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.
As a widower, I could’ve attached all sorts of things from my old life to this trip… but I didn’t… that’s not what this trip was about. Even though I took a part of Kateri with me for the ride (She was always up for a road trip… and I could hear her voice saying, “Where the antelope roam!” as I rolled across Nebraska and back into Wyoming), this trip was for me… as time moves forward… in my present life. The day I left I thought about Widowhood and how it’s a layer of complexity which I would much rather not have in my life. But I also thought about how it’s just part of my life. A big part… but just a part.
Random Widower Notes n Thoughts… of my trip:
It’s a big, beautiful, diverse country… and everyone needs to drive across it… when there’s not a pandemic happening.
I have never “dictated” so much to my phone. I hope I don’t start saying, “Period” or “Coma” or “dot dot dot” when I’m having conversations with people!
Three days in the car… you think a lot.
Tom Petty Radio is a pretty darn good Road Trippin’ station. The news channels will drive you batty.
It’s scary as hell thinking about giving your mom with cancer a hug after driving cross-country during a pandemic… and you think about it a lot.
I’m glad I got to be on the road… out in the world… seeing our country… during the election. Isolated in the thick of it.
I overpacked… waaaaaay overpacked.
Driving 80mph is weird. Luckily… no sharp turns.
Why do your knees hurt when you just sit for three days?
I miss my mom and family… and love them tons… but it’s nice to be home.
I’m ready to get back into my life!… tomorrow.
The Video Description
Well, I literally just got home from my drive to go spend some time with my mom in Idaho. The gist of it is…. I left Vermont 11/1/2020 at 5:30am and got to my P’s house in Boise on Tuesday… Election Day… after driving 26 hundred miles or so… only stopping for gas/to pee/poop/or to sleep in the back of my Jeep Renegade (it’s “cute”… ugh) at rest areas. Hung out with her and my dad… didn’t go out because of the pandemic/she has cancer/not much energy right now/etc. So we watched election shit because it was happenin’… and important… and was something we could do from the couch. I’m glad I saw her… and was able to see how she was doing. (She’s doing well… she’s good) It was nice to talk… and share pictures… and watch movies that I never thought I would watch with her! And then I drove back to Vermont on 11/9/2020… post election… doing the same thing but adding in a snowstorm in Wyoming/Nebraska and arriving home on 11/11/2020… at 11:00pm… funny. On the drives, I thought about my life, my widowhood, my mom, my future, my past, my country, my job, my home, my friends, my family, my feet… and more! This is me in my driveway… after sitting for a few moments… after 63 and a half hours in the car covering 2,667 miles (or so!)… and before opening the door and getting out of the vehicle. Ummm… yeah. I’m writing this description the next day after unloading a little/eating/sleeping in/decompressing/reflecting and relaxing because I realized… after a couple of “moments” this morning… I’m exhausted. It was a wonderful trip during an extraordinary time to see someone I love more than anyone…. but I’m glad to be back at my little Schoolhouse… in Vermont… where there’s a wood stove and a bathtub… both of which I’m about to use.
For some reason I decided to search The Oracle for widowed celebrities… and I’m not exactly sure why besides simple ol’ curiostity. I mean, I’m not exactly up on celebrities and I kinda don’t care for reading or watching stuff about widowhood, but I searched it anyways. If you became famous in the last decade… 15 years or so… I probably can’t pick you out of a line up!.. or really care to! But, if you’re a widow(er)… I feel for you. It don’t matter how many people know ya or how much money you got from that horrible 90’s sitcom… or one hit wonder!… if the person you loved more than any of that type of shit… the person you loved more than anything else… up and died… life sucked.
So… that first part was really just notes I made the day before the 2 and a half year mark. The video below I made the day after the 2 and a half year mark. And now I’m posting this blog three days later. Yup… I’m slackin’! But what it comes down to is, I had a moment where I decided to simply look at the last two and a half years of my life… and tried to not let the emotional attachment to last 20 years with Kateri be the focus of my thoughts. And I’ve gotta say… it felt good to look back at my accomplishments over those two and a half years and be comfortable with how I have handled them! Sure, I’ve taken some wrong steps, but just took a step back when I realized it. Sure, I’ve said some things that I probably shouldn’t have said in certain moments or environments or to certain people, but I’m learning to think before I speak… a majority of the time… sometimes… here and there……… I’m working on it! Sure, I’ve made some mistakes, but as of right now… I’m ok with all of that.
We all make mistakes. Luckily, for two and a half years I have been surrounded by people who are understanding, caring, and supportive… and realize we are all just fallible animals trying to get through the day. It’s because of those people and the lessons Kateri taught me in life that I was able to have a positive moment on this new timeline where I could feel accomplished, comfortable, and proud of how I have dealt with my “Widowhood”… even if that “moment” came to me while in the shower! (I’m pretty sure we all do a lot of thinkin’ in the shower!.. when we’re not singing.)
ps… if you take a gander at the video… I know I say, “ya know?” a lot. This is why I prefer to write things down… I ain’t no orator!
We can’t look at our lives as being in the early stages, or in the middle, or coming to the end of it. It’s all just life… and we simply need to live it.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’ve decided to drive to Idaho to see my mom and this little saying/thought/string of words popped into my head as we were having a conversation about it. My mom called to say that she is worried about me contracting The Rona since I’m pretty darn safe here in Vermont. (You people from Mass, NY, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey… Ohio… know what I’m talking about. Heck… I see more of your license plates up here in the Green Mountains than Vermonter’s!) I asked if she was worried about me infecting her with COVID and she replied, “No, I’m not worried about me… I’m at the end of my road… you’re still in the middle.” That’s when those words kinda popped in my head and my answer to her was basically, “I’m older than Kateri… and I don’t know where I’m at on this road… but there are decisions I (we all) need to live with if my road keeps going.”
I was always younger than Kateri… and now I’m older. It’s kind of a hard and fucked up thing for me to think about, but it keeps some other things in perspective.
I’m gonna be as safe on the trip as I possibly can… because I still don’t wanna get infected… and I REALLY don’t wanna bring it to my mom! So, I’m driving 2,172 miles where the only stops will be gas stations, rest areas, and Walmart parking lots.
Yup, the Pandemic has changed our world… but we’re still living in it and it’s gonna keep moving on. As a widower… you learn that lesson the hard way. For me, the Pandemic is nothing compared to the loss of Kateri. So, I’m just gonna control the things I can… and not gonna worry about the rest.
I hope you have a good day… and realize that just because there’s bad shit out there, it doesn’t mean all the good shit went away. Sometimes, we just need to approach it from a different route.
Just over ten years ago… in the spring of 2010… it hit me like a ton of feathers that I needed to ask Kateri for her hand in marriage… after being together for nine years before that… and friends (sometimes with benefits) for two/three years before that! I used to say that I wish I had asked earlier. I mean… our first anniversary was our tenth year together!… but those are just numbers. Nowadays, I simply view her as my wife and like to remember the twenty years I was fortunate enough to spend with my best friend… my Dearest Kateri… and not just the time we were married.
I’ll be honest… I don’t really know what to say. My Anniversary makes me think about those twenty years together, filled with the good and not so good times taking place in Wyoming, Colorado… and Vermont… our home… Kateri’s home. There were plenty of other places with good and not so good times all over this country… and in the Dominican… and that other tropical paradise… Canada, but that’s a lot of shit to write down! So, I decided to focus on our wedding, think about why I loved it so much (It was pretty awesome… you should’ve been there!), and simply make a list throughout the morning… and maybe into afternoon… of things that I kinda hold on to about that day.
