Five years

5 years ago I woke up from a sleepless night.  I think I slept from 4:00 until 5:30.  I was too excited to sleep.  This day was going to be the first day of our happily ever after.

This was one of the happiest days of my life.  The other being when our daughter was born.  However, I think it is worth noting that I looked a lot better and felt a lot better on the day we got married as opposed to the day we became parents.

The weather was cool and a little dreary.  Father Mullen, the priest who had married us, had referred to it as a “soft Irish morning.”

I spent the morning in our bridal suite getting ready with my bridesmaids. My hairstylist said I was the calmest bride that she ever had.  The nerves didn’t hit me until it was time to board the trolley to the church.  It wasn’t nerves about getting married, just nerves that everything was going to go perfectly.

You spent the morning watching soccer at the Biergarten with some of the groomsman. You drank “das boot” even though I told you not to.

You always did what you wanted to do.

We had our whole lives together.

We bought our starter house.  Our daughter was born.  We bought a family car.  We made progress in our careers (you more than me).  We went on 5 cruises.

But our happily ever after only lasted 1422 days.  

151 of those days I was upholding my vow “to be true to you in sickness and in health.”

And now it is our fifth wedding anniversary and you are dead.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen.  We were supposed to grow old together.  We were supposed to have at least two kids.  We were going to buy a bigger house and take many more cruises. We were supposed to go to San Diego.  And Scotland.  And London.   And Branson, Missouri.  (I still don’t understand that one.  But I will make it there someday).

You were supposed to walk our daughter down the aisle.  You were supposed to hold your grandchildren.

You wanted to be an adjunct college professor and write a book on election law.

You weren’t ready to die.  You were taken too soon.

And I am here, still reeling from everything that happened.  The other morning, I drove to the cemetery and I wept.  My whole body was shaking and I was gasping for air.  I have never cried so hard where it affected me physically.  I just kept saying “Why?  Why?  Why?”   

404 days later and I am still asking why you have to die?

Maybe I will never know.

For the past 404 days I have thought about the 151 days you spent in the hospital, 149 of them in the ICU.

Every one of those 404 days, I have thought about what happened, how the events unfolded.

For 404 days, I have beat myself up which is ridiculous because I had no control over the situation.  That was up to God and the medical staff, both of which failed you.

For 404 days, I have felt empty.  An emptiness that felt like a deafening silence that echoed through my body.  The emptiness is both physical and emotional.  Your side of the bed is empty and you are not there to hear my stories.  

You were aware the whole time you were in hospital and I have no idea what was going through your mind.  The other morning I was driving and listening to some morning talk show.  The hosts were discussing the song “Seasons in the Sun” and of course I lost it when I heard “It’s so hard to die, when all the birds are singing in the sky”. Because you weren’t able to talk, I have no idea what was going through your mind before you died.  Or even if you knew you were dying.

One of the hardest parts about your death was that we didn’t get to talk about it.  You went from having back pain to being intubated in a matter of hours.  For the following 149 days, you could not speak.  You were my best friend and we talked about everything but we couldn’t talk about how sick you were or that you may be dying.  

We didn’t get any closure.  

Wherever you are right now and in whatever form you are, I am sure you understand what happened.  But for me, on Earth and in human form, I struggle to make sense of it.

You left me with amazing friends.  They are now my family, but unfortunately it took your illness and death for us to realize what we meant to each other.

I am so much stronger than I ever thought I could be.  When you were sick, I looked forward to when you were better.  I was hoping that you would be proud of me.  But you died before you got to see that.

At your funeral, your best friend gave your eulogy.  He said we were the lucky ones because we got to know you.  In some ways, I must have been the luckiest one of all.  You chose me to be by my side.  

You made such a big difference in my life.  You taught me so much.  You taught me my worth.  You believed in me and gave me confidence.  You told me I was beautiful.  One of my biggest regrets is not believing you.  I couldn’t just let you think I was beautiful.  I made it hard for you to love me.  I didn’t appreciate you. These things will always haunt me.

