Losses and Gains

Today should have been Dad’s 80th birthday. I say “should have”, although he would probably disagree. He was shocked to make it past 70 and he was 2 months shy of his 78th birthday when he died. I also should have run my first marathon today, in honor of Dad. But neither of those things happened.

Yesterday, just like with Mom on Mother’s Day, I visited Dad’s grave. Since it was a Saturday close to Memorial Day, there were a bunch of people in the cemetery, which I hated. Dad would have waved to most folks that were nearby and say “How are ya?” (although it would sound like “Whyya”), but I just kept my head down and set up our picnic.

Dad used to make whirligigs, some were funny, some obscene, and some were just cute. I didn’t plan well enough but for the moment I placed a few small pinwheels, just to have something moving in the breeze. I brought my dad Cheez-Its, which were one of his favorite snacks. There’s an inside joke between my husband and my dad and they used to exchange a box of these crackers nearly every Christmas. It all stemmed from the time my then fiancé drove my dad to Pennsylvania for my graduate school graduation, and my father ate a whole box of Cheez-Its…and proceeded to have horrible gas…and they were trapped inside this little Ford Escort with hours left to drive. It was something they both used to laugh about and bonded over as only men can.

Once I set out snacks and my water bottle, I just sat in front of Dad’s stone and plucked the grass around it and ran my hands over the smooth stone. I could hear people around me, including a man about 20 feet from me laughing into his phone. I tried to block him and the others out, when I started to cry. I was angry and overcome with that loss again–that emptiness I feel when I realize I can never have another conversation with my father. But also the absurdity of the situation. I was bringing my father treats he would never eat again. His body was far beneath the ground I was sitting on and I know this because my sister and I helped put his body in that fucking hole. And all around me people are planting bushes and flowers to sit around these stones with our loved ones names carved into them. But…why?

I wiped my eyes and started to talk to Dad. I told him I loved and missed him. Told him we were all surviving, how tall my son is, how work is going. The usual things we discussed when he was alive. But Dad also liked to have deeper conversations. For a man that never liked to read, he did like to deconstruct thoughts or ideas. And I know some of what he’d say about his grave and stone. He never wanted to be cremated because he said, “I’ll be close enough to hell as it is.” He was traditional in some ways, hence the funeral home visiting hours, the church funeral, the burial. All the stuff that I hate, but the stuff that he and his wife knew and understood. But as I sat there, I also got it, I understood. In a way, I do like being able to “visit” my father. I like being able to still give him things, even if that’s just a plant or a plaque or mints (my father always had mints of some kind and I leave at least one wintergreen lifesaver every time). I do talk to him occasionally when I’m home or somewhere else, so I don’t save that for the cemetery. Honestly I usually get upset when I go to Dad’s grave in particular because I can’t feel him. I’ve visited his grave on days that I just really wanted to talk with him, and I’ve always left even more bereft then when I arrived because he’s not there. I always think that I’ll feel something, like his spirit is somehow there, but it isn’t. It really isn’t. But…I also don’t even believe in spirits anyway! See how confused I am?

I just want to believe in something because it’s too devastating to think my parents and brother are just…gone.

No longer exist.

Dead. Forever.

So…I continued to talk to Dad. Why the hell not? The cemetery cleared out, the breeze died down and the black flies started to swarm. “Dad, I’m going to go, ok? As you would say, the black flies are about to pick me up and slam me to the ground!” I kissed his grave stone and told him I’d be back next month.

When I drove home, I saw the sign for the Robyville Bridge–a historic covered bridge in Corinth. I had been there before but I felt the need to go there again. I just took a few photos, avoided the couple that was there as much as possible, walked then ran across the bridge. That need I felt to go to the bridge was like a need to feel alive, to experience something new. Even something as simple as looking at, admiring and running across a covered bridge fulfilled that need.

As I woke up this morning, the day I should have been running for hours and hours and had trained for for many months, I figured I might as well try to start training again. So far my leg is better (although I am now aware that could change at any time). My heart isn’t in it as much as before, but hopefully that will change. The run I took was just 4 miles this morning, but it was already 73 degrees and humid at 9am. It wasn’t a pleasant run for the first half. At the 2.75 mile mark, I had to walk (or shuffle) and drink more water. The sun was frying my brain and destroying my will to go on, until I heard the lovely tune of two geese squawking and flying in the sky just behind me. I have this thing for geese, and often wonder if it’s my family hanging out near my house. And today, after the geese flew over, the clouds rolled in and cooled things down just a tad and I immediately felt better. I laughed out loud and decided that my parents were giving me some support and urging me to keep going. So I did.

