Don’t ask

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Oh, I don’t mean you. You can ask me anything.  Don’t Ask is the red banner I imagine has been placed prominently across my medical file and/or employment files at my local hospital.  I had my 6 month check with Oncology yesterday and all is well on the cancer front, though apparently I am working on an ulcer. Maybe.  Or more likely my body is just reacting to the absolute clusterfuck my life has been for the past 18 months or so.   While discussing the possible causes of the stomach pain I’ve been having (yes.. I “went there” and anyone with a past diagnosis of cancer knows exactly where “there” is) and how I’m not sleeping much these days, I mentioned my husband had recently passed away.  It was exactly a year ago since she asked how my summer was going and I reported that my sister had just unexpectedly passed away.   Her face.  I almost felt sorry for her.    I was told I am doing “remarkably well” whatever that means.  Am I supposed to open a vein every time I tell someone new?  Wear widow’s weeds?  Image

As I was leaving she mentioned again how remarkably well I seem.  I told her I had no choice and she said “you can always crumble”.  I told her “not yet”.  Besides I got shit to do. I’ll schedule a break down for another time, thank you.

Last week I had a job interview.  The first step was a telephone interview with all of those ridiculous getting to know you questions.  Then I got to do it again face to face.  Things were going well until the interviewer asked “what is the biggest personal challenge you have had to face in the past year and how did you handle it?”  So, I told her.  Tissues all around.  This could go either way.. a pity hire or a big red banner across my file that says. Don’t Ask!   I’m okay with either.

I used the kitty graphic because those crazy eyes are exactly how I feel these days but the graphic below speaks to me.  I hope it speaks to you too.

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Wait. I’m supposed to know this shit?

I have been looking at my husband’s pickup truck sitting in it’s usual spot, unmoved for 6 weeks now.  I can’t drive it. I don’t want to drive it. It’s doing no one any good just sitting there and I said from the start I wanted to sell it.  But I kept putting it off. Today I grabbed my camera and the keys, gathered all the information I needed and placed an ad on craigslist.  I was very thorough, mentioning the mileage, work it needed, any features I could think of and within minutes I got an actual inquiry in my inbox.  “What is the engine”? Engine? I’m pretty sure it has one. I don’t want to look.  What if I find a large hamster wheel under the hood?   I’m not ready to deal with all of this. Shit.

 

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Road trip

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My youngest daughter (sometimes known in my on line circles as Thing 3) and I took a trip   to visit my older daughter (Thing 2). We had plans to see She and Him in concert at the Bank of America Pavilion in Boston.  My husband had bought these tickets shortly before he passed away. The girls and I love the band.  He wasn’t a huge fan, but just loved music of any kind (except country!) and spending time with his kids.  The girls and I had a nice time.  We rode the T and did a lot of walking and entertained each other with memories of his running commentaries during such excursions. He was a big guy with a lot of aches and pains. His complaints were legitimate but his delivery was so funny that it was hard to take him seriously.   One year he and I went down for the 4th and walked around for hours with Thing 2 and her roommate.  We all had sore feet but he had “no ankles and no ass” after walking for miles and then sitting on a concrete curb for hours waiting for the fireworks.

When we arrived for the concert we were approached by a young lady who works for Live Nation.  She was very engaging and friendly and we were laughing and having a nice chat. Out of the blue she asked “Where’s the mister”?  The girls and I just looked at each other and finally she said.. “Oh, I guess it’s not his thing”.   Why would anyone ask one woman in a  group of three where her husband is?  I bet I could have ruined her night with an honest answer.

The concert was great.  Camera Obscura opened.  I had never heard them.  She and Him played all of my favorites and did an a capella version of  Unchained Melody.  It was amazing.   I had a few weepy moments.  He would have loved the concert, the time with the girls, all of it.   Having to take 2 buses and 2 trains to go a few miles, not so much. However, he probably would have contributed some real gems to the family quote book.

Did you think I was avoiding you?

