It’s over. Christmas has been survived. I actually think the hoopla and pre-Christmas stress was worse than the day itself. The kids and grandkids helped keep my mind of losing you, at least for a little while. We have a new grandson, he’s adorable and a wedding to look forward to, so that’s different.
All the kids asked what I wanted for Christmas weeks ago. What could I say? I asked for a set of rain guards for my car windows and a pair of opera glasses. Your binoculars are too heavy and awkward for me to hold for long. You’ll be amused to know I didn’t get either, lol. Not that I care. They are nothing I can’t buy for myself.
Here’s what I really wanted:
I want to hear your voice, “Come here, Girly Girl”. I want to feel your arms around me, gathering me close. I want to rest my head on your chest and listen to your heart ticking away like a clock, assuring me your valve is working. I want to touch your soft beard.
I want to smell you, the same cologne you’ve used since the early seventies. So many times I wanted to be absorbed into your body, like osmosis. I wanted to melt into you, literally, until there was one person instead of two. I wanted to be inside you where I would be safe and protected always. You always understood when I said that to you; Never looked at me as though I was a nut, just held me closer.
I want to be in the cellarway of my mother’s house, standing on the second step so we are face to face. I want to feel your hand cupping the back of my head as you kiss me senseless. I want to see the humor and satisfaction in your eyes when I come up for air. I think you were proud you could reduce me to a puddle of goo.
I want to see the smile in your eyes and hear you snort when you are trying not to laugh at me for doing something stupid. I want to hear you laugh out loud when my jeans fall off because I refuse to get rid of my ‘fat’ clothes. I love them and won’t get rid of them until they are rags, which isn’t far off, but you get it. “You might want to think about getting a belt,” you say as you pull them up for me because my hands are full. “Too bad you bought new panties,” you sigh.
I want to feel you kiss my hand, the back and then the palm before you cup it to your cheek and tell me I mean more to you than anything in the world. I want to feel you reach back and pat my ass before going to sleep as though to reassure yourself that I’m there. I want to slip my hand under your pillow in the night, knowing I won’t disturb you, but the weight of your body tells me you’re next to me.
Most of all I want to take the memories and pictures in my mind and print them out like photographs so I’ll never forget what it felt like, how loved I was, how much I loved you.
I look at the forty plus years of ornaments we’ve collected and the gold angel wings we put on the tree last year in memory of our parents. I never imagined we’d need a set for you before the next Christmas came around. I hope I never have to put another pair of wings on the tree. The kids can do that when I’m gone.
We didn’t decorate much this year, just the bare necessities for the grandkids not to notice. No manger, no village, no wreath on the door. We didn’t even light the big tree outside that now looks more like a squash than a tree when the lights are on because we never got around to fixing them before you left in such a hurry.
I sort of feel like it’s pretty un-Christian like of me, not doing all those things and not going to church Christmas Eve. I just couldn’t honey, I was too emotional. I know I should have been celebrating Christ’s birth and all that means regarding us being together again in Heaven, but I’ll just have to pray for forgiveness. It’s not like I haven’t done worse things, like the skinny dipping incident after Carolyn’s wedding. Lord knows I prayed about that for weeks.
So, I’m pretty sure you already know all these things, like how much I love and miss you, and how lonely I am without you, but I also figure there’s not much you can do about it. I’m kind of on my own with this one baby, not something I’m used to for sure. I guess I’ll either survive without you or I won’t. There are no other options that I can see. Some days I feel like I’m going to be okay, others, like today, my heart hurts so much I think I’m on my way even as I type. In any case I won’t know any more than you did.
I try to think if there is anything we’d have done differently had we known that morning would be our last. I don’t think there is. Even now it sometimes seems as though I dreamt it and it’s not really true. Oh how I wish that were so.
I have to assume you’re gloriously happy in heaven and seriously, I don’t resent you for that at all. After everything you suffered there isn’t a man who deserves it more than you do honey. I just wish there had been more I could have done for you down here. Holding you while you shook in agony nearly killed us both. There I was trying to get my arms around you to stop you from shaking and there you were patting my hand trying to comfort me. What a pair, huh? I’m glad you were not in that kind of pain ‘that’ day. I’m glad it was quick and I don’t have to remember seeing fear or uncertainty in your eyes.
