Michigan and the Canadian countryside

Last weekend I took my daughter on our second big adventure since Bryon passed away.  My best friend from Maine, who had been living in Florida with her fiance, just relocated to Ann Arbor, Michigan.  I looked at google maps and saw that it was about a nine hour drive.  I ascertained that it would be long, but it was doable.  The drive to my parents house in Maine is usually about 8 hours so this would only be a little longer.  I decided to make this into a “runcation” (which I will write about in another race recap post.)  To make an exciting weekend even better, my other best friend from Chicago decided to drive up with her daughter.  In case you forgot, she was the one who consoled me as I sat on the floor in a Las Vegas casino crying a month ago.

I couldn’t seem to get my act together all week so I was packing on Friday morning and got a later start than I had wanted.  I kept feeling like I was forgetting something.  I had to remind myself that there were Targets in Michigan and if I forgot anything, I could just get it at Target, along with other stuff I don’t really need but I will decide I can’t live without.  We finally got on the road around 9 am.

Our trip was pretty uneventful, though we ran into some snow but it was sunny by the time we were in Western, NY.  Before we knew it, we were at Niagara Falls.  My gas tank was just below a half of a tank but I stopped to fill my tank before entering Canada.  Anyone who travels to Canada knows, gas is very expensive and it is wise to fill up on the United States side of the Border.

I was nervous crossing the border without Bryon because I had read on the internet that Canada was careful about children crossing the border without both parents.  If you are a single parent traveling with a minor, you need a notarized letter from the other parents stating it’s okay.  Well, Bryon wasn’t here to notarize any sort of letter.  So I brought my daughters birth certificate along with a copy of Bryon’s death certificate.  (We also have NEXUS cards)  I was chatting with the Canadian Border agent who was very nice and she said it really was a concern when parents don’t bring any ID and it was clear I was my daughter’s mother.  She did look at our NEXUS cards and my daughter’s birth certificate.  The border agent said she didn’t need to look at Bryon’s death certificate but told me that it was a good idea to have it on me just in case.  

My daughter finally fell asleep in Canada.  The drive was long and uneventful with lots of farmland.  Bryon and I had never traveled further than the Niagara region so Southern Ontario was all new territory.  I found myself wishing he was on the trip with us.  For starters, he would have been doing the driving.  Second, we drove by so many places that would have excited him, like the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.   I imagine the conversation would have gone something like this:

Bryon: Let’s stop!  It’s the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame!

Kerry:  You don’t even like going to the American Baseball Hall of Fame.  You think it’s lame.

Bryon: But Kerry…It’s the CANADIAN Baseball Hall of Fame.

Kerry: But…you aren’t that into baseball and a visit will take up a lot of time and we want to get to Michigan before it get’s dark.

Bryon: You are a Miss No-Fun.

I also thought fondly of Bryon as I drove by London, Ontario and saw the sign for the Labatt Brewery.  He loved Labatt.

I was bored with the radio in the car and ended up listening to the CBC news.  I decided that would be my cultural activity of the day since I would not be stopping at Tim Hortons, or the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame or the Labatt Brewery.  I drove by a really large wind farm that went on for 45 minutes.  Then I was finally in Windsor, Ontario and then I was crossing the Ambassador Bridge into Detroit.  The Bridge was beautiful and I couldn’t take a picture because I was driving.  There was a very large American flag.  I don’t know if it is because I am generally a patriotic person or if it was because I was glad that my long drive was almost over but I started to belt out “America the Beautiful” when I saw that flag.  My daughter was not impressed.  I can’t blame her as I am not exactly a good singer.  Actually my singing is not even tolerable.  Poor girl.

We made it to Ann Arbor around 7:15 after google maps took us on an interesting drive in Detroit. I was so excited to see both of my best friends.  Since I don’t use people’s names in this blog, I am going to refer to my friends as “my Maine best friend” and “my Chicago best friend”.  And I will refer to my Maine best friend’s fiance as “the Scientist” because, well, he’s a scientist.  We sat down and ate some Domino’s Pizza (which I learned is headquartered in Ann Arbor) and drank some Aldi wine (not too bad).  My daughter was excited to see my Chicago best friends daughter and they wore princess dresses and chased each other until it was time for bed.

Good Night, Michigan
All tuckered out

I woke up early Saturday morning to make my run to Target to buy the items I forgot, along with those other items that I didn’t really need but decided I can’t live without.  My Chicago best friend came with me and we decided to do the “divide and conquer” approach and I think we were out of there within 20 minutes.  It was quite impressive.

After we returned to the house, we packed up to take the bus downtown.  My daughter really enjoyed riding on the bus.

Who knew the bus could be so much fun?

The plan was to take the girls to the Natural History Museum at the University of Michigan. They had a great time running around and looking at the artifacts but they began to get tired and hungry.  We had made it through the first two floors and the Scientist went up to check the third floor and said there wasn’t as much there so we decided to leave.

Natural History Museum at University of Michigan
Natural History Museum at University of Michigan
Natural History Museum at University of Michigan
Natural History Museum at University of Michigan
Natural History Museum at University of Michigan
Natural History Museum at University of Michigan

I wanted to do some shopping so we stopped at The Den to buy my daughter and myself an article of clothing that said “Michigan” on it.  

