Better Than The Alternative

This is a Really Real Aging Parents Post.

My dad isn’t the same anymore.

He was . . .

the youngest 50 year old I’d ever met.

the youngest 60 year old I’d ever met.

the youngest . . .

Not any more.  He’s old now.  At 75, the years of taking his body for granted have finally caught up with him.

He walks with a limp, wobbling, almost drunk like. His head tilts slightly to one side. Nothing like the solid strong man I idolized when I was younger.

He grabs my bag from the car, insisting on carrying it into the house. The weight of it pulls him off his feet leaving him on the the ground. He crawls to the closest thing he can use to lift himself back to standing.  I protest as he takes the handle of the suitcase again.

He’s still stubborn as ever.

But age has caught up with his mind as well.

The line between reality and confusion has begun to blur. A hazy barrier that is no longer clearly defined. I wonder if he knows how often he’s weaving back and forth across that line. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which side of the line he’s on, even from the outside.

This visit has many goals.

First and foremost, I want to see my dad. We’ve spent too many years barely talking. An invisible moat between us, neither of us quite sure how to bridge the gap. None of that matters anymore. I’ve realized that time is running out. Time is running.

Second, I want to see what his life is like. What does he do all day? What is he eating? Is he still able to take care of the dogs? The house? Himself? I feel like I’m a world away.

Third, we need to figure out what’s next. What’s now? What does he want to do? Want us to do? How? How do my sister and I take care of him from states away? He still has and deserves an opinion and I need to hear it so we can do things his way.

He sleeps a lot during the day. Falling asleep sitting up at his desk and the kitchen table. Leaning sideways in seemingly impossible positions. He barely sleeps at night.

The house is so quiet.

Days without other human contact would be unbearable for me, but it is his reality. At least he has his dogs, dogs he sometimes has a hard time controlling. Conversations with them are one sided. He says he’s okay with his life, okay with getting older.

“I’ll live till I die.”

As I load up the car to leave he says to me “I’m fine, I’m a big boy. Stop worrying so much.”

But I will worry.

And I’ll also wonder.

When does living stop being better than the alternative?

 

 

 

Hey, Mom.

This is a Really Real Parenting Post.

We have a totally different relationship now.

It’s 6am texts with “Hey, mom have you heard this song?” while he’s finishing his shift at work and I’m still sleeping.

It’s check in texts from both of us “How’s work going?” “How are you feeling today?”

It’s almost weekly phone calls and the occasional video chats where we catch up on how life is really treating us and discuss serious world topics that make my heart swell with pride when I realize how grown he really is.

It’s both of us talking about our relationships and how happy we are but also talking about problems and getting advice from a different perspective.

I still love those texts where he shares a song with me.  Music speaks to both of us in ways that a lot of people can’t fathom.  One of my favorite trips was shortly after Parker died, a road trip together, to NY, going back and forth sharing the songs that were getting us through the loss.  By the end we were singing each others songs and crying together.

This morning he sent me one of his current songs.  I did what I do and pulled up the video and the lyrics.

By the end of the first chorus I was crying.

That great big ugly cry that felt like it had been pent-up for years (but it hadn’t).

I knew why he sent it to me.

Not to make me cry, of course, but it spoke to me about his childhood, in a loose round about way, without being specific.  Of hard times he and I had, before he left, where we fought non-stop about everything and anything.  It spoke of a mother, me, who wasn’t well and a kid who finally understood that the mother was doing the best she could.

“And though you say the days are happy, why is the power off and I’m fucked up?”

And the thing is, we could both be reading totally different things into these songs. Sometimes we discuss them and realize we are.  I haven’t had a chance to really talk about this one with him.

I love that he trusts me enough to share this stuff with me.  I didn’t have a relationship with my parents where I could have discussed my music with them at his age, or really at any age.  They didn’t get it, and didn’t really want to.

My relationship with Kidlet is different now.

It’s 2,700 miles different.

It’s full-grown man different.

It’s still pretty damn amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

All is Well

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

What a difference an attitude makes.

I went and I was myself, I focused on having a good time, not on impressing anyone with my behavior. I was just me, quirky, clumsy, lovable, me.

And I had a great time.

