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..! Although “Squirt” is what a lot of people call Kateri, we got a kick out of thinking about how drivers who were following us would interpret it!
When we moved to Colorado in 2007 we had to get rid of it. A friend said he could hold onto it for us and used his ex-girlfriend’s AAA membership to pull it out of it’s winter storage space… tarped in the woods… and transport it north to his place. It wasn’t in too great of shape at that point, the rust was kinda running rampant. As the tow truck guy was slowly using the winch to pull it up the angled flatbed… the battery fell through the floor! It’s sorta sad thinking about how she never hit the road again, but it’s kinda fun thinking about how our friends would sometimes pack into that broken down and stationary Bug after they had a few drinks, pass around a joint, talk, and reminisce about the good times. Kateri got to have that experience once when she came back to help a friend out. I love that image… Kateri smiling and happy in her ’73 Super Beetle… with people she loves.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Last night I realized I had stopped counting how many days Kateri has been gone… how long I’ve been a widower… and I was comfortable with it. I figured it just meant other things were starting to fill my brain in this new life. Transitioning… or some crap like that. Then I rambled into my phone… and played a song.
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I didn’t go to bed last night until the wee hours of this morning. I knew I was probably gonna be up late since I wasn’t gonna be working today. I decided early on in this “New Life” that I wasn’t gonna work on the anniversary of Kateri’s death… ever… and I’ve made it two years in a row! As a widower, I’ve had to deal with the loss of Kateri every single day I wake up, but as time goes by, day to day life kinda turns into this new normal and I’ve gotten used to balancing the weight of not having Kateri next to me and all of the things that come along with that… and figuring out how to “live” and function in this new world without being an emotional and psychological plane wreck! I feel as though there have been a couple areas of turbulence and maybe a bit of engine trouble over the last two years, but I’m still in the air!… even if I fly pretty low sometimes. One day… I hope to be in a space where I am soooo excited about life that I simply NEED to buzz the tower!… even if Goose is pleading with me not to. One day Goose… one day.
Initially I planned on taking three days off for Kateri’s anniversary so that I could do something out in the world like go to the ocean and stay at the dumpy little hotel, which we loved, and was right on the water. We got a kick out of the place when we found the shape of an iron burned into the carpet in the entry way of room 318 (I don’t actually know the room number… it’s the one on the top floor on the end… in case you were wondering). But The Rona has kinda put the kibosh on any plans like that so I was kinda forced to decide to stick around the schoolhouse… which I’m also completely okay with. I mean, this really is the place where I feel the closest to Kateri because it’s filled with all sorts of her Hopes n Dreams. I just wish there was more time for her to experience more of them.
This has been out for years on tables n shit. It’s the day after I told her I needed space… and she gave me 2,100 miles.
Tea Cups at Disneyland… a while ago.
Two years. Jesus… what the fuck…?! (sorry Jesus, just using you as an exclamation… I don’t blame you. We’ve been warned you work in mysterious ways! At least, that’s what I hear… I don’t actually go to church or follow you on any of your social media platforms… but I dig the message you were delivering. It’s just a fair amount of your followers that I have an issue with… they can get a little freaky!) Although at points it feels like Kateri died yesterday, the fact of the matter is that for 730 days (31?… was there a Leap Year or some shit?) I’ve had to learn how to live life without her. I’ve had to learn how to live My Life using the lessons that she taught me instead of witnessing her actions. She cut the path through the woods… I just need to maintain it and see where I can create new ones. (some bushwhacking required)
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I was able to Zoom with two of my sister-in-laws last night. It was fantastic and a pleasant surprise. It was also weird when someone mentioned it was midnight… and now the actual day Kateri died. It hit me instantly… unexpectedly… and I cried.
I decided to work on the yard and flower gardens today to hopefully get a sense of connection and closeness with Kateri on this date… but nature decided to give us a couple inches of snow last night to start this Earth Day off!… so now it may just be a bath, a joint, some music, and inside stuff! Maybe I’ll give the plants a shower!… I know Kateri would do that once in a while… and I haven’t done it yet!
I’m gonna try to fix Kateri’s truck this spring/summer… myself (I need it to move wood!). I’ve been watching car remodeling shows on Netflix… it can’t be that hard to at least get it runable!… says the cook.
As a widower, you learn to do all sorts of things… while crying. After two years of not knowing when emotions will pop up, you just kinda roll with it because you still need to get things done! Let me tell you, crying in the shower as you are frantically washing soap off of your face and out of your beard because you realized you didn’t close the damper on the wood stove… and not skipping a beat… is a skill.
Being a cook and cutting thousands of pounds of onions is also good training for widowhood!
I’ve decided to start the process of going through some things around the house and to maybe move some shit around. I haven’t done anything substantial in the last two years… I feel it’s about time… and I kinda want to. I understand it may be slow going.