Kateri and Darren’s Wednesday Wedding
September 28th, 2011
The fact that it was on a Wednesday… and the invitation said “4…ish”!
A huge portion of our friends are in the food industry… Wednesday would make it easier for them to come and party with us!
We smoked a pig… at a vegetarian summer camp… there was pig juice and fat everywhere!
Ya… the smoker went up in flames when we first started it… that was fun, too.
We didn’t have Bridesmaids or Groomsmen… only Men of Honor.
There wasn’t a person there we didn’t want to be there… right down to the people helping “work” it… they were all friends.
We did everything ourselves… with the help of friends. Luminaries with Dom while watching Glee, smoked pig, steamed buns, pickles, hanging lights, terrariums, flowers that Keith and Michelle picked at the farm down the road, Kateri brewed our wedding beer, her sisters helped with photo booth decorations, invitations, guest books… and we even made our own “Church” by gathering old windows, attaching stakes to them, and sticking them in a field in the shape of rectangle… Insta-Church!
We had friends from different parts of the country sitting in Luke and Braedy’s dining room peeling apples and baking off crisps… while watching football.
I love that it was beautiful weather the days leading up to our wedding… and then was rainy the day after. The clouds and coolness provided the perfect, somewhat lazy atmosphere to soak in the experience we just went through.
I like that we rented a summer camp… before summer camps in Vermont realized they could charge happy couples a shitload of money to get hitched in a tick infested field.
Mike puked in the path… yup.
We had a wonderful evening a few nights before with our Men of Honor and their significant others, talking about friendship and life, on top of Jake’s building down by the train tracks overlooking Lake Champlain.
I smile when I remember how we referred to Nina as a Golden Bowling Ball… she was pretty pregnant.
John made Kateri’s wedding dress… he had never done something like that before… it was gorgeous.
We bought the fabric by cashing in the coins we had saved in mason jars!
I love that MPH wrote a song and played it for us… he’s so dreamy.
Watching Scottie in our shacky little cabin roll joint after joint for the festivities… he doesn’t smoke weed.
We danced. Kateri loved to dance. I loved to dance… with Kateri.
Our “Song” was Forever in Blue Jeans by Neil Diamond. Of course, I got married in Carhartt’s.
Side note-I also proposed to Kateri under a HUGE pair of Carhartt’s in a hardware store! She loved hardware stores… and that hardware store in particular.
We didn’t have plans for a honeymoon. We figured the day after our wedding we would go through the cards, see how much money was there, and then determine where we could go! We went to Maine… where I ate bad clams… not on purpose.
I love that we wrote our vows two hours before the ceremony… and this morning, I found the scratch paper that Kateri wrote hers on.
We took time right after the ceremony to be alone… together… as husband and wife.
Wow… I could just keep going on and on! Basically, our wedding was… perfect… for us.
Yup, my third Wedding Anniversary without Kateri is an emotional roller coaster type of day. Today is the anniversary of the best day of my life, but it’s also a pretty big reminder of the worst day of my life… and that’s one of the challenges I face as a widower. When you live a life where you can pin point, right down to the date and time, the best day of your life and the worst… your world gets a little muddled and muted. For example, I know the colors of Autumn surrounding the Schoolhouse and blanketing the hills of Vermont are currently absolutely stunning, vibrant, and beautiful… but it’s just not the same. Although… this year they seem to be a bit more… colorful.
So… the world is going to shit… I guess. That’s what I see on my little phone when I check the news. (CNN/Fox… I like to see propaganda from both sides. Of course, I feel like Fox News is the annoying richy rich frat boy who’s drunk and yelling at all the other party goers to do keg stands and chug vodka so that he and his cronies have easier prey in the hours ahead to make fun of, influence, or take advantage of for their own pleasure or benefit…. just sayin’.) Yup, the west (where I’m from) is on fire, The Rona hasn’t gone away no matter how much disinfectant we drink or how much we stare at the sun, we’ve lost some really good people (John Lewis, Notorious RBG, Chadwick Boseman, Jerry Stiller… Regis), there have been so many storms that we’ve gone into the Greek alphabet to name them, schools are now the petri dishes of some strange social experiment where no one knows how the heck to do it while parents are just happy to get their offspring out of the house for a few hours, and in some parts of the world they are canceling Halloween… that’s just fucked up. But you know what..?… there’s toilet paper on the shelves and they’re coming out with another season of Cobra Kai! It’s not all Doom and Gloom!… which I guess is what I’m trying to get to.
I’m just gonna say it. For me… life is good! Really… it is! Not like “I just won the lottery and am gonna party like it’s 1999 Good!”… but it’s still good. Yes, there have been some heavy moments and a few bumps in the road in the last little bit, but nothing really compares to the loss of Kateri in my life so I feel I’ve been able to somewhat deal with… life. Nope, some things haven’t gone as planned, but one of the things that being a widow has taught me is that the unexpected is to be expected and I just need to plow on through… or stroll… or crawl. OK… sometimes I just need to lay in bed and let time pass to get through certain moments, but I tell myself at some point I’ve gotta just get up, get out, and get going!… because otherwise I’ll get bed sores… and that’ll just create more problems!
I think the loss of my chickens has made me think about the timeline of my life. Specifically, my path since Kateri passed just under 2 years, and five months ago. I feel now that I’m here alone, it’s another step into “My New Life”… and oddly, it sorta feels good to get to this point… the point without chickens. I knew the time would come… it did… and now I’m here. It’s like I’m now living a more accurate picture of what my life will be like post Kateri & Darren’s Time as I’m more firmly rooted in… Darren’s Time. I guess in some way those stoopid raccoons provided me with a little bit of “closure” with the massacre of the chickens… and then I gently pushed the door shut with the subsequent Viking Funeral of Lil’ Bitch up at the fire pit with a couple friends last weekend.
Yup, the Pandemic hasn’t really changed my life much. I’ve got firewood for this year… and next!… and a new stove and chimney to keep the schoolhouse warm as winter is steadily approaching (there have already been a couple of fires… and a Nub Night! I’m still cutting 2-4 inches off of two cord of wood so they fit in the new stove.). The bulk head stairs are built, the deck is painted, the garage is in order… somewhat, rooms are painted, and toilets aren’t leaking anymore… after 17 trips to the hardware store. On top of that… I’ve got friends… good friends… who help. I know we all get caught up in our own worlds and we’re all different types of peeps, but the cool thing about friendships is that just because there may be more miles between us or more time between visits… those aren’t the defining factors of what makes two, three, twenty seven, or a couple hundred people friends. It’s the bond created through shared good experiences… and how we treat each other through the not so good experiences. (Actually, I feel there’s a boatload that goes into what makes people like and not like other people… and the relationships they have, but sometimes I like to not overthink it and hold onto the perspective that there are some friendships/relationships where it simply boils down to the fact that they just… click.)
For twenty years, Kateri was my best friend… and I wish she didn’t die. But I’m thankful for the life I had with her, for the friends we made, and for the lessons she taught me… which I try to use as I figure out how to live my life without her. Yup, there’s all sorts of shit going on in the world… and in our little lives… but there are things in our control and there are things that are not. For today, I’m not gonna focus on the piles of poop being plopped all around us and take some time to focus on the good things, get in touch with some good peeps… and simply have a good day. I hope you do the same!