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In the grocery store?  I was.  I have been doing okay with most things.  Taking care of the usual necessary arrangements. Switching accounts and bills over to my own name.  Making arrangements to have all of the things done that I never had to worry about before.  I can have lunch with friends and talk about what happened. No problem.  Lately, though, if I see someone I know in a store I want to hide. I try not to catch their eye.  I turn down an aisle whether I need anything in it or not.  There are two kinds of people I see at the grocery store.   The ones I haven’t seen since the funeral and the ones I haven’t seen or heard from at all. As when my sister died, this is summer vacation. People are away. I really don’t want to be explaining what happened in front of the frozen peas or breaking down in the wine section (that just looks bad on so many levels). So if I give you a small wave and then turn away, please don’t be offended. And please don’t go out of your way to catch up with me in Dairy. Neither one of us will leave there feeling very good.  Instead of socializing I walk through the store like a ghost, picking up this and that, putting most of it back.  I buy tons of vegetables and fresh fruit and days later throw most of them away. I pick up packages of snack foods he liked to take to work and then remember that I just cleared all that out of the house and it all goes back. Cereal?  I don’t eat it, yet there are a 1/2 dozen boxes in my cupboard at the moment.

Yesterday was the one month mark.  We (the girls and I and my mother) went out for lunch and a movie.  We had a nice time. The movie was good. Exciting even.  I had a lump in my throat through most of it.  He would have liked it. He might have even stayed awake for the whole thing.  I don’t know why it made me sad.  I didn’t even particularly like going to the movies with him.  Because he always crowded me .. you know the type, taking up all the arm space on both sides.. and then would fall asleep.. only to wake up at various points during the movie wanting to know what happened.  He did the same thing when we watched movies at home. We had this routine.. me:  “are you up for a movie?  can you stay awake?”  him:  “sure”.. me:  “well, I know you’re tired and I don’t mind waiting until the weekend” him:  “just put it on”  him (5 minutes later): snoring.  I would spend the first half of the movie nudging him and the 2nd half hoping he wouldn’t wake up and start asking what happened. And after the movie ended he would get his second wind and spend hours on Facebook posting obscure music videos.  Nevertheless, we had a fairly long list of shows that we watched together, usually a full season at a time through Netflix. I guess all couples have their thing.. marathons of Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Shameless, Boardwalk Empire.. was ours. Interestingly, he could stay awake though all of those, but if I put on Weeds (at his request) he would sleep through most of it.

I can talk about how he died.  I can talk about what to do with his things, should I sell this? donate that? save it for the kids?  Those conversations feel normal. Doing groceries, making dinner, choosing what to watch on TV..those are the things that can have me reaching for an Ativan.   He loved to eat and I loved to cook.  We had an unwritten rule as a family, once the kids were old enough.. everyone pretty much fended for themselves for breakfast and lunch, but dinner was eaten at the table as a family every night.  Even the grown up kids were expected to be there if they were living here or visiting.  And we would hold dinner until they showed up.  We didn’t eat in front of the TV.  Over the past few years, if he was watching a game or we were just relaxing I would sometimes say.. “do you just want to eat in the living room?” .. it became a habit.. maybe once a week, but the majority of the time we still ate dinner as a family at the table.. even if it was just us two.  The table now holds a small stack of magazines (I guess I should cancel those subscriptions) that I have no interest in but can’t throw away, my ironing board and iron, a vegetable steamer and assorted other flotsam and jetsam of my life at the moment.

When my sister passed away we would talk about what the loss meant to each one of us, but the one I could hardly talk about without breaking down was her live in boyfriend.  She died in their bed in the home they had made together.  I couldn’t stand the thought of him being there alone, returning home to the emptiness. He had lived in the house alone before he met her but she had definitely made her mark on it.  I could not imagine what he was going through. It felt so much worse than what the rest of us were.  And now.. less than a year later I am in the same exact position (Dear Irony, I am no longer your biggest fan).  But strangely, I feel more anxious when I am away from home than when I’m here.  I do force myself to leave every day for one errand or another.  Baby steps. One foot in front of the other. Apparently that’s how you move forward.

A friend asked me the other day if I was mad at God.  I said I didn’t dare be mad at Him, I would be afraid of what He had in store for me next. We both laughed. I wasn’t kidding.