I still put the toilet seat down… yup, trained well.
I am older than Kateri ever made it to… that’s kinda fucked up… but bound to happen in these situations.
A couple of things I’ve learned in the last two years:
We can adapt to adversity… as much as we don’t want to.
Kateri made me better. It’s a simple fact.
Life is a lot easier if you surround yourself with good people… and if you put the work in to being a good person who makes decent choices. Luckily, I have a lot of wonderful people in my life.
Priorities… what’s important… to me.
How to cook for one…ish and to make half a pot of coffee instead of a full pot.
There are loving, supportive, empathetic, and caring strangers out there… some you will never meet even though they might’ve played significant parts in your life.
Plants… yup, they pretty much need water and sun. Trimming would probably be helpful… but I haven’t learned about that yet!
If left to my own devices for nourishment… I make bad decisions… but they’re tasty.
How to set up my own blog!… which has been a wonderful tool throughout this process, even if it has been sporadic as of late.
Two years… basically, there’s a ton that has happened. Some good… some bad… some challenging… some whatever. That’s life, I guess. There are things we can control… and there are things we can’t. Although it can be frustrating, I’ve learned to not sweat the things I have no control over (most of the time!)… it’s just a waste of energy. There are plenty of things in this world that we do have control over… I’m just gonna try to focus on those and if I need to take a step back from time to time… I will.
I just miss Kateri so God damn much. After two years… it still has the power to floor me… and I expect it will for quite a while.
I hope you are all well, safe, and not making stoopid decisions in these uncertain times. Just as in my situation, time doesn’t stop and we’ll all find ourselves talking about The Pandemic of 2020!… as we shake hands hello… and give hugs goodbye. Love to all y’all.
ps… it feels odd not really ever writing specifically about Kateri and all the beautiful things that made her such a unique and loving person. Maybe my next post will be about her… and not me and my shit.
The story pretty much goes that my life hasn’t changed too dramatically as we are going through this whole COVID-19 thing, but enough has happened that I’ve had to refocus some of my time and energy away from my blog!… which has been an interesting little pause for me as I come up on Kateri’s Death Date. I guess that’s why I felt the urge to at least post something!
So…… last week I made a video which I shared on Facebook… and this week I’m just gonna share it on here because I talk about… well… stuff I’m going through and how our current environment has had an affect on me as a widower and as a person. There have been other things that have recently happened in my life that I could write about such as getting a new chimney two days ago… and finally being able to burn some wood to keep the house warm instead of propane!… after a month and a half! (Man, I love having a “hot spot” to stand next to since I have a cute but drafty house… and it’s still 29 degrees at night.) Or I could write about how I fixed the water lines to my washer so that I don’t have to “get my steps in” every time I do a load of clothes as I would shuffle stainless steel mixing bowls and coolers full of water from the kitchen to the laundry room! I did this for months… MONTHS I say!… just because I didn’t want to deal with plumbing in the winter time in case something went wrong. (Water leaks and winter just don’t jive with me!)
Ok… instead of me writing about all the things I could write about… I’m just gonna throw on this video, let the chickens out, and have morning coffee over Facetime with people I love who are thousands of miles away. Awe… technology in the time of The Rona. Thanks smrt people… for keeping us connected!
ps…. I’ll warn you, the vid is eleven and a half minutes long!… and there are no pyrotechnics.
First… Happy Birthday! You’ve always loved your birthday being on St. Patrick’s Day… it might’ve been the Irish in you. I love how you would make sure to have a bottle of Bailey’s around for today… usually starting the morning off with a “little” in your coffee… until the time came to start drinking it out of one of the two tiny plastic beer steins. I especially loved it when you would fill up both of the miniature mugs, hand one to someone you loved, clink them together as well as two small plastic mugs could clink, and celebrate simply being there together on your birthday.
Well babe, I’ll be honest… I had a little emotional breakdown just a second ago, decided to run to the store for some papers and on the way back I realized what it was I needed to say to you. I wanted to write to you about all the fun St. Patty’s Day/Birthday adventures we had at the ocean, in pubs, with friend’s and family… or just the two of us, but I’m not going to. Those are all simply wonderful memories… which I have. What I don’t have… is you. And today…. I’m having a hard time with that.
Since just under two years ago, I’ve been trying to figure out how to do this alone. To fill you in, we currently have something happening in our world that will ultimately touch every living person on this planet… in one way or another. It’s called COVID-19 now, but get this… at first it was called Coronavirus! I know!… CORONA-VIRUS! I thought you would get a kick outta that. Although there were a plethora of beer jokes when it first came to light just a couple of months ago… and I may have made some remarks about licking door knobs to get out of work… aaaand I know you would still be making inappropriate jokes (at times) about it to ease the anxiety… it’s actually a very unsettling time and serious thing.