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
That was rough… even though I’m talking about how I feel good, the moment I wrote “Kateri was my best friend”…. I lost it for about 10 minutes. Yay!… widowhood.
I passed a house that had clothes drying on a clothes line in the back yard. Kateri loved letting nature do the work…. I use the dryer.
I’m at 96 followers!… so close to 100! (You can hit the follow button if you want. I don’t even care if you read the blogs! Well, I kinda care, but I also realize it’s basically sort of a personal journal about loss n shit with no real structure or fully thought out intentions behind it… and I don’t even know how long I’ll be doing these things… so maybe just commit to the “like” button!)
Tomorrow is my Wedding Anniversary. Although, I wish I hadn’t waited ten years to ask for Kateri’s hand in marriage, our wedding and life together was perfect… just 30 to 40 years shorter than expected.
If you throw a whole frozen chicken on a fire… it’ll take a couple of hours until you can’t distinguish it from the other coals in the pit… and will smell like chicken.
Be kind, be supportive, relax… and be good. (I don’t think that is a correctly punctuated sentence. I feel like there could be more periods. Man, I’m glad I’m an adult and not in school gettin’ graded on that shit!)
As of 7:44 last Saturday night… I no longer have chickens. It was kind of a horrible experience that I knew was a very real possibility, considering the fact that I live in the woods. It was jarring. It threw me off. Since Kateri died, people have asked if I’m gonna get a pet, a dog, a kitten, fish… whatever… and I would always reply that once the chickens die I don’t wanna be responsible for another living animal for a while. I just didn’t expect that to happen on Saturday! Stoopid nature.
I’ve attached all sorts of things to those chickens. They were Kateri’s Hopes n Dreams. But they also helped me ease into this new solo life by simply being around. I loved that they would be at the door to their little yard when they heard my car pull into the driveway or when I would open the screen door. I loved that they would follow me around the yard as I watered this or worked on that. I loved that they would come when I called out, “Here chick, chick, chick!”. I loved watching them run… and I love that I have the memory of Kateri impersonating a chicken… running! I guess I loved those little ladies for all sorts of reasons, but the fact of the matter is I don’t have them anymore and I need to adapt… to settle into… this new reality. After waking up alone the day after Kateri died…. well… nothing compares. So, I could add more sadness to this experience… or I can accept it for what it is… give it it’s time and space… and keep moving forward. My last week has been filled with some wonderfully supportive and beautiful moments, and some coincidences that I have just kinda dug. I guess that’s what this is about. Here are a few things that have helped me look on the brighter side of life as I adapt to being the only living thing in my household for the first time in twenty years after the death of Kateri… and then her chickens.
When it happened… I didn’t know what to do. I felt the need to let someone know what I was dealing with. I needed support. So I texted my girlfriend, “I don’t have chickens anymore.”… and she was there for me… again. She is a caring, compassionate, and understanding woman… and I’m glad she is in my life.
My mother called me on Facetime for the first time… ever! (except for the one time she did it on accident)… once she heard what had happened. I loved it! I love her.
I had a friend from work (from another department and building) seek me out to say sorry. She walked through the kitchen without hesitation simply because she knew what this event meant to me. At the same time, another friend showed up who had seen what had happened on social media. Although she was really there to deliver yogurt, her words were supportive and filled with compassion. It felt good.
Our old friend David called after he heard about the massacre. During our conversation, we came up with a plan for Lil’ Bitch since I didn’t want to let the raccoons take her. (I was fine with them taking Chicken and Chicken… but it was dark and Lil’ Bitch was still in one piece… so I removed her from the coop… and now she’s in my chest freezer! Kinda gross… I know.) He’s gonna visit at the end of the month, we’re gonna light a big ol’ fire at the fire pit… and lay Lil’ Bitch to rest!… in the fire. Yeah, the feathers are gonna smell a bit at first, but then I figure it’s just gonna smell like… chicken!
My friend Raph took me on a Jeep ride through the back woods of Vermont simply because he thought it would be a nice way to take my mind off of the heavier things in life for a while. It was awesome. It was fun. It was beautiful… except for the zombie we passed standing next to her shanty town looking home-made mini RV parked on the wrong side of the dirt road… in the dark. We didn’t stop.
My neighbor Bobbi called… for no reason except to check in. She hadn’t heard about my chickens… she was just seeing how I was doing. We hadn’t spoken for a spell, so I kinda dug the fact that she was simply thinking about me and decided to give a shout. (She sold us the Schoolhouse)
Last night… my favorite coincidence in the last week happened. I was at a friend’s house down the road getting an introduction into motorcycles since I’ve been thinking about getting one… maybe. (I’m actually leaning towards starting to fix up Kateri’s truck… it’s safer… but I still have those dreams of owning a motorcycle!) When we got up to the garage and were doing the whole Vermont thing of looking at wood piles and log splitters while smoking a joint and drinking beers (I wasn’t drinking), a dude was peddling past the “driveway”. I kinda put my joint to my side and said, “Evenin’!”. The dude looked at me, I looked at him… I walked a little closer and we realized… we new each other! Not like we met once through friends or at a show or something… like, he’s been at my house… like, he was on my floor laying next to Kateri when she was sick… like, Kateri loved this man… almost as much as she loved his wife… who was peddling up the hill right behind him! I simply yelled out, “Jeff!”… and then, “Cristina!”…! (Cristina actually made a pill schedule for Kateri that I kept on my refrigerator up until just a bit ago… she’s a nurse… and I still have the schedule.) It was surreal. It was so unexpected considering they live on the other side of the state, and yet here they were!… just peddling through Vermont! I wish we lived in a time where I would’ve just grabbed them for a hug, but seeing them there… in person… was such a wonderful coincidence for me that it helped lighten the heaviness that has been my life for the last three weeks. I can just imagine how entertaining it must have been for them to stumble upon us all high n shit as my buddy started up Harleys while giving them his idea of what the best route would be for the rest of their evening ride! It was simply awesome.
Ya, the Schoolhouse feels different… it has changed… it’s not the same as when Kateri and I bought it… it’s quiet. I’m trying to train myself not to look towards the coop every time I walk out of the house. I’m trying to get used to not having the ladies as a source of entertainment… because FYI, they were very entertaining! I’m getting used to not worrying about them. I’m getting used to living alone… on the hill… without Lil’ Bitch. I’m adapting to change. I’m adapting to life. Fortunately, I’ve got a lot of good things going on in my world… a lot of good people. Sometimes those people… sometimes, they just pop up out of nowhere… as they’re riding down the road… at just the right time.
I took a couple of days off so that I could meet a friend in PA this weekend. And yes, I literally mean “meet” them. It’s kind of amazing how much someone can impact your life without ever standing in the same room as them! Unfortunately, the stoopid Rona put the kibosh on that so I decided to still take the time off, stick around the house, and get to things that have been nagging at the brain for a while now… like the leaky toilet… and mess of a garage. After painting the porch, I’ve been sorta motivated to keep on the train of seeing how I would like to set up and/or maintain my new life and home. Getting a few things checked off of the list of things to do does wonders for the psyche!
