The Men are Gone

When people you love die, how does one fill in those holes that they left? Not only the physical space that they left–at the dinner table, on the couch, at family parties–but the empty spaces that are now in your brain, your heart, or even your senses. The smells you miss, the sounds, the sight of them. You’re reminded of them when you get a whiff of their cologne or the soap they used or the cookies they made. But is that why you can sometimes hear their voice? Or see them in the grocery store parking lot? All because your brain is trying to fill in those gaps?

When my brother died, I ate everything I could to fill in those holes his absence created. I needed to feel good for just a few seconds, and sometimes that cookie or whipped cream did just that. Dad has been gone for four weeks, and although I think I’m doing ok, I find myself drinking more. And when I’m not drinking, I’m eating. And when I eat I often think, “Dad would have liked this.” I’m justifying all the eating with the thought that I need to eat for him now that he’s gone. Is it ridiculous? Of course it is. Yet I haven’t been able to stop myself.

I went to the doctor just 10 days after Dad died. It was just my annual exam, but with a new medical provider. When she got to the question about stress, I started to sob. Here I am naked, in a paper gown, sitting on a damn table, and telling her about my life for the past 20 months starting with Dad’s death and going backwards, ending with Phil’s death. I told her I need grief counseling but I just can’t seem to do it. It’s like how I treat my brother’s ashes. Many of my family members have necklaces with his ashes in them, but I have a pill bottle that sits in my vitamin cupboard. I don’t want anything permanent because then he’s really gone. Forever.

At Dad’s funeral, I stayed near his casket until it was time for them to take him away. When they tucked part of the lining around Dad and closed the casket forever, my knees started to buckle and I had to sit down. There may have been the sound of keening coming from my mouth, but I don’t remember hearing anything. I know I had my niece on one side of me and my mother on the other and we were all crying, but that memory holds no sound.

My medical provider has lists of counselors “for when I’m ready” she said, but also offered an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication which I refused. I know I have to take some control of my life and stop filling in those empty spaces with food or alcohol, and I figure it’s not the right time to introduce any kind of drug I might enjoy too much. I’m not a complete mess, I promise. I’m ok much of the time, but I have to learn once again, to find my new normal.

Last night was the first night I’ve dreamt of my father. It was kind of a funny dream, where he had on a holey t-shirt and I had to encourage him to get a new one on, but he smiled and laughed and was wearing suspenders. Parts of it felt like a memory, but it wasn’t. It was just so good to see him and hear him again. I miss the Williams men so, so much. As long as I can hold onto memories and stories about both Phil and Dad, then I should be ok, right?

This was taken at my house a while ago. I like how neither one has a big smile but a tiny one.
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I love you, Dad.

As I sat beside my father’s hospital bed last Sunday, I glanced up at the clock and saw that it was 6:30 am. I thought about the local Irish pub that was already opening up because it was St. Patrick’s Day, their busiest time of year. I found it quite ironic that my papa, a recovering alcoholic of over 31 years, would die on a day when people around the country would be celebrating with booze. I can imagine him shaking his head and give a little cynical chuckle at that.

For over 18 hours my father’s family gathered beside his bed to relax him and soothe him and to say our goodbyes. Dad was not conscious throughout much of the day, but when he was, he told all of us how beautiful he thought we were and that he loved us. But a few times my dad said things in this semi-conscious state that just broke my heart. When my stepsister was swabbing the inside of his dry mouth trying to give him some relief, he said, “No. I’m not worthy.” That took my breath away. Did Dad really not believe that he was worthy of a little kindness and relief from his suffering?

Dad made many mistakes in his younger years and when his children were young. He had a deep remorse for his actions while under the influence, but I always felt he made amends for everything he did. He found God shortly after becoming sober and although the church or his religion were not my cup of tea (nor my siblings), it was good for him. He was still Dad. He loved to laugh and constantly made us laugh (see where my brother got it from?) and he was a really good person. He taught nearly every one of his children and grandchildren how to fish, and his love for all of us was always evident. So as we sat beside him just one week ago, I smoothed out Dad’s forehead and told him what a good man he was, that he had righted all of his wrongs, and that it was ok to go. My stepmom assured him that we would all be ok, and I told him he had people to see. I may not believe in much, but my father did. So if there is an afterlife, he needed to go find my brother and hold him tight.