This is where you come into play. When I drove home from getting my papers, I looked around at the open fields, the sparsely filled Park n Ride, a family in a four door pick-up truck at the stop sign waiting to turn, everything felt… different. I’ve gotta tell you Kateri, when I heard your last breath… I heard my world change. Now, as I face a changing world, I simply wish I never heard that silence and that you were with me now. I wish I had our life again. I wish you were here to stay in comfy clothes, drink Bailey’s, and watch horrible movies on your birthday because everything is shut down. Hell, maybe we would be at an empty hotel on the ocean making cappuccinos in our room because we got it for dirt cheap! Once again, your cappuccino would probably have Bailey’s, but it doesn’t really matter what we would be doing… I just wish you were here with me because you always made uncomfortable times better… or uncomfortable in a different way… a better way!
I hope you are having a wonderful time however you are spending your birthday. I have all sorts of scenarios playing in my head, but my minds eye can only focus on your smile… that big, innocent, genuine smile. I want you to know that our friends have been reaching out today showing us they love us. It’s been nice, but I haven’t really responded to anyone yet… I’ve kinda just been thinking about you. Well, and dealing with work… and a chimney guy!… but mostly you.
You were my partner in everything… in life. When life got crazy… as it is right now… I looked to you… and I still do, Kateri. I want you to know that. You taught me so much. You provided me with direction… with purpose… with guidance. You may not be standing next to me or sleeping upstairs or at the farm or in the garden, but you are always with me.
I’ve been much more emotional today than I expected to be… you would have a blast yelling, “CRYYY!” at me… but I just wanted to send you a note… which made me more emotional… so I’m gonna stop now and say, “I love you, Kateri. Happy St. Patty’s Day and HAPPYBIRTHDAY!… you would be 46.” (because I know you still aren’t paying attention to your age)
ps… Coronavirus: Reason #317 that trees make better neighbors.
Today I’m writing what I was gonna write tomorrow about yesterday, but I realized the date and the whole “Widower Day” was kind of a funny run of two’s so I thought why not tonight?! (I don’t know why… I just happen to like numbers. Yup, as Kateri would say… I suffer from O.D.D…. it spells odd.)
At work yesterday, I made the comment that if I didn’t love my house as much as I do, if Kateri and I had just bought some random home in the burbs instead of our cute ass and drafty little red schoolhouse… well, I probably would’ve sold it and hit the open road! But that’s not the case, so I’m still here at my little red schoolhouse home and on the drive home yesterday I had an experience that simply made me happy about my current living condition.
It was getting dark when I turned at the lake. Not like dark dark… just kinda dark. About three minutes in, I saw two dimly lit red lights moving at a slower rate than I was moving. I couldn’t really make out the shape of the car, but I could tell the lights were the taillights of on old Volvo station wagon… and then made the assumption that it was John plugging along in front of me. This is where I felt a little bit of the warmth that “community” and “neighbors” provide once in a while. I loved the fact that before I could actually see any of the particulars, I could tell who it was. It made me feel like I was driving “Home”. After literally saying how I would’ve “Hit the open road” just a couple of hours earlier, it made me realize that I do still really love where I live… and the fact that I know my neighbors. I don’t know most of them very well, but each of them have come into my (or our) life at one point or the other. Some I wish we (I) got to spend more time with… I guess I still can. Some, I’m fine with just a wave here and there. Either way, it’s comforting knowing the people on my Home Road. It eases the loneliness… and that little experience helped fill a tiny bit of the emptiness I feel every time I head back north. It was a little thing. It was random. It was moment specific. But it was significant to me on an insignificant drive back to the schoolhouse.
When I pulled into the driveway, pulled up to the garage, put the car in park and set the parking break.. I just sat there for a moment. I have this thing where sometimes I can’t get out of the car right away… usually because I see those big ass schoolhouse windows to my left and it just reminds me of all of the “Hopes and Dreams” Kateri and I had with our lives and our home… this was one of those times. I was starting to get a little emotional when the song Dance Monkey by Tones and I came on. I had heard this song quite a few times and have just always really enjoyed it. I’d like to think that I’m sorta up on current music, but I don’t have TV and am not on the internet too much so I don’t really know about any of the artists… or what they even look like! This song, however, has just been growing on me so I decided to sit and listen… in my driveway.
It made me really think about Kateri for a couple of reasons. I thought of her dancing in the passenger seat as we would drive down the highway… or be sitting in our driveway. I thought about how she would’ve really enjoyed movin’ to this particular song. It made me think about how Kateri faced the news and fucked up reality that she had cancer… in her brain… and her plan was to dance the cancer away. She always described it as her “Dance” with cancer… and she danced beautifully with the asshole partner who unexpectedly cut in.
