Monday, February 28, 2011
...I wish I could say that I'm well, or that I have been so busy out having fun, dating, and moving forward with my life, but that would be a bold face lie.
Truth be told, I am stuck. I am stuck in the damned mud, and have put little effort to get myself out of it. Where am I stuck? In the land of the non-living. In the land of the morbidly lonely.
I was thinking about this a lot today at work. I feel so isolated at the office. (More on that later.) I came home tonight and found that a reader, Jimmy, had left a message on my blog, basically wondering where the hell I was, or more apt, how I was. It made me smile, and laugh a bit as well.
Where I am is lost. Where I am is disconnected. Where I am is alone.
I was thinking about this at work, as I feel so "not" connected to anyone in the office. Part of the problem is that I am a floater, no not a fluffer, at least that job would have me interacting with others. Just as soon as I was developing friendships, and enjoying lots of laughs at the office, they up and moved me. Currently I'm in a unit, and floor, that is a bit more reserved. The women I work with are friendly enough, but everyone seems to keep to themselves most of the time. Also, they have worked with each other for quite some time, so they have developed strong friendships. I get the feeling that when people see me walking by, they wonder who I am, or perhaps realize that I'm just floating through the floor, so don't get too invested.
One of the things I really long for is friendships, relationships, with other men. For a social service agency, there are a significant amount of men who work there. The problem is, they don't seem too friendly. I take that back, there are a few very nice guys, who do go out of their way to say hi when we cross paths, but most don't say anything to me. Even when I say hi, or smile, I don't get much in return. What am I, the plague? The kiss of death?
It made me start to wonder why this is happening. Of course the easiest thing to turn toward is my being gay. One thing that I have realized in moving to San Diego, is that it is much more conservative than I am used to. Not that this is a surprise, but I guess I expected different. You know, when you work in a field that is filled predominately by women, you would think that the guys would reach out to each other. Not the case with me. I can't seem to get those connections made.
Driving home I was doing my usual combination of trying to sort out my life, and fight back tears. If I look at my life, and who has been there for me, it's the ladies. When Michael was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and I went looking for online support groups I turned to a brain tumor caregivers group. Now I can't say I was the only guy, there were a few that popped in and out, but I was the only one who became a regular in the group. It was me, and the hundreds of ladies. I remember searching online for a men's caregiver group, but it didn't exist. When one guy in the brain tumor online group asked about starting an off-shoot men's group, I said that I was interested, but wanted him to know that the person I was caring for was another man, not a women. I never heard back from him.
After Michael died I found myself in the same situation. I searched, and searched, trying to find a gay widowers group, which for a short time I had in San Francisco, but it ended after only eight weeks. In turning to the Internet, I came up empty handed. When I looked for a basic widowers group, no such deal. So I ventured out into cyberspace on my own, by way of this blog. Now, one of the first to embrace me was another widower blogger, turns out there are maybe three of us. But who are the ones that welcomed me into their lives, the ladies once again. God love them. I do.
This all really makes me wonder, what the fuck is wrong with me. Am I not acting like a true man? Obviously not. Now I know there are guys out there who lose their spouse, or guys at the workplace who could use a new friend, but are guys not supposed to express such needs? Once again, obviously not.
If I am honest, I need to take some responsibility here. I know that I have many insecurities. You can't grow up as a gay kid, especially a Latino (meaning male of Hispanic origin) and not feel like you don't measure up. When I think back to the Camp Widow that I attended last summer, I can share with you many great conversations I had with many of the women there, but can only recall one conversation with one of the guys. I just wonder where exactly am I supposed to fit in? If I join a widower's (meaning male) support group, they will be talking about losing their wife (meaning female.) If I try to join in on a widow's (meaning female) group, we are all talking about losing our husband (meaning male,) except I am not a woman.
This is depressing. Let's move on to dating.
Recently I have put a lot of effort into joining some online dating services. I have posted pictures and filled out every detail requested in the profile. Some guys have stopped to read my profile, but nobody is writing to me. Is it that ugly word, widower, that may be sending them running? I know that I am not an unattractive guy, so really, what could it be?
Okay, by now you are all sufficiently tired of all my moaning and complaining. I am too. If you are really frustrated with me, blame it on Jimmy, he's the one that begged me to write. Here is something I am working on. I need to stop being such a passive guy, and go out there, hit some guy over the head with my club, and drag him back to my man cave.
