Felix natalis amici mei

Felix natalis amici mei.  

That is Happy Birthday my friend in Latin.  At least that is what Google Translate tells me.  My friend is a Latin teacher and I am sure she can tell if it is the correct Latin grammar or not.

Today is her birthday.  But we celebrated her birthday the other night.

My friend is very special to me.  She was in my wedding.  This is her favorite picture from our wedding day.  (She is the one pinching Bryon’s cheek.)  

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My friend was the one that got me to run a half marathon.  And even though she was dealing with some pretty rough stuff in her own life during those months while Bryon was in the hospital, she still came by almost every day.  She brought me fluffy literature to pass the time and she brought pizza to sustain me.  She was with me during Bryon’s two worst days and she made it down to NYC before he died.  I don’t know what I would have done without her friendship.

We met at an Italian Restaurant called Il Faro. I am conflicted writing about it because it was so good and we didn’t want the whole world to know our secret.  But the food was so good that it was only fair to mention it.  It is only a matter of time before it gets discovered and will be crowded.  I am not Italian, but several of the people at our table have Italian heritage and they were impressed.

We had drinks at the bar and chatted.  A lot of baseball talk. The group consisted of four couples and me.  I was the ninth wheel.  It’s times like these that I miss Bryon. Granted, he wouldn’t have been by my side all night as he would have taken this as an opportunity to catch up with his friends.  He would have been making fun of his best friends beer selection. But these are my closest friends- my Albany family- and we still talk about Bryon as if he is still alive, which makes me feel better about being the third, or fifth or seventh or ninth wheel.  

I believe everyone was impressed with their meals.  I had the eggplant parmesan with a side of meatballs and linguine and it was amazing. I had enough eggplant leftover that it was dinner the next night for me and my daughter and the meatballs and linguine were lunch the next day.  And even in leftover form, it did not disappoint.  

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We got a group picture

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And then we got a picture of the girls.

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Then the guys got jealous and had to have their picture taken.

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In the bathroom.  Something to think about.

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My friend and I got into my car and right when I turned the key in the ignition, Hall & Oates started to play.  It was my friend’s favorite Hall & Oates song.  

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We took it as a sign that Bryon wouldn’t let us celebrate her birthday without him.  We cried.

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Half of us went back to my friend’s house where her boyfriend had a cake.  It was an orange creamsicle cake.  I don’t particularly care for orange creamsicle ,but I thought it was good.

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Then we did presents!  Which I didn’t get any pictures of my friend opening up.

I never thought birthdays were a big deal.  They are mostly for kids.  As adults, once you celebrate your 21st, you only celebrate those birthdays that end in zero.  But after losing Bryon at such a young age, I know realize that birthdays are meant to be celebrated.  We are lucky to have them.  And I am lucky to have friends to celebrate these special days with and I look forward to celebrating more.

Amicus meus est natalis beati. te amo.  (Don’t fail me Google translate!)

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For my daughter: what your father taught me about love

For my daughter:

They say that a girl learns how she is supposed to be treated by observing how her father treats her mother.  Unfortunately, you will not see this firsthand.  You will learn about other kind of love from all the people in your life that love you.  But you will not see how your father and I loved each other.  So this is my attempt to write down, the best I can, what I learned from your father’s and my love.

