Voices of the Past

Holidays can be tough for those missing their family–either if they’re no longer near you or are no longer on this planet. Last week was the 5th Thanksgiving without my brother and the third without either of my parents. Typically, my little family of three spends Thanksgiving by ourselves and my brother used to come over to spend it with us, while his partner slept during the day (he worked nights). After my brother died, we always brought my mom over to spend the day with us. Now, though, we invite my brother’s partner to have dinner with us and it remains the four of us. On Thursday we toasted our lost family with our drinks and chatted about all of them throughout the day. It wasn’t a horrible day.

That night, my son and I sat down to watch a movie, and we got on the subject of my mother. My boy was comparing the grandmother on the Garfield Thanksgiving special to his grammy, my mom. We started to talk about Mom’s laugh and I realized that I couldn’t remember it. At all. I could picture her laughing, like this photo when she tried out our Bowflex for the first time back in 2001 and it nearly catapulted her backwards. But every time I pictured Mom laughing, it was silent. I just could not imagine what her laugh sounded like. I started to tear up, grasping at my memories of her, trying to find something that would trigger that laugh in my head. I could hear her voice, I could smell her perfume, even feel her hands in mine. But her laughter was gone.

When my teenage son saw my eyes and the look on my face, he tried to imitate his grandmother’s laugh. He could clearly hear it and was doing everything he could to share that with me. After a couple of failed attempts, he found it. He created a laugh that was enough like hers that I could hear it again. I closed my eyes and listened.

I cried a little and thanked my son. He was so relieved–not only because I didn’t break down into sobs, but also that he could find a way to share Mom with me, to share *his* memories of his grandmother with me. If anything could warm the cockles of my heart, it was that!

Unfortunately, as I write this, I still can’t remember her laugh. I’m hoping someone has a video with a clear laugh track of Mom on it. I hear my brother’s laughter nearly every time my son laughs, and I can easily hear my father’s deep, gruff chuckle. But not my mother’s. So until I find that video, I’ll have to consult my boy whenever I need to hear Mom’s laughter. I envy his gift.

If you do have the opportunity to record your loved ones’ voices or laughter, I suggest you do it (and have others do it to you). It may sound like a morbid activity, but if something like hearing your parents’ laugh can make your day, then wouldn’t you want that to listen to after they’re gone?

Have a good week, friends. Find laughter wherever and whenever you can. ❤

Finding Community

Let me begin with thanking so many of you for sending your good thoughts, vibes and prayers my family’s way last week. My husband got through his heart surgery and everything looks great. Two stents were placed in his arteries instead of one, since they found a clogged artery they didn’t know about, but now blood is actually getting to a majority of his heart. His energy has skyrocketed and I think he may be on his way back to the living. Now he just needs to clean up his act by eating right and exercising. Not everyone gets a second chance, so hopefully with encouragement he’ll be ok and take advantage of this rare opportunity.

And now…back to running. 😉

Sundays are typically my long run days. I was up to 10 miles a few weeks ago, but ratcheted it down to just 4, then have slowly been building back up again. Today was a 10K (6.2 miles) day, and although I felt good and ready when I left my house, the feeling didn’t last. I had a hot flash around mile 1, which is a weird thing to have when you’re already sweating. I felt completely depleted by the end of mile 2. I almost called my husband to ask him to bring me a banana or maybe drive me back home, but then in my head I heard my friend Heather say, “I take walking breaks. It’s really ok!” So I stopped beating myself up and walked for a few minutes and sipped from my electrolyte drink that tasted awful. But the combo gave me a bit of energy and I pushed on. By 2.5 miles, I started to feel better. I was tremendously slow and walked up nearly every hill (except the giant hill I tried to run up and then realized I was so hunched over that I could touch the ground), but the run was finally feeling good.

