First Annual Bryon C. McKim Memorial Derby Party

I have two words to describe Derby Day 2017.  


The first word is Epic.

We all came ready to celebrate the two most exciting minutes in sports.


There were old friends enjoying each others company.  There were new friendships formed.  Lots of laughter, celebration and happiness were in the air.


There were lovely ladies in dresses, hats and fascinators.  


There were dapper men in seersucker suits.  


Delicious food was served- bourbon meatballs, pulled pork sliders, mini Kentucky hot browns, mint julep chicken skewers and chicken and waffle skewers.  Because we all know that food tastes better when it is served on a stick.


Makers Mark Mint Juleps were consumed in special Bryon McKim souvenir cups.  So many Mint Juleps were consumed that the bar ran out of Makers Mark two hours into the party.  Bryon would be particularly proud of that.  


There was a silent auction full of amazing items that were generously donated from members of our community.  The silent auction was accompanied by friendly competition to outbid each other.


The second word is Bittersweet.  

We were having a great time but we all knew that this party would not be happening if Bryon was still alive.  If Bryon were still alive, we would have been having our annual Kentucky Derby party in our backyard.  The backyard party would have been at a smaller scale but just as fun.

Ultimately Bryon had to die to bring us all together to have a good time.

As much fun as I had on Derby Day, I would have given it all back if it meant Bryon would still be here.  But I think I am reaching the point in my grieving process where I am beginning to accept Bryon’s death as it is.  I have days where I still ask “why” but I know that even if I can figure out the “why,” it doesn’t change anything.  Bryon will still be dead.  And there is nothing that can change that.

We can’t change the fact that Bryon is gone but instead we chose to take a horrible situation and make the best of it.  Many people die without leaving their mark (pun not intended) on this world but Bryon made his mark (okay, pun was intended this time) and we made the choice to keep his memory alive.  Derby Day had the potential to be a very sad day but instead, we chose to celebrate Bryon’s favorite day of the year.  And we celebrated in true Bryon McKim fashion.  I am grateful that I had so many amazing people to celebrate Bryon’s life with.  We all remember what a difference he made in this world. He helped so many people when he was alive and we chose to continue his legacy and help others in his memory.

I want to thank the Bryon C. McKim Derby Party Planning Committee: Vince Casale, Lynn Krogh, Danielle Grasso, Joseph Hanson, Jennifer Muthig, Mike Utzig, Nick Wilock, Jennifer Armstrong, Mike and Natalie Kosar, Sara Stein and everyone else who assisted in the planning process.  I am awe of your talent and you ran this event like a well oiled machine.  You could run a small nation.  Bryon would be proud.

I want to thank our sponsors for supporting the event and all the business who generously donated items for our silent auction.  My daughter and I are very lucky to be part of such a supportive community who looks after their own.

I want to thank Wolff’s Biergarten for all your hospitality and help putting on this event.  You were great to work with and made our experience enjoyable.

And I want to thank everyone who came out to support our event to celebrate Bryon’s life and keep his memory alive.  One of the biggest fears that a grieving person has is that their loved one will be forgotten.  Thank you for reminding me that while Bryon may be dead, he did live.

I look forward to celebrating with you again in 2018.


“For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin — real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.

This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.

So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.”

~ Alfred D’Souza

I have always been a person who has always been waiting.

When I was a child, I was waiting for high school because from what I observed by watching Saved by the Bell and Beverly Hills 90210, high school was real life.  Because after sporting events and lame school dances, it was all downhill.

When I was in high school, I was waiting until I could go off to college because college was real life.  I would be out of my small Maine town and I would study abroad in Europe.  I could immerse myself in the subjects I cared about such as History and French.

When I was in college, I was waiting for graduation because that was when my career was going to happen and possibly I will would meet my future husband.  I was going to earn some real money.  And life was going to begin.

When I was finally out of college, I was waiting for my career to take off and to meet that husband I dreamed about meeting.  But none of those things came with a college degree so I kept waiting.

Once I was in a relationship with Bryon, I was waiting to get engaged because then I would be planning our wedding and my life would begin.

When Bryon and I were engaged, I was waiting to be married and when I was a wife, then life would begin.  We could put the stress of wedding planning behind us and we can focus on our happily ever after.

