Sunday, November 20, 2011
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
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
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.
Monday, November 7, 2011
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
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.
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.