The New World Order

There are lots of things that you realize, feel or miss after losing a spouse or someone close.  There are some soft things and some hard things.  Conversation, shared meals, watching movies, hugs, glances – those are soft things.  Income, chores, family responsibilities – those are hard things – things that require decision making, effort and action, things with consequences.

When Kevin died, over half of our annual income went.  I became responsible for all the expenses and payments related to where and how I live.  I also inherited oversight for every single chore associated with my home and I became the sole parent of three grown children.

There are days when this can all seem so overwhelming, and then there are days when I don’t even think about it.  The other day I stood in my driveway and looked around and felt overwhelmed – the property is large and, for one minute, I thought ‘just get rid of the place.’ The next day was sunny and bright and, as I walked up the driveway returning from walking the dog, I thought, ‘gosh I love this place.’

That pretty much sums up how it is – day by day.  Right now it’s a love-hate thing I have going on; some days I love being surrounded by the things we worked hard to achieve, other days they just represent chores to be done.  My least favourite: I hate taking out the garbage – just hate it, but I always did.  Thing was, Kevin would do it.  Now it’s just on me.  Some weeks when garbage day comes around I go to a dark place; I slam the bins around and drag them to the curb, head back inside and feel sorry for myself.  Other weeks, I am resigned to my new duties, and so I might have a conversation with Kev in my mind.   I know if he was around he’d tell me to get over it, that it is stupid to waste any energy on a task that has to be done.  That if he was here he’d do it, but he’s not, so to figure it out.

I am figuring things out and I know it.  Doesn’t make it any easier and it doesn’t mean that I like it.  But I am going with the flow.



I Never Ask

I never ask myself anymore ‘who’s next.’  I stopped a long time ago.  Truly, right now it seems as if family and friends are under siege.  Could it be that we baby-boomers are a defective bunch?  Or is it just that life here in Canada is so harsh that it takes a greater toll physically?  That was always Kevin’s belief, he’d often say, ‘No, my dad couldn’t chose Australia.  He had to immigrate to Canada, where the winter is six months of the year, and the temperature is f***in’ 30 below for most of it.’

Yesterday a good friend told me that her sister had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Not a dire prognosis, but anything with the brain is scary.  Her sister’s surgery is set for next Friday.  In this case everything is happening so fast it makes one’s head spin.  We talk and think about it in clinical terms because it is almost impossible to conceive of on a personal level. My friend has to wait and watch and feel powerless, because she is.  Then there is my sister-in-law who recently found out that her husband (they separated years ago) has been diagnosed with lung cancer, under much the same circumstances as my husband Kevin faced.  What to say?

The thought of anyone else in my inner circle developing a serious illness is a thought that I can’t entertain.  I remember a month or so ago stopping my daughter from talking about worries she had about her infant son.  They weren’t serious concerns, but the thought of anything, of any nature, occurring to one of my children or grandchildren destabilizes me completely.  I find I that swing to the extreme and my fear gets the better of me.  A residual effect from Kevin’s death, I am aware it is irrational, but that doesn’t make it go away.  And so, for my own sanity I never ask nor do I ever wonder who or what is next.

Three Kisses

This weekend I was away, travelling to the US with my sister.  This was something that I used to do before Kevin got ill; when the Canadian dollar was almost par with the US dollar.  It was a girl’s weekend: me, my daughter and my sister.  Off we’d go to Buffalo and shop until we dropped, or at least until I dropped.  When we got to Buffalo yesterday it was remarkable how much had changed since I was last there.  It had been two years since I’d done the trip, it surprised me when I realized how long it had been.

For this trip, my sister was meeting up with her fiance, and so we had separate rooms booked.  The hotel was newly built since we’d last visited and very modern in design.  I couldn’t help but think how much Kev would have liked it.   If he had an opportunity to go away, even for a night or two, he was on it.  This hotel was right up his alley, clean lines, linear patterns – very contemporary.

Saturday night as I got ready for bed, all alone in the lovely hotel room, I thought about our nighttime ritual; most couples have one and Kevin and I were no exception. For probably the last ten years of our marriage, once we were both in bed and settled in for the night, he’d turn on his left side and I would snuggle in behind him for a few minutes, then I’d kiss him three times on his right shoulder and roll over onto my right side.  If we were having a disagreement, or I was for some unknown reason mad at him, I wouldn’t follow the pattern.  I’d get in bed and just lie on my right side to go to sleep.  Nine times out of ten, I’d win.  He couldn’t stand the deviation from the usual nighttime routine.  After a few minutes of silence, he’d use this bored voice, almost like I was a child, and say, “Whatever it is, you need to get over it.”  Needless to say that would result in a fairly robust conversation and, again, nine times out of ten, we’d resolve whatever it was. Then he’d get his three kisses.

