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.

Rain On Me

I miss running. I haven’t done much of it lately due to stress (do I wake up at 4am to run so I can take my husband to his appointment then go to work?) or because my body and mind are incredibly sluggish from said stress and lack of sleep. Yet I become more tired the less I run and feel bad about myself so I eat a bit more and gain weight and feel bad and so on and so on and so on. Have you been on this ride before, too? Yeah. Not my favorite.

But this past week I was determined not to feel bad about myself. I was already missing my brother and I didn’t need to feel worse by treating myself like shit. So I did run on Tuesday then snuck a few walks in the next few days. My son and I went on a fantastic hike on Friday that began with his non-stop complaining and ended with his non-stop praise of the scenery. 🙂 We never saw another soul and loved the isolation. This was followed by amazing gelato at the Pugnuts Ice Cream Shop in Surry with my sister and brother-in-law.

The next day I went on a hike by myself and saw funky mushrooms and another little stream, all while listening to the birds and stopping every once in a while to just look up at the canopy of trees with the sky peeking through. It was cathartic and peaceful and I enjoyed nearly every minute of it, until I met someone at the end who had two dogs, one that barked and growled at me. But even that creature couldn’t ruin my tranquility.

When I woke up this morning to grey skies, I knew if I wanted to run I needed to do it soon. I drank coffee, folded clothes, watched a bit of CBS Sunday Morning (my absolute favorite news show for the positive stories that are portrayed), then decided I could do a little run. I ate a banana, put on my “hanging out at home” clothes instead of my usual running tank and wicking shorts, and went out with the attitude that I was going to have a good time.

Just two minutes in and “Little Bird” by Annie Lennox started to play in my ears. I smiled broadly and looked to the sky. “Thanks, Phil!” I shouted. My brother’s love of Annie Lennox was infectious and this song in particular was always one of our favorites. “I look up to the little bird that glides across the sky. He sings the clearest melody. It makes me want to cry….I wish I could be that bird and fly away from here. I wish I had the wings to fly away from here.”

I can’t fly but I pushed my shoulders back, picked up my head and ran a bit stronger and faster. Even when the rain did start coming down just past mile one, I kept chugging along, looking to the skies.

At mile three I had started to lag a bit, but yelled and waved hello at a few of my neighbors that never acknowledge my existence. (They did today!) A half mile later with the rain coming down in a nice, gentle pitter patter, “Rain on Me” by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande hummed through my earbuds and right down to my toes. That’s when I saw a lone bird flying through the sky, possibly trying to catch up to its buddies, or just out for a solo jaunt like me.

For once, little bird, I don’t want to fly away from here. Not sure how long I can hold onto that feeling, but I’ll take it today. ❤

That Time of Year

Tomorrow it will be 1,461 days since you had to leave, Phil. I know you didn’t want to. That’s why you told the doctors all that week to keep you alive, because maybe they could make you well enough to have a procedure that might give you a few more years. But there were too many “maybes” and “mights” and “perhaps”, weren’t there? Watching you make the decision to die is still the bravest things I’ve ever seen anyone do. If you were here you’d roll your eyes at me for that and scoff, “Brave? Ha! I don’t think so.” You were often humble but with attitude.

Phil…I’m sorry. I don’t think I said everything you should have heard. You knew how much I loved and love you, right? You knew how cool and funny and wonderful I thought you were, because that was never a secret. Did you know how happy you made me every time you walked into my house or the library? I hope so. I really, really hope so. But I don’t think you had any idea how much of a big empty crater you would leave in my life and every one of our family member’s lives.

I still don’t know who I am without you. I’m not the same person I was 4 years ago, but I don’t even remember who she was. I just….I still feel so lost some days, Phil. You know, the other day, Wally was reminiscing about something and it reminded me of Dad’s house and how he had his bedroom downstairs set up. But I couldn’t quite remember it all, and I’m going to ask our sister but I don’t think she was around much then. You and Dad are the only ones who might remember. I got so fucking sad and started bawling on the spot. So many questions will go unanswered because you’re not here to answer them. NO ONE is left to answer them. What the hell am I supposed to do with that?!?

I wish you were here. Jesus fucking christ all to hell I wish you were here. I still miss you every. single. day. I still wonder what you would think about a variety of books and songs and movies and television shows and food and drinks. I’ve been making a variety of these literary cocktails lately and my friend, Tiffany said she thought you’d like the whole idea of them. I think she’s right. “The Joy of Sex on the Beach”* would probably be a fave of yours just for the picture in the book. I mean, look at that! I can just hear your comments about the tongue, the phallic “cocktail” glass…yup. You’d love this one. 😉

*From the book, “Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist’ by Tim Federle. Published in 2013 by Running Press Adult.

Tomorrow night, your sisters will toast you with a drink or two. Your nephew and I will go for a hike in a new place, will experience a new adventure in honor of you, like we have done each year since you’ve been gone. More than likely we will all have a good time at some point during the day, but we would trade those moments in a blink of an eye to be with you again and listen to you tell a naughty joke or hear you laugh once more.

I love you, big brother. So. Damn. Much. And if you didn’t get the subtle message before, I’ll spell it out for you. I. MISS. YOU. EVERY. DAMN. DAY.

