I went out in this. Mother Nature saw fit to dump about 4' of snow on us in two days shortly before Thanksgiving. Already depressed and feeling trapped up here on the mountain, I watched it falling. We had forgotten to take the screen door off, something Bill would have planned for, so I couldn't get out the front door.
Power went off and on sporadically. Schools closed and plows didn't make it to our back road. Fire departments and emergency vehicles were called out all over the county, but I still went out.
In two days I would have 23 people for dinner. I would get dressed, smile, welcome them and try not to have a melt down. It wasn't something I was looking forward too.
As I sat there watching it pile up I thought about the new vehicle in my driveway. I'd spent, or would be spending by the time I make all the payments, $35k on a four wheel drive SUV, just so I wouldn't be stuck up here all winter.
I started the car. My son-in-law came in and said, "You won't get out. The snow's up to my waist."
I looked at my boots.
"Make me a path to the driver's side door that's knee level," I asked. "You don't have to go to the ground, just not over my boots."
"The snow's over the hood of the car and the roads are terrible."
"I don't care."
He shoveled. I made it to the car and got inside, pressed the button for 4 wheel drive and plowed through. I would have made it too had I not stopped to make sure nothing was coming. That's when I got stuck, right at the end of the circular drive.
Between him shoveling the front of the car out and me rocking between drive and reverse, he was finally able to shove me into the road.
I drove to the casino, trying to keep to the main roads. Avoiding my usual route where there is a steep hill and deep creek I took another road. It was not my best choice. Power lines were covered with tree limbs and hanging low but I made it under them and managed to stay on the road.
I think the casino is the land of lost souls. Not that there aren't people having a good time. We used to do that. We used to go with a group of family and friends, have dinner and gamble into the wee hours of the morning. Those aren't the folks I'm talking about.
I'm talking about the ones who sit at their machines, mesmerized as they watch the falling balls, the spinning wheels. It's not about winning money, although that happens occasionally, it's about the thoughtless repetition, the mindless killing of time.
I stayed for hours and hours. My daughter asked if I would be home before dark, but that wasn't my plan. Why would I want to be on those horrible roads when people were trying to get home from work, rushing in and out of stores for bread and milk? No, I stayed till late.
It was a long, quiet drive. I don't believe I saw 10 other moving cars on the road the whole way home. There were several cars off the road and I saw a few tow trucks, but for the most part it was just me with my low beams on trying to stay on the road.
I told myself when I left that morning I was being brave, even listened to This Is My Fight Song, on the radio. I had something to prove, to others, to myself. I am not afraid. What should I fear? Death? I don't think so, but as I drove that long dark way home I wondered if I had a death wish.
Normal people do not go out in that kind of weather unless they have to. Maybe if they are surgeons on a life saving mission or having a baby, but not to go to the casino to sit with the other lost souls.
Bill would have been livid. We would have had the fight of the century.
I loved the Twilight series. Read it accidentally when my daughter left the first book on the dining room table. I'm not a vampire, blood and horror woman, but that book grabbed me from the very first page and I read the entire series twice. I took a car load of teenage girls to the opening night in town and had a good time, but I hated New Moon. Hated how sad it was and watching Bella morph into a lifeless, empty young woman. I hated the things she did to hear Edward's voice, putting herself in danger. I never watched that movie again, always skipped it. For some reason it resonated with me back then and I couldn't be in the same room when the girls were watching it. Let me tell you, whoever wrote the screenplay knew a thing or two about grief.
I wondered if I'd done it to hear Bill in my head. I don't think so. Maybe I did it just because I could. Maybe just because for the first time since I was 16 I didn't have to answer to anyone.
I also went to NJ to visit a lady I love very much who is terminally ill. Cathy and I drove five and a half hours for a two hour visit and don't regret one minute of it. She has a lovely home that reminds me of a cottage in a Thomas Kincaid painting. A sweet place high on a hill with lovely vines trailing the porch rails. There's gingerbread trim and a rose bush at the bottom of the steep stone steps. She raised three boys in that house and standing on the stairs I could almost hear them raising hell, running up and down the stairs and slamming doors. The house has a life of it's own and I'm so glad I went.
Then we went to PA and stayed the night at The Sands Casino, which is lovely by the way. We had a good time and were punch happy tired and laughing. At 3 a.m. I had to tell Cath to shut up so I could say my prayers.