I recently bought myself a Kindle. Yes, yet another electronic toy. Further proof that yes, I am a man. I really needed it, as I can increase the font size so that I can actually read what is in front of me. Get some glasses you say? Fuck no. I paid a lot of money years ago for Lasik surgery, and I'll be damned if I will wear glasses again. Anyway, that wasn't the point. I have been reading a book called The Manly Art of Seduction: How to Meet, Talk To, and Become Intimate with Anyone It is written primarily for gay men, but it's a great book for men in general. At first glance, you would think the book is about how to get someone into your bed. Now maybe that is the ultimate goal for many of us, but it takes this much deeper. It is really making me look at myself, and own up to my own insecurities and fear of rejection. The book is written in a workbook fashion, and it tries to help you understand how to get a date and move it forward into intimacy, both emotional and sexual. Who doesn't want that?
Anyway, this is my current attempt to pull myself up by my bootstraps. And speaking of straps, have I shared with you how much fun a leather whip can be?
Thursday, February 17, 2011
"Dad. I don't think I would have been emo if Mike hadn't died."
-says my 12 year old emo son.
"My friend's house is just like ours was right after Mike died. Everyone just takes care of themselves."
-says Remy in response to my question about how meals are handled at his friend's house.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
I desperately need to elevate my mood.
It's a very wet and gloomy day. I am in pain, as my back has been quite sore for days. Unfortunately, ever since the incident with my teenage son, my back has been causing me lots of problems. Here's the biggest problem, the thing that keeps bringing back the pain is the thing I enjoy the most. Gardening.
This has really depressed me. And, just like my grief, no matter what medicine I take, or what ever I try to do, my back pain won't go away.
You know, I hesitate to write, as there doesn't seem much new to say. I go to work each day, and get so much done, as I am a quick, thorough and organized worker. Eventually, like today, there is little left for me to do. I've offered to help other workers with their cases, and have done some work for others, but once again, I sit there bored, with too much time on my hands. I get home and it's more of the same. Because I stay of top of things, there isn't too much to get done there as well. I once again end up bored, with too much time on my hands.
Here's the problem, I used to have more to do during, and after, work. There was more to do at home as well. That more to do was...a life. I used to have a full life. Now, I have lots of empty time. This is further exaggerated due to having little interest in anything. I don't feel like reading. I don't feel like watching television, and nothing else seems to spark anything within me.
I'm feeling old. Older than my years would indicate. I look in the mirror and I see an old man. I move about, and i feel like an overly weathered man. This is really sad.
I keep wondering what it's going to take to regain some of that vitality I once had. Is there some kind of Viagra for the heart and soul? I could sure use the boost. I would sure be nice to see that deflated heart of mine stand up and take notice of the world around me. Even if only for a few hours. At least I would have a little enjoyment that I could look back on with pride and joy. I could walk around with a silly little grin that would tell people that I recently got some...some happiness that is.
Monday, February 14, 2011
It's Monday night, Valentine's Day night, I'm all dressed in red, and no where to go.
Today was a very busy day at work. I spent the morning filling out documents, and entering data on the computer. My afternoon was spent meeting with families in their homes. And while the day was moving along fairly fast, my mind seemed occupied with other thoughts, and I never really felt appropriately focused on what I was doing.
It wasn't until moving along in very slow traffic at the end of the day that I realized how sad I was feeling. Lately I have either been more removed from my feelings, or leaning toward the more peaceful side. I don't ever really know what I am feeling, or thinking, as everything in my life still feels a bit complicated, and cloudy at best. Today, in traffic, I began to visualize Michael on a good day. I was feeling his smile, his touch, and his humor. It all felt so good, and so familiar. Then just as quickly, I felt stabbed in the heart with the reality of him no longer being on this earth.
It all just didn't make sense to my heart. My thinking self is always a realist, but I suppose my heart isn't. It was that feeling of "this can't be." How can there no longer be a Michael Lowrie? He can he be permanently out of my life?