This afternoon, I took my son to an international food festival at the high school near where I work, and we ate SO MUCH. One or both of us tried a food from every single country they had (except for Japan because they weren’t ready). We couldn’t pronounce some of the foods, a few were things we had eaten before, and others seemed strange but were typically delicious. It was a fun experience and one that I know the rest of my family would have enjoyed. If food was involved, my father would have been happy. He might have been a meat and potatoes man, but he was willing to try just about anything. It was a great way for us to honor Dad today.

Then on the way home from the festival, I saw a turtle in the road. Over the years, my mother picked up many, many turtles and sometimes brought them home. I distinctly remember finding a turtle in our bathtub on at least two occasions. I always stop for turtles and try to shoo them to the other side of the road. Typically my son hates it, but today he helped me and we just walked behind the turtle, moving it along so cars wouldn’t kill it. Seeing the turtle felt like a little “hello” from Mom…if I believed in that sort of thing.

And now as I sit here, thinking about the days ahead, I am a bit relieved that there are a few weeks until Father’s Day and my brother’s birthday–they happen to fall on the same day this year. A double whammy. Maybe I’ll have a few more gains and pluses and good moments before then. Maybe I’ll have more bad days than good. No matter what though, I will keep remembering, keep running if physically possible, and keep my eyes to the sky. Because you just never know, right? You just never know.

All the Days I Hate

In chronological order:

St. Patrick’s Day–I watched my father die that day.

Mother’s Day

May 23–Dad’s birthday

Father’s Day

June 20–My brother’s birthday

July 23–I said goodbye to my brother that day.

September 20–Mom’s birthday

October 4–I held my mother’s hand for the last time.

Someday, I hope I won’t dread some of these days. I hope that I won’t feel sick the entire week before or have the powerful urge to somehow escape my surroundings and my feelings and my brain on the day of. With Mother’s Day here, I am horribly conflicted. I have felt all those things this entire week and I had planned to do exactly what I did today–visit my mother’s grave so “we” could talk and eat and drink coffee. Just like we did every Saturday for the last two years of her life. And this morning after a meeting for work, I found myself antsy. I vacuumed and made blueberry muffins to take to Mom and just…puttered around the house, like Mom would say. I felt the overwhelming need to leave and go to her, but I kept pushing it off because it wouldn’t be the visit I wanted.

I finally did go. I packed up a bag with goodies and a blanket to sit on and I drove the back way to the cemetery in the town I grew up in. I passed houses that friends used to live in, including my own childhood home that is now abandoned. I saw new houses and roads that never existed before and wondered what my parents would have to say about them. Just like anytime I drive through my hometown, the memories came back–many good, many awful–and I grew angry at myself for driving this route. But once I got to the cemetery, my tension started to ease. I poured Mom a cup of coffee, gave her a muffin, and settled myself on a blanket in front of her. I talked about the pandemic, masks, our family, my friends. I asked her if she’s with Phil or my stepfather or my dad or Grammy. I prefaced that question with “So…if there IS an afterlife…” (What can I tell ya? I’m an agnostic which means I have no idea what the heck anything is or will be.) As I asked about our family, I started to cry and told her I missed her. Then I couldn’t stop crying. I rocked myself and said, “See Mom? THIS is why I try not to cry!” And as I’m writing this, I can hear Mom say, “Oh, I know, I know!” and almost feel her hug and hear her sniffle and wipe her nose.

But because it IS Mother’s Day, I want to celebrate my own motherhood. Sort of. I honestly just want to hide in a room for a day and drink cocktails and watch sad movies. But my son told me just this morning that he wants to make me dinner. My 14-year-old gentle giant of a boy, whom my mother adored more than any other person on the planet, has decided that he does indeed want to do something kind for his mother on Mother’s Day. (Last month he told me just to buy what I wanted for a gift and he’d pay for it—which is really me paying for it since he gets an allowance from me.)

A friend told me yesterday to try and do something for myself this weekend, like go for a run or have a drink or just do something to make me feel good. And I will. I hope to run on Sunday morning, eat brunch with my family, have a drink with a friend via Zoom, and eat dinner made by my child. All the while I will be thinking of Mom and her laugh and her raisin-filled cookies and her eerily strong grip. Seriously. This woman could break your bones with her hands if she wanted to.

Mom and I on my wedding day, 1997.

I miss you, Mom. Every day.

Love you forever, love you for always.