  1. True love does exist.   You might have to wait for it, but it exists.  I had given up on the idea of falling in love.  Part of that was my own fault.  We come from an Irish family and showing affection and love is not our strength.  We are not usually warm and fuzzy.  I never let my guard down.  I still don’t know why your father thought I was special and worked for my affections but I am happy he did. 
  2. It’s okay to have standards but still keep your heart open.  I had a list of ten items.  The top three were Republican, Catholic and a Red Sox fan.  Almost everyone thought I was nuts and told me I was being unreasonable. (The irony is now the only one of those three I can say I am with any certainty is a Red Sox fan.  These days I feel “meh” about religion and politics.)  The fourth item was being Irish which your father was ⅛ Irish so that might be stretching it.  I can’t remember much of the rest of the list except I wanted a man that could provide intelligent conversation (check),  a man who like to travel (check) and a man who had depth to his personality (check).  I wanted a man who could to the symphony and wine tasting one night and go to a baseball game, drink beer and eat hot dogs the next.  I was told that one was unreasonable but it described your father perfectly.   I also wanted an older man.  I almost didn’t give your father a chance because I was stuck on the age issue.   You have to be honest in what you are looking for but you also have to know when to be open. 
  3. If it’s meant to be, it will happen.  Your father and I were not a likely pair.  I was 7 years (actually 6 years and 363 days) older than him.  We also lived 7 hours apart.  I was not looking for a younger man or for a long distance relationship.  Your father wasn’t initially looking for a long distance relationship either.  Your father would text me and say he liked older woman and I pretty much would text back with “well, good for you.” Your father pursued and I resisted but in the end, it happened and there was nothing to stop it.  We fell in love.  We fell hard and we fell fast. It was meant to be. 
  4. You are worthy of a nice dinner.  It’s not about the money, it’s about the effort.  A friend of mine who is like a big brother to me once said that if a guy takes you to a chain restaurant on your first date, then there shouldn’t be a second.  I told this to your father and he agreed 100%.  Granted, your father generally had a disdain for all chain restaurants (except Texas Roadhouse and Chili’s) but you are unique and he should not take you to a generic place. 
  5. Love brings out the best in you.  The right one will make you want to be the best version of yourself. They will see the best in you.  You will strive to be a better person when in love. 
  6. Love with care- choose your words wisely.  Your father and I were/are both passionate people and we had some heated disagreements.  We were both guilty of saying things that we didn’t mean.  Choose your words carefully.  Love can be strong but life is fragile.   Even though we were both guilty of it, I am haunted by those words.  Even if you forgive each other and make up, you can’t take words back. 
  7. You don’t know how much you love someone until they are at death’s door.  Your father and I lived a busy life and we didn’t always take time to enjoy our love quietly.  But there were many days that defined our love.  Days where I thought I couldn’t love your father more than I already did.  The evening we got engaged at Mahar’s.  Our wedding day.  The day you were born.  Each of these events made us realize greater depths of our love.  I remember being in labor and I was cursing everyone and everything (sorry but it was true, labor is no joke!)   I remember your father saying he loved me so much and that he never loved me more than he did at that moment.  My love reached its culminating point when he was at death’s door.  You don’t know how much you love someone until you realize that they could be gone at any moment.
  8. Love doesn’t die.  A person will die but the love that exists doesn’t die.  When your father and I made our wedding vows, we vowed to love and honor each other, all the days of our lives.  Your father may not be here anymore, but I still love him and honor him and I know wherever he is, he loves me too.

The Growing Self Blogger Award

I am honored to be nominated for the Growing Self Blogger Award by no other than the awards creator- Roda!  It means a lot to me.  I have enjoyed reading Roda’s blog and especially reading about her farm.  Maybe the next time we are in Western Michigan, we will take a side trip and stop by the farm.

What is The Growing Self Blogger Award:

“The Growing Self Blogger Award has been created to acknowledge and celebrate amazing individuals, in the blogging community, who are persevering through life’s challenges not only to GROW as individuals,  but to reach out and help others GROW as well.” ~Roda

How Does It Work:

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog
  • List the rules
  • Thank the individual that nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  • Describe the award and mention the creator: Roda  – Growingself.blog
  • Nominate up to 5 blogs.  Remember, the purpose of this award is to specifically celebrate those individuals that make a difference in the lives of others.
  • Give 1 reason why you nominated each individual.
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog

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I am honored to nominate the following bloggers:

*I understand that not everyone chooses to be a part of the award nomination process. By nominating the following blogs, I am able to show thanks and appreciation for the joy, knowledge and laughter these individuals have brought to my life. If you choose to take part, that is fantastic! If not, no worries! Just keep writing…

 

Why I didn’t participate in International Widow’s Day

Today was International Widows Day and I chose not a participate.  For starters, I was supposed to take a selfie at 7pm and at 7pm, I am chasing my daughter around the house trying to get her ready for bed.  It had been a busy day.  It didn’t matter that I was actually having a good hair day.