Once I was Bryon’s wife, I was waiting to buy a house and become a mother.  We would become a family and raise our baby in our little house.

Once I became a mother, I was waiting to have our second child so we could be the perfect family with two kids.  Bryon had been working hard on a career as was I and we would buy a bigger house.  Then life would begin.  We would raise our two perfect children, maybe three and take them to whatever sports or lessons they had.  We would get a family dog.  We would go on family vacations.  Bryon had plans to become 1950’s dad and make our daughters dates uncomfortable.  Then the kids would go of to college to wait for their lives to begin and Bryon and I would grow old together.

Only life as I envisioned it would never begin.  I never once thought “once I become a young widow, then my life would begin.”  But my life is happening and for once, I am not waiting for anything.  I know I have a long life ahead of me but for the first time in my life, I am not eagerly anticipating the next phase of my life.  I don’t even know what I should be waiting for.  I don’t even know what my next phase of my life is.  I know I will see my daughter grow up but Bryon won’t be there.  I hope to be in a position to help people but I am not sure how I will get from here to there.

During my grief process, I have felt like there is a lot of waiting.  I am waiting for the pain to subside.  I am waiting for things to get settled.  I am waiting until I can think about everything that happened and not feel like I am being punched in the stomach.  I am waiting until I can talk about what happened without having my voice shake and tears welling up in my eyes.

I don’t know what to wait for.  My life has so many paths it could take.  I am not looking forward to the prospect of someday dating again.  But if I did, my life would follow a certain path, a path I am not ready to consider at the moment.  For the time being, I am actually looking forward to my time alone to figure out exactly who I am.  But since I don’t know who I am right now, I don’t know how to envision a future alone.  There are many facets of my personality I wish to explore and depending on which ones I develop could affect my path.

I spent 37 years waiting for my life to begin.  But I have been living my life this whole time and not living in the moment.  I spent my years with Bryon looking towards the future and that future never materialized.  I spent so much time waiting and not enjoying the life I was living and that life is gone.  I can’t go back and focus on those moments in the present.  I only have memories.  Memories, a future I am not waiting for and the present.  It’s a shame it took my husband’s death to teach me how to live in the present.


I have tried to be honest about my grief through this whole process.  I usually do that in the form of blog posts such as this one.  I find that writing about my feelings helps me process them and I make my feelings public because it might help others. While it might only take you five minutes to read this blog post, it will take me hours to write this.  Sometimes those hours are spread over days.  I keep a written journal of sorts that I write down my thoughts and ideas that come to me as they are happening in their rawest forms and usually I review these journals when I write a blog post.  Sometimes my thoughts go straight on my google doc and I spent hours elaborating and organizing these thoughts.  I usually write about something that has bothering that particular week and I usually feel somewhat peaceful about that particular issue after I hit the publish button.  

There are times that a feeling comes on so strong and I can’t keep it in.  Like my blog posts, I need to get these issues out.  So sometimes it comes out in a post on social media.  Usually when I post on social media about something, I am upset and can’t wait to go through the process of writing a blog post.  When I post something in this state, I am venting.  I am not looking for sympathy nor am I looking for advice.  If I am looking for advice, I would be asking a specific question.  Usually when I post an emotional social media status, I don’t have anything left to debate or defend my position.

Usually the social media posts that spark the biggest reactions are those about religion.  There are some widows and widowers that never lose their faith in God and that is great.  I am happy for them.  I began my grief journey feeling that way.  I was actually fairly at peace when Bryon died but as time passed and I was left to deal with the grief, I was not comforted by God.  I have recently begun reading A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis and Lewis speaks about feeling like God has slammed the door in his face.  That is how I feel and I own it and I am honest about it.  I don’t take my loss of faith lightly and I resent it when people imply that I have.  I actually was very distressed about it in the beginning.  Aside from a few rebellious teenage years, I have tried to have a close relationship with God.  Being a good Catholic girl was a huge part of my identity and I was distressed that I was losing my identity on top of losing my husband.

I know that the comments about God being good and God allegedly loving me are well intentioned, it is actually like salt is being rubbed in my wound.  I have also come to the conclusion that a lot of these well intentioned people truly don’t understand what I have lost and what kind of pain I feel every single day.  And that is a good thing because I would never wish this type of pain on anyone.