Our daughter was robbed because she was only 18 months when you went into the ICU and you left us a month before she turned 2.  But I am grateful that you left so many friends who love her. It makes my heart hurt to know what you won’t be taking her to any Father-Daughter dances, but you left many friends who would step up and take her.  I hesitate to use this analogy because I know how you feel about Hillary Clinton, but our daughter truly has a village.  That is one of your legacies to her.

I was talking to a friend of ours the other day.  I said that I wished you were here to weigh in on a problem one of us was having.  Because you would know how to handle it.  You knew how to handle everything.  I still need your advice.  Our friend said that while you were not here, at least you gave us a lot of advice when you were here that we can use.

But it is not the same.

Grieving your death has been exhausting.  Even though 404 days have passed, I still miss you so much that I literally feel physical pain.  I miss you so much that it literally takes my breath away.  I still go through the motions of life and I still feel dead inside.  

I still have moments where I curl up in the fetal position and I cry my eyes out.

I am in a weird place because sometimes I wonder when it won’t hurt so much.  But then I get scared.  I know that in order to get to the point where it doesn’t hurt so bad means that I have to let go to a certain extent.  The thought of letting go brings on those feelings of pain.  

Sheryl Sandberg says there is a one line Jewish prayer that states “Let me not die while I am still living.”  

I am trying.  Some days I do okay.  Other days I feel like I can barely stay afloat.  Some days I feel like I am drowning.

But I know deep down that I need to live again.  When I think about all that you had given me in our short time together, I owe it to you to try to make my remaining days on Earth matter.  

I just wish it didn’t hurt so much.

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A third birthday fiesta

We celebrated my daughters third birthday this past weekend.  It was a small celebration with the Albany family, but we are still a pretty crazy bunch.  Celebrations like this are very bittersweet without Bryon, but we still had a good time.  I was tired, but very thankful for those in my daughters life.

 

For my daughter: your birth story

You were supposed to be born on or before September 14, 2014.  But you had other plans.

On Thursday, September 18, 2014 I woke up around 4 am and I was convinced I was in labor.  You father was too and he started to pack his bag.  He said we were having a baby that day.

I called the OB/Gyn.  They told me to come in which we did.

They hooked me up to the machine to measure contractions.

Your father tells me about how someone asked him how many centimeters dilated I was.  Your father said that he thought it was weird, that that person was asking about my vagina- his wife’s vagina.  I said that that person wasn’t asking in that way and it didn’t matter because I had heard that when you are delivering a baby, you don’t care.  Your father then said “Like that time on Saved by the Bell when Zack had to deliver Mr. Belding’s baby in an elevator.”  I said “Now that would have been awkward.”

We sat there for a half an hour and the contractions had stopped.  We weren’t having a baby that day.  But we scheduled an induction for Monday, September 22, 2014.

I was in a bad mood and I didn’t go back into work.  I was tired of people asking me where the baby was.

The next day, Friday, September 19, 2014 and it started out just like the day before except your father didn’t get excited pack a bag.  The morning passed but my contractions were still 10 minutes apart.  I took a nap.  I kept having to stand up.  I had back labor and it hurt.  I told your father that you were going to be an only child.

Your father had refused to take any childbirth classes.  He remembered seeing an episode of Murphy Brown where she took a childbirth class and the other parents were tools.  He didn’t want to be in a class with tools.  For an extremely intelligent man, he sure had times where he had trouble separating fictional TV scenarios and real life.

I was in the middle of a contraction and your father said “Maybe we should have taken that childbirth class…”

I look at him.  He told me that when I looked at him, he couldn’t tell if I was going to laugh or if I wanted to murder him.

Evening came and contractions were still 8-10 minutes apart.  I told your father that I heard walking helped with labor so we went to the mall.  So it was a busy Friday night at the mall and your father and I just slowly walked the perimeter of the mall.  We stopped every 8-10 minutes.

During the overnight, my contractions finally got closer together.  We went to the hospital around 3 am.  I had been in labor for about 24 hours at this point.

I got my epidural and like was good for several hours.  They thought I would be pushing around 3 pm.

Well 3 pm became 4 pm.  And then 5 pm.  And 6 pm.

You could say I was not a happy camper.

I just wanted you out of me.

It was decided that after 42 hours of labor, I was going to have a C-section.