I was ok with being slow today, but I wanted to feel good. I wanted those endorphins to kick in. Hell, I just wanted to feel like myself. I’ve had so many moments in the past few years when I don’t feel like me. Do you ever have that? Like you feel out of sorts, like something isn’t right but you don’t know what that is? Now that I’m perimenopausal, I certainly feel like that more and more. It’s not just the physical–the hot flashes, the 15-20 pound weight gain since 2017, the occasional lethargy. But also the mental and emotional changes and challenges that are not necessarily due to perimenopause–the occasional emotional outburst, the grief, the anger, the stress of so much loss–and trying to find a way to not only take care of myself (which admittedly I’ve been pretty bad at), but also to take care of my son and husband AND to be a support for my friends and the rest of my family.

After living through the deaths of my brother and parents, watching my husband nearly die twice and supporting a stressed and grieving child, then managing to get through (and currently going through) all the logistical shit people don’t tell you about (burials, funerals, wills, estates, financial loss while recovering from illness), I have learned a lot. But I also received a HUGE load of emotional support from my friends and family. And I want to give that back in spades. I know I still don’t have the right words to say to someone after a loved one dies, but I often say that I’m here if you need anything and often suggest a meal or time together or even $20 if I have it. I don’t say any of that unless I mean it. Occasionally someone will take me up on it and ask for help. And I’m grateful. When I was desperate, I did reach out to my friends and asked for help. Nearly every time they were more than happy to lend a hand or an ear. That’s what being a friend is. (And more than once I did NOT ask for any assistance, yet some friends helped me anyway. Because they are that awesome.)

Reach out to your friends and family this week. Contact the ones you want to. I give you permission to not bother with those folks who continually disappoint or hurt you. I know that the holidays can mean being forced to spend time with people you might not want to. Admittedly, I had a great family and loved to spend time with them. Not all the time, mind you, but enough. I know our family was lucky that way. But if you don’t have that kind of family but one that is toxic and treats you badly, I hope you get to have dinner with your chosen family this week. If you can’t do that, then please find SOMETHING that makes you happy this week, ok? Preferably nothing that can harm you. Go for a hike, pet a cat, read a great book, have a glass of good wine, walk a dog, eat pie, bake a pie, have sex, go for a run, buy new shoes–whatever makes you feel good!

And if you need a hand or an ear, I’ll do my best to lend you one or the other. I’ll try to be here for you, as you’ve been there for me.

Until then, I’ll try to keep running amidst hot flashes and cold mornings. You’d think they’d cancel each other, right? Sadly, no, but at least your voices in my head will keep me going. (I’m standing up straight, Sonya!)

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. ❤

Power of Positive Thinking

On my run today, I started working on my posture. It’s truly awful. I’ve always been a sloucher. When you’re over 6 feet tall and a majority of your friends are “average” height, you find yourself hunching your shoulders and slouching to try and shorten yourself. My brother was 6’6″ and his posture was just as horrible. He had a little hump near the end of his life and I can see that happening to me, too. (As I’m typing this, I’m sitting ramrod straight just thinking about it!)

Since I was trying to relax my shoulders and run tall, I didn’t worry about my pace this morning. But the route I took included a long, steep hill, and normally that’s when I feel my shoulders meeting my ears and my gaze aiming at the ground. Not today! I kept thinking, “Ok, you can do this. Don’t worry about your pace, just keep those shoulders back and look straight ahead. And relax, damn it!” So I talked to myself in my head for a few minutes, then started to think about the week ahead.

Tomorrow, five months to the day since his “widow maker” of a heart attack, this guy is undergoing another cardiac catherization and a stent inserted into a 100% clogged artery.

As I was slowly ascending that hill, I thought about this blog and the outpouring of support I’ve received because of it. When my husband was on a ventilator and in a coma in 2020, people around the country were sending him healing thoughts and prayers. I’m not exaggerating. We know a lot of folks between the two of us and they’re all over the place. And due to this blog and at least one dear friend’s move, we now know folks all over the world. So, once again, I am asking for those positive thoughts sent this way.