We then had lunch at Hopcat which was delicious and very reasonably priced.  I had the tacos which were delicious.  And I don’t know what the seasoning was on the crack fries, but they were amazing.  My daughter learned the hard way that the hot sauce was not ketchup.  There were some tears but I still think she handled better than some adults would have.  The hot sauce was really hot.

Hopcat- Ann Arbor


Hopcat- Ann Arbor
The attitude ❤

When we returned, I put my daughter down for a nap and my Chicago best friend stayed with the girls while my Maine best friend and I went to the race Expo which I will write about in another post.  After we went to the Expo, we needed coffee so we went to a Meijer that also had a Starbucks.  In 2007, I lived in Indiana for three months and I forgot how awesome Meijer was.  It’s like, one of the seven wonders of the Midwest.  Anyway we were in desperate need of caffeine and I also had to get the Starbucks You Are Here mugs.  It’s my latest obsession.  Anyone else into those mugs?

I was here.

After the girls woke up from their nap, we made plans to go to a Mexican restaurant, Los Amigos.  The food was really good and I am a Mexican food snob.  I was excited to see Chilaquiles on the menu because I think the only place I can get them locally is at El Mexicano in Saratoga.  I was excited that they had a train.  It was like Governor’s except it was a Mexican restaurant and we were in Michigan, not Maine.

Los Amigos- Ann Arbor
My Maine Best Friends Sampler.  I think it took her three days to eat all of it.
Chilaquiles- Los Amigos, Ann Arbor


We were all exhausted Saturday night and didn’t stay up late. 

Sunday was race morning which, again, I will write a separate race recap.

After the race, my Chicago best friend and her daughter left.  My Maine best friend, my daughter and I drove 45 minutes to Dearborn to go to The Henry Ford.  It was pricey but I felt like it was something you need to do in area.  We were starving so we had lunch at a diner in the Museum.  It was an actual diner car from 1946.  Jut don’t expect to get a diet soda because when my Maine best friend tried to order one, the waiter informed her that there was no diet soda in 1946.  However, the prices were not reflective of 1946 and they did accept credit cards.

The Henry Ford
The Henry Ford
The Henry Ford

My daughter took a cat nap on the car ride and was tired and was beginning to lose it after the cars, trains and planes so we decided to call it a trip.  I didn’t feel too bad because my Maine best friend decided to buy the membership because she figured out that a membership would pay for itself in two trips.  She also figured that this would be the place that out of town guests would want to go so a membership made sense.

The Henry Ford
The Henry Ford
It’s a Maine thing
The Henry Ford

We had a relaxing Sunday night.  We ordered Chinese food for dinner and just hung out and went to bed early.  

My daughter and I were on the road by 7am.  We had a morning stop planned in Windsor, Ontario.  When Bryon and I got engaged, I went on theknot.com and was active in the September 2012 board.  Theknot.com was glitchy so we moved our group over the Facebook and we are still an active group.  There have been so many milestones, babies, new jobs, new houses as well as divorces, illness and now death.  I am the first widow of the group (though one of the ladies of the group was a widow who married her second love in Sept 2012)  Anyway, one of the ladies on the board lives just out of Windsor (she blogs here) so my daughter and I met her at a Tim Hortons.  I have known her online for over 5 years and it was exciting to finally meet her in person.

Friends and Tim Hortons in Windsor, Ontario

After our visit, we had a long car ride back.  My daughter slept for about half of the Canada portion and none of the New York portion.  We stopped for lunch at a rest stop just outside of Buffalo.  The drive was long and uneventful and we made it home around 6 o’clock.

This adventure was still bittersweet.  I didn’t miss Bryon as much as I did when I went to Vegas.  Maybe that was because Vegas was the first adventure since Bryon passed.  Maybe it was because both of my best friends were there which provided twice the distraction.  But even though travelling without Bryon may have been easier, I still got sad when we passed the University of Michigan stadium because Bryon was such a sports fan and I knew he would have been excited.  I guess I just have to have faith that he comes along with us in his way but I just wish he was physically still here to go on these adventures with us.  I miss him so much but I must carry on for him, for my daughter and for myself.  But it does make me feel good that I am still fulfilling the promise I made to him in the final hours of his life.  

Why am I doing this?

Yesterday my blog reached a milestone.  A milestone that I never would have dreamed of ever happening, let alone only after two and a half months.   Yesterday my blog reached 10,000 page views.  I never would have thought that my words about Bryon would go so far in such a short time.  

So why do I do this?  Anyone who knows me in “real life” would tell you that I tend to be a pretty private person who takes a long time to open up to people.  I usually prefer to keep in interactions with people at the superficial level.  Want to talk about the weather?  Sure!  Talk about emotions and feelings?  No way!  Before Bryon got sick, I kept all but a few people at an arm’s length.

So what has compelled me to share some of my most private feelings on the internet? If someone would have told me that I would be sharing some of my most personal thoughts for the whole world to see, I would have probably looked at them like they were nuts.  But here I am.  Sharing my personal thoughts in a place where anyone can see.   I am not lying when I tell you that it is one of the scariest things I have ever done.  I am most likely ruining my chances of ever getting a boyfriend (in the very distant future) because any potential suitors would likely find this blog during a google search and go running far away after reading this.  And I can’t blame them.  Run, Forrest, Run!

There are many reasons I pour my heart out on the internet.

