Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hands
























A simple photo opportunity.

A day in the sun. A day with the one I love.

Our hands.

Proof that he is here for me. Proof that he exists here in my life. Proof that he offers his hand to me.

I sit here looking at this innocent photo that I took today.

My hand on his. His hand at ease. His hand already used to mine finding it's way over to his.

I am very fortunate. I never forget this. I never take the offer of his hand for granted.


It reminds me of another photo I took four years ago.


Another day in the sun. Another day with the one I loved.

Our hands.

Proof that he was there for me. Proof that he existed here in my life. Proof that he offered his hand to me.

My hand on his. His hand at ease. His hand already used to mind finding it's way over to his.

I am very fortunate. I never forget this. I never took the offer of his hand for granted.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving!

Two Thanksgiving celebrations down, and one to go.

It's been an interesting couple of days. Friday night I hosted an office Thanksgiving potluck at my home. Almost every person from the office came, along with their families. There was so much food, wine and desert, and everyone was in a very good mood. Most had hoped to meet Abel, and since he had to work, I was explaining all night as to why he wasn't present.

Since most of the folks I work with have never been to my home I took the time to give each of them the official tour. What I realized is that this crowd of people never knew Michael, or of my life with him. Of course many have likely heard that I am widowed, but it is something that is more historical information to them. As each entered my bedroom they were greeted by the large wedding photo of Michael and I, which is balanced across the room with his urn. To create a festive mood throughout the house I had votive candles everywhere. Two specific candles are often burning on each side of the urn. I think these images were a bit jarring for each guest, as it put some reality into what I have experienced over the years.

On Saturday I had another early Thanksgiving celebration, this time at my parents' home. All of my brothers and their families were present, and with each person that greeted me there was the same question, "where is Abel?" That part was very similar to the questions and responses on Friday night, only this crowd had a very personal perspective of not only my loss, but of theirs.

I was enjoying a glass of wine with my sister-in-law, and having a real heart to heart when she commented about how quickly life can change. She was remembering her weekend visit to my home at the end of the summer, and how I was expressing that I was now ready to begin dating. She pointed out that the expression on my face now is very different than times in the recent past. She said that I look happy for a change. As we spoke more about Abel she shared with me that even though she is happy for me, and Abel seems like a nice guy, it is very difficult to see me with somebody new. She told me that even though it's been two years, she still thinks about how much she and everyone loved Michael, and how she misses him. My sister-in-law said that Michael was such a special person, the type that doesn't come along very often.

I appreciated what my sister-in-law shared with me. It was a good reminder that others around me continue to be affected by Michael being taken so soon. I know that my family is pleased that I have found happiness with someone new, but they will need time to adjust, as they don't see me, or us, often.

Before we began to eat our Thanksgiving meal all of us formed a circle in the room. We joined hands for the Thanksgiving prayer. My father voiced a collective thanksgiving for all that we have, and for what God will continue to provide us. These words sort of took me to another place. Yes, I am thankful, yet part of me is still feeling the sting of personalizing that God took Michael from me. I know that this internal debate, did he take him, or was it just his time, is not something worth wrestling with. I know that if God did take him, it is not for me to know why. So for now I will focus on being thankful for what I have.

I am thankful for my children, and the love we share between us. I am thankful for all of my extended family, and for the many years my parents, and each of my brothers, have been given in their marriages. I am thankful for all of my widowed friends, and all those that come here to read, connect, and heal. And yes, I am thankful that for now, and for how ever long I am blessed with this new person in my life, I have companionship.

One more Thanksgiving to go, which will be just my kids, Abel and me. No explanations needed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Are You Sad?

Preoccupied - Portrait of Jared

Last night was a nice evening. My son and I arrived home from our day at work and school a bit early, which made the evening feel less rushed than usual. Abel was there, and had done some cleaning, which made me smile. After checking in with the my daughter, her boyfriend, and a visiting friend, I went to my bedroom to have a bit of quiet time with Abel.

Those of you who are parents know there isn't too much quiet time when arriving home from work. There is homework to be supervised, dinner to be made, mail to be read, and whatever chores you had planned. While my son was at the table doing some reading, my daughter, Abel and I were busy getting dinner started. In between checking on the food I was running outdoors installing more landscape lighting which needs to be done in the dark to know what I want to highlight.

At some point I came back into the house, finished preparing dinner, then sat with my family to eat. When we were done there was the usual kitchen clean up, then back to my bedroom to change out of my work clothes. It was at that point that Abel asked, "are you feeling sad?"

My children know my moods very well. They are also very protective of me since Michael died. They have seen me at my worst, especially those early days when I would be down on the ground crying with no end. Those severe days of grieving are far behind me, but what continues are the various layers that continue to be experienced. Sometimes those days of sadness are clear to me, and I can pin point the reason. Other times my sadness goes unrecognized by me or others. Yet, my sadness is always clear to my children.

No dear, why are you asking if I am sad?

"Arianne said you looked sad tonight."

I responded that I just had many things on my mind, and was likely preoccupied with many concerns. I told Abel not to worry, yet he still put his arms around me to show that he cared, and that I had someone there to support me.

What came to mind wasn't whether or not I was truly sad, but how much all this loss has affected each of us. Driving home yesterday my son Remy was talking about how the kids as school joke about things. He said they often play a game where they call out that someone has died. Remy said that while he gets that they are just playing, and that they obviously have not been touched so closely by death. He said that if they knew what it was like to have their father die they would be less likely to find this type of humor funny.

Death has greatly impacted my family. Death has brought each of us a deeper sorrow than we had ever experienced before, even through the death of many extended family members. When death comes to your door, and takes someone from their bed at home, you are never quite the same.

I don't think I was sad. I think my daughter recognized a pattern of behavioral responses by me, and attributed them to sadness. I believe it will take some time before my kids see me with a host of expressions and moods, and not connect them to grief. Loss has been with our family since my children's birth mother was taken away by circumstance, and then by death. Loss has been with us since Michael was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and then by death.

Loss is being experienced by us with a new person in my life, who is now sharing a space in my heart with Michael. Yes, even with the joy that Abel brings me I am always aware that his presence is because Michael was taken. Even though the kids see how happy Abel makes me, they experience loss by seeing a new man occupy the space in our lives that Michael used to occupy.

No, today I am not sad.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Love. Life. & Grief.

Colors

Interesting, I was just reading through this week's post entries on Widow's Voice. There seems to be a running discussion about dating, a bit of man bashing (I mean that mildly, and with humor) and the usual check In's with the various writers that fill the week. What I recognize is something that has been on my mind lately, and something that one person left a comment about today.

What happens when that which brought us widowed together starts to change?

The comment I'm referring to was about having to always deal with seeing, or reading about, couples everyday. Then suddenly it is all that rave on Widow's Voice as well. I kind of agree with the person who left the comment. I am one of those people that really didn't want to see, or hear, about coupled people more than I really needed to. It hurt so much more to see happy couples move about the world. For so long I tended to separate those who were coupled, with those who were widowed. Those who were just plain single were neutral, and didn't garner too much notice by my grief-o-meter.

Whenever I go on Facebook, or receive a new friend request, the first thing I look at is the relationship status. If they are widowed I feel immediately connected to them, even if I don't know them. If they are coupled, I then take a deep breath before taking a look at their page, and prepare myself to see photos of their seemingly happy life. For some time I even hesitated about changing my own status on Facebook, and hesitated to post any photos of me and Abel. It wasn't just because I didn't want to give up my widowed status out of concern for my relationship with Michael, it was also out of concern with my relationship with all my widowed friends.

I recognize that for the time being, I travel in both worlds, the land of the widowed, and the land of the coupled. I suppose I will always travel in both worlds, as I am learning, having a new relationship in no way buffers the ongoing pain and loss that I feel about Michael. What's odd is that the closer, and stronger, I feel toward Abel, the more intense my grief tends to feel. Now at just over two years out I am not grieving with the same intensity of the initial two years, yet it is always there. So for those that read about my movement through a new relationship, or see a status change in my profile, know that what brought us together continues to bind us. Yet at the same time, I recognize it is something that also puts me into the other category.

I have been wondering if my role on Widow's Voice should be given to someone at an earlier place in their grieving, as I fear that those to seek support there are finding mostly veterans at this point. So many of us have been working through this for quite some time now, and what we write about, or what I write about, is less likely to be as raw, or immediate, than many of our readers might be looking for.