So, I’ll just say… I had my extended weekend kinda planned out. Start with the toilet (flush valve) and then move on to the garage, chicken coop, truck, and wood. Well, of course things don’t always go as planned. I was able to replace the flush valve OK… for being a cook… but after I attached the tank to the bowl, I noticed one little drip of water… on each of the three anchor bolts! (I don’t even know if that’s what they’re called…?!) Now, originally the flush valve was leaking, but just into the bowl on its way to the septic tank. It was one of those every once in a while things where I would hear the tank replenish the top inch of water, but at least it wasn’t leaking onto the wood floor! Luckily, two mason jars were enough to hold the bolt problem at bay (wherever bay is…?!) until I was able to hit The Home Depot for some new hardware after a few hours of work on Friday.
It was during my learning experience with the toilet, running in and out of the garage to be exact, that I decided it was about time for me to buy one of those stand up tool boxes on wheels to help me organize all the crap I have accumulated over the years while fixing this or building that. So, on Friday I bought the bolts/washers/nuts I needed to finish the toilet… and also bought a tool box to put my crap in! (…after watching the dude struggle to get the box off the top shelf with one of those lift things while I stood guard at the bright orange gate. I tried not to stare… but it was an entertaining struggle!)
I finally finished the turd herding (plumbing) on Friday afternoon around four and then it was on to the garage and tool box…es! (I got two of them…!) Friday night was basically me dorking out in my garage with my stuff, listening to music, and enjoying the process of putting friends with friends. I didn’t finish tidying the garage until Monday morning… there’s a lot going on in there… but it was well worth the effort. It feels good. I feel accomplished. I feel… better.
Yup, those are a few of thing that I did. But now, for the widower shit… the roller coaster… the “rolling with it” type stuff. At the beginning of the week, my intentions were to fly solo, listen to some tunes, smoke some pot, and just be productive at the schoolhouse while I worked on my “New Life”. And then my sister-in-law reached out to say she was in Vermont and was hoping to come up! So, I amended my plan… and prepared for the tidal wave of Kateri and “Old Life” memories and emotions that were gonna come along with having a Damato in the schoolhouse.
First, I’m gonna say that it was an absolutely fantastic couple of days seeing her, talking, remeniscing, building fires, roasting hot dogs, and hanging on the porch until the heat drove us inside or to the garage… while watching a four year old take a bazillion trips up and down the driveway with his scooter.
It had been too long. She was there with us for the last three… fourish weeks of Kateri’s life. The three of us… Kateri, her, and I… had a ton of good times. We spent a lot of time together. We lived through a lot together. And I am forever grateful that the three of us were together… that she was there for Kateri… in the last weeks of her life. I simply love her.
As a widower, I’ve learn how to adapt to change a little bit better… because I was forced to. This weekend was one of those times. For two years and four months I’ve been on this journey. I’ve had to learn how to live in this world without Kateri. I’ve had to learn how to go through the days without being completely devastated by what life has shown me… by how cruel it could be to such a beautiful person… to the person I loved more than anything. That takes work… and a lot of it. Two years and four months after Kateri’s death and I feel as though I am firmly rooted in this “New Life”. I’m doing things that are for me… for my home… for my own well being. I’m able to look a little further into the future… a little… further. I’m at that point where I am living my life… and am doing OK. I’ve adapted. Even though I’m surrounded by the 20 years of life with Kateri and the memories of how it used to be… I’ve learned how to live without her. (basically, you just keep waking up and dealing) So when a family member/friend comes to the schoolhouse to feel close to Kateri, to be in this space, to be close to her things, to find comfort… emotions and memories come with them.
I welcomed those emotions and memories this weekend because most of the time I need to kinda push them to the side just to get through the day. I actually enjoy it when moments like these come around because it provides me with the time and space to simply remember Kateri with someone who also loves and misses her. These days, it’s less devastating when someone comes to visit (which has been no one in this time of Covid!) and more comforting… which feels good. Ya, the plan was to be “productive” this weekend and to spend time with myself in this new life, but I’m soooo happy that plans changed and I got to spend a few days of my new life remembering some of the wonderful parts of… my life.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Facebook reminded me that 5 years ago today we signed the purchase agreement on our first home… on our Little Red Schoolhouse.
I finally emptied the little trash can that we (now I) used to dispose of the lint from the dryer… it has been a while. Like, there was still some Kateri Lint in there. Sometimes… you just gotta let go!… of lint.
I hope you have a good day!… night!… whatever!
ps…. I started this post last week, but WordPress updated me to the new Block Editor… and I don’t really know how to use it!… so it’s taken me a bit. Since then, on Saturday at 7:30ish in the evening as I was trying to figure it out… a raccoon (I’m pretty sure) killed the last three of my chickens… of Kateri’s chickens. Yup… also pretty sure there is gonna be a post about that experience!… which I’m still dealing with… considering the fact that dreams of Lil’ Bitch and me on the hill are over. For the first time in twenty years… I’m the only living thing (besides plants) in my household… weird.
I love the instant gratification you get from painting something. It gives the room, the cabinet, the cart, the box, the house, the dresser, the whatever that clean and new…ish feeling. Today, I’m sitting on my newly painted front porch/deck… and enjoying it. I’m actually on my deck writing this as we speak! I know… it sounds exciting!… but it’s really just relaxing and satisfying more than anything else.
I’ve thought about all the things I could attach to me painting the front porch. There were a ton of memories and emotions that popped into the mind and body as I rolled and brushed away (the Karate Kid also came to mind! (the original!))… but this was simply something I wanted to do for myself… and my home. I guess I wanted to feel like I accomplished something that would give me the sense as though I was making an improvement, cleaning something up, preserving something for a bit longer… taking steps forward. So I grabbed a mask, ventured out among the infected, bought some white paint… and started with the railings.
I thought I would get the porch and railings done in a couple days… it took a week… which I was fine with. I knew it would probably take longer than expected so I simply planned on moving shit, cleaning shit, painting shit, and moving shit again being my evenings for a few days. The weather was gonna lack precipitation so I thought it would be kinda nice to get some sun while getting some work done, as well! Heck, when “Today’s Hits” is blaring out of your garage… you can paint until the sun goes down! A word of caution—when you can paint until the sun goes down… maybe put on some sunscreen while it’s up. Yup… itchy.
It’s amazing how time weathers the things in our everyday lives. I jumped on painting the deck because I saw a picture of our house when we were first looking to buy it. I remember when our offer was accepted, we drove up Wild Hill where I stood on the front porch, looked at those large windows, red siding, and white trim and said to Kateri, “Well, we just bought a really old schoolhouse… with a really new paint job!”.
As I sit here today, there is still paint peeling on the garage and on the north side of the house. (ummm, it’s peeling on the east, west, and south sides, as well!) My downstairs toilet’s tank is still slowly leaking into the bowl on it’s way to my septic tank. My wood is still tucked away in the lean-to on the other side of my yard… and I don’t have next year’s wood yet. I still want to go through some stuff… and organize the garage. There’s all sorts of things that we each need to “get to” in our lives as we go through… our lives. I’ve been overwhelmed quite a bit as I’ve gone through the past 2 years, 3 months, and a few weeks more, but as of right now… I’m not. Right now, I’m enjoying that sense of accomplishment… while sitting on my newly painted deck… as I wave to the people as they drive on by.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
The Perseid Meteor Showers were this last week so I pulled one of the Adirondack chairs up onto the unpainted part of the deck and zoned out to the stars for a while Wednesday night. Saw some good ones!