Strength

Since my doctor gave me the go ahead to gently start walking and running again after my likely stress fracture, I’ve only been out a handful of times. Two weeks ago I ran and although it was tough and slow and my lungs hurt, it still felt glorious to have the freedom to run again. Then I took a few days off, rode my bike and lifted weights…and my leg started to hurt. No swelling, but a similar type of pain. So, once again, I took a few weeks off.

After a week of occasional walks, I just had to try again this morning. Sunday mornings have been my typical long run days since I started running a decade ago. I’ve done all of my half marathons on Sundays, and had hoped to run my marathon on a Sunday. I tend to feel antsy on Sunday mornings if I’m not getting ready to head out for a run. My body starts to zing a little, like I have this bit of nervous energy and I often get butterflies in my stomach.

But Sundays are also extremely complicated for me. My brother and father both died on Sundays, so emotionally I am not at my best. The Sunday my brother died, I woke up early that morning, knowing that it would be the last day I saw him and the last day he would be on this planet. The day my dad died, I was woken at 2am by a phone call from my stepsister to say that Dad was in the hospital and I might want to get there. That Sunday was filled with the phone call to my sister telling her she should come to the hospital, talking with doctors and nurses, and watching my stepmother having to make that decision no one wants to. So…yeah. Sundays still fill me with a bit of dread.

But this morning, after reading a book and eating a light breakfast, I geared up for a walk. Not a run. I just needed that fresh air and what little sunshine there was peeking through the clouds. But after a half mile, I needed to pick it up. Just a little. So I jogged for a bit, then walked. I did this for about a mile and a half, then realized our friend, Bam Bam was following me.

After chatting with him for a minute, I headed back home. I ran the mile and a half back with my hamstrings aching, my hips feeling tight, and feeling extraordinarily heavy. You know, I’ve been riding my stationary bike and lifting weights and walking when I can, but there’s nothing like a run to make you feel weaker and more out of shape than you ever thought possible!

But I finished the 5K, walked a bit, stretched, and felt…alive. And tired. Crikey, I was tired! But that good tired when you know you’ve exhausted your body to a point that muscles ache and your brain goes quiet.

I wish that running was not so intrinsically tied to my mental health. I wish there was something inside of me that could make me feel good about myself like running does. It’s something I hope to work on in the near future. But for now, I’m just happy I got to run. ❤

My Baby Boy

“Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.”~Robert Frost

I never wanted children. When my husband and I started dating seriously, I told him I had no desire to have children. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be married, but I could see that easier than having a kid. I thought the world was pretty fucked up and I certainly had no idea what to do with a baby or a child. He, on the other hand, did want kids, but was willing to sacrifice that to be with me. Five years after we got married, my stepfather died suddenly. His death made me re-examine my life and my family and what made me happy. To this day, I still remember where my husband and I were when I told him I wanted to have a baby. We were eating at a Wendy’s 20 minutes from where we live. I was about to be 30 and I remember saying to him, “My family is so weird and wacky. Why wouldn’t I want that to continue?” Of course it still took another year for me to finally say, “Ok, let’s do this!” But after three years of trying we knew something wasn’t right. Was I too fat? Were my husband’s “boys” not good swimmers? We both had a bunch of tests and I thought for sure it was my husband. He’s 6 years older and has never been particularly healthy so I put all the blame on him. But nope! It was all me.

After a little exploratory surgery, my doctor told me my endometriosis was pretty bad and it had trapped one of my fallopian tubes. They freed it, and told us to start trying the next month. Three months later I was pregnant with our beautiful son.

There were complications along the way, and if we were living in an earlier time, my son and I would have died in childbirth or before. Placenta previa prevented me from having a natural childbirth, but once the idea of a cesarean settled into my brain, I was happy as hell about it. I was really ok not screaming and pushing and shitting and pissing. Some women feel bereft by having that experience taken away from them but I’m just not one of them. Instead, I knew the date my son would be born, I had an epidural (which is super fucking weird and unpleasant) and the doc pulled my son from my body at 2pm on April 20, 2007. He was an 8 pound beauty and just 1/2 inch shy of 2 feet long.

Jump ahead to today, fourteen years later. I am extremely fortunate to have a child who just yesterday, the day before he turned 14, asked to snuggle with me. We sat on our couch, he slouched down to put his head on my shoulder, and I smoothed out his hair while we just chatted about our weekend. To say my son brings me joy is the biggest understatement of the century. When I look at him, I see my baby, my child who is incredibly tall and clumsy and gentle and inquisitive and smart and who has to have the last word and must question why, why, why about everything! But…I can’t deny that I also see my brother. Phil was 6’6″, was also incredibly intelligent and inquisitive and morbid and made me laugh like no other.

