Kentucky Mom to Twins and More

Friday, October 26, 2018

A pack rat's happy anniversary

My late husband Matthew used to tease me about how I save everything. Not like Hoarders-type saving, but sentimental stuff saving. I'm a pack-rat of life's mementos. I've got things in boxes, in plastic tubs, tucked neatly in drawers, on shelves, in cabinets. I keep too much shit, I know, I often told him.

I've got every note anyone ever gave me in grade school, yearbooks from high school, shells I collected on the beach on my honeymoon, positive pregnancy tests from each of my babies, hair from every child's first haircut and every single card from when Matthew and I started dating all the way up to each birthday and anniversary card he ever gave me.

Last October 26 was my 15th wedding anniversary. We didn't know it then, but Matthew would have just three more weeks to live. 

The last card he ever gave me on that day, our last anniversary together, was a sappy one, about love and how I was always the one. I know I saved it because I displayed at his funeral it on a collage of cards he had given me. Well, I must have put it in a really secret, super special spot because I can't find that damn card anywhere and I'm losing my mind looking for it, especially since I won't get a card this year. In my search however, I managed to find the card I gave him on our one-year anniversary. A silly, stupid 27-year-old me wrote inside:

"It's hard to believe it's already been one year since we've been married! Through our ups and downs - no matter what we go through - you and I are going to make it! I find comfort in knowing I have you to laugh and cry with and to be my best friend for the rest of our lives. I will love you always, Andrea"

Her naivety is almost sickening, isn't it? What the hell ups and downs did you have, girl!? You had a healthy, successful husband, a career as a writer and lived on 50 acres with only a dog to care for. You had it made!

Next to that card was a folded letter I had typed to him on our 10th wedding anniversary (I think I was too cheap or lazy to buy a card that year). It reads:

"...10 years after we took our vows, I feel the same love and devotion to you as that newly-married bride did all those years ago. How do you tell someone that you love them so much you can't imagine a life without them? I don't know. Trying to envision a world without you brings the feeling of a tremendous void in my heart that I never want to know."

Why did I have to jinx us? Why did I have to tempt the fates?
Our youngest hadn't quite turned one yet then. I remember we got to sneak away by ourselves on a trip to Florida that fall. We ate filet mignon and drank wine at a nice restaurant on our anniversary. We actually were enjoying life and each other for the first time in a while (I credit this to my reading the 50 Shades trilogy around then... but I'll keep this PG rated tonight).

We just got too comfortable. We were happy for just a little too long. That's when life seems to pull the rug out from under you. You are happy one minute and the next you are in a basement storage area on a concrete floor on your wedding anniversary digging through boxes for the last words your dead husband wrote to you.  

And w
hile I haven't yet found last year's anniversary card, there at the bottom of the box, I did find the card he gave me the year before he died. I could practically hear his voice as I read his scratchy, left-handed writing:

"Andrea, I can't believe 14 years passed by... I love you more today than when I met that spunky, loud girl in college. I still love your energy, your sense of humor and our life together, no matter how hard it sometimes seems. Happy Anniversary, Love you, Matthew."

So yeah, I save a lot of shit. But I'm glad I do. I got myself a pretty awesome anniversary card because of it.

The Dance – it was worth all the pain

There's an old Garth Brooks song called The Dance.
In it, he muses what he would have done if he had a chance to go back and change things knowing the heartache and pain that was yet to come. Would he go back and avoid the path of knowing and loving his person if it meant never having to experience the pain after that love was gone?

If Garth was aiming for a tearjerker, he hit the Niagara Falls jackpot with this one, as many of you may already know.

"Looking back on the memory of
The dance we shared beneath the stars above
For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known that you'd ever say goodbye..."

That thoughtthe "turn back time and change things" thoughtis something that's occasionally passed through my brain the past 11 months since my husband Matthew died. It's a hypothetical that people ask, too. Would I do it all again knowing it would end tragically heartbreaking. How could I answer that? Simple. Even if you took my children out of the equation, because I couldn't dream a world without them in it, I know my answer would still be the same every. time.

