Without Daddy

I knew this moment was going to come.

Over the weekend I got invited to a special Facebook group that consists of all my classmates from the Class of 1997 from Ellsworth High School. And guess what? It is time for our 20th reunion.

When did I get so old? Where did the time go? High school feels like it just yesterday and it also feels like a whole lifetime ago. Maybe that’s because my wardrobe has cycled back to my 1990’s style which consisted of running clothes, Red Sox T-shirts (which are timeless, really) and flannel. Both the 1997 and 2017 versions of Kerry have it going on!

I don’t know what I would tell my high school self if given the chance. That will be a blog post for another time, specifically after I visit my parents in Maine this summer and find my old photo albums because I came of age before the digital age. (I am like a relic from another era.) I feel like a blog post of that nature should have photos of teenage Kerry from the 1990s.

I remember that my high school self had big plans and I think 38-year-old Kerry would greatly disappoint 18-year-old Kerry. 18-year-old Kerry was an ambitious idealist and she wanted to be married with many children, successful (no clue how) and she would have a passport full of stamps because she would have traveled the world. 18-year-old Kerry would have never predicted the heartache she would go through, but I would be happy to tell her that she would know what true love felt like and even though she may never have the brood of children she had wanted, the one child she will have will be so awesome that she won’t need to have any other children.

When I was pregnant, we were watching the episode of Blossom when she gets her period for the first time and Bryon started to freak out. (We did not find out if we were having a girl or a boy, but we were convinced our baby was a girl.) Bryon started freaking out and said that if I died, he didn’t know how he was going to explain periods to our daughter. I assured him that it would be okay and that the baby’s Godmother would most likely step up and help.

It never dawned on me that Bryon would not be here during our daughter’s teen years.

Someday my daughter will be 14 years old and will embark on her high school journey. I always thought that Bryon and I would be parenting as a unit. I would deal with all that girly stuff, take her clothes shopping (where Bryon would enjoy pretending to be outraged that we were spending money) and teach her how to wear makeup (or take her to the counter because I am clueless). Bryon would help her with her math homework and be her biggest fan in whatever sport or activity she chose to do. I used to tease him that he was going to be a cheer dad. Bryon came from a family of all boys and they all played hockey. Bryon was very competitive and passionate for whatever team he was cheering for and I told him that I could see him becoming a cheer dad and screaming “YOU CALL THAT A PYRAMID!!!!” He would have embraced it and played it up around his guy friends.

I have no clue on how I am to guide my daughter. I was not a cool teenager and my daughter is already much cooler at 2 and a half than I was at 16. She is not awkward around her peers and I am still socially awkward at times. I did not discover Bath and Body Works until I was in college and my daughter is already obsessed with the various body lotions and body sprays at age 2. She loves to shop for shoes and clothes already. I have no idea what I am in store for when she becomes a teenager. And I am convinced she already knows how to flirt at age 2 and I still have no clue how to do that at age 38.

But it isn’t just about helping her with fashion and relationships. Someday my daughter will be 18 years old. She will have dreams. She will go to college. She will need guidance on obtaining those dreams.

Every night she wants me to read this book to her.

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It’s an adorable book with a positive message. But there is one page that when I read it to her, I can feel Bryon say “I am not be paying for her to go to college to live in a *expletive* tree. And that part about being a poet, she and I would have a discussion on the average salary of a poet and the cost of living in Upstate New York…”

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But Bryon was successful in so many areas of his life. He was smart, driven and ambitious. He isn’t going to be here to guide our daughter. He isn’t to be here to give her advice. He isn’t going to be here to help her with her math homework or cheer her on in sports. I am the one that’s left to guide her and I don’t have the mental tools that Bryon had. Bryon was an extrovert that understood people and relationships and I am an introvert and relating to people doesn’t come easy to me.

It doesn’t matter what age my daughter is. Without her father, she misses out on so much.

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The happy widow

She will smile and laugh.  

She will go out with friends.

Usually she is okay.

People tell her she is strong.

She has to be.

She has no choice.

She can be a bit of an actress.

She has to be because people don’t understand

No one understands.  

It is much easier to pretend to be okay than have to explain how she feels

She is tired of explaining.

She is tired of being told how to grieve.  How to feel.

She is tired of platitudes and cliches.

She lost of the love of her life.  Her soul mate.  Her best friend.  Her partner in crime.  Her other half.  Her confidant.  Her co-parent.

She also lost her security.  Her dreams.  Her plans.  Her faith.  Her innocence.  Her identity.

No one knows the pain.  The emptiness.  The sadness.  The loneliness.

