Xander and I had taken our walk around the loop after I had gotten home from work and I had made him do his three tricks for me before I gave him his Greenie when I was finally able to plop down in the Kateri/Xander Chair and relish in the fact that I didn’t have to wake up to an alarm in the morning and was already at the start of my weekend… hooray! As Xander crunched away and added another layer of foamy drool to the carpet, it was nice to just sit, relax, reflect on the day/week, and just breath for a minute. After a moment of quiet and calm, I did like most people in those situations and started flipping through my phone to pass a little time.
I had made a few notes on the ol’ iPhone 8 earlier that I knew I was just gonna delete. So, as I sat there wondering how many gallons of Canine Saliva the rug has soaked up over the last year and a half, I took advantage of where I was at, opened the app and deleted the notes. I then proceeded to scroll through older notes to see if I could get rid of anymore! Yay for iPhone Storage Maintenance! Now, I would like to say that I am organized and can effectively use technology to help me stay organized, but I’m one of those people who would much rather jot something down on a piece of scrap paper or document important things in multiple spiral notebooks than use “this app “or “that software” to keep my life in order. Regardless, once in a Blue Moon I’ll dictate something into my phone while driving so as to remember whatever random thought I felt I needed to remember, or I’ll type something in the moment because I felt whatever information I just heard needed to be immortalized in some cloud for the rest of human civilization… all to feel like I’m hip and not falling behind The Times!
As I was scrolling through keeping this note or deleting that one, I came across one from last year that kinda stopped me dead in my tracks. It said, “Feb. 18/19, 2022… My mom and I just put Legos together until 1:12 in the morning.” Yup… that brought back a flood of memories! Not to mention that I had made the decision to set the world aside for a tiny bit the evening I was going through old notes and was gonna put a Lego together while in comfy clothes as I watched something informative and educational on The Boob Tube such as The History of the Combover for my Friday Night and found the Lego thing to be a nice little coincidence!… and then I cried as Xander stared at me from his spot on the couch across the room. (He doesn’t have “a spot”… the couch is his.)
After allowing myself to just “Go with the flow of the moment”, I felt the need to breath normally instead of the hiccupy gaspy breathing pattern crying forces us to do! So, as my breathing slowed my mind was able to shift from memories of my mom and some of the experiences we had back to present day life. It felt good to take some deep breaths as I massaged my forehead and pressed my fingers into my eye sockets. The room was blurry from the wall of tears still resting under my eyes and it felt good to rub them away. I sat there for a moment…with my eyes closed… going between rubbing the eyeballs to wiping the salty water on my pant leg as my brain began to apply the brakes and I started to think about what I could take away from this experience. Before I decided to open my eyes, I gave my shaved head one more squeeze… my face one more wipe as I stretched my eyelids and eyebrows to my temples… and slowly watched as life came back into focus. As my hand was retreating from my face and when it got to about ten inches from my chin, I saw the various scars of Kitchen Life on my weathered fingers while another part of Present-Day Life came into focus as it was making its way around my knuckle…………. A TICK!!!… and yes, I FREAKED!!!
Let me tell you… and “Sorry” Mom… but my mind pushed EVERYTHING aside and went straight into SURVIVALMODE! I didn’t know what to do! I can’t just flick it!… I’d only be flicking it to another position IN my house! Could I make it outside?!… before it latches on?! Maybe?! Maybe not!! As I jumped out of the chair (in a controlled manner so as not to set it free in my home) I saw the woodstove and my brain instantly went, “Flick it in there!”. So I lifted the lid, strategically positioned my hand in the opening, and plinked the little bastard with 127 pounds of pressure from my fingernail somewhere into the two square feet of ashy prison I had decided was the best place for it to go! I feel like my plan would’ve been good… if I had a fire going… but I didn’t. Now I’m worried it’s gonna somehow get out of the stove, back into the house, and latch onto my back somewhere… just out of reach…! So, I do the logical thing and start catching pieces of newspaper and junk mail on fire and then quickly opening the lid to throw them into The Tick’s own little personal crematorium! I mean, I’m not gonna put paper in the stove and then put my hand in there to light it… there’s a tick in there! After about a Sunday’s Edition of the New York Times worth of paper, I felt safe enough to say, “Crisis averted.”.
As I stood there in my living room with my hands on my hips… Xander staring at me quizzically from his couch… I laughed at myself and simply went on with the start of my weekend.
Yup, I can over-analyze just about anything…! I was trying to figure out what to title this little post and thought about whether Kateri should be the in first part or should “The Widower” stuff start it off…? I decided to begin with “The Widower” stuff because that is kinda what April 22, 2023 was about for me. Yes, Kateri was Up Front and Center in my brain on Saturday because it was the five-year anniversary of her passing, but it was also a chance for me to take a day at The Schoolhouse to not worry about the world beyond the trees, to relax, putz & ponder, and to reflect on these last five years without her by my side as I live My Widowed Life.
After five years, these types of dates and anniversaries still bring up memories of pain, uncertainty, cancer, and loss… but as I move further and further away from Kateri’s Last Breath, those types of memories have dissipated in intensity and frequency to the point where I am able to get up and enjoy the day instead of putting on one of her hoodies as I watch Seinfeld in bed while eating Ben & Jerry’s Americone Dreams… trying not to get ice cream on the photo albums…! Widowhood is an all-encompassing and relentless experience. It touches every aspect of my life and is something I will live with until the day I die, but after five years I have realized it is getting to be simply (not so simply) a part of my life which happens to also be filled with a whole bunch of other things that are much more fun to focus on than… death…!
So, how did I spend the day? Well… to be honest… my goal was to just relax, do some things that I thought Kateri would enjoy which would also provide me with a sense of accomplishment, and learn how to make a little “movie” to document it…? Let me tell you, if you have never made a “clip” or smashed a bunch of videos together and are using a four-year-old iPhone 8 at home in Vermont with horrible internet… it takes a while…!.. but it was pretty fun to learn. Now I need to learn how to add music..! There is nothing special about the video… no deep insights… no fireworks… it’s just 20 minutes out of the1,440 Saturday gave me to reflect on life… with a minute or two at the end from New Year’s Eve 2018 that I’m glad I will always have.
It was quite the beautiful view outside the airplane window yesterday morning. Amanda and I were flying home after spending the last five days in her old stomping grounds to celebrate her parent’s 50th Wedding Anniversary (Woohoo!… 50!… that’s pretty cool!… but I’ll get more into that). After spending the night trying to get comfy in the one square foot that airlines give you these days, the warmth of that sunrise was the perfect way to be welcomed home to the East Coast. Unfortunately, there was still another flight… and then an hour and a half drive back to The Schoolhouse before the traveling was done, but that sunrise was a nice way to start the day… which hadn’t really ended from the day before.
We got home late morning so I took advantage of the time, unpacked, and did laundry so that I could start the work week feeling settled. After being up for what we figured was around 30 hours I wasn’t exactly doing anything quickly, but the sun was out so I felt the need to do something… and then sit… do something else… and sit again. It hit me during one of my little breaks, as I sat in Kateri’s/Xander’s Chair and thought about this trip, that I am kinda dealing with another sort of loss from my life that is simply collateral damage from the loss of Kateri. She came from a big family… she had 7 siblings… and each of them were a huge part of Kateri’s and my life. It’s sorta The Nature of the Beast, but when Kateri died the frequency of Damato Interactions went the way of the dodo simply because she isn’t here. I love my In-Laws just as much now as I did when Kateri was alive, and I know they still love me, but life has changed for all of us. As I was staring out the big ol’ Schoolhouse window decompressing in the chair, I thought about how much I miss having them in my life… because they’re pretty awesome. Being widowed is technically the loss of a spouse, but in widowhood… you learn that you lose so much more. (Ok, that’s sounds a little dramatic. Kateri’s death is the big “loss” here… everything else is really just… different.)
(I needed to eat dinner… then I ate a pint of Ben & Jerry’s… and then fell asleep on the couch. I’m back.)
The reason for this trip to Oregon was to celebrate Amanda’s parent’s 50th Wedding Anniversary. Amanda and her sister were asked to help with the party planning and to create a program (speech) which they would present to the guests. This was also quite a fairly good-sized shindig… 126 or so people!… so, we thought it would be a good idea to get there a few days early in case there were any party planning crisis..es. Amanda doesn’t get home much, so it was also a nice opportunity for her to catch up with family and a few friends. For me, I was excited to learn more about a woman who since the day I met her, I’ve just kinda wanted to know… more. I was looking forward to meeting people whom I’ve only seen in video, or heard stories about, or hadn’t met at all. I was thrilled to play my part in this little adventure… The Boyfriend!
For the most part, I just didn’t want to embarrass Amanda, disrespect anyone, or make an ass of myself…! In hindsight, I think I did ok. Also in hindsight, I don’t think I was expecting to receive as much as I did from this trip… even if no one knew they were giving me anything or I didn’t recognize it at the time. This trip allowed me to once again feel what it is like to be part of… how do I say this… someone else’s family… one that is sizeable and substantial… one that has history and stories and made up of all walks of life. I got to spend time with a family that loves one another. Yes, family is family and anyone reading this probably understands what that means (…eye roll, eyebrow raise, little head nod…) and can give examples of their own challenging experiences with Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Moms & Dads and annoying little brothers, but again… I’m The Boyfriend… just along for the ride with helping hands when needed…! I might’ve heard some tales about this person or that, but from my experience… they were all fascinating, delightful, and warmhearted people… mostly… 98.7%.
(Once again, I had to eat dinner… and then something came up… got distracted… went to bed. Now, take 3.)
People at work have asked me about the trip… How was it? How’d it go? and all that jazz… and I’ve gotta say that I’ve really enjoyed sharing some of the things I dug about our little excursion. It was nice to actually see where Amanda grew up and has spent most of her life. I think that where we live and the people who come in and out of our lives adds a uniqueness to each of our stories. The more we know, the better we can try to understand… well… “Where this person is coming from”… what makes them tick… what makes them… “them”.
Considering this being my first time visiting… and meeting a bunch of Amanda’s family, being “The Boyfriend” also afforded me the opportunity to sorta… observe… and there was something that kinda touched me on a couple of different fronts (Widowhood, Kateri, Amanda, relationships, marriage, anniversaries… love). When it comes down to it, we were there to celebrate the life of two people whose relationship as Husband and Wife started 50 years ago. As I tagged along here and there, as I hung out at their house watching and listening to 8 people simply doing what they do in a world I’ve only peeked into, I saw a beautiful thing… this thing called Love. I’m not talking the Love parents have for their children, grandchildren, or vice versa n such. And I’m not talking about the Love I saw between friends who haven’t been in the same space in way too long. No, I’m talking about the Love that has endured the ups and downs of building a life together for over half a century. It wasn’t the hundred and twenty whatever guests at the party or the beautiful slide show their Son-in-Law put together of their life that showed it to me. Nor was it the number of cards I saw in the basket congratulating them on this milestone. It actually had nothing to do with anything except for how Amanda’s parents interacted with… each other. They were comfortable together in that best friend kinda way. They were happy and excited to be sharing this experience with people in their life. They were proud. And when they danced to an audience at their 50th Wedding Anniversary, they were the perfect picture of two people who can take a moment away from the world as they get swept up in each other’s arms and in their love for one another… just the two of them… Husband & Wife.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Our life is a book in the making and the pages filled with our stories add up over the days, months, and years as we live on the perpetual last page. Last week, I enjoyed sharing the last page with Amanda, her family, and her friends as we flipped through some of her earlier works.
I’ve decided to use my sledding experience… the one last week, where my ass had an unwelcomed interaction with the stump of a tree…!… as my first piece as a Performance Artist… who takes pictures awkwardly in the bathroom using an iPhone 8, his girlfriend’s tripod, and late wife’s mirror. I call this piece……… Three Days of The Moon: Left Behind.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Sometimes life can bruise you up… sometimes pretty good. Just remember that bruises only grow for so long. At some point they plateau… stop spreading… and simply begin to change as they heal. It may take longer for them to mend than it did for the bruise to show up, but they do diminish over time… all the way to where you can’t even see them anymore. You may still feel the effects of the bruise, but at some point, you realize you’ve made it through the blunt trauma and frequent pain and are now simply living with the memory of the bruise… and hopefully you’ve learned to check for stumps…!
I just had to utter those famous last words… “One… More……… Time.”… (that was stoopid)
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re too old to go sledding. I mean, it may take you a little longer to walk up the hill… and it may take a little longer to get up out of the snow pile you just plowed through when you went off course… but c’mon!… it’s still fun!! Of course, statistics show that it’s almost a guarantee that 72% of most of the time someone… SOMEONE!… will get hurt. Yesterday… that person was me, all because I had to utter those words, “One… More……. Time.”. Now, I realize that it isn’t really because of some words I uttered that my future held this meeting between nature and my body… but I found it ironic that I literally said those words maybe six minutes before… The Encounter…!
It was a snow day. The storm was finishing up on Monday (our day off) and Amanda and I had made it a plan to hang out in the woods, snowshoe the path over and over to pack down the snow to make walking Xander a bit easier, and to make a sledding run somewhere on my hill… which may or may not also have a whole bunch of trees providing excitement, danger, and the possibility of a concussion. We decided to focus on making one sledding run. That way we could spend more time on making a longer… and funner! (yes, that’s a word) sledding run.
As we made loops around the property packing down Xander’s path (Xander now has ownership of the couch, the chair, his bed… my bed, the two corners of the rug, right in front of the woodstove, and the path in the woods..!) we would try to find lines through the trees that would dump us into the back yard because it seemed safer than ending in the road, at my wood pile, the garage, or a rock wall. We decided on a line that would take us from the upper path, down around the fire pit, bank to the left, thread the trees, pop out just below the old water well which sits beneath the rock ledge, and safely drift to a stop in the spacious back yard. After an afternoon of cutting branches, blazing a path, shoveling snow to create walls, banks, and a starting point… after trudging up the hill just to let gravity tell us where to improve, strengthen, or avoid time and time again… I’ve gotta say, we have a pretty good start to a pretty awesome sledding run… that I don’t know when I’ll be able to enjoy again.
It took quite a few tries to figure it out… the path the sledding run would actually take. It wasn’t until the second shift… after chips and queso… that we really started getting some distance. Thats when it becomes dangerous. With each run, we would make it further and further… but we never actually made it all the way down without either needing to push a little bit to get around a corner or simply starting over from a dead stop. We were so close!!… but we also needed to make/eat dinner at some point! So, we decided on one more run each and then it would be time for pork chops and potatoes. Of course, I’m a child and I was sooooo close to making it all the way down that when I got to the bottom and looked up to where Amanda was standing and filming the words just fell out of my mouth… “That was so close!… I gotta try just One… More…….Time!”
I was fully expecting to stay in the sled the entire run, to have it be my best run of the day, to split the trees at the bottom and pop out of the woods and into my back yard where the snow was a giant snowy crash pad and where I would jump up in ecstatic victory! In reality, I made it maybe a fifth of the way down before… well… nature’s booby trap changed the course of not only my sled, but of my immediate future, as well. I hadn’t realized it, but we had worn down the run (and I might’ve shoveled a little too much… maybe) to where a tiny stump was sitting… waiting… just below the surface. As I took off from the top with that little kid excitement and dreams of greatness, I could hear the plastic sled gaining speed as it slid over the frozen ramp when I zipped between the trees, anticipated the first turn, and then BAM!… booby trap. I didn’t go flying, per se. I didn’t land 10 feet away or anything. I was simply stopped in my tracks by my tail bone playing bumper cars with a tree stump that decided it had had enough of our shenanigans. (Yes, I’m putting the blame on the tree stump. It knows what it did!) Let me tell you… I instantly knew what had happened… and it didn’t feel good. I had to lay there a moment… groaning… wondering if I was gonna be able to get up and walk, or if blood was squirting out of my ass, or if I even had an ass anymore! After a few minutes of assessing the situation, I noticed I didn’t feel blood pooling in the crotch of my long johns or running down my leg or anything… YAY!… so it was probably time for me to get up, gather our tools, snowshoes, and sleds… hobble back to The Schoolhouse… and call it a day.
One… More…….Time. I’m glad I said those words. I’m glad I wanted to try to make it all the way down before we called it quits. I may have bruised my butt and am now forced to tell friends and coworkers why I’m walking funny, but it was worth it. I’ve always enjoyed sledding. Before I got the snow blower, shoveling provided nice big piles of snow and I used to love making the sledding run that lined the driveway from The Schoolhouse down to the road. To this day, the video I have of Kateri and I sledding down it under the cover of darkness and hearing her laugh… it still hits me everywhere. I’m glad I still get to go sledding on my property. I’m also glad to have the opportunity to hear the laughter of someone I love as we share the experience of playing in the snow. It simply warms my heart… and has taught me that “One, More, Time” can sometimes lead to more than you were expecting.
The first video is one of Amanda on a run where she almost made it all the way down. I just wanted to show what the run is shaping up to be. In the second video, the thump is when the stump decided to break the sled and say hello to my asshole. I’m thrilled we have it on video so I can relive the trauma over and over again…!
I was standing in the garage the other night doing the ol’ routine of chopping kindling and looking around wondering how I could rearrange all the crap I’ve accumulated over the years when the thought “I Live Alone in a Life Built for Two” popped into my head. It was one of those moments that just kinda creeped into the brain. As I thought about it, I realized it wasn’t exactly accurate or really even how I feel about my widowhood and life these days, although I vividly remember the times when “alone” was the feeling I had from the time I woke up in the morning to the time I went to sleep… sometimes also in the early morning hours. I’m glad I had that sorta sad thought cross my mind… it reminded me of how life isn’t stagnated… that we have our own unique ebbs and flows… and that I’m not alone. It made me bring back into focus the people who are still in my life, those who have come into my life, and although there are those whom I can no longer hold in my arms… I carry them with me as I flub through my day to day in a reality, which for decades… I could not have imagined.
I don’t know how I found it or what I was looking for when it showed up on the computer screen, but I came across an article and snippet of an interview where Steven Colbert asks, “What do you think happens when we die, Keanu Reeves?”. The selfless simplicity of Keanu’s answer, knowing he’s had significant losses in his life, just kinda hit me when his response was, “I know that the ones that love us, will miss us.”. Thank you, Mr. Reeves, for focusing on life… even when asked about your thoughts on death. (That was totally profound, Ted… super deep. You’ve come a long way from, “All we are is dust in the wind, dude”…!)
Yesterday, it caught me by surprise… the feelings that come along when you live with loss in your life. I do what I call “Huddles” with the crew at work every morning to check in, relay information, and give the team a platform to share things they may have questions about… or simply want to share. For a long time it was mostly just me talking to blank stares, which is why I started asking the question, “What is one good thing that has happened to you today?”. For a long time I would get the ol’, “It’s eight o’clock in the morning… I’ve got nothing.” type of responses… so I started forcing them to give me something… anything. It doesn’t need to be earth shattering or life changing, but I think we can all recognize something … at any point in our day… that we can view as good, positive, and sometimes even… beautiful. Well, yesterday, as we were getting ready for a busy Saturday and finishing up our Huddle I got to witness a quick interaction that pulled at the ol’ heartstrings…!
We were going around the kitchen sharing our “good things” when one person said how they were able to have a cup of coffee and give their mom a hug before she went to work. What hit me was when another crew member basically told them to cherish those moments with their mom. I think the reason it hit me was because I know the person who gave that little piece of adivce has experienced loss… and specifically in this case, the loss of his mom. When he gave that advice, he didn’t go into any big story or expand on his thoughts, it was simply “Cherish those moments.”. Right at that moment, the love I have for my mom and the pain that her loss created in my life came rushing back… when I wasn’t expecting it. I literally felt my throat get choked up and my eyes widen as I kept the tears from forming in the corners before they could slide down my cheeks and nestle into my beard. The intensity at which the loss of my mom came rushing back was staggering to me, as well as my ability to stop it and push it to the side so that I could get on with the day… and then deal with it later.