"And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end
The way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I'd have had to miss the dance."

October is my favorite month. Everything about the leaves changing color, football on tv, the excuse to put Baileys in your coffee... I love it all. It's why I chose a fall wedding. My anniversary would have been October 26. We would have been married 16 years this year. It will be my first without him. Instead of forcing him to watch "my favorite movie" (our wedding videoon the couch together (something I religiously did for 15 years), I mull over the fact it's been almost a year since my children and I buried him. I often tell the kids what a great dancer their father was. How, despite being an introvert who hated starting or holding conversation, their daddy loved to be on a dance floor. The arms up, the swag-sidesway, the silly grin. I remember how he even agreed to ballroom dancing classes the month before our wedding because I wanted us to have a memorable first dance at our wedding reception.

"Holding you I held everything
For a moment wasn't I the king
But if I'd only known how the king would fall
Hey who's to say you know I might have changed it all..."

Over the course of 15 years (20 together), we had been on countless dancefloors. Friends and family weddings, reunions, late-night bar hopping, restaurant karaoke nights if they were playing musicwe were usually out there. One of the first times I laid eyes on him, he was dancing at his college dormmates' Valentine's Day party. I was never the greatest dancer, but over the years I always joined him. He made it fun being in his arms out there no matter how badly I embarrassed myself (even if that meant being dragged off the floor in his arms because a bar bouncer kicked me out for a failed cartwheel/back handspring as the DJ played Justin Bieber).

"And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end
The way it all would go..."

During our wedding night dance, we box-stepped to John Michael Montgomery's country ballad, Home to You. It was a late 90s song about the love and comfort you find with someone and no matter the day you've had or what you look like at the end of it, feeling the blessing that is being able to come home to that person every night.

We loved that song.

It was on the dancefloor that he whispered over the music that those were the words he had engraved on the inside of my wedding band he slipped on my finger just hours earlier, "Home to You."

Dancing there on that floor with him, in front of all our wedding guests in a crowded reception hall on the top floor of that downtown building in my hometown South Bend, Ind., I saw every thing, every place, every person I ever wanted to be and more forever with him. There couldn't have been any more love bursting from my heart that night and I won't forget it. I can't forget it. Everything was right in the world that night.

"Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
but I'd have had to miss the dance..."

That love, that feeling of euphoric perfectness at that moment in time 16 years ago, was worth all the pain, sadness and discontent that has or ever will befall me in this lifetime. He was worth the pain.

I choose, and will always choose the dance.

This post originally ran Oct. 26, 2018, here at Her View From Home.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

There is no tapping out, even when your back's out

Flat on my back, motionless in pain. This is where I am right now. 

Do y’all know I used to be a track star? Well, I tell the kids that anyway. I ran track in grade school and a bit in high school. I did the 100 meter-dash and the 200-meter dash. I used to be pretty fast. I loved the feeling before the race, and the sound of that fucking gunshot start.

A few weeks back, I started to up my workout game... because you know, I’m 42 and I need to stay alive for four kids. So I’m trying to eat healthy (this can mean just eating only one Oreo as opposed to an entire sleeve). I’ve even been trying to take the dog on a quick morning run (seriously if you blink you’ll actually miss the run)... and I’ve been lifting weights on my late husband's weight bench in my basement.

Now I know from years of experience that every time I start in with working out and weight training that I pull something or strain a muscle or blow some gasket up on this old body of mine but I just keep trying it anyway ... it’s like a sick game I play with myself every few months or years of inactivity then exercise.

So the past few weeks I’ve been putting weight on that bar (please don’t anyone get excited or proud, the weights are like the size of the donut munchkin holes I can pound like nothing)... and I was doing ok for a while. I was getting cocky.

But after sitting at my desk this afternoon on an hour-long phone call with the insurance people (because I realized nobody at the Cobra place was getting my payments), my back started hurting. I pressed on throughout the call because I can’t seriously be on a phone conversation to save my life once my kids get off that bus...

