Father’s Day without you

Here we are.  Father’s Day.  The second to last first holiday without you.  Unlike all the other holidays, I couldn’t just go through the motions since this holiday is centered around you.  Each holiday was drastically different, but I still had events to distract me.  

On Halloween, our daughter and I were invited to go trick or treating with friends in a neighboring town.  Our daughter was a cheerleader. There were other kids who were our daughters age and she had a blast.  She totally understood the concept and would run up to each door and do a happy dance each time she received candy.

On Thanksgiving the family met at my brothers in New Hampshire and I cooked dinner.  I also ran a Turkey Trot and at one water station they were giving out beer.  I took one because I knew that you would been disappointed if did not.  I only managed a sip.  

On Christmas, our daughter and I continued to see our friends.  Instead of continuing Christmas Eve afternoon at the pub, some of us started the new tradition of Feliz Navidad Brunch.  We visited your grave.  We went to Mass even if I still think the whole religion and praying thing is pointless.  Santa may have gone overboard with Amazon Prime.

Our friends and I stayed up on New Years Eve.  Mariah Carey was so bad that it was epic.  I made poblano macaroni and cheese, which is a crowd favorite.  I learned to make it after you died so you have never tasted it, but you would have loved it.  We went to New Beginnings Brunch the next day.

Valentine’s Day was filled with love from our friends.  They didn’t forget about us.  Even Carter the dog thought to get us roses.

I made a ham on Easter.  We colored Easter eggs and we went out for ice cream.

Mother’s Day was spent at Baby Animal Day at Indian Ladder Farm.

But today I couldn’t avoid the fact that you were not here.  I kept thinking about how you were looking forward to our daughter being this age.  You were so excited for her to start talking.  You couldn’t wait to hear the funny things she was going to say.  I know you would have had some pretty ridiculous conversations with her.  

I just not fair that she is going to grow up without you.  All these other kids get their fathers and she doesn’t.  She doesn’t remember life with you so she seems content that it is just me and her.  But I always think about how life should have been.  If you were still alive, we would be planning on having a second kid soon.

One thing that struck me today is that our daughter is always asking why.  I always answer because I like to think she is trying to figure out how the world works.  But today when I told her you were in Heaven.  I braced for the “why?” but she didn’t ask why.  I know that question is coming.  Don’t worry, she will know all about you.  She will know you loved her very much and that you still do.

So today we visited your grave.  I cried because this isn’t how we were supposed to be celebrating Father’s Day.  We should have spent the day doing whatever you wanted to do.  But instead, I spent the day thinking about how you are not here.  There will be no pictures on Facebook of you spending time with our daughter.

20170618_165340  

I did decide that we would go out for ice cream since you wouldn’t want us to spend the day being sad.  But please know that no matter what happens in life, you will always be missed.

20170618_172848

Advertisements

The last 30 hours

Saturday, August 20, 2016
New York City

I was sleeping in the recliner that the nursing staff had found.  I think they took pity on me because I was sleeping on two chairs put together.  The resident woke me up just after midnight and told me that Bryon’s numbers were looking much, much worse.  I called my daughter’s Godmother.  I was hysterical and I know I yelled at her after she asked some questions.  

I barely slept the rest of the night.

The following morning the resident came in.  She came in to tell me what I had been fearing: that Bryon’s heart was going to stop beating that day.  I remember staring straight ahead with tears in my eyes.  The resident asked me if I wanted to know what was going to happen.  Through my tears, I just nodded.  She explained to me the there was going to be a lot of yelling and everyone was going to come into the room and work on resuscitating him.  She explained that I would need to leave the unit should that happen.  I just nodded.  

I called my daughter’s Godmother who said she would be at the hospital as soon as possible. I truly don’t know how I would have gotten through the day (or really the past 15 months) without her and her fiance.

I made phone calls.  My parents were in Albany with my daughter.  I didn’t think it made sense for them to bring her down because Bryon was no longer aware and my daughter would be too young to remember.  Plus my parents are from Maine and my father hadn’t been to New York City since 1964 and it didn’t make sense for him to be driving in a city that was unfamiliar when Bryon wouldn’t even be aware.

