Reblogging this because it’s an important topic for all couples, regardless of your age, state of health, whether or not you have children. We had those conversations, mainly because of the sudden death of my sister and my cancer diagnosis. He, of course, was going to live forever. Being eleven years younger I always had a sense I would be widowed at some point until the events of 2012, which seemed to level the playing field a bit. And to Wife After Death, ask yourself what you would want for him, had you gone first. xxoo
If you are lucky enough to still have your spouse intact, I have a question.
Do you ever discuss, you know, the D word? Is ‘death’ part of your warm, couply vocabulary, or is it one of those subjects like exes and the fact that it took him SO FUCKING LONG to propose that is never broached?
Even after He was critically ill, and the click-whoosh of His mechanical heart valve kept me awake at night, my husband and I never discussed what would happen in the event of the other’s death. It was taboo, I guess because it had almost been reality and neither of us wanted to think about the what ifs.
Besides, that Registrar in the hospital, the little fella with whom I high-fived like a fucking cheerleader when I saw him months later in the heart clinic, stated quite clearly that Mark ‘would have a normal life span’…
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Going through one of the many collections that have taken up space in my life and cupboards for nearly 30 years I decided to display the shot glasses on a little shelf. I was washing them and reminiscing about where we purchased them. Some were gifts so I get to live those memories of trips to Paris and many tropical islands vicariously. The best ones were the ones we bought on our own trips. New York, Boston, New Orleans, Texas, Florida. A few from his single days. Then there were the ones from Santa’s Village and Storyland. Really? We bought shot glasses on these family trips? I don’t recall doing that. I do recall wanting to drink. Badly. For those of you who don’t live in New England, Storyland and Santa’s Village are in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire located conveniently near each other. So near that after spending an entire day trudging through one, the little cherubs are sure to spot the one you didn’t visit. Parents, you know how that goes. We are approximately 3 hours away. Most people would spend the night. Maybe do one park each day over a weekend. Not Mr. Frugal. He liked making it a day trip. We would leave the house at 6 or 7 a.m., my sister and her family coming along in their own car, drive for three hours, stop a few times to pee, eat, pee, puke (not me.. Thing 3). Finally we would arrive. Complain about the gate fees, take a few forced family photos (one of them of my nephew even made it into the book Awkward Family Photos – true story), walk until our feet were bleeding, buy over priced toys and souvenirs (I bet those shot glasses were not cheap!). Storyland was just what you would imagine. Like speed reading a children’s book on acid. Santa’s Village (where we invariably visited on a day when it was 90 degrees with 100% humidity) had many of the same rides but with a Christmas theme, a fully suited Santa (he had to have a fan in his pants.. I don’t know how he survived otherwise), singing elves, mangy reindeer. All the stuff of great childhood memories. After a full day, we would pile the sweaty, tired kids into the car and reverse direction.. puke, pee, eat, pee.
So yeah, buying the shot glasses.. no memory at all. Wanting a drink (or three).. like it was yesterday!
If I had it do to all over again I would in a heart beat and I can’t wait to take my grandchildren. 🙂
Here’s the little prince in the picture that made him famous. In my family alone we have about a dozen copies of this book.
I’m sure he was just mad because we made him let the little one drive. She looks like she’s having fun, but she was probably talking smack every time they were out of earshot,.
My husband loved to play bank. His favorite game was getting services and not paying any fees. Consequently this involved moving our money frequently, sometimes as often as several times in one year. When I questioned the wisdom of doing this I was told “it’s all here in the notebook”. This was a battle I wasn’t going to win and he was extremely careful with money, so I let him have his fun. Mistake number one. After 30 years together no one should be having fun. Especially when it involves computers, cash and
secret extremely creative passwords.