My widowed life seems to have hit a point where it’s just kinda humming along. The peaks and valleys have flattened out a bit to rolling hills… and smaller valleys. Although I am happy and there are things/people I’m excited about, for the most part it’s just one foot in front of the other. So when moments like these pop up… I actually kinda love them. They remind me of what’s important in life. They remind me of my priorities. They remind me of the love I have in my heart for the people who are no longer by my side or in my physical world. This specific experience, a quick little Huddle with no real discernable difference from any other Huddle, reminded me that loss is something I simply live with… and that the love I have for my Mom, for Kateri, for Mary Ann, and for friends who are no longer here is just as strong and powerful as the day they died.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Recognize and cherish those little moments in life… in the future they may not seem so… mundane. Or don’t… I’m not gonna tell you what to do… even though I just did.
I live a life enveloped in loss. After four years, two months, and 18 days I feel like Life is using bubble wrap to soften the loss as I ping pong against the walls of my day to day… I’m just surprised on how much packing tape Life used to keep my loss safe and secure!
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Life is different once it’s touched by loss. I still find enjoyment and happiness here and there. I love my family… and my friends. I love my girlfriend and our dog. I love my home… and am grateful to have it. I love playing my guitar in the garage or on the front porch. I love seeing the fireflies on warm summer nights and my breath on cold winter walks. I love mowing my lawn and waving to people as they drive by… and then motherfucking them for driving too fast and coating everything with dust from the dirt road. I love corndogs… with nothing but yellow mustard. But…. I go through times with this strange kind of “whatever” feeling to my existence. My goal isn’t to build a future, I don’t have many Hopes n Dreams, and I guess I don’t really feel as though I have much “Purpose” in this world. I’m existing… getting through the day… one step at a time… sustaining. I’ve grown accustomed to this life and am comfortable enough with it. In my Widowhood, I don’t wish for death or an end to it all, but I understand that it’s coming at some point. Sometimes I get into a quasi-funk and it doesn’t really matter to me when that is. I’ve learned we don’t always have any control over it… and that it can come at any moment. It’s just weird living a life where there are moments that if someone said, “You have cancer and it’s terminal.”… I’d be like, “OK.” and then quit my job, go home to my Little Red Schoolhouse, have a fire, and ride it out. Thankfully… for today… that is not the case.
This was written at a specific time in my life (a few months ago) where this is what I was feeling. It’s completely fine to feel certain ways at certain moments. Our life is a continuum of emotions that we learn to live with… with the hope that we are able to recognize and manage them. A vast majority of the time I try to have a positive approach to life and be a good person while also knowing that sometimes I simply get that feeling of… blah.
The red and rotting picnic table was strategically placed over a stump at The Little Red Schoolhouse when Kateri and I bought it. Our only plan with it was to take an evening and simply torch it in the back yard, but with the move and excitement of owning our first home we never really got around to it in that first fall/winter/spring, which proved to be a good thing. My whole fam damily came that first summer we were in The Schoolhouse and as Kateri and I were preparing for their arrival we realized we didn’t exactly have enough table space… or chairs… for everyone! So, Kateri got some of that picnic table themed vinyl stuff and we wrapped the benches and table top with it, I screwed a 2×4 to one of the deteriorating legs so that it would make contact with the ground, and Voila!… table for 8!… or 9… maybe 10. We figured we would use it for that week and do something with it after they left. Well… it’s been seven years and even though it proved to be useful in the years since it was used as a stump cover… the plasticky vinyl covering is destroyed, the wood has just kept rotting as it sat in the rain and snow, and frankly…. I just got sick of thinking about how and when I would get rid of it…! So as I thought about how I wanted to spend my 5th Wedding Anniversary as a Widower, the picnic table came to mind and I decided to do something about it.
My widowed life has taken a little to get used to. Things pop up that kinda catch me by surprise such as the fact that I have lived longer in our Little Red Schoolhouse by myself than with Kateri, yet I’m surrounded by twenty years of life I shared with her as I move forward through time without her. I’m still learning how to accept the “Instant Independence” that death handed me while also experimenting on ways to make Our Little Red Schoolhouse… Our Home… into My Home. The Picnic Table was one of those things that has a strong attachment to Kateri for me, as well as a strong attachment to my Widowed Life every time I walk past it and think about how much I just don’t want to see it anymore. So I thought tearing it apart would be a wonderful way to remember some fun moments Kateri and I had with it, it would be another step (albeit small) into “My Life”, and it would give me an opportunity to use power tools!… and maybe light something on fire.
A table can mean all sorts of things and we can put all sorts of significance on gathering around one for a meal, a celebration, for a serious talk, or those times we sit there by ourselves with nothing but our thoughts. Sometimes a table is a “Catch-all” for those things we carry around in our pockets all day or it can simply be a flat surface for us to put something on that we plan to deal with later. Going through the experience of celebrating my 5th Wedding Anniversary (would’ve been our 11th Wedding Anniversary/twenty-thirdish year together) without my wife… spending time cutting that picnic table into little chunks and hauling it up to the fire pit and then sitting and staring at the flames as they gradually illuminated the trees while the Autumn Sun slowly set behind the Green Mountains, I realized that a table… even an old, rotting, and weathered one… has the ability and strength to hold so much more than I expected it to.
Random Widower Thoughts:
On Tuesday, the day before my Wedding Anniversary, I was standing in the back yard taking a moment and I started to feel some of the emotions that come along with Loss bubble up. And then I thought about the fact that my Wedding Anniversary was Tomorrow… and not Today. Although feelings and emotions come when they want, I had to remind myself that I was still living in the present and before I could really let myself get immersed in the life and loss of Kateri… I needed to thank someone for always being supportive, for being understanding, for being a caring and giving individual, for being there for me, and for loving me. I needed to take a moment… be in the present… tell them, “Thanks”… and, “I love you.” We carry the past with us, but that’s not where we live.
On September 24, 2021 Xander came to the schoolhouse for a temporary stay… and never left. Sometimes when we live a life touched by loss, some of those losses teach us lessons when we look for them and gives us things when we… weren’t. Xander came into my life four days before my 4th Wedding Anniversary without Kateri. He was by my side as I went through that anniversary crying in my bed, sitting on my deck pondering life, or doing whatever. I thought about how he was in a new space… with a new person… and not with Judy (even though at that point his stay was still just a temporary thing and we thought they would be reunited). I wondered what he was thinking about. I hoped he wasn’t sad, but felt he knew something was up. For almost a year now, all I’ve wanted to do was make sure he has the best life I can give him. I want him to have the easiest life I can provide for him. I want him to be himself. I want him to be a dog being a dog. I want him to be happy and feel like he’s home in a life which is so different from what he knew on September 23, 2021. I want him to feel loved… because I’ve got so much frickin’ love for the guy that I don’t even care about his love strings (hair) being all over the couch!… and the stairs… and the chair… and my bed… my fleece pants… and… and… you get the idea… it’s a lot of love… and love strings.
The dude that turned The Schoolhouse into a house in the 60’s also made a little path through the 6.5 acres so that he could harvest lumber for the woodstove n such. When Kateri and I bought the place, I cleaned up the paths since they had started to get overgrown by the lack of use. Since Xander has come to The Schoolhouse, we have walked the path almost every day. Well, nowadays I feel like our afternoon walk is more like me walking the path… and Xander walking, running, sniffing, digging the other 6.49 acres! It was on one of these walks that I recently realized that Xander has taught me a few things as we have gotten to know each other over the last year. Lessons and exercises that I learned while running up hills in the dark yelling, “Xander!” and “Come here, Bud!”… or standing for ten minutes while getting eaten by mosquitos as he tears apart a rotting stump… or simply walking behind him hearing nothing but the pitter patter of his paws on the pine needle padded path surrounded by the sounds of the woods. I realized I have learned a lot… staring at an 83 pound Pitbull’s butt as he trots along on the hunt for chipmunks. These are a few of those things.
By the time I get home from work Xander has been cooped up in The Schoolhouse for 9 to 11 hours so when we go for our afternoon walk I want to give him… time. Time to run. Time to be outside. Time to be a dog sniffing, digging, patrolling, and playing in the woods and yard. On one of these walks I found myself standing there… for I don’t know how long… as Xander was tearing apart a rotting stump and digging deeper and deeper along it’s roots. It was hot… which in Vermont also means buggy… and I was just about over it. At that moment I recognized just how much fun Xander was having trying to get at whatever it was he was fixated on. I wanted him to stop so that we could keep on our walk and I could get to my evening tasks. And then I thought about how he spent the day surrounded by walls with only a view of the world outside the windows. So I took a breath and pushed my thoughts of evening chores to the side and took in the scenery and sounds of the woods while I waited… and waited… and let him be a dog.
When Kateri died, I was thrust into this weird “Instant Independence” kind of life. I was responsible for only myself… and Kateri’s chickens. When the last three chickens (Lil’ Bitch, Chicken, and Chicken) got eaten by raccoons (bastards), I was the last living animal left at The Schoolhouse besides the mice, snakes, and other country creatures. The moment Amanda and I told Judy we would take care of Xander and he could live at my house, I assumed the responsibility of providing the best possible life I could for him. I was responsible for his health, his safety, and his happiness. It’s a responsibility that fills me with warmth every day when I come home and can see him through the big ol’ schoolhouse window sitting on the end of the couch with his paws hanging over the edge just waiting for me to walk past so that he can run to the door to meet me. Of course, sometimes I see him on the couch and by the time I open the door… he’s not there. Nope, sometimes when I open the door I can hear him in the dining room crunching away at the food in his bowl leftover from the night before. Yup… gotta say… sometimes it hurts just a little knowing that food is the bigger priority for him than seeing me at that moment!… but I’ve accepted it.
There have always been dogs in mine and Kateri’s life, but we never had one of our own. We moved around a bunch… and were renters… and just thought it would be easier to pick up and start another adventure if we didn’t have animals. Once we bought our Little Red Schoolhouse, once we had our own land, once we had our own Home… that’s when things like pets, chickens, Hopes n Dreams would really start to take off. That first Spring in our first home is when those Hopes n Dreams started to take shape in the form of 8 chickens. And then two Springs later… Kateri died… and things like Hopes n Dreams turned into a cloudy and muddled view of life, love, and the world in which I was living in. Over the last four and a half years some of those challenges that come along with Widowhood have eased and some of those cloudy views have started to clear up a bit. Love is a complicated thing. For an emotion that can make you feel as though you are on top of the world… there are also circumstances where it plays it’s part in making us feel completely isolated… and alone… even when we’re surrounded by loved ones. A dog… Xander… brought life back to my Little Red Schoolhouse. A dog… Xander… has provided me with companionship, friendship, and love every single day over the last year. A dog… Xander… lost his person. Xander lost the life he knew and was thrust into an unfamiliar world… my world. Judy entrusted Amanda and I with the love of her life… and she gave me the opportunity to feel loved every morning as Xander nudges his way under the blanket for warmth an hour before my alarm goes off, every evening I come home from work to a wagging tail and the funny hoppity hop around the living room, and every night he makes his way up to the bedroom with that familiar clickity clack of toenails on wood floors… fashionably five…ish minutes after I have crawled into bed. As her life was ending, through her asking for Amanda and I to bring Xander into our lives, Judy gifted me with the feeling of Unconditional Love at a moment in time I needed to be reminded of it.
Loss in life is simply a hard thing we all go through at on point or another in varying degrees, but we need to remember that we’re living in a world where beauty, love, and happiness still exists and hopefully we have people in our lives that can remind us of that… even after they are gone.
Ever since I got back to my Little Red Schoolhouse in Vermont from Idaho in March after spending the last month of my mom’s life with her, I’ve kinda just been focused on getting through the day to day of my own life. It’s a strange feeling losing both Kateri and my mom. It’s uncomfortable not having the option of reaching out to them… and them being there. My world got subsequently smaller with the passing of each of them. My universe contracted. I felt isolated and alone as the living started moving on from the losses I was reminded of every morning as I sipped my first cup of coffee and that which blanketed me every evening when I crawled into what used to be Kateri’s bed. Living a life with loss is challenging on all sorts of fronts, but luckily… I’ve still got a whole bunch of people in this world that I love dearly, and who dearly love me. My sister is one of those at the top of the list. Although we weren’t exactly close for the first 20 years of adulthood due to distances and drinkin’, life has provided us the opportunity to reconnect with each other and reminded us that we do not have to do this alone. I have friends. I have family. I am thankful to have my sister… and it was awesome having her and my brother-in-law visit for a week for the first time… without their children!!
One of the intentions Dina and Tom had on their vacation was to help me out with things around the house. Leading up to their arrival, I had started a list of projects that the four of us could maybe do while also setting some time aside to simply chill. Now, you can fit a lot into a week and since this is a blog post and not a book, I’m just gonna go through a few of the projects that Dina and Tom helped me out with at the ol’ Schoolhouse and some of the adventures that the four of us had (Sis, Bro-in-Law, Girlfriend Amanda, and I)… in chronological order.
Unplanned Lawn Mower Maintenance
I wanted the Schoolhouse to look as “put together” as I could before they arrived so I tried to mow the yard as close to their arrival as possible. Unfortunately, the drive belt on the riding lawnmower decided to snap in half with only a few more passes left needed to finish the job! Amanda and I went into town and got a belt on Monday, Dina and Tom arrived Tuesday night, and the four of us learned how to replace a V-Drive Belt using milk crates and manuals in the back yard!
Last year my mom wanted to buy me automatic garage doors for my birthday… which would’ve been fantastic! Unfortunately, I have an old ass garage with old ass garage doors… that is (are) kinda falling apart… and I don’t have room for the garage door motor things. So I asked my mom, “How about an Ooni Pizza Oven instead..?!”. Let me tell you, Amanda and I love breaking that thing out! (It doesn’t hurt that Amanda is a baker and will just “throw together” pizza dough!)
The Wood Pile Competition
Although the stacking of wood really only covered Wednesday and Thursday, it took just about the whole week to actually “finish” the project. Stacking wood is part of our culture here in Vermont and I wanted Dina and Tom to share in that experience! I asked my wood guy if he could deliver it the week they got here and he actually delivered it a couple of weeks prior… just enough time for a few critters to set up shop before we started moving it!
Before Kateri died, we would stack next year’s wood in neat cubes behind the potting shed under the lean-to and talk about how the guy down the road would put metal rings in his and make cool designs. After Kateri died I guess I was looking for a little creative outlet and decided to try my hand at making next year’s wood look a bit more interesting. Not to mention stacking it not so far away from The Schoolhouse!
Friday we decided to take it easy and do a little sight seeing and junk shopping, so we loaded up in the cute little Renegade and headed south. Our destination was Hillbilly Recycling in Bridgewater and even though I don’t care for Woodstock… it was on the way and an idyllic little New England/Vermont town for them to experience with it’s covered bridges, shops, and town green. It was a nice day of looking at other people’s crap, eating sammies in parking lots, staring through the car windows at the sea of green blanketing the mountains as we drove the winding rural roads… and stopping for creemees before heading home!
When Kateri and I first bought our house in 2015 my family drove cross country to deliver some furniture… and a piano. On that trip we tried to hit Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester. It was Kateri’s and my favorite beach to sit on ever since Randy and Vicky introduced it to us. Kateri and I would wake up around 4:00am after loading beach chairs, our umbrella, the beach bag, and her pop’s army blanket into the Jeep the night before so that we could get to Gloucester and grab breakfast at George’s… and still get to the beach when the sand was cool and there wasn’t a sea of colorful nylon domes. Unfortunately, when my family visited they had a dog with them and we couldn’t bring Lucy (the dog) into the park… so we adapted and went to another spot.
This year I wanted to give my sister and Tom a nice East Coast Beach Going Experience and thought we would hit Wingaersheek this time around! I thought we had everything lined up. There were only the four of us. A friend was gonna swing by The Schoolhouse before and after work to let Xander out. The weather was gonna be beautiful… and we had bought an extra beach umbrella for the added security of shade!… a necessity for the beach. So Friday night we got everything ready to go, hit the road early Saturday morning, drove the three hours down to the Massachusetts coast, and got to Wingaersheek before 8:45am! Everything was going as planned until we turned onto the road that leads to the beach. As we made the right turn we noticed a big sign saying “Advanced Reservation Parking Only”…!!!… something the city of Gloucester had implemented in May… and something we had not looked into! So once again we adapted… and Dina and Tom got to see the same beach we went to six years ago! The four of us made the most of it and still had a wonderful time simply sitting in the sand… people watching.
The other plan that day was to hit a clam shack so that Dina could get a lobster roll and we could test to see if Tom had gotten over his bad experience the last time we went to the beach together. When they visited six years ago and we had gone to the beach, we had also gone to Woodman’s so that they could have that Clam Shack experience. Well, the seafood didn’t sit too well in Tommy’s stomach (we think the sun was the actual culprit) and let’s just say we left a soggy brand new baseball cap in a compromised paper bag on the side of the road somewhere in New Hampshire… maybe… and I was thankful our 2004 Volvo XC70 had leather seats! I’m happy to inform you that this trip to the clam shack was far more successful than the previous one!… fried shrimp and all!
Once we made the trek home from the ocean another little unanticipated thing happened… COVID. As we putzed along across New Hampshire, Amanda was feeling a little stuffy and had a scratch in her throat… uh oh! Once back at The Schoolhouse she decided to be safe and took a COVID test. Let me tell you, for not having children and not having had COVID yet, when that first little line showed up (pretty much instantly) we were kinda like, “Ummm… now what?!”. Luckily my sister is a mom and has already had to deal with The Rona in her house… plus she already had it… so we decided it would be best for Amanda to stay at The Schoolhouse and quarantine in my bedroom, I would sleep on the couch (it’s like camping… with TV!), and she would be able to come out and hang with us (socially distanced!) when she felt up to it as we worked on the next project… The Fire Pit. We were fortunate that besides a splitting headache for a day or two, she had a pretty mild case… and I anxiously waited for the symptoms to make their way to me.
The Fire Pit
Sunday was all about The Fire Pit… (and making sure Amanda was doing OK!). When Kateri and I first bought The Schoolhouse we found a little spot in the woods that we thought would make a decent area for a fire pit. I dropped a few trees to open up the view to the sky and we foraged rocks to make a ring and kind of left it at that. When my family visited in 2016, they actually flattened out the area around the fire pit and encircled the sitting area with various stones from the hillside. It looked amazing! Unfortunately, if you were sitting in a camp chair next to the fire there wasn’t enough room for someone to walk past and/or your knees would be on fire because you’d be sitting 2 feet away from some good sized flames! (I think it’s illegal to have a fire less than four feet tall in Vermont..?!) We had always wanted to widen the ol’ hang out area, but we figured it was already a hundred times nicer than before and there were plenty of other projects to get to. Once Kateri died and I was left to my own devices, the fire pit moved pretty far down the priority list… until my sister said she was coming to visit! So on Sunday afternoon after a lazy Sunday morning, the three of us made our way up to the fire pit with shovels, rakes, and gloves to start Fire Pit 2.0.