Since Kateri died, I have painted a spare bedroom, my bedroom, and now the deck. The deck was basically to maintain. The bedrooms provided me with a new “feel”… in this “New Life”.
The moment I saw that bag and realized there were only three cards and a bunch of colorful tissue paper in it… I felt wonderful! If you watch the vid… I kind of explain the situation… but basically, I saw a bag… and recycled it. Sometimes, we gotta start small. One step at a time people!… or some shit like that.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Since making that little video and feeling so good… I’ve had a few Crocodile Tear moments. Sad… yes. But not depressing.
It’s nice to be able to smile while I cry.
When I watched the video and the flood of emotions came rushing in, I looked to my left and saw this scene. The simplistic beauty of it was relaxing to me… the light, the colors, Kateri’s planters that I had filled for the summer and her geraniums enjoying being outside for a few months. It was evening time, there was a calmness… there was a warmth all around.
It was hot today. Hot and… humid. When I got home this evening my bedroom was 84 degrees… a thick 84 degrees. Some might say “sticky”… like me… I would say that, but that has nothing to do with this really. Except for the fact that I’m writing this in the shade on my front porch on a Thursday evening… and I generally don’t write these things outside… on Thursday’s. It’s a change. It’s different. It’s kinda strange. It’s also quite the challenge to see what I’m typing because the reflection of my bright ass yellow shirt makes it a bit hard to see the screen! (and no… I’m not gonna change seats… I’m comfy.)
When all this Covid stuff started, I took advantage of an opportunity to be re-deployed to The Upper Valley Haven in an extended “volunteer” type gig (King Arthur has been paying me) and for the past three and a half months… that’s where I’ve been. I’ve learned a lot here. I’ve met some pretty wonderful and giving people who’s intentions are simply to provide a helping hand up… however they can. What was a temporary position, motivated by “self-preservation” in these uncertain times, turned into an experience that educated me, fulfilled me, and provided me with the opportunity to work alongside a wonderful array of staff and volunteers within an organization who’s only intentions are to be a part of “The Good” in the world. It was a temporary position… that built a lasting relationship. I’m simply gonna miss it. On the other hand, I’m not gonna miss trying to mix a 35 pound bucket of natural peanut butter that had been sitting somewhere for months… with a home immersion blender!… that I might’ve broke… don’t tell Lori.
As I’ve recently been transitioning back to KAF, I’ve been thinking about what I would like to say to both places about my experience over the last few months. I wanna shoot a “Thank-you” email out to both places, but also realized that this experience had a significant impact on me in this “New Life”. Soooooooo….. blog.
Widowhood is much more than simply losing our spouses. It’s about waking up to a new reality every morning and sometimes not understanding it… or simply hating it… but still getting up even though you’ve only had 5 hours of sleep… three of which were on the couch! It’s about wishing they were here to get angry at you for putting their Darn Tough socks in the dryer. It’s about facing sadness… the likes of which you had never even come close to feeling. It’s about feeling lost at home, or on your road, or surrounded by friends. It’s about all sorts of loss, pain, and hardships…….. but it’s also about finding ourselves through experiences that simply make us feel… good. It’s about the excitement of unexpectedly stumbling upon things that make us feel… better. It’s about self reflection and discovering the new you, even though it’s always been and will continue to be… well… you.
Hope you have a Happy Sunday!… I’m gonna mow the yard.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’m fortunate. I was able to have a new work experience in this new life, in a fucked up time, without the stress of worrying if I made the right decision to leave my job… because I didn’t. I just got a change of scenery for a bit.
It’s that whole loss of household income thing. Being a cook for twenty-five years while living and owning a cute ass little schoolhouse in the country kinda limits employment opportunities that would provide me with the means to hold onto what I’ve got… and what I’ve got is kind of the priority right now.
I’m grateful. To King Arthur. To The Upper Valley Haven. To the people I have worked with side by side over the years… and for the last few months. Thank you.
I’m ready. To keep taking steps forward in this new life with the understanding that I will need to take a few steps back… hopefully not too many, though!
I’ve attached the link to the article that Ashley wrote after we chatted about my experience at the Haven. She is just one of the amazing people that makes The Haven a wonderful place… and is a fantastic writer! I’m not sure if I copied it correctly… I’m a cook and not an IT guy… but you can check out their website, too. Heck, if you’re one of those people who has the ability to give a little… you can donate! It’ll go a long way for people in our community who simply need a little assistance… who are looking for a helping hand up.
Yay!… the lazy blog post! I was gonna do one yesterday because I had a pretty wonderful Holiday Weekend and have been feeling pretty good lately… but didn’t. Oh… I tried. Spent hours trying to figure out what I wanted to share… how I wanted to share it… and realized… there was just too much. There were simply too many fun experiences, interesting situations, positive steps in this new life, good memories, and some sad ones over the last little bit for me to consolidate them into something that would capture the… je ne sais quoi (that’s French!)… warm n fuzzy feeling…?.. with a sense of security….?.. and easiness…? (A feeling of refreshing tranquility and an absence of tension or worry… yup. Thanks google!) So, I watched Unsolved Mysteries instead… and today you get a “Widower” post.
First… some pics from my third 4th of July… in this new life.
And now… a video… about a memory… that keeps coming back.
I actually started on the spare bedroom the day before the 2 Year/2 Month mark. It’s been a week long process… which still isn’t finished… but, it’s definitely a lot further along than it was a week ago!… and going through stuff is just gonna take me a bit. Although I have hit that point where I kinda just wanna start going through stuff and setting up “my” house… I also understand that it’s gonna take a while… but I can start! There’s a lot… A LOT… that comes along with the loss of a spouse. Sometimes, I feel like there’s even more that came along with the loss of Kateri. I mean… it’s Kateri!… she was pretty awesome. Of course, I think anyone who has loved someone else might feel the same way… but I’m talking about me right now.
So, this is what showed up this week in my life after I jumped on the opportunity of having another set of hands to help me move a dresser out of the spare bedroom… some pics and notes. (FYI… life is good… just a big balancing act!)
Two of our closest friends gave us that dresser… I doubled checked to make sure they were cool with me putting it on the side of the road with a Free sign.
I’ve been wanting to move that thing for months! I couldn’t get it downstairs by myself and I didn’t want to start on the room until it was out of there. It was sooooo annoying! I even thought about chopping it up in the bedroom and taking it down in pieces! That’s one of those weird widowhood things… it’s much easier to move big things with another person.
That dresser spent less than 24 hours sitting in front of my house! (awe… Vermont) I went to work, came home… gone! It was perfect. They even took the plastic I had tucked it in with the night before! (I wanted it to stay warm and dry if it rained!)
Kateri bought that pillow specifically for when she had cancer and was spending a ton of time in bed… trying anything to make life a little better… there’s even a hole for your ear! That pillow… along with the large foam wedge one… had been in that room for over two years. I’m glad they’re gone.
I sat on my bedroom floor and Facetimed with my sis-in-law as I opened wooded boxes containing some of Kateri’s jewelry, pins, and little knick knacks. It was pretty cool. Plus, I could always hold the little mask thing (from our wedding) up to my face if I wanted to change things up!
I gave Kateri the “Dance as if…” tile thing back in ’08 or ’09 when we lived in Ned. Kateri gave me the “answer my smile” wood thing…. at some point. Unfortunately… I didn’t remember that. For some reason, over the last two years I have thought it was a gift I had given her!… and then I turned it over.
