Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother’s Day

I have my cat, Shadow.  I have my bird, Taffy.  I have my newest addition my dog, Scooter.  And I have my father in law who I fondly call Pops.  Happy Mother’s day to me!

For the first time in a long time, the other day I found myself really wanting Jesse.  I hadn’t felt that in a long time, but as the weeks go by and I continue to notice Pops declining I wonder how I will handle the end of his life. I don’t feel strong enough.  This week was especially challenging as I noticed Pops slipping more and more into that childlike state that we often here about with the elderly.  I was driving home after work and had just had a conversation with Pops and had asked him if he could test his alert button that he wears around his neck, as he had just moved to a different apartment in his assisted living facility.  He told me he couldn’t do it and after I explained that after we hung up all he needed to do was to push his button and tell them he was just testing it, he again told me he could not do it.  So I asked him if we could do it together when I would visit the next day and he agreed.  It struck me how this once confident man who several years back had told me to “piss up a rope” (that’s a whole different story), now needed me to hold his hand while he tested his alert button.  I suddenly doubted myself and the strength that I have and found myself wanting Jesse to be here to support me as I support Pops through the end of his life.  And then I felt so crazy for having this thought, because if Jesse was still here, I would not feel so close to Pops.  Jesse brought us together and my love for him meant that I would not ask him to choose between me and his dad.  We all moved in together and become our own family.  It was a different sort of family than any I had known, but we were family and genuinely cared about each other, something I had not experienced in a very long time and something I don’t experience from most of my own family.  When Jesse died, it was heartbreaking for both Pops and I.  I promised both Jesse and Pops that I would not abandon the old guy and I have not.  In fact he is a big part of what has kept me going this past 18 months and maybe that is also part of my fear in facing his death.  There were many weekends in the beginning of this grief journey that I stayed in my PJs all day long for 2 days, finally to put some clothes on and head out to check on and visit Pops.  He was the only reason I left the house on many, many weekends.  He kept me going.  Gave me a reason to live and continue on without the love of my life.  His moving to assisted living just a few months before Jesse died was the biggest blessing.  No longer responsible for his 24-7 care, I found it easy to go and joyfully help him with tasks that he needed.  We became even closer as we are all each other have.  Yes, I have family in 2 other states, but most of them are not close with me or even involved in my life.  It is a mutual decision, I guess.  I don’t really understand it, but I am learning to accept it. Pops’ daughter is in another state and unable to help him and his stepson, who lives a couple hours away, does not seem interested in being of help.  So yes for all intense purposes, Pops and I are it.  And that is what made me feel crazy.  If Jesse were still alive, I don’t think Pops and I would have developed the closeness that we have.  He will be 93 years old 5 weeks from today.  We know the end is near.  He is a sweet, kind, gentle old soul and I can just hope that I am strong enough to be present for him as he exits this earth.  I know I will have to do it without my Jesse, yet I also know he will be there in spirit and waiting to greet his dad with open arms in Heaven.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sleep, Sleep.....Where Art Thou?

I lay in bed last night, tossing and turning and wondering why sleep is eluding me.  I have taken my sleeping pill, gotten up, laid back down, gotten up, taken some Aleve for the headache I am getting, laid back down, tossed and turned some more, etc.  I am totally physically and emotionally exhausted after one of the most challenging days in a long while, yet I cannot sleep.  I spent the entire morning sifting through a year’s worth of paperwork, pulling out bills and proof of payment for my husband’s estate and probate.  Then I had a sobfest with my therapist and a meeting with my attorney.   My attorney had asked for this “proof” only a day earlier and the day before I was to sign the final probate documents; the day before I was supposed to be done.  So instead of being done, I am sifting through paperwork and all the while being reminded that he is gone and flooded with horrible illness memories as I collect all the medical bills, etc.  I cannot help but wonder, again, why his daughter rejected my reasonable offer to settle and be done back in August 2010.  I did not want to have to deal with this additional heartache, but she seems to want more.  The reality is that she will get less, but I would have gladly paid more to avoid this arduous task.  The really sad truth and maybe the reason for my lack of sleep is that my husband failed to take care of me.  I know that he loved me, but here I am still taking care of him and the mess that he left me.  I asked him if he had updated his will and he replied with a “Yes”.  I should have pressed him for proof or a copy, but I did not.  I wanted to believe in him, that he would take care of me.  And of course I wanted to deny that the horrible disease could win and take him away.  In our relationship, I took care of many things, being the caregiver with the big heart, but I also needed to be cared for.  He failed me in the ultimate way.  This reality; the heaviness, the pain swirled around all over my body last night not allowing me to sleep.  And the tears flowed as I felt the pain.  Sometimes, it is so hard to recognize them for who they really were.  It does not change my love for him, yet I have to admit that he hurt me deeply.  A few sheets of paper with appropriate signatures could have brought me the elusive sleep last night.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Good Riddance 2010