And yet now, my son does that. My boy will tell me a story or a joke and I will laugh in a way I never have before. Literally. It’s like this wheezing laugh that I never used to have. I’m not sure what to make of it, except they say that you can laugh like you never have after living through or with pain. At this moment, that’s where I’m at. When I do laugh, especially with my son, it’s like my body and spirit are lit up with joy.

Don’t get me wrong, my boy and I argue like there’s no tomorrow. We are both stubborn and get hangry and frustrated easily. His lack of motivation drives me up the wall and I wish he’d comb his hair and brush his teeth without me asking. But all of that is absolutely nothing and I know it. I’m so grateful and damn lucky to be this boy’s mother.

When Robert Frost talked about happiness in height, I realize he wasn’t talking about people, but in this case, it fits. ❤

I love you, my son. I’m so happy you’re here.

Talk to Someone

Five months after my brother died and just weeks after I moved my mother in with my family, I decided to talk to a counselor–the first time in over 12 years. But just trying to work out the logistics to get to that appointment stressed me out so much that I remember screaming in my car on the way there. I kept saying “I am never going to fucking do this again!” I only went to the counselor twice because she was absolutely horrible when it came to grief. At one point I was crying in her office, telling her how much I missed Phil, and what does she say? “He’s still with you, Holly.”

Really?!? Can I sit and talk to him and he talks back? Is he going to tell me a joke and give me advice on raising my son? Will he still be at my son’s high school graduation that he tried so fucking hard to live for? No, you goddamned bitch, HE’S. NOT. HERE.

Of course, me being the person I was (not sure I’m still that person), I just nodded and whispered, “I know.” Inside, though, I immediately deflated. (The anger came later.) I knew she would not be able to help me. On a side note, she was extremely helpful in helping with some issues with my mom and her jackass boyfriend. So the counselor was not useless at least.

Since those counseling sessions, I’ve only pondered finding someone else to talk to. After Dad’s death and especially after Mom’s, I thought, “Ok. You might want to talk with someone, Holly. This is a lot of shit to deal with.” I was so exhausted by fucking everything that I passed out momentarily in my kitchen after my mother’s celebration of life, with my poor son freaking out and calling his father who was out of state at the time. But I still didn’t ask for help. I barely even took time off of work. Then my husband nearly died, and once he came home I encouraged HIM to go to counseling. (When you’re in a coma for a while, there are many gaps in memory and events and it’s difficult for your brain to fill that time in.) Instead, I became HIS counselor and tried to help him sort out what happened to him and what was happening in my world at that time. But I didn’t go and talk to anyone then either. I started drinking most nights–just one drink–but I felt like I *needed* it, along with my anti-depressant. Hell, I often swallowed my pill with a swig of wine! (And no, this is not advisable.) Then, of course, the pandemic hit and didn’t everyone need a therapist at that point? I looked into Betterhelp.org, but they wanted to match me with a male counselor who, in my mind looked like either a serial killer or a child molester.

Yup. He looked like Kevin Spacey.

So, no. I decided to not go that route. Instead I read books like “Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life” by Christie Tate and listened to Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown, a podcast about mental health. And, of course, I kept running.

But we all know how that last thing turned out, right? Yeah. So then I started to worry about what I was eating and without running would I start binging or restricting food? I mentioned in my last post that I reached out to a dietician, but after thinking about it, I knew I needed more help than that. So I did a little search on counselors in the area that specialized in eating disorders. Then lo and behold, one of my dear friends from my past was a counselor for this very thing. When I saw her name, I immediately called and left a message. I knew she couldn’t be my counselor, but I trust her and knew she’d have someone in mind.

Then St. Patrick’s Day came–the anniversary of Dad’s death. And then I read a book that reminded me of my brother and I sobbed while eating lunch at work. Then I found one of my mother’s tote bags and it still smelled like her. And then…and then…and then…

You, readers, have been my sounding board for years now and although it certainly helps me to hear advice and anecdotes and to feel the love you’ve shared and showed me, I know I need to do something else, too. So when I talked to my friend, I asked her to help me find someone that could help me with MANY problems/issues/dilemmas, or in other words, life. I’ve only corresponded with this new counselor once, just so she has an idea of what I want to work on, but I won’t get to actually talk or meet with her until May. But, you know, once I had a name and heard her voice and read her email, it gave me this little high. Kind of like when you’re about to go on a first date and you have butterflies and possibly high expectations (I am trying to squash those) but more than anything, you’re filled with hope. This person you’re about to meet could possibly change your life for the better. And in this case, maybe help ME change MY life for the better.