The reminders of what she used to have.

The false hope that life will be good again.

False hope that she will be whole again.

Lubec, Maine and Saint John, New Brunswick

May 22-25, 2009
Surry, ME
Lubec, ME
Saint John, NB
Alma, NB

When I started this blog, I was only planning on writing about Bryon’s death forward.  Facebook reminded me today that On This Day eight years ago, Bryon arrived from New York for his first trip to Maine.  It was before I moved to Albany.  I felt like I wanted to share what I remember about that trip.  I don’t want to forget before my daughter is old enough to hear the story so if I write it here, she will likely get a better account.  A preservation of sorts. Also, I am riding a pretty harsh grief wave and maybe writing about this will give me a break from the grief.

As I was saying, Facebook reminded me that 8 years ago, I was excitedly awaiting to arrive of my love.  It was a Friday.  It was his first time coming to Maine and his first time meeting the parents.  That was back when there was that topless donut shop in Vassalboro, ME and Bryon was getting a rise out of me by telling me he was going to stop.  He didn’t actually stop but he enjoyed pulling my chain.

Saturday Bryon and I began the 3 hour drive to Saint John, New Brunswick.  We made a stop at the West Quoddy Lighthouse in Lubec so we could say we had been to the most eastern point in the United States.

 

We arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in the late afternoon.  Bryon was driving and somehow knew his way around even without using Google Maps.  He had an amazing sense of direction. We stayed at a Delta Hotel.  We had dinner at the Saint John Alehouse which boasted the largest collection of beers on tap in Eastern Canada.  They had 29 beers which Bryon found charming.  We both ate these delicious burgers with a cheese that was flavored with Guinness and we both had a side of poutine.  Bryon was talking about hockey with the bartender.

The next day, we drove another hour and a half to the Bay of Fundy National Park.  I remember we passed a cute historic little cemetery and I was sad we didn’t stop.  (I have fascination with old cemeteries.)  Bryon assured me it was okay that we didn’t stop because they were probably Loyalists anyway.

We spent the day at the National Park.  It was beautiful.  We had lunch at a restaurant in a little coastal New Brunswick village named Alma.  I don’t remember the name of the restaurant but I remember that we ate fried clams and that the service was not good.

That night we had dinner back in Saint John at a restaurant that overlooked the Reversing Falls.  We went out a bar after but I don’t remember the name.

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The next morning, we stopped at Moosehood Brewery and Bryon bought a few pint glasses on clearance.  I think they have all been broken.  At some point, we went to the New Brunswick Museum but I don’t remember where that fit into the timeline.

On the way, I remember we stopped at a gas station and convenience store in rural New Brunswick because we weren’t sure if we had enough has to get back to the US.  (If you are not from the US or Canada, the reason we wanted to get back to the US is because gas is much less expensive here.   So if you drive to Canada from the US, always, always, always fill your tank before you cross the border.)  We put in ten dollars worth of gas figuring that would get us back to the US. Bryon couldn’t resist playing some scratch-offs.

I was excited that we were stopped on the International line.

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So many details I don’t remember.  Makes me glad that I now keep a travel journal and I write down all the mundane details like the names of restaurants and what we ate and every Museum we go to.  I want my daughter to know every detail of our adventures.  But I want to give her some idea of the adventures her Mom and Dad had before her.

Nine months

Today I had the honor to write a guest post on Mohamad’s Around the World series. It was a lot of fun to write about New York’s Capital District.  You can check it out here.  

And if you are visiting here from Mohamad’s blog, I just want to say welcome and I hope you stay awhile!

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Bryon has been gone for nine months. The world is moving on without him and each day the world moves on, I feel a little bit more alone in my grief.  Widowhood is emotionally lonely even if you aren’t physically lonely.

I barely noticed Spring and Summer last year because I was sitting in the ICU with him. This year I am determined to enjoy Spring and Summer but when I sit on the front deck with our daughter, his absence is pronounced.

I miss him when I see other couples.  I am no longer whole. He was my other half and he has been ripped away along with my dreams and my future.  I don’t know why everyone else gets to be happy except me.

I work so hard at trying to stay positive and strong.  I know it’s what he would have wanted.  But sometimes I have to pretend I am positive and strong.  It’s what people have come to expect and I feel like they don’t want to know the truth.  And it can be exhausting.

No matter how much people try to understand, there is always some level of disconnect. People don’t understand how something as simple as a song can trigger sadness.

Sometimes I get tired of having to explain why certain things make me sad.