I walked away a few different times to talk with my family via phone call and video chat. I left my anxiety behind about how that would look, I mean, I’m spending the entire holiday weekend here, it makes sense that I would need some time to talk to my family for the holiday.

I lost miserably at virtual bowling. And I mean miserably. And I let myself fall into the light natured picking on that happened because of it.

I had a great Easter dinner with a family that is graciously welcoming me to become a part of it.

The next two days are filled with more family activities before Wonder Woman and I fly back home late Tuesday night.

I am me, beautiful, wonderful, amazing me.

Lets hope I can hold this attitude for the rest of the trip!

What If?

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

Anxiety is a bitch.

I’m in South Carolina this weekend, at my soon-to-be in-law’s, spending the Easter holiday with family.  But I’m anxious. What if I’m too much? What if I’m not enough? What if, what if, what if?

For the most part, I’m having fun.  Her mom is a wonderful person and it’s a blast to hear old family stories and learn about people I may never have a chance to meet.  It’s fun to learn where Wonder Woman came from.

But still I’m anxious.  

What if I say the wrong thing?  What if I act too weird? What if they don’t like me?

I asked Wonder Woman, before we got off the plane, “Will their opinion of me change how you feel about me?”  “Of course not!”

But anxiety is a bitch.

Soon we’ll head to Easter Dinner.  Nieces and Nephews and Sisters. More family, most of whom I’ve met before, but still I’m anxious.

What if I’m too much?  What if I’m not enough?

What if they’ve read all of the things I’ve posted on facebook and already decided that they can’t handle this much crazy?

What if none of this really matters anyway?

What if I just go and be myself and have a good time?

What if I just, for this once, stop worrying about all of the what if’s and instead focus on enjoying myself, being myself, and letting people take me or leave me as I am?

What if?

Happy Easter everyone!

Thankful

Really Real Thanksgiving Post

I had a hard time figuring out how to write this one, even though I knew what I wanted to say.

Thanksgiving is really hard for me.  It’s one of my favorite, but also least favorite holidays of the year.  It holds the best memories, but also the some of the hardest.

I mean, it’s a holiday and that’s kind of what happens around holidays, we link a lot of memories to these “special days” and it makes sense that some of them aren’t going to be great.  Maybe a lot of them.  But hopefully we have some good ones.

I remember the first holiday meal that I offered to host was a Thanksgiving, probably 14 years ago.  I didn’t own any sort of mixer except for one of those hand crank mixers and I made mashed potatoes from scratch using one of those.  I got one hell of an arm work out.

My older sister bought me my stand mixer for Christmas that year and it was the start of us bonding online, over a love of cooking.  I still have that Kitchen Aid.  It’s one of the things I carried through countless moves and stored through homelessness and carried across state lines.  It means the world to me because of the bond it represents between my sister and I.  (This is another one of those things she may have no clue about, Hi Sis!)

It also reminds me of that first Thanksgiving that I hosted.   That first Thanksgiving is also where I found the recipe for my turkey.

I’m so thankful every year I get to make the turkey.

Everyone loves my turkey.

But some years I didn’t get to make the turkey.

One year we were too broke to buy dinner so we went to a soup kitchen instead.

One year we were in a hotel provided by the Red Cross, eating dinner out of Styrofoam containers sent over by a church, because we’d had a house fire 2 days before.

And holidays are still hard.  Thanksgiving was the first major holiday without Parker.  It hit me today that this is the 3rd one without her and that just seems impossible that it’s been that long.

This year it’s the first major holiday with Kidlet all grown up and moved out.

But I’m always happier when I get to make the turkey, and it’s kind of funny when we are going to someones house and I offer to bring a turkey, but they are normally kind of thankful, I think.

And I make a really damn good turkey (as the anxiety hits that I’m going to fuck it up this year, but that’s a pretty typical anxiety for me).

But I’m thankful that I’m spending the day with friends and with the woman I love.

I’m thankful that I get to make the turkey.

No one gets out alive.

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

But this isn’t at all one of my typical widow posts.  It’s more important than that.

One of the reasons that Wonder Woman is so great for me is because she doesn’t flinch when my really dark widow humor slips out.