But that’s not the real reason I don’t participate.

I don’t want the fact that I am a widow to define me.

I admire the widows who participate.  I just can’t bring myself to.

I am not ashamed to be a widow.  I am Bryon’s widow.  I would prefer to be his wife but I have to settle for being his widow.  He was here for a short time, lived his life to the fullest and he chose me to be the leading lady in his life.  I wish our years together were longer but I am happy I got the time I had with him.

I share my story.  I have been very open about my grief process.  So open that I post some of my most private and intimate thoughts on the Internet.

I share my story because I want people to understand what a widow, especially a young widow goes through.  I want people to understand what my grief is really like.  

I share my story because I want to help other widows.  It helps to know that you aren’t alone.  While every story is different and everyone handles grief differently, there are a lot of similarities.

I share my story because I want to preserve it for my daughter.  This is part of her story too but she won’t remember.  I want my account to be a good history for her.

I share my story to help others understand grief.  We hide under the sadness and scars but we are there.  Most of us are a stronger version of our older self but we are there.

I share my story but I don’t want my widowhood status to define me.  During Bryon’s ICU stay, I told him at one point that we will get through this and that this horrific event will not define him.  Bryon was fully aware but could not speak due to a tracheotomy but he nodded with determination.  I could tell he appreciated that I still saw him for who he was and not the medical conditions that he had.  

It’s the same for me.  This has been a horrific event in my life.  It has shaped who I have become but it doesn’t define me.  I still want people to see me for who I am, not just someone who had one of her worst nightmares come true. 

So even though I share my story, I will not be participating in International Widows Day.

Announcing our giveaway winner

I put all the entries into my super sophisticated, high tech random number generator…
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And the winner is….
Autumn Molnar says:

We are heading to the family cottage for the 4th. So excited to relax on the beach, celebrate the holiday, ride the boat and do water activities with my beautiful 4yr old daughter and her extended family.

Congratulations Autumn!  Sounds like you and the other entrants have some great summer plans.

Please send your contact information to Kerryannmckim at gmail dot com so I can send you your prize.

My Kimmy Gibbler

Yesterday Facebook let me know that Kimmy Gibbler and I became friends 8 years ago.

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We actually became friends earlier than that.  In September 2008.  Bryon and I had been dating for 6 weeks.  I came out to Albany and it was the weekend of LarkFest.  I was impressed (and intimidated) by her Chanel eyeliner and her fancy sunglasses.  Bryon and I had not had that awkward “what are we” conversation yet and she referred to me as Bryon’s girlfriend.  From that point on, Bryon referred to me as his girlfriend.  She saved us from having to have that conversation.  

Through the years, we were friendly.  We’d see each other at various parties and sporting events.  But she was closer to Bryon, but most people were.

17903440_10155479994597841_7088198661435851561_n We had our kids 18 months apart.  She was at my daughter’s Christening.  

She was at Bryon’s 30th birthday party.  It was a fun night with hibachi.  We did not know that it would end up being his last.

Then Bryon got sick.  She came by the hospital.  She made Bryon laugh and she brought me coffee.

Then Bryon died.  I forgot to wear my pearls that Bryon got me on our honeymoon in St. Thomas.  She offered me hers.  I didn’t take them, but I told her that she reminded me of Robin Scherbatsky and how she was Vice-Girl at Marshall’s father’s funeral.

She was there for me through those rough early weeks.  She stayed with me when I started crying after having too much wine.  She never once told me how to grieve or how to feel.  She just listened.  And she listens to hear what you have to say, not just to respond.

The Sunday before Christmas I woke up feeling sick.  I couldn’t get myself off the couch.  Not the best position to be in when you have a two-year-old.  But she came over and made me drink apple cider vinegar tea.  She swears by apple cider vinegar.  It didn’t taste good, but it made me feel better.  It is now my go-to when sick.  That and coconut oil.  Kimmy Gibbler loves coconut oil. 

