Thursday, April 29, 2010

Moving On

I had a vivid dream about T last night. He was alive, having been resurrected somehow. We were not married, though -- our marriage had ended when we thought he was dead. For whatever reason, he and I hadn't remarried when he returned, though we were together and I was quite happy that he wasn't dead. We were in a car, T in the passenger's seat and me in the back, and we were talking to the driver, a pregnant woman who was having a hard time in her marriage. I asked T's permission to share with her our situation, which was somehow relevant for her.

I wonder where we were going? And who the woman represented? The aspect of not remarrying is easy: I didn't want to remarry T because I'm a different person now. I am happy to be with him (feel his spirit with me), but I wouldn't want to return to the place and person I was when we were married. I'm moving on.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Endings and Beginnings

Saturday's two year milestone went pretty well. B and I were visiting my wonderful in-laws in Arizona last week, and I spent an amazing three days in Sedona while B had a "sleepover" with Papa and Grandma. I had the opportunity to release a lot of emotions in Sedona, so Saturday was quite peaceful. I created a small memorial in the family room, with a Yahrzeit candle, a picture of T, a small bag of his ashes, flowers from the garden, and several small items with emotional value. Before breakfast, B and I said a few words (well, I did the speaking) and I lit the candle. Throughout the day, coming upon the collection of symbols of T's life and the small flickering light brought me peace and comfort.

Late in the afternoon, B and I, along with my stepson D and his mother, headed up to the cemetery laden with flowers, camp chairs, a portable table, paper plates and cups, lemonade, bbq'ed tri-tip, potato salad, cole slaw... a picnic with Daddy. I brought the two poster-board photo collages I made for the kids back on the first Father's Day -- the best pictures of each of them with T. Some close friends joined us, and we sat in the afternoon sun, ran around on the grass with the kids, ate and relaxed and enjoyed being together. T would have really enjoyed it, and was with us in spirit.

Then on Sunday, I sold T's dining table and chairs. Though neither of us had much in the way of living room furniture, we both had beautiful dining sets. His was a Skovby rosewood oval pedestal table with six chairs, lovely but a bit too formal for the room and my taste. I'd been trying to sell it on craigslist sporadically since before the holidays, and each time I posted the ad, I got 1-2 inquiries, but no real action. And maybe it would have hurt more to have sold it sooner. Other than T's car and all the wine he collected, his dining set was the one material possession that had any real value, and it was loaded with sentimental value as well. We ate some of our first meals together as a couple at that table; we entertained countless times around its dark shiny surface. So the timing of letting it go, on the first day of the third year after T's death, seemed appropriate. Another small letting go, another small ending, making room for a new beginning (even if it is just the beginning of a less cluttered dining room).

On Sunday night, I initiated another ending. I told Guy that the spark just wasn't there for me, and I just wanted to be friends. Maybe by getting to know him more, the spark will reignite -- I do really like him. But I was starting to feel insincere when talk and action turned to romance, and that was my signal to stop. I'm too old and experienced to let things drag on past this point; it gets more unpleasant for all concerned. Guy was not happy, but did appreciate the honesty. And I will always appreciate his sweetness, gentleness, and kindness, as the first one after T.

So the first two years of my widowhood are at an end, as is my first post-loss relationship. I am comfortable where I am, and open to new beginnings. Who knows what will come in year three?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What T Loved

T loved the beauty of nature: a sunset, the crashing surf, redwoods, the peaks and lakes of Glacier and the waterfalls and stillness of Yosemite. He loved blooming fruit trees and the climbing roses in our yard. He would see a brightly flowering tree or plant and point it out to me and say “why don’t we have that in our yard?” He always tried to watch the sun set when we were on vacation, and often pointed out the moon above our back yard.

T loved to swim in our pool on hot summer evenings, and lay on the grass drying off with D. Cold water never bothered him. When snorkeling in the cool ocean of the Galapagos, he never wore anything but his swim trunks. He didn’t like our pool to get warmer than about 80 degrees, because he said it wasn’t “refreshing”.

He loved to travel and stay in luxurious hotels in beautiful surroundings: Napa and Sonoma, Big Sur, Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine, Hawaii, Alaska, Mexico, France, Italy, Spain, The Galapagos, Belize. He had a knack for finding wonderful places to stay and great restaurants.

He loved his friends, and always made time for them. He loved fine wine and fine food, and loved sharing them with his friends and family. He always did the dishes after a dinner party, sending me off to bed.

For one who enjoyed gourmet meals, he surprisingly preferred meat-and-potatoes menus at home. Salmon, red potatoes and asparagus was a perennial favorite of his. Fred steak, and burgers and Zinfandel were popular, too.

T loved his family: his father, his mother, his sister; his son, wife, daughter, niece and nephew. He loved to wrestle with D and kiss B good night.

He could wiggle his ears and pick small objects up with his toes. His laugh was loud and infectious; unmistakable even across a crowded room.