I have barely begun to share most of Bryon’s story because it is still too painful for me to share.  But I feel compelled to tell Bryon’s story in an effort to help other patients.  I want to help people know how to advocate for themselves and I want to empower people to find the right knowledge so they can make educated medical decisions.  I want to help people know what kind of questions to ask their doctors and what to do if something just doesn’t seem right with themselves or with the health care that they might be receiving.  I want people to know why it is important to know their own health history and, if possible, that of their family members.

I feel compelled to share my story as a caregiver and an advocate because I want to help the family members and friends of the critically and terminally ill.  I was thrown into a situation where one day my husband was recovering from a minimally invasive surgical procedure to fighting for his life in the ICU a few days later.  I don’t think there is a word in the English language that could accurately describe how overwhelmed I felt during those weeks that my life came crashing down. I have a background in oncology data and oncology was one of the few medical specialties that did not play a role in Bryon’s care.  While I had more medical knowledge than the average person, I am not a doctor or nurse and I had to quickly adapt to all the new medical terminology and procedures.  Bryon also could not speak for himself while he was in the ICU and he depended on me to advocate for him.   And unfortunately advocating for patients is not easy.  As a caregiver, you need to be prepared to fight for your family member or friend.

I feel compelled to share my story because I want to help other widows and widowers.  Widowhood is a very lonely place.  It helps to read that we are not alone and that other people can relate.  I appreciate reading blogs and memoirs of widows and widowers, especially those who are further in the healing process because I want some sort of idea of what to expect down the road.  Since I benefited from the stories of others, I want to share my stories with the hope that it might help another widow and widower.

I want to share my story to help those who have gone through a trauma and/or have experienced the loss of someone important in their life.  Grief is grief regardless of whether it was a spouse, a family member or a friend and we can all relate and support each other.

I write because it helps me process my own emotions.  I was in the “widow fog” for several months after Bryon died and the fog didn’t start to subside until I started writing about my feelings and my experience.  Before I started writing, I could bottle up my emotions and ignore them for a later time.  This isn’t healthy.  Writing forces me to acknowledge what I am feeling at any given time and it forces me to deal with my grief instead of ignoring it.

I write because I must preserve as much of our story for my daughter.  She won’t have any first hand memories of Bryon and she will have to rely on the stories that are told to her.  I can already start to feel that my memories are not as sharp.  I feel a huge void that Bryon left but it’s getting harder to remember the little things.  I am fearful that if I don’t write things down then those memories will die with Bryon.

I hope to become a patient advocate someday.  I want to raise awareness for the issues that plagued Bryon and ultimately took his life.  I want to empower the caregivers of critically and terminally ill patients.  I share our story to meet others who have been in similar situations and have similar goals.  I write with the hope that I can expand my network so that someday I am able to accomplish my goals of helping people.

An experiment: my 6 hours on Bumble

One Saturday night a few weeks ago, my friend came over.  She is newly single and she recently signed up for Bumble.  After a glass of wine, my curiosity started to peak.  I asked her if it was okay to create a profile just to look.  I have no intention of dating.  I still wear my wedding rings.  But I was curious to see what the market looked like and if anyone would find me attractive.  

Spoiler alert: No one finds me attractive.

For those you are lucky enough to not be versed in online dating sites, Bumble is like Tinder where you swipe left to pass and swipe right if you like the person and if they like you, you are a match.  Bumble is different than Tinder because only women can initiate contact with men.  Personally I am not a fan of the whole concept of online dating.  I would prefer to meet a man the old fashioned way.  The whole concept of creating a profile to date feels to forward to me and is too much pressure.

At first the whole swiping process was fun.  We swiped left when we saw things we didn’t like and right on things that we liked or at least seemed okay.  Granted the whole thing was kind of shallow but entertaining.  My friend and I laughed quite a bit.

As I was looking at profiles, there were men who didn’t say anything about themselves.  Others were extremely well rounded.  They wanted a woman to join them on hikes, wine tastings, dinners, travelling, runs, walks in the woods, trips to the beach, cooking a nice dinner, watching Netflix and to have meaningful conversations with.  I started to get stressed out just reading these profiles.  Some days I barely find the time to shower.  There is no way I could keep up with all these Renaissance men.  Maybe they are single because they are high maintenance and needy.  Really, I just need a guy who likes frozen pizza, Disney Jr. and is willing to carry my luggage.

There seem to be a lot of men out there that play the guitar and I swiped left on them.  I admire people who can play a musical instrument because it is a talent I definitely don’t have.  But I don’t have the attention span to sit and listen to them play.  Sure the first couple of times I will sit and appear impressed to be nice but over time I become bored because I would rather be conversing, or eating, or moving around or pretty much anything else.  Those guitar playing men deserve to be with women who appreciate their talents.

I learned that I am not interested in dating guys who want to start a family.  I have an amazing daughter.  I am not interested in being pregnant again.  It’s probably the PTSD talking but too much can go wrong in childbirth and I need to be here for my daughter.  Also, I am in my late thirties and I don’t think I want to do any more sleepless nights or pumping sessions.  So if a guy wants more than my amazing daughter, then he would have to bring his own children to the relationship.

I learned several things. I do value intelligence and an education.  But as much as I am attracted to intelligence, I also am not into men who are pretentious about their education level and intelligence.  Bryon was confident about his intelligence and never had a need to be pretentious.  I am also leery of men who call themselves entrepreneurs and I am much more likely to swipe right on a man wearing a Red Sox hat as opposed to a Yankees hat.