These same thoughts and feelings are still lingering within me tonight as I move about my evening routine at home. I keep stopping in my tracks, and quietly start to cry. It's just me and my son Remy here, and he has been in such a good mood, so I don't want to worry him with my sad 'ol self. I took some time for myself in my bedroom, and let the tears flow. It brought me some relief. I then took off my work clothes, and just laid on the bed, not wanting anything to touch me. I think I was feeling overwhelmed with emotion, and didn't want to add any outward physical stimulation to my body. I wanted a pure moment with as little connection to this world as possible. If it were possible, it would have been most satisfying to just float there in mid air, no clothing on, no wind to distract me from my inner stirrings. When I felt aptly satisfied with giving into my emotions, I reached into my top drawer, and took out my comfort clothing.
I have never been much for pajamas. In the evenings I had always been more of a boxers and t-shirt kind of guy. Michael was very much a pajamas kind of guy. He had pajamas for almost every occasion. Some were fancy ones from Japan, others were nerdy ones like Star Wars, and others were seasonal. But my favorite were just an old pair of red plaid pajama bottoms that he would wear with an old t-shirt of the same colors. They came to symbolize comfort to me. Whenever I would see Michael in these I would just want to wrap my arms around him and smother him in kisses. He was just adorable.
Now, whenever I need that extra layer of comfort, I don his apparel. At first my kids thought I was nuts, as clearly they are way too big for me. But in time they began to see how much comfort they provided me. Some people eat comfort food. I wear my comfort. I suppose it's the closest thing I have to Michael wrapping his arms around me. It allows me to move about my evening with only his touch directly on my body.
Tonight I can wear my red, and make like I'm celebrating Valentine's Day. A couple of months ago I could wear it and look like I was celebrating the coming of Christmas. I know that I don't need a reason, nor do I need to justify it. I'm sure that everyone that comes across me will know that I am doing the best I can, taking care of myself, and feeling close to the man I love.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
I sit here surrounded by beauty. I love beautiful things. I have carefully selected each item to bring into my home. Each possesses a quality that brings me to peace. Each has a aesthetic that blends with what ever mood I am in.
Tonight I am feeling pensive. Is that a feeling?
I went to a cocktail party tonight. It was a client appreciation event given by my realtor, Jonathan. He is a wonderful guy, and puts so much effort into bringing each of his clients into the fold of his family. I got to meet a few new people, and was especially excited to meet Patricia, the loan officer for my new home. We had corresponded by phone and email, and even shared some thoughts on grief along the way. It was nice to put a person, a face, to the voice.
Going out like tonight is such a stretch for me. It is quite far beyond my comfort zone. I was thinking about this on my way home. I kind of have two distinct persona's these days. At work, as a professional, I am very self assured, and find a way to connect with people everyday. At home, in my personal life, I am much more reserved, and feel more vulnerable.
I went tonight, as I think Jonathan would have been disappointed if I didn't show up, but it was so tempting to find a reason not to go. You see, I am very uncomfortable in these social types of situations. I was also more filled with anxiety, as the room would be filled with many happy new home owners, which I assumed would translate to many happy couples. I was right.
I realize that it has been 17 months that I have been single once again, but I still feel like I am wearing a sweater that doesn't truly fit. It feels stiff, and unlived in. I know that the more I wear it out in public, the more it will soften, and in time it will be an old familiar and comfortable fit.
As I stood there, smiling at everyone at the party, I couldn't help but think about the person missing to my right. He was also a bit of a wall flower at such events, so we were perfectly matched in that way.
You know, this road has been quite difficult. It has introduced me to a level of pain I never knew existed. It introduced me to a life I never wanted, nor was ready for. But I must say, I have come a long way. When I drove up to my home, I sat in the car, and decided to check my email on my phone. There was a message that was left on a blog post from last year, entitled Gay Grief. It is the one post that usually comes up quickly in a Google search, which is exactly like I wanted it to.
Back when all this started, 17 months ago, I sat there on my bed, in the middle of the night, and tried to find someone out there, someone with a voice like mine. I didn't find it. I was looking to something for this heart broken gay husband, who had just been transformed into a widower. I felt so alone, and could feel myself sinking deeper and deeper into despair. Those feeling didn't get any better for quite a long time, but I just kept on writing, as it gave me a reason to wake up the next day.
Tonight a new gay widower found my blog, and poured out his heart. He too knows despair. He too is feeling so alone. He too wonders why he is here. I share this to let him know, and all others that need to hear it, we are here. There are many of us here. We know your pain. Some of us have wondered how we will survive without the person we love. Some of us have come close to making a choice to end it all. I was one of those people. I am pleased to say that I survived one very scary night, and I continue to survive. Is my life easier these days? Yes. Do I still feel the deep pain of my loss? Yes, again.