“Yes, hello it’s me again. Yes, my husband is still fucking dead but y’all keep sending correspondence to him. Yes, you told me you were sorry for my loss the last eight times I called trying to get you guys to fix this. Ok, well no you can’t talk to the subscriber or get his social from him... cause, you know, dead... yes, I know he is listed as the subscriber but it’s since been changed or at least the last eight people here told me they’d change it...and hey, while I have you, Payton is a female child, not a ‘son’ as you have listed here... oh yes, sure I guess I can go back on hold again.”

While I sat on hold, my four very tired, hot and hungry kids got off the bus. I’m giving them evil eye and shushing them and hard snapping my fingers like a madwoman at them but my kids are like a bad strain of E coli —they are immune to all my shit. I realize my back is killing me and I can’t get up. Kids are now eating chocolate chips for an after school snack.

I finally get off the phone, (pretty sure I’ll be calling them back tomorrow or the next day or next week to talk about his still-existing deceased condition which makes him unable to be the subscriber here).

I’m limping like Frankenstein toward the kitchen. I miraculously made it through dinner feeding all the kids and managing not to stab one child who asked me to make a different meal because she didn’t want spaghetti sauce but just ‘plain noodles.’ I also managed to swat another kid who asked for dessert before I even wiped the table or took a bite myself.

I’m now in full hunchover mode loading the dishwasher. Thank God almighty it’s raining and soccer practice was canceled tonight because there was no way I was going to be able to hoist myself into the car and drive anywhere at that point.

I realize the pain in my lower back is getting sharper by the minute and I’m starting to panic. I don’t have anyone to tag out with. It’s me 24-7 here, guys. It sucks being alone. But I gotta finish this fucking Monday race.

I whimper all the way to my bathtub where I run the water for the girls. “I don’t care if you wash your hair just get your damn body wet and put on pjs!”

Next, I’m lying on the living room rug moaning in pain and the dog is licking and biting my hands. She grabs my phone in her mouth and trots off with it. So even if I need to call 911 to get myself off the damn floor I wouldn’t be able to.

My youngest comes and stands on my back—normally my laying face down on a carpet is their invitation to do just this—but this time, it’s only added more excruciating sharp pain to what I’m feeling. I wince getting up telling the girls mommy can’t make it up the stairs to tuck them in, but give me a hug here at the base of the stairs (where I’m doubled over frozen in fear of breathing).

I would admit any exaggeration here —but I endured natural childbirth with my firstborn and a good five hours of it with the twins, so I’m serious when I say this is no embellishment.

I think of labor pains and remember the warm bath scenario. So, I’ll try anything because right now I’m basically walking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame throughout the house. By this time, the bath has tepid, dirty water in it but I don’t give a shit. Eventually I realize that the bath thing isn’t working (and didn’t work in labor either for that matter) so I devise a plan to get out of it.

I am also cursing myself for throwing out all of the pain meds that used to sit in the cabinet. The Vicodin. The Percocet. The muscle relaxers. They’re all gone. I only have some weak ass ibuprofen— I don’t even have any damn Midol, because (as I bragged last week to a friend), “I have never gotten any cramps, ever!”

So now let’s have all you envision what it would look like to see a grown-ass, naked woman trying to pull herself from a garden tub without the use of her back. Yep, not pretty. Nope, more towels than that, people. Yes, a lot of crawling on the tile. More wincing.

I am now laying flat atop this bed. I don’t have the energy to figure out where the heating pad is or an ice pack or the Andrea voo-doo doll someone has clearly been torturing all day. I have on whatever clothes that were closest to me on the floor. I’m guessing the kids are sleeping. I pray this goes away by morning.

I get no sick days here. I’m it. I can't tap out. I got the Tuesday race tomorrow. And the Wednesday one after that... my races never end.

I’m the fucking track star.

This blog was originally posted Sept. 24, 2018 on the author's Facebook page.