Sometimes I wish people would let me just be sad without making suggestions on how to fix my sad mood.  My husband is dead.  Why can’t I just be sad?  I’ve accepted that my sadness is now a part of who I am and why can’t people just accept that it is a part of me now?

I get tired of having to listen to platitudes and insensitive remarks.  I know people mean well but sometimes I get tired of the fact that it gets put on me that I have to accept that this is just how people are.  Why can’t it be other peoples responsibility to think before they speak and be a little bit more sensitive?  Is it really that hard?  Or am I really just expecting too much?

People seem to only like to hear about my grief when it’s empowering and inspiring.  The negative emotions of my grief make people uncomfortable and I get tired of feeling like I have to apologize for my emotions.  I envy those people because I wish I lived in a world where talk about grief makes me uncomfortable and I can avoid it.  I can’t avoid grief.  It’s my life.

I hate the fact that some days, I am almost used to Bryon being gone.  Each day that passes, he slips a little further away.   

Margaritas, guacamole, money and a thunderstorm

Why am I writing about margaritas, guacamole, money and a thunderstorm? Because that is my present.  At least, it was 5 hours ago.  One of my best friends and I went to a favorite Mexican restaurant Ama Cocina tonight.  My daughter came too.  She was, as another friend would say, living her best life possible.  She was double-dipping those chips, grabbing items out of my taco (she prefers the deconstructed taco) and she was running around the table.  I did not approve of her acting like that in a restaurant and I had exhausted all the toys in my bag of tricks so I half jokingly told her I would give her a dollar if she sat still in her seat.  It worked.  I gave her the dollar which she happily took and said “It’s MY money.”  This must be how capitalists are born.

I have never been a person that has been good at being present.  I usually like to stress about the future or dwell on the past and constantly wonder what if.  I missed out on enjoying a lot of life’s precious moments because of this.  But no matter how bad things were, when I looked into the future, it was brighter.  Maybe that represented some sort of escapist hope.

When Bryon got sick, I had no choice but to live in the present.  I didn’t want to think about the future because when I did, I knew that there was a chance he wouldn’t be there or he would have lasting health problems if he was.  I remember stressing out one day because I was concerned that if he recovered, he might never regain his strength and what if he couldn’t storm into a court room?  He would be miserable.  He was such a strong person, mentally and physically.

During Bryon’s five months in the ICU, I didn’t spend much time looking ahead.  There were too many times that he went into shock and too many times where he came close to dying.  Obviously my end goal was for him to get out of the ICU, whether it was a step down unit (we were close a couple of times) or directly to rehab and then home.  But so much could go wrong and he was so sick that for the first time in my life, I had to live day by day.

I remember feeling so overwhelmed at this new reality.  Overnight I had gone from being part of a two person team who took care of a small child to be one person solely responsible for myself, a critically ill husband and a small child.  Bryon took care of so much.  He made sure the bills got paid and had spreadsheets that organized everything.  I knew he scheduled many payments in advance through our bank account but a few weeks into his illness, I finally had to face reality that I needed to figure out which bills had been paid.  Everything was now my responsibility.  I had to call the bank because I didn’t remember my password.  I couldn’t even remember the last time I logged into our bank account.  Then I had to figure out all the passwords.  I know I reset a bunch of them in the process.  I remember telling Bryon that I probably made a mess of the bills but they were paid and if I forgot one, then I am sure that they would find us.

I was overwhelmed.  I had no idea how long Bryon was going to be in the hospital.  Then there was talk that they would send him to Springfield, MA for rehab which is an hour and a half away and I panicked because I needed to be present to view all of his medical care and there would be no way I could do that and keep my daughter’s life as normal as possible here in Albany.  There would be no way I could afford all that gas.  But all that panicking was for nothing because Bryon never made it to rehab.

There were so many times during those months where I didn’t know how I was going to do it.  I couldn’t work so I wasn’t getting paid.   I had no idea how long my present was going to last.  And I had no idea what our future was going to look like.  I started thinking about what modifications that were going to be needed in our house and our lifestyle.  I started looking into specialists in Boston and New York for his conditions.  Not just specialists to get him well, but specialists who could manage any long term effects.  I started wondering if we should move closer to New York to be closer to better healthcare.  Boston would not be an option because Bryon was not admitted in the Massachusetts Bar.  The fact that this lifelong Red Sox fan was willing to move so close to the heart of the Evil Empire shows how dedicated I was to Bryon’s care.  But I spent a long time planning for a future that would never happen.

I somehow survived those months.  My family, friends and even some complete strangers made sure I survived.