When Husband had his heart attack in June (the day after my birthday), he was told he might need this upcoming surgery. But he didn’t really remember that. I did. He was a little surprised in the fall when his doctor told him he’s need this stent fairly soon. And then in October, what little energy my husband had, he was losing quickly. He wasn’t (and isn’t) well. Then one day, while I was away at a conference, both his doctor and his boss told him he needed to take a break from work. His boss’ words were, “You’re not having another heart attack on my watch.” Our family doctor has been concerned and thought he might need to stop working…possibly for good. But Husband said “no.” He’ll stop working until after the surgery, but he’s too young to stop all together. We hope! (Meanwhile, he’s been getting shots in his eyes due to his diabetes…and those shots have advanced his tiny cataracts into full-blown cataracts. So that surgery will be next month!)

Tomorrow morning, we will head, once again, to the hospital. This time, though, they won’t have to save his life while quickly putting a stent in. This time, the operation will take three hours and the surgeons can take their time, look around, do what they need to do. Hopefully it will extend my husband’s life. Hopefully his energy will improve and he’ll be able to do things again. Maybe he can do yard work without having heart palpitations or take a walk with me without having to nap afterwards. I thought those things would happen this summer or fall, but they didn’t.

So let’s get this shit fixed, ok? Let’s raise my husband’s quality of life.

Let’s get him living again.

Love to you all. Thank you in advance for sending those good vibes our way. ❤

Runner’s High?

I’ve only been running for 11 years now, but very often I feel this sense of strength and determination during my run. It’s not endorphins, just this single-mindedness to keep going. Today I ran 10 miles for various reasons. I thought I’d do a 15K (9.3 miles) as I continue to train for a marathon. But with my upcoming work schedule, a long run will not be in the cards for 2 weeks, so I figured I’d push it today. It was 59 degrees, cloudy, a cool breeze–perfect for a long run.

Maine is beautiful most of the time, but the autumn in Maine is glorious. The leaves are all changing but after the rain this weekend, many have fallen. It’s getting near the end of the gorgeous season, so I’ve been trying to get out and run while I can to enjoy the colors.

During the last few miles of my 10 miler, my body was starting to hurt. My hips, my right calf, my hamstrings, everything. But I pulled my shoulders back, looked straight ahead and just kept moving. Once I was finished, I guzzled chocolate milk, took ibuprofren, closed the door to my home library so my cat wouldn’t attack my feet (he loves those compression stockings!), and slowly got my body to the carpeted floor. As I lay on my back, I pulled my right knee to my chest…and started to giggle….and giggle….and laugh until I cried.

It. Was. AWESOME!

Apparently, this isn’t necessarily endorphins, or the runner’s high, but this euphoria was due to endocannabinoids. These are biochemical substances that are similar to cannabis and can give you that sense of calm. Typically, I feel very serene after a run and am able to deal with stress a bit easier, but today was something different entirely. It’s like a laughing orgasm! Something that felt so intensely good, in this case the relaxing then stretching of my muscles, that my body felt the need to release pressure and it came out as hysterical laughter. It was so friggin’ cool! 🙂 It was so much better than crying, which is what my body usually does after anything too intense.

Of course, after I stretched and showered, I wanted to eat everything…so I did. I literally cleaned out my fridge and threw everything into a bowl and ate it–lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, canned peas, leftover pork loin and cooked egg yolks. It was absolutely delicious. And weird.

And now that evening is here, I will rub my legs with a muscle salve, eat some candy, and hopefully sleep a truly restful, pain-free sleep.

Good night, y’all.

May you have sweet dreams that make you smile or laugh out loud.

Just Run

It’s been a wacky few weeks at work and home. There seems to be a lot of anger and fear drifting from place to place and person to person. Tension is high yet I don’t feel stressed until the evening, when my chest feels tight and I realize I haven’t taken a deep breath for much of the day.

Except when I run.

The anniversary of my mother’s death was a few days ago and the days leading up to it, I didn’t think much about it. I tried to push my emotions down deep and the memories away.