People may see our banter back and forth on Facebook, but people don’t realize that that is actually a small amount of our interaction.  One time we had three different conversations at once, one on Facebook, one on Facebook messenger and one via text.  And it wasn’t on purpose.  

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I can message her whenever.  It can be when grief is hitting me hard or if I just want to randomly (but passionately) say that I don’t like the Uncle Jesse/Aunt Becky storyline on Fuller House.  And she will respond thoughtfully in each scenario.

She understands my humor, which is some weird combination of cheesiness, sarcasm, and being wildly inappropriate.  I have never once shocked her.

We know to adult and be good moms.  But at times we act like two teenage girls.  We might be known to giggle and tee-hee at times. Especially when we hear Bryan Adams.

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We work well as a pair.  I am the visionary and come up with the crazy ideas.  She is the planner and executes them.

She is always up for an adventure, even with the kids.  We are both history geeks and we took the kids to Philadelphia (I will write about that trip soon, I promise).  

I found out that there was an Amato’s in Ticonderoga and she was crazy enough to take a road trip with me.  With our two kids.  I was so scared that the Italians were not going to be as good as I remembered them but they were.  We then drove through Washington County (I think) and then over to Vermont to look for a cheese shop and a chocolate museum that I remembered visiting with Bryon.  We found a cheese shop, but it was closed and we couldn’t find the chocolate museum.  Luckily we found a chocolate shop in Bennington.  The kids seemed just as excited.

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Sometimes I curl my hair like DJ on Fuller House.  I don’t do it every day like DJ because I am a real person, not a TV character and I do not have daily access to make up artists and hairstylists.  I told her that I am like DJ because we are both widows, except DJ has amazing hair and a hot boyfriend while I have neither.  I told my friend that would make her my Kimmy Gibbler.  She accepted her new role (as if she had a choice!)

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We sat at Bryon’s grave yesterday.  She brought him a Stewarts Mountain Brew Tall Boy (which still does not have rugby listed as one of the activities you can enjoy while drinking a Mountain Brew).  We talked about how it sometimes it feels like yesterday that he died and other times it feels like a lifetime ago.  We talked about much we miss him, but we know we wouldn’t be close friends If he were still alive.  She also told me how much I have changed since Bryon had died and how she never knew who I was before.

She was the one of the first people to help me embrace my new self and grow as a person.  We will never know why Bryon had to die, but I truly think that my friendship with Kimmy Gibbler is one of the biggest gifts that Bryon gave me.   I can’t imagine my life without my Kimmy Gibbler.

10 Months

I found this picture of us from our last cruise one month before you got sick.  It was still in the plastic wrapper.  It is likely the last picture taken of our family.  I can’t help but look at it and think of all our plans.  We had our whole lives ahead of us.

It’s hard to believe that you have been gone for 10 months.   That is almost a year.

I still have moments where it doesn’t seem real that you are gone.  Moments where the memories are so vivid that it feels like you are in the present.  That you aren’t gone.

And then I realize that you are gone.

Sometimes I can move on from those moments with simple acknowledgement of the memory.  Sometimes I might even smile.

Other times I get overwhelmed with emotion.  I feel the grief that goes down to my bones, albeit briefly.  I cry.

I ask myself why.  Why did this have to happen?  Why you? Why me? Why us? Stuff like this wasn’t supposed to happen to us.  Not that I would ever wish this on anyone.

I think about all the suffering you went through and tears well up in my eyes.

I think about how you will not see our daughter grow up.

We will not grow old together.

You will never be the old man that you looked forward to being.

Although you are on my mind constantly, there are times that I begin to think that I am getting used to you being gone.  I am starting to forget many of the aspects of our life together.  Sometimes I am scared that with every step forward I take, that is one step further away from our life and our dreams.   But I know I can’t live in the past forever.  It’s not healthy.  And I know you would not want that.

No matter what happens in my life, I will never forget you.  And I will always love you.