Kentucky Mom to Twins and More

Saturday, October 26, 2019

When our anniversary became an ordinary day


Today was supposed to be our 17-year wedding anniversary. We used to do fancy dinners. We did trips. We did sappy cards. We did... other stuff. Not today. Last night I went to your grave because I guess I thought we'd always be together every anniversary. Sitting there picking grass in front of your headstone, I realize October 26 has turned into just another day now.

According to the Internet, the traditional gift for 17 years of marriage is furniture. I thought about how if you were here I'd tell you that and I'd try to get you to buy me a new chair or something. Actually, there's a cool sofa table thing I saw at a home store I am thinking of getting. I took your silence and the absence of signs (no butterflies, no lightning and thunder) to mean you don't care if I buy it. I'm probably wrong on that one though.

The kids visited here a couple weeks back with your mom and walked around the gravestones. They came back telling me how somebody stole the ceramic angel flower vase off your grave and at first I wanted to be mad. But then I kinda laughed. And laughed some more. Because I think you'd have probably laughed too.

It made me remember the time you told me you were driving home from work and you saw a guy pushing one of the Remke Markets grocery carts down the street, away from the store. Knowing that those carts are pretty expensive, you pulled over and asked him where he was going with it. You laughed when you told me the man (who clearly realized he was caught with stolen property) told you he was "taking it home to fix it" because it was broken, and that "it was ok, because he knew the owners." LOL right?

You politely told him you were the owner and that you'd like him to just put it in the back of your truck so you didn't have to involve police in the theft of one of your carts. You didn't say a word even when the man accused YOU of being a jerk by asking for it back. I was so fired up and pissed off about it back thenbut I remember you weren't. You were always good and calm about stuff. Even when someone was right in front of you trying to steal your shit, you just let it roll. I tell the kids about it. I tell them about your compassion and your tolerance for others, even when people were being jerks. Be that way too, I tell them.

I still get fired up about stuff. Like on the way to the cemetery, I was stuck behind an old lady who thought the speed limit was 2 mph. I think I may have mumbled an explicative under my breath. I'm sure I tore around her at some point and gave her my best exasperated, annoyed look. Seems dumb now though doesn't it? Like, "Hey lady I'm in a fucking hurry to go wish my dead husband a happy anniversary, so move it!" When I was pulling out of the plaza by the gas station later on, some guy honked at me thinking I was going to ram into his car. "For God's sake I see you! Calm down," I screamed (ironically) at him through the window. I guess that was easier to yell than "Can't you see my tear-stained cheeks from all this crying I'm doing!? Cut me some slack it's my fucking anniversary!"

But this is the way I am. I never was like you no matter how hard I have ever tried to change. Why does my mood get so dark and my temperament go from zero to blow up in a blink? I know there are probably a million reasons why, but today there's only one that's evident... I wanted more anniversaries. I wanted years of clinking wine glasses over the table and plane rides together to tropical all-inclusives. I wanted to be old together. I wanted all of it with you. It makes me mad we never got it. Our kids never got it. Our youngest started crying at bedtime the other night and asked me, "Why did daddy have to die?" And I got so mad because after almost two years, I still don't have an answer. I don't fucking know.

The kids and I decided we wanted to do laser tag today and we all shot each other up and laughed a lot. We ate at a loud hibachi grill with your dad, yummy but nothing fancy. I probably won't buy any furniture today either because it's raining cats and dogs and I don't have the patience to fight rainy mall traffic. I brought our son to the shooting range too. Because what better way to blow off some steam than shoot up shit? We blew off tension and sadness and anger over missing you because some days those feelings are palpable. I even took our son out on a date this weekend. We ate burgers and shakes. Afterwards we stood in line waiting at the cashier forever because the register was down. My patience was wearing thin, like it always is. But I turned and looked at our son, a mirror image of who you were, and he was smiling. Laughing actually, at the fact that these tiny, hellish inconveniences I experience are really no big deal. Just like you would have done. I didn't lose my mind because I looked at him—I looked at you. 

Many days I am still mad. Like fire out of my ears mad. Because you're still gone. We're still here doing this alone. And no special observance of a miscellaneous date in October will ever change that. But shooting up stuff with the kidsespecially with a boy who is a beautiful reflection of who I married 17 years agosure felt good. 

Happy anniversary hon.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Advice for the bride to be

Recently I was stuck in the waiting line to get help at the Apple Store at the mall—because of course when my husband died nearly two years ago, he took all the passwords and pretty much all the technological knowledge about our home computers, iPads and devices with him. I am a complete moron when it comes to figuring out anything in the 'general/ settings/ preferences' tabs on anything in this house. So I sat there waiting for someone to help me get through my Apple ID issues that were close to forcing me to toss my computer out a window.

