I took three days off of work last week… I felt that I needed to. I’ve been trying to take some time off during the summer, but it just didn’t really happen until this week. I’ve been feeling like I need a bit of time to address some of the obstacles this new life has put in front of me. It’s strange for me to think that it has 497 days… because I face it every single day. So at points it still feels like it literally just happened… and other times I can feel the space growing between points in the timeline. Either way, at the beginning of my Mini Vacation I had no plans on painting my bedroom… but I’m glad I did.
Kateri and I have rented a room in a house with meat heads in Burlington, slept in a studio above a garage attached to a large empty house… on an air mattress in Monkton, slept in a loft in Starksboro (our first stand alone house… we felt so grown up), had a king size bed in our “Secluded Apartment” at the ranch in CO… the squirrels in our room weren’t the worst part… it was the racist and untrustworthy managers. We stayed on our friend’s futon up Four Mile Canyon until we found our little cabin in Ned… where we signed our lease in green colored pencil… and had no jobs at the time. Loved that place… and the people. We stayed in our friend’s basement apartment in Huntington (well, Hanksville… but only people in Hanksville care about those specifics) when we came back to Vermont… where we could hear the kiddos riding their three wheeled machines in a circle through the kitchen, back hallway, living room, front hallway… and kitchen again…. as we laid in bed with smiles on our faces at 6:32am. Our next bedroom was just an open second floor loft with a staircase in the middle. Actually, it was more of a glorified ladder, but it had a railing to hold on to! Side story… I heard Kateri fall down those “stairs” one night when I had forgotten my keys and had to wake her up by calling to her loudly from outside and knocking on the door as I stood in the darkness. When you can hear something like that, your fiancé (at the time) hitting the floor, but aren’t able to see what’s going on… well, I just about broke down the door. Our next place was The Condo… where, from our bed, we could hear the horses run back and forth in the arena on certain mornings. On other mornings… you simply smelled the shit.
The next place we would lay our heads… our next bedroom…. would be in our little red schoolhouse. It’s funny to think about all the places we’ve lived, all the places we’ve slept… and then to think about where I am stretched out right now. I just can’t believe how much is packed into this little corner of the house. Our first night sleeping on the mattress on the floor… of our first home. Moving the bed around every couple of months to find the best light. Figuring out who’s clothes will go where. Those Sunday mornings of laying in bed with coffee as we planned out our day… and dreamed about our future… between runs to fetch a fresh Cup of Joe for one another……………………. And then Cancer.
Three days after Kateri died Maria helped me go through all of (well, most of) Kateri’s clothes. It had always worked out that Kateri would keep her clothes in our bedroom and I would keep mine usually in the spare room… if we had one. It’s not like she had a ton of clothes, it was more that we lived in small spaces! When she first died, I didn’t see the point of waking up every morning being surrounded by her clothes as I would go to another room to grab mine for the day. The thought had hit me that there was absolutely no reason for her clothes to be hanging in the closest… or to fill the two dressers in the room. She wasn’t coming back…. but I had to keep waking up there. I wanted to start my day in my space… with my clothes… because this was now my life. I have a house and twenty years of memories that are constantly reminding me of Kateri and what we had. I needed to chisel out a little space that was just mine as I tried to figure out this new life… so I figured I would start in the place I wake up every morning… and where I end my day every night… when I don’t fall asleep on the couch!
For me, going through Kateri’s clothes wasn’t as hard as I expected. Maria would ask if she could take this or that for herself or a family member and I would say “Sure” or “No”. I had seen Kateri in these clothes throughout my entire life with her and we generally remember people dressed… so there is a huge attachment for me between Kateri and what she wore… her “Style”. In the moment, it was simple… I couldn’t get rid of much… but I didn’t have to either. So, Maria and I went from drawer to drawer and into the closet. We talked, we laughed, we remembered, we cried… and then we put her clothes into green bins which sat in the corner of my bedroom for 16 and a half months… until I painted.
