Thursday, January 19, 2017

Widow-lescence: Phase two

It was Sept 2015 when I first wrote about "widow-lescence," the process of coming back into the world after losing Tony. That was six months after he died.

A year and a half later, it's time for an update.

The first phase was piecing together the remaining parts of my life. I lost my best friend, and my biggest and most time consuming (by which I mean 24 hr) job, caring for him. That adjustment took awhile. Now, I feel much more settled in myself. I am taking better care of myself , I have a part-time job, and I even have fun new boots. Of course, that comes and goes, but I have a feeling that will last for the rest of my life, so I might as well get used to it.

So I'm ready for phase two, and I still see parallels with adolescence. I've figured out who I am (more or less), now I'm more ready for my life to begin (again). I remember this from before... where am I going to go to college? What will I major in? What kind of job will I have? Where will I live? When will I meet "the one"?

Thankfully, I don't have to go through all of that again! But it doesn't seem like teaching is in my immediate future... so what new job can I spin my (considerable, but ill defined) skills into? Should I break out of the small town I've lived in my whole life to find a fresh start? (How easy is it to move to Scotland?) As for "the (second) one"... this is driven by extreme loneliness, for sure. I'm ready for him to show up at my door, but not to try to find him through the morass of dating. Plus I have a ton of baggage, and he'd have super big shoes to fill. But I think it's only natural... I had incredible love in my life, why wouldn't I hope I could find and feel that again?

At this point, it's all just the daydreams of a 38 year old widow-lescent who uses parentheses too much.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Extended Family

They say you don't get to pick your family. I suppose that's literally true, but it has not been my experience.

We are lucky enough to have a big extended family... the kind of family we have picked, or more accurately... who have picked us. They are some incredible people and I am so grateful for them.

We took a little trip in the week between Christmas and New Year's to visit a few families we know through VMI soccer. We had a great time, and everyone was incredibly welcoming. These aren't people we see or talk to that often, but that didn't seem to matter at all. At every stop of the trip, we couldn't wait to get there, and then were reluctant to leave.

More than once recently, I have had a period of feeling alone and lonely. Just as I have been sliding into that feeling, my extended family has magically appeared... so randomly that it hardly seems possible. I was at a gas station two hours away and feeling dreadful, and then three of my favorite people showed up. It was odd, but the timing was incredibly fortunate. The universe reached out to prop me up.

Before ALS entered our lives, Tony and I were mainly home bodies. We didn't go out much because we were happiest in the little world we had made together. But as Maria von Trapp said, "when God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window." Our little world got a lot smaller when Tony left, but our extended family had grown so much.

My point is here somewhere...

When we got home from our trip last week, I was feeling very down. One of those unexplained mood swings that I just couldn't figure out. Two days later, I got an email from one of the families we had just visited. They wrote, "You make Coach Tony so proud of how you are raising such beautiful, loving and well adjusted young ladies!" Again, the timing was impeccable and the words meant the world. 

To our extended family: thank you so much for picking us, thanks for always being so welcoming, and thanks for propping me up when I need it most. 

To our flesh and blood family: I hope you know that the only way I could explain how important you are is with a large amount of alcohol, and an equally large amount of tissues. 

I love you all. Thank you.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Making Room

Life is a series of transitions. The latest in mine is that my mom sold the house we grew up in, and moved in with us while her new house is being built. 

We started cleaning out her house in April, but there was a big push in the last few weeks to get it done. During that process, I was also cleaning out my house to get ready for her. I still have loads of Tony's stuff. Apparently, I am getting rid of it in shifts. It started a few weeks after he died, but I've gotten rid of more two or three times since then. Right now, I'm down to my favorite dress shirts of his, the khakis that looked awesome on his ass, some of his tshirts, etc. I was really befuddled over the baseball hats. I know I must have gotten rid of some before... why did I still have the hat from the local butcher shop? It didn't survive this round. 

There were other ones I kept: the Notre Dame hat he loved because it could pass as a Celtic hat, the black hat he personalized with an Army Ranger patch given to him by a family member. No one will ever wear them again, keeping them is totally illogical. I'm just not ready to part with them. 

I gave my mom the master suite, and moved back into our spare bedroom. It was our bedroom when the girls were little, because I didn't want to walk across the house in the middle of the night all the time. We were super excited when we first moved into our remodeled master suite... the first time we had one. It was wheelchair accessible because we knew we would need that. Maybe a strange thing to be excited about. 

Redecorating the spare bedroom (now my room) has been fun. I'm not done hanging pictures, but it's getting there. It feels like my room. I wondered (as I do often) if I was being disloyal by wanting my own room (not a room that Tony and I decorated together). It's hard to change things without him, and I question it all the time. But living in that room that we shared together wears on me too. This feels like a fresh start, and it is. And when my mom moves out, I can return to our master suite and make it my own. It's a circuitous route to change, but a much easier one. I'll even make a place for those baseball hats. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

October Surprise

I'm on my second round of things without Tony. In some ways, it has gotten easier or at least I am getting used to it. I still feel his loss, and I still think about him all the time. But it's more of an underlying ache, not the raw wound it was. But it can still hit me really hard, and it seems to happen at strange times.

The first summer without Tony, I know I overdid it. This past summer was much better, we did things and had fun, but we didn't go overboard. This fall, Louise started kindergarten, so both the girls are on the same schedule. There were a few weeks in there when I felt like I was ahead of the parenting game.

October snuck up on me. Tony's birthday was at the beginning of the month, and this past weekend was his fifteen year VMI reunion. We also started planning for the holidays... Thanksgiving, my birthday, and Christmas. The impact of all those things were my October surprise.

It hasn't yet been two years since I lost my husband. I'm dealing with single parenting and trying to return to work (part-time... I'm SO thankful I haven't had to go back to work full-time yet). And I'm trying to get all the things done... all the time.

I shouldn't have been surprised by this October mood swing, but I was. Our therapist told Tony that he should allow himself to experience the mood swings when they hit him. Feel it, and then let it pass. One of Tony's classmates (BRs) said the same thing at the memorial service last weekend... Let yourself feel the loss of these people, remember the place they had in your life, but then go out and enjoy the day. It's what they would have wanted.

At times, I am very impatient for the "next" phase of my life to start. Who knows what that will look like... but I get really anxious for a reboot. It will probably happen gradually, and I won't even notice it. In the meantime, I should remember that this takes time. I shouldn't try to rush it. I will grieve Tony for the rest of my life and now I know that it will hurt more sometimes than others. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Happy birthday to you

As your birthday approached this year, I asked the girls what they would like to do to celebrate it. I reminded them that you would like us to do something fun... either something you would like, or something they would like. I gave them a few ideas, but within a moment or two they both shouted out "Chuck E Cheese!" (in case someone doesn't know... Chuck E. Cheese)

I'll admit it. They outsmarted me. We went yesterday, and they had a blast. I know you would have approved. Especially in the way they pulled it off.

Happy birthday, babe!