And then I ran.

During a typical 5k weekday morning run, I kept feeling this odd pressure one inch above my right wrist. It felt just like my mother wrapping her fingers around my arm, like when we would compare how skinny our wrists were. We could both easily wrap our fingers around each others forearms with our fingers touching because we both had (and have) bird arms. I ran down the road and kept glancing at my right arm. I started to laugh out loud until a sob escaped my lips.

But I kept running.

Tonight, after seeing Facebook memories of my mother keep popping up on my phone, I decided I had too much energy to burn off and went for an early evening run at 5pm. It was another weird day filled with putting out fires and forgetting my wallet and going to dentist appointments and a failed attempt to get my son a flu shot. So a run sounded good, even though I usually despise afternoon or evening runs. My body and mind are typically too tired during that time of day, but today I thought I could handle it.

The first mile and a half were lovely. The light streaming through the colorful leaves at that time of day were gorgeous. Then as I was passing this swamp:

Something made a HUGE splash and scared the shit out of me. I actually screamed. No idea if something fell from a tree, if it was a bullfrog, or just the Swamp Thing. Whatever it was, it completely threw me off. My usual turn-off is just up the hill from here and I made it there but I immediately ran out of gas. I started to trudge along for a few minutes, then walked for a minute. My breathing was off and I thought I might have to call home. I started to think about what I ate today and realized it wasn’t much. I felt depleted because I didn’t have any fuel left. Or so I thought.

I took it easy for the next mile, ran fairly slowly, watched five chickens hanging out in a field. Then for my last half mile, my second wind gusted through me and I flew home. I felt so light and free and fierce. The feeling was fleeting, but I tried to capture it:

I expect life to be busy and somewhat stressful for the next few months. I hope things will get better, but I will also try to remember that I don’t have control over everything. I will try to find that inner ferocity that I forget I have but something my mother exuded. Although I’m not good at letting shit go, I’ll do my best.

And sometimes I’ll say “fuck it all” and just run.

Quiet

Ever have one of those days where you just want to be quiet? Probably sounds like a silly question coming from a librarian, although in my public library we don’t encourage quiet. We encourage interaction and communication. But today was not a particularly busy day, and I was grateful for that.

Today I wanted everyone around me to speak in monotones and I said as few words as possible. I could still listen to people talk, but I didn’t want to hear any loud voices or screaming. Laughing was ok, though. My eyes felt partially closed all day and I felt like I was underwater….no. That’s not a good analogy. I’d panic if I was underwater for more than two seconds. Everything just seemed…fuzzy.

I think it’s Grief Vision. This is how I felt when I was in-between deaths and burials or funerals, or the weeks afterward. Grief Vision makes everything look kind of cloudy and I’m tired and a bit apathetic towards the world. Today I wasn’t tremendously sad, but I felt lonely. Lonely for the people who are no longer here. Not just for those that have died, but even for those I can’t see in person due to distance or disagreements.

I know this all stems from the fact that it’s Mom’s birthday today. She should have been 75. I’m at the point when I can remember her and smile or laugh at things we did together. I have residual disappointment from some of her actions, but the fact is those actions were not directed towards me which has always placed me in a weird place. I will love my mother until the day I die. I do wish I could have asked her a few questions, but to be honest, I’m not sure I would have. I was always afraid of disappointing her or having Mom angry with me. She rarely was, but that could be because I have the “good girl syndrome.” When you grow up in a messed up home, I think you choose a role to play or your personality pushes you towards a task within your family. Some rebel and act out, some stay quiet and hide, and others try to be extra “good,” hoping to make peace within the family. That last one was and is me through and through and it’s time to stop.

Is it a bad thing, being a good person? No, of course not. But if you’re always trying to be that good person for someone else, it’s not always good for YOU. I don’t regret many of the decisions I made in the past so I could be that good person for my family, but I’m trying to make good choices for me now.