And as the tech was trying to help me by completely re-loading my phone (which by the way didn't work) she sat a girl next to me who needed help getting her Airpods fixed. Airpod girl and tech girl started to chat and the topic turned to Airpod girl's upcoming wedding to her fiancĂ©, because you couldn't miss the huge diamond engagement ring on her left hand. She went on about wedding planning details and dress shopping, annoyances with wedding party attendants—the normal bridezilla-type stuff that old gals like me know don't mean shit in the long run. She went on for about 20 minutes, and it took everything in me to calmly and quietly sit there and listen... because "can you believe they wanted to charge $200 more for the dress at a shop in Columbus than at a shop here?!"

... But I broke y'all. I know, I know. I shouldn't push any bride off her wedding planning bitchfest soapbox and I don’t need anyone to tell me now that I should have kept my mouth shut because I know that. But I just couldn't help it. I looked at this girl and said, "You know, someday you'll see that none of this will matter. None of what you waste time and energy on worrying about now will matter one bit in the end." I told this poor, stunned bride-to-be that I was a widow who knew a little about weddings and more about marriage even if it was a little too late. The only thing that really matters, I told her, is whether or not you can see yourself in absolute thick and thin with this person forever—money or no money, job or no job, sick kids or healthy, miserable in-laws or perfect ones and God forbid someday fighting a terminal illness.

Will you still look at him with love and endearment when he can no longer speak and his body is weak and sick and on the brink of death? Will you hold it together when you bring him fistfuls of medicine daily, realizing there likely will be no more happy times with him on this Earth? Would you unabashedly say yes to do it all again if you knew you wouldn't get any more than 15 years together? Because, sweet Airpod girl, I was exactly you just 17 years ago, full of worry about church flowers and wedding photographer woes, DJ playlists that wouldn't be followed and a thousand other little crap things I wanted to go right but didn't. 

Nobody told me I wouldn't f-ing care someday. Nobody told me that my biggest regret would someday be time—time to share, time to laugh, time to travel, time to enjoy together with kids... time to love.

The health of your marriage and of your person is and forever should be what you care about. All the other things are just noise in the background. Ok, I won't lie, it actually will help if you can get him to write down all his passwords and computer wizardry tricks and shortcuts just in case... but truly nothing you fret about right now will ever matter. The only thing you should focus on and cherish together right now is your TIME.

This post was also published Oct. 28, 2019 here at the Today Show Parents page.
This post was also published Nov. 12, 2019 here at Love What Matters.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

As two years approaches, I grieve memories lost

A friend of mine told me the other day how that new song on the radio, "Memories" makes her think of my late husband Matthew. She said it reminds her of all the fun memories we all had over the yearslike summer lake trips before we all had kids, dinner and drinks out downtown, of him just having a good time with all of us. I remember them, too, I said. But I didn't, however, tell her about all the memories of him that are starting to fade.

I'm nearing the two-year mark without him. Fall used to be my favorite time of yearrunning with the leaves crunching under my shoes, the football games, my wedding anniversary. Now there's only an ominous feeling. Like waiting for a gut punch from someone lurking around the corner, ready to strike as soon the calendar flips to November. It was the Sunday morning before Thanksgiving when I became a widow. It feels like a blink but then it also feels like it's been a lifetime. I somehow got past the "year of firsts" where every calendar date was pure heartache to re-live. The first Christmas without him. The first Father's Day without him. The first kindergarten graduation without him. The first birthday without him. It all sucked. I cried a lot behind the bathroom door. I faked a shitload of smiles. I did a lot of self medicating with Baileys and Amazon Prime. 

The second year was just a lot of new normals instead. They still sting, but it's what we've grown used to, living every day without his presence, without his voice or laughter. The condolences are gone. Life has fully moved on around us, as I knew it would, despite my not wanting it to. There are pieces of him—of us—that seem to be getting lost amid what's here and now and I don't know how to feel about it.

I am trying not to forget his smell but it's fading. It's all but gone from the clothes I saved in the closet. That clean, soap-fresh smell. Even when he was working out, he always smelled good. I found myself in the deodorant section at the grocery store the other day for a really long time. I opened up and breathed in every men’s Right Guard stick on that shelf until I smelled the sport one, the one he wore for years, and I held it close to my nose. I didn’t cry. I wanted to. But there was a guy behind me browsing gift cards and a lady looking at shake supplements next to me, and I figured they’d find it really odd to see a woman weeping at the smell of antiperspirant in aisle 11.

