It's a good thing I didn't expect to feel a sense of accomplishment or even relief as I passed the first year mark. The dread leading up to that day was crippling. I tossed around all sorts of scenarios trying to come up with a plan to make the day easier to bear. I considered getting drunk. I thought about going to the casino and taking my family out to dinner. For a while I settled on packing up some sandwiches and snacks and going to the beach to sit and watch the waves. I monitored the weather report daily and realized that was not going to work. It was calling for rain.
I was pleased September 6th was going to be a rainy day. I like the rain, in fact I like storms. They suite me. I didn't want to sit at the table and see an azure sky or listen to the birds sing. It would have been too much like last year.
I considered working on the garden which has lain untended all year. I could have planted tulips, crocus and hyacinth bulbs and topped them with colorful fall mums.
Going to the cemetery was another option. Of course Bill is not there, he sits on my dresser, but my mother is there and my grandparents. As a rule I am the one who tends the graves, well me and my girls.
I usually go on Mother's Day and again on Memorial day as well as July 3rd, the anniversary of her death. We clean the stones and on Father's Day I put flowers on my grandfather's grave and go to the cemetery where my dad is buried. I try to get there on his birthday in August as well, but not in November when he died. The weather does not permit it.
I've been terrible this year. They are all probably up there thinking, "what the hell! Where is she?" I haven't been there once since I went there the day Bill died. Apparently I'm now a crappy daughter and granddaughter.
So anyway, on September 6th we painted the bathroom. I've been meaning to. I've had the paint for weeks but couldn't seem to work up any enthusiasm even though every time I went in there I thought to myself, I can't believe I picked this paint! It was called Fire Ant, if you can believe that and it must have been during a brain fart. I've hated it since the day it went on the walls, but the shower curtain matched and the new towels. Well, you know how it goes. You buy one thing, then the accessories and pretty soon you're sort of stuck with it. Now it's a color called Sturdy Bronze. I like it. The new shower curtain is cream and has birds embroidered on it with browns, touches of teal and burnt orange. Of course I had to buy the matching hooks and towels. I couldn't decide between three rugs, so I bought them all, cream, turquoise and peach. Bill would have loved the birds.
I'm not in there much, only to shower and I do that as quickly as I can. For more than two years I showered him in there. It's a handicapped shower with the built in seat as he could not stand for long. I always got in with him. It was easier than trying to bend over and not get a ton of water on the floor. Besides it was nice to be naked together, even though he liked the water cooler than me.
He always felt bad about my having to do that for him, but it never bothered me. It was kind of nice actually. We had privacy. You close the curtain and shut the world out. We got to touch each other and even though it wasn't going anywhere the intimacy was worth treasuring.
But, I digress...Now I'm quick like a bunny. I don't look at that seat and never use it myself but I have noticed I no longer have the water so hot I look like a lobster when I get out. Guess I got used to the cooler temperature.
Okay, Widow's Brain got me again. My point was that as I approached the anniversary of his death I sort of went a little crazy. Busy, busy, busy my brain said, so I tried to stay busy.
We painted the bathroom, moved on to the dining room and then the kitchen. For the last two weeks I've been in hyper-mode. What I've learned is that you can't outrun, outspend or outsmart grief. It's going to get you, one way or another.
A little over a week ago my daughter-in-law lost her birth mother. They only found each other a few years ago so it was especially hard on her and the children. Last month I went to Emily's birthday party and Janet was there. We sat together and talked and she seemed well, although I knew she had health problems. Her death at 52 years old was shocking. They found her in her apartment the next day when she didn't respond to any of the texts and phone calls. That happened on September 2nd.
Around that same Aislinn, the youngest of the two granddaughters who live with me decided to move out and go live with her mother. I was not shocked. It was almost a year since she watched her grandfather die in the dining room. It's a sad house, at times oppressive which is why we've been trying to make some changes. She stuck it out for a year, and I'm sort of proud of her for realizing she needed a change and going for it. This has been her home for a very long time, but without Grampa it's not the same and never will be.
I was pretty proud of myself for getting through the 6th without a major meltdown. When we got done painting that day we went to the casino. I stayed until the clock told me it was the 7th.
Bill's sister Ruth invited us to a family picnic on the 10th. I didn't want to go. We used to get together all the time but I've avoided them like the plague since Bill's death. This time she wasn't going to take no for an answer, so I made my signature baked beans and went, knowing that I could not stay long as we had to go to Julie's mother's calling hours, another dreaded commitment.
It seemed like things were piling on. I hadn't turned my pc on for over a week, hadn't written a thing, which is my normal escape and felt exhausted. I forced myself to get ready and go. While we were there our niece Kelly brought out a whole handful of silver, star-shaped helium balloons.
"We've had a lot of loss over the past couple of years," she said, "and these balloons are going to carry some messages to heaven." Handing out markers she gave each of us a balloon. My heart was breaking. I wrote a message to Bill and asked the kids if they wanted to add anything. I shouldn't have read them before I let it go sailing off into the heavens, but I did and when I saw Aislinn's message to her Grampa I lost it.
"Sorry about the kiss," she wrote. "Love, Toad."
I knew then she'd made the right decision. There is a story behind her words. Just before he died she asked for a Northface backpack for school. It cost almost a hundred dollars and I said no. Bill overruled me.
"I'll buy you the backpack, Toad," he told her, "but everyday before you get on the bus you have to kiss me, right here," he said tapping his cheek, "and tell me you love me." Of course he was teasing her. He did buy the backpack and died the day before school started. Everyday that poor kid had to walk by his chair to go out to the bus. For a year she'd been carrying the weight of knowing she never got to kiss him and tell him she loved him.
I didn't read anymore, just let the balloon rise into the sky. When I was leaving the picnic Bill's sisters said to me, "we want the old Stevie back." I hugged them and felt sadder than ever. The old Stevie is no more. She's not coming back because she no longer exists.
Death is hard. Loss is hard. Grief is hard. There are no answers. Each of us handles it differently. I wish I had a magic formula or words of wisdom for others going through this, but I don't.
I went to the calling hours, broken. Janet was in a beautiful casket, handcrafted by her family. It was lined with Tye-dyed fabric and the glossy oak coffin was decorated with bears. I was stunned at the workmanship and wondered if any of them had slept since her death. Love and grief comes in all shapes and sizes. We all do what we can to soften the pain. This was her family's way of coping, a last gift for their sister, mother, grandmother. I hope her family finds comfort and peace. I hope Aislinn's message to her Grampa in heaven releases her from a promise she was unable to keep. I hope year two is easier to bear.
P.S. This is a picture of Bill and his little toad taken years ago. She is now 15.
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.