The picture with the bed..? That was some fun stuff to go through. Stuff such as, the picture Kateri loved of her standing next to her little sister… who is picking her nose. Or the Mad Hatter hats we made for Tracy’s Mad Hatter Retirement Party. And of course… the plastic bracelets that the hospital gave Kateri each time she was admitted… among other things.
Kateri gave me that box for Christmas in… 2002..? She got it from a bartender friend of ours I worked with.
That is Kateri’s knife… she kept it in her truck.
Kateri gave me the little blue guy… he dances. I would carry him around with me at work and if someone was having a bad day I would simply wind him up, set him down in front of the person, let him start wiggling… and walk away. It was generally their’s until they didn’t need him anymore. And then… we found one with a skirt!
In the time we were living above a garage (’02), I made a bunch of origami flowers and situated them all over the floor of our little studio apartment… where we had only a microwave, hot plate, and toaster oven to cook with… and slept on an air mattress. There’s an orange one in the box, as well. I’m glad I still have them.
It’s basically a wooden box… filled with tattered cigar boxes… filled with letters……. and memories.
Painting!… it’s Whitewater Bay. (I know you were wonderin’!) FYI… Kateri was the painter of the household. Yes… I taped… even though it doesn’t look like it in spots!
I love how a new coat of paint simply cleans up a space. Plus, you get that light headed fuzzy feeling if you keep the fresh air out!
I decided to change up the quilt on the bed. We have never used this quilt. It was a birthday present from a friend when Kateri turned 44… a month before she died. Really… I just thought it had a nice weight, nice pattern, and it fit the bed!
I like how the room has turned out so far. It’s a little dark for the lighting I have (there are only lights in the closets in the bedrooms…?), but just another reason to find some new lamps!… for my new room!… in my new life……..!
That is Kateri’s Pooh Bear. Back in the day, we would lay in bed and read the stories to each other. Then it somehow turned to just me reading to her. She loved Pooh… and Piglet… and their friendship. When we cremated Kateri, I took a page from the first book, Winnie-the-Pooh… and placed it in her pocket.
This is my final pic… and then a video… as if there wasn’t enough already! I really haven’t done anything with my little shrine to Kateri and as I was going through boxes I figured I could add a few things from the top of the jelly cupboard… so I did. I wasn’t sure about how to dispose of the sage bundles used for smudging, so I asked sis-in-law. Well, I found out that neither one of us really knows what to do with used sage bundles, but we figured as long as the intentions were good… it’s all cool and groovy. So… that’s what the video is about. Just a heads up, I mention it’s January 28th… it’s not… it’s June. There would be a heck of a lot more snow on the ground if it were January!… but there might still be a fire.
ps… you can hit the “like” button if appropriate… and you still have time to follow the blog for the chance to randomly see it pop up in your email inbox! (it’s kinda sporadic… and not very focused… or professional.)
Well… I’ve known that I wanted to write a blog today because I like setting time aside and taking advantage of dates such as “The Second Anniversary of Kateri’s Kick-Ass Party” to remember her and our life, but now that I’m here… I’m not sure what to say! Not that I’m all verklempt or anything (although, I’m sure there’ll be some emotional moments), two years just happens to get filled with all sorts of things… experiences, emotions, fun times, not fun times, learnin’ times, pandemics, protests, and simply life. So… we’ll see where this goes.
For me… it had kind of a similar feeling as at our wedding…sorta… ish. I/we were surrounded by nothing but friends and family who were there because they loved us… and there was a celebration!… with American Flatbread… and Zero Gravity beer… and Luke cooked a mammal over a flame… and a lot of the same people. A lot of good… good people.
One of the things I just realized is that I have sort of a catalog to look back on with this here blog thingy, so I decided to see what I wrote last year! And… well… last year I said I had no words!… but I did have three Widower Notes n Thoughts and the above bullet point was one of them.. and I still agree with how the celebration of Kateri’s life felt to me. It was absolutely wild the similarities of our wedding and the celebration… and I’m glad it was truly a celebration of the life that Kateri brought to all of us.. the life that she shared with the lucky few of us on this planet. Just like our wedding, I don’t remember all of the particulars of that evening, but I’ve got the gist of it… and it’s mainly a memory of love.
Up until Thursday, I planned on spending this weekend alone doing some things that I thought would be nice little attachments to Kateri. I thought about taking the Klean Kanteen bottle that she used when she was sick up to a friend in B-Town to see if he could get it engraved (that’s what I’m gonna use as her urn). I thought about hitting Flatbread just to be in the space again… which also affords me the opportunity to grab a couple of breads! I thought about swinging by and seeing a couple of wonderful people. But then I thought about all the other people (you know… the rest of the world simply living their lives) and the whole Covid-19 thing going on up there and wasn’t sure how that would impact my job. We’re pretty strict on our travel guidelines!… which is understandable to me… so I started thinking about sticking around the Schoolhouse… and then David called.
I had called my wood guy when I got home from work on Thursday and left him a message. It was the second message I had left for him (which isn’t annoying at all!… but the routine I’ve come to accept) so when the phone rang twenty minutes later I totally thought it was him… it wasn’t. The moment I heard, “Hello my friend.”… I knew it was David… and not my wood guy… whom I still haven’t heard from. This is a nice example of where sometimes I just feel the need to roll with things as they change or materialize. David was calling to see if this Saturday would be a good time to come visit..?! Now, I’m not one who believes the stars aligned with the second moon phase as Jupiter rose in the east… on a Tuesday… to make it so that David reached out two days before this anniversary after not seeing each other for almost a year… but it was a pretty cool coincidence!
As I thought about David’s inquiry, it seemed somewhat perfect to me. David has been in our life since 2004. He came into our life during our time at American Flatbread in Vermont. We stayed with him at his little cabin by the river up Four Mile Canyon in Colorado… until we found our place in Ned. We all came back to Vermont at relatively the same time. The three of us spent a lot… A LOT… of time together. He knows me. He knows Kateri. He loves her. So, when I thought about the possibility of maybe having company this weekend… the thought of it being David sorta fit perfectly! He’s someone I feel 100% comfortable having around if I decide to go through shit, am dealing with shit, or simply taking a shit! (that’s how you know your relationship is tight… when you can poop in front of… or in the vicinity of someone… or if there is the possibility of them hearing you on those special mornings after unhealthy nights!… and it doesn’t phase you. Sorry, kind of a gross analogy… and please, try to poop privately)
This bullet point is simply because the word “poop” was directly above Kateri’s head and…. well…. it just kinda looked and felt weird! I mean, it still kinda is… but now there’s a bit more space in-between them!
So today, on the second anniversary of Kateri’s Kick-Ass Party, I’ve decided to see how it plays out. I’ve decided to take this weekend and remember Kateri for all the wonderful things she brought into my life… which I’m sure I won’t remember all of them because there are simply too many amazing experiences, people, and memories that she gave me since 1998, but the good is going to be the focus. I figure, this isn’t a “Woe is me” type weekend… this is more of a “Remember how Kick-Ass Kateri was” type weekend that I luckily get to spend with someone who personally knows just how Kick-Ass Kateri was, too. Yup, I’m sure there will be some emotional moments (just had one!), but that’s only because the love I (we) have for Kateri is just as strong as it was when she took her last breath. Life just happens to be different now.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I remember it was well past the one-two (midnight) when David walked me back to my hotel after Kateri’s Kick-Ass Party. When I got to my room over looking Lake Champlain (I splurged… I figured my wife just died and we were celebrating her… I wanted to be able to see something nice when I woke up the next morning), the staff had left me a couple of cupcakes and condolences. Such a simple gesture… that I will always be grateful for.