They doctors were getting ready.  Your father put on scrubs.  The anethesiologist asked if anyone had a questions.  Your father said he did.  The anethesiologist is polite and said “okay…” and your father gestures toward the scrubs and asks “Does this make me look fat?”  The anethesiologist burst out laughing.

Your father also used that joke on the nurses and they thought he was hysterical.  Your father was proud.

So I will spare you the details of the c-section.  I do remember that once you were born, they asked your father to announce if you were a boy or girl as we didn’t find out.  He just stood there looking at you.  I couldn’t take the suspense and I said “Well, did we have a Maddy or a William?”  Your father just smiled in awe and said you were a girl.

The second you were out of me, I was given morphine.  I remember that I was suddenly transported from the operating room to a yellow foam fun house and I thought it was awesome.  Your father was there with me in the fun house wearing his scrubs.  And then as quickly as I was transported there, the fun house just melted away and I was back in the operating room.  But your father didn’t move.

I kept talking about the yellow foam fun house.  My obstetrician said that she was starting to get jealous because this yellow foam fun house sounded cool.  I kept alternating between being excited about the foam fun house and being excited about your birth.

Since I was too drugged up, your father held you first.  They placed you in his arms and the first thing he said was “Oh my God.  You are so cute.”

I stayed in the hospital for several days.  The highlights:

1)  You saw Top Gun with your father when you were a day old.

2) Your father watched the Bills with you on his laptop.

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3) At one point you were crying and he was holding you.  He started to sing to you but it wasn’t helping.  I was half asleep and said “She likes “Let’s Hear It For The Boy'”  (You did in utero).  Your father then sang the whole song, word for word.  I feel like I should be surprised that he knew the words but I am not.  And it worked.  You stopped crying.

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We celebrated your first birthday a day early on Saturday, September 19, 2015.  We didn’t want your party to be overshadowed by the Bills playing.  We had a Minnie Mouse theme and a taco bar.

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When we celebrated your first birthday, we had no idea that it was going to be your last birthday with your father.

As we celebrate your second birthday without him, it still feels unreal.  The only birthday he was at is the one you definitely won’t remember.

It is just so unfair.

At least once a day, I think about how you are going to grow up without him, without remembering him, without every knowing him in his earthly form.

And every time you do something new or funny, I am reminded that he won’t get to see you grow up.  He used to tell me that he couldn’t wait until he could talk because you would probably say the funniest things.

Every time you reach a new milestone, he won’t see that.

Every time you say something funny, he isn’t here to laugh.

He got robbed of that.

You got robbed.

Life can be so cruel.  And I know soon you are going to start asking questions.  I dread that but I won’t hide anything from you.

But I want you to know that your father loved you so much.  You were the center of his world when he was here.  And I know wherever he is, he loves you very much.  His death doesn’t change that.

And many of the people around you loved him too and they love you too.  And we all can’t wait to celebrate your third birthday.

Random encounters with the famous

Yesterday my daughters Godmother had posted an article on Facebook about the scientist behind the research of BRCA1.  (BRCA1 is one of the gene mutations that is linked to breast cancer.  This research has positively impacted cancer treatment.)  This scientist had had a string of bad luck.  Her husband left her and her home was burglarized.  Also within this story was a random encounter with Joe DiMaggio in an airport.

It made me think of the a few encounters I had with famous people.  Now I have met many famous politicians at political events and I have met authors at book signings.  I am not referring to these encounters.  I am referring to random encounters.

Now I know the featured photo on this blog post is not a random encounter but I didn’t have any pictures of random encounters.  So I thought I would put a picture of Bryon with Speaker Boehner.  Bryon loved him so much that he named our cat Boehner.  And I actually agreed.

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Boehner watching Boehner

This is the story of some of those encounters.

Random Enounter #1
Early December 1992
Boston Garden
Boston, MA

My first random encounter was at a Celtics game at the old Boston Garden (now the Fleet Center).  They were playing the New York Knicks.  It was a Friday night and I was in the eight grade.  My aunt was given the use of her boss’s season tickets so she asked my parents and me to go to the game with her.  They were floor seats and I remember that the players were so tall that it hurt your neck to look at them.