We’ll see. Until then, I will carry on. Because that’s what I do. Because that’s what we all do, right? I can’t say I “keep calm and carry on” because my bursts of anger refute that phrase, but maybe you do? Whether you’re calm and serene, or pissy like me, let’s just keep going, ok?

LET’S. KEEP. GOING.

314 Days

I had a really nice run 10 days ago, and I wish I had blogged about it. Everything just felt good–the movement of my body, the weather, my outlook on life–it was a good day.

Today sucked.

A week ago I thought I might have shin splints. I wore a pair of older shoes for my recovery run, so when my right leg was aching the next day, I thought I had fucked up. So I rested a few days and tried a slow jog. Nope. Worse. So I rested a few more days and finally two days ago, my leg felt much better. I went grocery shopping, walked around a bit, stayed on my feet at home cooking and cleaning, then in the late afternoon my right leg ached horribly.

I knew what it was but I kept denying it. It can’t be. After 9 weeks of training for a marathon, after running much of last year, four times a week including two half marathons, this can’t be happening.

A god damned, shitty ass fucking stress fracture.

Although we’re waiting for the x-ray to confirm our suspicions, my doctor and I are quite certain that is what has happened. I suspected it, told him so, but also told him I was really hoping I just had shin splints. As soon as I took off my compression stockings, he said, “Oh dear.” He explained a lot, showed me various things on my leg, I bit back my sob until I just couldn’t.

We went over a plan, talked about other exercising I can do, what the x-ray might say and what we do if it’s not conclusive (get another one in a few weeks), and he sat with me as I cried and mourned my marathon dreams.

Does it mean I won’t run again? No. Does it mean my dream of running a marathon are off forever? I don’t know. Maybe. You know, tall women are not the best runners. Our bodies are not made to run this much. And 47-year-old tall women really aren’t made for it.

I’m pissed.

I’m incredibly sad.

I’m scared.

Much of my identity in the past decade has been linked to being a runner. And I thought I was doing everything right. I followed my running plan religiously. I started lifting weights and doing ab work. I’ve tried to eat much better and had just contacted a nutritionist LAST WEEK and my appointment was supposed to be today. I had just ordered new running shoes for Pete’s sake!!! And, of course, they came today.

I have so many feelings swirling in my body and brain right now, that it’s hard to say everything I want to. I know part of my fear is that I’ll start binge eating or will obsessively count calories more than I do now because I don’t want that weight to creep up again. I haven’t lost much since my training began, but I’ve been so happy with the muscles in my legs and the small changes of the rest of my body. It’s made me feel strong and confident, and I don’t want that to end. Running is intrinsically tied to my mental health. Walking outside has also been very beneficial to my mental wellness, too, and I can’t even do that now.

I know this must sound like such a whiny bitch post and there are so many other horrendous problems out there that many of my friends are dealing with. And you know I love you and I’m here for you. That hasn’t changed. But right now, I need to bitch and moan and feel sorry for myself. So that’s what I’m doing.

Fortunately, I have incredible people in my life. The few I told today made me feel loved and cared for and heard. They also made me laugh and feel a smidge better. And if I didn’t mention this to you? Please don’t be offended. You have enough shit to deal with in your life and you didn’t need to hear about mine. (Of course, if you’re reading this then now you are hearing about it. You’re welcome.) 😉

So…what happens now?

Well, more than likely running and long walks are out for 3-6 months. Yup. Just when weather in Maine is finally fucking gorgeous, I won’t be able to enjoy it as much as I want to. So I’ll have to find other ways to do that. I have a manual elliptical (no electronics) that I plan to place on my porch. I might even start that garden I keep talking about but never create. I ordered a pricey (but not Pelaton pricey) stationary recumbent bike and hope to have it next week. I moved my nutritionist appointment to later this week. After I left a sobby message, the dietician suggested that maybe we can still work on my food issues as well as finding the right fuel for my future running. She’s not giving up on me yet, so I shouldn’t either, right?

Can I just bitch about one more thing? I know for some, 10,000 steps is a stupid goal to have for each day. And my kid likes to say I’m a slave to technology since I’m always trying to get my steps in according to what my fitness tracker says. And for 314 days straight, I had over 10,000 steps every.damn.day. And now I don’t. I had hoped to make it a full year, and I came fucking close. But I need to let that go, too, right?

*BIG SIGH*

Right.

Losing It

How are you doing? Ok? Hanging in there? Are you friggin’ sick of people asking you? Yeah, me too, and yet I’m still glad they ask. I think I’m sick of saying “hanging in there” or “ok.” Although generally, I reply with “ok” and have since 2017. If I have a good moment, I let you know but so often people are not asking me during my good moments.