As I thought about these things and others, I wondered if I could maybe play this song on the guitar…? So, as I sat there in the driveway… in my “cute” little Jeep… I pulled out my phone and searched guitar chords for the song that was currently vibrating loose change in the cup holder. I saw that it was basically four chords and when the song ended, I went inside, rolled a joint, turned on Youtube to check out the official video, lit a fire, lit the joint… and just enjoyed the song for the second time in 15 minutes.
I couldn’t really tell anything about the artist from the official video, so I started searching live performances. This is where I need to insert the “Oh my God!”… because what I saw was simply amazing. The first video I found was her U.S. debut when she played on Jimmy Fallon… and I couldn’t get enough of it… of her! I’m not gonna get too much into it except to say that I found her to be absolutely inspiring… which then turned into another two hours filled with nothing but Tones and I… and Dance Monkey being played over and over again as I searched for more and more live performances. It was such a “not what I thought” experience that I couldn’t get over it! As I watched her perform… it made me wanna root for her! Of course, seeing her perform gave me the feeling that she is gonna have a shit ton of people who are gonna wanna listen to her music, learn about her story, and support her! It was just one of those pleasant surprises that come along once in a while. Check her out!
Yup, it was just one of those days. And, in all honesty… I finished writing this today… because I didn’t finish it yesterday. Instead, I fell asleep on the couch.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
When your wife dies, make sure to change your W-4 from “Married” to “Single”. Your employer won’t do it for you… and it sucks when you find out 22 months later that you never made the change and you’ve been “under reporting”…?… and all that shit. Just a friendly Widower PSA.
Wedding ring status: still off.
Hope you have an inspiring day!.. or at least a good one!
I have no idea if this is kosher, but this is what started my infatuation with Tones and I:
ps… you can follow the blog by email or WordPress if you hit the little button. Then I wouldn’t need to keep throwing these up on Facebook to feel good about myself! (don’t worry… I’ll feel ok about myself even if you don’t!)
I think… like everyone else… I wish I could just drop everything, pack a bag, load the car, and experience wanderlust again for a while instead of plugging away at the grind. Not that things have been absolutely horrible… I haven’t been getting punched in the nuts when I wake up every morning or anything like that… but it DOES get a little tiring when you constantly feel overwhelmed, are constantly trying to “figure things out”, and life keeps showing you that there are things you have control over… and there are things that you don’t. So…. I’m just gonna keep plugging away at routines for right now… keep an eye on what I have control over… and maybe try to create some new routines! (Like ones where I have to brush my teeth at a rest stop, in a hotel, or next to my tent would be fun! Or in my schoolhouse… I have no plans of letting go of my schoolhouse! Gotta have home to come back to!)
The past couple of weeks have been good, filled with some good things. My lady friend and I went to Salem, Mass last week to get out of Dodge, see the ocean, and check out some witches! (the witches weren’t actually a main focal point) One thing I love about the East Coast is it’s history. Yes, we have some pretty horrendous history in this country, but everywhere does. It’s fun to walk around a town made up of old brick buildings and wooden houses where you can read about what took place on that spot hundreds of years ago!… even though they weren’t good times. (I guess that’s how we learn not to do those things again… or not let them happen again.)
For me, it’s weird doing things with someone who isn’t Kateri… but that’s the whole balancing “New Life” and “Old Life”. I mean, I still wanna experience life… sometimes with someone else… sometimes by myself… but mainly I don’t wanna keep trying to recreate the experiences I had with Kateri because those times are simply memories of a different life now… even if they are really, really good memories. I want new experiences… for my new life. Experiences like going to the Peabody Essex Museum or the Salem Witch Museum. I still wanna walk around towns and look at the architecture or old ass homes where the doors don’t have any right angles anymore. I wanna go into magic shops and get in trouble for taking pictures because they sell REALLY important and magical things. I wanna have fun and say things like, “These are the trees where they hung all the witches!” when walking through a town green… not knowing if there was any truth in the statement! I still wanna live… life… and focus on “The Good” things once in a while… and push “The Bad” to the side for a bit… here and there.
I was gonna go into some other things I’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks like the fact that I’ve started going through the house… slowly… or the fact that I’ve started my book! (an even slower start… but I’ve got a file folder with words in it!) But, it’s my Sunday on a Monday and I’ve got things to do. All in all, I feel I’ve been doing okay. Going through the cabinet in the living room was rewarding. It’s interesting what you find in boxes. This one had old computers (no, I didn’t turn them on to look at pics or anything… although I wanted to), CD’s from decades ago, cords cords cords, an old picture of me from 2007, a ticket from our NY City Christmas in 2012, toys my mom gave Kateri over the years,…. and underwear. Yup, you just never know what you’ll find!… but you’ve gotta open the box first to see what’s in it! Otherwise, it’s just a box taking up space.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Dating as a widower is a huge, complicated thing. For all you widowed people out there… just be true and honest to yourself and the other person… and fuck whatever issues and opinions other people have about it… they really don’t have any idea of what you are going through.