I bought a new freezer. Not because I didn't have one, but because I had a fear of falling head first into the chest one I had.
I bought a new car I didn't particularly want, to please my kids.
Most of this stuff is out of character for me, so I've decided to call them Random Acts of Grief. I think it's as good a label as any.
We did have everyone for Thanksgiving, although Cathy did most of the work. Caitlin found a new napkin fold that was lovely where you slip the silverware into little pockets. She took care of all the china, crystal and place-cards. I peeled the potatoes and made the gravy. I did good. I took one break where I went into my room, locked my door and stayed in my closet for a short time crying into Bill's robe. I'm glad it's over. I had a hard time trying to be thankful, which is a little crazy as I have much to be thankful for, just not the one thing I need the most. Note the empty place at the other end of the table.
I have a nice little house. It's not very big, about 1500 square feet, but at one time it housed a lot of love. This was pretty much our Thanksgiving Dinner every year. It's always been my favorite holiday, mainly because it wasn't about gifts, it was about family and giving thanks for all we'd been blessed with.
This year my family is fractured. Bill was the peacemaker. Nobody, but nobody wanted to make him mad or hurt him. He was the glue. They say that's usually the mother, but in our case it was him. I was too outspoken, too truthful and to tell you the truth I always thought the kids loved him more than me.
They would deny this, of course, but it's true. Make Mom mad and she will bitch and point out exactly why you're wrong. She'll battle it out until you tune her out. Dad would look at you with an expression on his face that would have you slinking away in shame. Your conscience would torture you until you apologized and mended fences.
Two of my three boys aren't really speaking. There are problems with assorted girlfriends, ex-wives, unpaid debts to each other, jealously about who got what of Dad's, who is getting what of Dad's, I could go on and on. I'm grateful they sucked it up for the funeral, but as soon as that was over the real issues began. Or maybe while Bill was ill I ignored it. Maybe during the days following Bill's death I didn't notice the underlying trouble. It's hard to believe that grown children who came together to love and support each other during the most painful time in their lives would revert to sibling rivalry as soon as it was over.
My two daughters aren't much better. For a variety of reasons too personal to go into they have a very contentious relationship. For Dad, they put aside their differences. Now that he's gone, each day is a new and wondrous opportunity for trouble. They are both loving women, too bad they can't love each other.
Sometimes I wonder where these children came from. They were all raised in the same house by the same parents. Parents who for the most part treated each other with respect and love. Maybe it was me. I admit I have a temper and can only be pushed so far. There was the time I got so mad I threw an entire pizza on the floor and jumped up and down on it. There was the time I got so mad at the washing machine I tried to shove it out the back door and got it stuck. That was a little hard to explain when Bill came home.
During the political season I've heard them whisper to each other as they come in the house, "Don't activate CNN," meaning don't get Mom started. Maybe I'm not the mother I thought I was, or tried to be.
I've been thinking about the word 'home' and wondering where mine is. Home should be the best place in your world, the place where when you walk in the door you breathe a sigh of relief. This is the place where people love and accept you. This is where you come to put aside the days troubles. It's not really a place, it's a feeling. You're with your people, your family. They understand you. I don't have a home anymore. The only person in all the world who 'got me', who knew me inside and out, who understood what motivated me, what was in my heart and soul, is gone. So where is home? It's not in his arms. It's not in our bed. And I certainly don't think it will be around the Thanksgiving table.
Do I really want to spend a small fortune, cook two turkeys, bake dozens of pies, get out the good china and crystal for a meal where people are only here to placate me, make me feel better when I know in my heart there is nothing in the world that can accomplish that? Maybe not.
Last Sunday we celebrated All Saints Day at church. Bill and on were married on All Saints Day in 1975. If was a very emotional day and I cried through most of the service. Thank God I'm a silent crier. You'd never know unless you were looking at me, other than the occasional sniffle. By the time I went up to light a candle for Bill, my shirt was wet. Pastor Sue pulled me into her arms and whispered in my ear, "He still loves you. You'll be together again." In truth, that is the only thing that keeps me from checking out.