Speaking of good moments, did you have many this week? I hope so. I had a few, but most of my week was filled with bad news, rage and vitriol from others–not just others but other librarians. Wanna hear about it?

My version of the “incident” is that I voiced my opinion on a library listserv about some of the protocols libraries have been following and backed it up with science. But it was still my opinion and said as much. The shit that came at me and another librarian who backed me up was absolutely ridiculous. I was completely discounted by someone because I think they thought I was politically conservative–which is far from the truth but it did make my conservative husband howl with laughter. But another librarian accused myself and my colleague of not caring about our patrons–I am sure if we were in person she would have jabbed her index finger into my chest. If I hadn’t been in a rage before then, I was full fledged into it then. My patrons are why I’m a librarian. I long for the day I can hug many of them. I send cards to them when they’re hurting, I cry and attend funerals when they die, I help them as much as I can while they’re in my library–and even when they’re not. I love them. To say that I don’t care about them was a lie. Period. I responded to the nastiness with civility (mostly) and that was that. I felt betrayed and disillusioned. It’s like when you realize that your parents are not super human, just human. The library community is not entirely filled with kind people. Or if they are typically kind, they’re lashing out because they’re afraid…yet they didn’t have to hit send on that email. They chose to be an asshole.

But at the end of the day–by the way this was Monday (!)–I helped 2 local folks get appointments for their COVID-19 vaccinations. We had been trying to help them for 3 weeks to no avail, but on Monday the system finally worked. This couple was so happy and wanted to send the library a check. I told them no, but if they could come visit after their 2nd vaccination, then that would be the thanks we needed.

Each day for the rest of the week, something shitty happened. Difficult phone calls, tense meetings, sick friends or parents of friends. Most events were not extraordinary, but I cried or lost my cool nearly every time. I feel like I’m only “hanging in there” by an invisible thread and wonder if it’s really hanging ME.

Throughout this week, I have wished for nothing more than to talk with my brother. I do have a sister and great friends and a husband, but Phil was the one I wanted to talk with. He would understand my rage and would agree with me but then make light of it all to make me laugh and to show me that it doesn’t really matter. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t matter that the eye doctor said you weren’t covered by insurance when you were (yeah, I blew up a bit at that office, too) or that your house is an absolute mess, or that some librarians really are dicks. You just keep going and you don’t worry about that stuff or those people. Just try to laugh at what you can and forget the rest. He would also say something nasty or snarky about the librarians because sometimes it feels good to do that. 🙂

I’m drinking tea at my kitchen counter as I type this, which is where my brother should be. We sat right here for the last meal we ate together. He often sat here drinking tea while I baked and we talked with my boy and would just shoot the shit. I miss those days.

I miss Phil. I miss him so damn much.

This was Phil’s favorite shirt of mine. He laughed out loud the first time he saw it. There are photos of him on my fridge near my ear. I like to see his face every day.

366 days

A year ago tonight, my husband was hooked to a ventilator to try and save his life.

Just over a year ago, my husband had been home sick for a week, thinking it might be the flu. By the weekend, there was crackling in his chest. I kept asking him to let me take him to the hospital, until finally on a Sunday afternoon, he said ok. Wal was so fatigued and weak that he barely made it down our 5 steps into the car. Our son, 12 years old at the time, hovered behind him, willing to help if needed. By the end of that night, we knew Wal had the flu and pneumonia. They checked him into the hospital and the boy and I went home.

The next afternoon, I drove to the hospital and I found my husband on oxygen but still gasping for breath. A respiratory therapist came in to explain what was happening and that without being intubated, he would die. Being the claustrophobic man he is, he refused to be intubated. After the therapist left, I raced to my husband’s bedside with what I’m sure was a scared, shocked and confused look on my face. We discussed the living wills we had just written 3 months before and I reminded him that he had said then that he would be willing to go on a ventilator if he’d be ok and wouldn’t be on it forever. But after watching my brother and parents die so recently, I had to ask: “Do you want to go?” He said no, but said it was getting so hard to breathe and didn’t know how much longer he could hold out. Thankfully, that’s when the doctor came in and we got the process rolling. He didn’t want me to stay and told me to go to our son because he needed me more right then.