He was a bit of a worrier with D and B, and didn’t like to see evidence of their growing older. He didn’t want to move B from her baby bathtub to the big tub, and wanted to keep the heat on fairly high at night in case she got cold. From the earliest days, he thought D was bigger than expected. He never got a changing table for D, but always changed him on the floor or the futon. There was a period of time in which he would check on B as he came to bed around 10:30, and she would be wide awake and wiggle and smile at him, like she’d been waiting to say good night to him.

T wasn’t interested in fancy technology or gadgets, never using the PDA his dad got him, or his work laptop, or his own login on our computer. But he could find any email sent or received weeks or months (sometimes years) in the past, just by remembering when.

Thank you, T, for sharing your love with me. It lives forever in my heart.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What Happened Two Years Ago

Two years ago tonight, I last saw T alive. Here is the story of what happened.

We went to Mexico in mid-April of 2008. Two days before we were returning home, the Friday afternoon of the trip, T started feeling pretty bad. He had some intestinal issue, and by Saturday afternoon was so sick he sent me out to find some Immodium-type drug that might help manage the situation. That evening he sent us ahead to the resort restaurant, saying he wasn't hungry, but would join us later for a little while. We were sitting at our table when T's niece and nephew, who were facing the front of the restaurant, saw someone fall on the path outside. We shrugged it off, as the bar was that direction, but it did seem odd for someone to be that drunk so early in the evening at a family resort. A few minutes later, someone appeared at our table asking for me. It was T -- he had fainted as he passed the bar and only just come to.

He was bemused but all there. Several people from the bar had come out to help, and one woman, a doctor, told me it had taken him a while to regain consciousness. A very nice man walked us back to our room to make sure we got there safely. The hotel staff called the paramedics for us, and soon a crowd of Mexican police and medical personal filled our room. The language barrier was a bit of a problem, and all they were able to do was take his vitals. I think they said his blood pressure was low, or maybe high -- I don't remember exactly. They wanted to take him to the local clinic, but it was the night before we were leaving, and T said no.

He was doing better the next day, and made it home fine. Monday he stayed home sick, but by Tuesday he was feeling better and went in to work. He brought home a nice filet mignon from one of our favorite restaurants, and drank a glass of red wine. Meanwhile, I started feeling crummy on Tuesday afternoon, and T's son D was not doing well around that time. B had had diarrhea since the last days of our trip, and was still having problems. Our nanny, who didn't even come on the trip, got sick around then too.

Wednesday we all stayed home. T was feeling bad again, and he had a fever of 100 or so consistently throughout the day. By mid-afternoon I insisted he go to the doctor. He had initiated a transfer to my family practice doctor, though he hadn't had an appointment with her yet. Luckily, he could get in to see her that afternoon, so we packed up B, who was still having her problem, and headed off.

I was not in the room for his exam, so I don't know exactly what transpired, but apparently he did not tell the doctor about his heart situation when she asked about any chronic conditions: his enlarged heart, the valve replacement, or the drugs he took. She must have taken his vitals, listened to his heart, etc. I remember when he had some virus after his surgery, and took himself off to his cardiologist because he said it could be more dangerous in his situation. Why didn't he take it more seriously this time?

The doctor hadn't met B yet, so before we left I took her in to say hello. The doctor congratulated us on B, and then told me T would be fine.

T hadn't eaten much that day. I bought him a bottle of Gatorade, which I don't think he had any of. I think he might have eaten part of an English muffin, maybe a banana or some leftover rice. He sat in his black leather chair in the family room with the throw rug over his knees, watching TV, while I was in the office on the computer. Around 9:30 or so, he went to bed, and as I came through the family room probably soon after, I remember seeing his empty chair and the throw rug on the ottoman and being a bit disappointed that he hadn't said good night. I think he was already asleep when I came into the bedroom, or at least I don't remember him saying anything.

The next morning the alarm went off as usual at 6:30. It was on T's side of the bed, but he didn't respond. I figured he was still feeling poorly, so I got up and walked around the bed to turn it off, so as not to disturb him. (Knowing too well his penchant for privacy and my personal dislike of being awoken unnecessarily, I didn't want to even reach over him to get to the clock.) I was feeling better, so I took a shower and got dressed, planning to head to work. T was still lying on his side, his right arm tucked under the pillow in his usual sleeping position, when I finished getting ready.

I went in to get B up for the day, and she had had diarrhea again that had escaped the diaper and gotten all over her and her bed, even into her hair. I scooped her up and carried her through our bedroom, right past T as he lay in bed facing the other way, and into the master bath where we bathed her. I ran a bath and cleaned her up, while she fussed and cried. Carrying her back through the bedroom, it suddenly occurred to me to wonder why T hadn't gotten up to help me with her. Even if he were feeling pretty bad, he was a very involved and hands-on father.

Still holding a naked B wrapped in her yellow bath towel, I put my hand on T's shoulder. "T", I probably said. He didn't respond. "T! T!" I think I shouted, now shaking him. "Oh my god", I might have said, and ran around the bed to put B down, still naked, on her towel on my side of the bed. I ran back and shook him again. I noticed the hand under the pillow was a little clenched, and his head was tipped at a slight upward angle. He had been sleeping in a tee-shirt and shorts, unusual for him. I pulled the sheet off, and felt his arm. It was cold, and he was stiff. I felt under his armpit, and in his groin. There was a little warmth still there. I ran back to my side of the bed and called 911.