One of those choices was to visit Mom’s grave. This initially felt like I was doing this for Mom, to be that good daughter who always did the right thing–visited on all holidays and every Saturday, kept track of doctor appointments and medicines to refill, placed her in a nursing home that dealt with Alzheimer’s patients. Ok. That last one was something Mom didn’t appreciate but I think it was the right thing to do. Maybe?

Anyway, I went to Mom’s grave because it was her birthday and she should have coffee. I bought a Dunkin Donut’s coffee…then realized I locked my keys in the car. Let me say I have NEVER done this. Not once in my 32 years of driving and car ownership. (Although someone may have another story that I truly don’t remember, so forgive me if my memory is faulty. It happens.) Unbelievably, I was extremely calm about the whole thing. I called my husband and asked for my spare key (we live 35 minutes away). I sat outside with my pumpkin spice coffee (sorry, Mom, but I’m drinking this) and waited. As I sat there, soaking in the warm afternoon sun in the crisp fall air, I had an epiphany. Can’t these long orangutan arms fit through the one partially opened car window?

Yup. They can.

I called the husband, told him I got into the car and I was off to the cemetery.

Each time I go to Mom or Dad’s grave, I always bring a blanket to sit on. That’s what I did today, and placed the coffee beside Mom’s stone. Then I laid my head on Mom’s name and started to sob. I don’t remember the last time Mom held me, but I imagined it this evening. I let the stress and tension and anger and fear and sadness drain from my body, or at least that’s what I hoped was happening. It was somewhat cathartic and completely exhausting. I sat up when I could cry no longer, and drank my coffee, apologizing to Mom for drinking it…and the fact that it was pumpkin flavored…and talked to her for a while. I laughed out loud thinking about what her reaction would be to my/her drink and I complimented her on the view. Mom has some pretty fabulous trees around her along with some of her friends beside her and behind her.

As I traced Mom’s name on her stone with my finger, I realized that this visit really was for me. It might have started out trying to do the right thing for Mom, but I think it ended up being the right thing for me. I needed to be near my mother somehow, and being in the town I grew up in and in the town where I knew my mother best, it was the closest I could be to her.

It wasn’t a hug, but it was something. ❤

She Survives

Today would have been my Grammie’s birthday. I kissed her gravestone twice today as I passed it on my run. I live on the land she raised her children on and there was no doubt I was closer to her than any other grandparent. I think of her often, especially when I sit on my porch and look down my yard to the apple trees. This was the same view she had when she sat on her deck–which she didn’t do that often. She was always busy (Mom was so much like her!) although in her later years she took more time out to sit and chat and read and crochet.

My sister and I talk about the “Thibeau Women” sometimes. Grammie’s first marriage was to my grandfather, my mom’s father, and he was a Thibeau. Although really we should talk about the “Bonney Women”, that was Gram’s maiden name. Her mother was an incredibly hard worker like all of her descendants. But they were all more than that. They were survivors.

Myrtle, my Grammie, buried two sons and two husbands. One of her sons died as a baby and another as a toddler. She did raise 4 daughters and one son, most of whom were strong individuals. As I look at them with my eyes now, I see the trauma they all suffered and dealt with in their own ways. My grandfather was an alcoholic and all the stories I’ve heard tell me he was not an easy person to live with, whether you were his child or his wife. He had a heart attack and died on this land I’m living on a short time before I was born.

After that Grammie worked in a local mental institution as a cleaning person. She eventually met her second husband through work. Bruce seemed to be pretty good to my Gram, although his incessant fat comments to me as a 7-year-old contributed to my low self-esteem and self-image that still reigns today. But he was not an alcoholic and he took Grammie traveling around the country which gave her much joy. That’s the one thing I’m grateful to Bruce for. Shortly after I got married, he also had a heart attack and died on this land. (My husband mentions these two deaths often lately. I can see why!)