I also found myself drawn to men who liked the things that my husband liked which was ridiculous.  It doesn’t matter if a guy likes rugby or the Buffalo Bills, or Gordon Ramsay.  He will never be Bryon.  It is as if I am subconsciously looking to try to get back what Bryon and I had but that is not possible.  Bryon was a one-in-a-kind.  He was amazing and the world will never see someone like him.

I am no longer part of a Bryon-Kerry team.  The goals and rules of the Bryon-Kerry team no longer apply.  It is all me now.  And on top of it, I am not the same.  I am broken.  I don’t even know who I am anymore. I always prided myself on being true to myself but the more I try to find myself, the more I wonder if I am going through some sort of identity crisis.

I just hate that I am even in this position.  I feel cheated of my happily ever after.  Almost all of my friends are married or are in committed relationships and my husband is gone.  I wasn’t supposed to be in this position.  I was perfectly content to be a wife and mother.  I wasn’t supposed to be single in my late 30’s. The new rules of dating seem so complicated, full of craziness like dick pics and ghosting and pretending that you are too cool to be interested in each other.  I don’t want to date.  I want to be a wife but you aren’t supposed to want that or you are desperate.  But I know I am not desperate.  And as much as I would rather be a wife than have to date, I am not going to settle.  I had true love and I know what it is and frankly I don’t want to be someone’s wife if we are not crazy in love with each other.  I am not going to jump into any relationship with just anyone.

As the night went on, I started to become sad and the sadness began to intensify.  I miss Bryon too much. No one will ever replace Bryon.   He is a person worth missing.  He is worth every tear  and every pang to the heart.  He is worth every lonely night.  He leaves a void that I doubt any can ever fill.  I just hope that living with the void becomes tolerable enough over time where I can move forward.

So after 6 hours, I realized that dating, at least online dating, was not for me and I deleted the app.  I am not saying that love will not find me and I hope that if it does find me, I am open to it.  But I don’t need to be looking for it online.  If I change my mind, I guess the internet will be there.

One year

It was a Wednesday. Exactly one year ago.

I was at work.  Bryon was at home, recovering from surgery.

It was mid afternoon and my co-workers and I were preparing for a late afternoon meeting.

My phone rings.  It is Bryon.  He is in a lot of pain and I have to leave immediately and take him to the emergency room.

I am not sure if I even shut down my computer. I remember saying that I needed to tell my boss.  My co-workers told me not to worry about that and that they would relay the message.

I rush out of the office.

Life is made up of moments and little did I know that this was the moment where my life was about to change.


The mystery of friendship and the meaning of life

My weekend was a lot like other weekends.  There were social engagements.  There were errands that were done as well as errands that didn’t get done.  I got some cleaning done and there was even more cleaning that didn’t get done.  I wanted to take a nap but that didn’t happen.  On Saturday evening, I was rushing around getting my daughter ready for her sitter and getting myself ready for a birthday dinner.  Embracing a night where I wouldn’t need to be carrying a diaper bag, I grabbed a small clutch purse that I hadn’t used in a long time.  I opened it and inside there was a shiny green toy baby. I looked at it for a second and then I remember that it was from our trip to New Orleans in 2014.  I was nine weeks pregnant and we were going on a cruise (this was before Zika was a thing) and we spent a few days in New Orleans before the cruise.  We had had dinner at Emeril’s restaurant NOLA.  I don’t remember what Bryon ate but I remember that I had the fried chicken because my stomach couldn’t handle much else.  For dessert I had iced cream and Bryon had King cake and this little toy baby was in the King Cake.  Being the sentimental packrat I am, I saved it and forgot about it. There even is some frosting still dried onto it.

Now it is three years later.  Our nine week old fetus is now an active two and a half year old girl and Bryon is dead.  I don’t think this toy baby is a sign from heaven but it was a nice memory I had forgotten about.  I thanked Bryon for that memory.   As I clean out my house, it is likely that I am going to find more memories but I know over time these surprise memory triggers are going to become less frequent.

Our circle of friends always call ourselves “the family that we created.”  Some members of our social circle know each other from college, or from politics or other organizations in Bryon’s life.  Many of us are not from the Albany area and we live far from our own families so we do depend on each other like a family.  Bryon’s sickness has also brought us closer together.   We were there to comfort each other.  They got me through the funeral and those early weeks of raw grief. We continue to help each other and support each other.  Bryon’s death continues to bring us closer each day.  Our souls are on some sort of journey and Bryon was in each of our lives for a reason and there is a reason that we are together now.  We may not know, or ever know, the exact reason but there is a reason.  We are all exactly where we are supposed to be.  

During my conversations with close friends this weekend, we came to the realization that while Bryon might be physically dead, he is not really dead.  He still has us laughing hard when we tell stories of his antics and those stories bring us comfort.  While we share situations when we need Bryon’s guidance, we share the guidance he gave us when he was here.  He truly lives on in our memories.  While we may all be special and one of a kind, Bryon was different.  He completely shattered the mold.

Our friendships have changed since Bryon died.   Most of us in our circle have grown closer.  We take the time to check in with each other more.  We celebrate the events in our lives more and if there is no event to celebrate, we make up a reason.  Being alive is a good reason.  Every brunch together, every birthday dinner, every game night, we are meant to be together.  We are in each other’s life for a reason.  I may never make sense of why Bryon’s life had to be so short but I know that we were meant to be together for the short time we had and that it is because of Bryon that I have these amazing friendships and a whole bunch of happy memories.  I have no idea where my life is going to end up, but wherever I go, it will be a result of the time I spent with Bryon as well as the time spent with my friends now.  I don’t know how but these two factors are going to play a pivotal role in the rest of my journey on Earth.

