“YOU’RE AS OLD AS JESUS!”… Kateri loved to take advantage of any opportunity where she was able to say that. If it was someone’s birthday and they were turning 33… well, she would start with a, “Happy Birthday!”… and finish with, “You’re as old as Jesus!”… and then the birthday boy or girl would stare at us like, “What…?”. Now, I’m not a religious man and although Kateri grew up Catholic (she said she was a “Recovering Catholic”), she wasn’t very religious… spiritual, but not religious. So the addition of Jesus into the well wishing on birthdays is kind of a conundrum to me of how and why it started, but really it was just a fun little quirky thing that she brought into my life… that has been there over the years… that has put smiles on friend’s and strangers’ faces… and something I will probably say to every 33 year old I cross paths with on their birthday till my birthdays stop coming. (ps-I guess JC died at 33… how’s that to make you feel unaccomplished in life?! Jesus… he was a go getter!)
It seemed only natural to incorporate the whole “You’re as old as Jesus!” into the day when Kateri turned thirty-three. We were working in Burlington slinging “breads”… pizza… and we were renting a little cottage in the Green Mountains 50 minutes away that looked at the back side of Mad River Glenn. Life was starting to roll… we were at that stage in life where old friendships were solidified in their place and we were meeting wonderful new people to start new friendships with… people who became a part of our family. I wanted to capture some of those people… some of those memories from “When we were younger” to look back upon… decades down the road. So I asked a friend to make a sign and I drove that sign to other friend’s houses and to their places of employment. I carried it with me in case I ran into someone on the road so that I could snap a picture of them holding it and wishing Kateri a “Happy… you are as old as Jesus… Birthday!”. I developed the pictures (yes, they were taken with a camera… with film) and grabbed a stupid little photo album to put them in. When I gave it to Kateri I watched the corners of her mouth turn upwards to a smile as she flipped through the pics and saw her friends and their well wishes. With every turn of the page, I got to see that simple smile turn into pure innocent love for the people who were holding that cardboard sign. Unfortunately, since that album was made, we only got a decade and a bit under our belts to do the whole “Remember when” thing together… to reminisce about turning thirty-three. Now I use the gift I gave her not so much to remember our friends… but to remember Kateri… and she’s not even in the album.
A year ago, our house was filled with some of the most amazing and wonderful people in our lives. With family… with friends. It was the end of February, right after Kateri was discharged from the hospital after her colon had given out… and she was taking 135 milligrams or so of steroids to keep her going. That is when I witnessed Kateri accepting what the reality of the situation was… that she was probably going to die.
I had been sleeping in the spare bedroom because she needed space in our bed to be comfortable. On Sundays I would wake up, grab a couple cups of coffee, get her pill regiment ready in the fancy little dish that her father had given her and place it on the tray with her breakfast of Cheerios and almond milk… in the specific little glass pitcher because it held the perfect amount… and bring it all up to the bedroom so that I could crawl into bed with her… and we could just be together (I’ll admit… it kinda sucks writing this in our bed… on Sunday morning).
Her brother had called this one morning and we were all talking about him coming out for a visit, that maybe it would work out so he could be here for her birthday. This is when Kateri said, “I think I wanna have a party.” I just looked at her… scared shitless… and said, “But you don’t like parties?”… and it hit me. Kateri knew what was up. And now I knew that Kateri knew what was up. On the inside… it destroyed me. Kateri didn’t want to party because it was St. Patty’s Day or to celebrate her birthday. Kateri wanted to see people she loved… she wanted to hug them… she wanted them to be in her home… she wanted to hold them one more time because she knew time was running out. So, we had a party in our little red schoolhouse on St. Patty’s Day 2018… we had a birthday party for Kateri.
Although Kateri never really cared for parties, she loved her birthday and we always took time to celebrate it… usually with a trip to the ocean. Good thing about traveling to the coast of Maine or Massachusetts in March… hotels are inexpensive! And if your birthday is on St. Patty’s Day?… there’s usually music or festivities going on somewhere. One year, we were eating breakfast at George’s in Gloucester (go there… the people are fantastic)… it was St. Patty’s Day… and Kateri and the dude cooking breakfast didn’t agree with the selection of Irish music that the owner had chosen. So Kateri and the dude persuaded Dean (owner) to put on The Pogues!… which made for a different, but much more entertaining ambiance to shove hash browns in your face to.