So, for the person who left the comment there expressing his/her discomfort in having to "see" couples, even on Widow's Voice, I completely understand and feel for you. It's what I continue to feel, even as I am involved in a new relationship. For those that come here to read, please know that I am always aware that what I share, or discuss, might begin to separate us into different categories. I get that. When I first began writing I wondered who would come here to read about a gay widower. I found that many chose to come here to read about...me. Are most of my readers widowed? Probably. Are most of my readers gay? Not really. Are most of my readers men? Not so much either. So what I have are people that come here for a common understanding of a similar path we travel on. Some may have arrived at an early place in my journey, some may arrive later.

I don't know what the future holds for me. I only know that for now, I will continue to experience it, and write about it when it feels right. As my blog title says, "Dan in real time - a gay man's journey through love, life and grief." It's all here.

Love.

Life.

Grief.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Son's Perspective




I was sitting in the living room, warmed by the fire, with my boyfriend Abel to my left, and my son Remy to my right. I was trying to think of what to write about, then saw a perfect opportunity to find out what my son thought about his dad, a widower, newly dating again.

My husband, for those who do not know, died a little over two years ago. He and I had only been a couple for 18 months when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. My kids learned to love and accept him, then soon learned that they would also have to say goodbye to him. It was nothing I ever expected to go through with a new relationship, and nothing I ever expected my kids to experience while they were still young. But here we are, two years later, many bereavement groups later. Many changes, and many nights of grieving through tears, laughter, and stories.

A couple of months ago I met someone. We began to date, well, we began to have a relationship from the beginning. It didn't feel so much like dating, as we were relating to each other daily, talking, sharing, and growing close, quickly. I introduced him to my kids, well, teenagers, and we went from there.

Here is a brief discussion that occured while I sat here. It began with a simple question to my 13 year old son.


What's it been like having your dad dating someone new?

Remy: Well, at first I felt like Abel was taking away my dad's love for Mike. And I thought, well, like you guys have already done stuff together, and I feel very different now. At first it felt like it was going too fast, it was coming on too strong, because I thought you didn't give up Mike yet, and I thought that he was taking away that love of Mike. But then later on I realized that he was a person you really love, but I thought you still loved Mike, and Abel was really new, and I didn't know Abel like a father. It felt like with Abel you were ready to move on, and I wasn't ready for it. Now I understand that you are ready, and that you want love again.

Abel: I would never try to replace what Mike had with you guys.

Remy: I told my dad that this is confusing for me, and now I feel like maybe you aren't the same father as Mike, but I know that you care about my dad, and you care about all of us. I hope that my dad does care about you.

Abel: I do love your dad, and you and Arianne. You all have a special place in my heart Remy.

Remy: (turns to me to say) I feel like you guys are going to be together for a long time. I feel like if you are dating Abel, and if it's been going on for a long time, it's already like he's a dad to me. I know Abel would do anything for us as a family. I know Mike would be happy for you dad. I know that he would be happy for Abel to have a great guy like you. I think Mike would be very happy, and he'd be happy mostly that you moved on, and found love again.

I then asked Remy if there is anything else that he worries about.


Remy: I might worry that me calling Abel dad, that Mike might not like that, but that's just how I think. I'm still worried about what if Abel is not going to stay, then I think about negative stuff, like what stuff could happen.

Remy said he worries about possibly losing Abel, then was unable to continue to talk. I spoke to Remy about how all parents who begin dating again worry about their kids getting attached to someone when dating, then having to let go if the relationship doesn't work out. I told Remy that with a widowed parent that becomes an even deeper concern. I reminded him of how he and the other kids learned to love Mike, and how they came to accept him as their second dad, only then to lose him.

Remy just told me it was okay to say that at this point he cried.


Do I worry about this? Yes. Does Abel worry about this? Yes. I suppose these are the conversations we should be having. These are the things that go through the mind of our children. Do they want us to be happy again? Yes, but it is so much more complicated, isn't it? There are so many feelings that our new relationships bring up for them. There are so many insecurities that get tapped into. I have always known this, but I think I need to remind myself of this more often.

Happiness is not an easy matter. But it is something worth striving for.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

TMI

couplesx


So, as the title warns you, this post may leave a few of you saying, too much information Dan!

Oh well, you are here, so read on...

There is something that used to happen to me when Michael and I were being intimate. Not something throughout being intimate, but at the conclusion of being intimate. Well, let me back up a bit.

Prior to Michael getting sick, or having that huge tumor removed from his head, we enjoyed a very active and satisfying sex life. We were a fairly new couple, and had yet to hit that point where it all felt old hat. So when we began to recover from the shock of his emergency surgery, and had returned back home, we knew that life would never be the same. Michael felt like his situation would now deprive me of something I greatly enjoy, something most of us adults greatly enjoy.

Sex.

For a long time we had no sex life. He was recovering, I was grieving the loss of our future, and was spending night and day taking care of him. It felt like that part of our relationship was over, and that the type of closeness one feels with sexual intimacy had been robbed from us. Well, I can't exactly say what Michael was feeling, but for myself, I felt that it was over.

Anyway, time moved forward, and then one day we both looked at each other and knew that it was time to try again. We started out slow, and there was a purposeful approach in our attempt to reignite the flame of passion. By the time we reach the end of our love-making I was in tears. I was completely overwhelmed by the satisfaction I was receiving, both physically and emotionally.

For quite some time there after, I would consistently end our sexual encounters in tears. We both came to expect it, and were both very comfortable with it.

Being in a new relationship has been both wonderful, and emotionally draining. It is bringing up so many mixed emotions, as most of you would expect. It seems that the closer I get to Abel, and the further I fall into love, the more emotional I become, to the point of feeling distracted from what is really happening around me. Abel has noticed this, and has been checking in with me, wanting me to know that he is there for me, and that I can talk about anything.

Last night was one of those nights. We only get to see each other about once or twice a week, and I was looking forward to him spending the night with me. We spent most of the evening discussing my emotions, and what we needed from our relationship. He could tell that I was filled with worry, and that I was feeling a bit sad. Without a doubt, I have entered a new phase in my grieving process, one that is likely spurred on by finding new love.

In spite of my mood, Abel was gently bringing me closer to him, and wanting me to experience pleasure in our time together. He was patient, and he was being very attentive to my needs. In the end, for the first time in a long time, I ended up in tears. At first I tried to hold them back, which was quite obvious to Abel. He held me in his arms and told me that there was no need to hold anything back with him. I took a deep breath, and told him I would be okay. He looked me in the eyes, pulled me even closer, and told me it was okay to keep loving Michael, and that it was okay to say and feel anything around him.

Well, with that the flood of tear began overflowing. I laid there in the arms of someone who loves me, while I continued to grieve the loss of Michael, while feeling the joy of being brought to ecstasy once again through passionate love. It was both draining and amazing. I explained to Abel the tears of my past love making. I explained to him how difficult it was to lose the man I loved, and not have him there to hold me through the night. To not have anyone there to hold me through the night.

Things have changed for me. Last night I had some one's arms around me. This morning I awoke with some one's arms around me. I let Abel know that Michael must love the hell out of him. Michael would be so pleased to know that someone has come into my life. He would be pleased to know that this someone is quite selfless, and is more than happy, perhaps even proud, to share my heart with Michael.

Too much information? Well, not for Abel. He wants to know it all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Knocked Back Down, Momentarily.

Love knocks you down!

Knocked back down to my knees.

Momentarily.

I was checking out Facebook earlier, as I like to see who is celebrating their birthday. Today was the birthday of one of Michael's best friends, so I went to her page. While there I decided to check out her photos, and didn't prepare myself for what I might see. It was the photos since Michael's death that hit me, and hit me hard.

I got through our two year wedding anniversary really well last week. I had the loving support of my kids, and of Abel. I had a quiet evening, but a peaceful one. Today, looking at photos of Michael's friends spending time together during the past couple of years was very hard to look at. I suppose it was just a harsh reminder of how much time has passed since he's been gone. I think I incorporate my daily life, my life without him, and it all is beginning to feel more comfortable. Yet, I don't often think about how much his presence is missing in the rest of the world.

Immediately after looking at the photos, and making a casual comment to my daughter about them, I realized that the dark bile of grief was working it's way up my throat. I went into my bedroom, and was knocked to my knees. I haven't felt this level of pain in such a long time. It was cutting me from every side of my being. From within, and from without. I couldn't find comfort laying on my bed, so I did as I usually do. I lit the candles that sit along side his urn, got out my meditation pillow, and sat there before the glowing warmth of the candle light. For comfort I reached out for the pocket watch he gave me five months before his death. It was supposed to remind me of the beating of his heart, yet in the two years that have passed, the battery had died. I sat there on the floor, with a dead pocket watch, crying over my dead husband.

How pathetic.