In the years leading up to my sister’s visit, I always felt weird about wanting to change the fire pit. I mean, my family put a ton of time, energy, and love into providing Kateri and I with a cool little place to hang out and I never wanted them to feel as though we didn’t appreciate it. I love the fact that they were able to come back, experience the old pit, agree that a bit more space could be nice… and then simply made an afternoon of creating a wonderful and beautiful space with nothing but a few tools, time, and some good old fashioned effort.
Trail Maintenance Monday
We decided to stick around the ol’ homestead for the last few days of Dina and Tom’s visit and on Monday Tom and I played in the woods while Dina tackled the flower beds in front of the deck. When we first bought the house, there were overgrown paths that the previous owner had used to gather wood for the winter. I spent weeks walking the path, cutting brush, and making little piles of limbs along the trail that I figured we could take to the fire pit and burn… which never happened! So now I have little piles of limbs which are slightly hidden from leaves that have fallen over the years. This year, Tom started off making little piles on the path and we figured we could do the same thing… pick them up and burn them in the new fire pit! Now, I haven’t really done much trail maintenance recently so there happened to be quite a bit of crap (branches/fallen trees/etc.) on the path. Enough so that by the time Tom got to the back 9 it was less about making little piles and more about simply clearing the path… which involved switching to just hucking the shwag off to the side and into the forest! Either way… the paths are clear… and I have plenty of wood to enjoy in the fire pit… because I live in the woods.
Man… it was hot on Monday… and I decided to break out the chainsaw. Personally, I love the smell of gasoline and burning oil with the sound of a two stroke engine echoing through the forest. If I can be all sweaty and dusty while wearing layers of protective gear… even better! Of course, I’ve also kinda beat up the chain to the chainsaw over the last year so I was able to make one pass around the walking path, started on the fallen tree by the fire pit, and then stopped after it took way too much effort to slice three chunks off the end of it. Chainsawing is fun… but not with a beat up chain!
Yup. It was Tuesday evening, our last night together in Vermont and we were eating dinner on the front porch when I sorta sucked some food down the wrong tube which made my eyes water and nose plug up. At first I didn’t think much of it even though I was very aware about the possibility of getting COVID considering I was in close contact with Amanda leading up to… and when… she tested positive. Then, after a bit of hanging out… my nose never cleared up! The plan was for me to drive Dina and Tom to Boston in the morning so they could catch their flight home and I started worrying about how that would go if I tested positive for COVID! Once I mentioned my nose was all plugged up, we had decided the best course of action was to take a test so that we knew what was going on… and then take it from there. So, I grabbed a test from the bathroom, brought it out to the deck, swabbed the ol’ nostrils, did all the stuff, and three drops of the snotty solution on a pregnancy test later… two lines!… Balls.
I will say, when I saw I was positive with The Vid… I had an initial little internal freakout. I mean… I smoked a lot… A LOT… of things in my life and this is one virus I just didn’t wanna get even though I knew it was just a matter of time. Luckily, Amanda’s experience had been pretty mild so far and that’s what I was hoping for. The pressing matter was how to get Dina and Tom to the airport! Ah… problem solving. Fortunately, there is a bus that runs from Hanover/Lebanon, New Hampshire to Logan. All we had to do was figure out how to get them to the bus. So we had Dina and Tom drive my car to the station while Amanda and I drove and “isolated” in her car. Once at the station, Dina and Tom were able to get on the bus… and Amanda and I drove our separate cars home… safe! It was weird not giving Tom a hug goodbye, but we know the times we live in… and we don’t need a hug to know we love each other… even though it would’ve been nice.
The Schoolhouse is Once Again… quiet.
It’s now Monday morning, Dina and Tom are back at home in Idaho, Amanda is back at her place, and I’m here with Xander in The Schoolhouse listening to the hum of fans and air conditioners as I reflect on the past two weeks. Four and a quarter years ago I was taught the lesson that nothing in life is guaranteed. I was taught the lesson that the amount of love we have for someone or something does not have a direct correlation to the amount of time we have to spend with them. I was taught the lesson… and forced… to live in the present and to make the most out of whatever experience I was currently going through, both the good ones and the bad. I have a good life. I have a good job. I have good friends. I have memories of a beautiful life with my wife, Kateri… who I will cherish and love till the day I die. I love my sister, Dina. I love my brother-in-law, Tom. I love my girlfriend, Amanda. I love that they were all here with me at The Little Red Schoolhouse in the woods of Vermont for last two weeks… and I currently miss them all.
I knew I didn’t have the time to write about Thursday night because… well… I’ve just got a lot to do before my sister comes to visit! So, I decided to simply tell the story of when I found a snake… IN MY UPSTAIRS BATHROOM…! The video is 23 minutes. The actual ordeal took much much longer… and the trauma will last a lifetime.
A couple of notes:
My sister is still coming to visit… pretty sure.
The headlamp was for seeing into holes in walls and dark spots… where snakes can hide.
There is now more spray foam in my house… and less duct tape on the roll.
If you’re not a “successful”, white, man… Political “Christians” have been oppressing and suppressing your Human Rights since the birth of our nation. On their own… demonstrations, rallies, and social media memes don’t change laws. Your choices for change are using the current system in which we live in to organize, engage, and vote… or start a revolution.
(…I’ll take my answer off the air while watching from the cheap seats.)
Now, that doesn’t really seem like a noteworthy thing to write about, but I haven’t written a blog in a while and thought I just needed to start with something… so the store it is! I’ve kinda just been whittling down the provisions that have been taking up space in my cupboards, freezers, and cabinets… some of which have been hanging out for longer than I would currently like to share with you! Don’t worry, I will share thatI didn’t feel the need to be adventurous with the four and a half year old chicken stock or the Hoisin sauce from 2019… so luckily, there haven’t been any late nights sitting on the toilet wondering if it’s better to just barf in the tub than to risk the swing around considering what’s been coming out the other end! Nope… none of that… I played it safe. Instead, I used my “Cheffing” abilities and had coursed out dinners for the last three nights!
Dr. McDougall’s Miso Ramen Soup made with Wild Hill Water and served in it’s own recyclable paper cup… which you can also burn
Two poached Beef Hot Dogs served on artisanally purchased buns topped with non-organic Ketchup, Yellow Mustard, and a Sweet Pickle Relish
A refreshing bowl of Flaked Corn, Granola, and Almonds (Honey Bunches of Oats) served in a bath of 41 degree Cow Juice
Served with a 2022 Orange Fanta
Freezer Cured French Fries topped with Provolone and Cabot Cheddar Cheese served with a side of Freshly Squeezed Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing and a dollop of Preservative Infused Ketchup
Served with a 2022 Orange Fanta
Can Cured and Sous Chef Selected Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup simmered for way too long over electric heat in an Emeril Lagasse sauce pot… which is also the serving vessel after being nestled in a Sister Made Bowl Holder
2022 Orange Fanta
An Axeless Mountain Dwarf’s Handful of Roasted & Salted Cashews… so a small handful..!
Served with a 2022 Orange Fanta
The lack of food in my house is really of my own doing. Since I’ve gotten back from Idaho to be with my mom for the last month of her life, my life has just been… busy. After four years of widowhood, I’m still learning how to get everything done… or to do everything I would like to… on my own. Since last September, when Xander (Judy’s dog) came to live with me, my routine has been wake up, let him out, go to work for 8 to 9.5 hours, and then boogie home to let him out again since he’s been cooped up for 10ish plus hours by that time. With the responsibility of taking care of Xander for the rest of his or my life, my priorities… and routine… have changed… and I’m learning to adapt. In regards to food, it really just comes down to the fact that once I am home and Xander and I go for our walk around property… I simply don’t wanna leave the schoolhouse to go to the store! Instead… I’ve been making do… and I’ve been ok with that. (Everything’s fine!!)
Life has it’s challenges. Some we have no control over and we’re forced to adapt. Some can be persistent and they take us a few tries to figure out. Some can be physical. Some can be emotional. Some can be psychological. Some are big, like when your life gets turned upside down with the death of the center of your world and the visions of the future you thought you were gonna have for the next 40 years. Others are small and simple, like getting out of a cozy bed on a cool Sunday morning… or playing jungle rules for dinner.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Widowhood can be an overwhelming, confusing, relentless part of life that forces you to live in The Present, with challenging daily reminders of The Past, while accepting the the fact that to a degree… The Future is really just an idea. (Deep Thoughts by… by Darren)
I took today off from work. I’ve taken the last three Earth Days off… well, I guess technically the last four. Although I love the ol’ Earth… I’m kind of attached to it!… it’s not the actual reason that I have taken the day off… and plan to not work on another Earth Day for the rest of my life. Nope, I took the day off because four years ago today was the last day I woke up to Kateri by my side. Four years ago today… was the last day I touched Kateri’s warm skin, ran my fingers through her hair, or could listen to her breath as she slept. Four years ago today… was the last day I could lean over and whisper, “I love you.” in Kateri’s ear and kiss her on the cheek. Four years ago today… I was holding Kateri’s forearm, I could feel the scar and indentation from her “shark bite”… and I heard her take her last breath. Four years ago today… is the worst day of my life. Four years ago today… Kateri died. Four years ago today, I didn’t know how I was gonna wake up and face… Tomorrow.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
A neighbor of mine lost his husband and he recently wrote a blog where part of it was about how people kinda go away after a while… they stop “checking in”… they simply go on with their lives. Widowhood is an isolating experience, even at the beginning when you are surrounded by friends and family. Even though I understand that people love me, care for me, and are there for me whenever I may need them, I still have that sense of being left… “alone”.
I’ve known Kateri’s Death Date was coming up, but I haven’t really been able to give it much thought until today. With my Mom dying on February 27th, Kateri’s mom passing on April 1st, and with the normal wear and tear of the daily grind… I just haven’t given it the time. I guess that’s one of the reasons I took today off…!.. I wanted to take the time… and to have the space… to remember Kateri and my life with her.
Kateri taught me soooo much in life. I’m not the same person I was when we met. Kateri showed me how to be a better person. Kateri gave me daily examples of how to treat other people, how to find beauty in unsuspecting places, and what the important things in life are. One of the things I love about Kateri is that she didn’t change much throughout our life together. She didn’t need to. She knew who she was, what was right, and she stayed true to herself throughout her life. She was an impressive woman.
The time she rode a bucking bronco, flannel shirts & hoodies, “Balls!”, flowers and flower gardens but not tulips in a row, The Band, outdoor showers, long walks on dirt roads, Hopes n Dreams, chickens, “Yes please!” and “Who makes the best coffee in the world?!”, Lippy/Lipper/Lipstorm… but not Lipstick, a Toyota with a wooden bed, bowling balls on the side of the road (fyi… it costed around $23 to mail a bowling ball across the country in 2002… and she called it a “gutter ball”), bathtubs deep enough for boobs to float in, yard art, sufferin’ succotash, going to the beach in the summertime… going to the ocean in the off season, mini-Fridays, overalls and Darn Toughs, New Hampshire is a state… Vermont is a state of mind, the floor couch, “pills” & Pocket People, 1973 Super Beetles that were five different shades of orange, Dancing the Trump away, Dancing in the car/dancing in the living room/dancing in the kitchen or anywhere and at whatever time it needed to happen…….. Kateri’s Dance with Cancer. My life with Kateri was cut short by powers beyond my control, but I have a million and a half memories that remind me of why I loved her so much and how much she gave to the people in her life.
I’m gonna have a good day today… I am. I mean, I’ve already shot the shit with the dude who is gonna tattoo Kateri’s Birthdate and Deathdate up and down the spine of my back, I got outside and walked The Loop with Xander… and he didn’t run off!, and after a nice little drive through Vermont… I’m gonna spend the evening with people who have a deep love and steadfast bond with Kateri.
Life can be sad, challenging, confusing, and overwhelming… but that’s just part of the gig. It may be hard to see at times, but there are some pretty cool people, beautiful moments, experiences, and adventures mixed in there, as well.
April 1st, 2022… Mary Ann Damato… a beautifully loving woman with moments of Double Pump Flip Offs… Kateri’s Mom (Mom to 7 others… Grandmother or Abuela to 8ish more)… my Mother-in-Law… passed away on Friday morning. Stoopid cancer.
Mary Ann was a wonderful person in my life. I loved watching… and experiencing… Kateri’s relationship with her mom over the years. I loved getting to know Mary Ann… and her getting to know me. I love that we became family through the moments and time we spent together. I love that she considered me a son long before Kateri became my wife. When it comes right down to it… Mary Ann was part of “The Good” in the world. From here in the Northeast and across this country, to the villages of South and Central America, to the streets of Mexico where she would teach art to the kids on the sidewalk… she has friends and family from all walks of life who will feel the loss of this loving and compassionate woman. Take care, Missy… I love you… tons.
Now, I don’t really have much experience with death. I don’t come from a large family. I wasn’t close to grandparents, cousins, or anything. I’ve been fortunate that a vast majority of my friends are still around. And I live in a country where we don’t talk about death in a positive manner much… which may sound weird… but it’s something that we all experience, from one point of view or another, at some point in the timeline of life. Although I don’t have much experience with it, I kinda feel like the lessons I’ve learned on the topic were taught (and being taught) in an expediated night class that I’m court ordered to go to!
Being here with my Mom for the last three weeks is a completely different experience than being there with Kateri as I watched cancer destroy her body and take away her breath. I’m in a different role here in Idaho. I’m playing a different part… in a different scene… of a different movie. The subject may be the same, but it’s a version that I don’t quite have a handle on. Even though I already know how the movie is gonna end… it’s the final scene that’s still being written… and I’m having a pretty hard time with the writer. In all honesty, I kinda wish I could fire the writer… but I think they unionized a long time ago and have obtained… what’s that called?… tenure.
I am currently in the process of losing the most important person in my life. When Kateri died, that distinction shifted to my Mom. (Sorry… there’s a hierarchy and we’ve all got favorites.) In the last three weeks, I’ve learned a few things. One of the lessons I’ve learned is that losing Kateri sorta prepared me for the time when I will lose my mom. It kinda sucks to draw upon the memories of that time in my life, but it showed me just how rough life could get… and subsequently, that I would make it through. I mean, at the least… I’ve made it until today!… which is good enough.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple of days simply listening to my mom breath as I sit on the old wooden chair next to her bed. Every time she takes a breath, I count until her next one. 1, 2, 3… 1, 2, 3… 1, 2… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7… 1, 2… 1, 2, 3… 1, 2……. 18… and so on and so on. I actually find it relaxing… until the counting continues into the teens and twenties… that sucks. I’m sure I’m trying to get a gauge on where we’re at in the process, but for the most part… I just wanna be there for my mom when she periodically opens her eyes. I can’t really stand the idea of her being by herself in her room in the final days of her life. I want her to see… to feel… just how much she is loved and that she is not going through this… alone.
I started this post yesterday. Today, I began using a stopwatch as I sat on that wooden chair. Her breathing pattern has changed to the tune of take two breaths… a twenty-three second pause… take two breaths. Let me tell you… those pauses aren’t fun to hear.
I’ve noticed that death has a smell. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s the same smell that filled the air when I was sitting with… and holding… Kateri.
I’m tired. Physically, emotionally, and psychologically… exhausted. I don’t wanna think about leaving, because when I do it means that my mom will be gone. I wanna be here and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to be here… but I’m also ready to be home.
It took me a second to process what he said, but then my brain figured out that the meth addict looking Idaho asshole driving his shitbox ’92 maroon Toyota Corolla was leaning out his window yelling, “GO HOME!” as he passed me going the opposite direction when I pulled onto my parent’s street. It caught me by surprise as I was simply driving home after grabbing a mocha for me and a latte for my mom… which I know she won’t drink. It pissed me off. It upset me to the point where I flipped a bitch with the intention of catching up to the self-absorbed and small minded dickhead at the traffic light to inquire about his thoughts on hometowns, state pride, and what the words “One Nation” in our country’s Pledge of Allegiance means to him. Well, that and if he knew I was raised here in the city of Boise which fostered a deep love for the mountains, wildlife, and wilderness in me from the vast amount of time I’ve spent in them… and that I’m only here visiting because my mom is currently laying in a hospital bed in her bedroom dying from cancer. Fuck you… you fucking fuck… who can’t even grow a proper beard…!
Luckily, he wasn’t at the light when I got to it, which meant I didn’t have to figure out what it was I was actually gonna do when I got there! To be clear… I wasn’t looking for a fight… I’m not a fighter… I’m like three feet tall! I mean, I have no problem with scrappin’ if circumstances lead to it and it’s justified, but I generally don’t like the feeling of getting punched in the face and I don’t believe there are really that many circumstances that justify escalating to the point of violence. I may have been 100% comfortable with the possibility of confrontation at the time, but I’m glad it didn’t happen. No… instead I used this individual’s last three brain cell’s reaction to the color of my license plate (on my cute little Jeep) as an exercise in prioritizing what is important in my life, what is the immediate need, and who are the people… and types of people… I wanna surround myself with as I keep marching on day after day.
Yup, this douchebag might’ve put me in a foul mood and made me lose a tiny bit of faith in humanity (and reinforced why I live in the woods of Vermont!), but he’s just one person… whom I will most likely never see again… and I’m ok with that.
With that being said… below was gonna be my post yesterday morning. It was kinda nice for me to see that I could come up with a whole bunch of people who I care about a million times more than the inbred who screamed out his window at a license plate.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Dear Mom, Kateri, Dad, Dina, Tommy, Josh, Jacob, Addison Rose, Sadie, Amanda, Matty, Les, Keith & Michelle, Maria, Pookie, Pocker, Cassie, Trilla, Moose, Jeanette, Amelia, Cisco, Chichi, Mary Ann, Todd, Tony, Scotty (The Hottie), MPH, Jake, Kristen, Sarah, Eric, Teri, Diane, Jay, Jason, Greg, Luna, Amanda, Casey, Raph, Mike, Michael, Justin, Juice (sorry I haven’t called!), Lea Jae, Becky, Cindy, Cristina, Jeff, Jeff, Jessica, Kate, Phil, Phillip, Philip, Mark, Sue, Other Mark, Other Sue, Sandra, Bill, Shannon, Tamzen, Hannah, Gen & Jake, Luke & Brady, Michelle, Tim, Carrie, Jeremy, John, Nick, John… and another John with an “H”, Ruslan, Margot (I’m so happy for you guys!), Will, Will (More Black Sabbath…!), Sarah, Jeanie, Keri, Mike, Franny, Gardner, Abby, Michelle, Cindy, Rosie (you can take the rest of the day off!), Davin, Lil’ Eric, Corey, Orrin, Ann, Cindy, Frank, Jaime, Jamie, Tara, Tara (pronounced Tara), Lucy (Little Lion Dog), Bridget, Maggie, Lauren, Nancy… and Nancy, Paul, Rob, Wilson, Tracy, Paulie, Charles, Kate, Will, Holly, Jenny, Wendy, Brad, Maura, Luanne, Carol, Dennis, Tom, Mike, Bob, Jim, John, Susan, Lucas, Greg, Didi, Sean, Angela, Angela & Sean (even though I haven’t met Sean!), Lisa, Uncle Ron (you’re an impressively strong man… fuck cancer), Kris, Rhonda, Sarah, Ian, Martha, Matt, Chad, Julie, Laurie, Laura, Chris, Gil, Leslie, Luke, MaryJane, Vickie (not Michelle’s alter-ego), Frank & Marnie (congrats on the new place!), Dan, Marc, Nadia, Andy, Brian, Nate, aaaaaaand Xander (even though you’re a dog and won’t be reading this),
ps… And to those who aren’t listed… I thank and send ya some love, too.
