The mopey love song phase

My early days of widowhood were filled with numbness as I worked through processing Bryon’s death as well as the death of all our dreams.  I am one of those people who likes to have some idea of what will happen in the future like a tentative 5 year, 10 year and 20 year plan.  I am not good at flying by the seat of my pants. I know that things can change but I was certain that Bryon, our daughter and the child we planned on having later were going to be there.  When Bryon was sick, I knew that it was possible that if he survived (which I believed he was going to) that he was probably going to have long term health problems that would have altered our plans.  But he was going to be there.  We would figure the rest out.

Then one day he was gone and so were our dreams.  The family of three (with plans to be four) had become a family of two.  And I have gotten used to the fact that that will be our future.  My daughter, me and our cat.  Maybe I will get her a dog to make up for the fact that she won’t ever have a brother or sister.  I am trying to reconstruct new dreams.

I have been shifting from feeling of numbness due to his absence in our daily life to reflecting on our life together.

I never really been one to date.  I didn’t have a serious boyfriend until my senior year in college.  He was the complete opposite of Bryon.  We dated for almost three years even though he didn’t really put much effort into our relationship.  At the time, I thought that it was love and left the relationship unimpressed with the whole concept of love. It definitely was not like the love I had seen in the movies. I don’t think he was a bad guy, he just did not seem to have much passion with me or for anything else.

All my life I had kept people at a distance.  I never let anyone get too close and can be quite stand-offish at times.  This probably factored into the reason why I never dated much.  I never liked letting my guard down.  It is much easier to not let people get close instead of opening yourself up and potentially getting hurt.  I spent my 20’s immersed in Maine Republican politics and the politics of the Young Republican National Federation.  While part of me enjoyed some superficial male attention, I really wasn’t that interested in letting anyone into my own world and exposing myself to potential hurt. As a result, I probably denied myself a lot of happiness during that decade.

All that changed in the winter of 2008.  I was still living in Maine and I had traveled to Albany, NY for a leadership conference put on by the New York State Young Republicans.  I was feeling more social than usual that weekend and I chatted with several charming gentlemen.  I must have made quite an impression on a certain younger gentlemen who stood next to me all evening at the bar and kept buying me drinks.  This younger gentleman brought me back to my hotel.  I started to get nervous because I felt that this younger gentleman was interested in me and I didn’t want him to get the wrong idea.  I started to stress our age difference because he would surely lose interest if he knew how old I was.  He said he didn’t believe I was that old so I took out my driver’s license and said “That’s a ‘7’ not an ‘8’.”  He looked at it with complete disbelief and said that that can’t be right.  I said.  “Oh, yes it is.  I was born during the Carter Administration.”

The fact that I was born in the 1970’s (albeit late 1970’s) and that I am old enough to remember Ronald Reagan actually being president did not deter this young gentlemen.  For the next several months he showered me with attention on google chat and Facebook.  While I enjoyed the attention, I tried to discourage his advances.  He was too young.  Why on Earth would he want to date an old lady like me?  

I didn’t make it easy for him but Bryon eventually wore me down.  Our attraction was just too strong and it was just meant to be.   And to this day, I have no idea what he saw in me.  What made me special?  No man had ever made an effort to romance me or make me feel special but Bryon did.  What was it about me that made him think I was worth the trouble?

He was the first person I truly let get close to me.  This scared me and I am ashamed to say that I would test him even though I don’t think I did it intentionally. I just thought he was too good to be true and that he would surely lose interest in me.  Friends used to always say that I was a saint for putting up with his mischievous antics but he was just as much as a saint for putting up with me. I wasn’t always a picnic to deal with.   I have no idea why I couldn’t just accept that a great guy like Bryon would love me.

I just think about how he used to look at me during those romantic dinners, like I was the only girl in the room.  Or how he listened to every silly story I told on our first date.  I think about how sappy he got right before he proposed to me at Mahars and how happy he looked when I walked down the aisle on our wedding day.   I think about how excited he would get when I would say a one-liner that made him laugh.  He would reiterate to me that he was the funny one but once in awhile I can be really funny too.  I think about all the times he told me I was beautiful and all the times I got mad at him because I didn’t believe I was deserving of that compliment.

I think I am beginning to enter what I am thinking of as the Mopey Love Song Phase.  In the earlier days of widowhood, my sadness felt raw and intense but it still felt like an external feeling that I could fight off. My sadness doesn’t feel as raw or intense now but it feels deeper and more internalized. It is like the sadness has actually become a physical part of me and I accept that it is now a part of me. The emptiness sits like a big pit in my stomach and radiates through my bones.

Now that I am getting over the shock of Bryon being gone, I am bombarded with memories and trying to process the emotions that go along with all of those memories.  Our love story is played over and over again in my head. I tear up to think that as we were living our lives and making memories, we never knew that we weren’t going to get many years.  And there never would have been no way to know.

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Missing you a little bit more…

Today America experienced the peaceful exchange of power between two presidents.  It was a day of mixed emotions.  Some Americans were sad to see President Obama’s term come to a close  and are dreading a Donald Trump presidency.  Some Americans were thrilled to see President Obama leave office and are excited to see President Donald Trump take office.  Some Americans didn’t like either of them and are probably sick of all of the Facebook posts.  Most of us probably watched the events on TV while some Americans from all over the country traveled to Washington, D.C. to celebrate or to protest.