I have been spending my time
cheerfully contacting banks, both local and afar, armed with account numbers, user names and passwords, his social, my social, my blood type and the secret family recipe for tourtiere pie. My list of where we don’t have money has far exceeded my list of where we do and I am painstakingly crossing off each institution. Having narrowed it down I have either sent a copy of the death certificate with my written instructions on what I want done with the account or, in the case of local banks, taken care of it in person. Each time the account was closed, within a week there has been a letter addressed to him informing him that someone (I would assume they mean me.. the co-owner of the accounts, wife, widow, holder of the paperwork confirming he is no longer making banking decisions) has closed his account. He is to contact them immediately if those were not his wishes. Can I get a big round of what the fuck? Seriously.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve been pretty silent on the blogosphere. I’ve reblogged a few gems from some of the smart ladies that I follow, but otherwise have not had a lot to say. Mainly because life was becoming blissfully normal and really, who wants to read about the day to day musings of a 50 year old woman? Nothing to see here folks. I had planned to blog on the one year anniversary of my sister’s death. That is coming up on July 10. Actually I planned to reblog the post I made about 10 days after she passed. It’s not like anything has changed in that regard. She is still gone and we still miss her. I was contemplating an update when I see my oncologist in July. Truthfully I don’t expect anything new to come from that visit so unless something horrifying or hilarious happened on the way to the center it would be a pretty boring entry.
What I never in my wildest imaginings expected to be blogging about is the unexpected death of my husband. On 4/29/13 we welcomed his new grandson in Texas. On 6/1/13 we celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary with a trip to the coast that included eating lobster and looking for “treasure” in flea markets and antique shops. I looked for things to sell in my ebay business. He looked for vinyl and other collectibles that he could display in his “man cave”. On 6/5/13 I spent the day setting up a charity lawn sale and when we both arrived home at the same time I told him I was too tired to cook and asked him to pick up sandwiches. He did and we had a quiet evening. He called a close friend and talked for a time, then called his son. About an hour and a half earlier than he normally went to bed, he announced he was “freezing” and was visibly shivering. I felt his forehead.. no fever. He was not sweating. He had no other symptoms. We both went to bed and slept normally. The next morning we were planning to visit our daughter in law before she flew home (she’d been here for a funeral) so he had the day off. We both slept a little later than normal. When I got up he was in his recliner under two blankets. I asked he if was still cold and he said no, just achy and really tired. While I made coffee he got the paper. He didn’t touch his coffee or the paper and at one point just got up and went back to the bedroom. I asked if he’d gone back to bed and he said “for just a bit”. I checked once, he was on his side facing the wall. Fifteen minutes later I heard what I thought was loud snoring and went in. He was now flat on his back. I could not rouse him. I could not move him. He appeared to be choking so I called 911. While on the phone, he stopped breathing. He was gone. Just like that. The EMTs were there in minutes and worked for over 45 minutes. On 6/6/13 @ 8:26 a.m. my life changed forever.
Within hours my house was full of family. My kids stayed with me for more than 2 weeks (leaving in stages). I had some wonderful quality time with the new baby. I hated to see them all go, but my new reality involves living alone and doing for myself. I would love to hide under the covers or sit back helplessly and let others do for me, but that just prolongs the inevitable.
On the practical side there are decisions to be made, bills to pay, I had to buy health insurance for the first time in my adult life as we were always covered under his work plan (thank God I’m through with the expensive part of cancer treatment). I’m looking for work because even though my small business is making money, working alone is very isolating.
I guess I do have plenty to say after all. Huh, who knew? Those of you who followed my journey through breast cancer are invited to follow my new journey through early widowhood. I promise it won’t be all doom and gloom. As is typical in our family there have been some hilarious moments that have you laughing/crying at the same time.
Remind me to tell you about the financial institution that had me convinced someone had stolen my husband’s identity, had named names and was insisting I file a police report. Only to find out it was their mistake after all (which I had been telling them for 2 days). That’s a long story for another day.
They say God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. He can stop any time now. I’m not the bad ass He makes me out to be.
In spite of it all, I remain mainelyhopeful.