Being told that I need to realize that life isn’t easy comes across as disingenuous to me and it demonstrates to me that my point is being missed.   I lost my best friend and the love of my life after less than four years of marriage.  Can people who have not had that loss truly tell me that they know how I feel?  Bryon was robbed of  the life he was supposed to live, the career he was working on, the places he wanted to go to, and the years he was supposed to spend with me and my daughter.  I was cheated out of my Happily Ever After and my daughter was cheated out of knowing her father and all her years with him.  I am tired of being told that the God that stole my daughters father from her is “loving”.  She’s 2!  What could a 2-year-old do to deserve that?

Sometimes I wonder if they need to reassure me of God’s alleged love not because I need to be reminded but that they need to reassure themselves.  I also wonder of people’s motives when they are trying to convince me about God’s alleged love.  Are bonus points given out for saving the widow?  I don’t need another church or another religion.  I am Catholic and will always be Catholic to some level.  I don’t need a new parish.  I will forever be grateful for the parish priest at my church.  He was there for Bryon, my family and me even when God was not.

I know this post might offend some people but I have spent too much time over the past 8 months worrying that I was offending people and this has caused stress.  Before Bryon got sick and passed away, I had the energy to deal with someone if they said anything rude or critical or insincere and by “deal”, I mean fume about rude, critical and insincere comments.  I also held back a lot of my true feelings.  But I don’t have the energy to fume.  If you cause that kind of reaction from me, I am going to take a step back.  I am going to take my space.  Because I just don’t have the energy to deal with anything negative.

There are a lot of assumptions and expectations about who I am based on who I was.  I touched upon that here.  But I am done being defined by others expectations of who they think I am.  I have spent my whole life worried about what people thought of me and not wanting to offend other people.  I can’t do it anymore.  I can’t hold back who I am, take care of my daughter, work 40 hours a week and grieve all at the same time.  I have to put my daughter and myself first.

I know that this post may upset people but I need to take care of my daughter and myself.  And those who are my true friends will understand and love me wherever my journey of self growth takes me.   Maybe I will find my faith in God renewed.  Maybe I will become a Buddhist.  Those who love me will understand that I am smart and I am strong and I am don’t need to be told what to believe.  I spent 38 years letting others have too much of a say in my life.  I need to figure things out myself and I need to be honest to my myself.  And I need to figure it out in my time.  I am processing my grief and soul searching and I am confident that over time, I will figure out what path I need to take.  The path that is best for me and the path that will lead my daughter into being who she is supposed to be.  And a part of me is actually a excited about the process.  I apologize that my self growth might make you uncomfortable but I will not apologize for doing what is best for me.

The Easter that should have been

We spent last Easter together in the ICU.  You were not able to communicate but I sat with you.  Our daughter spent the day with my parents.  Your best friend and his wife came.  They brought me a plate of food.

This year I have to go to the cemetery to see you.

Easter should have been different.  You should have been here.

You should have been with us on Thursday during our daughter’s Easter egg hunt party at school.  Since your best friends son attends the same school, you should have been there cracking jokes with your best friend.

You probably would have tried to get her to see the Easter bunny but let me tell you, her fear is real.

You should have been here Friday night when we dyed eggs with our friend and her son.  You should have been the one wincing when our daughter dropped a cup of green dye on the dining room floor.

You should have been at the Easter egg hunt yesterday at your best friends house.

You should have been there to see our daughter play with her Easter basket this morning.  Don’t worry, your princess got a basket fit for a princess.

If you were here, we would have gone to church where we would have done all that rejoicing and being glad.  Our daughter probably would have worn a proper Easter dress instead of her Elsa dress with rain boots.  This year Elsa and I opted out.

If you were here, you would have cooked dinner.  You didn’t care for ham so it would have been some version of beef.  We would have used our wedding china.  This year I made ham and used the everyday dishes because I couldn’t bear to look at our wedding china and think about all the holiday meals we would not be having together.

If you were here, you would have eaten peeps and I would have told you that they were disgusting.

But you are not here and if I want to see you, I need to go to the cemetery.  Easter went on without you but your absence was replaced with pain.  A pain as large as your personality.  Since you went into the hospital on Easter weekend, I get to be reminded of that weekend on the date and on the holiday.  But all I know is that going forward, I get to think about what should have been.

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.

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.  

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.