It is nine months and two weeks since Kevin died, and there are still so many things that seem to boomerang back at me.  I know that things are gone and finished and can’t be anymore, but still they just hit me out of the blue.  I cry, and I talk to him; sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t.  Those lines come back to me even after he’s gone: “Whatever it is, you need to get over it.”  Not this time, honey.




The Price

I’ve had a week of aches and pains like no other.  I think that this is simply the physical toll of getting through Christmas.  It’s okay to go like there’s no tomorrow as long as you know there is a tomorrow, and when you finally let it in that there is a price to pay.  That’s where I am at now.  Paying the price.

The human body can take a remarkable amount of abuse.  I think about how, in some cases, toxins like chemotherapy medications can actually cure by killing off cells.  That is a planned assault on the body – eyes wide open, prepare for the battle.  In my case though, my abuse of my body is through sheer neglect.  During Christmas and the weeks leading up to it, I subjected my body to all sorts of unpleasantness – sleep deprivation, physical inactivity, torturous thoughts and high stress levels.  If I felt lousy I took a pill, if I couldn’t sleep, I took a pill.  At some point something had to give, and this week it did.

The walls finally came tumbling down earlier this week after I started to organize the Christmas ornaments.  Every year for 10 years Kevin had bought me a glass ornament for our Christmas tree.  Hand-painted, blown glass and usually inscribed with the year.  Obviously this year I didn’t get one, nor did I get one last year, he was just too sick.  For some reason, the fact that two years were missing sent me over the edge.  Cried so hard I gave myself a headache, sank so low I couldn’t pull myself back up.

I realized then that I’d stopped writing as well.  Over the past few weeks I haven’t cared about writing anything here, my writing has been spotty at best.  I’ve been too tired and felt like it’s all been said, and that I have an unhealthy compulsion to dwell on the past.  Then I realized, I need to write for my sanity and for my health.  I’m not dwelling on the past, I’m sorting through the present and how we got here.  I need to do this for me, on my own terms – if people don’t want to read it, then they don’t have to, no one is making them.

Bottom line, I loved my husband so very, very much, as did my children, as did his sister, the rest of our family and his good friends.  It was a tremendous loss and it will take a long time to fully come to terms with it. There’s no shame in mourning as long as you still keep living.

The Picture

I guess I would have to say today was a bad day.  Emotionally raw; it was a day where I just had to put my head down and get through.  Yesterday I had gone out for dinner with a good friend.  It was a lovely meal out and a lovely way to pass a few hours.  It was afterwards that the sadness hit.  Jealousy wrapped up in sadness is probably more accurate. You see, most of my friends are still married, no widows in my immediate circle.  So, for them, they get to look across the dinner table at their husbands every night.  Every day they routinely engage in small talk, arguments, they might get mad at each other and they may or may not make up.  But the presence and the involvement and the sheer state of “couple-ness” exists for them.  I hope they appreciate it.  What I wouldn’t give to have that back again.

So for bedtime last night I recognized the signs of a potential disastrous night’s sleep and did the preventive stuff.  I took a sleeping pill and washed it down with a beverage called Calm.  It did the trick and I zonked out in no time flat.  I woke up this morning, however, to the same feelings.  When this happens, and this was not the first time, my morning routine to get ready for work is always minimal.  It is a feat just to drag myself to work.  At times like these I just don’t care.  It doesn’t matter what I wear or how I look.  Usually once I am at work I snap out of it.  The routine and the demands of the workplace provide enough momentum to get me through and even back on track.

I’d also planned a couple of activities for after work, to stay busy and avoid thinking.  One of the activities involved a visit to a framing shop to have a painting framed.  When I got back home I went in to my husband’s art room, to see what else I should perhaps think of framing, and could take with me when the present painting was ready for pick up.  In the art room, Kevin, my husband, had painted a family portrait of sorts – it had been finished in early 2014.  He’d hung it on the wall above his table and behind his easel.  Today, when I saw it, I thought, that’s the one that I’ll frame next.  I took it off the wall and that’s when I saw the handwriting on the stretcher boards on the back.  Kevin’s scratchy lettering; dedicating the painting to his family.  It was the sweetest and dearest thing, and I had no idea it was there.  I am glad I found it.  Although it brought on the tears, it also made me feel like he was sending me a message, one that I needed to hear.

I took that painting out of the art room and hung it on the bedroom wall.  I won’t get it framed, it’s perfect the way it is.