I must have released a shitload of stored up grief, because it went on and on. As I sat there I felt the need to connect to him physically once again. I didn't want something that used to belong to him, I wanted him. I know this may be morbid to some, yet I know what I need from time to time. I went to his urn, opened the lid, and reached in.

My fingers grazed across the jagged mixture of bone and dust. I opened a small bag that I keep separate from the rest. I let my fingers dig deep, and to feel his ashes in between my fingers. I ran this dust, his ashes, across my hand, and then laid back down on the floor. I laid there, physically connected, spiritually reaching out, and waited for a sense of healing. I wanted so badly to have him reach back out to me. I waited, then waited some more.

I soon began thinking of Abel. I thought about the many times I have found myself lying in his arms. I took that feeling, and mixed it up with Michael's embrace. I laid there on the floor for a very long time, and realized that I was likely missing Abel's nightly call during his break at work. I reminded myself that someone cares about me. Someone cares about me out there in that place I have no real knowledge of. Someone cares about me here in my current world as well.

I feel such comfort knowing that I have Michael so close to me. All I have to do is reach out for him and he is there. I also feel such comfort knowing that I have someone, Abel, who is willing to listen to my stories of Michael whenever I need to speak.

Just a minute ago Abel did call. I took a break from writing, and he could hear something in my voice. He asked, I shared, and he reassured me that if he were here there would be a great big hug for me. I'm feeling so much better now. I am feeling like I am back on my feet, and okay with continuing on my journey.

Funny how there is no conflict between my two loves. They coexist, and I am at peace.

Monday, October 24, 2011

To Be Happy Once Again

Smile

Well, yesterday was a step into the next phase of my relationship with Abel, and the beginning of my family getting used to seeing me with another man.

It was the occasion of my niece and her husband baptizing their newborn baby boy. I drove up with two of my kids, and a new person at my side. It was not a surprise to them, as I had broken the news of this new relationship with them one week ago. Each of them were surprised to learn that I had been dating, and that I had chosen not to share the news with them for well over a month.

I let my family know that I needed some time to feel secure in being part of a new twosome before having to deal with the looks of confused emotion on their part. My family loved Michael, and they, like me, continue to grieve his absence from their lives.

Abel himself was a nervous wreck. I suppose it's always a big occasion when the new love gets introduced to the extended family members, and he wasn't quite sure how he would be received. He knew that my family had grown used to seeing me either as Michael's husband, or later, as Michael's widower. For the past two years they grew used to seeing me in a continued somber state of mind and emotion.

Once at the house, most of Abel's concerns began to melt away. My brothers and parents were very gracious in introducing themselves to him, and each spent some time getting to know him and wanting him to feel comfortable in their presence. At one point Abel leaned over to me and pointed out that my mother kept glancing our way. I reminded him that this is the first time that she has seen me with another man. It has to be both pleasing and bittersweet. Around this time my mother told me that my decision to move to San Diego has been the best choice I made for myself. She reminded me that I now have "a lovely home, a good job," and looking at Abel, then back at me, she said, "and now you have this."

On the long drive back to San Diego from our day in Thousand Oaks, I received a text from my older brother telling me that his day was great. Among those events that made his day was seeing me happy again. After reading the text to everyone in the car, my kids both chimed in, saying "Abel, we are so happy that you and my dad are dating."

Oh, to be happy once again.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Love to Love You Baby!
















I had a wonderful love.

I had the opportunity to love Michael for the rest of his life.

It didn't really matter how long we loved.

It mattered more that we loved.

I learned much about myself by loving Michael.

I learned much about love by being loved by Michael.

I am now able to trust love.

I am now able to love again.

Michael, I love to love you baby.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Expressions of Love

still can't sleep

So High. So Low.

My week has been different than what I'm normally familiar with. I'm experiencing such high moments. Moments of feeling the excitement of new love. I look forward to his calls. I smile from ear to ear whenever we are together. I feel so excited with each plan we make.

I also come home each late afternoon, and as I close the door to my bedroom the tears fall down my face. I wrap my arms around myself, and hold on tight. I lay on my bed, and feel such sorrow.

One wanted me to be happy. Another is making me happy.

One gave me all of his love. Another looks forward to sharing more days together, with hopes of a love that can signal a future together.

For two years I slept with his pillows taking up the space he used to occupy. I held onto these soft objects that no longer carry his scent. For two years my arms and legs clung to a form that served to remind me that yes, he was here, but now he is gone.

This weekend someone new occupied his space. My arms were wrapped around this new person. The space he takes up is different. He is not the same person. His form feels different.

There is comfort. There is affection. There is warmth.

Tonight the pillows will be back. Tonight I will grieve the one that is gone. Tonight I will miss the new one that is absent. Tonight I have a longing that is less clear. Tonight there are two that occupy my mind. Tonight there are two that fill my heart.

Wednesday is, was, our wedding anniversary. It's a very odd day. Yes, it is the day we wed. Yes, it is the anniversary of a wonderful love filled day. Yet, it is also an occasion we never celebrated together. Michael died one month shy of our first wedding anniversary. The wedding came later in the relationship. It was a day we never expected would be possible. We seized the opportunity to stand before our loved ones and pledge our love to each other. With all that happened in the year after we wed, few ever remember the day. His death eclipsed any type of celebrated remembrance.

Perhaps this year I will simply celebrate love. I will celebrate that I stood before a man, and pledged my love. I will celebrate that I made a vow, a promise, that I kept. I will celebrate that while I have yet to say those words to someone new, those words have been on my mind. I will celebrate that one day soon, those words will be spoken again. I will celebrate that my heart is filled with love.

I will celebrate that there is room enough for the love of both of them.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Relationship Status



Okay, so I was surfing the net, and decided to drop by Facebook and see what was up with some of my friends. I'm one of the many that has not been too happy with the changes that Facebook made, so rather than rely on what Facebook decides to show me in their "Top Stories" I click in and out of every one's pages. It kind of serves to make me feel like I am visiting a friend, although no one usually knows I've been there unless I take the time to leave a comment.This is a long-winded way to get to the point of today's writing.

I was checking out a particular friend's page, and noticed that her relationship status had changed. Yes, you know who you are! Well, it's not that I didn't know she was in a new relationship, as we both started our new relationships around the same time. And no, our relationship is not with each other. My point is this, her Facebook status reflects her current relationship status, and mine still says Widowed. It had me thinking, why haven't I changed mine? Now I know that I don't have to do everything she does, after all we are two very different people. Well, we aren't that different, but different none the less.

So, what's up with me?

I wonder if I'm having a difficult time letting go of my widowed status. Actually, there is no reason to wonder, as I know that I'm having a difficult time letting go of my widowed status. Besides, it's not just reflected in my Facebook status, it's everywhere else in my daily life. After all, the only people that know of my new status are you, my online community, my friends from work, and a few friends who happened to have notice a new face pop up in my uploaded photos.

This morning I woke up thinking about all of this. I realized that I have been in this relationship for about a month now, and it was time to begin letting more people know. I also realized that the first person I needed to share this with was my mother-n-law. I know she didn't expect me to remain single forever, yet I also know that it might be another transition in her own grief to know that someone is now occupying some space that Michael once had sole custody of. Because I was at work, I decided to write her a message, as I would then be able to best articulate my thoughts, and give her the opportunity to re-read them if needed. I expect that now that I have completed this initial task, I will begin sharing my new found status with my parents and siblings soon.

Here's the thing, I will always love Michael. Michael will always be my husband. That will never change. It's just that I need time to sort out my frame of reference regarding these two men. For one, it's still early on in my relationship with Abel, yet I already know that what is developing is something significant. When speaking of Michael, I always say "my husband." Rarely do I refer to him as my late husband. So maybe I'm looking for a term that speaks of a widower who is in a relationship.

For some reason I keep thinking about the film Doña Flor and Her Two Husbands.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sweet Surrender

649px-Gay_Couple_togetherness_in_bed_01

First off, I want to say that I have been given the green light by Abel to share stories about our developing relationship. I gave him a bit of a tour through my blog, and through other places where I write. I let him know why I write, and how I try to be honest, and straight forward about each development in my life journey. He said he completely gets it, and has no worries about his name coming up now and then.

Watch out Abel, you don't know what you just signed on for!

Anyway, one thing that is certainly new, well not completely new, is being sexually active again. I feel like I have been on a long walk through the desert, and have now landed in land of milk and honey. My dry spell is over, and I am truly enjoying an aspect of life, such as passion and romance, that I have gone without for quite some time.

This weekend gave Abel and I much time to be together, walking, enjoying nature, sharing meals, working on my yard, and yes, some fun time in the sack. But what was most significant about today, was not about something sexual, but something else that happened in my bed. Being held.