Sometimes, the plan was to just hang in a certain area and relax… or do something fun and fancy like go to a piano concert in some historical and beautiful concert hall or theater that overlooks the water. You know, pretend like we were fancy as we rubbed elbows with fancy people. Sometimes we would bring our espresso machine with us on these trips, set it up on the dresser in the hotel room, and drink cappuccinos on the porch as we looked down the line of empty rooms and listened to the water as it tried to run up the land… thinking about how lucky we were not to have to share the space.
One year, 15 years ago, we went to the Dominican Republic! I had never been out of the country… except for Canada… which doesn’t really count… and we took advantage of the opportunity of having time after one job ended and before the next one began. It didn’t hurt that we had also just gotten our tax returns!… so why not blow it?! Kateri planned it so that we would fly back into Boston and be there for the St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Which, if you aren’t aware… there are a few Irish people in Boston… and they like to party on St. Patty’s Day! She wanted me to have that experience considering the fact that I grew up in Idaho… where yes, they party on St. Patty’s… but it just doesn’t compare! Unfortunately, halfway through our stay in The Dominican… Kateri started getting the belly cramps and shits… and by the time we were back in the states she was in no mood to party. That didn’t stop her from telling Alex to take me out on the town so that I could have my “St. Patrick’s Day in Boston” experience. So after some pizza and Survivor (he was addicted to Survivor… we had never seen it)… he took me out… and we got smashed… as Kateri was curled up on his floor in Cambridge… trying not to crap herself.
We never actually found out what caused the belly issues… we thought it was the water! Unfortunately, whatever it was also decided to make her kidneys shut down for a bit. What a way to ring in your Thirties, huh! Although we never got an answer to what happened, she recovered after a stint in the hospital, we changed certain habits, learned a little bit more about taking our health into our own hands, and things kinda went back to normal. (Funny how time makes that happen… returns things back to normal… or changes them into “normal”). It was also the moment when Kateri really started looking at “alternative” medicine and found her “Witch Doctor” (that’s just what she called Donna… who she absolutely loved). After having a bunch of White Coats stand over her and just shrug their shoulders… she was done with them. Ten years later, when she was 40… she had to put her trust in the White Coats again… because that is when they found melanoma on her arm… and when this big ball of shit started rolling.
I could write about so many of Kateri’s birthdays and fill paragraphs with stories of friends sneakily decorating apartments in East Thetford with green streamers or giving her gifts of jewelry like the necklace I asked a friend to make her for her fortieth… and then asked him to write a paragraph on the back of something which is the size of a dime! I could write about the debates birthdays created between friends pertaining to when your “Mid Forties” start… and no, they don’t start at 41! There are a lot of good memories accumulated over the years I could share, but today is the first time in nineteen years that I’m not spending Kateri’s birthday with her… because life decided it was so… and presently I don’t have the time or energy to remember twenty years of good times that are simply all just memories now. That’s what I’ll use the future for… to remember the past. Today… after I write this, I guess… I’m just gonna sit in the present for a bit and see how it goes. Being a widower is rough… it’s hard… it’s emotional. Jesus Christ!… it’s emotional. Losing Kateri is harder… she was a part of me… and still is… because I love her… and I miss her………. so much.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
- Kateri would always make sure I wore something green on her birthday… I currently am.
- The phone rang a couple of times and my cell went off with notifications from friends and family as I wrote this, but I didn’t answer anything until I heard my mom’s voice on the machine. It was perfect timing and I instantly fumbled for the phone. I needed to talk to my parents. At 43… I needed to talk to my mom.
- Today… I’m just rolling with it. I’m allowing myself to be emotional, to not worry about this or that for a day, to do whatever I feel I need to do at any given time. This is the only “First Birthday as a Widower” I will have to go through so right now I have no reference. I figure, if I have no idea of what to expect… might as well just go for the ride… and hopefully enjoy the relief after I realize I made it through the loopy loos with just some tears… and not throwing up or going off the tracks!
- Being sad sucks… it sucks balls.
- Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
- Happy Birthday Kateri! (I don’t know how I feel when people do shit like this… wish their deceased a Happy Birthday and all… but I did it anyways)
(I was gonna post a video here of me reading this blog post… but it was like 10 minutes long… and I haven’t figured out how to get videos like that from one place to another!)