My year of firsts is over.  Actually it was officially over Nov 9th 2010, but since I was in such a fog over the holidays last year, I prefer to include the 2010 holidays as well.  My first complete calendar year without my soul mate and love of my life is over and I am actually somewhat stunned that I survived.  The pain, sorrow, and loneliness of 2010 were at times unbearable and many a time I wished I did not survive.  I know many widows struggle with this and I am not alone.  Somehow I will push on.

Mid January, I had a visit to my former BFF’s house and I begged and pleaded for her to be in my life and support me through this most difficult time.  In time I would realize it was to no avail, I received nothing and decided I needed to drop this friendship.  Another loss to deal with.

I remember speaking to Jesse’s daughter, the one he did not raise because her mom and step-daddy dearest did that wonderful job, and informing her that her “Bio Dad” as she referred to him once, did not have a will and she is entitled to half of his estate.  She assured me that I had lost enough and she did not want to take anything more from me.  That all changed when it came time for her to sign and disclaim her share.  She hired an attorney and sent word that she wanted her share and anything else she could get her hands on like his life insurance.  I am still dealing with his estate, probate, and the repercussions of his poor planning.

His brother told me how he was going to be there for me during the first year and would help me emotionally and around my house.  I learned rather quickly this would not be true and he is just all talk like most people.  He specifically told me that he would be there to support me for Jesse’s birthday in April, but when I called to check in with him about it, he had made plans with his girlfriend.  So I went to the cemetery alone and visited with my dead husband all by myself on his birthday.  And while there, I received a text, yes a text, from my former BF about this event.  I could not believe she did not have the courage to pick up the phone and actually call me on this most horrible day.  I think it was then that I decided I did not need a friend like this, I would much rather have enemies.

I wept and cried deeply on Father’s Day as I was sad that he would never have the relationship with his daughter that he so desperately wanted.  In the time that I knew him, he tried in vain to connect with her, but she seemed to want nothing to do with him.  And how could he compete with step-daddy dearest who spoiled her and gave her everything?  I cried for Pops too.  His only grandchild and she would not give him the time of day (his words).

I survived my birthday with the love and support of my sister P.  She has become my new BFF and I can really say that she has been the only blessing in my loss as we have grown closer than ever.
I survived our anniversary with lots of tears and Rod Stewart, just like our wedding day.  I sat on the glider in the spot where we were married and remembered that blissful day and cried and cried that he is gone.  That was one of the saddest days this year by far.

Halloween was tough too.  Jesse loved Halloween and I set out to avoid it and then when I posted support to another widow on a forum I frequent where there are other widows and well spouses, I and another were judged and criticized for how we dealt with this holiday.   I lashed out angrily at the person who was critical and whose husband is still alive and I was suspended from that forum for a week, the week of the first Sadiversary.  I no longer post on that forum as there are too many unfriendlies.

My sister P came up again and supported me through the first Sadiversary.  We went to the Oregon Coast to a little motel where Jesse and I had spent time.  It was nice to be there and to have my sister with me as I got through this tough anniversary.  It was the first time that I felt a shift from the gut-wrenching pain to a little bit of gratitude for the times we had.

Thanksgiving was just another day.  I had one offer to not be alone, which I decided against because that person was acting very needy and I did not have anything to give.  I had dinner with Pops and spent the rest of the day alone, which was preferable than trying to “on” or “there” for others.

And Christmas was tough this year.  I wrote about it already.  See My Second Christmas Without My Love.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My Second Christmas Without My Love

This is the one I have been dreading.  Last year, his death was only 6 weeks before Christmas and I walked through it in a dazed, numb, fog.  I knew I was going to have to face it this year and there was no way around having to feel his absence.  I had no one and nothing to distract me from the fact that I am here on this special day without the love of my life and all alone.  I hear stories of other widows who have children and family to keep them busy, to shop for, to bake for, to do holiday activities with, to wrap presents for…busy, busy, busy.  I have none of that and the thought of making any holiday sweets just makes me sad also.  Jesse was the one who was right there helping me with the Almond Roca, the cookies, or the pretzel treats.  I could not bear to do any of this alone.  The problem with Christmas and being alone is that you not only have to endure one day of misery, but two because Christmas Eve is just as much a holiday to most people.  The double whammy of widow misery!

