It’s Friday! You know what that means. Time for some good vibrations gratitude.
Here are 5 things I am grateful for this week.
Fall in Maine
I got to be in one of the most beautiful places on Earth during the most beautiful time of the year.
Greeting the Troops
My father is a Maine Troop Greeter. Military planes stop in Bangor, Maine because it is the most Eastern airport in the country. And there is a group of volunteers that greet them.
My daughter and I had an opportunity to join my father when a plane came in. My daughter was not shy at all and wanted to shake everyone’s hand. I am so proud of her.
I am so grateful for this opportunity, as well as the volunteers who welcome home each troop. And I am grateful for the Troops who serve to protect our country and our freedoms.
Dinner and Drinks with Charlotte
Charlotte and I tried out the Airline Brewing Company Pub in Ellsworth. The food and drinks were good and the bartender was friendly. I am grateful that I got to try out this new place and for time with Charlotte.
Lunch with the Baker
I also got the chance to have lunch with my friend who I will call The Baker because she is a baker. (Those of you who are unfamiliar with this blog- I rarely use real names) My friends business is called Affectionate Confections and she makes amazing wedding cakes.
When my Maine Best Friend and The Scientist got married, she did their wedding cake.
We were going to have lunch in Bar Harbor but when we arrived in town, we realized that there was a cruise ship in town that day as well as several tour buses. I was happy for the business owners of Bar Harbor but the city was packed. So we decided to have lunch at The Tan Turtle Tavern in Northeast Harbor.
After lunch, we spent some time down by the water at the Northeast Harbor Marina. My daughter had fun throwing rocks into the water.
Getting the opportunity to get in touch with my old self
I know I talk a lot about personal growth and I am a strong believer in that.
As I have been going through and purging my belongings, both at my house in New York and my parents house in Maine, I have been coming across pieces of my life I have forgotten. It has helped me remember who I am and were I came from. I think it is important to be in touch with your old self in order to grow.
I see myself doing an in depth post about this but I wanted to share a few of my favorites.
My school picture from my junior year in high school
My palm card from my failed Maine House run in 2006.
It was so nice to be home and feel that cool, ocean air.
2. Playing with my daughter
After our day trip, we did some playing in the yard at my parents house and at the playground at our local school. My daughter said that the slide was the tallest slide in the world. Imagine that?
3. Ice Cream and Gelato
My parents and I went to an ice cream and gelato shop in our town called PugNuts. I had to get three flavors because I wanted to try them all. My favorites were the coffee flavor and the seasonal pumpkin flavor. My daughter chose cotton candy because it was blue.
I had to laugh because my mother said that all the pugs reminded her of Puppy Dog Pals on the Disney Channel.
4. Being able to watch my daughter improve in gymnastics class.
I am so proud of her.
5. My daughters Pre-K Class and teachers.
My daughter is in a great program and I don’t doubt that she will be ready for kindergarten next year.
They seriously need to bring back the laser option.
This past weekend was probably an unremarkable weekend for most. I know here in the Northeast, many people went apple picking or visited a pumpkin patch.
I love fall activities but I know I was not going to enjoy last weekend because last Saturday would have been Bryon and my 6th wedding anniversary.
The truth is, as more anniversaries pass, the more alienated I feel. Not just from other, happily married, living people (i.e. NORMS, a term created by fellow widow Michelle Miller) but also from myself. As time goes back, I feel detached even from myself. Because I am no longer a happily married, living person.
So what does a formerly happily married, living person do on their wedding anniversary, particularly when the other half of their former happy union is a dead person?
We passed the Little Deer Isle, Maine post office. This was the post office that my father worked at when he first became postmaster. This also was the promotion that brought my family to Maine from the Boston area.
It felt so good to feel the fresh air of the ocean. The ocean has always been my happy place. There is something about it that re-centers my soul and reminds me just how insignificant we really are.
We drove around Deer Isle but I didn’t get any pictures.
On the way home, we stopped at The Fish Net in Blue Hill to get fried clams for lunch and a chicken fingers lunch for my daughter. I went to the takeout window while my father stayed in the car with my daughter, who was napping.
Being home and being around the ocean always makes me reflective.
Lately I have been taking a step back socially to focus on my daughter, to reflect on my life, to take care of myself and to prepare for the next chapter in my life. I admit, it makes me a little uneasy to look towards the future and not know what to expect. I have always been a person who liked to have a two year, five year and ten year plan.