I went for a drive on Friday. I’ve been in Idaho for two weeks and a day now to be with my mom and on Friday I just needed to get out of Dodge. Well, it’s not so much that I needed to get out of Dodge… I just needed to cover some ground, get into the mountains and away from the lights and sounds of suburbia and the city, so that I could feel a bit more comfortable and be in a space that would allow me to… think. Of course, I’m pretty sure it also started the process of me having a mid-life crisis… sorta. I just happen to need more money so that I can have a mid-life crisis in style. You know, like the ones you used to be able to have in the 80’s with sports cars and cocaine! (ummm… FYI… neither of which I’m actually interested in) I guess it’s not so much that I’m having a mid-life crisis… it’s more me trying to make sense of living a life without being able to give my mom a hug, being able to tell her about my day, being able to share my life with her, being able to lean on her for support and guidance, being able to tell her… I love her. After losing Kateri to Metastatic Malignant Melanoma… with mutations… my mom was there for me. She even made the trip to Kateri’s Kick-Ass Party… oxygen tank in tow, needed because of the cancer… saying she was gonna make it there one way or another and wouldn’t have missed it for anything. My mom is a strong woman. My mom is an independent woman. My mom is a caring and compassionate woman who loved me no matter what bad decisions I made throughout my life… while also celebrating the good ones. And my mom is currently in her bedroom, laying in a hospital bed resting as Joan Baez radio fills the air… dying from cancer. No, I guess it’s not so much that I’m having a mid-life crisis… I’m just really sad… I’m just feeling kinda lost… and being here watching my mom live with cancer for the last little bit of her life is just… hard.
When Kateri died, everything I thought I knew about who I was and what I wanted my life to look like simply vanished. It was cloaked with some sort of haze… a fog… this lack of direction in the world and my place in it. Being a widower… to put it bluntly… sucks balls. To be a widower in my mid-forties, to lose Kateri at a time when we were at the best spot in our lives and we were so excited about the future, our home, our history, and growing old together… honestly, threw me for a loop. But in the last almost four years, it also taught me that as long as I’m upright and on this side of the earth… I’ve gotta keep putting pants on and taking those steps to try and figure out how to keep living in a world without something that I thought I was gonna live with forever. It taught me that sometimes in life we have to adapt to scenarios that we never could’ve imagined… that never crossed our minds. It taught me that life could be hard… and living could be even harder.
Kateri’s death showed me that I could endure quite a bit while also clarifying… and simplifying… a couple of my priorities in life. My priority right now is to be with my mom because this is one of those things that’s only gonna happen once in my life. When I leave Idaho, my life and priorities will be different than when I arrived. I’ve accepted that and I know I will be ok… and I’ll continue to search for ways to make life better. Unfortunately, part of being here with my mom is seeing her frustration… seeing her discomfort… seeing her lose her mobility… her independence… seeing her in and out of lucidity… seeing her so… tired. Losing ones we love is hard, but sometimes I think seeing them having to endure the process as cancer attacks their bodies and we witness strength turn into frailty… well… sometimes I feel like that part of life is the hardest.
I’m actually gonna get back to writing in the next couple of days, but as of late I just haven’t found the time. I’m currently in Idaho after driving cross country to visit my mom because on January 19th she/we got the news that the Docs are out of options for treating her cancer. Don’t worry, another… longer… video that I made at the rest area right before Boise will be coming of me babbling about why I just drove 2697.1 miles… and of the shift my thoughts took after being in the “Cute Little Jeep” for two and a half days with nothing but my thoughts. (That’s a lie… I had music, a sleeping bag, instant coffee, phone calls and Facetime with friends and family, my guitar, my camp stove… and Squishy.) For today though, I thought I would start with when I was doing laundry as I was getting ready for the road trip. Who knows, maybe someone will find my “Housekeeping Tips for Widowers” helpful…?! (Martha would probably be appalled by my directions and fitted sheet folding abilities, but Snoop would probably be in the same frame of mind as I was in and realize… it’s just a fitted sheet.)
So… I’m sitting in front of the woodstove on the little green rocking chair with the wicker seat as I get a fire going and figure out what it is I wanna write about. It’s been something like a month and a half since my last post and quite frankly… I just haven’t set aside the time to get on here…! (Stoopid Time!… Why are you so god damn fleeting?!) I mean, I’ve had plenty of experiences in the past month and a half that I would consider significant enough for me to sit and think upon… and then half hazardly try to capture in words, but I didn’t.
For the last month and a half, I just kinda feel like I haven’t been able to “balance” everything. One thing takes up time and energy, so the other thing gets pushed off. I’m not just talkin’ about the whole work/life balance thing, it’s more of a work/life/life/shitty life stuff/emotions/mental shit/awesome life shit/life balance thing. As of today… I feel like I’m getting a little bit more… “balanced”… and have decided to cut out sleeping from my life, which should free up some of that oh so precious Time. Think of all the things I’ll be able to get to and do!… and all of the space I’ll gain since I won’t need to have beds in bedrooms! (Before anyone mentions how A. I can’t possibly just choose to not sleep, and B. There are other things that beds can be useful for other than just sleeping… such as eating ice cream, jumping on, and pillow fights… don’t take it so literally! (And yes… whoopee. Beds are useful when making whoopee.))
Well, after that introduction, I realized the amount of time it’ll take for me to write about my 46th Birthday, Thanksgiving, visiting my mom and family in Idaho… and my girlfriend going with me, Christmas Time attachments and Cancer Anniversaries I have with Kateri (Dec. 19th… when they found the mass in her brain.), Christmas Time in my “New Life”, the New Year and New Year’s Day… when my girlfriend met a few of my in-laws, or about the past week with it’s ups and downs and range of emotions instigated by the actions of other people. Nope… no time to get into any of that! Instead, I’m simply gonna wish you a “Happy New Year!” and hope that you are stepping into 2022 with good intentions and an understanding heart. I pray that you and your loved ones are well (sorry, I don’t actually pray… it just sounded good… but I still hope you’re well and I’ll think about ya if that helps!). I’ll tell those friends and family of mine who read this that I love them, miss them, and wish I was better at getting in touch and letting them know how much they mean to me. And I’ll post this little video I made of me “playing” the guitar last night (On Insurrection Eve… fucking assholes.) when I had the intentions of it being the only part of this post! Word.
ps… Not to toot my own horn, but I think I’m still kicking my neighbor’s ass in the ol’ One-Sided Woodpile Decorating Contest…!
I just posted a blog about Xander… my friend’s dog who Amanda and I recently adopted after she died… and I just kinda didn’t like the post. Maybe it’s because I started it weeks ago and tried to finish it when I was in a different state of mind or different place in life, or it might be that I feel it doesn’t capture the impact Xander has had on me and my life…? So I thought I would briefly expand on this experience… up to this point in time.
Xander just lost “His Person”. His life just got thrown for a loop. I know a little something about that. Because of my Widowhood experience, I feel I have a responsibility to Xander to make this shift in his life as easy on him as possible. For example, Kateri and I were always those “No animals on couches or beds” type people, but that was a different time in my life. As I see it, for seven years Xander has had his couch. It’s where he spent a lot of his time. It was comfortable for him. I can’t… in good conscience… force him to the floor by “training” him not to get on the couch by speaking to him sternly or reprimanding him. Again, he just lost His Person… I can handle sharing the couch with him… and his hair.
I bought this couch a couple of weeks after we found out Kateri was sick. I figured, if she was gonna be spending more time on our couch… it should probably be on one that she actually found comfortable and not the lumpy “Hand me Down” she mother fucked more often than not… even though the “Hand me Down” was a huge upgrade over the prior couch!
I’m keeping the bed to myself, though. We’ve all gotta compromise sometimes.
In some ways, he’s the perfect dog for me. I mean, it’s kinda like we’re two widowers sharing The Schoolhouse as we get accustomed to the lives we weren’t planning on living when we lost the ones we love. I’m glad I could be there for him. I’m glad I had the chance to tell Judy I would give him the best life I possibly could… and I intend to fulfill that obligation and responsibility.
Just as I would much rather be sitting and talking with Kateri than remembering her and our life together, I would much rather be visiting with Judy and Xander than seeing him jump around and do that funny, excited, under his breath bark thing he does when I get home from work, but there are some things in life that just… happen. I am thankful to Judy for entrusting Amanda and I to give Xander a good life. And simply… I am thankful to Xander for coming into mine.
It’s nice having new life in The Little Red Schoolhouse.
First off, I’m just gonna say that I’m not really worried about my new roommate shitting on the floor. I mean, I’m pretty sure he just won’t, but if he does..?… I guess it would be my own damn fault… because he’s a dog… whom I never want to put in the position of needing to make a decision such as, “Should I just shit on the floor?!”. He’s a very well behaved four legged animal whose actually been staying with me for the last seven and a half weeks. The first half of his stay was more of a temporary thing with us spending the second half really gettin’ to know each other to see if a more permanent stay was the best decision for everyone involved. The quick is, a few Mondays ago, after he had been up here a week or so, my girlfriend Amanda and I were asked by our friend to adopt her dog Xander when she dies… because her love for Amanda is simply immense, she thought the world of her, and knew that Amanda would love him and take care of him. Basically, we said yes and thought Xander could/would stay up here with me… since I live in the woods and he would have space to run around… because he’s a dog. Yesterday morning, in her sleep, our friend Judy peacefully passed away. At that moment, the moment in which death drew that definitive line in our life, The Little Red Schoolhouse became Xander’s… home.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
It’s actually been a few weeks since Judy passed… I’m just now getting back to this post. Life gets busy once in a while… and simply doesn’t stop for us.
I now have a dog hook. It was just a hook in my “Laundry Room”… but now it has dog stuff on it.
As of last night, at around 7:03… the Honeymoon with Xander was over after he booked it through the woods… up the hill… in the dark. Which meant that I was running up a hill… through the woods… in the dark. Fortunately, I had a flashlight… and four little LED tealights I crammed into my pocket as I ungracefully pulled myself over the rock wall to chase after him. This was the first time I was like, “We’re just gonna walk to the wood pile, it’s dark, the small woodland creatures are sleeping, he’s good at staying close…. I’m not gonna use the leash or put the reflective coat thing on him…!”… and then he bolted.
When he took off at a sprint, my plan was to run up the hill to the path, stop, and listen for him rustling in the leaves. He ended up being just on the other side of the path… the same path in which we walked down (instead of B-Lining it through the woods!) to get back to the house… me bent over holding his collar (good thing I’m short!). After a little sit and chat by Kateri’s Potting Shed… and then a bit of the cold shoulder… we made up. I figured, he’s just a dog being a dog and I’m just learning how to live with a dog… learning to live with Xander.
I have an odd “feeling of guilt” type thing going on. Xander has already added so much to my life and I’ve been having a blast with him… but it’s only because our friend died. It’s a weird thing to balance. Well, maybe it’s not about balancing anything. Maybe it’s more about recognizing the connection between two separate experiences and taking each experience for what they are…? I guess it’s kind of about living in the present… and remembering the past.
We got Xander a dog bed for the bedroom. I already gave up the couch… I wanna keep my bed…!
I love that I can see him all curled up in blankets and sleeping in it from my bed. Every night when I call it a day, there’s a few minute delay before I can here him stretch as he is getting off the couch and then the clickity-clack of his toe nails on the wood floors and stairs as he saunters up to his bed. He’ll come into the bedroom, get a pet on the head, a scratch behind the ears, and then be there until the morning.
I’m having a hard time considering Xander “My/Our” dog. He’s still Judy’s dog… Amanda and I are simply looking after him and promised to give him a good life… as he stays at my house… and sleeps on the couch… or two inches from the woodstove.
For me, the day Kateri died our Little Red Schoolhouse became… silent. Not to mention that once the bastard raccoons massacred Lil’ Bitch, Chicken, and Chicken… I became the only animal in my household for the first time in twenty years!…(besides Mutual of Vermont Wild Kingdom happening in my walls and ceilings)… and I got very comfortable with a life of not being around and/or being responsible for another living thing…! (ummm… FYI… I actually think raccoons are pretty darn cute… except those specific ones… they’re bastards). So I’ve been having to think about stuff like, “Am I ready to share my space, to share The Schoolhouse, to share my home…?” and “Do I want to be responsible for another living thing until it… or I… die!”. Oh yeah, don’t worry, I’ve also thought about the fact that if I’m already this attached to the guy… am I willing to endure the pain that will come if I outlive him?… he’s 7.
(The answer to that is yes… because unconditional love and adventures are parts of life that kinda make it worth living.)
I’m totally kicking my neighbor’s ass at this whole wood pile decorating challenge!… that they’re not aware they are a part of. (Yes, I started this post before Halloween…!)
Being a cook in the time of a Global Pandemic doesn’t really afford me the opportunity to take much time off of work. Heck, in June I took two days off to go see my mom… and still got overtime! Luckily, I work with some amazing people who picked up my slack so that I could celebrate my Wedding Anniversary the way I wanted to… by taking four days off (six in total!)… and going through mine and Kateri’s shit! The one thing I absolutely knew that I wanted to do was to go through all the bins of Kateri’s clothes on the day of our Anniversary… September 28th. I know… such the romantic!
It was a productive time off. I had a plan. There was an order in which I was gonna do things to hopefully get to a place of feeling accomplished in reaching my goal of sorta getting my house and garage to a starting point… a point where I could feel a little more rooted in “My Life” while still holding onto the things that I loved about Kateri and “Our Life”… which I guess is still “My Life”… ugh… you know what I’m talkin’ about. I simply came to a place in time where my life felt cluttered with these two different chapters of existence and I’m simply learning how to combine the two in a way that is… healthy… for me. Today is day six of my time off and once I’m done with this little blog thing… it’ll be Mission Accomplished!… for at least another month or two.
Saturday was all about the garage and going to the dump. I had originally thought about getting a dumpster, but after realizing I didn’t actually have that much stuff to throw away… and finding out it would’ve cost me $650!… I decided against it. Since the town dump (not my town’s dump… shhh) is only open on Saturdays and Wednesdays, it provided me with a little guidance in the order to do things. So I woke up, walked around with coffee looking at things in bathrooms, mudrooms (I’ve only got one), kitchens (still only one of those, too), the garage, and potting shed to assess the situation. I’m sure there was a bit of procrastination there, as well, but I finally just started pulling things down and out and began creating piles. Two runs to the dump later and my home and garage no longer had old humidifiers and air purifiers hanging out, or broken DVD players, little TVs we had in lofts 17 years ago, fans, toaster ovens, huge metal lazy Susan discs from cabinets we tore down 6 years ago, lotion bottles, bottles with stuff in them for hair… or the adult diapers from when Kateri was sick. It was a purge… and it felt great!
Sunday and Monday was time for going through boxes that were hidden in closets and to go through our art. Kateri and I loved picking up little pieces from our travels to remember them by. We loved it even more when they were given to us by friends and family and I just wanted to have them out to remember the people… the stories… and the memories. So after rummaging through a few boxes, going out and buying frames… and then figuring out how to fit paintings and pics in frames!… I hung our art on Monday night. On a side note, Amanda (my Lady Friend…!) went with me on Monday to donate a few things and to get the frames, but wasn’t there to help with the hanging of art that night. Although it would’ve been helpful to have someone else there, she is an amazingly wonderful and supportive person who understood that I kinda wanted to wake up alone on Tuesday… my anniversary… so she went home after dinner… and I kept sending her pics of how I hung shit.
Tuesday, September 28… it would’ve been our 10th Wedding Anniversary… 20th year together… 23rd year with Kateri in my life… 3 years 5 months without her by my side… and I woke up crying. I haven’t been very emotional about my widowhood as of late… we widowers kinda learn to live with the loss… but the emotions had been building up as Tuesday approached and they simply needed out. It felt good to release a little. I mean, the crushing sense of loss and the thought of Kateri being dealt the cancer card… with mutations… didn’t feel good, but it felt nice to have the time and space to let them flow out of me. In a strange way, it felt good to feel that pain once again. It reminds me of how wonderful of a person she was. It reminds me of how much I love her. (Now I’m crying again… that wasn’t part of the plan!)
I didn’t know what I would feel, how I would react once I started opening all of those green bins (I thought Kateri would enjoy the bins being a bright green!), especially after the first hour and a half of my morning, but I needed… and wanted… to get the ball rolling. So, I went into the spare bedroom, stood there for a few moments, pulled a bin down… and opened it. The process was actually a lot less emotional than I expected. I think it’s because I was a bit more mission/task driven and I was ready… READY… to do it. I was tired of living in this state of, “I’ll get to it… one day.”. Well, today was the day! (two days ago). As I got further into it, I just kept looking at shirts, t-shirts (which I kept all of them), sweaters, pants, comfy clothes, swimsuits, the blouses still in bags from when Kateri practiced a little “Retail Therapy”, scarves, hats, and thin hoodies (I kept all of the hoodie hoodies) thinking to myself, “They’re just clothes.”. But I also realized that they’re not “just clothes”… they are how I picture Kateri. I mean, we don’t just remember our significant others naked all the time! We remember them wearing this t-shirt or that dress or those overalls. Our clothes are an extension of our personality. They tell stories of our life… which I think is why I kept all of her t-shirts with shit on them advertising friends’ businesses, trips to NY, or to the Shakespeare Festival in Boise where we ran into one of Kateri’s childhood friend… from Vermont!
It was a process… and took longer than I expected, but it felt good once it was all said and done. It was fun looking at the little pile of things I placed on her grandma’s dresser of things I found in pockets. She would carry a little blue flashlight around that was smaller than a book of matches she had gotten in Wyoming… I think… which had come in useful when looking for particular keys that fit particular doorknobs… in the dark. There were only two articles of clothing that sorta hit me. One was a pajama top that has been in my entire life with Kateri. And the other one was a short sleeved V-neck shirt with no real particular story behind it. I just thought about how nice she looked in it. It was soooo her… and it simply made me miss her.
Love Strings…. ya. I guess that was one other moment where I had to pause… when I noticed a strand of Kateri’s hair… which she called her Love Strings. Damn Love Strings! They get you every time!
When all said and done, on Wednesday I had one more trip to Listen with eight bags of clothes to donate and one more trip to the dump with two bags of ratty and worn clothing… along with two bags of concrete mix that had turned into 160 pounds of… concrete. Wednesday evening I finished tidying the garage, brought up art that is gonna hang in the spare bedroom, and… well… cleaned the house. I was exhausted. It was five days of being fully immersed in my personal life. Past, Present, and Future. It was definitely daunting at first, but being on the other side of it feels pretty darn good. It was a task, a process, an experience that has been taking up mental… and physical… space for years now. This was the time… these six days were the time… to remember Kateri, to remember my wedding and my wife, and to take new steps towards the rest of my life.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
So… I wasn’t alone during this whole experience… I had/have company. A friend of Amanda’s and mine went into the hospital on Thursday and we were asked if we could watch her dog, Xander. Since I had six days off, live in the country, wasn’t going anywhere, and Amanda had to work… I offered for Xander to come and hang with me at The Schoolhouse. Now… having a dog around was nowhere near my radar as I thought about my Wedding Anniversary Staycation, but I gotta say… it’s been wonderful going through this with him. It helps that I’m pretty sure Xander is the most well behaved and chill canine out there, because it would be a different story if he was a ball of energy and/or destroyed my shit. The one thing that sorta sealed the deal for me was on Tuesday, when I woke up crying, he was basically by my side for about an hour and a half. For one reason or another… he was there for me. And I’m pretty sure that after he goes home his Love Strings will be there for me for quite a while, too!… all over my couch.