I wasn’t into basketball so I didn’t even have a Celtics shirt.  I wore white leggings and this horrible light purple sweater with white stars.  I got rid of that sweater a long time ago and now I kind of wish I had it.

I remember my mother saying “Isn’t that Michael Douglas?”

I had no clue at that time who Michael Douglas even was.

The people sitting next to me were taking a picture of him and then he left.

I wasn’t that impressed with the encounter.  I was more excited about seeing myself in the game highlights on the news.  I even recorded them on a VHS tape with a VCR.

Encounter #2
Fall 1995
Shop ‘N Save
Ellsworth, ME

I was a junior in high school and it was my first day training as a cashier at Ellsworth Shop N Save.  I would ring up each order while my trainer Martha watched and guided me.

I rang up my fourth ever customer.  Martha asks me a question.

Martha: “You know that was Paul Stookey, right?  He lives in Blue Hill.”

Me:  “Who?”

Martha: “Don’t tell me you don’t know who Paul Stookey is…Peter, Paul and Mary?”

Me:  “Oh yeah!”

Encounter #3

November 2005
Peabody Hotel
Little Rock, AK

I was at my second ever Young Republican event and I was in an elevator and someone told me that Congressman J.C. Watts was at the hotel.  He wasn’t part of our event so he counts as random.  I had just read Congressman Watts book, What Color is a Conservative.  The elevator stopped on a floor as did the one immediately across from it so you could see into the elevator car.  I look and I see Congressman J.C. Watts.

“OMG!  It’s Congressman J.C. Watts!” I exclained.  I was giddy.

Congressman J.C. Watts just kind of smiled and waved though I could tell he thought I was nuts.

Encounter #4
Sometime around 2007, 2008ish
Borders
Bangor, ME

There isn’t much lead up to this story.  I was in Borders shopping or browsing.  Then I see Stephen King.  I don’t say anything because anyone from Maine knows that you leave Stephen King alone.

I am sure Bryon had many encounters.  I am sad to say I don’t remember.  It never dawned on me to try to memorize everything he told me because he wouldn’t be around to confirm any stories.

But I do remember one encounter.

Bryon’s Encounter
July 2009
A hotel, I can’t remember which
Indianapolis, Indiana

It was the Young Republican National Convention.  I was still the Maine Federation of Young Republican Chairman and I was running for Northeast Regional Vice-Chair.

That same weekend there was some sort of swim championship.  Bryon was in an elevator and Michael Phelps gets on the elevator.  According to Bryon, there were a bunch of girls on the elevator who got giddy and started to fangirl Michael Phelps.  Bryon said he just looked at Michael Phelps and shrugged and shook his head.

I assure you that when Bryon found me, he gushed to me about being in an elevator with Michael Phelps.

Have you ever had a random celebrity encounter?

 

Six dreams about my dead husband

I have had six dreams about Bryon since he passed away.  At least, six dreams that I have remembered.

The first dream was the night of my daughters second birthday party.  He looked normal and not sick.  He was wearing his navy sweater vest and a tie and his hair was combed back, off of his face.  (It always annoyed me when his hair got long, but I never nagged him because that would only strengthen his resolve to keep it long.  But I would tell him that he was no Tom Brady.)  We just stood there, several feet apart from each other, looking at each other.  I said “Hi Handsome” and he said “Hello Beautiful.”

The second dream was within the first couple of months.  He was sick, in the hospital and I was sitting next to him, waiting for him to die.  Then he burst out laughing.

The third dream was also within in those first couple of months.  I was in a dangerous situation.  Luckily, Bryon shows up in a car.  I had been waiting for him and while I was relieved he had showed up, I told him about all the bad things that almost just happened to me.

The fourth dream happened about 9 months after he passed.  I was at a Republican convention that was covering the Northeast.  I was sitting at a table on a patio with a group of  friends, but I only recognized two people.  One of them was my daughters Godmother.  I guess they were having presentations from different states and I hear that Maine’s presentation was about to begin in the auditorium and I begin to make my way over.  I wanted to see Senator Collins.  On my way, I get distracted by a stairwell.  Bryon is standing on a landing half way down the stairs.  He has lost a lot of weight and he is wearing a beige suit with an orange tie.  It was an interesting color combination.  We stop and just look at each other and smile.  We don’t talk.  We don’t get close to each other.