It’s hard to balance the wanting to spend time with someone, but also wanting and needing to spend time alone… again, complicated.
Sleep is still a strange thing. During the work week I do okay…ish… 5-7 hours of sleep depending. I generally wake up on the couch between 2:23 and 3:47 on the weekends…. and then crawl into bed so that I can have that feeling of waking up in bed.
Cake Pops. No matter what… they make things better. (unless you have diabetes… then they probably aren’t that great for ya)
Six Hundred and Sixty-Six days in… It’s still hard to come to terms with the fact that Kateri isn’t here. I miss her. I miss our life. I miss our future. And when I think about it… it makes me cry. At this point though… I generally cry alone.
wow… that sounds ridiculously sad.
Remember, we are surrounded by both “The Good” in the world and “The Bad”. It’s up to us to decide on which to focus on and when. We aren’t helpless. Sometimes, we can do things that are actually helpful to ourselves… and others… without much effort.
I haven’t worn my wedding ring for 16 days.
The beard is getting a little old… and itchy… but I just can’t get rid of it yet! (because it’s still kinda fun)
I hope you have a good day!
ps… You can follow the blog if you want! I promise! Unless you’re a dick… then you can follow some other blog.
Well… it has started. I have begun the process of going through shit to see what I want to keep around, what I want to save, what I want to throw away, and what I feel other people may want… of course, people definitely tell you what they want when your wife dies! More importantly though, I would want something to go to someone I love… who loved Kateri… if there is significant weight put on whatever object by whatever person… and if it’s in the “Give Away” pile! In this case, I’m going the kitchen… so there isn’t a ton of those types of things. I mean, I don’t know if anyone is gonna be fighting over the 2 year old Cheerios in the glass jar on the counter!.. but maybe?!
I planned on going through the kitchen on Sunday since my original plan to go see a buddy in AZ fell through and I was still gonna take the time off… because I need it. When I knew I wasn’t going to some strange land filled with sand… and where the sun seems to be a heck of a lot closer… I wanted to take advantage of the time to get to some things that I just simply haven’t been able to get to yet. The kitchen seemed like a good place to start because it is also a space that is functional… I use it everyday.
Now I’ve just gotta say it went a WHOLE lot slower than I expected… and I’m actually not even done!… but the kitchen is clean (top of the fridge and all!) and I was able to go through a few cabinets and cupboards. The fridge… and everything on it… was the big one. It’s amazing what we put on refrigerators… the memories we magnet to the thin metal keeping all our shit cold. Mine kinda covered the gambit. It was dotted with pictures of family from years ago, recipes in Kateri’s handwriting, little notes, menus from local sandwich shops, magnets from our travels, wedding invitations and snapshots of good times! It also had Kateri’s pill regiment schedule on it that our nurse friend had made her when Kateri got discharged from the hospital… when her colon gave out halfway through “Cancer Time” because of the immunotherapy or some shit. Ya… I think I’m at the point where I don’t need to see that every time I go in the fridge to grab a Stewart’s Orange n Cream soda! I also stumbled upon a fortune, hidden beneath other papers, that word used to “Learn Chinese” was…….. disease. Yay!
Although I didn’t actually finish what I planned to finish in the kitchen… it is further along than it was on Satruday! I’ve learned that I can’t put unreasonable pressure on myself to bang some of these things out. Some things will just take time due to those constraints in time, emotional attachment, and… well… life. For me, I’m happy that I started the process and sorta have a game plan going forward. I made a big dent in something that has been nagging at my brain for a bit… and that feels good. Now I’m off to round up all “Important Papers” scattered around the house in various bags, boxes, cabinets, and closets… and I’m gonna show them their permanent home in the filing cabinet! (the one Kateri found on the side of the road!)
Widower Notes n Thought:
The wedding ring is currently back on. I put it on for my second therapy session… just felt right… and haven’t taken it off, yet. I’m gonna take that one as it comes. Some days I’ll wear it… some days I won’t… just depends. I’m good with that.
A friend introduced me to Chubby Hubby… that might not have been a good thing… health wise.
Well… I officially have a Therapist for the first time in my adult life. It’s funny, as I sat here after writing that sentence, I didn’t know what I really wanted to say!… and then a friend texted and my thoughts shifted to jogging in the rain… which sounds kinda sloshy… fun, but I will probably never do… and doesn’t have anything to do with my Therapist. This is sorta what happens for me every time I stop and take the time to think about what it is I’m going through… where I’m at… what brought me here over the last 44 years and how it all works together to push me in a certain direction as I try my best to steer the wheel of life… which happens to have a significant amount of “play” in it! I keep seeing sayings like “YOU control your life” and “It’s how you show up” type stuff… and it’s true… but there’s a shitload out there that we have absolutely no control over which affects our life in one way or the other and to whatever varying degree! Hence… “play in the wheel”! (My father had an old Wagoneer. One of those classy ones with the mountain scene on the back widow. You could give the wheel a quarter turn before you headed in whichever direction!… Man, I would love to have that Jeep now.)