I get up early now. Funny huh considering you were always sunlight and I was moonlight? I used to hate it when you would throw open the curtains and tell me to “Wake up, it’s gonna be a golden day.” I know I threatened you with assorted forms of torture as I pulled the covers over my head.
Now I get up to watch the day break. I can’t really call it sunrise. There is no glorious burst of color over the horizon here in the northeast, at least not often. No, it’s sort of a gradual lightening from black to gray. I sit in your chair. I can’t stand to see it empty. I wait for the birds to become visible in the dim light as they come to the feeders.
The other day Caitie was up with me as we quietly waited for daybreak. “Grampa had the best chair in the house,” she said. “He could see down the road through the huge picture window and see the birds as they make their way from the pine trees to the feeders. And he could see you, Gramma.”
It never occurred to me that I was part of your view as you were part of mine. We did a good job with her, Bill. She has heart and empathy. Her words are eloquent in a way she doesn’t even realize.
So, it’s on to the New Year. I don’t expect anything different, any miracles. I think we had ours, for finding you, loving you was surely more than I deserved. From 16 to 61 you took care of me in every possible way. I’m not doing a very good job of that without you, but maybe I’ll get better. I think you taught me everything I need to know about love, about life, I guess my heart needs to heal a little before I can put all that good ‘country boy’ knowledge to use.
I love and miss you, my love, more than words can say. Merry Christmas.
Your Girly Girl
P.S. B came this morning with a gift he and Dawn forgot to bring yesterday. A small pair of binoculars.
It’s not hard to believe it’s been 100 days since Bill died. I feel it every day, remember it nearly every moment of my existence. He’s gone. I think my heart has accepted it. I know this because of the constant pain in my chest. I always thought ‘a broken heart’ was a metaphor. It’s not. There is physical pain, an aching pressure that never goes away. At times it’s difficult to speak, swallow, and breathe.
I avoid the phone. I know this sounds terrible. People are calling to ask how I am and I should answer, but I have no answers, at least not ones they want to hear or one that I’m comfortable talking about. I am Humpty Dumpty, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men…
It’s funny really, Bill could fix anything. Give him some Elmer’s glue and he was on it. Once he broke our toilet with a snake while trying to unclog it. I’m sure one of the kids flushed something down it. I heard some magnificent swearing coming from the bathroom and went in to find a gaping hole in the front curve of the bowl and Bill holding a piece about 6-8 inches in diameter.
“Holy crap, how did that happen?” I cried. “We can’t afford a new toilet.”
“Don’t panic. I can fix this,” he promised. And he did fix it, with Elmer’s glue after taking it off and drying it good. Then he glued it and put one of those big clamp-on lights shining directly on it until it dried.
“It’ll never hold,” I scoffed. It did hold, in fact I don’t think we ever replaced it and eventually we moved.
The kids thought their daddy could fix anything and because of that I had a hard time explaining death. When Jeremy stuck a spoon into an electric outlet and shocked himself good, turning the spoon and part of his fingers black I told them how dangerous it was and how he could have been killed. He didn’t believe me. “My daddy can fix anything.”
When B.J. cut the 220 dryer cord in half with a pair of pliers, blowing every breaker in the house I was terrified, sure I’d find him dead after hearing him scream from the back room. He was all right. Thank God he chose a pair of rubber gripped pliers or he would have been killed. I had the death conversation with him again. His reply, “Don’t worry mom, my daddy can fix anything.”
I don’t think they began to understand the permanency of death until we lost a puppy. This stray had a death wish of his own. He was cute as a button and constantly getting into trouble. He got tangled in a fishing pole and hooked snooping around the shed. Another day I was carrying groceries into the house and a bag ripped. A glass jar of baby food went crashing to the stone steps and before I could set the bag down, the puppy was on it, licking the food and glass while I hollered my head off.
Finally one day Bill stopped on his way back from a call with the firetruck. I don’t remember what he wanted to tell me or pick up but he pulled the truck in the yard and came inside. Of course all the kids wanted to get close to it and did. The puppy did too, crawling under the truck and laying down behind a tire. When Bill went out he counted heads and waved the kids back. He never knew the puppy was under the truck and when he pushed in the clutch to start the truck he rolled back and over the puppy.