I do believe that there will be beauty again in my life, and in my heart. I do believe that I will slowly become more comfortable away from my own home. I do hope that my nights will not always be so quiet, and so alone. Until then, I will continue to stretch my wings. I will continue to draw peace and comfort from the beauty that I surround myself with. I will continue to find joy in the little things I do each day.
Today I worked on my backyard. It is lined with very tall, and out of control, bamboo. It grows faster than I can keep up with, and takes a great amount of strenuous work to maintain, but it is quite satisfying. I do like hard work. I love to look behind me, and see all that I have accomplished.
When I was done working, I got myself something cold to drink, then sat on a chair out on my back deck. The sun was shining brightly, and there was a lovely cool breeze. I looked up at the sky, and saw beauty. I smiled, and felt joy.
Monday, February 7, 2011
I’m sitting here next to my mother’s bed while she sleeps. It’s nice to see her sleep, as when she is awake she is just in pain. Earlier when she was awake I asked if she heard the doctor earlier, who was talking to me about her possible discharge. They can’t seem to find any medication that takes the headache away for more then 10 to 15 minutes. They have used up all of their arsenal, and feel that it is time for her to be at home, where she basically has all the same medications.
My mother turned to me to ask what I was giving Mike when he was at home. It was a question that surprised me, as other than remembering to tell how much they miss him, my parents don’t often ask too many questions about what those days of hospice were like. I let her know that he had various medications that would calm him, but mainly I was giving him high doses of morphine. She has her own supply of morphine at home, but the goal with the medication is very different. I explained to her that the goal with her is to reduce pain so she can get through each day as best as possible, and the goal with Michael was to keep him sedated, as he would otherwise have been suffering not just from the pain, but that he was no longer able to swallow, and I had to keep him from getting agitated. She nodded in an understanding way.
After she fell back asleep, I pulled out my laptop, and started going through all of our pictures. I haven’t done this in awhile, as it usually just brings me too much pain. But having my mother ask me that question earlier made me realize that those were still some very special and loving time. Death is difficult yes, but it can also encompass so much beauty. I really miss taking care of him.
Michael and I were very fortunate, that in our short time together we were able to do a lot of traveling. We went on many local weekends away, as well as many larger vacations. Some were with the kids, or with family and friends, but mostly it was just the two of us. We traveled very well together. We are both very easy going people, and besides, I just let him take the lead in planning each of our days. As I look at the photos that span from a couple of months of knowing each other, to a few months before his death. Each is filled with such love and joy. I particularly love to see photos that I took of him, or that he took of me. In these I am able to see him looking directly at me. I can see the love and delight in his beautiful eyes. In looking at the photos of me looking at him, I see the happiness that I never had before experienced. My kids, and my parents, always told Michael that they had never seen me as happy as I was with him. The photos of me looking at him clearly illustrate this.
It’s nice to look back at these photos and feel joy. I’m sitting here with a smile on my face and a bit of a giggle when I see one of us being goofy for the other. Some of those photos were when we had what I call our innocent days, which were prior to cancer. We had nothing but time ahead of us, and we were carving out a future that seemed without limits. I then look at the photos of us post cancer, and that same joy is still present. It serves as a reminder that even in the thick of facing his illness, and our limited time together; we never let it take from the joy we felt with being in each other’s company.
I must admit, although I am still not quite the same, meaning I walk through my world feeling quite depressed, I am changing. I am slowly allowing those memories that for awhile made me feel cheated, to now begin to remind me of how lucky I have been.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
I spent a good part of this afternoon sitting, and hanging over the side, of a hospital bed at the local Kaiser. My mother lay there, hand on her head, trying to find a way out of the painful headaches she has been suffering from. Medication after medication, with very little relief. All I could do was hold her hand, rub her back, and get her another cold compress. I felt helpless, knowing that while she appreciated that I was there, I was really of little help. I couldn't take her pain away.
Throughout the day, the nurse would come into the room, log on to the computer, and look at my mother's medical records. I know the Kaiser system well. It is where Michael received all of his medical care. We would meet with his oncologist every two to three months, log into the computer, and view his latest MRI. We would sit with a combination of hope and fear.