And last night my filter didn’t engage quick enough and I let a joke slip out that even shocked me.  Thinking it doesn’t shock me.  I think really dark jokes about death all of the time, but I try not to say them.

But Wonder Woman didn’t flinch.

Even telling people I’m a widow makes a lot of people flinch.

Bringing up the fact that I saw Parker after she died makes people really uncomfortable.

It even makes me uncomfortable to type it because I know it’s going to make others uncomfortable to read it.

But why does death make us so uncomfortable?

Why don’t we talk about it?

Every single one of us is going to experience it at some point.  We are all going to die.  None of us is going to make it out alive.

And we’re going to leave behind a bunch of people who have to figure out what we want done with our remains, and how we want to be remembered.

I never really got to talk to Parker about what she actually wanted to have happen after she died.  There was no advanced directive, no will, nothing in writing, no real plans for what to do.  Did she want a somber funeral, or a celebration of life?  Did she want to be known as her birth name, or her chosen name?

Don’t you want to have some say in what happens after you die?

Without even getting into the topic of dignity in death (which I feel very strongly about), we need to be having more conversations about death.

Advanced directives are more than just some passing thing that the doctors office asks you about because they need to check off a box.  They are important, they don’t take that long to fill out, and they will give your family so much information about your final wishes should something happen.

And something could happen, right now, today, and who is going to be left struggling to figure out what to do?

If I didn’t have an advanced directive, my 18 year old son would be in charge of deciding what to do.  My 18 year old would have to make the decisions if I were brain dead tomorrow.  I can’t imagine putting that on his shoulders, but people do it every. single. day. because they don’t take the time to fill out the paperwork that protects their young adult children.

I’ve taken the time to fill out a document that named how I want my remains handled.  Where I want my ashes spread, how I want my celebration of life held.  It names when they can “pull the plug.”  Who in my family gets to make decisions for me, and who they should consult.

It takes the weight off of the shoulders of a bunch of people who are grieving heavily because they just found out I’m dead or badly injured.

Your turn.

Don’t keep putting it off.  Don’t say you’ll do it tomorrow or next week.  And if you do, put it on the calendar.

Here are the forms for Maryland and they work in some other states as well (check your local laws).  In Maryland, you don’t need a lawyer, just fill them out and have 2 people witness you signing them.

http://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/Health%20Policy%20Documents/adirective.pdf

Please do this.

Talk about death.

You aren’t getting out alive.

Secondary

In the widow community, people often talk about secondary losses.  Those losses that come after the loss of our spouse.  Loss of security, loss of friends, financial loss, and in some cases, loss of family.

It’s incredibly hard to lose touch with a family you once saw as your own, a family you thought you were a part of.  Death does a lot to rip people apart and it’s understandable that every person, and every family has to deal with their grief in their own way.  Sometimes there are casualties other than the person that died

I have memories of holiday dinners with a family I will never see again, gifts made with love, countless updates on how everyone was doing.  Love sent and received.  Phone calls made from the hospital keeping her mother updated because I knew how a mother would worry.   I knew her family like my own and I love them.

Unfortunately, everyone grieves in their own way and while I want to reach out and hold family close, so many people want to push me away.  It’s easier to forget I existed.  I wasn’t really the spouse anyway, not in God’s eyes, according to them.

Secondary losses are the losses that keep giving.  I don’t want to be the one to cut people out so every holiday I would call, but I was never the one that got the call.  Eventually the holidays start coming where I fight the urge to pick up the phone because maybe they just don’t want to hear from me and I’m pushing my love where it isn’t wanted.  The phone doesn’t ring, eventually text messages go unanswered.

There are so many questions it brings up for me.  So many ways it makes me hurt for me AND for Parker to wonder if it’s so easy to push me aside.

But at the same time I hurt for them.  It can’t be easy to see me living and not see her.  It can’t even be bearable to see me moving forward and know that she’s frozen in time.  I fully respect and understand that they are all doing what’s best for them in their own grief.  I’m assuming their faith and my life play war with each other as well, we know that wasn’t easy.

I can’t imagine, and don’t want to imagine what it’s like to lose a child and I have so much love and compassion for my mother in law.

But fuck, losing an entire family on top of losing my wife.

This shit sucks.

Widowing isn’t easy.