Grammie has been gone for 18 years now. She died one month before her 85th birthday. Throughout my struggles these past few years, I often wish I could ask her how she did it. How did she get through it all? So, so many women and men dealt with these tragedies and war and food insecurity and they survived. Or many did. I wonder what Grammie thought about when she went to bed at night. I wonder if one reason she was always busy so she didn’t have to think of all she’d lost. Especially her children. I know that her many grandchildren made her happy and her living children did, too, but my god, so much happened to her. And you know, Grammie was very small–under 5 feet tall–but her inner strength seemed immeasurable. All of her children had a healthy dose of fear when it came to her anger, because Gram RARELY got angry. When she did? You better not be at the other end of her wrath because not only did you anger her, but you disappointed her. And that was something no one wanted. We loved and respected her too much to ever want her to feel that way about us.

Grammie, I know you didn’t drink, but I’m toasting you tonight with a margarita. I love you. So damn much. If there is some kind of afterlife, I know you’re there with your children and grandchildren. Hug Phil tight, ok? I can imagine you’ve never left his side. And tell Mom and Dad I love them. And miss them. I miss all of you.

Yes, Grammie is in a wagon.

Cheers to you, Grammie, the Matriarch of the Bad-Ass Bonney, Thibeau and Williams Clans. ❤

Winds of Change

Remember that hug I was craving from my dad? Saturday morning, I had a dream that Dad was here and hugged me. Just like I remembered and longed for. I awoke lighter and in a much better mood than I had been in all week. I just felt…comforted. Throughout the rest of the long weekend, I tried to finish up projects at home or do a bit of cleaning that I had put off. It felt like something was changing and I felt more focused.

What I didn’t realize was that Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, was about to begin. (I may not be Jewish, but I love the thought and feeling of a new year.) It’s also a new school year, which to me feels like a fresh start, even if I’m not the one going to school. And 12 weeks to the day from his heart attack, my husband went back to work today. As soon as I got home, I ran to his office to ask how the day went. “I thought I was going to die,” he said. I reminded him that was an extremely poor choice of words since he nearly did die the last time he went to work! But, all in all, it wasn’t a horrible day for him. Exhausting, yes, but not horrendous.

Our son started high school last week, too–a huge change for us all, but also a cleanish slate for him. Some of his friendships have become more intense recently and he’s just beginning to make new friends, too. He wants to join clubs and actually do things outside of the home and a screen! He’s maturing, yet like most teens, is emitting hormones and emotional outbursts. It’s wonderful and scary and it all makes me hug him a little tighter each day, trying to hold onto every single moment that he’s here.

It seems, though, that everything around me is changing. I see some of my friendships and relationships changing, and I see that in others’ relationships, too. People in my community have left their jobs for other places, better for them but worse for us. People in the town where I work are having to leave because the healthcare services they need are no longer in that community. Yet new residents are moving in to both towns where I live and work and they’re happy to be there. Here in Maine, most people are masking again, regardless of vaccination status. More and more people are getting the vaccine and more people are dying once again–the majority being unvaccinated.

Yet…we all just keep trying to live our lives, day by day. Change is hard. No matter if the changes you’re facing are “good” or “bad”, change is a stressor. Major life-event stressors include marriage, moving, having a child–all good things, yet other life-event stressors are divorce, death of a loved one and job loss. Big changes are difficult, and no one ever put a pandemic on the list. I think it’s caused such a range of stress and emotion in each person, and continues to do so.

Maybe for some people it means they’re just done with certain humans on the planet. They can no longer hear what they have to say, nor do they care. And honestly, I think that’s ok if they’re not outright hurting those humans. It is their choice to be around people whose ideas are like their own, who stand for what they stand for.

But…I don’t think I can do that. If you know me and my husband, you know that I can’t do that. I live with and love a person with polar opposite views than mine on so, so many issues. And to be honest, if we had met when I was 30 instead of 22, we probably would never have married. I was open to new thoughts and opinions in my 20s, but now?

Yes, it’s difficult.