Now I am in the future that I couldn’t think about.  My best friend in high school had a favorite quote that said “today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday.”  She had no idea who said it,  she saw it on a calendar somewhere.  A quick google search 20 years later tells me that Dale Carnegie once said that.  Frankly I don’t like thinking about the future because no matter what I envision, Bryon is not there.  Yes, I have my daughter but all I see are moments where Bryon should be there.  I have no long term plan and no long term goals.  I have an idea what I want to do with my life but no clear goals as to how to achieve it.   So when I am sad about the present, I can’t escape into the future.  I try to escape to the past but lately, the days in the hospital have been on the forefront my mind.

So now I live in the present even if it can be painful at times.  I drink a lot of iced coffee and read a lot of books to my daughter.  I spend times with my girls and my Albany family and I see my biological family as often as I can.  I write.  I cook.  I run.  I read.  I travel.  And I will continue to do so until the future I dread so much becomes my present.

Forgiveness

I used to always love to play the SIMS.  It was a computer game where you create simulated people (hence SIMS) and you lived their computer generated reality.  You would make them do different actions.  My favorite thing was created a SIM for various people I know and then laugh at their weird social awkwardness that only a computer simulated person would have and imaging the real human counterparts doing that.  (I.e. “There’s is no way So-and-So would have walked in on me in the bathroom, haha”)  When SIMS interact with each other, a green plus sign or a red negative sign is displayed above the SIMS head.  The green plus sign denotes a positive interaction between SIMS and the red negative sign denotes an interaction gone bad.  Sometimes interactions would be so good or so bad that double plus signs or negative signs show up.

Why am I talking about a silly computer game that I haven’t played in years?  It’s because I have been thinking a lot about human interactions and the positive and negative energy that surrounds those actions.

I like to spend time around people who provide me with warm and fuzzy feelings and lots of positive experiences.  Lots of green plus signs floating around.  Lots of laughter, support and happiness.  I like being around these people.  Usually the positive experiences multiply and the more positive experiences I have, the better I feel.

But what do you do when you have to be around people that are full of negative energy?

The people who shame others to make up for some insecurity that they are feelings?

The people who don’t respect your need for space?

The people who make backhanded compliments so they can insult someone but in a way that the person receiving that insult can’t fight back?

The people who can’t own it when they have wronged people and never apologizes for their wrongdoing?

The people who play victim when you call them out on their behavior?

The people who use you?

Negative energy has always affected me.  I seem to absorb it.  I always let negative comments bother me and then I obsess about them.  I begin to get anxious when anticipating the presence of these people.

I am not calling out specific people.  Even if those people are reading this, they will never own their behaviors or ever apologize.  But all this negative energy is affecting me and it has to go somewhere.  I don’t want it anymore.  It has to be someone else’s burden because I don’t want it to be my burden anymore.  I can’t let it be my burden anymore.   I have had enough happen to me and I still have enough to deal so I am giving the negative energy back.

I have always had a hard time forgiving people because I always equated forgiving with forgetting.  Also, many of the people who wronged me are narcissists who won’t ever own up to the fact that they wronged me and/or the people that I care about.  I always equated forgiving these people as giving them the free pass that they thought they deserved.  What I never understood is that even if they took my act of forgiveness as a free pass, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t do it.  They still did it and even though they may not own up to it, they win because they are living their oblivious false life and I am left wounded and hurt.  If anything, they are cowards because they can’t own up to their own actions.  They should be pitied.

So I am going to attempt to release the negative energy.  I am no longer going to own it.

I am going to forgive people who screwed me over in my political days.  I have faith you learned your lesson because I know I screwed over a few people in my day and I have learned my lesson.  If you haven’t learned your lesson, then I pity you for your lack of character and your lack of wisdom.

I forgive the people who cut me off in traffic and I hope you can forgive me for giving you a certain hand gesture.

I am going to forgive the person who acted like she was my best friend but would drop me whenever a guy came along.  I also forgive this person for not reaching out when Bryon died.  I pity you for your self-centeredness and lack of empathy.

I forgive the people who don’t apologize and try to wait out a person’s anger before finding a way to angle themselves back into my life.  I pity your cowardice.  And remember, forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting and I am not going to allow anyone to treat me this way again.  I may forgive you but I don’t have to you let back into my life.

I forgive anyone who has ever used me.  Overall, I do have had a good life so far but I worked hard and made good life choices and surrounded myself with other people who also worked hard and made good life choices.   I may have even given you advice as to how to attain those goals yourself but I guess it was just easier to use me.  I pity you for your laziness.

I forgive anyone who underestimated my intelligence and think they can wrong me without me knowing.  Surprise!  I am a lot smarter than most people know.  I pity your arrogance.

