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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
A friend told me to check out her Pinterest for some easy cooking ideas while I’m in PHP. I hadn’t even looked at Pinterest since long before Parker and I moved to Maryland. I finally figured out my log in information and realized I was already following most of my Facebook people. Today I started following the rest of my favorite cooking sites, too. Finally I started going through my old boards from 6 years ago, the last time I used it.
I found a board I had created, called, “For our future children” It was filled with pins of cute wooden toys, and 100% cotton clothes, and monkey and frog themed toys, and room designs.
It was from when Parker and I were trying to get pregnant. She wanted more than anything to have her own bio child because as much as Kidlet was equally hers, she wanted another. We had a donor and had even tried a few times before she started with the headaches.
And here I am on a trip where there has already been a joke about me coming back with baby fever.
Except I was already hesitant about starting over again when we were trying. I was totally in it with her, but at the same time, we had an 11 or 12 year old who was mostly self sufficient and left for 3 months at a time to come up to his dads. I was already starting to enjoy the freedom. I got my baby fix through doing daycare.
But I wanted to give her the world.
Sometimes I really do question our relationship. Things got clouded by the horrible circumstances we were in the last half. It was never easy, but the trauma on top of trauma in 2013 just destroyed who we were and who we were as a couple.
But here I am staring at a Pinterest board reminding me of the hours I spent looking at all of the future things for our child or children that would never happen because one thing let to another, which led to another, which led to her losing her grip.
Today I deleted all the pins, and renamed the board Grief. I’ll use it to pin all of my articles and blog posts that speak to me.
It’ll be a good way to remember the larger family that never was.