I have often thought about what we would do if we could just have one more day together. We weren’t expecting you to get sick. There was no way to know when you went into the hospital that you would spend five months there and never leave. What would we have done if we could just have one more day?
Of course, our day will take place in a time that you aren’t sick. I don’t want to spend our day in the ICU. If we could have one more day it would be a Saturday and during a time of the year where you aren’t busy with work. I thought about reliving our wedding day or a day from one of our vacations or Christmas but I decided that while those days were filled with great memories, I miss the non-glamorous memories more. I am also going to be selfish and pretend it’s a Saturday where there are no sporting events. I want my family all to myself.
We would start the day with an activity that you enjoy doing in the morning. To be clear, I like this activity too. Just not in the morning because I am definitely not a morning person. But this would be your special day back so we will do this activity at your preferred time. Amazingly our daughter will sleep in so we can complete this activity without rushing.
Afterwards we will wake up our daughter. She will be so happy to see you. She will jump up and down in her crib and yell “Daddy!” She will know who you are, I promise. She recognizes you in photos. We will let her watch an episode or two of whatever show is on Disney Jr. As long as it isn’t Miles from Tomorrowland because we both don’t understand why Miles has a pet robot ostrich and it pisses us off. But chances are, she will want to watch Elena of Avalor, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Doc McStuffins.
You will make coffee your favorite way which is in the French press. I will attempt to make your favorite breakfast which is waffles but you will decide you would rather make them yourself. You will probably use the Mickey Mouse waffle iron that Maddy bought you for her first Christmas. We eat our waffles with real maple syrup because we don’t keep the fake stuff in our house. You put fake butter on your waffles and I put real butter on mine.
As we eat breakfast, we will watch soccer. Your team Chelsea is playing. You put on your Chelsea jersey. You make some rude comments about the other team. You will yell a lot. It could either be joyful or angry depending on how Chelsea is playing.
Many Saturdays, we went to estate sales but it seems silly to spend the day shopping especially since you can’t take any of it with you. Or we could go to Home Depot and you would most likely quote Frank the Tank because that always makes me laugh (“Well, um, actually a pretty nice little Saturday, we’re going to go to Home Depot. Yeah, buy some wallpaper, maybe get some flooring, stuff like that. Maybe Bed, Bath, & Beyond, I don’t know, I don’t know if we’ll have enough time.”)
Or we can stay home and watch another soccer game. It’s your choice.
Lunchtime rolls around and you get to pick. You can have a Garbage Plate at McGeary’s or a Buffalo Burger at Swifty’s. We can go have miniature hot dogs. Or we can stay home and make tomato soup with grilled cheese. Whatever you want.
It’s a beautiful day so we take our daughter to the pocket park near our house. You push her in the swing and she loves it. After that we will hang out on our front porch and watch the cars speed down the street. You will put our cat on his harness and leash and call him a dick when he doesn’t want to go outside. The ice cream truck comes and you can’t resist getting our daughter an ice cream. And you get an ice cream for me too.
For dinner, I will make chicken enchiladas because they were your favorite. You liked to add sriracha to them. You were always happy when I made chicken enchiladas. Personally I don’t think the recipe is very authentic but you don’t care.
I know I said I wanted you to myself but I have to share you for a little while because you have a lot of friends who miss you and will want to see you. So we will have a sitter come and we will meet up with friends for Karaoke. And of course you sing some Righteous Brothers “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” and all of your favorites. You always told me that you wanted to sing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” as a duet but I always said no because you always made fun of the fact that I can’t sing. So today I will sing that duet with you and you can make fun of me all you want.
This ends up being a fun night. It is great to spend time with our friends. But the night must come to end even thought we don’t want it too. We go home and go to bed and hold each other. I will probably cry because I don’t want our day to end and I don’t want to say good-bye again. But I must. So I give you one last hug and kiss and tell you that I love you one last time. I will be okay because I know that while it’s fun to think about this day, it will never happen. At least I have our memories.
Every winter, Bryon and I liked to go on a cruise. We had one booked that was supposed to leave today. We were supposed to sail on the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas and we were supposed to sail out of Miami and go to four brand new ports (Labadee, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao). I cancelled that cruise even though my daughter’s godmother said she would go. I appreciated her offer but declined because I would be too sad. Cruising was our thing and if I were to go without Bryon, I would probably cry the whole time. And it would not be fun to be on a cruise if you are crying all the time. Maybe someday I will be ready to cruise again with friends.