Let's just say this, I have always been considered quite the caretaker. I shoulder the burdens of my children, and I shouldered the difficult challenges that came along with Michael's illness. In my intimate relationships, this has also tended to make me the more dominant one. The one who does more of the holding, and less of being held. To be perfectly honest, this was something that became quite a problem for me after Michael got sick. Our relationship was turned on it's heel, and what used to be a two-sided intimate relationship, began to feel top heavy. I didn't often get to feel cared for, as I was doing most of the care taking.

Today, as we laid on my bed, I was holding Abel in my arms, and talking about some of the things I went through in my relationship with Michael, and with my loss. Abel was a really good listener, and thanked me for trusting him with my thoughts and feelings. After a slight pause, he sat up, and asked me to lay head, and body, across his. He then guided my head to lay exactly above his heart, and then wrapped his arms around me.

There we laid. Me being held. There we slept. Me being cared for.

To be honest, I initially felt quite uncomfortable. This is not my role.
I'm the dominant one. I'm the one who takes charge. I'm the one who does the holding. Then, as I began to listen to his breathing, and feel the steady beat of his heart, I relinquished the upper hand, and surrendered.

I felt such peace. I felt such gentle caring.

It felt like such a gift.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bedroom Conversations

Day 118 Photo  - Contentment

Funny how lying on a bed can bring about soul searching, or heart wrenching, conversations. My bed is no different. It has been host to many discussions in the past, and continues to host myself, and various people I love, as we explore our intimate thoughts and feelings.

Earlier, after coming home from work, and getting out of my work duds, I was lying alone on my bed, looking at Michael's urn, and feeling a variety of feelings. I wanted to smile, and I felt like crying. I'm in a good place right now, and yet my grieving continues. As I began to bury my face into the pillow, and allow myself to give up control, there was a knock at my door. It was my 13 year old son, who asked if he could lay on my bed with me. We lay there, in silence, with my arm across his body.

"Dad, can we talk?"

Yes, Remy, whatever you want to talk about.

He wanted to talk about my developing relationship with this new man in my life. He expressed, as well as a 13 year old boy can, how conflicted he feels about how quickly things appear to be moving for this person and me. He said that it is clear that I am happy, and he is happy for me, but what must Michael be feeling right now? Before I could answer, he said that he knows that Michael would be very happy for me, because Remy knows that Michael wanted me to be happy, and to love again. Yet, Remy wanted to know, "Don't you think Michael might be just a little bit mad?"

It's been two years, two very long years. And yet, it also feels like it just happened yesterday. In the two years that Michael lived with his death sentence he would speak of my next boyfriend, and what my life might be like. I would ask him not to talk like that, but he never would stop. He was very clear with me. He wouldn't be happy, if he knew that I wasn't happy. He wanted to die knowing that I would find love and happiness once more. He believed that I deserved that.

One day, long ago, my older son Dante was having a conversation with Michael. He told Michael that he worried that I wouldn't survive after Michael died. Michael told him, in his usual humorous way, that he certainly hoped that I would be heart-broken, and that I would miss him, but that he had no doubt that I would survive. After all, Michael was there with me when I went through many a trial in raising my kids.

Today, while lying there with Remy, I reminded him that we are all so capable of loving. I love him with all my heart. I love his brother and sister with all my heart. I love Michael with all my heart. And, I can love someone new with all my heart.

One love does not negate another.

Tonight, lying in my bed, I spoke with this new person in my life, his name is Abel, and we too spoke of Michael, of Remy, of Dante, and of Arianne. We spoke of my journey as a widower. We spoke of my heart-break and healing. We spoke of the time needed to grow into love, and we spoke of how we can carefully navigate all this while being mindful of younger minds and hearts.

This has become a part of my nightly ritual. The nine o'clock hour arrives, I pick up the phone, I call him, we talk, we listen, we laugh, and we smile.

I have the ashes of my husband to my right, and I have the voice of a new love interest to my left. Is this balance? Is this chaos? Is this right? Is this wrong? Will it last? Will it not? Will I be happy? Will I be sad?

There are no easy answers, but then, I'm not looking for easy answers. I'm looking, and planning on, more work ahead. I'm expecting struggle, and I'm expecting ease. My life is a journey that I often have little control of. At this point in my life, I no longer seek to control it. I choose to experience it, and to embrace as much of it as possible as it unveils itself to me.

I consider myself gifted by this new person in my life. I am experiencing hope once again. I'm feeling like I have much to offer, and I feel like someone is extending a gentle hand my way.

After an hour of intimate conversation, it was time to say goodnight. There was a longing there, which we both verbalized. It gave me a feeling of anticipation when I will have this person before me once again. I rolled over on my bed, and looked up into the brightly lit night. I thanked Michael for his love. I thanked Abel for his open heart. And, I smiled.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Off the Market!

Men holding hands

Well, it's happened. I'm off the market.

What? You didn't know I was on the market? Well, I suppose I haven't been too vocal lately. Yes, at some point last month I decided to re-post my profile online, and take my chance at...something different.

I wanted something different than the existence that I've known for the past couple of years. I decided that I needed to open up. I needed to take the risk at having my heart broken again. I decided that it was worth the risk to not spend too many more days and nights feeling so alone. I decided that it was time for a little romance. I decided that it was time to reignite passion in my life. I decided that it was time to take the next step.

It was time.

It happened. I met someone very special. We spent the first couple of weeks chatting online, then on the phone. Our interaction went surprisingly well. He sought me out, and I decided to embrace the opportunity to share some time with him, albeit on the computer or phone. Then a couple of weeks ago we actually met in person, and once again, it went extremely well. We then scheduled to spend an entire day together, and that was one of the best days I've had in the past two years. Then another date, daily early morning texts, afternoon emails, and late night telephone conversations.

He's very expressive. He's very considerate. He's sweet. He's tender.

Last night was a discussion about what each wanted in a future, or developing relationship. Tonight was a decision to take down our personal profiles, and to focus solely on each other.

What does this mean? I'm not completely sure. I'm excited. I'm nervous. I'm happy.

All I know, is that for now, I'm off the market.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Back To School Night

Back to School night

Okay, so I haven't felt much like blogging lately, and I'm really trying to rely on the support of folks at the office these days. Anyway, yesterday I have a bit of a tragic evening, that I now realize that other widowed parents might appreciate the opportunity to see their reflection here today.

Now when I say tragic, I have to tell myself that it wasn't all that bad, but perhaps a vulnerable evening. Anyway, it was back to school night at my son Remy's school. I wasn't really wanting to attend, yet if I did'nt I'd spend the rest of the school year feeling like a lazy shitty parent. Times in the past always felt horrible, so I just should have given myself a break, and not attended.

I attend not just out of guilt, but because my son has so many special needs, all of which are significantly more apparent this school year. He is now in 8th grade, but being in the 4th percentile for his size, often gets mistaken for a 5th grader. And since he has many new teachers this year, I needed to know what they expected out of him, and to allow them to meet me, as we will definitely be conversing through email a lot this year.

My son has multiple diagnoses. He has ADHD, a mood disorder, and a behavioral tic disorder. The tic disorder has been there for awhile, but mostly went unnoticed by most people in the past. It is similar to Tourettes, only there are only physical tics, minus the verbal ones. Unfortunately the tics increase dramatically during puberty, which is now in full force. My son has very little control when he body decides to jerk to the left or to the right. And when his body is not making uncontrolled movements, he is focused on trying to control them when they do arrive. Throw in the ADHD, and staying focused during class becomes almost impossible.

Anyway, with all this in mind, I attended. Now, during the past few weeks my son has been struggling with one of his new teachers. His resource specialist recommended that we switch him to another teacher, as she seemed to have more experience working with kids like my son, and personality wise, seemed more like better match. This too was another reason to attend.

So we parents are given a copy of our kids' schedules of six periods. We follow along, and go to each class every 15 minutes or so. As I sat in each class, while waiting to the teacher to speak, all the parents were either with their spouses, or openly talking about how their spouse was at home with the kids. I on the other hand, sat there alone, knowing nobody. I began feeling quite sad having to see myself in light of all the other coupled parents.

With each period that I moved through I became more and more sad. It was just another clear reminder of how different my life has become. When each teacher spoke about their expectations for the students I couldn't help but think to myself, my son won't be able to meet that expectation. After having to think about this over and over again, I felt more sad. I realized that not only do I immediately begin thinking these words, but how my son must do the same each day.