In a way, I feel like Dad gave me one last gift by allowing me to be there when he died. I was not there when my brother died, but I was able to say goodbye to Phil while he was completely conscious. I still struggle with knowing that I didn’t say enough to him, but he knew that I loved him and I suppose that has to be enough. I don’t know if Dad really knew I was there. My stepmom thinks he did, but I have my doubts. Yet….I was there. I don’t know how much comfort that was to him, but it comforts me in a way I can’t fully comprehend yet.

Dad supported and encouraged me throughout my high school and college years, and although he could never financially support me, he always told me how proud he was and happy he was for me. He was even excited for me when I got my library director position just last month. His obvious joy for me made me even more proud, if that makes sense. So maybe me being there for him during his last hours was just a small way that I could repay him for his love and support for me over the years? I don’t know.

I will miss my father every day. I am still having a hard time at the thought of never seeing him again. Never hearing his laugh or his singing ever again. I am hoping beyond hope that there is a recording of my father’s voice somewhere that I will be able to listen to. I don’t want to forget, but I am afraid that I will.

My boy and my dad about 10 years ago.

Another year and you’re not here….

Hey, old man.

It’s Oscar time again. I’ve actually seen half of the movies this time around. Aren’t you proud? You know, I was actually looking forward to watching them this year, even though they don’t have a host. How’s that gonna go? Odd, but we’ll see how it goes. I actually made a homemade pizza this year like you always did. See?

Homemade gluten-free mushroom pizza

I know. Not as many veggies as you always had, but it’ll still be tasty.

You know, now that the Oscars are about to begin, I don’t want them to. I was fine all day, in a decent mood, cleaned the house, read a book, exercised, then started making a veggie platter and that pizza. Then the kid was putting up a fuss about cleaning his room and although I kept my cool, I could feel myself getting sad. Not angry, just tremendously sad. And as I continued to make the pizza I could feel my shoulders slumping and I just felt really heavy until I finally started to cry.

I miss you so much, Phil. I really wish you were here. It was 19 months yesterday since you left, but right now it feels like years and years since I’ve heard you laugh or had a conversation with you or hugged you or tried not to laugh at something totally off the wall that you said. And I really need you to make me laugh, ok? I’m always trying to find humor in everything like you did, but I’m just not as good at it. Your humor was always much darker than mine but it always helped dig me out of whatever slump I was in, you know?

*deep breath* Ok. I’m shaking it off. I’ve wiped away my tears, blown my nose and tossed my tissue…which didn’t make it in the basket but landed on Wally’s table…near his coffee. Well that would give us a chuckle, wouldn’t it? 🙂

Ok, big brother. I’ll eat pizza and drink wine and attempt to fill out my Oscar ballot without your insights. It’ll never be the same, you know? Never. But I’ll do my best.

I love you.

Hugs and sloppy kisses.

Flexible Thinking

I have run only once or twice a month for the past three months. I don’t have it in me right now to run on the treadmill and the cold weather forces me inside. So I march in my living room or jog in place to get my 10,000 steps daily. It doesn’t always happen, but I do give it some effort.

Today was grey outside and a bit breezier than I expected, but at 36 degrees I had to give the outdoors a chance. I had planned on walking for a mile or so and see what happened. After just a tenth of a mile, I threw a little jogging in and decided I’d give this a shot. I listened to a variety of TED talks while I walked/jogged/ran 3.5 miles. And somewhere in the middle of all of that, I cried.

One reason I stopped running this fall had nothing to do with the weather. It was because I’d end up crying in the middle of every run. When I listen to music, my brain will wander to wherever it wants or maybe even needs to be, and that would eventually lead to thoughts or memories about my brother, and I would cry. But after a few of these “grief runs”, I started to dread running. My conscious mind was not ready to face more memories I didn’t want to remember, and since running seemed to bring those out, I just stopped doing it.