Currently, I don’t even have a two month plan.
At times, I feel lost.
A little over two and a half years ago, I still had a husband. We had just returned from a Caribbean cruise and we had our whole lives ahead of us.
And then that was taken away.
I may have gotten over the basic shock and I have accepted that this happened. But now I am working on letting go and redefining myself and my dreams.
Please trust me when I say that it’s a lot harder than it sounds.
I was thinking about this as I stood at that clam shack on the Maine Coast when I looked up and saw this:
At that moment, I realized that no matter where I go or how my dreams change, Bryon will be there with me.
I mean, seriously, if he can find a way to be with me while waiting for my lunch at a clam shack on the Maine Coast, then he will find a way to be with me anywhere.
And that was the best anniversary present I could have gotten.
I don’t know exactly when I met my friend Andy. I actually met him because I was friends with his wife. I met his wife (I am going to call her The Scallop Divers Wife because I try not to use living people’s names in my blog) in 2004 when I joined the woman’s council at St. Joe’s Catholic Church in Ellsworth, Maine. I only know it was 2004 because I had another friend that I became friends volunteering for a certain political candidate and she noticed that we both went to 11 am Mass. My political friend and I decided to join the woman council and we both became friends with The Scallop Divers Wife. I probably met Andy at a church function or maybe I met him at his house.
I used to enjoys visits to Andy’s house. I could count on funny stories and lively political discussion. Periodically I would house and dog sit when they went away.
I moved away from Maine in 2009 because Bryon and I had been dating a year and things were serious. I always wanted Bryon and Andy to meet. I know they would have gotten along. Also, Bryon had dreams of being on Deadliest Catch and I told him I could get him on a fishing boat on the Maine Coast.
But sadly, the visit never materialized.
Then Andy got sick. Cancer. He was given a six months to live.
Like Bryon, Andy fought. He turned a 6 months life sentence into three years.
Shortly after Bryon passed, Andy’s niece passed in a car accident and he and his family traveled to Vermont for the funeral. It was about three hours away but I made the trip to see them the day before the funeral. I knew I had to make this trip because I didn’t know how much longer Andy would be here and I didn’t want to have any regrets. I knew that this might be the last chance I got to see Andy. After Bryon died, all the regrets I heard were from people who said they wished they knew him better. No one said they regretted visiting him.
During that visit, Andy and I didn’t know what to say to each other but it wasn’t awkward. I remember him being kind to my daughter who was two at the time. He was too weak to socialize and I spent the afternoon catching up with The Scallop Divers Wife. She gave me a lesson on cooking lobster and they sent me back to New York with some Maine lobster.
Andy and I had a few conversations on Facebook Messenger. He said it was hard to read my blog because he knew his wife was going to be going through the same thing. I admit that it was hard to discuss death with a dying man. I wondered if Bryon had similar thoughts. I will never know because Bryon couldn’t speak.
Around Thanksgiving I got the news that Andy’s cancer had spread to his brain. We had a Facebook Messenger conversation. He told me he wasn’t ready to die, his sons were so young. I really didn’t know what to say. It ended up being our last conversation.
In the beginning of December, I found out that there was nothing more that could be done and Andy would be going to Hospice. Luckily he was able to go home. My heart ached for The Scallop Divers Wife. I remembered the pure agony of waiting for your husband to die. I only had 24 hours of that agony from the “there’s nothing more we can do” conversation (though for me the words were “your husbands heart is going to stop beating today”) and my friend’s agony was open ended.
When I found out Andy was going to Hospice, I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to make it to his funeral. I work in oncology data and I know many patients don’t last long in Hospice. I was out of personal time at work for the year. I was beside myself thinking that I wouldn’t be able to go to Maine and be there for the funeral. I remember who showed up to pay their respects when Bryon died and I wouldn’t get to be one of those supporters for my friend. I decided that if I was meant to be there, it would all work out.
But I was also nervous that this was up in the air because this would be the first funeral I would attend since Bryon’s. That is a huge first for any widow. I have a tendency to obsess about things that potentially give me anxiety. But there was no doubt that I would work through it to be there for my friend but I was having a hard time channeling this nervous energy.
Andy’s family got one more Christmas with him and he passed on December 28, 2017.