I called Bryon’s parents and they told me they weren’t coming.  As a parent myself, I will never understand their decision.  If my daughter were in New Zealand and I heard she was dying, I would be on the first flight I could get across the world.  But we all make our own choices in life and we have to live with those choices.

I called some of my friends.  Some of them were able to make the trip down to the city that day to say their good-byes.

Specialists came in and out all day.  Each one gave me the news that there was nothing they could do.  Exploratory surgery would be the only option and he wouldn’t survive a trip to the operating room.  I overheard one of the doctors say they were looking for a Hail Mary.  I just appreciated that the doctors hadn’t given up on him, even though his death was imminent.

Saturday turned into Sunday.  Bryon was still alive.  It was my Dad’s birthday.  I wrote Happy Birthday on his Facebook wall because I knew my first call to him on his birthday was going to be telling him that Bryon had died.  

My daughter’s Godmother stayed with me all night.  Neither of us could sleep.  I was too afraid that if I were to fall asleep that that would be the moment his heart would stop beating.  I didn’t want my last moments with him to consist of me being awoken by commotion.  So my daughter’s Godmother and I stayed up all night, taking turns talking to Bryon. Obviously we didn’t know how much he could hear us or understand us or if he could hear us at all.

His vitals were falling.  His heart rate and blood pressure dropped to levels that I hadn’t seen in the five months of staring at the monitor.  His hand felt cold when I held it.  

I was talking to him.  I was probably rambling.  I remember telling him that our daughter and I were going to be okay.  Then I started rambling about shower hooks. Then, at 6:47 am, Bryon’s heart stopped beating.

Lubec, Maine and Saint John, New Brunswick

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

10400139_98436352840_1934211_n

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

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

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

10400139_98436382840_4186710_n

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

Bryon is still dead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The world goes on and Bryon is still dead.

Mother’s Day Weekend

I had a good weekend.  My parents and my friends spoiled me.  However, like all the other “firsts” I am feeling lots of emotions, of which I am still sorting out in my head.  I am mentally too exhausted to write about them at the moment.  I might need to take a day or two to decompress.

However, I would be remiss if I didn’t share photos from our trip to Indian Ladder Farms for Baby Animal Days.  The goats, the bunnies and the 4 day old chicks were my daughters favorite.

 

My friend Stephanie

I have never met Stephanie in person but we both belong to a Facebook group which was formed in 2011.  It consisted of a bunch of ladies planning their September 2012 weddings.  We discussed many things in that group such as floral arrangements, wedding hairstyles and seating charts.  After our wedding, many of us stayed in that group and since then we have bought houses, gotten job promotions and welcomed babies into the world.  We also give each other fashion advice, share recipes and we talk about a LOT of things that, like Vegas, will stay in that group.

I am the first widow of the group.

Well, sort of.

My friend Stephanie really is the first widow of our group.

Stephanie and I had a lot in common.  We are both New England girls and we love the ocean.  We both root for the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots.  We have both run for public office.  Despite the fact that she is a Democrat and I was a Republican, we understood each other and we always refer to each other as our “sister from another party.”  However, I never thought we would share the bond of being widows.  At least not this soon.

While the members of our online group come from a variety of backgrounds and each had our own love story, Stephanie’s story was a bit different.  Like the rest of us, Stephanie was marrying her soulmate, Chris.  But unlike the rest of us, Stephanie had a heart breaking story that preceded her happily ever after.  Chris is Stephanie’s second soul-mate.  Her first soul mate was her fiancé Stephen and he drowned in a lake in New Hampshire in 2010.

Now, I am just going to stop here and state that just because Stephanie and Stephen were engaged and not married does not disqualify Stephanie from widow status.  As far as I am concerned, she lost the man she was planning to spend the rest of her life with and it doesn’t  matter if they had made it legal yet.  If anything, engaged widows have to deal with some major challenges, especially if they did not legally have their affairs sorted out beforehand.  And to be clear, I have no idea if Stephanie had those challenges.  I didn’t ask her because it is none of my (or your) business.

