feelings. Pathetic life. Table for one.
I love my family, but why is it painful after seeing them?
I love my family, but why does my life seem less then?
I love my family, but I'm so jealous.
I love my family, but where is my joy?
Smile. Be grateful. Get over it. Move on. Let go. Be at peace.
My words, not theirs.
I'm fine. I'm just lost in thought. It's getting easier. It's gonna be better.
Lies. Lies. Lies.
Get home. Lock the door. Go upstairs.
Cry. Cry. Cry.
Love walked in
Love walked in, but changed it's name.
I thought I could trust it, but I should have know.
Love can be deceiving, it hides it's face.
It caught me in it's trap, then went in for the kill.
Love dressed in black, could I not see?
I gave it my all, but in the end, it left me.
I know what they say, Love doesn't die.
It left me for dead.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Originally uploaded by S.o.L.e
As those of you who read my blog know, these past couple of days have been difficult for me. I have been keeping myself busy, and even enjoying my solitude each day. Yet as the day comes to an end, or during unexpected moments, I have found myself in tears, and feeling extremely sad. Today I found that I have allowed myself to fall back into anger about Michael having to die. I get so frustrated when I get like this, because I know that nothing will bring him back. But that knowledge does me no good in the moment.
Right now I am visiting my parents for a couple of days. In their bathroom I found a book called "Married for Life, Inspirations from those married 50 years or more." Now I don't begrudge those who were fortunate to reach this milestone, but why do books like this have to exist? And if they must, why do I have to come across them?
Now some may say that I am being overly sensitive. If your one of them saying this then you don't know my kind of loss. In fact, you have no clue. Can you tell that I am feeling a bit irritable, maybe even wanting to be out of control?
As the kids and I were driving to my parents this evening I was listening to some of my favorite CD's. I was singing along, seemingly enjoying myself, then suddenly something in one of the lyrics caused me to lose my breath. I tried hard to fight back the tears, as it's kind of difficult to drive at night with tears in your eyes. I started to wonder why I was feeling like this, and then it hit me. It's that time of the month!
Okay ladies, don't get angry at me. Don't get overly sensitive about this. But I often forget, or try not to place too much importance on, anniversary dates. Yet, even with this in mind, I often do find that my internal system is hardwired to begin feeling those things that I try to put out of mind. Today is the 13th, and Michael died on the 13th of September. So if we look back on the past couple of days, and how I have been emotionally all over the map, it can only be one thing. I have PAS, pre-anniversary syndrome.
A quick google search for the emotional symptoms of PMS gave me this:
The most common mood-related symptoms are irritability, depression, crying, oversensitivity, and mood swings with alternating sadness and anger.
Am I on to something or what?
Okay, can we now have a conversation about bloating?
Thursday, August 12, 2010
I'm not quite sure how it happened, but I became quite friendly with this cactus today. I was doing my daily walking up and down the isles of Home Depot's garden center, looking for something to put in the place of the plant that I relocated. This particular cactus caught my eye. I loved that it was so green, and seemed full of life. Growing up, we always had some of the typical desert cactus around, which my mother loved to cut up and cook. I could never see the beauty in the cactus, and completely disliked it's taste. Some things are definitely not for me. But this cactus looked a kindred spirit of sorts.
By all appearances it looked like something different. A quick glance at it, and one might confuse it with some kind of fern. It had such a delicate shape, almost perfect in it's spread of pointed shoots. It made me want to get close to it, and to reach for it with my hands. It seemed safe enough. Yet, as I moved in closer, and reached for it, I was struck by such pain. Every beautifully shaped sprout, ended with a sharp needle. Ouch! Try to get too close, and you will be hurt.
As I took a second look at the cactus, I began to wonder what use it found in it's sharp needles. Were these needles there to keep people out? Don't get too close to me or you will feel my pain. Maybe the needles were just a defense mechanism. I can't let you too close to me, something bad might happen. Deep inside, I am too vulnerable, so I wear this armor to protect myself.
In some ways, the life of a cactus can seem so lonely. Just by it's nature, it doesn't seem to need much from anyone. It is quite capable of storing what it needs, and can survive on it's own for quite some time. Yes, it has it's place in the garden, but pretty much keeps to itself. It has done a good job of keeping others away. I'm not sure if it is waiting for that right plant, be it another cactus or not, to come along, and not feel intimidated by it's thorns. And although some might be put off by it's sharp edges, it must be respected for it's ability to adapt to extreme situations.