Hugs and sloppy kisses. ❤

Boundaries

The scene at my house this evening, minutes after arriving home from work:

Husband: Hey, hon, do you still have some reusable grocery bags I can leave in my car?

Me: Oh! Yeah, I have some right here. I’ll go put them in your car right now so I don’t forget.

Husband: No, no, you don’t have to do that.

Me: It’s no problem. I have to put these cds in my car anyway. I’ll be right back.

I trot out to our driveway, put things in my car, open his car door to place the bags in his passenger seat. Then I find this on the floor:

I flipped the package over to look at the date. Was this left over from before his heart attack when he was eating loads of junk? “July 9, 2021.” Last Friday.

I slowly walk back into the house with this fried chicken bag pinched between my fingers. My breath is getting heavier with every step. Cue the cartoon steam exhaling from my ears. I walk through the door and put the bag in front of my husband’s face. With a clipped tone I ask, “What the hell. Is. This?”

Husband looks slightly shamefaced but not nearly enough. He’s smiling a little, but that nervous smile he gets when he knows he’s fucked up and got caught. I may have been afraid to yell at him a week ago, worried he’d have another heart attack. I certainly wasn’t scared today. I lit into him. When our son asked what Papa did, I showed him the bag with the fork still in it so he could eat in his car without anyone knowing. The boy just shook his head.

I raged for just a few minutes. Told him that it hadn’t even been 4 weeks since his nearly fatal heart attack. 27 days, in fact. “You couldn’t even go one fucking month without fried, fatty food?!?” I left the room to put my sneakers on so I could take a walk to cool down. But before I left, I stomped back into the living room, pointed my finger at my husband and said, “YOU are not allowed to kill yourself. I am the only one who gets the pleasure of killing you!”

Ok. Not my finest hour, but it felt good. And we both ended up laughing because it was so absurd and sounded exactly like me. Then I still had to leave the house because I was pissed.

But you know what REALLY upsets me about this? The night before he ate that fried chicken, he had a scary episode. He went to bed, but then came back to the living room just a minute later and said he couldn’t lie down. His stomach was bothering him, which was one of the signs he had before his heart attack. So he sat in his recliner, and I asked him if he’d like me to stay with him. He said that he would and took my hand. “Once I start snoring, you can go to bed if you want. I’ll be ok by then.” So I kissed him, turned out the lights, got blankets for us both, and lay on the couch listening to my husband breathe, cough, and sniffle. Eventually he slept deeply and I went to bed. It was a frightening time, yet he trusted and loved me enough to ask me to stay, which I know is a great gift.

And then…he ate the fucking chicken.

As a caregiver, one has to know when to draw the line or when to say, “Ok, big boy, you can make the phone call to your cardiologist to find out when they’re going to look at your other blocked arteries.” (This is something I’ve been asking him to do for a week, and today his nurse told him the exact same thing. Should we take a bet on how long it takes for him to do it now?) Since Wal’s heart attack, my sister and so many of my friends have been telling me to make sure I take care of myself, to take some time for myself. I mostly have. But no one has yet said, “It’s time to stop taking care of him.”

Because we don’t do that, right? We try to squeeze moments out for ourselves which often causes more stress in the long run, but we never say to someone, “Ok, you can give up on that person now.” And why? Because what if that person dies or has a stroke due to their declining health and is bedbound or mute or paralyzed. How would we feel then?

GUILTY.

But…shouldn’t there be a time when we finally say, “I will no longer take care of you. I will remain your partner until death, but I can no longer help you if you refuse to help yourself.” Any person we are taking care of must take some responsibility in their own health if they are able. When I took care of my mother, I understood that she could no longer do this. She could make her own coffee and get dressed, but showering and eating well and taking her medications were no longer in her realm of tasks she could do. And after a few months of working full time and taking care of my son and my mom, I knew that I couldn’t keep caring for her without losing much of myself.

So what do you do when you’re taking care of your spouse or partner? I have a friend who is dealing with this on an even more intense level. I have tried to lend my shoulder and ear to her as much as I can, but I know it’s never enough. She’s given me loads of advice and listens whenever I need her to, but her caregiving tasks are much more serious and frightening. And her spouse is NOT able to care for himself much anymore.

But my husband can. And he needs to. I find his lack of respect for his health infuriating but also incredibly sad and unfair to me. To our son. Does Wal know and understand all of this and everything I’m feeling and what I wish he felt? Yes. He does. And if he doesn’t, he will when I read him this blog post. 😉

The question remains: What do I do now? Do I throw my hands up and say, “Whatever. Do whatever you want”? Or do I say I will help you if you need me to, but I will not make phone calls for you or keep track of your sodium or fluid intake? My therapist and I just had conversations about what kinds of boundaries to set down, and the latter seemed the most appropriate at that time a week ago, but now? Now I’m angry and hurt and not sure what steps to take next.

I’m already tired of being angry. I’m not apathetic because I’m too emotional about this. I think I’m sad, frustrated, and disappointed.

Maybe I just need to find some patience and let him be and hope he finds the path towards good health. He doesn’t need to die trying to look for it because it’s right there in front of him. I’ve been holding out my hand to show him for a long time, but now I guess I just need to go on ahead and hope he catches up. I’ve left breadcrumbs and neon arrows to guide him, so let’s hope he just opens his eyes.