It's getting hard to remember specific things about him and that scares me. Like what kissing him felt like. We hadn’t kissed in a really long time before he died. He was sick for a while and before then we had a rough patch where we fought so much and dealt with so much marital discord that the last thing he wanted to do was kiss me. He probably wished many nights to be away from me. That thought still hangs in the back of my head today because we never made everything right before cancer took him away. 

I hate that I’m starting to forget stupid little things. I couldn't remember if his favorite cereal was Honey Smacks or Fruity Pebbles. I know we had a cereal debate a while back and I'm kicking myself for not remembering how that one ended. I guess at the time, it didn't seem important. But now I'd give anything to go back just to know the answer. The kids asked me if daddy liked Rice Krispies treats and I can't remember. I know I used to eat an entire pan myself but I can't remember if he thought that was gross or if he wanted me to save him some. All these things seem insignificant to others but they aren't to me. They are huge pieces of a puzzle that was once whole but is now slowly being broken up and dismantled in order to be put back into some invisible box it seems. To be put away forever.

I am mad at myself for letting memories fade. I should have space in my brain to keep it all in. We were together for 20 yearshalf my life. I can remember the way my childhood bedroom smelled over 35 years ago, so why the hell can’t I remember his smell on the pillows, from just a few years ago?

He loved holding my hand. To pinch my fingers because they were cold. He first held my hand in 1998. A lifetime ago. I'm starting to forget the way his hand felt in mine now though. I stupidly wonder to myself if he could be mad at me for that. 

Because I've been holding a new hand lately. I haven't told many people. I’ve been seeing someone for several months now who’s really great. He’s smart and funny and he's irreverent and unfiltered like me. We like some of the same thingsBilly Joel and Seinfeld and binge watching comedy shows on Netflix. And he loves kids and I've got a shit ton of them. He makes me laugh and I've missed that. I think he genuinely likes mefaults and temper and all. He doesn’t take any of my stubborn or bitchy bullcrap all the stuff my husband either ignored or complied with just to please me all those years, but annoyed him to no end. He's the opposite. He doesn't let me brood or pout in disagreements, many of the things that stirred the pot during my marriage. I'm learning to deal with myself and relationships differently. It's like I'm learning how to be an adult with him—but then again, he and I have had entire text conversations with emojis that make me laugh. Some days I feel like a silly teenager again. But I dig it. He's just who I need. Did Matthew have a hand in sending someone like that to me? I wonder.

I still feel overwhelming grief some days. And it sneaks up on me. Our son is almost 13 now. He's a hair taller than me according to his recent doctor checkup. Sometimes the grief manifests itself as tears at the pediatrician’s office due to the aching desire to have his daddy here to see something as simple as his son's height surpassing mine. 

If we really want to talk about some super grief-y stuff, I've got a doozy I keep behind this computer. Sometimes I listen to the recording they emailed me of the 911 call I made the morning I found him. I collapse in tears at this desk every time because the despair in my voice that morning is so tangible it physically hurts. The memory of me trembling holding that phone, staring at him realizing he was already gone is still fresh in my mind. It's one memory that I don't think could ever fade. But maybe I don't want it to either.

Yes, two years may have blurred some of the memories. It has dulled the edge of the blade that used to expertly pierce my heart every morning I'd wake up realizing he was still gone. But two years has also shown me that I'm going to be ok. The kids are ok. I've chosen to keep living and lovingas hard and as awkward as that might be some days. I run parallel between loving him, holding dear the memories I still have of usand with the idea that I can be in love with a new person who's willing to share the rest of this life with me making new memories. And there are days I fall more to one side and it scares me when it's the side without Matthew on it. 

I worry and feel guilt for still being here, breathing air, laughing and living life, especially starting to care for another man. Some people don’t like it either, I know this. Others have said, “it’s good to see you’re moving on.” But I wish they wouldn't say that. Because I haven’t “moved on.” I’ll never "move on" from the one person I loved more than words, the man who gave me the life I'm living now, who gave me my children. I’ll never "get over" him, they don’t understand. No matter how much time keeps adding onto that calendar day when I last saw him, no matter two years or twenty, no matter what memories have faded—I will never "move on" from the love I had for my husband. That is a truth that won't ever fade.