Some friends have grown apart from our core group since his death and that’s okay.  It’s natural.  We are all moving forward.  Forward doesn’t necessarily mean together.  Just like some of us are in each others lives for a reason, there is a reason that people grow apart too.  We are each on our own path and must follow it.  Coming to this realization makes it easier to let go of any relationships that may be toxic because there is no reason for that to be in my life or my daughter’s life.  Toxicity brings no value.

One thing none of us doubt is that Bryon is still playing a role in everything down here and we could very well just be pawns.  There may be relationships I don’t have yet because Bryon still has it in the works.  He was never one to play his best card right away.  He is too smart for that. He has plans for all those close to him and he’s going to orchestrate it carefully.  We just need to be patient.

I thought of this over the weekend when I brought my daughter to the birthday party of one of Bryon’s law school rugby teammates.  I don’t know his teammate and his wife very well but they are great people and have always been kind of my daughter and me.  They expressed an interest in our daughters being friends as they are close in age.  Only time will tell if they become good friends of ours or if our daughters become close friends.  But it is a good reminder to myself to not to get too comfortable with “the family that we created” and that I need to be open to the other friendships too.  Because Bryon’s work may not be done.  There could be people that are meant to be in my life that aren’t yet and it may take awhile for our paths to cross.  Or maybe the friendships I have now will change and I need to be open to whatever those changes might be.

I certainly don’t know the meaning to everything or anything for that matter.  I will never understand why Bryon had to die young.  But I do think he was given more personality because he was here for a short time.  I also think that maybe his soul was in some way more developed and therefore, he didn’t need to spend 80 years on this earth.  But I know that he is still here and he is still working his magic and it gives me hope that maybe there are good things yet to come for me, my daughter and for everyone in our family that we created.  

Feliz cumpleaños mi amiga

I am going to start this off with a confession.  Way back in the very early days of our friendship, you missed my birthday party.  I don’t know why you missed it.  I am sure you had a perfectly good reason but at the time, I was so mad at you. I didn’t tell you I was mad at you but Bryon definitely heard about it and he was so annoyed at me.  I have a tendency to hold onto anger.  It’s not one of my more endearing qualities. (How fitting that I am talking about my Irish stubbornness on St. Patrick’s Day?) I held onto this anger until Bryon invited you and your boyfriend, now your husband, over to our place to watch a televised Siena game and I decided I was not mad at you anymore.  

I am not sharing this story to try to make you feel bad.  If anything, I am hoping you are laughing at what an idiot I am.  I am sharing this story to demonstrate that because my own stubbornness, I could have easily missed out on of the best friendships in my life.  I want everyone that is reading this to learn that lesson and to not be like me.

Through the years, we became good friends.  You gave me a wedding planner when Bryon and I got engaged. We were at each others bridal showers and weddings.  You held my daughter when she was a baby.   We attended Siena games together.  We went on double dates, one of which involved dueling pianos and an interesting rendition to the classic “Joy to the World”.

You were present at some of my funniest memories of Bryon.  I wish you could have seen the look on your face when Bryon walked out of your wedding with a six pack of Sam Adams Oktoberfest. And remember that time when we were playing Cards Against Humanity and there was the incident with the Chinese food?  And of course the infamous Christmas Eve Mass where we broke the pew after Communion and Bryon said “We need Jesus the carpenter, not Jesus the baby” and then Bryon marched up to the altar with the long piece of the broken pew over his shoulder, explaining it all to Father Bradley who wasn’t phased at all.

Bryon and I were saddened by your father’s death and attended your father’s funeral.  We were sad that we didn’t get to know your father.  We heard the stories and realized that we missed out on knowing a great man.  Maybe they are getting to know each other now.  I remember Bryon and I discussing how your father’s death was significant because we didn’t have many friends who have lost parents.  Most of us had lost grandparents but a parent’s death was different because it was one generation closer to us and therefore it made our own mortality seem closer.  That conversation gives me the chills now.

None of us were prepared for what was going to happen.  But through those five months of hell, you were there for me the whole time.  I am crying as I type this because I don’t know what I would have done without you.  You just seemed to instinctively know what I needed, when I needed it.  Whether it was baby-sitting my daughter, or an iced coffee, or nachos or just someone to sit with me. You would sit with Bryon when I was too afraid to leave him alone so I could run home and take a shower.  You kept my spirits up which was important because I needed that hope to get through those months.  You also rallied the troops when you organized the “Double Miracle for Bryon” campaign.

You and your husband were the first people to come over to my house the day Bryon died.  You told people to bring food.  The rest of those days are a fog in my memory but I know you were present.  And when the crowd thinned out, you stayed.  You assured me that Bryon is still around and will always be around.  You still come over for #tacotuesday.  We brunch with the ladies.  You cleaned my kitchen and because of you, I can see my backsplash and all my tupperware has lids that match.  You have even offered to help me purge my house and have a yard sale.