I made a video so that I wouldn’t have to write anything!… but now I’m writing something because there are things I just can’t leave well enough alone…. things that nag at my brain that I feel I need to explain… for some reason. Like in the video when I say, ” I still love Kateri more than anything.”. I just need to say that widowhood is a daily conundrum… but we need to live in the present and with what we have. We can’t allow loss to cripple our future. Whether that be in our relationships with other people or in our day to day existence. We can’t allow loss to take away our lives. Otherwise, we might miss out on some wonderful opportunities and experiences.
There are a few things that I just absolutely love about living in Vermont… things that are simply a part of living in New England such as seeing steam pour out of sugar shacks in the spring or the hills turning so green throughout the summer that it makes you thirsty. The leaves changing in the fall creating a sea of reds, yellows, and everything in between. And the piles of wood you see in yards on daily commutes as you think to yourself, “They better get a stackin’ before the center of that pile rots and a plethora of woodland creatures decide to move in!”.
Kateri and I always loved having a wood stove. There’s just something to be said about having a hot spot to stand next to when it’s 17 below outside and the snow is piling up. We lived in just two places without a wood stove and I’ve gotta say… life just wasn’t the same! I mean, it was still pretty frickin’ good… just colder.
I’ve always enjoyed stacking wood… for my own place. As we like to say, “It warms you twice!”. Of course, I’ve come to the conclusion that it actually warms me like 4 times with the amount of times I move it… stack it here, then unstack and restack there, then move it inside… and then finally light that shit up and get the stove a crankin’!
When we bought our Little Red Schoolhouse, it was in the fall so one of the first things we had to do was find a few cord of wood. I was so excited because for the first time we actually had a covered spot to store it, out behind Kateri’s Potting Shed under the lean-to… and I stacked it there for a couple of years. When Kateri died and I was left here alone, I was forced to figure out how to make things a little easier on myself when it came to all sorts of things. The lean-to was great… and I loved seeing three cord neatly stacked and settled in for the winter between those red posts and under the galvanized roof, but it was also the furthest possible point away from the house that we could stack it! So last year I decided to simply make a couple of long rows above the lower rock wall since it would be much…MUCH… more accessible in case I needed to access it. (Current year’s wood is in the garage). Plus, it’s basically where my wood guy drops it so I thought it would make it easier to stack! That, coupled with the fact that I’m in a personal competition with my neighbor… who doesn’t know it, but is also my inspiration… on who can create the coolest stack of wood made me think about how I could take this “chore” and make it into something that would provide me with a little joy and give a sense of accomplishment more than just having my wood stacked. So this year I decided to add… lights!
As a widower, I thought about how could I take this event that happens every year and insert a little bit of Kateri into it. I guess you could actually say Kateri was my inspiration for the theme of this year’s stacking. She had bought a few iron balls which had little battery powered LED lights that you wrap around them to spruce up your garden/yard/home/whatever and they’ve just been hangin’ out in her shed for three years now. When I thought about my one sided competition with my neighbor… those globes came to mind. Yes, my neighbor has iron rings with flowers hangin’ in them and little whoop de doos n shit… but you can see mine IN THE DARK! Mwah ha ha!!
Yes, some may simply think of stacking wood as a chore and something that just needs to get done… which it does… but more so this year than in any years past I have found it is warming more than just my Little Red Schoolhouse. This year, every time I look at those tidy rolling rows and see the light shining out over the dirt road of Wild Hill… it warms my heart with the memory of my wife… and the life she gave me.
One thing always leads to another. Years and years ago, my parents were going through their stuff and were looking to get rid of the piano that they had been carting around… for at least all of my life… and wondered if I was interested in having it. I had told them that I would love to have the piano that I remember taking Yamaha Piano Lessons on when I was just knee high to a grasshopper (I’m not much taller now!), so my mom said that whenever Kateri and I buy our first home they would drive it out to us… and they did… five years ago… with my sister and her family (which I guess is also my family!). It was a wonderful visit filled with sitting on the porch, swimming holes, BBQ’s, fire pit building, going to the beach, eating seafood… and then one of those family members puking up that seafood into a brand new hat while sitting in the back seat of our Volvo on the drive home… it was a pretty special time. But that’s not the point. The point is… my family lugged this piano (that none of us know how to play) from Idaho to Vermont, unloaded it into the garage, and then there it sat… for five years… getting more and more swollen as the layer of sawdust (from cutting two inches of wood off of each log I burnt for two years after I got my new wood stove) got thicker and thicker. From the day Kateri and I acquired the piano we talked about how to get it into the house!… and we never did.
In the three years since Kateri died, I kept telling myself that I need to get the piano into the house, but it seemed like such a big endeavor for one person and there have just been a million other things I’ve been needing to deal with, learning to deal with, and simply… dealing with… so it hasn’t happened. That was until a couple of weeks ago when my brother in-law informed me that they were moving from one corner of Vermont to the other and asked if I was still interested in the stove (and a couple of other things) that my Father In-law had given to Kateri and myself. Like the piano, we didn’t have a home to store it at… or to install it in! So Moose said he could hold onto it for us in his garage!… where it sat for years and years!… until last Sunday.
Although I was super excited to be in possession of the stove for the first time… (it’s pretty frickin’ awesome)… I realized I didn’t have anywhere to really store it in the garage… unless I moved the piano! You know, swap one big ass heavy object that’s been sitting stationary for years… for another! As I was hemming and hawing on what to do about the situation, my Lady Friend suggested that we… WE!… simply move the piano into the house! Yup, so after buying a furniture dolly from The Home Depot we removed a door, built some ramps, disconnected and moved a washer so that we could shimmy the dryer… and the two of us got the piano into the dining room!… which coincidently made the dining room a whole bunch smaller. (funny how that works!) It was an awesome feeling!… and one of those times where you’re standing there with a piano in the middle of your dining room thinking to yourself, “Well, that went much smoother than I expected!”.
I can’t tell you the sense of accomplishment it provided me… and us. I have some pretty strong attachments and memories of Kateri with that piano. I learned the one song I sorta know how to play on that piano. The song that I got to play for Kateri at the hospital when we went for her first immunotherapy treatment. It felt good to finally get it into the house so that it could start it’s own healing process after being neglected for years as it weathered the summer heat and humidity, the winter’s brutal cold, and the continual mist of… sawdust. For now… it’s resting. It’s slowly acclimating to it’s new environment. I’ve given it a once over, did an initial cleaning, but there’s still some sawdust in the cracks and crannies that I’ll get to in time. For now… I’ll just keep hitting a key or two every time I walk past it (because you can’t help yourself!) to see if they are still sticky or not… and wait for the time I can play the one song I learned… again.
Once the piano was in the house, the next step was getting the stove! I rented a U-Haul because Kateri’s truck is no longer running and kinda just rotting away in my driveway. I figured I could use the U-Haul to move the stove, along with a chest and sink that was at Moose’s, and then use it to move my firewood from across the driveway to the garage! Unfortunately it was getting late and raining like the dickens when I finally got back to The Schoolhouse, so this year’s wood is still sitting where next year’s wood is supposed go, but I’ve decided not to worry too much about that… yet. For the time being, I’m just gonna enjoy the fact that whenever I get the money and time to sorta remodel the kitchen… I’ve got a 1940’s (?) stove to make meals on and to remember all those Hopes n Dreams Kateri and I had… when we bought our first home. (Man… she was soooo excited about that stove! We… were so excited about our future.)
Widower Notes n Thought:
I love listening to the sound water creates in the woods as it makes it’s way from the tops of the trees to the bottom, jumping from leaf to leaf, after a night of rain.
Yup… I found a perfectly preserved mouse skeleton when I was cleaning the stove. It was kinda cool and gross at the same time. And yes… I threw away the moving blanket it had been wrapped in (the stove… not the mouse skeleton) for the last however many years.
Moose also gave/lent me their riding lawnmower since they didn’t have a place to use it yet. In my day to day life… this is huge. Trying to take care of everything after going from a two person household to one has been quite challenging. Cutting down the time it takes to simply mow my yard every week or two is super helpful!
For the record, Todd (who’s like 6’5″ and could probably do it himself!) offered to help move the piano a few years ago… but it wasn’t the right time.
I’m sorry I haven’t been very participatory with my blog, but I appreciate everyone who still visits and checks in. Please know that you help make my life… better.
It’s raining. It’s a little windy. It’s Sunday. It’s nice…. cuz I’m comfy n cozy and still in bed… with coffee.
I’ve been pretty busy the last few months, but last weekend I took some time and replanted Kateri’s aloe plant, a couple of brugmansia cuttings which had been living on the window sill in the kitchen, and some leafy thing living in bark that I had been watering without knowing what the heck it was… but figured the leaves were still green so they would probably enjoy some agua. (I’ve been told that those leaves are actually an orchid. Soooooo… I guess I have an orchid. Yup… I’m tropical!) I’ve also had this piece of Christmas Cactus hanging out in a small old timey glass bottle for the last three years… haven’t done anything with it in those last three years… no dirt, no direct sun, not even a lick of water… but threw that in a new pot with some soil and placed it in one of the big ol’ schoolhouse windows to see if it would catch. The fact that it is still a… shade of green…… gives me hope! And why not?! What’s the worse that could happen?… all those people who come hang out at my house (which is pretty much just one other person… My Lady friend) would see that I planted a dead cactus thing?!… I can live with that.
To cut to the chase… repotting Kateri’s plants is an extremely personal experience for me in terms of the attachments I have put on them in relation to her, to my memories of her, my love for her, and to the last twenty years where I got to see how much joy plants… these plants… gave my Wife. To do it with my Lady Friend was a wonderful exercise for me as I learn to live in this state where I feel as though I’m living… in-between lives. Yay!… widowhood.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’ve had what some have described as a “Heavy couple of months”. And I guess I have. But I’m getting through. Life is simply a mish mash (mosh?) of experiences and encounters that play their parts to get us… Here. There are things that bring us joy… and things that do not. My guitar is one of those things that brings me joy, but also provides me with a little balance. Although it can be frustrating (considering I don’t know really know what I’m doing!), it will always push the world outside the windows aside and allow me to simply sit on our little green rocking chair… in our Little Red Schoolhouse… and get lost for a minute or two.
I’m just gonna say it… I’m tired. Rather exhausted, really. Physically… psychologically… and emotionally……. tired. For weeks now, all I’ve really wanted to do was lay in bed on a Sunday morning with my coffee and some weed and write a little blog post since I haven’t for a bit, but I’m in foodservice during a time when it’s difficult to find help and the entire country has decided that the Pandemic is over…. and they want to come… here… yay. It’s actually not that bad… it’s just a lot when you feel like you’re behind before you punch the clock in the morning… or after working 11 eleven hours running your ass off while peeling beets, pickling red onions, panning up and cooking 40#’s of bacon, or trying to find product because the big food purveyors cut our order due to their staffing levels…. more “yay!”. (Although I do not work for a little independent restaurant, I do feel the Pandemic is showing the public some of the cracks in our food system, how fragile and challenging our industry is, and how the little guys are strugglin’… if still around… while the big players will do just fine. It doesn’t help that customers have no problem telling the high school kid working behind the counter that they are worthless and bitch at them about the fact that they had to wait longer than expected for their muffin! Yup…. my wife died and turned my life into a game of Pick-Up Sticks. Sorry you had to wait… for a muffin… grow up… and fuck off.) Ok, that’s all I’ll say about that for now because I’d rather relax as I lay in bed and write this… and I can already feel myself getting worked up!
More than a few things have happened since my last post that I wanted to write down… that I wanted to sorta process and share. There was working Memorial Day Weekend and then Fourth of July shenanigans… which I prefer to call Independence Day. There was learning from a good friend that an old friend had decided to jump off of the Golden Gate Bridge. My lady friend and I went to Mystic for a weekend… and yes, had the pizza. I flew for the first time in a while to spend a couple of days with my mom… which was wonderful. (Seeing my mom was wonderful… the whole flying experience was mostly just an entertaining necessity. Luckily no one got into fisticuffs and the only plane I saw on fire was for training purposes as we were landing in Texas. Yup… Texas.) But for today, I’m going to write about yesterday… when I went to go see my Mother In-Law, Mary Ann… at the hospital.
Considering the fact that Mary Ann has been a part of my life for decades… I don’t really know where to start or what to write so I’m just gonna start with the immediate and set the scene. The Friday after I got back from Idaho to see my mom, I got a text from my sister in-law telling me she resigned from her teaching gig and was flying to Mexico (where my mother in-law has been living for the last couple of years) because she was having health issues and couldn’t take care of herself. After rain storms, rental cars, Mexican hospitals that only took cash due to said rain storms, four airplanes… morphine… and a wheelchair later… Mary Ann was back in the states where we learned she has cancer in her bones, liver, and lungs with a blood clot in her pulmonary artery for the cherry on top. Once again… fuck.
On the widower side of things, it’s a strange experience to go through. It brings up all sorts of things. It brings my life with Kateri right back to the forefront of my thoughts, memories, and emotions. Kateri’s family was mostly here in the East while mine are on the left side of the country, so I’ve spent more time with them than I have my own family over the last 20 years. Since Kateri died, I haven’t spent much time with any of them but I think we all still consider each other family. (Now we’re all considered Out-laws!) When I heard Mary Ann was sick and coming home, I didn’t think of her in terms of someone from a previous life whom I didn’t have any attachments to anymore… I simply thought of her as my Mother In-Law… as Mary Ann… as Mom… as someone I love very much because of the time and space we shared over the years coupled with the stories Kateri shared with me about her life with her mom. I love her… and it sucks to see people you love get hit with a big pile of poop.
Loss… it doesn’t help that I’ve been thinking a lot about loss lately and how we are forced to live with it. It’s a balancing act. This year I’ve already had two friends die and both my Mom and Mother In-Law are now living with cancer. When Kateri was in Palliative Care/Hospice, it was made apparent to me that the world doesn’t stop just because your life is complicated or even falling apart. It’s a challenge to find time to deal with everything. Sometimes, it’s a challenge to be there for someone. Sometimes…. it’s a challenge to be there for yourself. When Kateri was dying, I took the approach of, “How can I make this/these memories something I can look back on and be proud of as a person, as a friend, as a man, and as a husband… even if those memories are gonna suck to remember?”. I’ve tried to keep that approach to life since. Because of that approach… and after I was told of something that Mary Ann had said… I knew I was gonna miss another Sunday morning of drinking coffee in bed, smoking weed, and blabbing on about my little world because my priorities for the weekend had… changed.
“I want to be with Kateri.” Without knowing the context in which they were said, those are the words that made my plans for Sunday clear. I knew exactly what it was I needed to do. Sunday was the first chance I had to drive the three to four hours down to Connecticut to see Mary Ann in person… so I did… and then drove back. A couple of years ago, a friend of Kateri’s and mine who is a glass blower brought me down to the floor of the shop he works at and started the process of putting Kateri in glass so that I could give her to her family. For about a year and a half, Mary Ann’s piece has been sitting on my kitchen counter in a little purple velvet bag because I wanted to give it to her in person since she was living in Mexico. Basically, I didn’t want to risk mailing it to her and then Kateri getting lost in Mexico. Even though… to be clear… Kateri would’ve been 100% fine being lost in Mexico!… but the priority was to give her to her mom. When I heard her mom had said those words… it crushed me… and my priorities became clear. I thought, “Mary Ann is not with Kateri (thankfully)… but I can bring Kateri to her.” Looking at the situation, I would’ve had a hard time if something had happened to Mary Ann in the last few days and I had decided to simply lay in bed on a Sunday morning, smoke weed, write a blog, and live my little life instead of doing what I thought was the right thing to do for me… and her… at the time. I needed to have an experience I could look back on without regret. I’m glad I took the time. I’m glad I got to see Mary Ann’s face as I handed her her daughter. I’m glad we were able to hug each other, cry, and feel the love and energy that Kateri still brings to this world. I’m glad I was able to say, “I love you”… while holding her hand… and hear her say, “I love you more!”.
Priorities… we’ve all got our own. Decisions… we’ve all got to make them… and live with the consequences. Make the ones that are the best for you at the time.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’m attaching a GoFundMe page one of Mary Ann’s daughters had set up to help with medical stuff and the whole getting to Mexico and back. Kateri and I both come from humble beginnings… (I’m still in humble beginnings!)… neither one of us exactly came from money so events like this are just another added stress when dealing with an already stressful situation. When Kateri went into Palliative Care, a friend of ours set one up for us… and it has literally saved my life. Because of the generosity of friends, family, and strangers I have been able to limp along for three years now. Because of that experience, I personally know how helpful a few extra bucks can be not only financially, but psychologically and emotionally, as well. So…. please share if you can.
Did I mention Mary Ann would teach art to the street kids in Mexico? That’s the kinda person she is. I mean, she’s human like the rest of us and I’ve seen her do the two handed, double pump, middle finger flip off to family members!… which was always entertaining and something we all laughed about for years!… and just another reason I love her.
So, today is the third anniversary of Kateri’s last breath. I had a few ideas of what I wanted to do today to remember her, but when this morning came around… I was kind of at a loss. Yesterday, I knew I wanted to make a conscious effort to focus on the beautiful parts of my life with Kateri so I started taking notes of some ideas for a blog post… because I knew I wanted to do one (they help me process some things). I was gonna do one yesterday so that I could just take today as it comes, but I’ve been procrastinating a lot lately and… well… I guess I’m doing one today…! For some reason, I didn’t want to just sit in bed and write, so I dictated notes into my phone throughout the day and have decided to simply copy and paste them onto here. Since I was dictating… and I apparently don’t annunciate… there are words or phrases that don’t exactly add up!… or make sense!… and at some points I don’t even know what it was I was trying to say! But anyways… this is what I did and thought about throughout the day today… the anniversary of the day my plans for my future and life… changed.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Memories of places just on the drive home… Like Harry (Kateri) talking about standing at the lake with Michelle and hearing people backspace (ummm, this is what happens when you try to erase something while dictating)… a dude singing… or playing trumpet or something.
I didn’t win the lottery last night.
It’s earth day.
Started (today) with taking a bath… I didn’t really know what else to do.
I have a picture of Kateri on the last day she was alive. I don’t need to look at it… I can see it… it’s a hard image to have… even if it’s peaceful.
I’ve been smoking cigarettes off anon (“and on”-I’m not some weird conspiracy theory guy or anything) very nice (“since Kateri died”-there’s nothing nice about it). It’s time to stop.
Cleaned the house, made appointments, checked on things because life doesn’t stop… even for a day… just because I’m dealing with shit.
I worry about money, worry about losing my job… Because I know I can be a lot to handle sometimes… Dealer (“to deal with”-If I was a dealer, I think I would worry more about going to jail than losing my job!). I worry about losing more. It’s days like today that remind me that I’ll be OK… I’ve been able dad (“to”-love ya dad, but don’t know why you’re in this sentence) survive without Kateri for three years, I can handle anything else that’s on (that comes) my way.
After losing Kateri I’m OK… Or at least willing to except (accept)… That at any point anything in my life can change. I always go back to “if I lost my job, what would I do.?”. It freaks me out. But then I think about the fact that I lost Kateri, I’ll be able to handle anything that comes my way whether it’s by my own hand or unexpectedly. Luckily, pandemic has been good to me… I mean, not going out, government stimulus is (stimuli..?), “report in” pay pay (type) stuff, coupled with my personal forest (“forced”-I don’t have a personal forest… just woods) austerity measures that started when I lost a third of my household income with the death of Kateri… Tell me a (right after we) just bought our first house. For me, it always comes back to (the fact that) my home is the most important thing (to me)… It’s a cute ass little red school house in the hills of Amara (“Vermont”-I don’t know where Amara is, but it sounds exotic!), it was our (the) perfect home… For us.