The poor thing died instantly. Bill felt horrible and of course the kids, neighbor kids and I were all screaming. “There,” I said,crying my eyes out, “that’s dead and daddy can’t fix it. Do you understand now that some things can’t be fixed?”
It was a hard lesson. I’ve never forgotten it and I’m pretty sure the kids haven’t either. Bill went and got a shovel and buried the dog out back. The kids had a suitable funeral and made a marker. In a way I felt bad for them. They suddenly realized their father was not invincible. He was not a superhero who could turn the world backwards like Superman to avoid disasters. On the other hand I was relieved that now when I said not to do something dangerous I had a chance they would listen to me, at least until they were teenagers and knew everything, not to mention being immortal.
Despite that early lesson as time passed and they grew into adults with children of their own, they always turned to their father for advice and help. I was the finance person. If they called for money he would always say, “Ask your mother.” Anything else was his department. He could diagnose car problems over the phone from thousands of mile away.
“Take the phone outside and let me listen to the motor,” he’d say. Just by the sound he often knew what the problem was. He talked my brother-in-law, not a mechanic by any means, through changing his own brakes, step by step from three thousand miles away.
When the internet became a big deal I wanted him to start a business. I figured there were so many people who needed to learn to make small repairs to their vehicles and he had a wealth of information and the patience of a saint. (Most of the time) How many times have you wished you knew a mechanic you could call for advice? He would have made a fortune, but he wasn’t interested. He wasn’t particularly fond of talking on the phone and he said between working his regular job and taking care of me, the kids, his family, he didn’t have time. He was probably right.
I guess where I’m going with this is that some things cannot be fixed, even by the most patient person with the best glue in the world. My heart is one of these things. Shortly before she died a little over a week ago, (another heartbreaker), I talked for the last time with my dear friend, Jan Pereira. I told her that I was sort of checking off milestones. Get through our anniversary. Get through Thanksgiving. Get through Christmas, etc. So far it wasn’t working. Yes I might make it through the day or event, but as soon as it was over I was right back where I started. Here’s what she said to me:
“You’ll never get through it. It doesn’t go away; it’s forever so stop trying so hard. Most people survive it, some don’t, but most do and you will too. The grief will never leave you, it’s part of you now. You can’t escape it; only keep yourself busy if you can. In time you may go a day without crying, but you will never stop missing him so badly you want to die.”
Jan was dying, soon. She’d been dying since the day I met her. Right up front she said, “I love your books. Hurry up and write another, I don’t have a lot of time.”
We bonded instantly. My mother died of what was killing Jan. Her husband died and I was living in fear of losing Bill. We had a lot in common and she was such a ‘real’ person, I could tell her anything. I listened to her fears, regrets and let her talk to me about her coming death. My regrets were that when my mother was dying, we didn’t talk about it, not really. We both knew how limited her time was, yet I was in my bed crying and she in hers. We didn’t want to make it worse on each other.
Jan helped me heal from that. She was in the same place my mother had been. She didn’t want to burden her children and make it worse for them, so she talked to me. By taking with and listening to Jan I was finally able to forgive myself for keeping all my pain to myself. I was able to let it go.
Jan was a remarkable person who always made me laugh. Often we would laugh and cry at the same time. She flew in to visit us for a weekend and I tried to come up with interesting places to take her.
“No,” she said. “I came to see you, to spend time with you. I don’t care about any of that other stuff. Show me your office. Tell me how you think up all these stories. I want to get inside your head.”
So we ate takeout, talked and talked and watched Frozen with my granddaughter. I was so sorry to see her leave when the weekend was over and regret how long it took me to repay the visit. I never made it to her house until shortly before she died. I’m so glad I went. At our last conversation I asked her to find Bill when she got to heaven and tell him to come and see me.
“I will if I can,” she replied.
“I want you to come to me too,” I said, hugging her gently. “Tell me how I’ll know it’s you.”
“You’ll feel a breeze across your cheek, as though I’ve kissed you,” she promised.
