Friday, September 18, 2020

Just Call Me Edison

 Thought for the day: Regret won't change the past. Anxiety won't change the future.

Hi-ya, guys. So how are things going with you?  I know... I know... some days, it feels like a tsunami of anxiety is threatening to engulf the whole darned planet, but hang in there, okay? Just grab yourself a gnarly surfboard so you can ride that wave with a big ol' smile on your face. 

So to speak.

 I mean, we may not be able to change what's happening in the world... or in our lives... but we always always have the power to make the best of it. And we can always always search for the bright spots, the humor, and the hope. If it's too hard to smile, fake it. Whistle a happy tune, people, because we're gonna get through this. Really.

Me? I'm doing okay. I miss the crap out of my husband, but I don't reckon that'll ever change. There's a big ol' empty spot in my heart, but I still have the privilege of knowing a bunch of caring people, and the world doesn't feel empty to me at all. Just... different. It will always be... different. But the stark truth of it is, the long and beautiful saga Mike and I wrote together is over. The ending sucked, and he's gone, but it's time for me to write a new story. My own. 

Yep, time to reinvent myself, because my life ain't over. Not yet. 

Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. [George Bernard Shaw]

Mr. Shaw was a brilliant man, but I don't think I need to create myself so much as I need to figure out who the heck I am. See, I've been Mike's wife... or Mike's girlfriend... for well over half a century, and after decades of bending over backwards to accommodate him and keep him happy, I kinda lost myself in the process. Now I'm taking baby steps to find out who I am and what I want. Simple things like putting yummy mushrooms in the lasagna sauce... which he never liked... and  getting rid of some stuff he liked... that I secretly hated. As stereotypically 1950s-like as I was as his wife, he was equally as 1950s-like stereotypical in his role, too. He took care of things. Fixed everything. Took care of the financial planning. Paid all the bills. And I've gotta tell ya, as scared as I was at being thrust into the position of suddenly having to do all of that stuff myself...rising to those tasks has given me a sense of accomplishment. I'm a tad surprised... but also proud. 

I don't know how extreme my makeover is gonna be, but I think it's gonna be okay, and so am I. For quite a while, the changes are mostly gonna be in our house. My raison d'etre right now is getting rid of a bunch of stuff and simplifying everything so it'll be easier for my kids to handle when I shuffle off to join their dad. Oh, and I want to turn one of Mike's many storage areas back into a bedroom... and fit it with a couple of bunk beds. Then, the grandkids can stay with me from time to time. Once the coronavirus has passed and a certain amount of normality has returned to everyday life, there may be more changes. Like... I might like to join our local community theater group. Maybe take tai chi classes. Heck, maybe I'll even learn to tap dance. Who knows? It's a new adventure, and I can set my own path. (Hopefully, my woeful sense of direction won't prove to be too problematic...) The jury is still out as to whether the new me is gonna be a blogger... or a writer. I think so. Maybe. Then again, I might be too busy learning how to play the saxophone... 

Heck, maybe we all need to reinvent ourselves to some extent. No matter how old we are, or what our circumstances may be, it's not too late to climb out of that rut to explore new things and learn how to bloom again. How about you? What new things might you try?

Don't ever feel like your best days are behind you. Reinvention is the purest form of hope. Make today your best yet. [Phil Wohl]

Okay, so I'll be Edison... who wants to be Tesla...?

                                     Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

                              Still feeling a little blah? This video's guaranteed to lift you up.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Treading Water

 Thought for the day: It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we love. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.{Lemony Snicket]

Hi. Last time I posted was July 24, when I told you the end was near. It was even nearer than I feared. The love of my life took his last breath the very next day, and life will never again be the same. 

And yet, somehow, life goes on. It's chaotic, a little scary and sometimes overwhelming, but there are still moments of levity amid the tears. Our daughter Sunshine spent the night on the 24th, and my gal pal Pam was planning to stay the next night. I guess you could say they were kinda circling the proverbial wagons around me, offering their support and trying to shield me from what we all knew was coming. I'll be forever grateful Sunshine was here when Mike died, and even more grateful that she stayed another night. That afternoon, my daughter-in-law Sarge popped in for a surprise visit. She was on her way home to Alabama from visiting a friend in Charlotte, and she just planned to stop by to give me a hug, but she ended up staying overnight, too. Sunshine's husband came over for five hours or so, and I know Mike would've approved of how the four of us spent the evening... we ordered pizza, turned on the music he and I always played while shooting pool... and we shot pool. Sure, there were some tears, but there was plenty of reminiscing and laughter, too.

There's been so much to do, so many things I had to learn to do that I never expected or wanted to do. (Being the adult in charge sucks!) Everything from having to fix a squealing toilet to dealing with all kinds of government agencies and a multitude of banks, insurance companies, and the probate court. Because the titles to all seven of our vehicles are in Mike's name, I have to go through probate before I can have them re-titled in my name. Not a pleasant discovery, I'll tell ya. The will leaves everything to me, but that doesn't matter. Nope, because those stupid titles are in his name, the kids, as heirs, still have to attest not to contest said will. Then the judge will provide me with the required letter to take to the tag-and-title folks so I can change those titles to my name. At that point, I can sign over six of the vehicles to our kids. (Hopefully, before I have to pay insurance on all those buggers.) A tip to you guys: if you're married, consider putting all of your assets in both of your  names. It makes things a lot easier.