When I woke up, I remembered about the time we met.  It was during the Northeast Caucus of the Fall 2006 Young Republican National Federation Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.   The room was filled with a large New York delegation and I was the lone Maine representative.  I was trying to give my report on Maine and there was a New Yorker who kept interrupting me.  That was my first impression of Bryon.  Bryon always maintained that no one in the room cared about what was going on in Maine.  So after that dream, I just thought something along the lines of “of course he would interrupt me on the way to a Maine presentation.”

The fifth dream was three nights ago.   We were with a group of friends, but we were living separate lives and we were okay with that.  It was bizarre.  There was a lot more to it, but my daughter had woken me up and I didn’t get to think about the dream before I forgot most of it.

The sixth dream happened yesterday.  My daughter and I didn’t go anywhere.  It was one of those days where just existing had been too exhausting.  They still happen.  My daughter goes to take a nap. I knew I should be cleaning since her birthday is this week.  But instead, I sit on the couch and watch Pioneer Woman.  Three different chocolate desserts and cheesy corn chowder.  I fell asleep.  What can I say?  I caught onto the “sleep when the baby sleeps” about three years too late.

This sixth dream was really weird.  I am aware that Bryon is dead.  And then Bryon is there and he is alive and he tells me we need to do drop campaign literature in the next town over. Now if Bryon were to return from the dead, I really hope he doesn’t want our first date post resurrection to be dropping campaign literature but in the dream, I am okay with it.

So in the dream, we are on our way to meet up with the campaign and it dawns on me-  how can I be with Bryon right now?  He’s dead.  I was then confused, not knowing if Bryon was dead or not.  But I didn’t get to sort it out in the dream because my daughter woke me up.

 

 

Late summer fun: Sunflowers and ice cream

I was supposed to go to Maine the last weekend in August but I needed to take my cat to the vet. I thought something was wrong with him. He wasn’t acting like himself and I was sure something was wrong with him.  After paying my not insignificant vet bill, nothing was physically wrong him.

So now my cat is on prozac.

It’s for the best.

And I missed my trip to Maine and my 20th high school reunion. I thought about trying to swinng it but I was too tired to do 16 hours of driving in a 60 hour period

So I wound up with an unexpected free weekend.  My close friend loves Sunflowers and asked if I would be up for a drive downstate to a sunflower field. I am always ready for an adventure and I love road trips so I happily agreed.

I wish I had a selfie to share but not a single one looked good.  For real.  My daughter wouldn’t look at the camera and I had my hair in my face.

After we looked at the flowers, we went to a farm stand.  It was crowded.  My friend told me that she wasn’t expected it to be crowded because she has seen too many Hallmark movies.  In Hallmark movies there is a ton of space.  Hallmark movies have ruined her.

Though we both agreed that that won’t stop us from watching them this Christmas.

After the farm stand, we decided to drive into New Paltz and get some ice cream.   We went to Hugeunot Creamery.  The ice cream was delicious and the staff was very kind and friendly.  The kids had ice cream cones  with sprinkles. They wound up all over the floor.  Part of me felt bad but part of me figured that it’s bound to happen in an ice cream shoppe.  My friend had a creamsicle float and I had an old fashioned hot fudge sundae.

On the way back, we stopped at a Samuel’s Sweet Shop in Rhinebeck which is owned by Paul Rudd and Jeffrey Morgan.  The kids had lollipops (though my daughter could only handle a few licks after eating ice cream) and I had a pretzel covered in Reese’s Pieces.  My friend got chocolate covered oreos.

It was a great day.  I am so glad my friend asked us to spend the day with her and it was fun to discover places in New York where I had never been.  I can’t wait for some Fall adventures with my friends.

Do you like to go on day trips?  Where do you like to go?

Rude Canadians and the time we almost got kicked off a plane

Today’s blog post was inspired from Rachel’s post about wanting to meet a rude Canadian.

Bryon and I met a rude Canadian once.

Actually it was two rude Canadians.