I cried most of Monday and off and on all week. Yesterday Cathy and I went to lunch and shopping with my sister and niece. My sister cried through a good deal of lunch. I did not. I felt like I had to be strong for her. Also I didn't think the lunch crowd needed to see a table of blubbering women and that's what it would have turned into had I not kept my shit together. The tears are always there, hovering, waiting for their chance to fall. Sometimes I try to fight them off and sometimes I don't give a damn. Yesterday it was Linda's turn, and that's all right.
Anyway, I got thinking this week about all the great things I've posted about Bill. I don't lie, in fact I've been know to be brutally honest. A sin? I'm not sure.
In any case I've thought about how we almost idolize the dead. I started trying to think of bad things about Bill and pretty much came up empty-handed, at least for the last 30 years or so.
In the beginning, it was different. We had some fights that should have had the neighbors calling for help. Bill was older and pretty dominant. I was the baby of my family and really, really, felt I had to have the last word. At times we were combustible, even volatile. On the other hand we could steam up the windows in the car faster than anyone I ever knew. We had a passion for each other that defied reason.
While I tried to remember fights from when we were younger and times he was a total ass, all I could remember was standing in the back stairway two steps up from him so I wouldn't get a stiff neck and making-out like crazy. One terribly cold winter's night we were tearing each others clothes off in the car parked in the driveway when my mother came out in her robe and slippers.
"For heavens sake," she said. "Come inside before you freeze to death."
My mom was pretty cool like that, and she loved Bill.
He had a temper, I was stubborn to a fault. We had issues, so don't think it was all hearts and flowers between us. Bill was far bigger and stronger than me, but I wasn't afraid of him, even though he did think of me as sort of portable. More than once he flung me over his shoulder when he thought it was time to go home and I disagreed. Jerk.
He also could be a mean drunk. Give him beer and he would have a grand old time, dance with a mop and throw his last cent, possibly his car keys and his wallet into the hat they passed to keep the band playing. When he drank whiskey, preferably 'Old Grandad', he could be a mean son of a bitch.
One night after a party we went to a local bar where he got into the Grandad. Suddenly he thought some guy was coming on to me a little too strong and it being New Year's Eve and all, he didn't like the way he kissed me. Seriously, I thought the guy was a great kisser although he wasn't much to look at. See, you can never tell. Still waters run deep and all that.
We left quickly. I don't mind a good fight now and then, but bloodshed is not my thing and then there's all the apologizing when the poor bastards sober up.
We didn't really speak on the way home, but once on the porch Bill took his massive fist and punched out all six sidelights on the door like a jackhammer. I mean really, he did it so fast I couldn't say a word until he was done.
"Feel better?" I asked, tapping my foot.
"No," he replied. "It's going to cost me money and I think I lost my wallet."
"It's in my purse. Are you hurt?"
He got as far as the couch and passed out. I left him there.
Another time he got so drunk I drove him home with his legs sticking out of the back door of my best friends little Omni. It was the only way I could get him in the car and it was only from across the street. He made it to the couch on the front porch, and he was sicker than hell. The woman mixing the drinks at the graduation party damn near gave him alcohol poisoning.
I brought out a fan and plugged it in hoping that would help. The kids were actually crying.
"Mommy, is daddy going to die?" they asked.
"No, he's just going to wish he were dead," I replied. "Go on in the house. I'll take care of daddy."
After that I always asked the same question when he asked me if I wanted to go out "What are you drinking?" If it was beer, I was in. If it was whiskey, I'd pass. Around 40 he pretty much quit drinking altogether.
Oh he'd have a beer or two or maybe a cocktail, but that was it. I didn't quit, but I had the worlds greatest protector who watched me like a hawk. When he figured I'd had enough my beer would disappear to be replaced by a coffee fixed just the way I like it. That was my signal and while I might pout for a moment, I knew he was only thinking of me.
Somehow, without planning to, we'd grown up. I learned not to push his buttons and he learned how to cherish what he had. I no longer wanted to grab a step stool so I could wring his neck, and he no longer got mad enough to flip me over the hood of his car and spank me in broad daylight while I screamed for his mother to come help me. That four foot nothing woman came out of the house with a flyswatter and smacked him till he let me go. Bless her heart.
My point in all this, is that Bill was not a saint, even though no man could possibly be more loved and adored. For the last couple of years as his health began to deteriorate, I would find him sitting in his office where he was supposed to be working on a model car. He'd take my hand, his eyes sad.
"I was an ass for a good number of years," he'd say. "I'm sorry for all the times I hurt you."