It does help me simplify in my new life. Our little red school house. It is the answer to so many questions that come up in widowhood. I don’t have any plans on (of) getting rid of it. Hey (A.). At this point in time a bank will never give me alone (a loan) to buy something like this again. Be (B.). Is (It’s) my home. It’s filled with my life. My life with Kateri… And the light (“life”-I’m currently sitting in the dark) I’m currently in. Ha ha ha is (it’s) that kateri attachment that… Is the reason I have so much love from my home. Sometimes I wish I was one of those little words (“widowers”-I’ve been called little words, though) that just had a house in the suburbs… It (which) was filled with their lives, but they’re OK just moving those things to another house. This was Kateri’s dream, do you have a monster (“to have a piece of Vermont”-we’ve all got monsters, though). It was our dream. And it’s a daunting bye (life) for me to go through when I look to the future. It’s a hard way to live.
I’m just sitting in it (the bath tub) dictating into my phone… The water is definitely cooling off… And I’m finding the experience rather ridiculous.
I just had to remind myself that I am trying to make a conscious effort to look at the beautiful parts of life today and of Kateri’s life… Not be all sad and shit. But I’m sad. And overwhelmed. Don’t worry, I’ve also grown a custom (accustomed) to these types of feelings and realize that they pass. There is (They are) a part of my life.
I think one of the things I am experiencing is that I was an insecure kid and young adult,… I became much more confident in who I was over the last 23 years because of Kateri. She taught me so much about life. We were strong to gather (together). I was wrong (“strong”-definitely not wrong) knowing she was there. Because we (didn’t) need anything else… We (would) figure any challenges out… We (would) survive… We were just living life together. (In) Widowhood (I) have lost that… part of that Stranch (strength) that Kateri provided me in my life with. I think (some of) those insecurities pre-back in (come back) because you don’t… because I don’t have Kateri building me back up… Or just up when I’m down or dealing with challenges. Yes I have people in my life, people that help me stay… or try to stay… on a positive path in life… I just have this constant feeling of being alone. Which is weird when you (I) know that (feel that).
I need to say thank you. Yes I have my own personal struggles with the lightbulb (not sure what was up with the lightbulb) loss of kateri… But the experience of widowhood Aza (as a)… (as) Just another human… it’s an extremely hard and involved thing to go through. It touches every single aspect of your life. I am thankful to have so many wonderful people in my life. People are (who I) respect because of how they live their lives. I’m glad I love the people I love.
I don’t know why, but for some reason I’ve been walking around my house naked more often than usual… Which was never. I mean like when I get out of the shower or out of the bath… like I just dead (“did”-wow, not everything needs to be death, death, death!).
My life is just so different… It’s path and my expectations are just so different then (than) they were three years, four months, and three days ago.
So, what did you do on the anniversary of your wife’s death?… I clean(ed) the house and did two loads of laundry. I think I feel that if I keep my house in order that it means in someway that I’m holding my life together… That I’m doing OK. Plus it just gives you time to think.… Me (time) to think. I did end up also cleaning up Kateri‘s plants that I have in the bedroom and upstairs.
Today, honestly I think I’m just trying to get through the day.
I’m going for a drive. It’s not because I’m trying to remember fun times with Kateri as I pass landmark(s) or as I drive through the woods or anything like that… It’s really because I wanna (want a) soda.
My house is the 1921 wild Hill school house… Which means it’s turning 100 this year. I think I want to have a party… Kateri would approve of that… and have a lot of fun throwing it.
Kateri loved dance. She loved to dance. She loved watching people dance. She said she was gonna “Dance the Trump away”. She referred to her diagnosis as her “Dance with Cancer”… and she was gonna dance that away, as well. She may not have danced the cancer away, but she never let cancer take the dance away from her. She continues to remind me about the important things in life… she continues to inspire me.
Three years ago, at 7:24pm on April 22nd, 2018… my life changed. At that moment… it felt empty. Three years later… I have wonderful memories of my life with Kateri that help me deal with the loss of her. I’m thankful I had twenty years of life… with her by my side.
I’m not angry. I’m not disgruntled. I’m not mad. I’m not better (“bitter”-I’m definitely better than I was three years ago!)… most the time. I’m not weak. I’m not vulnerable.
I am grateful. I am thankful. I’m honored. I am strong. I’m confident. I’m capable. I’m curious. I’m determined. I am loved.
I’m also…. tired. But since I don’t drink anymore… meaning the worse I’m gonna feel in the morning is tired and not hungover… well, I can handle that…!
Well, I’m laying in bed on a Sunday morning… drinking coffee… smoking a little somethin’ somethin’… and trying not to be annoyed that it just took a half hour for my computer to connect to the internet… errrr!! I’ve been pretty excited about getting to today. It’s my first day off since Easter and my first “weekend” since the end of March. Luckily, I enjoy working and I enjoy my job, but I also really enjoy my time off…!
Currently, I’m in the midst of memories of the shittiest time in my life. Last Sunday, April 11th, was the anniversary of Kateri going into Palliative care. It’s weird, things seem to be coming back… memories… that sorta kinda just pop into the brain. Things that are rough to remember. For example, like when I just typed “April 11th”, the memory of talking to Kateri’s Cancer Doc in a hallway of the main hospital as he told me the option(s) going forward popped up… which was the option of drilling a hole in the side of her skull to relieve some of the pressure that the tumors were putting on her brain. For a seven days now I’ve known I’ve been in the anniversary of the last two weeks of Kateri’s life, yet today was the first time that that memory came back… and it’s just kinda hard to deal with. It’s really fucking hard to deal with, actually. It’s a challenge, which was actually the topic that started my thought process for this blog post… dealing with everyday challenges as a widower… but since I started thinking about that over a week ago… challenges… it has snowballed in my brain to the point where I simply have a mish mash of heavy thoughts (because one thing always leads to another!) swirling around and I can’t seem to grab any specific one to focus on. Yay!!
Last Wednesday is when I first started to feel some relief from my workload and as I was standing on my porch that evening, I thought about how my life as a cook has instilled this attitude of doing whatever it is I need to do to get the job done… to get through service… to get through the day. The last four months have not been easy for me at my gig… there have been all sorts of challenges… but I fell back on my work ethic and my new approach and attitude towards everything in life since Kateri died to get through… to keep going… to get to today… with the hope of getting to tomorrow mostly unscathed. When Wednesday hit… I felt good… I felt proud of facing that immediate challenge of needing to focus on work shit until I had a moment to focus on myself. Although I had to pay more attention to this and less attention to that, I was able to get to a point where I could lay in bed… drink coffee… smoke a doobie… and take some time to face the emotional and psychological shit storm that comes along in my life that starts the end of December, picks up in intensity on April 11th, and then hits the crescendo on April 22nd… the day I heard Kateri’s last breath. On the work side of things… I’m glad I got to this point. On the life side of things… this point kinda sucks… but I’m glad I’m here and going through it.
Last Thursday I woke up ballin’. No, I wasn’t having dreams of dunking on Lebron as we battled on the court in a game of One on One… I literally woke up sobbing. I had dreamt that I had cancer in my brain. The last image I can remember was me in my back yard checking to see if my sump pump had spewed any water out from the bulk head. There were people around, but I don’t recall anyone specific… except for my father… for some reason. I was crying in my dream because I felt alone… because in my dream, Kateri had already died. I felt lost without her there… and the loss of her in my life was unbearable as I was faced with the uncertainty of some not so fun information. It was intense… hence the waking up with a wet pillow and puffy eyes. It was one of those odd feeling moments when you recognize you are coming out of sleep and start to separate dream from reality. After I wiped and rubbed my early morning eyeballs, I was able to temper my emotions… put my big boy pants on… grab a cup of Joe… and head to work. Even on the way out to my cute little Jeep I could feel myself getting emotional and not wanting to face the day, but I did anyways… because that’s just what I had to do.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
The other day I wrote down the note, “It took me a lot of living to get… here.” As I’ve thought about it more and more… I don’t really know where “here” is. I guess that’s what it feels like when you’re feeling… “lost”.
“Lost” is one thing. Coupled once in a while with feeling “insignificant” in the world… kinda sucks.
Almost three years out… I still sleep on “my” side of the bed.
Sometimes when laying in bed I wedge my Achilles tendon between my big toe… and the toe next to it. It just feels good.
I have found “Widowhood” to be an extremely hard life to live… but it’s my only option. I have an even harder time with the fact that life told Kateri she didn’t have an option… and it took her away from me… from us. The world would simply be a better place… if she was here… next to me… laying on her side of the bed.
For being one of those people who are easily amused when strings of numbers show up… I can’t believe it wasn’t until I got home from work that I saw the date written out in an… amusing… way! Soooooo…. 4/3/21… I guess it’s starting people!… Here we go!!..!
A friend of mine lost someone very close to them in the last couple of days and on the drive into work yesterday morning I found it ironic that I (the long winded widower) wasn’t sure what it was that I wanted to say to them… I didn’t have the words!… and I told her that. She texted me that she truly thought she was prepared for what was happening. My response was:
“I don’t think we are ever truly prepared for the loss of someone… who truly loves us.”
I mentioned to her to remember to take care of herself, too!… which I think is actually the more important message for people living through loss.
Random Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Yes… I spent waaaay too much time deciding whether to use “who” or “whom”… and I still don’t know which one is correct!
St. Patrick’s Day, the holiday, really doesn’t mean anything to me. I mean, I’m not Irish… I don’t drink… and I don’t care if I know the “true” story behind the dude! For me… it’s all about Kateri… because it’s her birthday! AND… since she was Irish/Italian, she loved that she was born on St. Patty’s Day! So for her birthday this year, I decided to move her from the box the crematorium housed her in, to her new home… the Klean Kanteen bottle. And then, I moved her from the jelly cupboard to the front room so that she could be with her plants.
My plan was to take the day off from work, to be home, and just kinda remember some of the fun times we had celebrating Kateri’s Birthdays… like going to the ocean in March while wearing little green hats for the three hour drive… just to be festive. I remember one birthday morning when we went to George’s Coffee Shop in Gloucester and I got to listen to her and the line cook persuading Dean (the owner) to put The Pogues on the radio… which he did. Sometimes, it was all about the Baily’s… being drunk from the little plastic green beer mugs… one ounce at a time.
Most of the time for her birthdays it was just the two of us. I don’t really ever recall her talking about having a “Party” until her last birthday in 2018. Ya… that was rough. I can look back on it now with a certain amount of fondness as I remember how much love was in our Little Red Schoolhouse for her on that day… and how much love she had for our friends and family who were there (and those who were not)… and for life (even in those times)… but that only goes so far. I mean, it was her last birthday… I haven’t exactly gotten over that… hence the snot and tears coating my mustache and face right now! But this is about today… and how I celebrated Kateri’s Birthday… with her… by myself.
Widower Notes n Thoughts… about moving Kateri to the Klean Kanteen on her birthday:
I moved her into the Klean Kanteen myself. The funeral home said they have a machine made specifically for this type of thing, but I wanted to do it at the Schoolhouse. I figured that even if some of her fell onto the floor and between the floor boards, it just meant that part of her will always be home. I know she would’ve dug that.
I made the move on the wood stove… using a ceramic cup with shamrocks on it… and a funnel.
It was close… for a moment I didn’t think she was gonna fit and I started thinking about what other vessels I could put her in! Ball jars were gonna be solution… but thankfully, it didn’t come to that.
Right after the move into the bottle… I went and had an outdoor fire. I think after the day of work, after receiving texts of love and support from friends and family, and then moving Kateri into the Klean Kanteen in the evening… I just needed to get into the woods, out of service, and to take a moment to breath while staring at some flames dancing for a bit… as I wondered if bears had started coming out yet.
I put Kateri on the old red school desk that her brother had given her when we first bought our Little Red Schoolhouse… he gave me a table saw.
I’m still amazed at how heavy she is. (not trying to be rude)
While making the move… I realized it was the first time in two years, ten months, and whatever days that I actually touched Kateri… physically. Although they are her cremated remains… it’s Kateri… and I literally felt her. It was a powerful moment that I hadn’t thought about until it was happening… and it caught me by surprise.
I’m thankful to everyone who reached out to me… on Kateri’s Birthday. The love was simply overwhelming. I’ve got some great peeps in my life!
Happy Birthday Babe!… wish we were celebrating the day… together.
My plan was to grab some Indian food from the house in WRJ… (it’s literally a house that sells take-out)… but when I was eating my salad for lunch in the driver’s seat this afternoon, I saw there were only twenty-five more miles until I hit 100,000 in the (my) Cute Little Jeep! Of course I Google Mapped it… (or used whatever app it is that shows me how to get from here to there)… and my phone told me that it was only twenty-FOUR miles to my house! So, needless to say, I decided against getting the super tasty Indian food to hopefully maybe make the memory of pulling into my driveway… of arriving Home… when those five numbers turned into six! And… well… it did!
I’m pretty good at attaching all sorts of significance… to all sorts of things. 100,000 is just a number. A car… even a Cute Little Jeep… is just a car. But we use numbers, such as 100,000, as milestones… they allow us to chunk up our lives. Kateri is attached to every memory, feeling, thought I have about my Jeep because it is the first brand new vehicle we ever bought! It was a big deal to us… we had just bought our first home and were somehow able to by a spanking new Jeep! Inch by inch… over the years… we kept working towards the life we wanted… towards our Hopes N Dreams. For people like us, with the life we lived, buying a car in which you don’t have to worry about the radiator blowing, or fuel pump leaving you stranded, or the window not rolling up when you accidentally hit the down button… and it’s 3 degrees out… is one of those moments in life where it makes you feel as though you’ve “arrived”… or “grown up”. It was a time in my life when “The Struggle” seemed to finally be dissipating. Fuck… life was good! WE HAD CHICKENS FOR CHRIST’S SAKE! (…sorry for using the Lord’s name in vain) Things were humming along!… until they weren’t anymore. So ya… I guess I can say that a car is just a car, but nothing is that simple. Seeing my odometer hit 100,000 miles is an opportunity for me to remember the memories I have with this vehicle during my life with Kateri… and in my life since. 100,000 miles is a lot of ground to cover… which would take a long time write down… so here’s just a few of those miles.
Widower Notes n Thoughts… about my Cute Little Jeep:
I’m really diggin’ that it turned 100,000 right when I got home. It’s just one of those cool coincidental things… that provides me with a pretty cool memory.
Driving the Jeep home from Burlington right after agreeing to pay for it over 7 years, we opened the sunroof on the interstate… just because we could. We noticed it didn’t shut the first time we tried and thought it just had to do with the wind. It still doesn’t shut sometimes… and I still haven’t done anything about it except awkwardly pull it shut… sometimes. If I have a friend in the car with me and it doesn’t shut… I sometimes ask them to help..!
We took the “Sky Roof” off in the parking lot of a laundry mat where we met up with our friend Keith to take him for a spin in it. When we hit the highway at 70 mph, we didn’t think the interior roof was gonna make it from the wind current bouncing it up and down! It survived… I guess Jeep had thought about that.
Beach trips with friends… and beach camping trips with friends. They were fun… and can be entertaining when your friend get snippy with the campers in the neighboring camp site. We also learned that it’s a tight fit in the Cute Little Jeep with four people… and beach supplies… for four people.
Studded snow tires. Kateri bought us our first set of studded snow tires a month before cancer. Where she bought them from, the people let her lay on a couch because she had such a bad headache… which turned out to be tumors in her brain. Those tires are on their last winter.
Satellite radio! And a decent stereo! We had a lot of fun with music… and were amazed by how many times Yah Mo B There kept coming up. Today, if I’m on certain stations… it still comes up… and I change the channel. Kateri and I would joke about how often if played. Now I just find it annoying.
For three days I drove across this country in it, sleeping at Rest Areas and eating out of a cooler during the election so that I could see my mom during a pandemic. I love that I had that experience with this vehicle.
Kateri made the monthly payments on our first new vehicle ever… but would rather drive her 2001 Toyota Tacoma (which is rusting away next to the Cute Little Jeep in the driveway) to work everyday on the farm. Her dream car was a Toyota with a wooden bed… she was pretty awesome… and hopefully one day the Yota will get there.
I remember helping her into the back seat, running inside to grab towels and another blanket (or something), coming back out to her having thrown up… and other stuff… because her colon had given out from either the cancer or immunotherapy. I helped her out of the back seat… got to the front door… stripped her clothes off and threw them in the snow covered back yard… cleaned her up… and called an ambulance.
Heated steering wheel… that’s all I should really need to say… they should be standard in every car…!
Again… I wish that there would be some sort of little celebration on the dash/screen/odometer thing when it hits 100,000 miles… it would just be fun.
I’ve had this Jeep for four years. Although Kateri experienced our brand new vehicle for just one of those years… I’m so glad that she (we) had that experience. From the “wheelin’ and dealin'” to the last time I drove her in it on the way to the emergency room… it provided us with the comfort of not worrying if we’ll get to our destination… even if we weren’t sure of where we were heading. A 100,000 miles is a lot of ground to cover. Ya, you can say it’s just a car, just a truck, just a whatever… or you can focus on what you’ve filled that vehicle with as the miles slowly pile up… whether it be physically or metaphorically. You can fit a lot of memories into 100,000 miles… and even though some of those memories are difficult for me to remember… they only make up a few of those miles. I’m fortunate… I have a lot of good memories of Kateri and this Cute Little Jeep, which will help me as I drive through the next 100,000 miles of life… making new memories… without her in the passenger seat.
I love that this is the one video I have of Kateri in our Cute Little Jeep. It’s just sooooo Kateri. This was New Year’s Day 2018… 16 days after they found the mass in her brain. She was at the very beginning of her four month and three day Dance with Cancer. (Sorry, but Youtube let me know that if you live in Iran, North Korea, Cuba, or Syria… this video is blocked. You know… just wanting to keep all my followers in those countries informed!)
I took this picture at work today. For some reason I just found it sort of entertaining. But I had an experience this evening that made me think of this picture… and that word… in a different way. From a different angle. From a different perspective. From the perspective of… me… and how that word pertains to my life.
I started writing this at 10:13pm… all cozied up under the first sheets I bought as a widower… with the king size duvet that Kateri stole providing weight and warmth with a perplexing amount of… poofiness. (hey kids, it’s wrong to steal… but these people were assholes… and it fits perfectly on my full size bed!) I only mention the time tonight because since Kateri died, I’ve had this thing where I simply can’t put myself to bed… like I don’t wanna miss out on living or something. The other part of that is… there is straight up just more to do when going from a household of two… to a life of one. After doing things I need to do, I always want time to “Relax”… “Zone Out”… play guitar… eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s… watch some How it’s Made or check out what Carvana is all about… you know?,… “Chill”. (By the way… buying a car online?… weird.) I usually don’t get to bed until after the One-Two… so being in bed within the 10 o’clock hour is quite the accomplishment!
