It’s a Narrow Path Out of this Darkness

I can feel the tension building as I get closer to the end of the month.  It will be a year on the 27th.  One year ago we got the news.

I find that as the day approaches the build-up is immense.  Almost unmanageable.  I feel a sensation similar to that of a plane sitting on the tarmac waiting to take off.  Engines pulsing and throbbing as more and more energy courses through, building to a momentum and intensity that will make the impossible possible.  Unlike the plane, however, I won’t fly when I hit capacity – I’m more likely to crash and burn.

I am aware of how tightly strung I am. Getting through this week may mean withdrawing a bit.  Sometimes the thoughts in my head are too hard to explain and the feelings too raw to reveal.  It’s easier to shrink into the background; it’s less demanding.

So there’s nothing to be done about it.  Just get through the week and hope the next one is better.  That’s pretty much how it has been going for the last few weeks anyway.  It’s a narrow path out of this darkness and the ground can often give way, leaving me scrambling for a foothold again.  Then I get back up on my feet and try and refocus.   Groundhog Day.

It’s Father’s Day – Just Relax and Go With It

Venus - a good listener.

Venus – a good listener.

I woke up to an overcast day.  It’s a shame really, this is one day that I would have loved to see sunny and bright.  Thoughts flow through my mind about my father-in-law, my father, my own husband.  The memories: my father-in-law with his ever present pipe clenched between his teeth, rocking with my eldest son, puffing away on his pipe while he recited, “horsey, horsey, don’t you stop….”  My own father playing  cards at the kitchen table, slamming down his hand to win the game – we changed the name of Canasta to Ca-nasty just for him.  Then my own husband …

I see him in my mind, at the school across the street from one of our earliest homes, the three kids in tow.  Teaching the youngest to ride his bike, trying to prevent the eldest from jumping off a climber that was too high, all the while attempting to control our whirling dervish of a daughter.  I picture him at our dining room table giving my eldest son and his first serious girlfriend the “talk” about the birds and the bees – unfortunately, animated speaker that he was, Kevin also used hand gestures.  Funny, it was so funny.   I remember how excited he was to take our daughter with him to the UK.  Granted it was for a funeral and under sad circumstances, but he so wanted her to meet his family.  Then there was the youngest son who watched and observed how the elder two fared trying to get around their father, he’d try to outsmart his old man – but it never worked.  Kevin would always laugh saying, “What a rookie.  He has no idea about most of the crap I did when I was a kid.”

Our kids, his pride and joy – they put us through the rigours of parenthood, the highs and the lows, the pleasure and the pain.  As they got more independent and less receptive to his guidance and instruction (the kids might call this interference) he’d turn it up a notch.  The conversations could be quite stimulating, and in our house you either stood up for yourself or got steamrollered.  The kids learned to challenge assumptions and defend positions, how to debate and how to communicate. That’s the legacy of having Kevin for a husband and a father. Their father was not passive when it came to anything in life.  Even as his health was failing, his mind was not.  As he got frailer, he took on an oversight role.  When anyone was doing anything Kevin would have to supervise; it slowed progress down immensely since he would chatter incessantly – a 20 minute job could take hours.  Actually, that last statement applies to when Kevin was healthy as well.  He simply loved to talk.

These were the types of thoughts that I woke with today, on Father’s Day.  On this day last year he still was my Kevin, no idea that he had lung cancer.  A year ago, the phone would be ringing and he would get that contented smile, knowing one of the kids was calling to chat.  The food would be purchased and he’d be double checking to make sure I had everything for an incredible meal.  Then he’d take his coffee and go sit out on the deck, I’d join him, and he would reflect on how great life was.  That’s where I am headed now, to the deck, cup of tea in hand.  I’ll have a little chat to no one in particular, perhaps with the statue of Venus, a Father’s Day from years past.  I will try and count my blessings, and let love be the order of the day.

A Wretched State of Mind

"The Planets" - One of Kevin's recent oil paintings... No more of these ever again.

“The Planets” – One of Kevin’s recent oil paintings… No more of these ever again.

It is widely held that writing is cathartic, that it “provides psychological relief through the open expression of strong emotions.”  Personally, I have always turned to writing as a way to sort through my problems or emotions or to capture a thought or feeling.  Sometimes the things that float around in our heads and seem so insurmountable become a whole bunch more manageable when written down.  Oftentimes, after we strip away the emotion associated with a problem and capture the bare facts, then true risks and potential solutions become apparent. That’s not the case with respect to Kevin’s death. Writing this doesn’t serve as a pressure valve where I can relieve the sadness and despair from his passing. There is no way to strip away the emotion and there is no solution. Fact is, I don’t solve anything by writing this blog. It’s not meant to solve things anyway.