Kateri and I hadn’t gotten to painting the bedrooms of our first home. We started with the downstairs, the laundry area, second bathroom, upstairs hallways, and kitchen. There were other things we wanted/needed to do with the house and at the time and some of those projects took priority over painting like building chicken coops, fire pits, small stone patios, and paths through the woods. There was also the bathroom remodel that started with Kateri putting the first hole in the wall before Cancer… and me finishing five months after her death. Life was just sorta happening I guess… and we never really thought about there being a timeline. So this last Monday morning, as I was talking to a friend and trying to come up with a game plan for my Mini Staycation, the painting of the bedroom project came up and I decided to go ahead and try to get it done at some point before I went back to work on Friday.
I was actually really excited about it! It was fun trying to figure out what colors I wanted to surround myself with as I stared at a wall filled with little pieces of paper at Home Depot. Another side note… this was a time I REALLY wished Kateri was with me!… she had an eye for that type of shit, but it was still fun doing it on my own for the first time.
I wanted to wake up in a warm space. I wanted it to be bright. I figured it would help put my brain in a positive space the moment I woke up!… or when I called it a day. I was gonna go with a yellowish color, but the hallway is “Mustard” and that would’ve been just too much so I went with green. Well, actually, “Granny Smith Apple” and “Spring Leaf”. Let me tell you… there must be some very green apples out there! Yup, it’s definitely bright!… it’s growing on me.
I like doing projects because of the instant gratification when you finish. After I had decided on paint color, got together all my brushes and other painting tools, I had remembered about taping! Jesus… I forgot about how much time that takes! I also wanted to do the job right so at some point during the evening I bit the bullet and started to meticulously cover trim, doors, and floors with masking tape. Although the thought of just “being careful” had crossed my mind… I didn’t wanna risk it. I knew I would hear Kateri’s voice every time I saw a little bit of green paint creeping into the wood trim.
I ended up painting until 2:34am… with the assistance of Lizzo and various 90’s Alternative Rock artists providing me with a beat to keep moving to coming from the little JBL speaker I had gotten for Kateri when she was in the hospital… but finally… it was done. It sorta reminded me of when I laid the tile in the bathroom throughout the night when Kateri was in the hospital. I kinda like plugging away… getting stuff done… when the schoolhouse lights are surrounded by darkness and the rest of the world is sleeping. I like being in my own little world once in a while. Sometimes… I need it.
I feel good about the job and again… the color is growing on me. I guess it doesn’t actually matter if the color is growing on me or not… I’m not gonna paint it again for quite a while… but luckily I kinda like it. Kateri’s clothes are now in the spare bedroom across the hall… still in the green bins. Although it feels good that they are out of the bedroom because it allows more light in and I like not seeing them stacked in the corner every morning… I still can’t move them to the garage or anywhere else outside of the house for storage. I like having them close to me… even though I don’t look at them or anything. They provide me with a bit of comfort. And no… I don’t wear them or hold them or rub them up against my face… yet.
It was hard taking another step into this new life… changing something in my home… for me. It’s weird. It’s strange. It’s odd thinking about how I want to set up the schoolhouse in a way that would provide me with a space to remember Kateri… my wife… as well as keeping my own needs and wants in mind. Yes, there were definitely some struggles and emotional moments as I was transforming my bedroom into Fern Gully, but it also felt good to take that little step… to provide myself with a new space… to create a space… in my new life.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
- I saw a Pella Windows truck the other day and it reminded me of when Kateri would always say how fancy their windows were.
- I miss the Rocky Mountains, ranches, and The West.
- There is a red ’57 Chevy for sale down the road. I think it would look great parked in front of my little red schoolhouse… just sayin’.
- Loggins and Messina-Danny’s Song… yup, that just about destroyed me as I was driving home the other day. Don’t know why… I don’t even really know what the song is about… wasn’t paying that close of attention!
- I just need to figure out how to get what I want… I know the solutions are out there! I guess I also need to figure out what it is I actually want. All I really know is that I need some change. Some big changes… some small… some change.
- I hope you have a wonderful day!