So today I went for some TED talks instead of music. My body has craved the movement of running and I felt like I could handle whatever my crazy brain had in store. Of course I didn’t look in depth at all the TED talks first.

I ran to a few talks and I can’t tell you what any of them were about except the artificial intelligence one that I skipped over and the one that made me cry that stayed with me this whole day. It was about money shaming, and how some people are taught that their self-worth is tied to what their bank account says. And the woman giving the talk is a financial advisor and near the very beginning she says that her brother died. And she started to cry.

For fuck’s sake, how do I get these?!? Of course I started to cry because I am that person who will cry if anyone else in the room is crying and plus we had this one shitty thing in common. And like nearly every other time I’ve run these last few months, the grief started to overwhelm me. But today I let a brief thought of my lovely brother enter my mind, then let it go out. I concentrated on the speaker’s voice instead and listened to her story. This was about her, not me.

Once I got home, I walked around a bit outside, stretched on the front steps then went into my house where the wonderful aroma of bread baking greeted me, along with the sounds of my husband and son playing RISK. I stretched some more with a smile on my face as I let those endorphins do their job as they made my world seem like such a nice place to be.

Running used to calm me and put me in a better place mentally and physically. Today it definitely helped with that tightness in my chest I mentioned last time, and it typically helps me with my “flexible thinking.” When something doesn’t go my way, I can take a deep breath, assess the situation, accept it and come up with something just as good or better. I’ve said many times that having a positive outlook does not come naturally to me (my brother was the same way). But how I feel after I run certainly helps that.

Does this mean I’ll run every day or nearly ever day liked I used to, looking for that runner’s high once more? I doubt it. I’m not being negative here, just realistic. If I can change the time I wake up, then maybe I can, but I’m not sure I’m ready to do that. I currently enjoy my mornings with my family and I need to really map the morning out if I’m going to do this. It’s something to work on I guess, right?

I hope you’re finding your calm and happy place this winter, wherever you are. Take care of you. ❤


How do YOU relax?

Change can be a good thing, but it can also bring about so much stress. For the past two weeks, the stress at work AND at home has increased. The work stress is due to a variety of reasons, one being the extra work due to lack of staff. I needed to learn to not internalize everyone else’s opinions, let some things go, and just do what I thought was the right thing. Once I made up my mind to do just that, my tension eased a bit.

I didn’t think I was that stressed about home. Having my husband unemployed is indeed stressful, but I thought I was handling it well. Until I realized that driving home every night, my chest would feel tight. Of course driving to work my chest also felt tight, so maybe it was driving? But then during the weekends, driving anywhere I felt fine. Ok. Home and work are stressing me out. Maybe so much that they’re affecting my health? Hopefully not, but let’s fix this now before it becomes a real problem, shall we?

I’ve started doing a few things that make me happy. I’m not running at the moment, but I’m marching and jogging in my living room while watching Netflix. In particular, I’ve been watching “Tidying Up” with Marie Kondo. You know, the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up book? Marie goes around to a bunch of homes in California and helps couples or families tidy their homes. Oh my gosh, it made me so happy!! I hate clutter and love tidiness so watching these people find what sparked joy for them sparked joy for me!

I’ve also started to drink more herbal tea. Preferably in large mugs with Wonder Woman or funny sayings on them. Something that makes me smile.

But the tightness in my chest has continued. I’ve even noticed it as I’m starting my walk/march/jog. This morning I could barely breathe as I started to exercise, so I ramped it up and ran in place, hoping the sweat and exertion would help my body fix itself. It didn’t really work. But then I started to watch a comedy special on Netflix.