Christmas Eve was not too bad and once I actually reached my destination of the home of some new friends the day went rather well.  But the getting there is where the major meltdown occurred.  I am on the highway going towards my friend’s home and I see one of “Jesse’s Trucks”, also known as a truck from Freightliner’s test fleet where Jesse was a manager before he got sick.  These trucks are very recognizable to me as they have nice new sparkly trucks and the dirtiest, ugliest trailers on the road.  I can spot one a mile away, mostly because of the ugly, disgusting trailers.  Their cabs say “Product Validation”, so I always know that I am correct when I see one.  After seeing one, of course I am thinking of Jesse, then I see another, and another.  Oh, great, they are running Hwy 26 today.  Seven trucks later going the opposite direction and I am a sobbing mess.  I am thinking of him and how much I miss him and how much I want him back, how much I don’t want to face this holiday without him, etc.  Luckily my exit is coming up and I can pull off and have good cry not deny my broken heart this opportunity to purge some of the pain.  I continue to cry all the way to my friend’s home, where she greets me with a big hug.  We speak briefly about my meltdown and then I am done; ready to enjoy a nice quiet day with my new friends and their 16 month old son, which I do.

Christmas day was another storey.  I spent the late morning and early afternoon with my elderly FIL and had lunch with him at his assisted living facility.  I then headed to the home of a young person whom I am an adopted aunt to.  I have been spending time with this young person for over ten years and her family adopted me early on because I didn’t have any family here.  When Jesse came into my life, he was adopted too as Uncle Jesse and we spent several Christmas days with this lovely family.  My big mistake was attempting to do something (a tradition), that Jesse and I had previously done together, all by myself.  The mom had invited me and told me that it would just be them and Grandma.  I took that to mean the mom, dad, brother, sister, young person, and grandma.  As I am driving to their home, I again start melting down as I think about previous times and how Jesse was always with me.  I am again back in that place of just wanting him so desperately to come back to me.  I cry most of the way there, thinking about how much I miss him, and how alone I feel.  When I arrive, I see several cars and realize that there is probably more of her family here than I am comfortable with, especially in my current tearful state.  I knock on the door and get no answer.  I can hear jolly, happy, festive people inside and I almost bolt, but I think of my young friend and how much I would like to see her.  So I ring the bell and her dad comes to the door and greets me as I am trying to dry my tears and look somewhat human.  The mom greets me, then my young friend and I am instantly in tears again, feeling the pain of my missing Jesse.  I look around and see some of her extended family who I really don’t know and I tell them that I am going to leave and come back later in the week.  The mom, or course being a mom person, does not accept this and is pushing me to stay.  I tell her I can’t and then my young friend ends up taking me to her bedroom where I cry and she tries to comfort me, etc.  We chat for a little bit and I tell her that I would really be more comfortable coming back later in the week.  She is such a bright, lovely young woman.  She tells me to do what I need to do and not to worry about her mom.  I’m amazed at the maturity of this 18 year old young lady.  We exchanged hugs and “I Love You” and I head out of their house with the mom still trying to get me to stay.  I left and cried all the way home; thinking about my Jesse, how much I missed him, how much I wanted him back, etc.  And I thought about the bottle of wine that is in my fridge.  I needed something to numb the pain and that would do it.  I got home, popped a frozen dinner in the microwave, popped open the bottle of wine and said “Merry Christmas to me!”

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Friend for 1 day vs. 365

This week, two separate friends asked me if I had plans for Christmas.  The first friend invited me over to spend time with her family on Christmas.  The second said she would call me because she might be alone too (I guess I am her backup plan).  Now, you might think that this is a nice gesture, but this actually had me feeling more down and lonely than ever.  These friends have made no attempts to connect with me in months and I should be happy that they want to spend 1 day with me, now.  No way!  I deserve and need more.  I am a widow with no children and most of my family living out of state; essentially all alone.  And like a lot of widows, I am struggling to find friends or people who actually want to spend time with me more than just 1 day a year.  I am lonely and missing my beloved Jesse each and every day, so why should Christmas be any different?    I need my friends every day and especially on weekends when I miss Jesse the most.  Why do they not want to spend time with me any of the other 51 Saturdays during this last year?  In all fairness, both spent time with me during this last summer, but I still feel hurt after months of nothing.  Many weekends this last year, I have been all alone, with no one to touch base with me at all.  It’s the worst and most lonely I have felt in my life.  Not only is my husband gone, but most of my friends are too just adding to the sadness, loss, and loneliness.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cherry Coke