Christmas Eve was not the same this year but we started our new tradition of Feliz Navidad Lunch and then we visited Bryon’s grave.  And instead of a broken pew at Mass, we had an epic toddler meltdown.  I don’t know which was worse…

Even though Bryon has been dead for almost seven months, you continue to be there for me.  You have taught me what it means to be there for people and how to be a good friend.  I aspire to be like you.  It’s crazy to think that we are friends because our husbands lived together during college.  And if Bryon were still alive, we wouldn’t be as close as we are today but your friendship is one of the biggest gifts Bryon could have given me.

Happy Birthday my dear friend.  I love you.

Blizzard of 2017

After I put my daughter down to bed, I thought to myself that I need to remove some of this snow.  Normally my amazing neighbor plows me out but he was in Florida.  I was going to have to do this alone.  I went to the garage and looked at the snowblower.  I have never used the snowblower.  Bryon bought a high end model and a good friend of his showed me how to use it last fall.  And of course I couldn’t get the thing to start.  It is most likely the fault of the operator.  There probably wasn’t any gas in it. I googled some YouTube videos (because everything is on YouTube) but I still had no luck.  Luckily, I own an old fashioned snow shovel and as I was shoveling my driveway during the Blizzard of 2017, or Storm Stella, many thoughts came through my mind.

First I want to address a pet peeve of mine.  Why are they naming winter storms?  They are not hurricanes.  Naming winter storms is like “Fetch” and they need to stop trying to make it happen.

So during the beginning of shoveling, I was all “I am woman, hear me roar!”  Us younger widows are tough.

Then I wanted to forget the “I am woman, hear me roar” crap.  I need to start taking applications for Husband #2.  Bring on the quasi-traditional gender roles. (I am kidding, of course.  About the husband.  I am a modern woman but having some semblance of traditional gender roles doesn’t bother me.)  At this point, I don’t need any romance or intelligence.  I would settle on usefulness.

I started to ask why did my Bryon have to die? If he were alive, he would be using the snowblower and listening to some online radio station from the Virgin Islands.  At least in our old life.  I always tend to forget that even if he were still alive, things would be very different.  Had he survived, he wouldn’t have been the physically strong man he was.  He would have had some long lasting health problems.  He would be too weak to snowblow or shovel or he would still be in rehab and I would probably be in the same position.  I also began to wonder if he had survived, how would he feel about the new dynamics.  He was always a take charge person.  The last thing he would have wanted was to be dependent on me.  It would have frustrated him but at the same time, he would have been grateful.

I started to think that the Blizzard of 2017 really sucks. Then I remembered what I said to myself at the beginning of the year.  There is no way that 2017 can be as bad as 2016.  Almost half of 2016 was spent in an ICU room and a third of 2016 was spent in the earliest, most raw stages of grief.  Shoveling snow might suck but I would rather be shoveling snow than be sitting in an ICU room.

My muscles were beginning to ache and I started to whine to myself.  Then I remembered the pain Bryon was in during the final months of his life.  It seemed silly to be upset about pain that some Ibuprofen and a heating pad could take away.  I also began to feel grateful that I was alive and that my fat and asthmatic body was able to shovel snow.  It might take me three days to shovel my driveway but I could do it.

At one point I stopped and asked myself a question I ask myself a lot: what would Bryon McKim do?  The answer was simple, Bryon McKim would grab a beer (or several).  I don’t usually keep beer in the house.  I am not a big drinker, usually just wine with the girls.  But when I was grocery shopping, I saw Saranac S’mores porter and I thought it looked interesting so I bought it.  Maybe I subconsciously knew I was going to need a beer.  I rested the beer in a snowbank though it didn’t taste good after awhile.  It was still snowing and snow was getting into the beer.  And the porter started to ice up.  Oh well.

My daughter was inside sleeping and I started to think about what life would be like when she was older.  If she were older, she would have had to help me.  Was she going to help willingly or be a little stinker like I was?  I know growing up I gave my father a hard time when he told me to help with snow shoveling. Though I gave him a slightly less of a hard time when it came to shoveling out my grandmother.  I thought about how it was just my daughter and me and we were going to have to depend on each other much more than we would have if Bryon was still alive.  And she doesn’t have siblings to share the burden.  I began to worry that she might grow up earlier than most kids because of our situation.

I started to think about my retirement dream where I buy an old farmhouse on the coast of Maine.  My retirement home will likely have a long driveway so I decided that I was going to have to purchase a truck and a plow when I retire.

By 10:30, the snow was still coming down and the wind was picking up.  I was really starting to get cold so I figured that the snow will still be there in the morning and surely daycare would be closed.  So I went inside, took a hot shower and then watched the Season Finale of This is Us.  Then I went to bed.

The next morning, I was surprised that wasn’t closed or even delayed.  Half of my driveway wasn’t shoveled.  So I bundled my daughter in the Gap snowsuit that I bought in a large size two cyber Mondays ago that barely fits now. Ironically it was her first time wearing it  because it the snowsuit was too large last winter and we barely had snow this winter.  I was kind of glad it got one wear before being passed on to a friends daughter.  I told my daughter to go be like Elsa while I shoveled.

I shoveled until my daughter told me she was cold.  Then we went back inside.  One of my girls has a son that attends the same daycare as my daughter and she came by to bring her to daycare but there was a huge snowbank in the way.  Luckily, just then my neighbor’s brother-in-law showed up to plow me out and I was able to take my daughter to daycare.  Crisis was over and everything was okay.  

My muscles might still be achy but we survived our first major storm.  Bring on Spring.  I didn’t get to enjoy Spring last year so I am ready to enjoy it twice as much this year.