Ali Wong, Hilarious and Crude Comedian

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Ali Wong, but this woman is a riot. I think many women like her more than men because of what she talks about. She can be totally nasty and crude but completely honest in her portrayal of women’s bodies. She talks about how our bodies are used up by the babies we have or how we love our children more than anything but can’t wait to get away from them for a day (particularly when they’re babies or toddlers). So I’m watching her special and am laughing while jogging. I have to walk for a bit because I just can’t laugh that much while jogging. When my 30 minutes are up, I stretch in another room and my husband and I chat. I have no idea what we talk about, but we’re totally razzing each other and I’m laughing so hard my laughs become silent while my whole body shakes. You know what I mean? It’s absolutely fantastic! I realized I hadn’t laughed that much for a really long time.

So when it’s time to go for work, my chest isn’t tight. I’m comfortable in my body and my breath and I feel like me again. All because I laughed until I nearly peed myself.

Admittedly as I’m writing this, it’s nearly bedtime and my chest is a bit tight again and I have to keep taking deep breaths to feel ok, but I suppose this is a process, right?

Now I’m asking you, my friends, what do you do to relax? How do you keep the stress from hurting you? Or do you sometimes just eat, drink or smoke too much to ease the tension and THEN find a way of not hurting your body? Or do you throw your hands up and say “Fuck it all!” and dive into that pint of ice cream?

Looking forward to hearing from you all and your fabulous suggestions! (Or your stress stories because misery totally loves company and I’d love to hear those, too.) ❤

Thank YOU

Let me first say that the reasons I blog are because I love to write what I want and I typically use this as a no-cost therapy tool. I vent my anger and frustration with the world. I grieve my brother’s death and my parents’ memory loss. I discuss my love (and hatred) of running and my continuous battle over my weight and my eternal body issues. BUT, I also like to use my blog to express my love and gratitude for particular people or things or situations.

My post last week brought a HUGE amount of love and support from my friends and family and I cannot begin to thank you enough. I had co-workers and friends and family members all bring us food we could freeze and put in our pantry, several friends gave me money to finish Christmas shopping for my son, and the amount of hugs and good thoughts and prayers were nearly innumerable.

I have been fortunate enough to surround myself and my family with so many wonderful, big-hearted people like yourselves. If you’re reading this, than more than likely we actually know each other–have met in person–and probably think highly of one another. Or I do you, at least. But if you’re reading this and have enjoyed what I’ve had to say and we don’t know each other, I certainly hope we meet someday. We need more love and friendship in our lives, don’t we? (Cue “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles.)

My husband is still looking for a job–it’s only been about 2 weeks–but we do have hope. We’re hopeful that this is just a bump in the road and we’ll be able to stay in our home, pay our bills and feed ourselves. We know we can’t live on love alone (that would be nice, wouldn’t it?), but with a little luck, we’ll be ok.

Thank you again, friends, for caring about me and my family. Your love, support and friendship is something I hope to never live without.


a baby giraffe sitting down and says "Thank You" at the top of the image
I borrowed this photo from the South Australia Zoos. (Thank YOU!) If you don’t know this about me, I have a thing for giraffes. My brother wanted to be one when he was 4 years old (he ended up being 6’6″ so he kind of succeeded), and I’ve always loved them, too. And since I’m 6’2″ and baby giraffes are typically 6′ when they’re born, then I’m like a toddler giraffe! ❤

Here I Come A-Wallowing

I was feeling really happy this week. Really hopeful. I had many good conversations with library patrons, friends and family over the past few days. I reached my goal weight on Thursday. Someone asked about my mom’s house and is interested in buying it. I applied for a new job at my library and felt good about it. And I’ve been looking forward to a few holiday activities I planned with my family–our annual gathering with my extended family, an upcoming viewing of Elf the Musical with my boy, and ushering for Santaland Diaries with my dear friend, Tiffany.  So many cool things coming up. Life was good.

And then Friday evening happened. Once I got home from work, I made clam dip for my family’s get-together the next day. I went to the bedroom to get comfy and my husband came in and closed the door. He said to me, “Remember what it says in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?” He then handed me a towel. “You always need a towel…and don’t panic.” Then he told me he got laid off from his job that afternoon. A permanent layoff. I stood there for a minute until he made me sit down before I fell down.