I came downstairs from taking a shower on Thursday and thought I would get ahead of the game for the weekend, so I threw in a load of laundry. After starting the washer, I took a swing by the kitchen and then had to run back upstairs for something… probably something really important… when I heard a strange noise coming from the mud room. Upon inspection (it was pretty apparent what was going on!), I realized that the pump for the washing machine was trying it’s hardest to fill the washer… but there weren’t no water!… always a fun feeling as a homeowner. I did the whole running around inspecting faucets and pipes looking for leaks, went to the basement to check fuses, water tanks, gauges, and boilers. The boiler has a digital display that said “GOOD”… which made me feel better… but had nothing to do with my issue! After realizing the issue was above my plumbing skills (…still a cook), I decided to wait till morning to give anyone a call… I can survive a night without water. Plus, I generally have a couple of coolers full just in case we lose power!
When I got to work in the morning I gave ARC Mechanical a call and they said they would get someone out that day… they’re great. I got the initial call from Bruce telling me when he would get there, and then he called back a bit later telling me he had fixed the issue! It was a simple little fix of replacing the pressure valve!… yay! As a fairly new homeowner, and more recently a widower, when things like this happen (no water flowing from your faucets) the brain instantly goes to that worse case scenario so when he said it was a valve… I was fucking ecstatic! Although I would’ve managed getting through the weekend without water… (a friend had already filled up four-22 quart Cambros of agua for me and I can pee outside)… I was glad I didn’t need to deal with it!
Yup, the weekend was looking better already. So, I went to the store to grab some provisions and then went on home to enjoy the conveniences of modern life. When I got to the kitchen with the groceries, I turned on the faucet just to reassure myself that the liquid of life was flowing through the pipes… and that I’d be able to take a shower. With a turn of the knob… the water came out… and I was reassured. So while feeling good, I put groceries away and was about to start planning out the ToDo List for the weekend when I felt the need to alleviate some pressure in the guts. The easiest way for me to explain the experience is… took a shit, flushed toilet, went to wash hands… no water… yay. I called ARC back… and Bruce turned around… postponing the start of his weekend.
When Bruce got here, he immediately mentioned that he thought it was something bigger than the valve and gave me the number to Sargent Artesian Wells since it was coming upon quitting time for just about everyone. Luckily, when I called Chaz from the well place he was just as awesome as everyone from ARC and said he would get there tonight at some point… which didn’t happen… but I was fine with it. Even though the experience was somewhat nerve wracking on a couple of fronts, my interaction with Bruce along with knowing what is currently going on in the world made it so I wasn’t freaking out about what the possible fixes may be. However big the issue was… however painful it may be financially… I was gonna be fine.
Long story made a little shorter… the issue was that my well pump gave up… 282 feet below my front yard! For me, it went from the relief of it being a valve to needing to pull up a pump almost three hundred feet down at the bottom of a hole… but at least I didn’t need to drill a new well or anything like that! So… not the best outcome… but no the worst! In all honesty, meeting those two guys and witnessing how they approached their jobs with their sense of responsibility to the people who call upon them when things go awry… was worth the Benjamin’s that I’m gonna be handing over at some point. They seemed like good people… good neighbors… and I’m glad I can support local business.
After Bruce couldn’t fix the issue and had gotten me in touch with the well guys, he helped me prep the well for Chaz… and then we chatted for the next hour and a half in my driveway! (He also had five gallons of my water in the back of his truck from when he was testing the valve that he gave back to me after saying that it was my water to begin with). The moment Bruce approached the wishing well and simply started pushing it over… my mind was blown. I didn’t realize it wasn’t attached to anything!… at all!… it was simply around the well and over the years earth and grass had accumulated up the base of it! I mean, I kind of understood that, but there were also wires going to the light in it… that we never used… but that didn’t stop the toppling over of it! Bruce pushed… I guided it down… and when it was on it’s side, just laying there in the front yard with the rotted parts holding on for dear life… I thought of Kateri.
Kateri hated that wishing well… she thought it was cheesy… and it is, but I have always kinda liked it… the cheesiness. Although I like it, I have also known that it has been needing to be replaced… and it was on the agenda for the summer.
When we first moved in, we had some friends helping us move wood from the lean-to to the garage. They all knew Kateri’s thoughts on the wishing well… because she told them. So… every time MPH would turn his truck around in the front yard, he would give the ol’ well a little nudge… as Kateri would be egging him on, with her arms in the air, yelling at him to keep going!
Fortunately… it never got to the point where I had to build a well that day, but it did give me that wonderful memory to look back upon with such love, fondness, and entertainment as I was dealing with the uncertainty of my current water situation. It brought back so much… and not in a bad way. I felt good as images from that day filled my thoughts. I remembered Kateri in her (my) brown flannel. I remembered David standing on the pile of wood. I remembered the tiny Milk Snake striking at MPH’s heel over by the potting shed. I remembered that that day was the first day we experienced snow… in our first home. It was a wonderful day… in a different time. And unexpectedly, running out of water on Thursday made me remember a time five years ago of stacking wood and nudging wishing wells… with people I love.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’ve started making my bed again every morning… most mornings. It just feels better.
I still haven’t gotten used to the whole being alone and thinking about what would happen if I… say… tripped and broke my ankle, or fell off the roof, or slipped in the tub, or put the chainsaw in my thigh, or had a heart attack, or fell down the stairs, or was mauled by a bear, or if a swarm of bees attacked me while I was sleeping, or my lawn mower blade flew off and took out my shins… or something. Then what would I do?
In general, I feel as though I am happy. But I also feel as though it’s still a subdued happiness… like there’s this weird blanket of “meh” on everything.
I pulled out the last trash bag from the box Kateri and I bought from Costco, which was probably four years old. It was strange thinking about how that box of trash bags was from my life with Kateri… and that was over two years ago. Yup, it took me about two weeks to get it to the recycling bin.
It was a hot one this week. I mean, after nine months of winter, 85 was simply sweltering! When it hit 91… forget about it! So with the heat wave I thought I would make sure The Ladies had everything they needed to stay cool, clean, and safe. No… I did not sew little tiny face masks for their beaks (they are already quarantining themselves and have the social distancing down), but on Tuesday evening I shoveled out their shavings, put new hay in the nesting boxes, took out the vent covers in the rafters (well, where the top of the wall and rafters meet… I have no idea what that would be called… I’m a cook), clean water, new food, and even shoveled some of the shavings and shit from their little penned in area. Gotta say, nothing like cleaning a chicken coop after it has warmed up a bit!… yummy.