Stephanie was about my age when Stephen died.  And she had to face the dilemma that every widow must face- do you move forward or do you let this destroy you?

Stephanie chose to move forward.  She met her next soul mate Chris shortly thereafter.  Stephanie says that falling in love again was scary because you know that love can be ripped away.  Stephanie was so happy with Stephen and she never thought she would experience that kind of love again.  When she started to have those feelings again, she realized that she could let this new love pass her by or she can see where it goes.  I am sure Stephanie is glad that she decided to see where this love would go.

Chris was extremely supportive of Stephanie during her time of grief.  Chris also let her incorporate Stephen’s memory into their life.  Stephanie states that she and Chris were comfortable creating a bridge between the relationships.  It makes sense since there was not breakup.  It was more like a transition.  When Chris and Stephanie got engaged, the center stone of her engagement ring came from the solitaire from her engagement ring from Stephen.  And on their wedding day, Stephen’s dad walked Stephanie down the aisle.

If I ever fall in love again, I hope my man would be as understanding and supportive as Chris.

I did ask Stephanie if she had any advice for other widows.  Here is what she had to say-

  • Don’t live according to anyone else’s timeline.
  • Everyone grieves differently and no one has the right to judge any of your decisions
  • Lean on people.  Friends and family genuinely want to help you.  Take them up on offers, but don’t be afraid to say no as well.  If you are not ready to go to a movie, have girls night, etc., it’s okay not to force it.
  • People will surprise you.  You will definitely find out who your real friends are.
  • It’s okay to seek professional help.
  • There is also an opportunity to do things you might not have otherwise done that you’ve always wanted to do.  Once the “widow fog” lifts, do what you have always wanted to do whether it is learn to paint, take piano lessons or go to law school.
  • You will be caught off guard by PTSD even years later.  Stephanie states that she was watching a movie a few months ago where the husband died and the wife was in his closet, crying in his clothes.  Stephanie says she lost it.

Whether my great love story has a chapter 2 or not, I will continue to look up to Stephanie.  As I said, she was my age when she lost Stephen and she chose to be resilient.  She went on to finish her bachelors degree and she just completed her first year of law school proving that you can always follow your dreams.  I hope I can be like Stephanie.  Today she and Chris are going on a well-deserved vacation to somewhere that requires passports.  Let’s all wish for them to have a great time.

If you want to read more about Stephanie and Chris’s love story, click here.

If you want to read more about Stephen, you can view his obituary here.

18448049_10155310630209605_116068037_n
Stephanie and Stephen
18424625_10155310630784605_492956738_n
Stephanie and Chris

My dirty little secret

Being a widow is hard.  We have to navigate a world that is not designed for us.  One of my online widow friends, Michelle, wrote a blog post about being Wonder Widow and Widow Super Powers.  (Check out her blog, she doesn’t bite).  Michelle writes about her experience when she was newly widowed and she was at a party and once people learned that she was a widow, they ignored her.  She says that a widow may feel invisible when around the NORMS. The NORMS being “Normal people living normal, non-traumatized lives.”  She and I had an exchange on Facebook where I may have ranted a little bit about the course of events in my life.  I apologized and she said not to apologize because ranting is good for the soul and I should just let it out.

So I am going to let it all out.

I will let you in on a dirty little secret of mine.  I am jealous of the NORMS.

I am jealous of people who have their spouses and are living a normal life.  I am jealous when I see anniversary posts on social media, especially for any anniversary after the 3 year mark because Bryon and I never got to celebrate our fourth anniversary.  I am jealous that happily married couples who get have the support of their best friends because my best friend is gone.  I am jealous of their intimacy.  I am not talking about sex though I am jealous of that too.  I am referring to the day to day comfortable intimacy that happily married couples have.

I am jealous of the families at my daughter’s daycare who are able to (or are planning on) giving their kids a little sibling. My daughter will never become an older sister.  We will never be the perfect family with a mom and a dad and 2.5 kids and a dog.  I am jealous that there are so many other families where the kids will grow up with their fathers because my daughter won’t have that.