This post was first published Oct. 9, 2019 here at Cure Today.
This post was also published Oct. 17, 2019 here at Hope for Widows Foundation.
This post was also published Nov. 8, 2019 here at Love What Matters. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Saying goodbye to that miserable me

My son and I were tossing football in the yard the other day and he caught me off guard after he ran straight for me and slammed the football into my stomach. This was his classic quarterback handoff and I was supposed to run with itwhich of course, I nailed. Then he said, "dang mom, your abs are rock hard!" After laughing because my 12-year-old son actually noticed his mom's physique, I told him, "damn straight boy."

But a few years back, this exchange couldn't have been farther from reality.

When I met my late husband Matthew in college, I was about 115 pounds. And it was probably after eating a cheeseburger and three amaretto sours. I used to run miles around campus every day, did cartwheels and handsprings at parties and bought tiny low-rise jeans from clothing stores WITHOUT EVEN TRYING THEM ON. Ahhhh. Youth and metabolism were on my side back then. It was a dreamy time.

Over the years, I had always been able to keep a steady weight. I wouldn't say I was ever overweight but after three pregnancies, stress from mothering four little ones and having a slight addiction to Oreos there's no way that 115 was going to be sustained. And it wasn't. Just before Matthew got sick, when we had some rough times and we were in counseling for the umpteenth time... I started getting umm... thick. And the scale at the doctor's office didn't lie either. Some people didn't notice it too much, and I joked about having "winter weight that stuck on for the summer" but I felt dumpy and big.

I had given up. At pretty much everything my communication with my husband in my marriage, my patience (or lack of) with my kids, and especially my body. I just didn't care anymore.

So I made brownies. Like EVERY freaking day. I'd say they were for the kids but I easily ate half the pan. I looked up new dessert ideas on Pinterest and I made ice cream shakes after dinner. I'd eat Entenmanns chocolate donuts in the morning and sneak into the kids' Halloween candy after they went to bed (Butterfingers = my Kryptonite). If I felt bad about myself before, I was really feeling shitty by this point. My back hurt, I hadn't run in ages and I couldn't stand looking at myself in a mirror. I hated me. Not even the Walgreens clinic nurse who performed my health insurance screening that month could wake me up with talk of "bad cholesterol" and the hideous number she wrote down for my weight.

Meantime, Matthew was working out at the gym with his buddy pretty often and was trying to stay healthy (he'd been losing weight around this time, which we thought was because he was going to the gym but we'd find out soon cancer was looming around the corner). And even though he and I weren't on great terms, every day he'd still ask me if I wanted to go with him. I said no. He tried to help me make myself feel better. He saw the misery that I tried so much to hide. At the back of my head I knew nobody was going to get me out of this funk except me. But I just didn't want to. It was almost like punishing myself for feeling like the inadequate wife, mother, daughtereverything that I was convinced I was. If the rest of me was going to be shit, so was my physical body, I thought.

Matthew and I didn't talk about it much (we didn't talk about much of anything then) and his work kept him busy and the kids kept me busy. It wasn't until a beach vacation we took alone that December where I saw pictures of myself that I didn't recognize. I begged him to delete them from his phone. How had I been ok looking and feeling this miserable every day? Not long after that, he got his diagnosis and life went into even more of a tailspin for us. At that point, food continued to serve as a comfort to fixing every aspect of my life that was broken.

It wasn't until last fall, a year after Matthew died, that I finally realized I didn't want to continue that way. I didn't want to be frumpy and unhappy and feeling like crap every day as the sole parent to four kids who deserved a better mom. I also knew I didn't want to be alone forever. Because after my kids are grown and gone someday, I don't like the thought of withering away alone and unhealthy in a bed covered in Chips Ahoy crumbs (We've all seen My 600-pound Life, so that's totally possible).

I started running again. I started going to the gym and lifting weights. I tried so hard to eat healthy and drink water. I tried to have self control when I wanted cake or brownies with the kids. I won't lieI might have had a bite or two but I had come a long way from eating half the pan.

I'm down 15-20 pounds from those cringe-worthy pictures. I still try to run or swim every day. I go to the gym when I can. Some days I don't feel like doing anything. I still have my weaknesses (peanut M&Ms) and I cheat (because martinis and Moscato still have sugar in them). It would be easy to go back to inactivity, poor eating habits and misery, sure. But I don't want to go back to that big, unhappy girl. Being healthy was a choice I thought my kids deserved. It was definitely something I wished I would have done when Matthew was still alive because he deserved a happy, healthy wife. But mostly I can admit, I deserve it. We all deserve to be our best healthy, happy selves.

And being fit is also a sure way to adequately nail a football handoff from your son.

This post was also published Nov. 14, 2019 here at 9 News Australia.