My best friend was going to Vegas with her husband and her two year old daughter because her husband was in a tournament and she invited my daughter and I to come along. I figured it would be nice to get away and see my best friend. I don’t get to see her often because she lives in Chicago. I remembered the promise I made to Bryon that I would take our daughter to see the world. We would do Vegas Mom and Toddler style.
This was my first time flying by myself with our daughter. I used to fly by myself all the time as a singleton but I only flown by myself once since I was with Bryon. That was to my best friends wedding in the Cancun area (same best friend I was traveling with on this trip). Bryon wasn’t able to attend the wedding because it was during his busy time at work. I remember being overwhelmed on that flight because I got so used to travelling with him. And he even booked that flight for me and even researched what to expect when going through Mexican customs. He was so organized. He had a folder with all pertinent travel documents and he did all the heavy lifting. But he is no longer here and he would want my daughter and I to continue living so I figured we would be brave it by ourselves.
In some ways, traveling with my 2 year old on a cross country flight wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. I was prepared for everything to take longer. Luckily we had TSA Pre-check so security was easier. The car seat couldn’t fit through the bag screener and I was instructed to bring the stroller to the metal detector and I had to wait until they were individually checked. Coming back they were able to put them both through the bag scanner.
Luckily my daughter likes to people watch so she is generally entertained in places with lots of people. But I had brought books and dolls. Also, toddlers like to eat and there is usually lots of food in airports so I think she ate three bananas, an orange and a bag of M&M’s. I also had gotten her a frozen yogurt with strawberries on it. She ate the strawberries but pretty much played with the rest. Maybe not the best dinner but I was more concerned about keeping her happy. I guess there could be worse things for her to eat too much off. All I know is when I went to grab some M&M’s, they were gone.
When we used to fly with Bryon, he usually did most of the heavy lifting while I took care of our daughter. He always made comments that he was the pack mule. Well this time I got to be the pack mule and take care of our daughter. So I texted one of my good friends, the one that I can talk to completely uncensored (nothing I say can shock her) and I said that I needed to get a boyfriend just so he could come with me on vacation to help with the heavy lifting. Experience at installing car seats would be a plus. I would even pay for the fictional boyfriend’s vacation and he wouldn’t even have to hang out with us. During our conversation, I remembered that I am not ready for a boyfriend (even if he is fictional) and I would then have to break up with this fictional boyfriend after vacation and give him the “yeah…this isn’t going to work…it’s not you, it’s me…” speech. Also, I like to travel a lot so I would need an off-again, on-again type of relationship. I was starting to become stressed out over this fictional relationship. My conversation with my friend concluded that next time I will just check the car seat and learn more about minimalist packing and wait for a real relationship to come in it’s own time.
I was surprised that so many people were willing to help. Turns out I don’t need a pack mule boyfriend. I did have offers from many people to help carry my bags onto the plane and to carry the carseat. I was surprised at the kindness people showed us. Or maybe it was pity. Most likely, they were just victims of my daughter’s adorable looks and charming personality.
Our flight was supposed to arrive around 8:30pm (close to the time that my friends flight was due to arrive from Chicago) but we didn’t get in until after 10pm (local time so it was after 1am Eastern time). My best friend and her husband and daughter came back to the airport to get us. It was so good to see my best friend. It was late and we went to bed when we got back to the hotel.
My cell phone never adjusted to the time change and the clock stayed in Eastern time so it didn’t surprise me that I slept in until 10am Eastern (7 am local). We had a view of the strip and the girls were fascinated with the tiny cars down below. They kept exclaiming “Cars! Cars!” My best friend and I got our two daughters ready which was quite an ordeal in itself. As I was getting ready, a few of Bryon’s contacts (he used the daily disposables) fell out of my toiletry bag. He probably put them in there while on our last cruise in February 2016, a month before he got sick. I threw them away as it didn’t make any sense to keep them. I felt a twinge of sadness because over time, those little reminders of Bryon are going to slowly disappear.
After we were finally ready, we went down to the lobby and had crepes at one of the cafe’s in the hotel. (We were staying at Paris). We then went next door to Planet Hollywood to do some shopping at the Miracle Mile Mall. I was on a mission for the Las Vegas Pandora beads. And I wanted to buy my daughter a Vegas T-shirt as well as a Vegas Christmas ornament because I like to collect Christmas ornaments from places I travel too.