You need to understand something. We’ve been through this…many times. When we were first married, my husband found it difficult to find work and then he was laid off quite a few times in the first 12 years of our marriage. But we’ve been lucky for the past 8 years and felt somewhat job secure. But the last time my husband was laid off, he didn’t find work for 18 months. That’s a year and a half, people. I nearly divorced him by the end. He was withdrawn and depressed and I couldn’t take it anymore.  The only reason we didn’t lose our house was because my mom helped us. But there is no one to help us anymore. We are it.

After I sat on the bed, my husband sat beside me and we stayed in the bedroom for a few minutes, trying to wrap our heads around the mess, hashing things out. Husband told me about another guy laid off the same day who had a little baby at home. There were a few layoffs the week before and a few more to go next week apparently.  It’s crappy no matter how you look at it.

Then we came out of the bedroom to tell our son. I kept my shit together until then. But once we told him, he wanted a hug and then we all cried. I explained that there would still be a few Christmas presents because I had already purchased some and he immediately said he didn’t care about that.  I told him that his allowance he received that day would have to be the last one until Papa got a job, but his chores would need to continue. And that we’d need to cancel a few subscription services immediately.  He was ok with all of that, but was worried about food and our home. So was I, but tried not to show it.

The next day, I went to Mom’s to visit her for a bit, but I never mentioned the layoff. I knew Mom would probably forget it anyway, but there’s no reason to worry her even for a moment. When I returned home, the three of us went to our family gathering. (I just couldn’t take Mom to this one. It’s very difficult to get inside my dad’s house and I think the amount of people would have been too much.) Some people already knew about the layoff, and we told the others that didn’t. We tried to just enjoy ourselves and perhaps eat our feelings for the afternoon. Which we did.

Then last night, as we got ready for bed, I asked the boy if he’d like to have his new light on, a Christmas gift he just received from his cousins.

darthlightHe said yes but then, “Well, how  much energy does this use?” He asked about other lights in the house, too, and what could we shut off while we were home.  You know, I’ve been trying to get the kid to turn off lights for a few years now, but I really didn’t want him to finally learn this way!

He was definitely concerned with how much everything costs. Everything. Apparently I wasn’t hiding my panic about the bills very well. (I was calculating all of our expenses in my head over and over until I finally just threw my hands up. If only I had a money tree!) Both my husband and I are trying to reassure our son that we’ll be ok, but we’re also not lying about what could happen if Papa doesn’t find a job soon.

There is no doubt that my husband is grieving over this job. He really thought he would be there until he retired in another 15 or 16 years. He liked his work and the people he worked with. This is a real blow to him, to his confidence. He’s really trying to be positive and already has a few places he plans on applying to, but I also know how sad he is.

Today, he spent much of the daylight hours cleaning out his work van (essentially his office), washing his uniforms to give back to the company, working on his resume, packing away his phone and laptop to give back. All of the stuff you have to do when you have to leave a job. So at this point of the day, after watching my husband and helping him when I could, I think I am at the anger stage of our grief. I am royally pissed off.

Really, Universe? Really? *shaking my fist*

This was the first year in quite some time when I could purchase little gifts for my family members and send holiday cards out without feeling like we’re hemorrhaging money. We even adopted a local family through Christmas Is For Kids. I’m so grateful I had already purchased their gifts because I knew I couldn’t say, “Sorry unnamed family! There is no magic of Christmas. Just disappointments and despair!” And although I haven’t purchased stamps for my cards yet, I’m still going to. I won’t send as many as I used to and I still can’t write a holiday letter yet because the world isn’t as bright without my brother, but I will send a few cards. It gives me little heps of happiness. (Thanks for the term “hep”, Paula Poundstone!) As do the lights on my tree and my beautiful Christmas unicorn, Fred. (Tacky? I don’t give a shit.)

fredunicornSo this holiday season, I will first attend a pity party I’m having. It will feature me, lots of cookies and a glass or two of wine. Then I’m going to pull up these damn big girl panties, give the finger to the universe, and attempt to spread a pile of kindness and good karma out into the world once again.

But first, another cookie, a good rest and hopefully some kick-ass dreams.

Happy holidays, my friends. ❤