Here’s the point I’m trying to get to. Patience. When Kateri died… I knew it was gonna be a life-long thing of rememberin’, feeling, learning, balancing, and… well… “surviving”. Tonight, it was a friend’s Instagram post (a picture) of two dogs walking down a bricked path, in whichever Asian country he lives in, that made me sorta realize that I have become a much more “patient” person in my widowhood. (If you saw the IG post… this would make much more sense!) For almost three years I’ve been trying to figure out how to fit it all in… how to “live”. I’ve created little routines that have helped me on the “Adulting” side of life as well as on the personal, emotional, and psychological side. I guess, in a way, they’re also helping me… cope. At the beginning of this ordeal, I had absolutely no idea how I was gonna be able to do it. But now… NOW!… I’m still not sure… but I seem to still be able to cut enough wood for the fire, keep the plants alive, do a little snowshoeing with my girlfriend, have fires at the fire pit, pay the bills, smoke a doobie… or two, AND live with the memory of how wonderful Kateri was, what I loved about her (everything), and how much I loved my life with her. At the beginning, I knew this was gonna be a life-long gig. Today… tonight… at 11:31pm, I still know it’s gonna be a life-long gig. And even though the pain is still there… and I’m still trying to fit it all in, I need to acknowledge that parts of my life have gotten… better… since Widower Day 1. Yes, it’s taken making a few mistakes and taking a step back to reassess so that I could hopefully make a couple of good decisions to maybe have a more enjoyable experience in the future…! (sheesh… long winded sentence right there!) But it’s also taken recognizing that I have a different perspective… on life… which has taken time. Some might say that it’s taken patience… and it’s clear to me… that it’s gonna take some more.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’m finding it kind of ironic that I’m really going to sleep around the same time I normally do… I just happened to be in bed a bit earlier…!
Patience… I needed to practice patience when I was replacing the little subwoofer in the back of my little Jeep because it had blown… and because I didn’t exactly know what I was doing! I was tired of hearing the buzz and rattle it would make when I put on Today’s Hits… or some smooth sounds from the 70’s…… or the intro to Morning Edition. I’ve just gotta say, when all said and done, the sense of accomplishment after practicing a bit of patience was well worth it! (…breathing exercises and weed helped, too!) By taking the time to figure it out, I have… at the least… now made the hour and a half I spend in the car every day on my round trip drive to work and back… better!
This “Memory” popped up on Facebook yesterday. After hearing news of my friend passing away (which brought up all sorts of shit!), and then picking up the Klean Kanteen for Kateri… when this little gem popped up (because FB remembers everything!) I just thought to myself, “Well, the emotional hits just keep on coming!”. Luckily, I’m in a pretty decent space in life, and although it’s been a pretty exhausting week… and crying takes up time… this “memory” actually provided me with more warmth and fondness than sadness and despair. And I gotta tell ya… it feels good to be able to remember the fun times when I see funny videos of our life… because they were fun. (I remember balancing my phone on the porch railing, hitting play, and scurrying up the snow pile at the top of the driveway so that I could push start the utility sled that Kateri was already sitting in. The Director’s Cut has an extended version of the video where you can watch Kateri and I walk back up the driveway… under the cover of darkness… dragging a utility sled.)
Below is what I posted on my FB page when I shared the “Memory”:
I love this memory. I love that I made a sledding run down the side of our driveway. I love that we used the black utility sled. I love that it was at night. I love that I can hear Kateri’s laugh… because I don’t hear it from across the room, in the car, around the fire, or belting out into the nothingness while she’s sandwiched between my legs where I can actually FEEL her laugh… as we hold on for the ride. I know that sounds rough… but that’s why I love this memory… because I can hear her laugh.
Two years, ten months, and three days… and I just brought home Kateri’s urn… her Klean Kanteen bottle. I’d love to get all into the nitty gritty of what this moment in my life means to me, the things it brings up, the weight of this step in my Widowhood, but it’s been a long week… and I’m tired of being all emotional and shit so I’m just gonna lay down a few of the things that this day was filled with.
Kateri bought the Klean Kanteen bottle when she got sick. She read somewhere that with cancer she should drink “X” amount of water, so she bought the bottle figuring that as long as she drank two of them a day… she would hit that mark! I have memories of her sitting in her chair, blanket on her legs, wearing a hoodie, and the bottle at her feet. She loved that the water wouldn’t get warm even though she was relatively close to the wood stove!
From the moment I had to actually think about what to put Kateri’s cremated remains in, I knew it was gonna be the Klean Kanteen. For me, it sorta represents her approach after being told she had cancer… how she was gonna do everything she could to help beat it… to get better…….. there was no way in hell she was gonna just give up. And she never did.
I am fortunate. I am grateful. I have wonderfully beautiful friends. I picked up the bottle from one of those friends who happened to make her engagement ring for me, who made our wedding rings, who married us… and now he helped me with giving Kateri a more permanent place to rest. (I wouldn’t exactly say it’s “permanent”… Kateri will always have that wanderlust.)
On the drive home, I started thinking of the blue box Kateri is in as her “Rental” and that the Klean Kanteen will be her “Home”… which will be in my/our home… wherever home may be. (ummm…. which will be in our Little Red Schoolhouse for as far as I can see!)
I brought the small jar of Kateri’s ashes that I keep out for when I feel she would want to go for a ride. She loved… LOVED… watching shit go by.
I also wore my wedding ring… and about three hours after I got home… I realized I was still wearing it. (And just now realized again… I still am.)
Kateri is still in the “Rental”. The plan was to make the move this evening when I got home, but again… tired… and I don’t wanna feel like I’m rushing it just to get it over with! The big thing is that the Klean Kanteen is her… and we can make the move when the time is right… which will be pretty soon… because after two years, ten months, and three days I’m actually pretty excited for the move! (not so excited about the emotional rollercoaster it’s gonna be done on, but I’m kinda used to that ride.)
Widowhood… it’s a lifelong thing.
When we were finishing up and I was getting ready to drive the hour and a half home, Jake sorta nonchalantly said, “Say hi to Kat for me.”. For whatever reason it sorta floored me… it was unexpected… it was perfect. And then I drove to my quiet home, with Kateri in the seat next to me.
I had it all planned out. I was gonna come home after work, move wood from behind Kateri’s Potting Shed over to the garage using the utility sled and my cute little Jeep, eat some pizza, write a little light hearted something and post this little video I had recorded a couple days prior. I was ready to chill for my weekend. And then… while I was sitting at my desk at the end of the day… a good friend called to let me know that another good friend of ours had died the night before… fuck. Stoopid cancer.
He was a part of my life for the last 19 years. Kateri loved him. He loved her. And the memories and emotions hit me like a ton of bricks. My mind just kept going from one memory to another. The good ones. The bad ones. And everything in between. I couldn’t believe how many memories of Kateri and cancer came back… it was an onslaught that I’m currently still trying to get some control over while also letting certain emotions and thoughts have their time and space. I feel fortunate that I’m at a point where I can remember the good times in my life with Kateri and not just the cancer, but the news of his passing and the attachments of his life to ours… to Kateri… was simply crushing. I cried… a lot. Thankfully, I have beautiful friends, an understanding, supportive, and compassionate girlfriend, I’ve got my home, and I’ve got my mom to call… when I need to talk to my mom. Luckily, I’ve also become a “Functional Crier” in my widowhood. No, I may not have moved any wood, but I was still able to feed myself and take a shower… where it’s more convenient to cry because the water just washes off the snot and tears.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
My suggestion-If you’ve been wondering how this person is doing or what that person has been up to… reach out to them… say “Hi”… tell them you love them… thank them for enriching your life. You may not have that option in the morning.
I posted this on my Insta/FB accounts and someone commented “Peaceful”. I agree… I do find it kinda peaceful. Of course, it’s funny to think about how I was tromping around the outside of my hundred year old schoolhouse… in Muck Boots and comfy clothes at 11:23pm… snow (topped with 2” of ice) up to my knees… out front with the sign and flag, on the deck with the windows, in the driveway, in the breeze way, back to the driveway trying to find a “cool scene”… phone in one hand and a small flashlight in the other… stumbling around as I broke through the crust with every step while trying to keep steady until I decided to say “Screw it… I’m just gonna stand HERE!”…(I more likely said the “F” word, but I don’t know if I can say that in this description!)… and then with my little flashlight shining off into the woods to the west… and maybe freaking out the neighbors down the road on the other side of those woods, as they try to figure out why the heck there is a light coming from… THE WOODS!… (creepy) … I recorded this little video. Did I mention some say it’s “Peaceful”..? I’d agree.
On it’s face, that is a very sad statement filled with the memories of twenty years, but we can’t sum up the complexities of life in seven words… because sometimes nine other words show up to say, “Today, I’m gonna spend it with someone I love.”
In the winter time, when I get home from work one of the first things I generally do is get the fire going. (Kateri would’ve followed that line up with, “In my loins!”… but I’m not talkin’ about that kinda fire.) Sometimes I need to cut wood first or maybe snow blow/shovel the driveway, but invariably I end up sitting in front of the wood stove on my little stool that Kateri and I got in 2001 (maybe ’02..?), when we lived above a garage in Monkton, as I get the fire going for the evening. I enjoy this part of my day. It’s a built in time/task that sorta forces me to just sit for a few minutes. Of course, when I just sit for a few minutes… I think… about all sorts of stuff!… like how the stool I sit on was Kateri’s and my first piece of furniture!… and I hope it doesn’t spontaneously collapse on me as I’m starting the fire! But it hasn’t yet and I’m glad… because once the fire is going I absolutely love sitting on that stool and letting the wood stove heat my knees, hands, face, and top of my head that used to have beautifully thick hair keeping it warm. It provides me with space… to think… to remember… to reflect.
Sometimes I sit there and think about heavy things… when heavy things are going on. Other times I think about other things… when other things are going on. And sometimes I think about things and have no idea why I’m thinking about them! So… over a few days of sitting there on my stool as I got the fire going, I thought I would make a few notes of what it was I was thinking about as I lit old newspaper I had crumpled up and stuffed under my methodically stacked kindling.
Random Widower Notes n Thoughts… as I get the fire going:
Kateri would get excited and announce when she got the fire going by using only a single piece of paper…!
I think a lot about how I want to remember my old life… my life with Kateri… instead of just remembering.
I’ve always wanted to be a truck driver. I still wanna be a truck driver. I just don’t wanna quit smoking weed.
Road trips… adventures… ones with Kateri… ones without her… and ones I have yet to go on.
I’ve been sad lately. Sometimes I can sit here and just be… sad.
Cars should have a little icon of balloons, streamers, and champagne bottles pop up on your odometer when you hit 100,000 miles… and every 100,000 miles after that!
I’m actually pretty happy I don’t have chickens right now. I loved them… miss them… miss the eggs… but I don’t miss the chicken chores… or poop.
I bought a new coffee maker and grinder. My old coffee maker was… well… old. The coffee grinder I just didn’t like so I went and got a different one… which I like less than the old one. So… I’m going back to using the old grinder.
I would love to see Europe, but don’t know how I feel about flying over the ocean and one of my biggest fears is drowning in cold water so I don’t know how I’d do on a boat thousands of miles away from land… it’s quite the conundrum.
I still haven’t seen Tik Tok or know what it’s all about… which sometimes makes me feel older than I actually am. (I’m still young damnit!… but in a “middle-aged” man’s body. Or maybe I’m just immature.)
I think about my mom… a lot. This week I’ve been thinking about the tumor on her adrenal gland that has grown significantly. After talking to my sister, I’ve been able to also think about how the tumors on her spine and in her lungs haven’t grown… and after months of being off of chemo, there aren’t any new ones! Cancer… it fucking sucks.
I think about next winter when I won’t have to cut each piece of wood I burn so that it’ll fit in the stove… it’s gonna be glorious!
I think about shaving, but I haven’t seen my face since Kateri died and am kind of afraid that I’m gonna look gaunt and sickly since my healthy eating and sleeping habits went the way of the Dodo… for the most part. Fortunately… I like the beard.
My land line and internet are still in Kateri’s name… I really should deal with that, but I like my phone number and don’t wanna lose it!
Friends… I miss them, but I understand we are all simply living our lives… and we’re currently in a pandemic. Luckily, I’ve hit that point in life where I feel as though the friends I have will always be a part of my life… whether the last time we spoke to each other was last night, last week, last month… or in 2007.
I sit and think about life. Sometimes it’s complicated. Sometimes it’s not. And sometimes I just need to sit… and get the fire going.
I don’t need anything from you. I don’t need you to do anything. The things I am sad about can not be fixed… they can not be changed… they can not be taken away and hidden from me… because they are a piece of who I am.
Sadness is a part of life… it’s a part of my life. Sometimes, I force myself to get up on the right side of the bed. Other times, I just let myself be.
I haven’t written anything since Christmas. It’s not because I won the lottery or just inherited a crap load of money from some long lost relative who made their fortunes in the Aglet Boom of 1803 and am now sunning myself on my private beach where I’ve been disconnected for the past 35ish days… spending the hours eating take out Chinese Food flown in from NYC, laying in the grass in the middle of my 20 acre garden… after the staff goes through and removes all the bugs… with tweezers and jars so that they can be released into Walter’s bedroom (He may sound old and cute… but he’s a dick.), and… well… doing whatever it is I want to do at any given time… while smoking copious amounts of weed… that Helper Monkeys roll into joints for me using papers that have images of friends, family, and times from my life printed on them. No… it’s not because of that. I’ve just been doing other things. I guess I’ve just been… pluggin’ away.
The plan for my next blog was to share my experience burning the last bundle of sage from the jelly cupboard… from when Kateri was alive… but I don’t feel like getting that heavy right now so I thought I would just jot down some Random Widower Thoughts of things I’ve been thinking about or that have happened since we last connected. I’ve attached a video of me playing my guitar… because… well… why the hell not?! I don’t take it seriously. It’s just a hobby… something I can do to fill “X” amount of time with positive vibrations that simply make me feel good. And it’s something that I find… fun!
With that being said… some thoughts on things since Christmas.
Random Widower Notes n Thoughts:
On January 4th, 2021 I burnt the last bundle of sage that’s been sitting next to Kateri on the jelly cupboard. I’m ready to clean that space up a little, get Kateri into the Klean Kanteen, and maybe put other stuff on top of the jelly cupboard. It’s pretty exciting here in the WFC.
That was the plan at the beginning of the month… to post about the sage. And then I got glued to the news because there was this thing called an insurrection at our nation’s Capitol. All I’m gonna say right now is… Fuck you people. If you are one of those who quickly realized what you were doing was horribly wrong and you instantly apologized… you can Fuck right off. If you are someone who has spread lies year after year, who has decided to make shit up because you know people will believe it, who has used fear and anger to pit struggling Americans against struggling Americans for your own personal power and wealth… Fuck you, too.
After the inauguration, it felt weird when I heard a journalist say “President”… and they weren’t talking about Trump. It was a moment of “Ugh”… instantly followed by “Oh, they aren’t talking about Donald “Little Orange Hands on a Horrible Human Being” Trump! It felt weird… but better.
Ummm, I don’t lump all Trumpers together… we’re all basically the same… need and want the same sorta things. These people, the insurrectionists… they’re just extremist assholes with extremely poor judgement and outlooks on life… along with weapons and the internet.
I’ve realized I’m a Justin Bieber fan. I ain’t no “Belieber” or nothing… but I’ve been diggin’ it when some of his songs come on the radio or on YouTube as I’m running around the house or driving around Vermont. Sometimes… my head even bobs to the rhythm a little bit!
Work, work, work. I’ve been working more than normal lately… which I’ve enjoyed for the most part. It’s been a good lesson on just doing what we gotta do for the time at hand. I knew work in January was gonna be time consuming… so I “pivoted” and just went with it. And look!… I went through that and now I have time to do things such as write a bunch of jibber-jabber on the internet again!
There are things that just need to get done… like cutting 2 inches off of the last cord of 16″ wood so that it will fit in my new wood stove. I am sooooooo excited for next year when I won’t have to spend a couple of nights a week in the garage using a chop saw (with the original blade…!) to shorten logs so that I can stay warm and use less propane! It’s gonna be glorious. Although, I’m gonna miss the Nub Nights.
I haven’t been very “widowery” lately. I’ve kinda just been consumed with the present… which has kinda worked out nicely since I’m currently in the Anniversary Time of when my life was crumbling, I was scared, I was learning just how unfair Life could be, and all I wanted was for Kateri to not have cancer. She didn’t deserve it. (ok… now I’m feeling a little more “widowery”… the tears do that.)
I replaced the Vermont Flag I installed on the front of The Schoolhouse. I bought the old one not too long after Kateri died and it had begun to get a little torn and ratty from the years of wind and weather. I like the brightness of the new one.
I went for a walk on the lake down the road from my home for the first time. It was fun!… and a little nerve wracking… walking past the empty shanties (it was a Monday) as we made our way to the middle where we took the right turn to watch the sun go down as the moon came up behind us. It was also cold, but the hot chocolate and marshmallows Amanda and I brought with us helped keep us warm!
I went to do laundry the other night and when I was loading the washer I heard something… dripping… and it wasn’t coming from the washer! I looked up at where there had been water damage from before we bought The Schoolhouse and lo and behold the leak had come back! Although five years was a good run, I knew it was just a matter of time before the “fixed” leak wouldn’t be so “fixed” anymore. It came from a vent pipe on the roof, so I shoveled the snow away and called it good. After analyzing the situation, I realized that since it had leaked before I had no idea what shape the wood was behind the drywall or in the ceiling and roof! It was actually a relaxing moment when I also realized that there was absolutely nothing I could do about it besides shovel the snow away and install a bucket on my dryer because there’s four inches of ice on the roof and I’m not about to start tearing apart walls when it’s 2 degrees outside! Awe… spring projects… that may get pushed to summer. (And I hope my brain doesn’t go, “Just buy a nice looking bucket!… and build a shelf!”.)
With all the shit to do and worries of being able to sustain… I love… LOVE! my home… and am happy I have it in these times.
My sister got me a coffee mug where a picture of my mom and I show up when you put hot liquid in it. I can’t tell you how special it is to me… I’m using it right now!
Video description: I haven’t done a blog post for a bit, so I thought I would play a song and throw it on there..! Not because I wanna be a musician or anything… I just thought it would be an easy post. And then I found out it’s a little more nerve wracking than I expected… putting yourself out there… but oh well! Hobbies help pass the time… and some hobbies help ease the heaviness of adversity that touches us throughout our lives.
It’s Christmas….!! Things I’m gonna do on my third Widowed Christmas.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Go downstairs and make my own coffee (I pretty much made the coffee when Kateri was alive… so don’t worry, I’m used to it.)
Be happy that there’s still an inch of wet, slushy snow because it’s raining and I thought I wasn’t gonna wake up to a white Christmas! Of course, it may be a green Christmas come dinner time.
Take a moment and look at my tree, do some rememberin’, and smile because of all the good times Kateri and I had in Christmases Past… be grateful for the loved ones I have in my life today… and be happy that Gobble is still hangin’ out on top!
I’m gonna open all of the Christmas cards sent to me! (I saved them so that I would have something to open on Christmas Morning…!)
I’m not gonna go to work… because we are closed for four days…! which is unheard of in the Food Service World… and I’ll take it! (It was a wonderful… wonderful… gift to us. If you haven’t worked in the industry… you really don’t have any idea of just how wonderful this is.)
I’m thankful Kateri and I moved to this area for my current job. Switching from independent little restaurants to a decent sized company because we were feeling the need to “think about our future” has kinda saved me through both her cancer and death (Insurance, Earn Time, Co-workers, our Company Culture, etc.)… AND through this stoopid ass Pandemic… where I’m perfectly happy not going out amongst The People!
I’m gonna get in touch with friends and family and wish them a Merry Christmas… and tell them I love them.
I’m gonna eat Crullers… maybe all six of them.
Kateri loved Crullers. We would actually have fried dough on Christmas… but I don’t wanna deal with the fry oil… so I bought Crullers!
Ummm, I may be eating Cinnamon Rolls that Amanda made, as well…! (I’m pretty sure Diabetes and I are gonna be friends in the future.)
I’m gonna relax… take a breath… sit by the fire for a moment… and just be warm.