Back to the Therapist. I’m not gonna get into the whole road that led up to me seeing a Therapist because that could take a while! (I mean, I know I got up early… but no.) And… it’s not really important. I mean (again), it is… but it isn’t. For me, the important part is that I am taking the steps necessary to keep my life moving in a direction I can live with. After six hundred and whatever goddamn days I’m also just simply…. tired… and taking advantage of every opportunity to push me in a positive direction in hopes of getting to a better space. I mean (third time), all in all… on average… in the grand scheme of things… I’m hanging in there… fair to midland, I would say… but I’m tired of that feeling of “sustaining” or “keeping my head above water”. I want growth in all aspects of my life and in who I am. I want to be able to see the beauty that surrounds me… or that is on the other side of the windshield… and not just recognize it for being beautiful. This is one of those opportunities.
So… my approach to finding a Therapist…? As with every experience in this new life, I wanted this one to be as close to how I envision it to go as possible. I already had an idea in my head of what I felt I would be comfortable with. I thought about what type of environment would be calming and warm, the location, the type of person I wanted to have this experience with and all that jive. Fortunately, so far it has worked out!
I went through EAP at work and got two referrals. Yes.. I googled each of them. The first one was closer to my home, but there were other areas they specialized in like “Yoga”… and all I want to do is talk to someone… who focuses on talking. I can get 100% behind all the “Namaste” stuff… positive energy/vibrations/loop o’ bliss/etc., but I didn’t feel I wanted it as part of this experience, so I moved on to the other one.
I couldn’t find much info on… we’ll say “Betty”… so I gave her a call. The moment I heard her voice I knew I had found my person! (I’m calling her “Betty” for a reason… she sounded consoling and supportive… and… well… “seasoned”.) I instantly felt like I could talk with her. She had this welcoming sound to her that put any of my concerns about the process at ease. It felt… good. Aaaaaand….. when we actually met at her house for the first session…. it turned out to be exactly the experience I was looking for! Betty’s stature, demeanor, her home, her history, her voice and words, even the road to her house were all fantastic parts of this new experience… making a new memory… in this “New Life”.
There isn’t much more to really say about that first session… it was mainly a get to know ya/why we’re here type thing. I was gonna do just three sessions to start, but as we were talking I realized what this session basically was and thought a couple more would probably be beneficial. So, I’ve decided to commit to five sessions and then take stock. The first three are gonna be kinda rapid fire (once a week) and then I wanna space out the next couple. What it comes down to is… for me to get to a point where I am happy with where I am, who I am, and how I’m doing it… I’m gonna need to be open to trying new things! Fortunately, this “new thing” has so far been nothing but… encouraging!
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I took my wedding ring off on Friday evening and haven’t put it back on yet. I used a work function as a testing ground on how I would do with not wearing it out in public… I survived. Of course, I took a picture of it to reference… again… just as a reminder that it was safe on my dresser at home… next to Kateri’s engagement and wedding rings. Fucking… weird.
I still haven’t watched a scary movie by myself…
I always had Kateri to talk to… to guide me… to bounce thoughts off of. I had never felt the “need” for a Therapist… I had her! When you lose an aspect of your life like that… and your world becomes silent… it’s a hard thing to process.
I have what I’m calling “Nub Nights”. Since I have to cut down three cord of wood to fit my new wood stove, I’m left with all these nubs about two inches thick. So, I put those in 5 gallon buckets and on days I’m feeling lazy and don’t wanna cut wood… I have a “Nub Night” and burn all the ends! Yup… they burn, too.
I like inserting little “holidays/theme nights” into my day to day life… it’s fun.
So…. wow. That kinda snuck up on me! I’ve had quite a few things on my mind as of late and have been kinda trying to deal with some “New Life” shit… “Old Life” shit… “Emotional” shit…… and snow. I guess I’ve simply been thinking a lot about life in general and wasn’t really doing the whole “2019 in Review” thing… until last night… at around 6:30/7ish… when it dawned on me that there were quite a few things that happened in 2019!
I was gonna throw out the ol’ “There were some good things, there were some blah blah blah things…”, but that was basically everyone’s year! I kinda figure that that’s just how it goes..?! And then I thought about how our lives’ aren’t just generalizations. They aren’t that simple. In the 365 days that I woke up in 2019 there were definitely ups and downs, but there were things… specific things… that stand out. So yup… here’s a New Year’s Random Widower Notes n Thoughts list for 2020. (yay!… and an almost ten minute video about a whole lot of not much at the end…!):
Random Widower Notes n Thoughts… June 2, 2020:
In 2019 I got a snow blower! (my back thanks me… and yes, I’m excited about it enough that I had to mention it! People talk about how their cats or dogs or lizards are their “children”… which is kinda stupid… so I’m gonna start referring to my snow blower as part of the family. I think our relationship has grown enough over the last 12 months to make that leap!)