I am jealous of new couples who get to embark on their life together, full of hope.  Jealous because I am not sure I will ever be healed enough to love again. I am jealous of the innocence other couples can have.  Maybe someday I will find a man that can look past my wounded heart and deal with all the complications that come with loving someone who has been through this kind of trauma.  But even if I let another man into my heart, I am always going live with the fear of him dying too.  The constant fear of “what if it happens again”?

I am jealous of older widows.  I am jealous that they got to spend decades with their spouses.  And I am jealous that all the widow resources in the community are geared towards them and not to young widows.  Older widows had decades to prepare for this, young widows have not.  And young widows oftentimes have small children to take care of on top of dealing with their grief but so much emphasis seems to be on older widows.

I even find myself jealous of other widows at times.  Sometimes I look at widows who lost their spouses suddenly and I am jealous because they didn’t have to watch their spouse suffer for five months like I did.  Sometimes I look at widows who lost their spouse after a long illness and I am jealous because they were able to talk to their spouses about dying.  Bryon was on a ventilator for the five months he was in the ICU and we weren’t able to discuss any of this.  We had so many things that went unsaid.  But I know deep down there is no good way to watch your spouse die.  It’s horrible no matter how it happens.

I am jealous of the NORMS who leave those comments on social media statuses.  The comments that are benign on the surface but stab a widow in the heart.  I am jealous that they get to live in a life where they don’t feel the need exercise that extra level of empathy.  I am jealous that they live in a world where they can be clueless to those suffering grief and heartbreak. Though part of me is glad that they can be clueless because it means they don’t know this pain.  And if someone is a repeat offender, I actually begin to feel sorry for them they can live their lives being oblivious to the feelings of other people.

I am jealous of people who have their faith.  I am jealous because my Catholic faith was a big part of my life and I lost that too when Bryon died.  I am jealous of those who have never had to have their faith tested.  And I am jealous of the people who have experienced trauma like I have and still have their faith.  Because right now I relate to C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed where he asks where God is and why did God slam the door on him?  I am jealous of all the people that God did not slam the door on.  I am also jealous of the naivete of people who think I can just turn my faith back on, like it’s a simple light switch.

Why am I sharing this dirty little secret?  It’s human nature to want to put your best foot forward but my desire to be honest is stronger than my desire to put my best foot forward.  I need to be honest for everyone who thinks I am strong even if that means sharing feelings that portray myself in a less positive light.  I need to share my story as authentically as possible because other widows may be reading this and I want them to know that it is okay to feel this way.

But despite all these pangs of jealousy I feel, the happiness I feel is ten times as strong.  The joys greatly outweighs my jealous feelings.  Yes I have these jealous feelings but they  subside very quickly.  And my feelings of jealousy are not because I don’t want others to be happy.  I want everyone to be happy.  I don’t wish my situation or the feelings that come with being in my situation on even my worst enemy.  My feelings of jealousy are about the reality of what I have lost, mostly my lost dreams.  For the most part, my anger seems to have subsided so I will think occasional bouts of jealousy are an improvement to being full of anger as long as the bouts of jealousy don’t get out of hand.

My life didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to but I do have reasons to be grateful.  I have an amazing daughter.  I have friends and family who aren’t freaked out by my widow status and include me in their lives.  I have friends who aren’t going to be put off that I might be jealous of them because they are patient and understanding of my grief and stick by me as I weather all the ups and downs. At least the ones who really love me do.

I can’t complain because even nine months later, my core group of friends are still supportive of me.  They spent 5 months helping me survive when Bryon was in the ICU and they have spent the past 9 months holding me up.  I hope I am healed enough and can give back before the next big crisis in our group happens.

But until then, whether you are a NORM or not, please just remember to be kind and understanding.  It’s okay to talk to us.  Widows don’t bite.  We just might be sad.  We are dealing with some major emotions.  But we’d probably be the first one to be there to help you if something bad happens.