On the First Sadiversary (anniversary of Jesse’s death), my sister and I went to the Subway in Lincoln City, Oregon for lunch.  There it was at the soda fountain staring at me…..Cherry Coke.  I had successfully managed to avoid CC for an entire year and now it was calling to me on this most auspicious day.  My gut told me that yes; I should drink some CC in honor of my Jesse as this was the anniversary of his death.  So yes for the first time in a year in indulged and enjoyed a Cherry Coke.  You see I have some challenging memories of sharing CC with Jesse during his last days here on earth and even shared some with him on his very last day.  So it is painful for me to even think about CC at times.  I remember that first time that he asked me for a taste; him wanting to taste something other than the boring, bland ice chips which was all he was allowed.  I dipped my finger in the CC and put some on his lips and as he tasted it, his face registered pure joy.  I gave him tiny sips of the contraband liquid and he basked in the joy of the flavor.  We had shared many a Cherry Coke in wellness, but this was our first in illness as he lost his ability to swallow safely early in the battle.  And on his final day, when I told him I was going to the cafeteria to get something for lunch, he mumbled in his weakened voice “Cherry Coke”.  I understood what he wanted and we both knew this was to be his last sip of ecstasy that he would ever enjoy.  His nurse was none too happy scolding me and telling me that giving him fluids could prolong his death.  I told her I was not going to withhold one last little bit of pleasure from my dying husband.  I helped him take 3 tiny sips, all his strength would allow him; the last Cherry Coke I shared with my Jesse, 11/9/09.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


When I think about this time of year and the opportunity it gives us to reflect on what we are thankful for, my first instinct is to just say “Nothing.  My life sucks and there is nothing to be thankful for.”  But then I think that is just me wanting to have my “poor me” attitude.  The truth is I have much to be thankful for and at the same time I have much to be sorrowful about as well.  My heart is broken and I am incredibly sad over losing my Jesse.  Yes, even though a year has passed my heart still aches for him and the life that we had and lost.  For now, that sorrow overshadows the gratefulness, yet it is good for me to acknowledge that I do have much to be thankful for.  First and foremost I am thankful to  be healthy.  Second, I am thankful to have my job and career.  Many of you don’t know this, but I almost lost my job over Jesse’s illness.  My FMLA had run out and I could not return to work with him being so ill.  The week Jesse died; I was scheduled to lose my budgeted position and to be reclassified as “On-Call”.  My great bosses and the good company that I work for decided to hold my position for me until I could return to work last December.  Work has been both a blessing and a challenge at the same time.  It was good to get back to a routine and be around friends who care about me, but also challenging to work in healthcare and around people who have no idea what a real health tragedy looks like.  I am also thankful to have our home.  And whatever happens with Jesse’s estate, I will find a way to keep it.  The fond memories and the opportunity to garden have kept me going.  I am very thankful for my sister, Patti, and the closeness that we share.  We are soul sisters and best friends and I have really come to realize during this past year how meaningful our relationship is to me.  She is one of the very few who has been consistently there for me during this horrible journey.  I am also thankful to have a wonderful therapist who really understands me and keeps gently nudging me to live my life for me; to truly be there for myself and not rely on others for affirmation that I am a good, lovable person.  It has always been a challenge for me to value myself outside of others and an even bigger challenge this year as people have faded out of my life and not been there for me during the worst of times.  His consistent reminders of my worth and attacks to my core beliefs, which are lies, continues to support me to grow into the person I want to be.  I am also thankful to have at least a couple of friends that I can call who will listen to me cry.  And I am thankful to have a new friend who has already been there for me in an incredibly big way; like none who have known me for years.  I am extremely thankful to have found and connected with other young widows and widowers, both virtually and in person.  We are brothers and sisters on this heart-wrenching journey and really can support each other with a deep understanding of this loss.  And lastly, I am thankful for Jesse’s dad, Bob or Pops as I call him.   I am very thankful that he is living in a retirement community where he is getting the extra help that I cannot provide as this has enriched our relationship so much.  Pops has been an inspiration and given my life some meaning and purpose during this past year.  I feel grateful and honored to look after this sweet, gentle old man in the twilight of his life.