By the middle of the schedule of announced periods, I realized that the next period that parents were headed toward classrooms, I didn't have one to go to. My son goes to the resource specialist room during that period, and receives help organizing his work for the day. On the schedule of directions my son gave me about what classroom to attend each period, he had put a question mark next to this one, as he didn't know where to send me. I walked over to the resource specialist's room, but it was dark. Obviously there was no need for her to attend last night, as she doesn't teach classes like the others. Now keep in mind, the specialist is the most wonderful teacher I know. She has been a god-send for my son, so I have no ill feelings about her not being present last night. But what it meant was that I had no where to be, and ended up sitting on a bench in the dark, as there were no outdoor lights.

How depressing is that? I sat there wanting to cry as I realized that this is likely what my son feels at times.

The last class I attended was the one my son was recently transferred to. The very nice teacher began sharing with all the parents about how wonderful their children were, and gave an example of how caring they are. She was telling them about a recent student transferring into the classroom, and how all the kids were very welcoming, and wanted to know all about him. The teacher wondered out loud if this student's parents were in the room, and as I, and all the other parents began looking around the room I realized that the parents she was referring to was me.

No, there are not two parents, just one. I began to realize that she has no idea that Remy's other parent died. Something I need to address I suppose.

Well, let me tell you, by the time it was the hour to go home, and I found myself walking back to my car alone in the dark, crying. As I got into the car, and began driving away I wondered, who am I crying for? Me, or Remy?

It's easy to fall into the trap of feeling sorry for yourself. All the more sad to feel sorry for your baby.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fido



Yes, last year brought an unexpected visitor. He arrived growling, showing his teeth, and was host to several hundred lovely fleas. He was cautious, and didn't know whether to be grateful for the place to lay his head for the night, or to just bite the hand who was trying to feed him.

He arrived at a time when I was quite low. He arrived at a time when I welcomed the distraction. He arrived in perfect timing, and never left...my side.

This dog loves me. I don't just mean that he loves me, I mean he loves the hell out of me. I think he misunderstood my intentions. I was just trying to help out a little guy who was down on his luck. My intentions were purely platonic, yet he fell for me head over heels, or should I say paws.

He has given me a year of dedicated love and affection. He has given me many a day of serious frustration. (He is quite the barker) He is my constant companion, whether I like it or not.

For better, for worse, in sickness...Whoa. Wait a minute, now I'm getting carried away. What has he done to my mind? When Michael said he wanted me to love again, I don't think he meant in a canine sort of way.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Humble Growth

Calm from the storm. It always happens. And, that is what I experienced today. It's been a heavy few days, or more like a week. Yesterday I was overwhelmed by all the support I received, and then today came around, and I was met with even more.

I can't go through such a time without counting my blessings. Yes, even me, that guy who is so angry at God, can count his blessings, and acknowledge that I really don't have a clue why all of life's ups and down occur, yet they do. Of course when we are down we have a tendency to take it personally, how could we not? And when we are up, well, I'm not exactly up yet, but I have been lifted higher by all of your support than where I would be today without it. Now that was a long sentence!

Today I couldn't help but notice how different I felt on this day, this year, as opposed to last. Part of me doesn't exactly remember how connected I was feeling to the outside world a year ago today, as my existence was a bit different at the time. I wasn't working, and I had only been in San Diego a few short months, so I was feeling a bit disconnected from the world at large. This year, my circle of widowed friends has grown. Those that have been with me from the beginning are still there. This year I saw old friends and family members reaching out to me. This year I have a whole network of new friends here in San Diego, that took the time to figuratively stand beside me, and check on me throughout the day.

Did I not have all this last year? Likely I did. I'm finding that with each day that passes, my ability to acknowledge my needs, and to ask for support, is growing. This is definitely not where I was last year, so in spite of the painful days that led up to all this support, it was definitely worth the lesson learned.

Humbly, I thank each of you, my community, for helping me to grow.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Breathe Me

The stolen kiss

I remember this night well.

Holding him.

Reassuring him of my love.

Making sure he was not in pain.

Kissing him.

Telling him how much I loved him.

Not allowing myself to sleep.

Not allowing myself to turn my focus off him for one second.

Knowing it was a matter of hours.

Loving him.

Loving him.

Loving him.

It went this way throughout the night. Remy laid there next to me. Michael to my right, Remy holding on to me to my left. 3am arrived, and it was announced by Michael significant change in breathing. It was so strong that Remy woke from his sleep, and was crying in fear. I told him to go sleep with his sister. I went to awake Michael's mother. I told her the time was coming soon.

Barbara and I cradled him between us. She laying at his side. I holding his face in my hands. For hours, I sat there staring into his face. This went on for another few hours. 6am arrived with another undeniable change in his breathing. I woke Barbara up, and told her he would be leaving us soon. We held him tight. I told him that we would be fine, and again told him that I loved him over and over again.

6:05 am, those last breaths arrived, I pressed my mouth to his. I wasn't going to allow those last breaths of his air to float into the air around me. What if his soul left his body through his breath? This was the last piece of Michael, his spirit, to be present with me in this world.

My mouth to his. His final breath arrived. With a deep breath in, his last breath entered my body. I didn't breath for that moment. I wanted each of those molecules to find a permanent resting place within me. Once I felt sure of this, I breathed for the two of us for the first time.

I was alone. He was gone.

Somehow I ended upstairs on the kitchen floor, and the world, all matter and space came crashing down. The walls shook, and the animal within me howled. I awoke the whole household. My kids came running toward me, and we all laid there on the floor together, without him.

Somehow there is beauty in all this pain. I don't want to ever forget those moments. I know that are only but a few brief moments in the life that I have lived thus far, but they are moments that define my existence today.

I lived a life for so long into my adulthood not knowing that which I was missing out on. Then I met Michael, and I knew that my life would never be the same.

I knew love. I knew the power of love. I knew the honor of loving a man with passion and desire. I knew the honor of caring for a man who needed me, and fighting with all my might to keep him alive. I knew the honor of keeping a man focused on the joy of life in the midst of hardship. And I knew the honor of walking with a man toward his death, with peace, love and dignity.

I bathed him. I dressed him. I held him. And, waited.


soft glow

Today many of you honored me with your presence and support. I love you all dearly for that. Michael loves you all dearly for that. I know in my heart that he doesn't want to ever think of me as being completely alone. Each of you carry out his desire to be there for me.

I thank you. He thanks you.

Sending out an SOS

I'm not sure if this is the right thing to do. But I'm falling apart here at work. I need to express myself without speaking, as I am unable to speak without tears. Heavy tears.

I came into work today expecting it to be like any other day. I am a family court counselor, and I meet with parents to help them reach agreements regarding the custody of their children. Sometimes they reach agreement, other times I utilize my skills as a counselor to give recommendations back to the court.

Today an odd case was assigned to me, and it arrive late, without adequate time to prepare. There was no father and mother sitting before me. The two parties were the mother and paternal grandmother, as the father died last year. We were discussing issues regarding a 12 year old son. I tried my best to work with these two parties, and needed to take a break to get some supervision around some of the goals of our session. In discussing these, I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into my own issues and grief. I let my supervisor know that I need to maintain some distance, and be aware of any counter transference that might be occurring. As I began to explain this, all I had to say was that tomorrow is the anniversary of my husband's death, and the dam I had built began to break.

With those words, I fell apart. Sobbing.

This has never happened to me before. I have always been able to be in complete control at work. I am the ultimate professional when it comes to utilizing the skills and experience I have attained throughout the years. My supervisor was wonderful, immediately taking the case from me, and telling me not to give it a second thought, that she would take care of this. She suggested I take a break, yet I can't wander far, as I am on-call to testify in court any minute. So here I sat, at my desk, knowing that rather than let go, and get out what I need to emotionally, I needed to pull myself together, and find another way to deal with this.

I'm having my own issues with my 13 year old son. He is going through a difficult time, and I am having a difficult time adequately addressing his issues, as we are both continuing to grieve. Unfortunately, each of our grieving process is not always going to end each day with a sense of growth, peace, or resolve. It is going to be a very long process, and I, as the now only parent once again, will need to rise to each occasion knowing that I am still quite broken, and ill prepared for what life throws at me.

That's it. I need to get through the day. I need to get through tomorrow. I also need to learn that I am human. Even now, as I sit here, I am beating myself up about losing control of my emotions. I am judging myself because of breaking down here at work. I am worrying about how this family is being served, knowing that I was already told not to worry about it. This is definitely something new to work through.

So while this is not something I usually do, I need to put this out there at a time when I usually focus solely on work. This is my outlet right now. All I need to know is that someone is reading this, and you understand. Thanks.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Doubled Over

Crying Man

It feels like day one. It hit me as I turned out the lights tonight. I feel so alone in my pain. Why does it still hurt so much?