I forgive anyone who has ever bullied me through the years.  Luckily Bryon has taught me how to identify when it was happening to me.

I forgive the person who made rude comments about my daughter.  You must feel bad about yourself if you have to tear down a two-year-old.  It’s my goal to raise her to have compassion and to have enough confidence in herself that she doesn’t to tear people down, especially not those who are weaker than her.

I forgive the people who criticize my parenting.  I am sure you are the perfect parent but we can’t all parent like you.

I forgive anyone who has spread lies about me.  You spread lies about me because you need to blame someone for your own behavior.

I forgive anyone who has believed lies spread about me.  I forgive you for not asking me for my side of the story before making a judgement.  I forgive you for making me defend my character.  I forgive you for taking things at face value and not searching for the truth.

I forgive the people who weren’t there for Bryon that should have been there for Bryon.  I forgive the people who also weren’t there for our daughter who should have been there for our daughter.  He was fighting for his life and our daughter wasn’t even 2 yet, but I understand that your needs were more important than theirs.

I forgive those people who had no regard to what I was going through when Bryon has in the ICU. I forgive the people who thought their needs came above my own which were already pretty low on the list begin with.  After all, I was busy advocating for my critically ill husband in the ICU and making sure my toddler was taken care of and happy.  I pity you for thinking that the world revolves around you.

I forgive those people who not present when Bryon died that should have been.  I pity you that you put yourself above him and made excuses.  You are going to have to live with that choice for the rest of your life.

And lastly, I forgive myself.  I forgive myself for absorbing the negativity that wasn’t mine.  I forgive myself for not releasing that negativity and letting it affect the positive, supportive relationships that I have.  I forgive myself for letting people bully me, use me and treat me poorly.   From now on, I will remind myself that negative people are the ones with a problem, not me.

The negativity is no longer mine.  It’s not my problem anymore.  I refuse to own the negativity.  It needs to find a new home.  I am going to stick to the people who give me green plus signs.

Bryon is still dead

The leaves are starting to appear on the trees.  The tulips have been blooming.  The ice cream truck is starting to make its rounds.  Kay’s pizza is open but Bryon won’t be eating any sausage, pepperoni and onion pizza.  Because Bryon is dead.

Summer will come.  Bryon won’t be going to any baseball games.  Bryon won’t be watching any  fireworks.  Because Bryon is dead.

Our birthdays will come and go.  But Bryon won’t be here to celebrate.  He won’t be buying a ridiculous toy for our daughter and he will not be here to scheme on how to bring a three-year-old’s birthday party to the next level.  Because Bryon is dead.

Our anniversary will pass and Bryon and I won’t celebrate.  Because Bryon is dead.

Fall will come.  My favorite season.  Leaves will change color.  But Bryon won’t eat any apple cider donuts or take our daughter trick or treating.  Bryon won’t be here to cheer for his Buffalo Bills.  Because Bryon is dead.

The air will get colder and snow will fall.  Christmas cards will be sent.  But Bryon won’t be attending any Christmas parties or watching our daughter open any Christmas presents.  Because Bryon is dead.

Our daughter is talking up a storm.  She has graduated from the “No” stage into the “Why?” stage.  “I do myself” has been appearing in her vocabulary and it should be no surprise that it takes five times as long to leave the house.  And Bryon isn’t here to talk to her because he is dead.

Three weddings are coming up.  And Bryon won’t be here to celebrate them.  He won’t be making friends with bartender and he won’t be grumbling as I drag him out for a slow dance. He won’t be ranting to me if 1 Corinthians is read.  Because Bryon is dead.

All of our TV shows are in the next season and are sitting on our DVR unwatched because Bryon is dead.

Friends continue to get together.  But Bryon isn’t there to tell funny stories and make us laugh.  Because Bryon is dead.

My clothes have taken over the closet.  Bryon’s clothes are no longer hanging up.  They sit in garbage bags in the garage waiting to be brought to Goodwill.  Because Bryon is dead.

The world will continue to go on without Bryon.  People will get married.  Babies will be born.  People will fall in love.  People will fall out of love.  Houses will be bought and sold.  People will get promoted and switch jobs.  People will travel to far off places.  Sports teams will win and lose.  Elections will happen.  And Bryon will still be dead.

Our daughter will start school.  She will become who she is going to be and hopefully be ready for adulthood.  She will find out what interests her.  She will fall in love.  She will travel to far off places.  She will hopefully attain a higher level of education.   Hopefully she will become a productive member of society.  And Bryon will still be dead.

The world goes on and Bryon is still dead.