As I sat there next to my mother, my body was remembering oh so well, the posture of trying to sit comfortably in a chair next to a hospital bed. While Michael didn't spend too much time in a hospital, we did have a hospital bed for him at home, and I spent far too much time leaning over the metal bars that separated me from the man that I loved. Most of the day I would be leaning over the bars, hold Michael's hand, tending to his needs, and speaking softly to him. At night I would push a cot next to his bed, and do my best to stay close to his side without ever letting go. In his final days I laid there in the hospital bed with him, rarely sleeping, just holding, kissing, tending, and crying.
For the past couple of nights, and also tonight, my father is doing the same. I know that my mother will be coming home eventually, as I don't think it is her time, but I do look at this scene, and fear for what lies ahead. During my years of caring for Michael, my father was caring for my mother. When we were able to take a break, he and I would compare the roads we were on with our spouses. We talked about what love, and commitment, really meant to us. We listened as the other talked about the sense of exhaustion, and also the fear of loss.
As I left the hospital room tonight, I turned and took a final look into the room. There they were, the perfect loving couple. One in need, the other at her side.
"In sickness and in health."
I must admit, I felt a tinge of jealousy. Here they were, in the same position as Michael and I, yet 25 years older. They have been together in marriage for 54 years. We had less than four.
"In death do us part."
Yet, when I think about the parallels on a deeper level, I know that while Michael and I had far fewer years, we did have that same deep love, and that same deep commitment. Tonight I want to thank my parents for teaching me how to love. And I want to thank Michael, for accepting my love, and for the honor of sitting beside him when he was in need.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Recently I have come to realize that I am in a bit of denial when it comes to how my children are dealing with their grief. Most of the time they don't say much about how they are feeling, but then I have to remember, they are pretty much all teenagers. They aren't supposed to know what they are feeling anyway.
This past weekend I had some good friends over for the weekend. We spent a good amount of time reminiscing, and also sharing where we find ourselves in our lives. My 19 year old daughter was with us for most of this. At one point the conversation turned to a discussion about the various ways people can feel about their spouse. Some people consider themselves kindred spirits with their spouses, other's say they are good friends. Sometimes spouses will say they have grown apart, some have found deeper love with time. Some have shared honestly about compromises made to make a marriage work, and others share that they loved their spouse whole heartily.
During one of these type of discussions, I could see that my daughter was getting quite teary eyed. She then turned to me and asked how I loved Michael, and how did we relate to each other in private. I assured her that I loved the hell out of Michael. I also let her know that while we were mostly in sync with each other, we both really appreciated, and enjoyed, our differences. Those differences often became something endearing to each other. With these words, my daughter's face relaxed, and a peacefulness found a home in her eyes.
Yesterday afternoon I was driving my 12 year old home from school. I could see that he was in a deep, and thoughtful, place. I asked what was on his mind. He said that his class had watched a movie about bullying, whose main story line was about a gay teen. This story really cut him deep, and made him feel sad and emotional. He then said that sometimes he feels like life is not always worth living. Of course I have felt this way at times as well, but got very concerned hearing this from my son. When I questioned him further, he said that he feels that he has gone through so much more than other kids his age. He has lost Michael, his step-father, lost his birth mother, and has experienced the emotional, and physical, challenges that have plagued our family. Before I could respond to this he then said that at the same time, he feels very good about our move to San Diego. He loves that he has developed some really good friendships in our own neighborhood, and that I have given him some increased freedom, which makes him feel like I have recognized that he is almost a teenager.
Each of these recent situations have really caused me to look beyond my own personal grief, and get in better touch with the grief that my kids continue to struggle with. I have sometimes wondered if they were feeling the loss of Michael as strongly as I have, as their relationship to him was different than mine, and that the must have at some point pulled back a little from him as a way to self protect when he did die.
I love each of my kids, and try to always be mindful of the fact that loss has always been with them. Even at a young non-verbal age, they began experiencing loss, especially when they were removed from their birth mother. It's hard enough when you are an adult, and have words, and some wisdom, to attach to your experiences. It's another matter when your mind has not yet fully developed, and you are trying to make sense of something that will never truly make sense.
Now just as quickly, and unexpectedly, as my kids' recent sharing of their sorrow arrived, they have moved on to their other daily activities. They seem better able to just shift here, and shift there. For me, I need to not allow myself to get too far into my own denial of their grief. I need to remember that even though they are running around with their friends, laughing, and making plans, they too carry a considerable amount of grief with them everyday.