This one is for the girls

I have always been somewhat of an introvert and I have never had a large group of female friends.  As a child, I was shy and hyperactive meaning that I talked too much to the few people I was comfortable with and annoyed them.  In high school I kept myself busy with cross country, track and my job at Shop ‘N Save and my circle of friends was pretty small.  I carried a similar pattern in college where I went to track and cross country practice and I did not attend many parties.  During most of my 20’s, I immersed myself into politics where I socialized but in a highly structured manner.  I always felt awkward in conversations and politics gave me a reason to talk to people and contact to discuss with them. Despite my shyness, I made a few friends during my political years as well as an amazing boyfriend.

In 2009, I moved to Albany after a year of long distance dating and I left behind a few close friends in Maine. For years after the move, I tagged along with Bryon to social events but I felt that our circle of friends were really just Bryon’s friends and that his friends barely noticed me.  I was very lonely but over time I began to grow friendships with the girlfriends of Bryon’s friends and some of Bryon’s female friends from college.  Over time I started having the occasional dinner and movie nights with the girlfriend/wife of Bryon’s best friend and a friend of Bryon’s from college.  She would “babysit” Bryon and the guys in college.  She deserves to be elevated to sainthood here on Earth.

Over the years we met up to show off our engagement rings and squeal with excitement.  We poured over wedding planning magazines and got together to watch Say Yes to the Dress and Four Weddings.  There have been bridal showers, bachelorette parties and weddings.  Then came the baby showers, christenings, play dates and little kid birthday parties.  I enjoyed the celebrations, double dates, brunches and occasional girls nights out.  But you don’t realize how strong your friendships are until crisis hits.

You quickly learn who your friends are when you are told your husband might not survive. They are the ones who drop whatever they are doing and rush to the hospital and sit with you.  They immediately step in to take care of your daughter and tend to your very basic needs because you forget about things like basic hygiene and eating when your husband is close to dying.  These are the people who bring you food to make sure you eat and bring you endless iced coffees to sustain you.  Usually when people say you learn who your friends are, it implies that they had fewer friends than they thought but in my case I found out I had many more friends than I ever could have imagined.  I never knew how much they meant to me.

Bryon’s death has brought all of us closer.  Not just to me but to each other.  Life gets busy but we all make a point in checking in with each other more.  It’s been a year of highs and lows.  In addition to Bryon’s death, there have been new jobs, babies, new houses, engagements as well as divorces, breakups and illnesses.  There have been job promotions, new jobs and job frustrations.  There have been vacations and birthdays.  We have all been there to support each other no matter what curve balls are thrown at us.  It is so peaceful to be with friends who are there to listen to each other and offer support.  We are the family that we created.

I look forward to spending the future with you.  I look forward to more babies (just not from me!), engagements, weddings, new jobs and vacations.  I know we will be there for each other for whatever lows there might be.  For those of us with kids, I look forward to birthday parties, play dates and if I have the privilege to live long enough to see our kids grow up, I hope to attend recitals, concerts, and various games and other sports competitions and I hope to celebrate graduations, birthdays and another cycle of weddings and babies.

If Bryon were still alive, we’d all still be friends but we wouldn’t be as close.  There would still be the highs and lows and Bryon would be helping us through them.  We all know that he is still helping us through them in his own way now.  And I like to think that our strengthened friendships are in some way, a gift from Bryon.  He can’t be there for us anymore, but he gave us each other.  

Maine roots and a New York legacy

I love Maine.  

I love the ocean, the coastline, Maine politics, fried clams, pine trees,  L.L. Bean, Moose, red hot dogs, Reny’s, Marden’s, late night trips to Dysarts, Moody’s, Lobster, Pat’s Pizza, Acadia National Park, Kettle Cove, UMaine hockey, potato fields, Lamoine Beach, going to the shooting range with my father, Jordan’s Snack Bar, Big G’s. Dairy Queen Blizzards in the middle of winter, summer nights in Bar Harbor, the Sea Dog, clam chowder, reading angry letters to the editor in the Ellsworth American, Amato’s, Bob the black bear that lives in the woods behind my parents house, The Mex (even if Bryon threatened to break up with me if I made him eat there again), Coffee Express, seeing Stephen King in public even if he is rude if approached, Schoodic Point, Ben and Bills peanut butter cup ice cream, flannel shirts never going out of style, lighthouses, the fact that everyone roots for the Red Sox and Patriots, Raye’s Mustard, bean and casserole suppers, China Hill, Shipyard beer, and probably a whole bunch of other things I will think of after I hit “publish”.

I even don’t mind the never ending winter, frost heaves, mud and black fly season.  The only thing I don’t like about Maine is Moxie because it is disgusting.  I also think Whoopie Pies are a bit overrated.

I left Maine in 2009 for a guy.  The gamble paid off because I married that guy three years later.  He never had any interest in moving to Maine and while I missed Maine, I never really looked back. I never entertained the thought of returning until he was dying.  The thought of raising my daughter by myself was scary and in Maine she would have two grandparents who love her.

As Bryon was actively dying I started to panic. I was thinking that I could not do this by myself.  I was going to need help raising my daughter and I started to think that the only logical solution was to move back to Maine as my parents are there.  I convinced myself that this was what I was going to do on the car ride back to Albany.

So…why am I still in New York?  Why haven’t I moved back to Maine?

Once I got back to Albany, I began to realize that I was not ready to leave the life Bryon and I had built.