I confirmed with my manager at work at my personal time for 2018 become effective at the New Year and then I made arrangements to go to Maine for the funeral. Ironically my parents were in Albany so their trip was cut short but they were fine with it because I was bringing my daughter to Maine and they got to spend time with her there.
And my daughter likes playing play-doh with her Grammy.
I went to the wake (I guess outside New England they call it a viewing?) to pay my respects and visit with The Scallop Divers Wife. I didn’t stay long because I didn’t recognize anyone else and I knew The Scallop Divers Wife was busy greeting people. It’s a long night.
I ended up grabbing dinner with another good friend.
I forgot to take a pic of us together, but here is a pic from us last summer at my best friends wedding. This was also in Maine but it was much, much warmer.
The following morning I made the 45 minute drive to Bar Harbor for Andy’s funeral.
On the drive I was thinking about how I have been widowed long enough that I am not the newest young widow in my circle of friends. Time has a way of slapping you in the face like that.
Andy was a well-liked guy and the church was full.
I tend to think I am invincible when it comes to funerals. I attribute it to my Boston Irish upbringing.
I will mention something important. It was during Andy’s funeral that I realized that despite being angry at God that I want a Catholic funeral when I die. It’s how my grandparents went out. It’s how my uncles went out. It’s how Bryon went out. And while God might be a hateful jerk who took my husband from me, I am not going to let him take something from me that is part of my heritage. Andy and I had had several conversations where he challenged my current views on God. I tended to get angry at the other 99.9% of the people who did that, Andy got a pass. It’s hard to stay mad at him and I also wasn’t going to argue with a dying man about God. But as the realization about my own mortality hit me, I just said to myself, “Well played, Andy. Well played.”
I was fine until the moment the funeral started. Seeing The Scallop Divers Wife have to walk down after the coffin. I had walked in 5 funerals before Bryon (three grandparents and two uncles) and nothing can prepare you for that moment for when it’s your spouse. My heart ached for The Scallop Divers Wife and three sons. I felt shaky during the processional and I asked Bryon to be with me (something I don’t tend to do. I figure he comes and goes when he feels like it) and suddenly I had my Boston Irish composure back. I don’t doubt for a second that he was there with me.
Though The Scallop Divers Wife wins the award for being the strongest. She got up and gave a beautiful eulogy. I wouldn’t have been able to do it.
I had asked The Scallop Divers Wife if she was okay if I wrote this post. She said she was curious about reading it from my point of view. I hope I don’t disappoint her because I don’t remember the details. I was a jumble of emotions that day and my account is likely to come across as self-absorbed. No widow(er) means to be self absorbs. We just have lots of emotions to sort out. And once we get those emotions sorted out, we hit another widow milestone and it brings up a whole new batch of feelings.
The Scallop Divers Wife is my friend and I hope she will be through the rest of our lives We will always be bonded by the fact that we are young widows. I am far enough into my widowhood journey (17 months and 5 days) to know that the funeral is like a wedding. Both are important days but while a wedding is just one day of a marriage, the funeral is just one day in the life without a loved one.
And just like our wedding day, we will remember our husbands funeral for the rest of our lives.
May 22-25, 2009
Saint John, 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.
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.
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.
I always thought I had a strong sense of who I was. And I never questioned my own authenticity. Yes, on the outside I am from a small Maine town but many people don’t realize that I spent the first 14 years of my life in the Boston area. I spent a semester abroad in England when I was 21. Besides Boston, I have spent time in London, Paris, Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., Miami, Houston, New Orleans, Vegas and many other cities. I am fairly educated and worldly. I just try not to be pretentious about it.
I have always been a rule follower whether it was my Catholic religion or sitting in school. I was not a kid who got in (much) trouble. I did get caught daydreaming a lot but there was a whole world outside whatever window I was looking out of. I can’t say I never broke the rules in high school but I pretty much did as I was told. I did not drink in high school or go to gravel pit parties. I rarely stayed out past curfew (though my parents were pretty lenient as long as I called) though sometimes I stayed the night at my best friends house because she did not have a curfew. This created a kind of late night loophole that I would take advantage of. (Sorry Mom and Dad!)