But the value of a human being is not just from their political or religious affiliation. We are made up of so much more than our views on an issue or a hot button topic. We are made up of acts of love and kindness–paying for that coffee for the person in line behind you or stopping to lend a hand to a child that fell of her bike. We’re made of shared moments like holding someone’s hand in a hospital waiting room or listening to stories of your mother from her friends and family after she’s left this earth or even that second when you catch someone’s eye and smile and you both know that you’re ok, at least for the moment.

I know I can’t convince you all (or any) to reach out and talk to someone tomorrow whose opinions you don’t agree with or understand. It’s ok. You don’t have to. But I do ask that you try and understand those of us that love others with differing points of view.

Or…don’t. I’d like to change your mind. I’d like you to think that there are more people out there with commonalities than differences. More good than not. But I don’t know what the right words are.

Do you?

Missing You

It’s been a long week. It’s been busy at work, although I’m not complaining about that. It’s been a week of making more community connections which is what I think our library should do. That part of my week has been tiring but in the best way.

The rest of my interactions throughout the week, though, have been emotionally exhausting. I’ve questioned some of my friends’ judgment calls, and then my own. I’ve wondered if the choices I’ve made have really been the best for me. I sat on my porch tonight, just contemplating my life, my little family’s lives, our future. It got me missing the rest of my family more than usual.

If Dad was here, sitting with me on my porch or out on his deck, he’d tell me to do the right thing. Whatever that was. He always encouraged me to do better, or specifically, to do or be better than him. He made many, many mistakes in his lifetime (like every human being on the planet) and lots of bad choices and had many regrets. But he made amends for all of them. Or I think he did. On his deathbed, he worried about all of the mistakes he made and I hope I convinced him otherwise. I tried to. I just don’t know if he heard me.

When Mom was alive, she backed me up on whatever I chose to do. I asked for her advice, and she always threw it back on me and made me think things through and say why I wanted to do things a certain way. And whatever way I chose, she’d say “good choice!” She was my biggest cheerleader. I really, really miss her today.

And if my big brother was here? More than likely he’d just say to do whatever made me happy. Do good if you can (WWSD–What Would Superman Do, or in my case, WWWWD–What Would Wonder Woman Do), but mostly do good for yourself. Life in this world can be so damn horrendous, so be happy whenever you possibly can.

Right now, right at the instant that I’m typing this, I’d give nearly anything to have a hug from my father again. He was the biggest teddy bear that ever lived. His hugs would envelop me and particularly when I was sad, he made me feel so much better. Almost every time he hugged me, he’d make this little “mmmm” sound and say how much he missed me. Then we’d both marvel at the fact that we lived 11 miles from one another but only saw each other once a month or less.

It’s funny how much I still miss both of my parents when I’m feeling a bit lost. I wonder if I’ll ever stop feeling like I need their guidance. Even with Mom having dementia those last 5 years of her life, I still asked for her advice and needed her comfort. And now…

Now I’ll go read a book and go to bed. I know that tomorrow is another day and I’ll probably feel better. The rest of my family is coming over to celebrate my niece’s birthday and to wish all the kids good luck on their first day back at school next week. I can still take comfort in having all of them and my own little family. And they will seek me out to comfort them when they’re feeling down or lost.

And, I suppose, lives go on.

Be Prepared

I was only a Girl Scout for a short period of time. Actually, I don’t think I even made it to Girl Scout but was just a Brownie. When I discovered my leader was drinking at the meetings, I told a teacher at my school and voila! No more meetings!

Since I didn’t have a lot of training being prepared for anything, I’m not the best at it, but I do try. I always have a first aid kit in my car (even though the only thing I can do with it is put a band aid on someone), typically a spare tire, and always my AAA card. After my child was born, the diaper bag was filled with almost too many things and I could never find what I needed when I needed it. My current purse, though, has a lovely little bag in it with nearly everything I think I need–ibuprofren, chapstick, pads, band-aids, lotion, hand sanitizer, even a tiny stick of deodorant. I always have my phone, a smidge of cash, hopefully a debit or credit card, and again, always my AAA card. So I think I’ve gotten a little better over the years in trying to be prepared.