If I were a cactus, I would likely just keep to myself. I would position myself in a nice spot in the garden, so that I could occasionally benefit from being around other plants. The problem, of course, would be living with the reality that should I allow another cactus to get close to me, I would definitely be opening myself up to pain. Theirs, and mine.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Originally uploaded by STERLINGDAVISPHOTO
Today went really well for me. I had a quiet day of reading and gardening. Yes, more gardening. In the afternoon the boys and I drove out to the beach for a quick swim in the ocean. We weren't there for more than an hour, then back to the house. It is such a luxury to live so close to the ocean that we can just drive over for a quick swim. Later this evening we were back out for a late dinner. It was at that point that we got onto the road to return home. As I drove onto the freeway I notice the signs that led back to the beach. Immediately my mind turned to our honeymoon, and I have been feeling the pain of grief washing over me since.
Michael loved the ocean, and our honeymoon was spent in Puerto Vallarta. Forgive me if I have shared this with you before, but you have to be a patient listener when sitting with a widower. We need to share our stories over and over again. They are all we have now.
Michael and I were married on October 19, 2008. We were just one of thousands of gay and lesbian couples who took advantage of the brief opportunity to legally wed in California. We never imagined that this would be possible in our lifetime, not to mention in Michael's lifetime. At the time that the California Supreme Court had made it's ruling allowing us to marry, Michael was already beating the odds of survival with his brain tumor. We spent a good part of the summer planning, and arguing, about our wedding day. It was such a stressful time, as we were trying to rush through the planning stages that most couples take a good year to do. We didn't have that kind of time. We knew that come November our lovely neighbors, and fellow citizens of California, could likely vote away our short lived right to marry.
Anyway, we did get married, and had a lovely ceremony. We waited a couple of weeks after the wedding to leave for our honeymoon. Just about that time Michael was beginning to become symptomatic from his tumor. We would later learn, about a month later, that his tumor had begun to regrow. In spite of these symptoms, we were determine to have the most marvelous and romantic honeymoon. Michael wasn't able to walk too long, so we took a taxi everywhere in Puerto Vallarta. One evening, after a late dinner, were had the taxi drop us off near the ocean so that we could take an evening stroll. The night air was so calm, and so warm. The ocean looked beautiful, and we decided that we wanted to get into it somehow. As we had just come from dinner, we were not exactly dressed for swimming, and Mexico has very strict rules about public nudity. I noticed that a couple of small boutiques selling swimsuits were still open, so I told Michael that we should run over and quickly buy new swimsuits. We both ran into separate stores, and both exited wearing new bathing suits.
Michael and I both felt like little children. At that moment we had not a care in the world. I can still see his beautiful smile, and his twinkling eyes. We threw our clothes onto the shore and ran into the ocean. It all felt so refreshing. We swam, and we played, and we embraced there in the water. I can still feel his salty lips on mine, and the warm sensation of his arms around me. When we grew tired, we both laid out on the shore, and stared straight up into the moon lit night. Life was perfect. I have never been more happy. I loved him with all my heart and soul.
I still love him with all my heart and soul.
Tonight as I drove onto the freeway, and noticed the signs leading back to the beach, that is exactly where my thoughts went. Back to the beach, with Michael. I suddenly feel like I have been keeping myself so busy, or otherwise keeping my mind occupied, so that I wouldn't have to feel this depth of pain. I fucking hate life during these moments. How the hell did I go from total bliss to this?
I fail to understand why this had to happen, or why it had to happen to us. I know that I sound like a broken record. I don't really care. You know, on Friday it will be 11 months since Michael died, and I still don't know if I have seen him in a dream. What is that about? I think it's because I have willed myself not to dream of him. I often think it would be so much harder to get through all of this if he kept showing up at night, only to have me wake up the next morning with my reality. I don't know if that is really why I don't dream of him. I'm not that powerful.
You know, I think people expect that I am not in such pain, or that it can''t still feel so raw. I hide it well. I wear this armor all the time. It is not big, or heavy, or metal even. It is as soft as my skin. It bears all of my tattoos. It reaches up to my face, where it often wears a smile. It tells others that I am doing just fine. Tonight it feels like a lie.
I'm sitting here in my room looking out over the city lights. I wish I could just disappear into them and never be heard of again. People would say, I wonder what ever happened to him? It wouldn't matter to me, as long as I was with him again.
It's a good thing I'm not that close to the beach. It would be so tempting to walk into the ocean and let the undertow take me away.