I stretched my wings a little bit when I was in college. A few weeks into my freshman year I decided to get an eyebrow ring. It was 1997 and it was before they became popular. It actually looked good on me though I don’t think any picture exists. I didn’t think it through because I was heading home the following week and figured I would just take it out when I was around my parents. My parents never saw it (though my brother saw it and he kept threatening to tell them). I realized that I was never going to have the guts to wear it in front of my parents and I couldn’t handle the pressure of living a double life so the eyebrow ring didn’t last.
And of course, there was the road trip my friends and I took to St. Stephen, New Brunswick just so we could go to the bars when we were 19. I remember walking along the Saint Croix River, pointing to the Maine side and laughing because we “couldn’t drink over there but we can drink over here.” I always think of that trip every time I hear “One Week” by the Barenaked Ladies. I wasn’t a saint but I kept myself out of trouble.
I was a very hyper and annoying kid and somewhere along the way, I figured that I had to bottle up my true self to fit in with people. I would just sit quietly because I didn’t want to become hyper and weird and annoying. I chose to only open up to a few. I liked to participate in structured activities so I only had to discuss the topics on hand.
After college, I started dating the guy who would later become my ex-boyfriend. I think of him as kind of an anti-Bryon because he was the exact opposite of Bryon. One could argue that Bryon was the over correction of this guy. I could probably write a whole post on him and what I learned from that relationship. In very general terms Bryon was a Catholic, Republican, manly-man who loved sports while the anti-Bryon was a Protestant, Democrat, non-manly man who preferred science fiction to sports. Another big difference was that Bryon actually liked me while the anti-Bryon did not. I think I was someone who paid for dates for two and a half years. He never embraced me for who I was and I spent two and a half years trying to be the woman he wanted.
After I broke up with the anti-Bryon, I got absorbed into the world of politics and most notably, the Young Republicans. I embraced the lifestyle of Republican politics and I wore suits, heels, pearls and the Sarah Palin hairstyle. I loved politics because it was like I was an actress playing a role. I didn’t have to worry that I was shy and awkward. Politics gave me a way to relate to people. It was also during my time in politics that I learned conversation skills and poise.
Politics led me to the best years of my life. My years with Bryon. The years where I became a wife and mother. And like everything else, being a wife and mother provided me with a role that I was more than happy to assume. Bryon did love me for me but relationships are always filled with give and take. Bryon had the successful career and I pretty much was content to live in his shadow. It might have caused some contention between us at times but I don’t regret it. Especially since he apparently wasn’t meant to be here as long as the rest of us.
I have heard that during widowhood, you begin to question everything you once believed. I thought I had myself and the world all figured out. While I learned that I am much, much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for, I also learned just how much Bryon overcompensated for my weaknesses. I don’t have him to cover for me anymore. I have learned that I can count on my family and I have also learned which of my friends are actually my family. I have learned who I can’t count on (some were surprising) and which friends really weren’t friends. I learned that you can’t put all your faith into the healthcare system and that the healthcare system can fail you. And I learned that God doesn’t care if you did your best to be a good Catholic girl for over 30 years.
All those years of trying to fit into roles and groups has left me with a repressed free spirit. I have always had a free spirit that gets antsy and wants to see the world. It used to drive Bryon nuts when I wanted to day trip to anywhere, as long as it was out of Albany. He usually indulged me. I also have a creative side. I am still in the process of trying to let those parts of me out. I have been running. I have been travelling. I have been cooking new recipes and putting together furniture from IKEA. I have been reading about Buddhism to try to stay Zen. I have been in the process of changing over to natural cleaning and beauty products. I plan to have a garden this summer and learn how to can vegetables. I tried to dye my hair blonde but that didn’t work. And don’t be fooled if you ever see all the books on my nightstand. You might see titles that consist of history, religion, politics, business, memoirs, parenting and grief/self help but the last two books I read consisted of one by the Long Island Medium and the other was Jodie Sweetin’s memoir. Candace Cameron Bure’s memoir isn’t proving to be nearly as exciting as Jodie Sweetin’s memoir.
I realize that I was just afraid. I have been afraid of success and I have been afraid of failure. I have been afraid to let people see the real me. I had a clearly defined past and I have been afraid to stray from the expectation of who I am supposed to be. I have been afraid that if I tried something different or learned about something different that it might change how I think. And if I continue to be afraid, I will never fully live and I must fully live to be an example for my daughter. So my daughter can grow into the woman she is supposed to be.
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.