For lunch, we went to Hash House A Go-Go at The Linq. The portions were HUGE. Then we walked around the Venetian, got Gelato, dealt with several bodily fluids (ah, motherhood) and then got lost in Ceasar’s Palace. My daughter lost a shoe which we never found. We went to use the elevator because of our strollers and there was a homeless man sleeping in the elevator. So we had no choice but to (carefully) use escalator with a stroller. Then we went back to the hotel to curl our hair before going out to a steakhouse where I got Maine lobster pasta because I am weird like that.
Oh and it was raining. In the desert. I am still kind of confused about that.
The following day we took the girls to M&M World which consisted of 4 floors of pure excitement. I felt the need to buy my daughter a M&M stuffed animal (yellow), a M&M mug (yellow), a Christmas ornament (yellow- notice a theme? I think it is my daughter’s favorite color) and some overpriced M&M’s (but oh, all the color choices! But not yellow because you can get those in regular packages) and I spent so much that I could get the M&M character blanket for $5 so of course I did. And I bought the $2 reusable tote bag because I am a sucker like that. I got pecan pie M&M’s which were delicious and my best friend got butterscotch M&M’s which she let me try and they were amazing too.
After M&M world, we walked over to New York, New York and had lunch. The kids had hot dogs and the adults had pizza. We then walked through the castle (i.e. The Excalibur) and took the tram to Mandalay Bay. We planned on taking the girls to the Shark Reef Aquarium.
I had stayed at Mandalay Bay in 2005 when I attended the Young Republican National Convention. It was the first of many Young Republican National Federation events that I would attend. As I walked through the hotel and convention center, I started reflecting to my best friend (i.e. verbal diarrhea) about how eerie it felt to be in the place that changed my life. I didn’t know it at the time, but my decision to attend that convention in 2005 completely altered the course of my life. I had a great time at that convention and I made connections and decided to get further involved in the organization. I met my daughter’s godmother at the following board meeting in Little Rock, AR in the fall of 2005. I met my best friend the following spring in Washington, D.C. at the Young Republican Leadership Conference. She was sitting in front of me on the bus that took us to and from the reception at the Romanian Embassy. And I met Bryon at the Fall 2006 Board Meeting in Louisville, KY. If I had not attended that convention, I would not have (eventually) met my husband or my close friends, I would not have my daughter and I would not be living in New York. Also, almost all my friends in New York became my friends originally through Bryon. This completely blew me away.
We took the girls through the shark reef aquarium. I was very impressed.
After the aquarium, we drove down the strip and to the other side of the Stratosphere. We passed Silver and Gold, the pawn shop from Pawn Stars. We also drove through some local neighborhoods.
We decided to have dinner at Burgr, one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants. When the food came, my daughter had an epic tantrum. I admit, I am spoiled because she is generally a very easy going and well behaved kid. I know they say you can’t reason with a toddler but I can usually reason with her. But she wasn’t having any of it. She was tired and she was overstimulated. I had to take her out of the restaurant and I strapped her into her stroller. I found a quiet corner where I sit down on the floor and I start crying. My best friend came out and I proceeded to completely melt down about how it all wasn’t fair. Why did Bryon have to die? How come everyone else in the world gets to be happy except me? It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We were supposed to grow old together. Not one of my proudest moments and I couldn’t even blame it on alcohol because I was sober.
After I finished my meltdown, my best friend and I went to Holsteins in the Cosmopolitan for adult milkshakes. That made things better.
This trip was great because I got to see my best friend and my daughter got to play with her daughter. But I couldn’t help but feel like Bryon was missing. It felt like he should have been on this trip with us. He would have loved Vegas. He would have loved the fact that the people came from all walks of life (including the homeless man sleeping in the elevator). He would have loved the gambling and all the food. He would have loved the casinos. He would have loved the ride through the neighborhoods near the strip. He had been my travelling buddy for 8 years so I definitely felt his absence. While I know he will always be with me and that does comfort me to some level, I hope in the future I won’t feel so empty from his absence when I travel.