I pissed some people off in 2019… some of those people I love… which sucks, but it’s gonna happen. Luckily, we all survived.
I’m also not everyone’s cup of tea… I’m cool with that… I’m not a huge fan of tea, either! Of course, I still enjoy it once in a while… it just needs honey… lot’s and lot’s of honey.
I don’t really look at time in the yearly chunks anymore. In my brain, it’s still based off of the day Kateri died.
I haven’t changed anything in the house yet, but I’ve gotten used to everything I see being a reminder of Kateri and my “Old Life”.
I have decided to start that process in 2020, though! You know, redecorating and going through some stuff! I’m ready to start putting together my home… my life…. and figuring out how to keep Kateri a part of it.
2019… I went from YachtRocks/Hits 1/Pop2K to Lithium and SoulCycle… with a bit of Caliente.
(I just got off the phone with my sis… love ya sis.)
In 2019 I learned that I’m gonna need to do more… which means I’m gonna need help… because I wanna do more… because I need to.
I need to be healthier… not much more to say about that!
I took my wedding ring off for more than 24 hours over the New Year’s holiday… for the first time… it’s currently back on.
It was odd… both the fact that I couldn’t feel it on my finger (it’s heavy and I use my thumb to adjust it a lot throughout the day!) and… well… it just wasn’t on my hand! It provides me with a huge connection to Kateri and I simply don’t wanna lose that. It made me soooooo happy that we got married… that we made that commitment… that I had a wife… and that it was Kateri. In this new life…. I had a wife… and that’s not what my life is now. (Although… Kateri will always be my wife… she just won’t be out front digging in the gardens or blaring the B-52’s while tidying the house or laying next to me when I begrudgingly would come upstairs because she said it was time for bed. Damn… I wish she was here to tell me it was time for bed!)
It’s easier to remember the cloth KAF shopping bag when going to the store. When shopping for one… I generally don’t need more than a bag and it has become routine to grab it from the pocket behind my driver’s seat. Look at me saving the planet!
If I was someone who bought six packs… I would still be cutting the plastic rings so that the penguins and baby seals don’t get their heads stuck in them. My mom taught me that… in the 80’s… so some of you may not have any idea of what I’m talking about!
In 2020, I would like to be a little more focused… in everything… this blog included.
Since Kateri died, I’ve been on a quest to simply make things better or easier… hence snow blowers, woodstoves, and chop saws… proper tools for the job and better efficiencies. The quest also includes working on me… becoming better myself. Better at this new life, better at my relationships with friends, family, coworkers, and strangers, better at getting things done, better at taking care of myself. Basically… be a better person than I was yesterday… just so as to live a better life while I’m chugging along in this current one… and to stay on the rails most of the time!
Straight up… Happy New Year… on the 5th!
ps… I started this post on New Year’s Day 2020. Since then… I have had to use the term, “One appointment at a time.” again… but for the first time with a particular person… someone I love very much… more than most. Luckily, she’s one of the strongest, determined, and fearless in the face of adversity type of people I know… and she’ll (we’ll) get through this. Life doesn’t give us the option of when we need to deal with some stuff… it’s not in our control. What is in our control is how we approach it… how we face it… how we are going to let it exist in our life. It can beat us down… or we can accept the situation and try to take the best steps forward. I’m a “fixer”… I want to fix things as quickly as possible so that I can move on to the next thing. Sometimes… I simply can’t fix it. But I’ll do whatever I can to make it… a little bit better.
On the way to work yesterday, Christmas Eve, the realization hit me that I think this is the first Christmas in my life that I will be waking up in an empty house… alone. No one already drinking coffee downstairs. No one sneaking little wrapped packages into old socks hanging by the wood stove. No one making phone calls seeing when other people will be swinging by. I can’t smell the oil being heated up for the round upon round of fried dough. Nope… it’s pretty much just silence here at the schoolhouse. I did manage to fill the air with the smell of coffee… because this day needs to start one way or the other… and I really, really need it!
Although I talk about how I’m alone this morning… I sorta planned it that way. Two Christmases ago I was in Idaho spending it with my family because we had found out my mother has cancer and Kateri and I were going to spend it with them… then we got the diagnosis of melanoma in the brain on December 19th, 2017… and Kateri stayed home… alone. Which sounds like a sad situation with this limited information (and it was), but it was exactly how it should’ve gone.