To tell the truth, it still doesn't seem real. After being a part of my life for more than sixty years, it doesn't seem possible that he's gone. I arrange his pillow lengthwise in the bed every night, so if I wake up in the middle of the night, I'll see a shape in the dark beside me. Not that I'm fooling myself, but it's a teeny tiny crutch to keep me from breaking down if I open my eyes and see the obvious expanse of empty bed next to me. A million times a day, I think I have to ask him something... or tell him something. If I doze off in front of the TV, I startle awake and immediately look at his half of the love seat. When I don't see him there, my first thought is... he went to bed without me...?

Going through his stuff, I'm astounded at what a pack rat he was, and touched at some of the "treasures" he'd tucked away. Like ticket stubs to the movies, shows, and museums we went to together. Our kids' baby teeth! Poems I'd written to him over the years. Lots of crap, too, like a bazillion cheap hand-outs he'd picked up at the many trade shows he attended over the years. It seems like he placed the same relevance to old yellowed receipts for items we owned forty years ago and to long-defunct insurance policies as he did to current banking, stock information and insurance policies. To be sure, it's been a challenge, and if I continue working at it every day for the rest of my life, I don't think I'll ever get it all squared away. But I'll try. It's my goal to clear things out and simplify things as much as I can to make it easier on the kids when I go to that great big pool parlor in the sky. I sometimes wonder if Mike left me this ungodly mess on purpose... you know, to keep me so busy I don't have much time to think or wallow in grief.

I have a feeling he's watching and laughing his ass off at me trying to figure it all out. Before we were married, he took great pleasure in driving me to the middle of nowhere and challenging me to find the way back home. Me?  Directionally challenged me? Oh yeah, I got us home eventually, but sometimes we meandered in clueless circles for hours, until he'd start saying things like, "Are you sure you want to go that way?"  Laughing. Making me laugh. Reminding me that we both had to go to work the next day...

Now, I'm struggling to navigate through a whole new kind of existence, and he's no longer here to nudge me in the right direction. I'll undoubtedly make some wrong turns, and sometimes, I feel a tsunami of emotions washing over me, but I'm treading water as fast as I can. So far, so good. I like to think he's somehow helping me keep my head above the water. 

There's a shelf above the big-screen TV in our pool room. That's where his ashes rest... right in front of a triangularly-folded U.S. flag,...and surrounded by five smile-inducing minions. I think he'd like that. 

My kids, grandkids, and friends... including you guys... have been tremendously supportive. In a way, lots of people are helping me keep my head above the water. That's good. After all, Mike might have something better to do these days. I sincerely hope so.

                                Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other. 

I've told my kids that when I die, to release balloons in the sky to celebrate that I graduated. To me, death is a graduation. [Elisabeth Kubler-Ross]

Friday, July 24, 2020

Another Update

 Thought for the day:  Appreciation is the highest form of prayer, for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever you shine the light of your thankful thoughts. [Alan Cohen]

May, 2019, when we were in Charleston celebrating our 50th anniversary
First off, let me express my sincere appreciation for all of you guys and your continued thoughts and prayers. Your kind words have meant the world to me, and they've never failed to put a smile on my face. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

What can I say? The end is near. As much as I hate to say it, or to even think it, I know it to be true. I can't bear the thought of losing him, but I also know he wouldn't want to live like this, either. No one would. It's beyond horrifying what cancer does to the human body. I lie on the bed beside him and hold his hand. Stroke his arm. But I don't know if he even knows I'm there. I like to think he does, but I don't know, because it isn't really him any more. It's some bizarre bastardized shell of who he used to be.

The end will come as a blessing. For him. But God forgive me, not for me.

I know. It isn't about me. That's what I tell myself umpteen times a day when the tears start to fall. It's about him and about me taking care of him, but it's so hard to think of a world without him in it. It's hard to think of the things he'll never do again... all the things we'll no longer be able to do together. After knowing someone for more than sixty years, it's terrifying to envision the enormous vacuum he's going to leave behind.

Thank God for the hospice nurse. Mike didn't want any part of anyone else from hospice coming, and he didn't want any part of having a hospital bed, either, but he did agree to let the nurse come. Everyone keeps telling me to get the hospital bed, because it'd be easier for me. But that isn't the point, is it? He wants to die in his own bed. Without benefit of some stranger... i.e. a nurse's aide... taking care of him.  End of discussion, even if he can no longer speak for himself. That's what he told me, and my only choice is to honor his wishes.

Anyhow, the nurse... Kathy... has been coming twice a week to check Mike's vitals, and after a couple of weeks, she arranged her schedule so her visit with us is the last stop of her workday. That way, she can hang around and spend as much time here as she'd like. Really cool, huh? Yesterday, she was here for more than two hours. Talk about a blessing. We just talk (and talk and talk...) like normal people. And laugh. She feels more like a friend than someone who's here to do a job, and her visits are helping preserve my sanity. (Because no matter what anyone tells you, doing in-home hospice is HARD. The hardest thing I've ever done.) She says she spends more time with me because she likes me. Whether that's the case, or she simply sees me as someone desperately in need of company, I appreciate the living daylights out of her.

She agrees that the end is near. That means she'll be back today... and every day... for as long as I need her. Says I can call her any time, day or night.

I think there's gotta be a special place in Heaven for people like her, don't you?

So, bottom line, he's still hanging on, but just barely. As hard as it is, I'm grateful. We've had more years than most, and we sure had a helluva run.

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come. [Rabindranath Tagore]