I feel desperate, like I have a hunger, but nothing to feed me. I need something to hold onto, but what?

I looked around the room, tried to think of something of his, something that will soothe me. Nothing will. Why even try?

I need to see his smile. I need to feel his embrace. Why is this happening all over again?

There's nothing to hold onto. No one to turn to. Nothing that can take the place of what I need. Him.

It feels so unfair. I still don't understand why this had to happen. Why him? He was such a sweet and loving man. He gave me so much. I loved him so much.

I don't want to sleep. I don't want to feel this. I don't want to feel anything any more. Something needs to happen to distract me. Something needs to pull me back out from this abyss. I can't help but feel like I'm being punished. But for what? Why was my happiness cut short, yet others get to live out their happiness year after year? Why must I have to be witness to what others are given, and somehow feel gratitude for what I had?

Fair? Why do others always thank God for what they have? Why do they thank God for all the blessings bestowed upon them? Why do they feel like they are being rewarded for something they have done? What the fuck did I do wrong? If they get to sit and praise God for all their blessings, then what the hell am I supposed to be saying to God at this moment?

Where is all this anger coming from? I wish I knew what lies on the other side. I wish I truly knew if there was another side. Where did Michael go? If he went somewhere else, does he even remember me? He often said he would miss me after he died.

Do you miss me Michael?

Do you know that I am still here?

Are you crying with me? Or are you in bliss?

I wouldn't want to you feel this. I wouldn't want you to worry. I wouldn't want you to be anything but happy. Look into my heart and feel my love. You don't have to take care of me. I'll be just fine. You know I will.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Nothing

XVI ~~ fatigue

What to do when too restless to sleep.

I'm back to that old pattern of staying up far too late at night. I'm not really doing much other than stare at this damn computer screen. I'm not sure what I'm trying to find, or what I'm wanting to find me. It's just a familiar pattern, one that was a major part of my early grieving process. Of course it's not something that is conducive to being completely productive at work the next day.

This is how that last few nights have been. Then once I do fall asleep I am back awake around 4am each morning. Why? I don't really know.

It was a busy, then emotional day. Nothing seems to satisfy me, and nothing really to hold my interest. Earlier I was laying prone on my bed, feeling too numb to move, then thought for a moment how wonderful it would be if my bed came crashing to the floor. I imagined that I would come crashing down with it, and the force of my fall would cause something to land on my head, and leave me with a huge bump or bruise. I would be in so much physical pain, yet it would feel so real. It would be tangible pain that I could carry with me. I would be able to see it on my face whenever I looked into a mirror. People would stop to ask what the hell happened to me. I would be so preoccupied by the pain, and the visual effects of the fall, that I would lose sight of the fact that I was previously feeling numb, and restless.

I laid there on my bed, waiting for something to happen. The crash never arrived. No physical trauma availed itself to give me some kind of relief from the stalemate that I find myself in. Instead I have been sitting here, for hours, waiting for something to arrive, or something to change.

Nothing. Nothing is happening. Nothing.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Talk Talk

17/2008

So I was having lunch today with friends from work. There's a group of us that try to get out for lunch as often as possible. I really enjoy these outings, as it is always nice to have some adult conversation now and then.

I'm finding that I am far more extroverted than usual when out. I've always been a fairly open book as far as my life goes, but in getting together with friends, I'm finding that I rarely use a filter these days. Sometimes I can go a bit too far in my humor, then step back and wonder why I am doing this. Often times my humor is sexual in nature, which is mostly received with a collective good sense of humor in return. Yet it all makes me wonder why I am doing this?

Which brings me to another topic. Friends reading my blog. I think there is a generalized perspective that bloggers are hungry for attention. That we have a need to share everything with the world, and thus publish our every thought and experience. Of course by nature of this post, I suppose part of that is true. Yet in my defense, I didn't start out with this in mind. At least I didn't consciously have this agenda.

My blogging beginnings were born out of my need to limit the direct responses that Michael and I were having to respond to when he got sick. I began blogging to keep our family and friends up to date regarding his cancer treatment. Along the way I began collecting new friends, who were mostly other caregivers whose loved one also had a brain tumor. Anyway, it was after Michael's death that I realized that I then had a need to blog for myself.

That blog, which is the one you are reading, began on our first wedding anniversary. It was my way of keeping sane during a horrific time when my grief was still so raw. In time the whole experience became such a significant part of who I am. I was suddenly part of a community who spanned throughout the world. I made connections that continue to be significant today.

Anyway, along with these new connections, I had my friends and family, who continued to read my daily writings. At first they would contact me, and give me some feedback about my writings, or offer their support. In time they drifted away, as their lives are just as busy as anyone else's. As I have met new people along the way, they learn that I am a blogger, and often then search out my written words.

It is always a surprising realization for me that someone new has taken the time to read my blog. I used to check to see where my readers were from, which gave me an indication if any locals were checking in. With time I have chosen not to look to deep into these details.

So back to my original discussion. While at lunch today, while joking about something, my friend turned to me to joke about my libido. At first I wasn't sure what she meant, then it suddenly hit me, she had read my blog. I found this quite funny, and loved how she used her humor to share it with me. Yet without skipping a beat, she also shared that she found my words quite sad, and how they brought about tears. We discussed this briefly, and what surprised her most was that my written words were so different than how I was presenting myself to our group.

In thinking about all of this, I have to admit that my interactions during the day are significantly different than how I am once at home. I go from being outgoing and jovial, to being quiet and reflective. I go from being overtly sexual in my humor to feeling alone and starved. Is it that lack of touch that is coming out in my humor? I suppose. Is it my need for sexual intimacy? Emotional intimacy? Any kind of intimacy? Intimacy with him that I miss?

Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes.

Well, once again you have a blogger sharing what normal people keep to themselves. You have someone who is talking about subjects that most folks would consider far too revealing. Yet I always come back to the same place. What do I have to lose? Really. I benefit, and others benefit, from my written word. Sometimes it brings up discussions that I would otherwise not have. Keeping all these types of thoughts to myself is far too easy, and only serves to isolate myself further. There are too many of us out here who have suffered a great loss. There are too many of us out here who don't have someone to have these conversations with. So maybe they take the form of sharing too much. Maybe our lack of a significant other at home means that we say things, or express our thoughts and feelings in ways we never would have before.

Maybe we regret that we shared to much. Maybe we have no regrets.

What am I feeling immediately about this?

I think I'll keep it to myself.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rambling
















In the two years that Michael struggled with his tumor, I was part of an online community of caregivers whose loved one had a brain tumor. Most of these caregivers were spouses, yet some were parents. I kept in touch with a few of these people over the years, and followed many of their stories by way of Caring Bridge once I left the online group. Sadly, over the years all but one of those I have followed has lost their loved one.

Part of me was wanting to hold onto hope, to see that someone was actually going to survive this awful disease. Now not all of our loved ones had the same type of tumor, so to be fair, I'm sure some had a better outcome than Michael. Yet, of the those that I kept up with, just one has held on all these years later.

I'm sad to report that he, a young man, has now entered the hospice phase. As I read the updates posted by his wonderful mother, and I understand every word that she shares. I also empathize with her and her family, as this is a very intimate and painful period. You are savoring every moment, every breath that your loved one still has. This is coupled with complete exhaustion, both physically and emotionally.

Today as I was driving home I was thinking about this family, and wondering how they were managing. As my mind drifted a bit I began to sob heavily. It touched on a pain that I try my best not to succumb to these days. It's the pain of knowing that any moment could be their last, and wanting to hold onto each of them. I began picturing Michael in his hospital bed, and all the love and care he needed. I began to picture him in our own bed, sitting their doing his annoying Sudoku that he loved so much. I began thinking of him laying there next to me, with his eyes fixed on mine. I began to remember the feeling of holding him tightly in my arms as my body spooned his.

I sobbed, and I sobbed some more. I know that it doesn't help to get too lost in these old feelings, yet I suppose I must revisit them from time to time. I miss him so very much. I miss his beautiful smile, and the way he made me feel so loved. I miss his goofy flirtatious ways, and how I would laugh at his silly sexy moves. And I miss the look on his face when we would make love.


Yes, I know. These thoughts will only serve to bring more tears tonight, yet I can't help but go there. The difficulty for me is that this young man who is lying there in his own hospital bed, with all of his loving family caring for him, appears to be following the very same time line that Michael did. In two weeks it will the the second anniversary of Michael's death. It seems like a life time ago.