Back in 2004, after my husband and I bought our home, my mother said to me, “You need to learn how everything works in the house. If anything happens to your Wally, you don’t want to be left not knowing.” I know she said this to me because that’s what happened to her. When my stepfather died in 2002, there were a few things in her house she didn’t quite know how to maintain or fix, and a snow blower she couldn’t move. I agreed with Mom and told her I would learn it all. Fast forward 17 years, and here’s Holly, not knowing much of anything.

Since my husband has been on death’s door twice in 18 months, and will undergo a heart procedure next week, I decided that I couldn’t wait any longer. (FYI: He’ll go into the Cath Lab where they’ll investigate his blocked arteries and either put more stents in or schedule bypass surgery.) I told Wal I wasn’t trying to be morbid, but I needed to be prepared. He’s been reluctant to show me some things over the years, but mostly I have been the one who has been resistant because I just didn’t care to know. Our household chores have been divided in mostly traditional male/female roles–I do much of the housework, he does much of the outside work and fixes anything that needs to be fixed, and we both share cooking. But so often I’ve felt very overworked and always seem to spend my weekends doing housework yet my husband spends about 2 hours doing stuff and he’s done. WTF?!? So I didn’t care to know shit because why should I when I did most everything anyway?

But for the past 6 weeks, my husband hasn’t been able to do much of anything, so everything IS up to me. Thankfully our son has mown the lawn all summer, but he doesn’t know how to use the trimmer or the push mower and I couldn’t friggin’ start either one last weekend. So yesterday, I asked my husband for help. We got things going, I know what I did wrong on the mower and can easily fix that, but the damn trimmer is a pain in the ass. Either I’m not coordinated or strong enough to start it. Thankfully the old man started it for me and I was able to trim the yard. (Next time the kid will have to start it, or we’ll be buying a trimmer where I don’t need to pull a cord to start it.)

Today, though, I dug out a notebook and wrote down everything I wasn’t sure how to start or fix or maintain that’s in or around the house. I wrote down the things I did know and confirmed them with Wal. I actually had the boy show me how to start the riding lawn mower. I had refused to learn after my husband spent nearly $9,000 to buy the damn thing, but I guess I still need to know how to run it, eh? With everything else, I had Wal take me around and explain how certain pieces of equipment work or how to fix them or who to call if I can’t do anything. I double-checked with him on the location of our septic tank and leach field, just to make certain that what I thought I knew I really knew, you know? I wrote everything down with step by step instructions for some and general notes on others. I felt a little relief once I had finished…or at least not quite so panicked. There are still a few tools that I honestly don’t know how to use and want to, like the power drill.

I know, I know! My friend, Aymie, is this kick-ass woman who knows her power tools (and uses them!) and has been building a bunkhouse in the woods this summer. She can do all of that shit and I have no idea how to use the electric screwdriver. (I wish I was kidding about that last part. But I’m not.)

Tonight, as we’re searching the house trying to find my husband’s living will (to no avail), my anxiety is starting to grow. I haven’t been hugely concerned about Wal’s procedure, but maybe I was more worried than I thought. I have another living will form that Wal can fill out and have notarized this week, but it’s not something either one of us really want to do right now. If you haven’t done one yet, it can be an emotionally exhausting task, especially when you’re sick and someone may need to put it into action. What you write down really matters. Knowing what you want and having others know it, too, is crucial. (We learned this last year.)

Here’s hoping the hospital still has a copy of Wal’s living will that I gave them last year or that my husband will find his copy somewhere in the disaster he calls his office. 😉 Otherwise we have an interesting evening coming up, where he’ll sigh a lot and I’ll drink a glass of wine. One way or another, we’re going to be prepared.

Wish us luck, friends.