February and March – I need a strategy

I recognize that, quite likely for the rest of my life, I will need a strategy to get through these two months.

Last year, February of 2016, I went off for a cruise with my sister and, despite my reservations, I enjoyed myself.  So we decided to repeat the event again this year, extending the invitation to two more of my sisters to join us (bringing the count to four out of a potential five and a half – yes I have a half sister).  And they did join us. It was the first time in decades that just us sisters did anything together.  My two sisters live in Newfoundland and my other sister and I live in Ontario, so it is not exactly conducive to family outings.  It came together for us though; the weather was great, the sea was calm, the food on the cruise was amazing.  It was a good thing.

We had one small glitch to deal with in Miami Airport.  It could have cast a pall on the vacation but fortunately it just wasn’t important enough to let it.  We had booked rooms for the night at Miami International Airport – paid way too much for inferior accommodations, but the convenience was the deciding factor.  In the morning we went downstairs to eat at Margaritaville, a chain restaurant located immediately beside the hotel lobby in the airport.

Our server was churlish to say the least – she had a chip on her shoulder so big it was a wonder she could lift a tray.  She took her time coming to our table to take our orders.  She forgot a couple of items we ordered.  Refills on the coffee – you’re kidding me right?  Just a gem.  Anyway, the bill came for the meal – it was $60.  We put cash down of $65 and prepared to leave.

The server was quick to grab the bill.  She walked away and opened up the black plastic bill holder and then came steaming, yup, steaming back.  “That’s not enough!” she said and slammed the bill holder on the table.  She flipped the cover open and stabbed her finger at a line on the bill.  It’s a beaut – it says “Recommended gratuity 15% – $8.99.”  She was royally pissed at us and said, “You need to leave more tip.”  And then she stormed off leaving us and the bill at the table!   Are you kidding me?  That’ll do it, give us a yell lovey and then we’ll pay you more.  Needless to say she didn’t get her $8.99, she got her $5.  In hindsight we should have taken the tip away completely, but the reality is that servers in the US typically don’t have a great hourly wage and rely on their tips, but bullying the customers to get it defies comprehension.

That exchange was off-putting until we realized that we were leaving the place behind for a week of sunshine and laughter.  That bitter little server was stuck in a hell of her own making.  She’s not doing much for the reputation of the restaurant though.  I gotta think that if she treats the customers like that she’s probably a nightmare for the manager to deal with too. Regardless,  I’ll never eat at that chain again.




Breaking bread not breaking down

Dinner out with the grief group ladies again last night.  Nice meal and no shortage of conversation.  It ended with us all reflecting on where we were in life through no choice we had individually made.  The reality is that we have started to come out the other side.  Friends and family around each of us has too.  But, and that word was accompanied by a heavy sigh, those around us, particularly those in our circle of friends, have yet to travel this path.

i was pretty much the first in my social group to have a spouse die.  Oh sure, we all have lost parents by now, but spouses – no.  Likewise for my lady friends.  We talked about that, and how arbitrary life is.  Then one in the group made the observation that once you can wrap your mind around the fact that you are really and truly alone, then there are occasions when you are okay with not having to consult, worry or limit your actions or activities because of other commitments.  But more bluntly – if I wanted to go to bingo every night there is no one to stop me.  This can be a good thing and a bad thing, no?  (And, for the record, I don’t go to bingo every night!)

Let’s face it, it is hard to find an upside when you have lost the love of your life, but you have to look for something.  For us, the four of us that met for dinner, we all appreciate the fact that we had good relationships that endured.  We had spouses that left us in a position to have a decent quality of life.  We have family and friends that stepped up to the plate and helped fill the void. Things that are important and that many others will never have.

We booked our next meal out for mid-September and I think we even identified a theme:  what difficulties we faced and how we coped, and can that information benefit others.  We could talk about that, or we may just talk about the Olympics.  It’s something to look forward to.

A First of a Different Kind

There are so many times as I go along that I feel the sense of singleness, of being one and only one.  Part of a set that got broken.  My identity over the 30 plus years I spent with Kevin had happily blended with and comfortably fit into his.  We were as different as different could be, but overall, it worked.

About a week ago I had surgery.  Going into it I felt lost and just a little terrified.  There was no one to sense my terror, to talk me down before the surgery, to readjust my mindset.  Another first, and a scary one for me.  Family and friends were around for sure, but I was not about to bare my soul again, to drag people into my pit of neediness.  So I did what I always have done – I planned for the worst.   I missed Kevin dearly – he always planned for the best and accepted nothing less.  Boy, I sure could have used a Kevin fix.  I know, somehow, despite his aversion to all things medical, he would have found something funny, something to joke about.

I spent a couple of days at hospital and then came home to convalesce on my own.  When I got home I made my way up to my bed and spent a whole bunch of time feeling sorry for myself.  Recuperating on my own, no Kevin around to tell me it wasn’t that bad, I spent time wondering what the years ahead would be like and how much effort I felt like putting into them.  Not the best time to reflect on the future or make any life altering decisions, but when there’s nothing else to do, the mind tends to kick into action, and when there’s pain involved the thoughts that the mind spins are hardly upbeat ones.

I guess I must be on the mend because I had a ‘shame on me’ moment yesterday.  It struck me as to how trivial my bit of discomfort is in the grand scheme of things.  I will mend; however, there are plenty of people I know who won’t. All around me people are going through things on their own, silently – some with help, some without.  Lives get altered everyday, paths change, crises come and go; drama is all around us, you just have to look for it.

The world is a hell of a lot more than me.


How Do You Stay Positive?

Our garden is watched over by the "Travellers"; sculptures created by my husband.  To me they are organic and harmonious, a peaceful addition to the landscape.

Our garden is watched over by the “Travellers”; sculptures created by my husband. To me they are organic and harmonious, a peaceful addition to the landscape.

This is the challenge isn’t it?  How to stay upbeat when you just feel like crap. I’ve watched my husband over the last two weeks get leveled by chemo, a blood clot, thrush, headaches, and nausea. The side effects of the disease and the treatment are debilitating.  We know that success in battling cancer depends on the psychological state of the individual – which speaks volumes to those survivors since both the disease and treatment drag you down.  Ultimately it comes down to small time pain and hardship for long term gain.  That’s the prize isn’t it – long term gain.  The present setbacks have to be put into perspective as temporary with the goal firmly ahead of getting past them and into a state of harmony and health.  It’s finding a strategy or a method that works for the individual to keep them looking forward.

For us our strategy is keeping focused on near future events.  Like an Art Show in October that he’d like to put a picture in.  Like having the family home for Christmas and enjoying just being together.  Like a new grand baby due in February. These things keep us going, keep him emotionally grounded, and provide a reason for going through all that he is going through.  It helps to have a strong support network too and in that way we are very fortunate.  Wherever this journey may take us we know that we have a web of family and friends gently behind us to catch us if we falter.   Thank you all.