I sit here and take a deep. I know I was fortunate to have him, and yet I can't deny that I am not still angry that I had to lose him so quickly. I don't really know what the point of all this rambling is.

Just where I'm at I suppose.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Where did I put my libido?

fr_17

I am feeling painfully restless tonight. I'm not sure what I want, or if it is something that I can go out and find. I think this is a feeling that comes over me when I am on an upswing from my depression. I start feeling better, and feel like I should have more going on. But I don't.

I wish there was a place where all the single guys like me would gather just for conversation. You know, like a well lit coffee house, with not too loud of music, and not too many posers. You could just drop by, grab something to drink, and plant yourself down into one of several sofas, or over-stuffed chairs, and join in a conversation. It would be a given that anyone that walks in is immediately acknowledged, and welcomed. There would be no overt cruising, just light, fun, or even deep, conversation. Yes, at the end of the evening you could trade telephone numbers, and plan to gather again another evening, or just drop by again, as there would always be a number of guys eager for some interaction.

No, there are not groups to join. I've looked. No, the online thing isn't doing it for me. And no, I haven't been to yoga in months. I'm not really looking for ideas on where to meet guys, or how to meet guys. Okay, maybe I would like to know how, but what I think I am exploring is the desire to be back out there again. I briefly entered the land of the living last month, only to sink back into the safety of my home. I'm also well aware that I'm feeling especially lonely right now because the two year anniversary is coming up soon. For that reason in itself, I'm not sure this would be the best time to meet anyone new. I'm almost certain that I would just retreat once again, but who knows, the two year mark may not be any different than today, or yesterday.

I just know that I am spending too much time each evening staring at this computer screen, expecting something, or someone, to jump out. It's just not going to happen that way. I need companionship, and I need it from another man right now. No, not necessarily sex, as that has not been of any interest for me in the last couple of months. Which makes me question, where the hell did I put my libido? It appears to have been missing from my life for quite some time now. It's like something you just stop using, then after awhile you forget that you even had it. Then one day it occurs to you, hey, I used to have a very nice libido? I wonder where I put it? You go through all of your drawers. You open up the boxes you have stacked in the corner. You go through both of your cars. The kids start to ask, hey dad, what are you looking for? You say, well, something I misplaced, but not to worry, I will find it. Then you return to your search without ever having to identify that which you are searching for. The kids say, well, let us know if you want some help searching for whatever it is. Okay. Thanks.

Okay, so let's say I find the damn thing. Then what? At this point, really, what would I do with my libido? Yeah, I could take it for a walk by myself. But hey, I've been doing that most of my adult life. For a short time I was able to share it with someone that I loved. I always knew where it was when Michael was around. I never lost it then. Well, maybe I would put it aside at times, but I always knew it was there when I had need for it.

Oh well, it's getting kind of late in the evening. No sense to looking for it now. If I remember, I'll look for it tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Michael

















Tonight I needed something different. I have been feeling so down today, and really looked forward to coming home from work so that I could lay down and give in to my emotions. Being that I come home to my kids, and various pets, my plan didn't go exactly as planned, but I did eventually have the opportunity to enter my bedroom, and close the door behind me.

I needed to get in touch with why I am feeling so down. The tears came naturally, but I sensed there were reasons ingrained in my soul as to why I needed this time to acquiesce. After laying quietly on my bed I turned to a book on my shelf. It was sitting right below Michael's urn, which at the time was being cradled by my hands. It was a book called Michael's Journey, a printed version of my Caring Bridge blog from our journey through cancer. I have not looked at this since Michael died. I didn't have the strength of heart to go there, yet today I knew it was what I needed.

I turned to the entries that were dated around this time two years ago. It was a time when we were heading into Michael's final days. My words were quite straight forward in that I needed to quickly inform our friends and family about the progression of Michael's tumor. My words were also inspired by the love I had for Michael, and for the gentle ways he was still communicating his love for me. I laid there reading each entry, taking time to soak in each word with purpose. I kept reading until I got to that final day when I needed to let everyone know that he had departed.

Surprisingly, these words are giving me comfort right now. Yes, they were hard to read, and brought back emotions from a very intense period in our journey together. Yet, they provided me with the answers I was looking for tonight. I needed to know why my body and soul are struggling with such despair.

I went through so much during those days. How could I not find myself reliving those emotions during this time of year? I was living in the final days of almost two years of struggle. I was working overtime to care for my dying husband. And, I was taking in each moment, knowing that it could be our last moment together.

As many of you know, Michael lived on for almost another month from this time two years ago. It was both horrific and endearing. I was in pain, and filled with immense love. I was on overload. No wonder my heart has been feeling so heavy.

I think back on that time period now, and feel so blessed to be the one to care for Michael in his final days. I feel like I was somehow chosen to help prepare him to exit this world, and to send him off knowing that he was loved with all my heart. I can still picture his trusting face, and his eyes that would follow my every move at that time. He surrendered all to me, knowing that I would give him all that he needed. I surrendered to him, knowing that he would always be there for me.

I am a very fortunate man. I found love, and love found me. It came in the form of Michael. The sweetest man I've ever know.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

San Diego Here I Come!

San Diego Marriott hotel and Marina

Oh yeah, I'm already here.

Camp Widow 2011 is just one week away. I have been prepping for it for several weeks now. Candice and I are presenting a workshop for the newly widowed, which I suppose in the big picture I'm still a part of.

Perspective. I guess that's what it comes down to. Perspective.

Am I new at this, or is this old hat? I'm not completely sure at this point. I know that my journey has it's ups and downs. I know that I was on an upper for awhile there, and lately have been on a downer. Yet, in the larger picture, I feel like I'm doing okay. There is always room for improvement, and there is still plenty of time.

I'm really looking forward to seeing many friends next week. There will be so many that I will be meeting in person for the first time. I remember the excitement last year, and the joy that it brought me to be among those that I had been corresponding with all year long. This year has brought so many other new friends into my life, and for that I am grateful.

Who would have know that I would one day be looking forward to spending the weekend with a bunch of widows?

This is the life!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Good Grief! Hair Grief.

Elvis Presley

I didn't plan on writing again so soon, and I'm not writing to report any major change, just felt the need to write.

My son and I had a difficult morning. I was so frustrated with him, you know, typical moody morning teen stuff. Anyway, by the time I dropped him off at camp he knew I was a wit's end with his behavior. Perhaps he also recognized that I am at this low point emotionally. When I arrived to pick him up at the end of the day he was quick to apologize for the morning problems, and said he had a gift for me. He quickly removed a rubber sports bracelet from his arm. It was one of those bracelets that have metal that's supposed to keep you balanced, only his interpretation was that it was a bracelet that will make me feel happy.

Well, it did make me smile.

This leads me to move onto something more trivial. Hair grief!

Last weekend my son and I went for our monthly haircuts. The last time I was there my stylist suggested putting a color rinse in my hair to blend in my grey. Now, I love my grey, but had to admit that the color at the sides of my head are so stark, so I agreed. Well, last time it turned out nicely. The grey was still there, but just not so prominent. My stylist announced that it took 10 years off me.

Thanks!

Well, this time it was quite different. This time he got it into his stylist head to put in a darker color. When he placed me in front of the mirror I kind of freaked. It was black. Jet black. Well, that's how it looked. He saw the shock on my face, and quickly headed me back to the sink. He put something in my hair to lighten the color a bit. That something turned out to be bleach. Well, it lightened it up alright, but it turned my hair brown. And, by the end of the weekend, it looked sort of chocolate brown. I looked ridiculous. I turned to my daughter, who I knew would be honest with me. Arianne, what do you think? "Dad, it looks like you are trying too hard to look young." Shit! She suggested I go out and buy another color rinse, and dye it a darker brown, which I did.

What the hell did I do? Every time I look in the mirror I am surprised by the person looking back at me. Do I look younger, perhaps. But, it doesn't look like me. Now the nice people at work tell me it looks fine, and that they mostly noticed how short I cut my hair. Yet I can't stop looking in the mirror wondering who the hell is looking back at me.

Now I am fixated on the fact that I will be presenting at Camp Widow, and everyone will be staring at my damn hair! "Hey, where's Dan?"

What happens if I suddenly meet Mr. Right? Will he expect that I will always have brown hair? Will I be trapped into dying in every month?

Truth be told, I used to dye it. In fact, when I met Michael I had been dying my hair. After we had been together awhile he said that I should go ahead and let the grey come back in. He and I agreed that we preferred the grey. Well, Michael later shared something with me. After I had gone back to grey, Michael's prior roommate asked Michael what had happened to Dan. He said that Dan seems to be aging very fast.

Ouch!