I felt pretty good about the shortened week due to Memorial Day… was already being productive! Until Wednesday morning when I woke up, groggily went downstairs for coffee at around 6:00am, and looked out the window to greet the day. What I saw out in the back yard was Lil’ Bitch… who should’ve been in the coop I just cleaned the evening before! When I went outside to investigate… after I put pants on… I noticed the door to the coop was open. Did I forget to latch it?! That seems odd… I thought I remembered latching it…?! And then I saw how the eye hooks were still attached to the shingles they were screwed in to, but those shingles were now attached to the door as if something simply ripped them from the wall!… the feeder was empty and broken, and Chicken (not sure if it was Chicken #1, 2, or 3…?), was a mangled mess laying lifeless just out the coop’s door in their little yard! Yay!…. Wednesday!
At first, I simply thought it was a bear looking for food considering the door was ripped open. So, Wednesday when I got home from work the fortifying began. Basically, after I cleaned up the broken glass and tipped the window box upright… I got a bigger latch. (The perpetrator pulled the window off… it was old and part of our “church” from our wedding) The wood studs in the window opening provide too small of an opening for a bear to get through and there is wire mesh covering it so I just left it open for some fresh air. Other than that… I thought I was good. I even taped some Pop-Its to the steps to try and deter the visitor! And then Wednesday night happened.
It was around 11:30pm when I decided to just pop my head out the back door and shine my headlamp on the coop to see if ol’ Smokey (although, I feel he’s more of a western/Rocky Mountain bear) had come around again. What I was met with were two little beady eyes staring back at me from the top step of the coop as it paused from it’s task of ripping the shingles off around the new latch I installed on the front door! No, it wasn’t a bear… it was too small. And in all honesty, if it was a bear that was getting into the coop?… I’d be ok with it. But noooooo…. it was… was… a RACCOON!… little bastards. And Rocky the Raccoon was going to town on the front of my coop trying to get to that food! It wasn’t really small… quite large actually… kinda disturbingly large… and the Pop-its didn’t deter shit! So then the fortifying began again… under the cover of darkness. (well, with lamps and the light from the garage)
In all honesty, I was a little high and the thought of it maybe being a raccoon with rabies or a fisher cat crossed my mind, so as I ran back and forth from the garage grabbing supplies… I also carried a short, flat head shovel in case I was attacked! I mean, I would periodically shine my light into the woods and those two little beady eyes would still be staring back at me just waiting to pounce!…. or for me to leave so it could get back to business.
I felt a little bad using circular saws and impact drills when it was past the one-two (midnight) for my neighbors’ sake, but the task at hand, the one that took priority at that moment in time was for me to make sure Lil’ Bitch, Chicken, and Chicken were safe. I don’t consider them pets… they’re chickens… but they are living animals that I now have the sole responsibility of making sure they have a good life… a safe life. These chickens were part of Kateri’s “Hopes n Dreams” and they remind me of that every single morning I go to open their little door along with every evening when I go to shut it, make sure they are comfortably roosted, and tell them, “Goodnight”. (Yes, I say “Good morning, Ladies!” and “Goodnight, Ladies!” everyday) So, although I felt sorta bad for using power tools when most people are sleeping… I didn’t feel THAT bad.
I still need to get the coop looking a little better, but I feel it has been secured enough to keep the larger animals out for the time being. The experience definitely threw a wrench in the week I had planned, but I’ve learned that we can only plan on so much while dealing with the things that pop up… which sometimes, we simply can’t plan for. The chickens provide me with an attachment to Kateri and I love them because of that (mostly Lil’ Bitch… she’s my favorite… it’s gonna be me and her on the homestead!), but they can also be a hard reminder of the life I had just two years ago… and of April 22, 2018 when all of my “Hopes n Dreams” were thrown out the window.
On Tuesday night, I lost a chicken and over the next couple of days I did what I needed to do to try and make their life better. Today… this morning… I went out to the coop with my coffee in hand, opened their little door, and said, “Good morning, Ladies!” as a few chickens came popping out the opening… and one of them was Lil’ Bitch! Kateri ordered eight chickens four years ago. This morning there were three. A lot can happen in four years, five years, seven years, twenty years or whatever. A lot can change. We need to know how to adapt to those changes… or at the least we need to try… because Life is still all around even when Death reshapes our worlds.
We bought our Five Different Shades of Orange 1973 Super Beetle at a garage sale in Bristol back in ’02 or 3. That kinda makes it sound like we were rolling in cash and just picking up cars as we were out and about enjoying a Saturday, but it actually took a few weeks to make sure we had the money… and Bob (the seller) was having a fair amount of separation anxiety… so it was a process. He would come into the restaurant Kateri and I were managing to grab a bite and we would chat to get acquainted with each other a bit more so that he could feel comfortable knowing his little bug was going to a good home. We feel it did.
It was one of those days where we were simply out and about driving around Vermont, watching shit go by, and hitting some yard sales…Kateri loved “Yardsaling”. The Super Beetle was parked on the road with a for sale sign in the window, so we started the whole kicking the tires, inspecting underneath, checking out the rusty spots, and dreaming of what it would be like to use for one of our favorite pass times… smoking weed (with a couple of Road Sodas back in the day) and driving the back roads of the Green Mountains… together.
The inspection and dreaming was all going along fine until I had decided to roll a window down… and it didn’t go back up… and we hadn’t met the owner yet! Yup, Kateri was pretty proud of me at that point! Well, really all it did was force us (me) to find the owner and have a conversation about the vehicle… because I might’ve broken it. When we found Bob we told him we were checking out the car and his first response was, “You didn’t roll down the window, did you?”. Yup…. proud.
We had a nice conversation, checked out some of the other stuff he was selling, purchased an iron gate that we carted around with us for years (not sure where that ended up!), and set up a time to take the bug for a test drive. Of all of our experiences with that little beetle, the test drive was my favorite. Kateri had never been in… or at least driven…(?) a Volkswagen Bug before and we figured that even if we didn’t buy the car, she at least got to have that experience! I’ll tell you… from the moment she saw that little, Five Different Shades of Orange Super Beetle… with a sunroof!… it always put a smile on her face. To be able to clearly remember her enthusiasm when she got into that car, fired it up and heard that distinct Bug sound as she cautiously took off down the road with the windshield six inches from her face, it makes me happy to this day… even as I can feel the tears on my cheeks. (I guess that’s how you know it was a good thing)
I love all the memories I have of Kateri and I with that little buggy. It was an adventure every time we pulled away from our little house in the hills… to drive around other hills… never knowing if it was gonna start up again once you stopped for gas, a bite to eat, or to just take in a view. There was one time we decided to putz down south a tiny ways to where Kateri’s little sister was working for the summer at a kid’s camp. Luckily it was a beautiful day because at every stop we had to wait, let the engine cool down (I think. Again, I’m a cook and not a mechanic!… but believe those engines were air cooled.), and hope that it would start so that we could get to the next point on the trip… and eventually home! It was a great lesson in patience.
The license plate! Oh my gosh… I loved our license plate. It was the first time we got vanity plates. (Are they still called that? Personalized?… whatever) At first, Kateri wanted to have some sort of variation of Pickin’ Apples… her code phrase for sex when she was younger. But we weren’t able to get one of those. We live in Vermont… there are a lot of “Apple” people here… so we started brainstorming other ideas. As much as I like to think it was “our“ Five Different Shades of Orange ’73 Super Beetle… it was really Kateri’s. Once we realized her nickname would fit on the plate, we just thought it would be appropriate! And then we found out THAT was taken. So what do you do?… You add a number to the end! Yup… people would see us puttering around The Green Mountains, smiles ear to ear, in a bright orange bubble with green rectangles on either end that said… SQUIRT1..!