Bryon and I had bought our house two and a half years before he died and we already had so many memories.  I wasn’t ready to leave this house.  This was the house where we welcomed our daughter into our family.  We celebrated two Thanksgivings, two Christmases and two Easters in this house. We hosted two derby parties in our house.  We spent many spring and summer afternoons sitting on our front deck. This house was going to be our starter house and we weren’t planning on staying in this house for more than 5-7 years.  We even made comments about how small the house felt and how much smaller it was going to feel when we had another baby.  While we weren’t going to live our dreams together after all, I wasn’t ready to leave the ghosts of those dreams.

Home is more than a house.  Home also includes those you love.  I depended on so many of our friends during the course of Bryon’s sickness.  Not just for physical help but I depended on them emotionally.  I can’t leave them.  They were with me through the hardest months of my life. I wouldn’t have gotten through this crisis if it wasn’t for them.  Our bonds have only gotten stronger.  My friends here have become my family and my daughter has so many aunts and uncles here who love her and look out for her.

The last and most important reason I am still in New York is my daughter.  She was 18 months when Bryon went into the hospital for the last time and she was 23 months old when he passed away.  She won’t have any first hand memories of him.  She will only know him through the stories she will hear as she is growing up.  She needs to grow up in the place where her father had lived.  She needs to go to the Saratoga Racetrack and Siena basketball games and Albany Law rugby tournaments.  She needs to be around the people who loved Bryon and that were important in his life. To move her to Maine would remove her from all of this and I can’t do that to her.

Until my daughter goes to college, we will stay in New York.  Then I might return to Maine in 2032 and buy an old farmhouse in a coastal town.  Ocean view would be a bonus.  Or I might decide that I have had enough of winter and move to the US Virgin Islands or something.  I’ll figure it out sometime in the next 15 years.

Not quite married, not quite single

I always envisioned being a widow to being someone that was my grandmother’s age. My Grandma Sullivan was widowed in 1990 at the age of 76 after 44 years of marriage.  (My Grandma Sullivan passed away in 2004 at the age of 90) My Nana Crowley was widowed in 2007 at the age of 84 after 63 years of marriage.  (My Nana Crowley is still alive and will turn 95 later this month) Both of my grandmothers lived or are living the life that you would imagine of a widow.  They play/played Bingo.  They both socialized.  Both of my grandmothers have/had large social networks and lots of friends.  Both of my grandmothers doted on their grandchildren (and in Nana’s Crowley’s case, great-grandchildren.)

My experience has been different.  I became widowed in 2016 at the age of 37 a month shy of our 4th wedding anniversary. The last time I played Bingo was on a cruiseship with Bryon.   And instead of doting on grandchildren or great-grandchildren, I am taking care of a 2-year-old daughter.

The thing about being widowed, especially at a young age, is that you are not quite married and you are not quite single.  I am no longer married but I don’t feel single.  I still can’t bring myself to take off my rings.  I didn’t ask to be here and I don’t want to be here.  It’s like I am in limbo between the two.  I liked being a wife.  I was pretty good at it.  Turns out I am really good at the “in sickness and in health” part.  I used to listen to my single friends talk about their adventures and mis-adventures in dating and I remember feeling relieved because I was happily married and I wasn’t going to ever have to worry about dating ever again.

The one question I get asked the most since becoming a widow is if I ever plan on remarrying.  I don’t blame people for being curious.  I would be curious if I weren’t me.  Neither of my grandmother’s remarried but they were much older than me.  They don’t make a good point of reference to me. To be honest, if you asked me that question every day, the answer would probably be different depending on the day.  What can I say?  I am full of contradictions these days.

Some days I am optimistic that I may love again.  It is referred to as “Chapter 2” in the widow world.  I am a romantic at heart and don’t want to believe that my love story is finished.  I do think my heart will be capable of loving again and some days I hope I do love gain.  I still feel like I have love to give.  I also to hope that I will experience being loved again.  I don’t think to date again or marry again is a betrayal to him.    I truly think Bryon wants me to be happy.  Bryon will always have a piece of my heart but I do think the heart is capable of growing and loving again.

However, on other days I am depressed and I feel that no man would ever love me like Bryon did and I will never have what Bryon and I had.  Of course, I forget that trauma and loss change you, permanently and forever.  I am not the same carefree, naive person I used to be and I never will be.  That version of myself went away when Bryon got sick and she died when Bryon died.  So even if I found Bryon’s clone with the same personality, it probably wouldn’t work.  I have changed.  But I think about the way Bryon used to look at me.  Will I ever find someone who will look at me the same way?

At times I don’t think I will ever remarry because I am not good at dating.  Good at being a wife, yes.  Good at dating, no.  I don’t even know where single people who are closing in their late 30’s go in Albany and even if I did know, where would I find the time?  I am busy enough with my daughter and work.  Also, Bryon was very well known and popular  in our town and will I always be looked at as his widow and not as my own person?  And I am not sure anyone would want to date me knowing that Bryon will always have a piece of my heart and I will always love him.

I don’t know what the future will bring.  None of us do.  I don’t know when I will be ready to date again, if ever.  Right now I am still in pain from Bryon’s death and I miss him too much.  Plus, I am still learning how to be a working single mom.  But the one thing I will say with certainty is that if I start dating again, I won’t be sharing it here.  I am very open about my grief but I feel some things are meant to be private.