It was so hard to leave him that night. I’ve never seen my husband so scared but also so weak and helpless and *needing* help from a procedure that he was afraid of. The next morning I waited to call the hospital from work to see how his night went. I knew they had to put him in a medically-induced coma while on the ventilator, so I’d have to talk to the nurses and doctors. The nurse I spoke to told me he had an extremely rough night and that “his numbers kept crashing” whenever they moved him. She asked if I was coming in but I hadn’t intended to until the next day. I asked if I should come in. Actually…I’m not sure I asked that. I was so afraid they were going to tell me to come in now because he might not make it…I didn’t even want to know.

Isn’t that horrible? I did NOT want to know the truth if the truth was that my husband was going to die—4 months after my mother, 11 months after my father and 2 1/2 years after my brother. No. I didn’t want to know. I don’t remember all of her exact words, but I do remember hanging up after the conversation, laying my head on my desk and crying. I was sitting in the exact same place when the nurse called from my mother’s bedside to tell me my mom was actively dying.

I couldn’t do this. I could NOT go through this right now. What would happen to our son? After all the damn loss we had been through, how was he going to make it to the other side of this?

But…Wal survived that night. And the next. And the next. He was touch and go for that whole week. I wasn’t allowed to see him after the third day because I had the flu and couldn’t come into the ICU. I called each day instead and talked with doctors and nurses, some days they thought his kidneys would fail and we went through one horrific day when they thought he had brain damage and did scans to find out for sure. Then things started to get better. They started to ease up on the medication so he would start to wake up.

Then he didn’t wake up. And didn’t wake up. And didn’t wake up. The day I was allowed to come back and see him, I held his hand for most of the day and read aloud to him and played music for him and just kissed his face when I could find a spot through the tubes and tape and kissed his hand and rubbed his arms. And cried some more.

My dear friend, Tiffany, came to my house one night to bring dinner and she sat with me. We talked while folding laundry and I had a pair of pants that had a long cord to tie in the front. But one side was stuck and I started to lose it because Wally always did it for me. But Tiff took it from me and worked on it and said it was ok. When I said that if he dies, there are so many things I didn’t know how to do in the house, like clean the heat pumps. “Don’t worry,” she said. “You can Google that.” It’s what I needed to hear right then. I’d be ok. No matter what.

And then, on Valentine’s Day, Wal woke up. It was a Friday and I got to talk with him in the afternoon, before the boy and I drove up to see him. Wal was a mess–he actually threw up on me–yet I didn’t care. He was alive. He would have problems, although we didn’t realize that then. His lungs have been irreparably damaged from the infection he ended up getting as well as from the ventilator. We found out this week he may also have had a mild heart attack while in the hospital or there was an anomaly while undergoing the stress test last week. We’re trying to stay positive so we’re going with the anomaly. 😉 But…he’s alive and working and managing. He needs to work on his health more, but I can only bitch at him so much, right?

A high school classmate of mine lost her husband last month. He was 50. They had been married for 25 years, just 2 years more than my husband and I. He was also in a medically-induced coma at the end. I’ve thought of this classmate every day since I heard. I only have an inkling of what she’s going through. I’m living what she had hoped would happen. And she’s living what I feared.

I’m telling you all of this, not only because it’s the anniversary of that horrible time, but also because my husband made me so mad tonight that I went outside and “angry shoveled” for a while. He snapped at me a few times and I was so damn proud for staying calm, so I took all the yelling I would do and put it into thrashing the snow around. I sometimes have to remind myself that I nearly lost the old man last year, and as frustrated he makes me sometimes regarding a wide range of topics, I still don’t want to live without him. Maybe a day or two….but not a lifetime.

Hug the ones you can tonight, talk to the ones you can’t, and remember the ones you wish were still here. ❤

Oh and yes, he did apologize. AFTER I shoveled part of the driveway.

Oh My Deer!

Everywhere you run has its challenges. I’ve only run in a handful of suburbs and cities, but the advantage I see there are sidewalks and more clear paths. But the downside seems to be way too many people. I typically run at my home in rural, central Maine. I’ve been run off the road a time or two, and nearly run over too many times to count. Occasionally I know it’s the conditions, particularly the sun in the driver’s eyes. I know this because my husband almost hit me last fall and was horribly shaken up afterwards. I was wearing everything you’re supposed to wear (lots of reflective gear, bright clothes, etc.) but the sun was in his eyes and he just didn’t see me. But so far I haven’t been physically hurt by a driver. I’ve been splashed by puddles, mud, and slush, but that’s par for the course, right?