Moral of the story? I don't really know. Perhaps it's that I should be less superficial. Perhaps it's that grieving people do strange things. Perhaps it's that old guys stay single. I honestly don't know. But let me tell you, I can't wait to see grey once again.

Good Grief!

Hair Grief.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tears

sad

You know, I have avoided writing lately. It's not that I've been busy, as there have been many quiet evenings. It's also not like I'm just sitting around doing nothing, as I hosted a fun gathering with friends last weekend, and have been quite busy transplanting two magnolia, and one palm, tree from the front yard to the back. I guess you could say my life has been quite normal.

Then why am I so depressed?

I can't shake it. My mood has been terribly low. Actually, extremely low today. I feel like either I'm very sad, or I'm not feeling anything at all. It wouldn't be so bad if I only had myself to worry about, but that is so not the case. I have a 13 year old that needs me, and needs me to be something beyond depressed.

I felt so bad tonight. I picked up my son from camp, and took him shopping for new shoes. Afterward we stopped for dinner, and that's when I realized that I had nothing to say, and I wasn't really focused on what he might be trying to share with me.

Is it time to get back on antidepressants? Last week the pharmacy mistakenly filled an old prescription for an antidepressant I was on in the past. It's sitting there on the table, ready to return when I get a chance. Now I'm wondering if it was just meant to be. Are there really mistakes in life? I don't know what to think.

I do know that I have really avoided my emotions for awhile. It's not that I have been in denial. I know what I'm feeling at any given moment. It's just that I have avoided tears. Yes, there has been no tears for quite some time. I needed a break from them. I was past the point of daily, even weekly tears. I was...shit

Tears.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Cost of Moving Forward

Summer Camp Graphic

I've been feeling quite stressed out these past few weeks. Stressed over money.

First a disclaimer, I'm not broke, and I have a regular check that arrives every two weeks.

I've forgotten how expensive summers can be when you are a single working parent. My son is now thirteen years old. Old enough to spend some time on his own, not old enough to always make the best decisions when on his own. I didn't want to be at work all summer, wondering, worrying, about what he was getting into while I was away. I also didn't wanting him sitting at home alone, bored, with the depression that still surrounds our home and lives.

I look at the distant years past, and our household was filled with many people. We had two parents, three kids, and a host of friends that visited on a regular basis. Now granted, we were dealing with Michael's tumor, and impending death, but we had a full and active life. For this reason alone, I wanted my son to have a summer where he was active, involved in many fun outdoor activities, and not focused on the fact that there are only our two faces around the house.

Today it hit me why I as feeling stressed about money, and why I have been feeling somewhat depressed as I pick him up from camp each day. I have not had to rely on such camps for several years. When Michael was around, Remy only went to camp when we felt he would enjoy it. Back then there was always one of us around if it got too expensive, or if Remy just wanted to be home with one of us. Last year, the first summer without Michael, I was not working. I had just quit my job, moved to San Diego, and the boys and I would hit the beach every afternoon. This year is quite different.

So, my realization? This is my life now. This is the aftermath of the tragedy of losing my husband. This is the emotional, and financial, cost that it takes to keep moving forward. The cost means that I have gone through a significant amount of money to provide myself, and my son, some sense of normalcy, some peace of mind, and hopefully, some a little joy.

The cost is emotionally taxing. The cost is financially destabilizing.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It's Raining Men






















Remember that Martha Wash song?

Well...

They seem to be everywhere these days. It seem like not so long ago I was sitting here, night after night, in my home, staring at the walls, feeling incredibly lonely, and now I have had three dates, with three men, in one week's time.

Am I a slut?

Well, if I slept with each of them I suppose that would earn me my slut-ville key to the city. It's just that a few guys approached me online about the same time, and I began exchanging nice, and interesting, emails with them. Not all live near me, so it didn't seem likely that I would find myself caught with too many dating opportunities at once, but that is in fact what happened.

This week I arranged for my son to attend a surf camp, where he would have a week of fun in the sun, camping with other kids his age. And, since I would suddenly have lots of unencumbered evening time, I put a message out to these nice guys, that I could be available for a dinner date. Two responded, and I made my plans. Then, the unexpected happened. I ran into a guy that I had traded passing glances, and one brief introduction to in May, and suddenly I had a third potential date. All that happened in the course of a couple of days, and I found myself having a bit of a panic attack at my desk Monday morning.

Here I am with several possible suitors, and I don't even know if I'm ready to be dating. I don't even know who I am completely. I don't even have worked out how to present my past, and my dead husband, to potential romantic partners. See my dilemma? And, as it turns out, they are all really nice guys. What does one do? Even back in the day, when I used to do some brief, and casual dating, I never really had the problem of having to juggle several dates at once.

What's interesting, and I didn't have time to get back to Chelsea about this, but she informed me about a dream she had the night before last. One that included Michael, and me, and the possibility of someone new being welcomed into my life. That same night, I had one of these guys over to the house, and as we sat in my living room talking, I realized that Michael was likely smiling. I was positive that he would be so proud to see me really starting to live again. I am also positive that he would revel in the idea that I might begin being sexually active once again. It's what he wanted for me. Well, to be loved, not necessarily to get laid.

What do I want? I want to feel alive every now and then. I know that my grief won't go away, and that I still have much to go through, but maybe, just maybe, I don't have to do it all while sitting alone in my house. Maybe I can take on more than one theme in life right now.

Grief and Happiness.

Grief and Pleasure.

Grief and Companionship.

At the same time, I am also keenly aware of the fear that should I allow myself to feel anything other than grief, that I could lose it in a second, and fall harder than I ever imagined. Yet, even as I write those words I am reminding myself that nothing could be as painful as those early days, so in that case, it's worth the risk of possibly finding some happiness, pleasure and companionship.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dating Again

table for two

Well, last week I wrote about visualizing change. In fact, "Visualizing Change" was the title of concurrent posts both here and on my personal blog. I thought it appropriate to discuss the issue in both forums, as I wanted to feel like I carefully explored what I was wanting and what I was feeling.

The subtitle to my personal blog is "one gay man's journey through love, life and grief," so I feel like it is appropriate to be sharing each step of this change. I have shared my grief, so now it's time to share other developments in my life, including my quest for possible new love. I tend to be a man of action. If I say I'm going to do it, then I must be ready to follow through. Well, for those who visited my blog recently, you might have seen that I in fact took that first step.

First Date.

It was the first date in 5 years. I don't think the time described is what is actually most significant, as even if it had been less time, or more time, it would still have been a monumental step for any of us. It's about feeling ready to open the door to possibility. It's about presenting yourself to another person, from where you are at this point, and with all the expected baggage.

For me, it meant showing up. Not just in person, but emotionally. I had to be available to let someone in, if only for a short time, and if only for a guarded look. What I found was that I was indeed ready. Now, the first step I took was to not over think it. I made the choice to put myself out there, and someone voiced interest. That was enough to let me know that the timing was right. And, a first date is just that, a first. There was no need to worry too much about expectations, and there are usually very little of them the first time out, at least for me that is. I approached this as an opportunity to sit across the table from another adult, enjoy a nice dinner that I didn't have to cook, and to share in some mutually satisfying conversation.

My fist date didn't mean I was committing to anything other than having this introduction. It didn't mean that I was going to marry this person. It didn't mean that I needed to fit in with his family and friends. And, it didn't mean that I had to be sexualy compatable with this person. All of these thoughts and concerns are what will get played out if I continue to see this, or any other, new person. So, putting those worries aside, I realized that the first date was not very scary at all.

I won't get into the personal details of the person I met with, or too much about the conversation, as I don't want to ever make him, or others, feel that anything that happens around me will end up on some blog. What I can say was that our dinner conversation was primarily a very intense conversation about God. Yes, God. Now that I reflect back on it, I'm sure that is the last topic that many Americans would expect two gay men to be discussing out on a first date. By the end of our dinner, he asked what I thought. I said that I enjoyed our conversation, and that the subject was one that I both enjoy, and feel comfortable, talking about. Yet, I also said that after this somewhat intellectual conversation, that I didn't really have a good sense of who he was, and that perhaps he didn't have a good idea of who I was.

We chose to go somewhere else, and just sit and talk. And that's exactly what we did, for an additional two hours. I now feel like he can make a good assessment about my potential for a platonic or romantic relationship. I can now do the same. Yet, I am also quite aware that I have no need to make any quick decisions, as I'm in no hurry to define, or limit, the types of relationships I am developing for myself.

Will I see him again. Yes, if that is what we both want.
Will I see others as well. Yes, as that is what I want.

The change I was visualizing has room for many people. The change that I am visualizing has room for many types of relationships.