Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is There a Statute of Limitations ....

                                                                picture from here

.... on now long Jim will remain on so many mailing lists?

Because .... really?!  It's been 4 years.  Well, Three years and 11 months, but who's counting?  Besides me?

I don't think there's a day that goes by without getting something in the mail that's addressed to him.  And mostly, it's just junk mail.
And I get that.
I really do.
Because junk mail is just stupid, in and of itself.
So I don't expect anything different from that crap.

But this year .... just a couple of weeks ago .... I received something in the mail that shocked me.  Really.
It took my breath away.

It was from Jim's attorney's office.  Not our personal attorney, but from a rather large firm in Houston which handled a case for him .... for us (after a horrific accident in 2001 when a gun blew up in his face while he was target shooting).  They worked with Jim, with us, for quite a few years before we settled the case ... not too long before he died, ironically.
A large, well-known firm.  A firm that's done a lot of work for other partners in Jim's firm.  A law firm that does a lot of "big" work.  A law firm that should know better.
A law firm that knows he's dead.
And has known that he's been dead for almost 4 years.

And yet .... they sent him an invitation to their annual Christmas/Holiday party.

Not a small get-together.
But a large, well-known annual affair.
Yep.  Really.

I felt like I had been kicked in the gut.
I wanted to march into the house, pick up the phone, dial their number and ask the first person who answered, "Are you freakin' kidding me??!!"
Four years.
Plenty of time to take the man's name off of the mailing list, don't you think?
Four years.
Do they think he's going to become more alive as each year passes?
Is there something they know that I don't?
Is he hanging out with Elvis somewhere, eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches?
Somehow, I don't think so.

Funny.  I still have the jury summons that he received 2 years after he died.
I was hoping they'd put out a warrant for his arrest after he failed to show for that.
Alas, they did not.

The failure of the government to keep up with the status of its citizens .... alive and/or dead?
I get that.
It happens.
We all know the government and what it's capable .... and incapable .... of doing.

But actual men and women whom I've met?  With whom I've spent hours working?  Not to mention the days upon days that Jim worked with them.
People who have real faces and real names .... which I know?

It's funny .... just when I think I've got this "widow thing" down .... when I think I've seen it all and there's no more to be seen ..... there suddenly is.
There should be a statute of limitations.
On how long dead people can receive mail.
And on how long some people can be stupid.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I am strong.

Picture from Pinterest

I am strong.
I am incredibly strong.
I never knew how strong Before.

I wonder how I survived those first few minutes of knowing, those first few hours of screaming, that first night, week, month, year.

But I did.

...and so I know I am made of strong stuff.

I know it's true because I am still here, raising two children, finding joy where I can get it
.... and I am not dead.

But sometimes I think I am so strong that people don't see past the incredible feats of strength and endurance I am constantly displaying.

...and they forget that it takes every ounce of my strength to keep moving forward.

...and they let me carry too much of their load.

...and I do it because I am strong.

But I worry that I can only carry so much.

So I am going to pick and choose those extra things I must carry.

I'm not going to take on everyone's minor problems.

Because I need every ounce of my strength for us.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chapter Two

 I now divide my life into two chapters.

Chapter one began when I met Dave. My life path suddenly became clear with him. I felt really safe and loved for the first time. My grades in college improved, the lifelong battle I'd had with insomnia disappeared. I moved across the country to be with this man who turned my world around.

We spent nearly 7 years living in "sin" and 8 properly married. We chose to have no kids. We liked the little cocoon of our life and didn't want anything to compromise our time together.

My future seemed clear. Easy. I actually recall saying "I wish more exciting stuff happened to me!".

On May 28, 2011, my otherwise healthy husband felt like he had the flu. Six days later, on June 4, 2011, a doctor told me he was gone. The days, hours and minutes in between are a hell it still physically hurts to recall. We had no idea he wouldn't be coming home after this bout with myocarditis. Some of his last words to me involved where he wanted to be - the couch with me and our 2 cats he adored. He never made it home. His heart stopped. I didn't get to say goodbye.

The earth shifted under my feet that day. The first beautiful day of summer.  He was 38. I was 35.

The pain of the first days after he died is still indescribable. It's good we forget a lot from the shock. My closest friends who witnessed every moment say it is something they wish to erase from their memories.

That was the beginning of the second chapter of my life. My life without Dave.

Two months after that day I hauled my broken self to Camp Widow in San Diego. I had exhaustively searched the internet for resources for widows. The way I dealt with my grief was to shore myself up with knowledge. I wanted to know about other widows. What they did, how they coped, where they were. I found the Soaring Spirits webpage and the link for Camp. Deciding to go changed my (new) life. I was surrounded by strong, resilient widowed people. My heroes. Something shifted in my mind for the first time. I realized I was a hero too. I was stronger than I ever thought possible. Michele, especially, showed me what's possible when you use your pain as fuel to make change.  My name badge that weekend became a badge of honor, and I treasure it. I made lifelong friends that weekend.