God, how much can hearts take?
I remember rushing to finish, The O’Malley Brides with her nipping at my heels, lol. It turned out she lived through 10 more books, but she never stopped using her approaching death to hurry me along. Once she asked me why authors used such awful names now.
“Why don’t they use normal names so women can pretend to be the character?” she asked. “If I don’t like the name, I just change it in my head to something I do like. Then I call them what I like as I read along.”
“What names do you like, Jan?” I asked her. “Want me to write a book and name the characters Jan and Kenny?”
“God no,” she laughed. “At least not until after I’m dead. I like Cheryl,” she answered.
“Okay, I’m going to write a book and name the heroine, Cheryl.” And I did.
Near the end she wanted me to send her something new I’d written. I hadn’t been writing much. The story about Maeve and Sean O’Malley, Kiss Me O’Malley, had sort of been on hold. It’s hard writing romance when you’ve drowning in grief. She asked me to send her what I’d written. She didn’t care if it wasn’t finished, so I did.
When we went to visit her she’d had trouble downloading it and my daughter Cathy managed to get it on her Nook. She said she was going to read it, but she never did. The pain meds worked to keep her as free from pain as possible, but they also made her groggy and she couldn’t read.
That last visit I told her I wanted to write a book about us, two women who met by chance on the internet and became the very best of friends. I wanted to know if she had any objections. I have hundreds of emails and messages and someday I hoped to put them into a book.
In typical Jan fashion she replied, “What do I care, I’ll be dead.” Then she laughed. Lord, she was so brutally, refreshingly honest about everything. That is a rare quality in anyone. I’m truly missing her.
She told me that eventually she’d see me in heaven. She and Kenny and Bill and I will be great friends and stay in a beach house. I looked at us and sort of snorted.
“Don't worry, we’ll be 30, and hot,” she promised me. “We can cause lots of trouble.”
It’s one of the rare things I’m looking forward to.
Bill always said, “If you want to run with the big dogs, you gotta learn to pee in the tall grass.” If you’re not an analytical person, let me explain. Do you want to be brave, admired, respected? If so, you need to venture forth, take a chance, tough it out.
Bill was like a German Shepard, big, strong, brave and fiercely loyal. He would defend his pack, (me, the kids, his family or anyone else lucky enough to be loved by him) with his life. He wasn’t afraid to take chances, but he was oh so smart in assessing the risks.
Most people would see him as uneducated. He only went as far as his senior year in school before dropping out to help support his family, and truthfully because he wasn’t particularly fond of being told what to do and how to do it. He had a natural ability to fix or repair literally anything he took apart, including nearly any vehicle, motors, transmissions, washers, dryers, any electrical appliance, the list goes on. Once when I lost the only key to my VW Rabbit he installed an ordinary light switch, yes like the one you use to flip on a light in your house. When I wanted to start the car, I flipped the switch. I’m sure the insurance company would have frowned on this, but the odds of someone actually wanting to steal that car where about nil.
While ‘uneducated’ he was one of the wisest men I know. He didn’t spend hours wondering about the mysteries of the universe. He didn’t plan each move to the tenth degree; he just did it what needed to be done and expected others to do the same.
Bill was full of euphemisms and/or colloquialisms, some handed down from generations of other wise men and some that were uniquely his. Often they could be used in multiple circumstances.
If I was sitting on his lap and nibbling his neck and he said, “Careful, you’re about to activate the launch sequence,” I was like, “yay, race you to the bedroom.” On the other hand he could say these same words in the middle of an argument and I would either back off or take a step into ‘the tall grass’, depending on my mood or how absolutely, positively sure I was right.
I was never particularly fond of ‘the tall grass’ and I’m still not. While he was the leader of the pack, I’m more like the little Terrier, yapping encouragement from the sidelines. There are scary things in the tall grass, things that bite or slither across your paws. There could be holes out there, too big for me to get out of. Sharp sticks could poke me or I could get lost, not able to see my way. No, I’d much rather ‘do my business’ on a neatly manicured lawn, but the choice has been taken from me.