It was late August and Bryon had been sick since March and I clearly had ignored my appearance. I hadn’t worn makeup during that time. My nails were bitten off due to the stress and I don’t want to think about how many gray hairs I had. There were several instances over the course of Bryon’s five month stay in the ICU where he came very close to dying and I was too afraid to leave his side and went days without showering and I would wear the same clothes for days. Before this health crisis, I never would have dreamed of going more than 24 hours without showering or wearing dirty clothes but I learned that showering and clean clothes were actually optional.
Amidst planning Bryon’s funeral/farewell party, I realized that I needed to do something about my appearance. I was talking to my good friend (and daughter’s godmother) and we both agreed that I shouldn’t look like a tired widow and that Bryon would actually be hurt if I didn’t get all prettied up for him and his farewell party.
My hair needed the most help but I was dreading going to the salon I had been going to. Normally I don’t mind small talk but the last thing I wanted was to have to talk to the hairstylists. I hadn’t been to salon in awhile and I know I would be asked about what was going on in my life. I did not want to talk about how my husband died. I shared these concerns with my friend and she told me not to worry. She said she would call her salon and get me an appointment with the instructions to just do my hair. The owner of the salon did my hair and she did talk to me but did not bring up Bryon’s death. We chatted about how we knew mutual friends and we talked about our kids.
I decided to get acrylics put on my nails even though I hate them because Bryon liked my nails long. He didn’t care if my nails are real or fake, he just liked them long. But I honestly can’t tell you which nail salon I went to. I have no recollection of getting my nails done but I know I had them done. Perhaps “widow fog” (it’s a real thing, similar to “pregnancy brain”) was beginning to set in. Keep in mind, I can remember the conversation I had with the nail tech that did my nails for my cousins wedding in Florida in 2004. I can tell you about the conversation I had with the nail tech who did my mani-pedi in New Orleans in 2014. But I can’t tell you which salon I went to the week Bryon died. I just know that I got my nails done and that they didn’t do a good job because they started popping off a day or two later.
I needed something to wear for the wake and the funeral. I had a few tired black dresses in my closet that I have worn to countless weddings and they would have worked but I felt that these events deserved their own specific event dresses. It was weird to buy a dress for Bryon’s funeral without Bryon there. Bryon was a “guy’s guy” but he was a stylish dresser and many times he would find clothes for me try on. I preferred shopping with him over anyone else. He knew my style better than I did and he was honest about how items fit. I always valued his input. But I was going to have to do this one alone.
I began my search at a store that is local to us in Upstate NY called Boscov’s. For some reason I usually have good luck in that store. I don’t know if Bryon was guiding me but I made my way straight to a rack that had black dresses with white polka dots. Bryon always liked me in polka dots though they were my thing long before he came into my life. I decided that I could wear this dress for the wake but I needed something more somber for the funeral. Something that was solid black. I did not see anything else at Boscov’s so I made my purchase and then head over to my other “tried-and-true” shopping options- Macy’s.
At Macy’s I selected a few dresses to try on but as I passed the clearance rack on the way to the fitting room, a black dress caught my eye. It was my size to I grabbed that one as well. I went into the fitting room and tried on my choices but they didn’t work. I tried on the clearance dress and it fit perfectly. This was the dress.
As I looked in the mirror, I had another “punched in the stomach” moment. I realized that this would be last dress I would buy to wear for Bryon. This was it. He was dead. There would be no more dresses. No more celebrations. No more anniversaries. No more weddings. No more fancy dinners. No more formal nights on cruises. This would be the last time I would get pretty for Bryon. I cried in the fitting room.
Before I purchased my dress, I went to the toddler section because my daughter needed dresses. My mother had bought a white dress with black polka dots that she had seen in passing knowing how much I liked polka dots. But we needed at least two dresses, preferably three because I wanted an extra dress in case one got dirty. It was a little hard to find a mourning dress in the little girls section but I found two black and white dresses that would work.
The last thing I needed to look pretty for Bryon’s funeral was makeup. I hadn’t worn makeup in over five months and I couldn’t remember the last time I bought makeup before that. So I went to the Mac counter within Macy’s. I must have had a blank stare on my face because the makeup artist came over and asked me if he could help me with anything. I just blurted out “my husband’s funeral is on Saturday and I don’t want to look like a tired old widow.” He was sympathetic, sat me down and got to work picking out some simple makeup. He said that we should skip the mascara and I agreed. I bought the makeup and I was ready to go. Bring on the wake and the funeral.