As I forge ahead in this journey, I am not walking alone. I am surrounded by the spirit of these people I share this journey with. I am surrounded by the love Dave showered on me. And I am learning to take care of myself. 

When Dave died I was pushed into this new world unwillingly. It turns out I can survive the worst life has to offer. I can still find parts of life to love and to be thankful for. I have so much less fear now than in Chapter One. The worst happened. I survived.

I value every minute I'm afforded now, more than ever. Time is a gift and his death was the hard way to learn this, but learn it I did. Thoroughly.

I also learned that beauty comes with tragedy. The love and devotion my friends showed me and the strength I've found within myself are painfully beautiful. Love and loss, pain and beauty. Never one without the other.

As I move through the 6th month of my second life, my Chapter Two, I am so grateful to have my widowed community. Coming to this site and reading the entries written by these incredible people has been a survival essential for me.

And now, I get to write for this site and I'm so honored to get the chance to share Chapter Two with my "people".

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I Don't Like Broccoli

Thanks to guest writer Matthew Croke for filling in for Dan today!

I’m thinking about getting a second family, one with a wife and kids.  I could take out an ad in a newspaper, “Man looking for wife and kids to help him figure out his own children.  Family must know man and his three children will live in another house.”  That should get me married in less than two weeks.

Why, do you ask, am I going all ‘Big Love’ kid version?  Because all of a sudden my three-year-old will no longer eat her Lucky Charms for breakfast.  She won’t do it.  Two spoonfuls and she says “I’m no longer hungry.”  It’s Lucky Charms!  It’s as close to giving a child a bowl of sugar and a straw for a meal.  So I tried a different cereal, no dice.  Now her non-eating  is spilling over to dinner, I come home from work and see a plate full of food on the kitchen table – the table has since been long been abandoned by the children - and my Mom tells me “Molly said she wasn’t hungry.”

So then the question I ask myself the most, when it comes to my children, finds its way to my brain.  “Is my child being a three-year-old who is inserting her independence, or is she being a three-year-old who lost her mother and is acting out.”  Do I go with the flow, “Oh, those kids” as I scrape the plate of pasta, carrots, and chicken into the garbage.  Or do I jump on the phone and set up an appointment with a therapist as I take the uneaten food, put it in a zip lock baggie, and mark it with a black Sharpie: Exhibit #1.   
Yes, I know kids don’t eat full meals. 
Yes, I know kids don’t listen to their parents.
Yes, I know my kids will get in trouble and break the law and drink someday.

I get it, I truly do.  But it’s also a mistake not to keep an eye out for signs they need a little more attention due to me being an only parent.  It’s a bad idea not to look for context clues from the kids struggling with not getting enough affection.  And trying to guess their pain is challenging, because they don’t come up and volunteer their grief; you have to be creative in having it come out.  I do belong to some amazing groups that help the kids and I deal with this part of grief.  I do.

However, it’s still difficult to resist the temptation of every time they hit one another, to sit them down and say, “Now, do you really miss mom and you are looking for someone to hold you and instead are replacing it with negative contact that leads to anger which in itself is easier to emote than love?”  The child looks at me and says, “No, Haley knocked over my Lego tower on purpose and I’m mad.” “Oh… then off you go. Just don’t hit her in the face.”

Can you see where my second family would come in handy?   I can be sitting down for dinner and my middle child will say, “Dad, I don’t like broccoli, I’m not going to eat it.”  I can then get up from the table, hop in my car and go to my second family (where I have a wife), join them in the middle of their dinner, turn to the middle child and say, “Hey child number two, you have a mom and me as a dad, no issues there, are you going to eat your broccoli?”  “Are you crazy Dad, I’m a kid, I hate broccoli!” I can get back up, run out the door, go back to my house, go over to Kelly, pick her up, and swing her around in circles saying, “You’re not traumatized, you’re just being a kid.”  

Only to have her throw up all over me and my eldest daughter say, “Dad, why would you spin her around like that during dinner?  Did you forget, or is it because you miss Mom?”

Saturday, November 26, 2011


I'd be lying if I said I miss being weird...I still am and will always be.

But I miss being weird with him.

Not so much weird with him, but ourselves completely.

I impressed him with my Gallum impersonation. He impressed me with his Chewbacca roar.

He spent his lunch breaks watching Star Trek Next Generation, and loved that I collected stamps.

He smiled and always cared to hear about my collection of Ghostbuster and Beetlejuice figurines or the gopher skeletons I treasured.

I loved watching him read Stephen King every night or laughing over 'Pet Cemetery'.

His nostrils could fit two fingers in it, and he loved showing me that talent...I never got sick of showing him how well I do the truffle shuffle.

He could hack computer systems and he always appreciated my poetry and matter how peculiar.

There are so many things that I miss in our mutual weirdness, but as I continue on with these rooted aspects of my being I smile at the oddities that make up my daily life. I smile in knowing that he loved them with all his being. I smile knowing that all of me is always more than enough.

“We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.”