I’m gonna wear the new hat I bought myself yesterday for Christmas… and maybe the new Muck boots… if I go outside!
Dishes… I’m gonna do my dishes leftover from my Christmas Eve Tacos. (Nothing says Christmas in Vermont like Pork Tacos!)
I’m gonna remember Kateri… our life together… her life… who she was… and all the reasons I loved her so much. (…and now, I’m also gonna cry.)
I’m gonna put A Christmas Story on the ol’ tele… and then How the Grinch Stole Christmas (original)… or maybe the other way around. Don’t worry… I’ll figure it out.
I’m gonna be happy that I don’t have a bunch of sticky kids waking me up at 3:30 in the morning (I was still awake) wanting to open presents while losing their minds for the next four hours!
But first, I’m gonna smoke a Joint for Jesus while drinking coffee in bed as I jot down a list of things I wanna do this Christmas and be thankful that if you look out the correct window… it’s a white Christmas!
Sometimes… things just happen to show up at opportune moments. I knew I was gonna write a little blurb ahead of the video, but the only note I had made for this post was:
Just gotta say… today was kinda frustrating
Yup… it WAS a frustrating kind of day! I didn’t sleep much. A change at work made me want to bash my head against a brick wall… covered in down pillows… while wearing a full-face helmet. It took forever… I mean, for..ev..ER! to upload the video I made last night for this little blog post thingamajig. AND… today is the anniversary of Kateri finding out the news that there was a mass in her brain. Yup… frustrating. Plus, I’m still trying to get shit together to send in the mail to family for Christmas!… aahhh! But don’t worry… it’ll all be ok.
As the video was creeping it’s way from my phone to YouTube, I decided to throw on some Seinfeld for something mindless. Kateri and I watched a crap load of Seinfeld over the years, but I haven’t opened the DVD’s in quite some time and just thought it sounded… comforting. I decided to start at the beginning and as I was going through the cases, sandwiched between Season 3 and Season 1 was… low and behold… THE DALAI LAMA! In 2007, Kateri and I were introduced to this chant by our friend David as we would hang at his little cabin up Four Mile Canyon. Now, I don’t know anything about chanting n shtuff, but I DO know that it’s pretty darn relaxing to listen to while the fire dimly lights the room as it keeps the cold at bay and I jot this down. In full disclosure, I’m pretty sure I’ve smoked weed every time this hour and a half long “om-ing” action has taken place… so there’s that, too. Either way… I’m diggin’ it… and kinda needed it.
All of that to say… here’s a video of me walking around my house talking about my third Holiday Season as a widower… my third Christmas without Kateri. I made it because as I was decorating the Schoolhouse, feeling all sorts of emotions, and thinking about all sorts of shit… I thought about other people going through the same type of experience… I thought about my fellow widowed folk. So I made a video of some of the things I’m doing, decorating, and thinking about! (And yes… it’s so exciting that it warranted an exclamation mark..! (sorry, “exciting” might be the wrong word. Maybe “rambley” would be better…? or “awkward”..?))
I’ll admit… leaving Vermont to drive across our country to go see my mom took up quite a bit of mental space before I even hit the road! Some of it was emotional considering I haven’t seen her in almost a year… and she has cancer… which was the reason for the trip in the first place. But this post isn’t about the time I spent on the couch with her talking, sharing pics, watching the election, eating meals from my childhood, playing guitar for her and my dad, laughing, crying, or uncomfortably watching the new Borat movie together. Nope!… this is about the drive. This is me leaving my home for the longest period of time since Kateri has passed. This is about being in my cute little Jeep Renegade for 130ish hours with nothing but what I brought (which was a lot!)… during the election… in a Pandemic… to visit my mom… and my thoughts.
When the pandemic hit, it never really affected my life too much. I live in the middle of nowhere, I don’t live with anyone, no one comes over except my girlfriend… who works from home. I’m a homebody to begin with… and don’t really care to socialize! For me, in this new widowed life, the pandemic has actually offered a little reprieve from the onslaught of the world. That was until I realized I hadn’t seen my mom in almost a year… and she lives on the other side of the country! What would’ve normally been a quick little drive to Burlington or Boston to catch a flight, hang out in Idaho for a few days, and then fly back had turned into something a little more complicated, with heavier consequences attached to it. But we do the things we gotta do for the things we feel are important, which is why I decided to drive instead of fly, to eat/sleep in my car, and to only stop at rest areas and gas stations… as well as packing a bag filled with hand sanitizer/wipes, masks, and gloves!… so as to eliminate any of those nasty little Rona germs. So far so good!
Although I like to think that I have become much better at just rolling with stuff since I have become a widower, I’m still very much a “Planner” and “Worry Wart”. I was excited to have the chance to drive cross country again (Kateri and I did many a times, whether we were moving to and from Colorado or Wyoming… or just for a road trip!), but it had a different feeling for me in this new life. I was basically doing it alone for the first time since I did it in 2001 to come back to Vermont… to be with Kateri. That was a long time ago. A lot has happened in those 19 years. Times have changed. I have changed. Life has changed. This was gonna be a “New” experience in this “New Life”… and I approached it as just that… something “New”.
For the weeks leading up to my departure I wanted to get to a point where I felt comfortable leaving my Little Red Schoolhouse in Vermont for an extended period of time, and also tried to make it as comfortable as I could for when I got back. So I stacked my wood, mowed the yard one last time, cleaned the house from top to bottom, cleaned my car, borrowed a phone holder thing for the drive, did my laundry, pulled out coolers and camp stoves… and propane, paid bills, got simple little home security cameras so that I could see when someone was breaking into my house from 2,ooo miles away, cleaned the garage, cut wood… enough for when I got back as well, got an oil change (need another one!), packed clothes, packed old phones/iPad for pics to share, packed sanitizer, packed the Jeep… and then headed out at 5:30am on Sunday morning… with cake pops.
As a widower, much of my current life is still attached to my life with Kateri. Some of that is just natural (memories, emotions, my home and everything in it, for example), but some of that is also how we… as the widowed folk… hold on to and remember our loved ones as we slowly find ourselves in this new environment. I could’ve made this experience driving cross country as one big trip down I-80 memory lane… but that’s not where I wanted to be. I wanted to make this an experience for me… for Darren… recognizing that I would probably be hit with a few emotions as I pass the town Kateri grew up in, or remembering eating bologna sandwiches in the back of the Cherokee in Iowa during a rain storm, or passing under the Archway to the West for the umpteenth time, or when waking up in Wyoming… my second favorite state… and where I first met Kateri. That’s all just part of being a widower… you have memories of the times you spent with the one you love… and you’ve just gotta figure out how to have new experiences for your own personal growth, for your own well-being, and to hopefully make new memories that you can look back upon with appreciation, satisfaction, and fondness.
The Trip Out
I loved the fact that I was gonna take off for this trip across our country two days before the election with the goal of arriving at my folks at some point on Election Day. I love this country. I love how big it is. I love the diversity of the landscape and the people… the metro areas… the ruralness… the mountains… the flats. I loved starting off putzing through Vermont where I felt comfortable taking a piss (sorry for the crudeness… “peeing” just sounded… wrong) on the side of the road before I left my “Safe Space” and crossed the state line into New York… where I did not take a piss (no offense!) on the side of the road. I was excited to take that right turn towards the left side of the country… to be out and about in it… to have the visual reminders of the people and places that make it what it is… that make it special… and that also made me remember why I choose to live in Vermont! And yes… I missed a turn on my way to the interstate.
I made it through New York, PA, Ohio (ugh), Indiana, and into Illinois on the first leg of the trip… hitting a little rain/wind/slushstorm on the way. I thought about swinging by Niagra Falls since I’ve never seen it, but with the storm, not being allowed on the Canadian side, and the chance of other people being there… I decided against it. Again, my priority was to get to Idaho… without The Rona!
Prior to leaving, I looked up Walmarts (because I heard you can sleep in their parking lots!..?) and Rest Areas en route so that I would get an idea of potential sleeping spots. I figured I’d be able to at least get to Indiana… hoping to reach Iowa… but I made it as far Illinois. Even though it was a long day of driving (19 or so hours), I think I was still pretty energized about the trip when I pulled into the Rest Area to use the facilities and to grab a little shut eye… alongside a few of my neighbors who were on their own little adventures. I didn’t eat. I didn’t read anything. I didn’t “decompress” from the driving. I simply pushed some bags to one side of the car, laid out a yoga mat (nice try… but it didn’t do shit for padding), pulled out my sleeping bag and Squishy (Kateri’s pillow), took off my shoes…. and crawled in the back to get some shut eye. Four hours later I pulled out my camp stove, made some instant coffee from Starbucks… and kept driving.
The second leg of the trip was… well… pretty much straight and flat. I’m glad I hit the road before sunrise because I’ve always been a fan of seeing the sun come up and/or set in the Midwest. As it was creeping up the horizon behind me, I didn’t think about the politics of the people who’s state I was in. I didn’t think about how divided our nation is. I didn’t think about all the bad crap that has happened to this person, or that person, or myself. I instead thought about how the sky above seems twice as big as ours in Vermont… and it makes for one impressive dawn of a new day… in my rearview mirror.
When I hit Nebraska I thought about how many people don’t really care for driving through it… maybe because the roads don’t have many bends in them…?! But I rather enjoy it. You can just plug along at 75mph listening to music, the news, or a book on tape (which isn’t on tape anymore!) while hoping to God (if that’s what you’re into) a deer or antelope doesn’t run out in front of you! Yeah… it may not be exciting… but at least the roads are straight. (That may even be their state motto..?!)
The second night, I was able to make it to the Wagonhound Rest Area in Wyoming. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what emotional state I would be in when I arrived in Wyoming considering the reason for the trip, my lack of sleep, and my attachments to the state with Kateri, but I held my shit together. I’m sure the fact that I wasn’t anywhere near where we used to live helped with the dampening of emotions that could potentially pop up. It was nice being back, driving past the the windmills, the gas and oil fields… and the oasis of lights from them at night. It was nice seeing signs for Cheyenne, Laramie… and Rock Springs. It was nice being back out in The West. Back in the land of The Rockies (…the mountains… not baseball). Back where horses have the right of way and I have memories of sitting around camp fires with cowboys… and Kateri. It was nice to be back… if only for a day.
When I woke up at the Ol’ Wagonhound, it felt good knowing I would be able to make it to Idaho at a reasonable hour that day so I didn’t put too much pressure on myself to wrack up miles in “x” amount of time. When I got to Idaho, I decided to stop at the first rest area… it was crappy… so I went on to the second one. As I was sitting in my driver’s seat with the door open after taking care of some business, a trucker asked if I was “Having car troubles?” or “Just taking a rest?” as he was on his way to the facilities. I mentioned I was just resting and we shot the shit for a minute… which then turned into an hour and a half conversation about life… and him giving me a tour (socially distanced) of his truck and trailer! Even popped the hood! He provided me with so much information about engines, brakes, axles, trailers, stopping distances, other truckers, cops, his wife, his dog (Midas), and trucking in general that if I had retained more of it… I would sound like I knew what I was talking about! But I didn’t. My favorite part of that experience was that I asked if he had voted since it was Election Day. He said his wife was taking him once he got home… and then we never spoke about it again. It wasn’t important for us to know who each of us was voting for… or why… and I’m pretty sure we weren’t voting for the same guy! The important part was we were just two guys having an impromptu conversation about life. It was civil. It was respectful. It was nice.
I stopped at the last Rest Area before Boise to gather my thoughts, to get in touch with some people, and to take a breath before seeing my mom and dad. After three days in the car without showering… or changing my clothes… the thought of a shower and comfy clothes was beginning to sound better and better. I could feel myself getting legitimately excited about it. And then…. my father called. I asked how things were and he replied, “Good…. except we’re having some plumbing issues. Like… no water.”. Yup! Just gotta say, I was not expecting that one! Hopes and Dreams of sliding fresh, soft, and cozy Darn Tough socks onto my freshly cleaned and slightly less stinky feet were put on hold! Luckily, my folks live in the city… where there’s all sorts of plumbers who are available all hours of the day (pricing varies), so I knew the chances of it getting fixed was pretty good and didn’t think too much about it after that. Heck, I already felt gross… I was fine feeling gross a little bit longer… and at least I could feel gross while being in the same space as my mom! It was just hard not giving her a hug until after the plumbing was fixed, I was clean, and out of contaminated clothes!
There will be another post about my time spent in Idaho, but what I’ll say is that it was absolutely wonderful walking into my folk’s home and seeing my mom sitting on the couch. I love her… and thoughts of Covid, cancer, work, Kateri, loss, elections, widowhood, my schoolhouse, my home, my friends, my challenges, and my problems simply went away for the first few moments I was there. I could see her… I was seeing her…. and that’s what the driving, the precautions, the lack of sleep was all about. It was to spend time with her. One of the great things about moms… they don’t care if you’re stinky.
The Drive Home
Now, the drive east was a much different trip than the drive out. I’d like to say I was calmer… more relaxed… and in some ways I was. For the most part though, I think I was exhausted… and ready to be back in my drafty little hundred year old schoolhouse in Vermont… where trees make better neighbors. I was ready to be home.
My plan was to leave Sunday, but at the time there weren’t as strict of Covid restrictions going on so I decided to spend another day with her and my dad and leave on Monday. Of course, all hell broke loose with Covid and things changed, but I’m still happy I stayed another day. Usually, I would’ve left before the ass crack of dawn for a road trip, but when you have over 2,600 miles ahead of you… an hour or two here and there isn’t gonna change much… so I took off around 7:30am. Basically because I wanted to say “I love you” and “goodbye” over a cup of coffee and with a hug… and not by waking them up in the middle of the night by nudging a shoulder to faintly tell them I’m leaving. I don’t think I could’ve done that… and I’m glad I didn’t.
For the five and a half days I was in Idaho we watched a lot… A LOT!… of election stuff… and I rather enjoyed it. I also kinda liked that it eliminated all of that, “what do you wanna watch?” type stuff. We couldn’t go out because of the Pandemic/cancer/etc., so might as well belly up to the boob tube! Again, I love this country (yes, we’ve got some serious issues) and to have the unique opportunity to be out and about in it while “We the People” were casting our votes… I just kinda dug it. However, after watching and hearing about how a bunch of our country viewed the process, viewed the election, viewed the other side, got their information, how they share their information, how easily so many people are willing to disregard tradition, respect, the process, facts… their fellow Americans… it took me until Wyoming before I could switch the radio station away from music… and back to the news… which didn’t last long. For the rest of the trip east, I would periodically flip through the news channels, get a couple of different updates and angles, and then right back to some much more enjoyable sounds while on the road!
The drive back wasn’t without it’s challenges… I did have to drive through a snow/ice storm which started in Wyoming and I dealt with through Nebraska. Luckily, I don’t care if people get upset with me for driving slow. The goal was to get home… safe and sound… and that’s what I was gonna do. Again… 2,600 miles… as long as I was moving forward, it was good enough for me! Was it nerve wracking?… yes. Did I spend a ton of time thinking about how “All Season” tires do on ice with 50mph winds?… yes. Did I just want to stop, get out of the car, and wait it out?… well… no… because it was cold, snowy, and windy with big trucks careening off the interstate… and that wouldn’t have gotten me any closer to home! So I just kept driving… between 7 and 43mph… until I came upon my home for the next few hours… the Pine Bluffs Rest Area. FYI, when you sleep in your car and it’s 17 degrees outside… inside your car ain’t much warmer!
On a side note, I posted the storm experience on social media and a friend of mine from Vermont commented how he was driving through the same storm!… on the same road!… in the same area!… and I guess he’s now a truck driver instead of a cook! I just thought it was kinda cool… in a “Small World” sorta way.
I really didn’t have any problem with driving through the weather, but I’ll tell ya, it felt a million times better when the road looked dry and my little thermometer thingy was telling me it was 35 degrees outside! Luckily, it just got warmer and warmer the further I drove east. I mean… until the sun went down. Then it got colder… cuz that’s what happens when the big ball of heat goes away.
Once I made it back to the Chicago area… it felt like I was getting closer… it felt more “familiar”. I don’t know why… maybe it’s the congestion of people, maybe it’s being on a “Turnpike” or “Thruway”… but whenever I hit the Chicago/Gary/Cleveland part of the trip, it just seems to feel like Vermont is a hop, skip, and a jump away! And then you remember there’s still New York to get through… Upstate. Which from my understanding is all of NY… except the city..? I actually thought about taking I-86 across southern New York so that I could get some pizza from Nirchi’s. Kateri and I would get two sheets to snack on whenever we headed out west. It’s fantastic. But instead, I was all responsible n shit and decided to stay safe and stick to the plan… and not have Nirchi’s pizza.
From the moment I walked out my parent’s door and got back into my cute little Jeep Renegade, I had my bed, my woodstove, my little red schoolhouse in the back of my mind. I just wanted to be there. The thing I found odd was that it was only in the back of my mind. Yes, I wished I could teleport myself and in the blink of an eye… be home! But in reality, I knew I had a lot of ground to cover before I would be there, so I guess I simply went through the motions until I reached my destination… and didn’t think too much about it.
When I crossed into Vermont under the cover of darkness, I didn’t get that “I’M HOME!” feeling… although, I did feel a huge sense of relief. My mind was still in Idaho with my mom, on the road thinking about life, in the past with my memories, and concentrating on the present with every turn through The Green Mountains as I made my way to 91. For a week and a half I didn’t think about all the things I think about on a daily basis. For a week and a half I didn’t worry about the things happening in my life. For a week and a half I didn’t think about cutting wood, paying bills, work, if I did this right… or if I did that wrong. For a week and a half I drove across this country to be with my mom… to take a moment to sit, to talk, and to spend time with her… and then to drive home. That was the purpose of my trip. I guess I road it till the end because it didn’t really hit me until I was making my way up Wild Hill and had passed John and Mary’s… then Heman’s… and then the Hooligan’s… I went past my wood pile and up my driveway until I reached that oh so familiar view out the driver’s side of those big, beautiful schoolhouse windows… that I realized I had reached my destination. I sat there thinking about the fact that when I turn the car off… and open my door… the trip is over. It was emotional. It was overwhelming. It took me some time… but after a lot of deep breaths, and a few more moments of thinking, I opened the door… stepped out into the cool Vermont night… and found solace in the fact that I had made it…… home.
Random Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Since I had recently learned that cameras on phones have a “timer” setting, when I got home I did a fashion show for myself of all the different outfits I wore while on the road. You know… Converse, Darn Tough socks, 501’s, blue hoodie, Hunter’s Orange Carhartt hat… John Deere hat. Yup. And of course… with or without the blue Levi’s hanky mask! (I felt the need to color coordinate my accessories)
Things to do in Quarantine… write really long blog posts.
Before I left for my trip to see my mom, I had the idea that I would be writing quite a bit while I was out there…. that didn’t happen… and I’m cool with that because it just meant that I spent more time with my mom! Going into it, I sorta approached each of the three segments of the trip… The Drive Out, Hanging with My Mom, The Drive Home… into their own unique emotional, psychological, and personal experience’s… each of which I feel sooooo fortunate to have had! I got back last night and am taking advantage of the time I have to recoup, relax, and reflect on the past week and a half. I’m excited to write a few blogs during this time, share some pics/experiences, and was gonna start at the beginning, but we’re gonna work backwards because… well… this is where I’m at right now! For today… I just need to stop. I need to stop moving. I need to stop thinking about everything. I need to rest my body and mind… maybe while on the couch, from my bed, in the tub, or maybe all three! Whichever way, it feels good to be home.