Sometimes actually sitting down to write something can become overwhelming.  I write and the tears flow. I type but I can’t see the keyboard for tears.  Sometimes the weight of his loss sits so heavily on my shoulders and chest, I bow my head and just let the sorrow wash over me.  It may take two or three days to finish off one solitary blog because it is just too painful.  It doesn’t make me feel any better, sometimes I feel worse.  I don’t stop though, because I feel that writing and expression is an essential part of this process for me.  I don’t stop because I feel compelled to capture every part of this journey – I don’t ever want to forget.  The depth of my devastation at Kevin’s loss sums up the immensity of my love for the man.

Death, hopefully, produces a blessed oblivion for the one dying, but it devastates those unprepared or unwilling souls that are left behind.  For me it has put in me in a horrid, wretched state of mind.  I know that I am surrounded by goodness, kindness and charity, but it’s like they exist on a parallel plane, visible yet not accessible to me.  I feel that I can’t absorb those gifts even though they are right in front of me.  It’s not a lack of gratitude on my part, it’s an inability to receive.  This month, the month of June, is a tough one.  It’s not getting easier as it nears the end of the month, nor do I expect it to.  No one can make it better, a reprieve from my present state of mind has to radiate outwards from me.

I Smile While I Cry

Was it Karin's or was it Reta's?  What it is, is really good.

Was it Karin’s or was it Reta’s? What it is, is really good.

Triggers – I am surrounded by them.  The simplest motion, activity, word, smell, sound – any one of these things can put me in turmoil.  Even an activity like changing the bed sheets can be cause for upset.  Fresh bed sheets are always lovely and my longstanding habit is to change the sheets every week.  I have three sets of bedding – two of which I can’t use any more because of associations.

One of the sheet sets was used to make up the hospital bed when it arrived.  They were on the bed that Kevin died in.  I will never throw them out, but I will never use them again either.  Another set was one we picked out together.  A few years ago, Kevin had gotten a bit obsessive about how sheets felt against his skin.  He didn’t like microfiber, nor flannel, not 400 thread count or 800 thread count – they all felt awful.  We ended up trying, loving and buying bamboo sheets.  I have a lovely set of bamboo sheets but now I have to brace myself just to put them on the bed.  It may be time to retire them.  Needless to state, for my own peace of mind, I have ordered another set.

The other day I made spaghetti sauce; this was one of Kevin’s favourites.  The house smelled divine, warm and welcoming.  It was, at the same time quite sad, one of those times where I smile while I cry, the smell triggering a sense of profound loss. When Kevin liked a dish he would record it in his own little cookbook aptly titled – The Cookbook for the Single or Married Batchelor.  He’d add little graphics and omit some key details, but the cookbook is so him.  The page at the top is one of his entries in it, one of the most controversial – he was never quite sure who he got the recipe from; he just knew he liked it.  This book is one of the most precious things I have.  Reading it brings out the usual response – I smile while I cry.  I call this cryling – tears that come from love and loss and reflect wistful dreams of times past.

I have resigned myself to this outcome, cryling, with respect to many of my day-to-day activities.  Especially lately, there is a degree of strain and a heightened awareness that has crept into my world as we near the end of June.  It was June 27th when Kevin was told he had cancer, the day our world was broken.




What is Fear?

I drafted a post for this blog back in November of 2014 and found it today.  It started like this:

“It is months into this thing and still there is an overriding sense of fear.  It struck me last night that no matter what the news, no matter whether it is good or bad, there is still fear.  The uncertainty and the unknowns will always remain and consequently there will always be fear.”

I didn’t know how true those words would be – even after the certainty of death, or perhaps I should rephrase that to despite the certainty of death.  The fear has changed for sure.  It’s a complicated indefinable fear; it resides in my soul, in my heart and in my mind.  It’s the fear of loss, and it takes many forms.  I’ve lived through it once; will I have to live through it again?  As soon as I wed I became vulnerable in love, that vulnerability expanded once the children came along, it grew stronger as the ties of family and friends grew deeper.  That vulnerability exists for everyone who has a partner, a family, a friend.  Until you have someone taken away from you through death, there is a blissful obliviousness about the value of our connectedness to those we love.  It’s a “take for granted” assumption that most of us carry, and we shouldn’t.

I feel like I’ve been through the war and I am still recovering.  I think it’s fairly normal to want to gather and protect and worry about my loved ones.  The fear of loss will remain in the recesses of my mind and it will influence my interactions with family and friends, hopefully in a very positive way but only time will tell.   I do believe that as time passes this response will mellow, but I don’t think it will ever go away.