This post isn’t meant to incite political feelings.  I almost didn’t write it.  I also thought about writing it and waiting to post it until feelings about the current situation died down.  But the reality is, the pendulum of time and American opinion is always swaying back and forth and this blog isn’t about that.  This is a story about me and my husband.  This is not a political blog.  This is a blog about grief, life, love and resilience.  But politics does play a backdrop in our story so I ask that you put aside partisan politics before reading this.

Bryon and I first met the weekend after the election of 2006 in Louisville, Kentucky.  It was the Fall Board meeting for the Young Republican National Federation (YRNF) and it was during the Northeast Caucus.  I was the lone Maine representative in a room that was predominantly filled with New Yorkers and one New Yorker kept interrupting me when I was giving my report.  The other New Yorkers thought he was hilarious but I thought he was obnoxious and rude.

I went back to Maine and didn’t put any more thought into that rude New Yorker until March 2008.  I was attending a leadership conference in Albany put on by the New York State Young Republicans.  There was one person who seemed to be running all the logistics of the event and I went up and introduced myself to him.  He informed me that we had already met in Louisville.  Then I remembered that he was the one that kept interrupting me.  Luckily for him, I believe in second chances and I gave him the opportunity to redeem himself.

Needless to say that that weekend was the start of a friendship.  A friendship which turned into love soon thereafter.  We did the long distance relationship thing for a year and we both managed our political activities in our home states and with the YRNF.  A year into our relationship, I decided to take a leap of faith and I moved to Albany.  It was one of the scariest things I have ever done.  I never got involved in New York politics.  Partially because it was a whole different animal compared to Maine politics.  I let my fear of not succeeding in a more aggressive political arena keep me from even trying.  The other reason, as Bryon once accused me, was that I had spent years working my way up in Maine politics and I was simply not interested in starting from the bottom again.  He was absolutely correct.  But I also knew it was time to focus on my career, our relationship and eventually, our family.

At home we watched a lot of politics.  We watched all the debates, Republican and Democrat.  We watched Canadian and British elections.  Bryon was always fascinated with the Westminster system of government and I was mesmerized by the BBC infographics.  There even was a period of time that Bryon recorded “The Prime Minister’s Questions” each week off of C-Span.  As the title states, it is where members of Parliament ask the Prime Minister’s questions and if you think we are not civil in the U.S., then you need to watch The Prime Minister’s Questions.

Bryon was fascinated with Canadian politics and admired former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  Somewhere in our house we have a Progressive Conservative Party of  Canada winter hat.  When I was pregnant, we were visiting his parents in Buffalo, NY and we drove to Canada to go to a Canadian maternity store called Thyme.  Our visit was during the Ontario Provincial Elections and commercials about Tim Hudak played on the radio.  Tim Hudak represented the ridings of Niagara South and true to any campaign, some commercials were scathing and others sang his praises.  One commercial sang his praises and then ended with “paid for by Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.”  Bryon and I both immediately said something to the effect of  “Oh, okay, we want Tim Hudak!”

One time Bryon asked me if I thought he should run for president.  I said no.  It was not the answer he was expecting.  He expected me to tell him he was smart and that he would make a great president.  He asked me why.  I immediately told him it that he couldn’t run for president even if he wanted to because he was not 35 years old.  Bryon breaks out in a huge smile and says he loves me so much and he loved that that was how I answered his question.

Bryon and I had one of those relationships where we would talk about everything from religion and politics to trivial matters like cat videos and our bodily functions. (Sorry but it’s true.)  Even though we were both Republicans when we started dating, we disagreed on many issues.  Over the years, we seemed to disagree less.  I like to think it was from all our conversations with each other.  I know he expanded my mind and turned me into more of a critical thinker.  Maybe I had some effect on him too.

As the 2016 Presidential Election got underway, we were critical of Donald Trump.  We both liked Marco Rubio.  We both has a soft spot for “Jeb!”  We watched every debate, except the one that played on the last night of our cruise.  One night I was at the gym when one of the debates began and Bryon had recorded it on DVR and replayed the highlights when I got home.

Then Bryon got sick and was fighting for his life.  The same election I was obsessed with no longer mattered.  I remember sitting in the ICU waiting room and watching the news and it was just so foreign and removed to me.  It was hard to believe that just weeks before, I was so emotionally invested in this election and now it seemed so trivial.  I didn’t care who was running this country as long as I had Bryon with me.  Because at the end of the day, the most important thing is my family.

My first election day after his death was much more difficult than I had anticipated.  I was lost as to who to vote for.  I did not have Bryon to discuss all the options.  Ironically, I usually never saw him on election days because he was working.  Usually he came home around 3 am.  When I went to bed that night, I was half-expecting to be woken up by him at 3 am and hear all about election night. But I was only woken up by the TV that I had left on.

I thought I was indifferent about the Inauguration but this morning I was thinking that while we were not fans of President Trump, we most likely would have been in D.C. today.  We would have been visiting with old friends from our YRNF days.  We might even have been crazy enough to take our 2-year-old daughter because we took her everywhere with us and we would want her to witness history.  Bryon would have been scheming of a way for him to have his picture taken with Joe Biden because, despite partisan politics, he loved Joe Biden.

I will probably always miss him more on political days.  My life will never be the same.  Bryon is gone. This is my new reality.  It’s just me and our daughter.  Bryon was not one to sit and watch life pass.  The best I can do is try to take my daughter on as many adventures and try to teach her to live life to the fullest just like her father taught me how to do.