I don't remember what I said to the dispatcher. Maybe "My husband is not responding!" or something like that. The dispatcher told me to get him on his back and start CPR. When I tried to turn him, I couldn't straighten out his limbs. The right side of his face was distorted, and his lips were drawn back slightly, as if a wave of pain had come over him. "I can't turn him over!" I told the dispatcher, and then ran to open the front door so the paramedics could get in when they arrived.

I don't remember hearing any sirens, though I imagine they must have used them. Three or four people came quickly in, and I remember telling a kind-looking man, "I think it's too late". I was ushered out of our bedroom by a police officer (another kind man), and took B into her bedroom to get a diaper and clothes on. I then went into the family room with her and the police (I think there were two by then) and called our best friends E & D.

Did I say "I think T died", when I called them? I don't remember. They both came over immediately. The head paramedic came in and told me I was right, it had been too late. I asked him whether they could tell what time he died, and he said they might guess somewhere between 1 AM and 4 AM. They said they called the coroner, and he would arrive soon. The police were asking questions, collecting medication, telling me the bedroom was off-limits for a little while as it was a "crime scene". I thought that was humorous.

I sat on the couch that T picked out in the family room of the home T found for us, and tried to take in the fact that T was dead. I held B and cried. When the coroner arrived, he examined T's body and then took me and E out to the back patio (for privacy?) to explain that we may never know the cause of death, but an electrolyte imbalance due to his illness, like a marathon runner dropping dead on the finish line, was a likely candidate.

The police suggested that I might not want to see them wheeling T's body out of the house on the gurney, so we closed the doors to the front hall, and I sat on that family room couch trying not to listen or think about what was happening.

At some point that morning I called T's father and told him. "NO!" he cried, and he and his wife jumped on the first plane out. I called D's mother and told her. "NO!" she screamed. I called my boss, crying and keening. I called my dear friend L, and my Dad. I started a list of people to have called. I let E & D, and another close friend of T's, take over as much as they could. Someone, maybe me, called my doula and she arranged for a masseuse to come to the house one of the first nights. I called my grief counselor friend. Someone suggested sleeping pills, and I called my doctor to tell her what had happened (she was shocked and so very sorry) and get a prescription. For the first time in my life I took a sleep aide.

After almost six months, we got the autopsy report. The cause of death was inconclusive, but likely to be a cardiac arrhythmia. He hadn't been dehydrated, but maybe his electrolytes were out of whack. He had stopped taking some of his heart medication on the trip, apparently, so maybe that was a factor. I so much wanted to tell him what had happened, and talk to him to figure it all out. "You died!" I caught myself saying to him in my mind. "Can you believe it?"

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Sad Day

Tonight I'm feeling down. This afternoon I took B to a birthday celebration for the 1-year-old daughter of good friends, and I was reminded again of how awful it feels to be the only single person in a sea of families. "Happy loving couples" everywhere I turned, many with small children. Happy loving families, with their futures ahead of them.

I think B notices, too. Out of the blue at the party she said "Where's my Daddy? I want Daddy to come home." So do I, sweetie. So do I.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Wanting and Needing

I've been thinking a lot about the difference between wanting and needing in relationships. My goal is to be happy and content on my own, to not need anyone romantically in my life. Entering or staying in a relationship because of emotional neediness is dangerous -- it can make you do crazy, unhealthy things. And with a daughter to raise, I am hypersensitive to putting myself in situations where I might behave in ways that could impact her wellbeing.

But when I imagine being alone the rest of my life, having no one to talk to, no one to share decisions with, no one to help when the car needs repair or we've run out of milk, I get anxious and unhappy. I don't want to be alone, without a life partner. I want to be in a loving, supportive, give-and-take relationship.

I feel like much of my emotional energy is spent wishing to be with someone. In one way, it's good, because I'm focusing my attention on what I want. I'm a big believer in the idea that you get what you put out into the universe. On the other hand, I fear that I'm trying to live the "happily ever after" fairytale, concentrating on getting to the wedding to the exclusion of other goals and objectives in life. Goodness knows, I'm aware that just because you're married, your life isn't perfect and the yearning, striving, and growth doesn't end. But for right now, it seems that I'm all about finding that next relationship.

Which brings me to the status of Guy. I'm still seeing him, and am not actively looking for other men. He is such a nice guy, and I do enjoy being with him. Can you hear the "but..." coming? I just don't see it going anywhere serious. I'm not quite ready to call it quits, but I'm pretty sure that's where we're heading. I dated a very nice guy for 6 years, prior to T, with whom I had a very pleasant relationship that just never quite got to the finish line for either of us. I know what that feels like, and I recognize the feeling with Guy, I'm afraid. Having experienced the online dating world now, I'm not excited about the prospect of returning to it, but that's most likely the next step.