I’m trying very hard to trust that he taught me all I needed to know. People constantly say that I’m brave or strong. They are so full of shit. *sorry, I love you all*. I’m completely terrified. I’m not brave, I think bravery is a choice and I didn’t make it. All this was thrust on me and I’m having a really hard time trying to understand that this is ‘God’s plan’ for me. I also worry about bushels of stupid shit.
I believe in reincarnation. I can’t say why, (well I could but that would be a long post) I just do and I’ve often said that this life wasn’t Bill’s and my first rodeo. How could such love come from one lifetime? In any case it has occurred to me that he could be reincarnated before I get to heaven. Wouldn’t that just suck? Theoretically he could have come back very soon after his death, which could be the reason I don’t feel him around me. If that was the case, I have to die within the next five years or so to put us in the same age range. Or what if I came back as his kid sister or something? Ewww! I know that if I met him in another life, I would want him. See, these are the workings of a sick, grief-stricken mind.
Last week I went to Lowes to get new doors. We had discussed this before his death and it was on our to-do list before winter. Events being what they were, I didn’t think about it until we got about 4 foot of snow dumped on us. I’m having a hard time making decisions, which is so crazy because I made lots of them while Bill was alive. The front door we had was beautiful with a large arch of beveled glass. It never bothered me that someone could ‘sort of’ see in, but it began to bother me after his death. I chose a new front door with a very small, narrow amount of beveled glass in a pretty pattern with brushed nickel metal running through it. For the back door I got stuck with a very basic nine light. I’m not crazy about it, but there weren’t many options for a short woman who needs to see where her dog is. I couldn’t fathom having to climb on a stool to look out one of those little windows at the top of a door. I bought the doors, not cheap by the way, but I did it. As soon as I got outside I began to cry.
Did I do the right thing? Would he approve? Really? If he were alive he would have given me his opinion, but told me to get what I wanted in the end. Why now is it so important to get a door he would have liked? I know he would have liked it. The opening is narrow and he was a crazy man about my safety. Even if someone broke the glass they would have a very hard time getting their arm through the opening to get to the deadbolt, unless they were like 10 or something, and I figure at that age even I could take them down. Still, all that considered, I cried and wondered if I was going the right thing. I’m telling you grief will make you bat-shit crazy.
On the way home I realized that this door was brushed nickel and all my handles and locks were brass to match the other door. Then it occurred to me that if I used the same locks and hardware one of the thousand keys that Caitlin lost over the last ten years could mysteriously show up and let some stranger into the house. So, it’s back to Lowes for new locks and deadbolts. Ugh! Cha-ching!
Okay, all set, crying stopped, convinced myself Bill would approve of my choices and in fact be proud of me for being so smart and replacing the locks. Just for today, I was peeing in the tall grass. I pull into the driveway where Jeremy and Mike have the old door already out and immediately notice that my pretty outside lights are shiny, gold brass. Crap! Crap! Crap! I could have jumped up and down in frustration. More tears.
At times I feel like someone has a Voodoo Doll of me. “Poke her, make her think of Bill and cry. Okay, stop, give her a break. Poke her again.” Grief is a rollercoaster run amuck. Someone can ask how I am, and I can say,-I’m fine. At other times a sympathetic glance will set me off and I’m shot for the rest of the day. I’m terrible about returning phone calls because I never know if I can carry on a sane, rational conversation.
I can’t believe it’s been ninety days since Bill’s death. I figured it out, see bat-shit crazy, and I’ve taken roughly 2,592,000 breaths since he took his last. How is that possible when most of the time I feel like I can’t breathe?
I’ll never be a German Shepard, never like peeing in the tall grass. I suppose with time I could be a Collie or something, maybe a Border collie, they’re pretty feisty. We had eight acres up here and are down to six after selling a couple off a few years ago. I’ve never walked our land. There are ticks, and bugs, broken trees and critters in those woods. I enjoy the wildlife, the turkey and deer, but through the window. We’ve had sightings of bear and big cats the last few years. In the Spring I may step into the tall grass with the big dog next door if he’s well enough to go with me. I'm pretty sure his wife can run with the big dogs and will likely go with us. I’d kind of like to see where I live. For now, I’ll only venture forth if forced.
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.