We were on a cruise in February 2014.  It was the cruise we took when I was nine weeks pregnant (before Zika was a thing).  The cruise was aboard the Carnival Sunshine and we left from New Orleans and visited Montego Bay, Jamaica (never again), Grand Cayman (loved it) and Cozumel, Mexico (fun time).

That cruise could be dubbed a lot of different things:

The time I cruised when pregnant.

The cruise where I threw up Virgin Daquiri’s.  (Sorry).

The cruise where I pretty much just ate potato salad and loved it.

The cruise where Bryon got a bad sunburn and then had to pay $15 for aloe on the ship.  The label called it liquid gold and Bryon said it better be for that price.

The cruise where we hung out in the piano bar most nights.

The cruise where I met an Elvis impersonator.

The cruise where I won a geography trivia contest.

The cruise where the somelier at the steakhouse spilled Bryon’s Chateau Neuf de Pape while she was trying to transfer it from the bottle into the decanter.  I can still feel Bryon’s blood pressure rising over this.

The cruise where Bryon pissed off a Southern lady at the pizza stand.

But this story is about how we met rude Canadians.

On that cruise we made friends with another married couple from Florida.  The dining room was tight (as most dining rooms on cruise ships are) and our tables were next to each other.  We started chatting and remained friendly during the rest of the cruise.  In fact, we still remain Facebook friends.  Maybe I will cruise with them again.  If I can ever bring myself to go on another cruise.  That was Bryon and my thing.

Anyway, we invited this couple to be part of our team in a trivia contest.  This trivia contest was different than most. Instead of just writing your answers on a sheet, each team took a chance to answer a question.  If you got it right, you got the points.  If you got it wrong, the moderator went around the room asking everyone else until someone got it right or until she got back to the original contestant.  

Well this couple came in and joined the fun.  They were there own team and they called themselves  “The Canucks.”  To be honest, I can’t even remember the name of our own team.  

“The Canucks” were before us in the rotation of questions.  So whenever a team got an answer wrong, we would quietly discuss our answer as a team.  Somehow “The Canucks” heard us because they kept stealing our answers.  

Needless to say, we were pissed.  So on the next rounds, we got even quieter and Bryon would semi-loudly say “I think it’s *wrong answer*.  Yeah, I definitely think it is *wrong answer*”.  

“The Canucks” bought our fake answer and -surprise- they got it wrong.  Then it was our turn and we gave our correct answer and they glared at us.  

Now on the Carnival Sunshine as well as a lot of other Carnival ships, there was a cocktail bar called Alchemy.  The bartender on this cruise had actually been our bartender the previous year on the Carnival Glory.  We had become friends (still Facebook friends with her as well) and right before our trip on the Carnival Sunshine, she announced on Facebook that she was going to be on that ship.  So we were so excited to be reunited.  Most nights we would go have a beverage before dinner (non-alcoholic for me) and then we would return after the evening entertainment.  Well we are at the bar and the rude Canadian couple was there.  And they glared at us because we were friendly with the bartender.

They continued to glare at us whenever they saw us.  To be honest, Bryon and I thought it was kind of funny.  Though we were surprised because we had never met rude Canadians before and we usually went to Canada several times a year.

The story concludes with our the first leg of our flight home.  Our flight went from New Orleans to Chicago then to Albany.  We were using airlines miles (I have an airline credit card) and they did not have any coach seats available so we decided to use more miles and fly first class.  I am not going to lie, I loved it.  

We were sitting in the second row and we see the rude Canadians board the airplane.  Bryon, who already had a drink in his hand waves hello to them.  And, you guessed it, they glare at us.  

Oh, about the almost getting kicked off part-

We were started to taxi and the pilot announces that we were going to return to the gate for a security concern.  I look at Bryon.  He points to the seat in front of us and mouths to me that he thinks it’s them.  In the first row was a couple who had been extremely rude to the flight attendant.  

The gate manager comes up to our row and tells us we need to exit the airplane immediately. I just sat there in shock.  

The flight attendant comes up behind the gate manager and says “Row 1!  I said Row 1!”  

The gate man apologizes and then has the couple in the row 1 exit the plane.

I said to Bryon that the rude Canadians probably thought it was us getting kicked off the plane.

Bryon said that they will never know because they we way back in coach.

And then we laughed.  Like we were people who always flew first class.