But for the past few months, I have enjoyed my running excursions outside immensely. This is why:

In the winter, I rarely run on any road but my own. There is little traffic and my goal is just to get a few miles in outside and do it as safely as possible. Last fall, this beautiful creature started to follow me for about a half mile on some of my runs. (Thank you to Joelle, one of my neighbors, for sharing the video with me.) This past week, Bam Bam, as some people have affectionately called her, has run with me every day. I took this video a few days ago. From what I’ve pieced together from some of the neighbors, this deer’s mother was killed and a family took her in as a fawn so she’d survive. (I say “she” because I’m hoping Bam Bam does not grow up to a large buck that could easily kill me when “in a rut”, or aka breeding season.)

So since the fall, Bam Bam has become like a neighborhood pet. I guess she likes carrots, but not from me. She trusts people more than she should, but she’s an absolute joy to be around. A bunch of the neighbors came out to see her today as she ran behind me, all the way past my house which was new for her. She tends to stay in this small 1/2 mile area, but today she ran over 2 miles with me! (Mostly behind me, once beside me, then near my house she took off in front of me and was so dang graceful and beautiful!)

I’m sure this amazing time won’t last, but I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook and you’re sick of seeing these types of photos and videos, you might want to block me. As long as Bam Bam is around, I will continue taking photos of this lovely creature. I hope it at least brings a smile to your face.

Another One

I tried to live today like I want my year to be. I wanted to run, read, do a little cleaning, watch a movie, spend time with my son and husband, and eat sushi–all activities I’d like to do for the rest of the year. I actually got to do all of those things, but nothing quite turned out the way I wanted or expected.

My 5k run wasn’t horrible as far as speed or conditions, but I felt absolutely uncomfortable in my body. If you watched me run, you probably thought I had major tics or was having a seizure. I kept moving my shoulders, trying to relax, tucking and untucking my shirt, adjusting my hat, and just flailing about. Nothing felt quite right. I could only focus for a few seconds here and there, but mostly it was just crappy. BUT, the sunshine was wonderful, little wind, and the 27 degrees felt much better than it sounds.

I didn’t read what I should have, but I read the last in a graphic novel series (Fence) that my son and I have been reading and it’s highly enjoyable. I feel no guilt whatsoever for not reading anything for work or my committee.

My son and I took down the outside Christmas lights and decorations. I wish I had a photo of my son taking down Darth Vader and hugging him close. It was damn adorable. My husband made us a lovely ham dinner for lunch and I got a smidge of vacuuming done, but no other cleaning took place. I ended up doing a bit of yoga instead and I think my time was well spent.

For a while everyone did their own thing, so I watched “Blackbird” starring Susan Sarandon. Have you seen it? It’s about a woman who wants to end her life because her ALS is starting to restrict what she can do. She invites her family over for the weekend so they can spend time together and say goodbye. Not really uplifting per se, but I feel very strongly about dying with dignity and wish every state in this country would allow people to die how they choose. Most people don’t even get the chance to die where they want much less dying how they want to.

I didn’t intend to watch this film today, but I borrowed it from the library a few weeks ago and it’s been sitting in front of our television since then. I couldn’t remember what it was about until I put it in and figured, “What the hell.” I’ll be honest, though, I haven’t finished it yet. I just watched a scene where the woman with ALS gives everyone a gift at the table, including her wedding ring which she gives to her husband. I was crying before we got to that part and completely lost it at that moment. I figured it was a good time to stop.

We picked up sushi from our favorite restaurant and brought it home for dinner. We decided we’d have a nice living room picnic and watch “Titans” on HBO Max. Of course, the one thing I really wanted was mistakenly left out of our order–miso soup! It always makes me feel better for anything that ails me. I whined for a few minutes then ate my absolutely fantastic raw fish and rice with my family. At one point my son and I argued and there was slamming of a door and sighing and generally feeling pissed off, and then the moment passed and we finished eating and we were ok. The three of us sat around after watching an episode and just chatted and laughed and enjoyed the moment.

My lovely son being the person he is, stopped and said, “You know this is great. Just hanging out, talking and laughing. This is really great.”

It is. It is really great. THAT is what I want this year and next year and every year I’m on this planet to be. I want it comprised of good conversation, lots of laughing and loving, good food, exercise, reading, time outside–preferably while feeling good inside this body but I’ll work on that. There will always be disappointments and disagreements and grief and stress and more crying than you would think is possible. But I also know there will also be at least a few surprises and encouraging words and acts of kindness and moments of happiness and laughing and many memories. There are so many good memories with those we’ve lost as well as with those that are still here. But there are more good memories to be made.

So let’s go make those good memories, ok? Even a great conversation over the phone or on Zoom can create a great memory. Let’s connect while we can and while we’re still here.

Hugs to you all, my friends.