"Why are you bringing this up now? We've made mistakes, and done some pretty wonderful things too. I don't think about the past. I want to treasure each and every moment we have now."
"But I hurt you," he'd say.
"I forgave you a long time ago, and to tell you the truth all the good things have pushed any bad memories away. When you truly forgive someone, you forget and I did. If I had to do it all again, go through all the bullshit to have what we've had for the last 30 years, I would. Please don't think about those days. I don't. I remember the good times and I know there isn't a man alive who could love me like you do."
Everything I told him was true, and I think that's why it's so hard for me to remember bad times now. Our life was about love, and love isn't always neat and shiny. Sometimes it's messy and painful and you wonder why you're still in it, but you hang on to it, because it's really rare.
One of my favorite memories is from when we first stated dating. I asked him if he could skate and he said sure, he was really good at it, so we went skating. I remember laughing as he struggled to stay up on hockey skates he hadn't worn in a number of years. I, on the other hand, wore my white figure skates with the little pink pom poms.
He had me on strength and speed, but I skated circles around that man and there was no way he could catch me. After a while he was out of breath from trying and I skated closer. He made a grab for me, but I laughed and eluded him.
"Sooner or later you're going to have to take those skates off, girly girl," he warned with a promise in his eyes.
I smiled and skated right into his arms. "I can't wait."
God, how I miss those days, how I miss him.
I went to vote today, and in case you're wondering, I'm With Her. Anyway, my polling place is about six miles up the road. Driving home I passed a little bar and no I did not go in and drink myself into oblivion- they were closed.
While I was driving I suddenly remembered that when Bill and I first moved to the 'back of beyond' in 1991 we went to that bar one night with some friends.
It was a fun night. We drank a few beers, played some pool and sat on the deck laughing and talking.
When it was time to go home, I drove. It's only two miles down the main road and as I was driving along I was chattering about what a good time I had and how nice it was to have a fun little bar so close to home.
"Boy," I said. "This is so cool. It only takes a couple minutes to get home."
"Well it would", Bill replied calmly, "If you hadn't just driven by our road."
I smiled remembering that.
To be fair, our turn is on a curve and at least half the time there is no road sign as people keep knocking it down, not to mention you'd have to drive at least five miles to find anything resembling a streetlight.
If he were alive, he'd be laughing at me for feeling like I have to justify something that happened 25 years ago. WTH!
Are we forever in limbo? We are not physically dead, yet neither are we alive? I regret feeling the loss of Bill's mobility was a big-deal, when the loss of him, his heart, his soul, his warmth, his breath is so much more.
I don't dream of him, at least not that I remember, but the other night, I did. I would think it should have been about something monumental, but it was stupid really. A silly thing, a simple thing.
Around the house I tend to wear clothes that are way to big for me. My point of view is that technically, I'm dressed, but it's really like being in your pajamas all day. I always have to keep one hand free to grab my jeans and keep them from dropping to the floor. This has happened on many occasions when I was picking something up or carrying something with both hands. Bill always laughed and shook his head, but he understood my attachment to my 'pajama jeans'. I'm big on comfort. Bras are instruments of torture in my opinion, something to put on when company is coming or I have to leave the house. I have several sizes of these too. Ones to toss on for modesty's sake, and others for when I actually care what I look like.
Anyway, in my dream I was at some sort of party. The weather must have been warm because I was wearing faded jean shorts and a purple tee. I think I was cutting a cake using both hands and sticky with frosting. There seemed to be a lot of kids running around. Suddenly I felt my shorts slipping. I knew it would be a matter of seconds, one small move and they would be around my ankles. I would be exposed in front of everyone present.
I felt his hands on my hips, sliding them back into place. He held them there, leaned down and kissed my hair. I woke up still feeling his hands, the warmth of them, the gentle strength of them, his huge grip. I smiled and reached for him, forgetting he was gone. I opened my eyes and saw the smooth covers on his side of the bed.
Death glared at me with a sick smirk on his face. Grief punched me in the heart. Loss stole my breath.
What becomes of the brokenhearted?
This page is now my blog/journal about Widowhood. I'm not qualified to give advice. I'm new at this. I don't want to be qualified. I don't want to be a widow, but no one asked me. These are my thoughts, fears and feelings. Please don't equate them as anything but that.