Last Christmas, my sister-in-law was here… and it was good… but she’s not here this year and once I knew she wasn’t gonna be coming (I knew pretty early on) I made the plan to just have a Christmas morning to myself and to see how it goes… alone. I’ve also come to the conclusion that as for now, that whole “alone” feeling isn’t gonna go away for a while. Yes, there are people in life… people that I care deeply about… friends and family that care deeply about me, but when I lost Kateri… even though I may not have lost everything… I did lose that comfort you have in life knowing that there is that one person… that one special person who will always be there for you… who will guide you, love you, support you, laugh with you… and hold you when you just need to be held. For almost twenty years, I never really felt alone… but I do now. Not because I’m sitting in bed on my computer instead of taking bong hits for baby Jesus. Not because there isn’t the smell of oil heating. Not because sister-in-laws went to Jamaica or because friend’s and family are miles and miles away. It’s not even because it’s Christmas Morning. It’s simply because Kateri is not here… and I wish she was.
This is my second Christmas as a widower and I just gotta say… it’s weird. I wouldn’t say harder or more emotional or anything… just different. Unfortunately, life has been challenging as of late and I just haven’t really gotten into the Holiday Spirit as much as I was hoping for… but I’m trying to force myself into it this morning… and the coffee helps!
Yes, I may feel alone and sorta lost… but it’s still Christmas Morning and I want to make the most of it. I want to connect with friends and family. I want to open packages and cards from people I love. I want to share gifts with special people in my life. I want to laugh, share stories, and reminisce. I want to push all the ugly, unfortunate, and complicated challenges out for a day and just relax with my coffee by the fire, some Christmas tunes, and most likely a movie along the lines of National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. Life will be there tomorrow when I wake up for work, but today… it’s Christmas… and I’m gonna try to focus on the things that I have come to love about the Holiday Season… even though they have become harder to see.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’ve only opened 2 Christmas Cards before today. I figured I would save them for Christmas Morning so that I would have a few things to open up!
I left the lights on the tree plugged in last night so that Santa could see his way!… but I forgot milk and cookies! I think he took it personally.
I know this morning sounds sad and lonely… and it is… but I’ll also be spending time today with people I hold close to my heart!… along with someone I don’t really know.
Almond Rocca!! Man, I wish I had gotten some Almond Rocca.
People (widows/widowers n shit) talk about starting new traditions, holding on to old ones, and everything in-between. Personally, as my brain has been filled with all the other things that consume my life, I decided that I couldn’t worry about those types of things right now… things will go how they go. Sometimes, things/life/time naturally forces you in a certain direction or helps you answers those sorta questions.
For example, the fried dough thing. Yes, I wanted to get some dough from work and fry it up this morning… but I forgot to get the dough! Well… I guess it’s not a tradition this year! And I’m okay with that. Yes, I will have fried dough on Christmas again in the future… (I wish I had some now!)… but I’m also learning about how my Christmases (holidays/anniversaries/weekends) are gonna go… and how I would like to spend them in this new life.
This is my 100th blog post!! I’ve been thinking about all sorts of things I wanted to ramble on about… what it was I felt the need to share… what could be helpful to someone?… to me?…and… well… this is what I wrote instead!
Finally…. Merry Christmas Everyone. Straight up… I’m not religious or anything, but this truly is a wonderful time of year. When you take out all the bullshit and get to the bottom of it… it’s simply…….. be good to one another. It’s a big, complicated planet filled with a whole bunch of humans… who are complicated. It doesn’t matter spiritual beliefs or traditions or backgrounds or placement on the globe… it’s basically try to be a part of “The Good” in the world. We can always start small and just try to be a part of “The Good” in other people’s lives… as we go through our’s.
Awe… Monday morning. One good thing about being a cook… Monday mornings usually don’t mean shit when it comes to the work week! And when your work week starts on a Tuesday or Thursday… well, it just doesn’t seem quite as bad. I… for one… have always enjoyed what I do for a living so My Mondays never really fazed me. I liked going to work… I loved being in a kitchen. It makes your job… and life… a bit more enjoyable when you don’t look at the start of the work week as the bottom of a hill you need to climb for the next 5 days! Of course, since Kateri died… I now have that Monday Morning feeling almost every day I wake up. I just want more time to put towards myself, my home, and the new future that life decided to wait until I was 43 to show me… when I thought I had a good handle on what the future held. Luckily, I still enjoy what I do… where I do it… and who I do it with… so that helps. Either way… it’s 9:20 on a Monday morning… and I’m still in bed. So….. ha ha.
The long and short of Thanksgiving… A lazy morning with the Macy’s Day Parade, the day spent with friends that I love, entertaining situations, fun conversations, good food, the meeting of new people, and lasagna. I also brought a “date” to Thanksgiving Dinner… did I mention dinner was held at our friend’s house where Kateri and I first lived when we moved down here? Or that our friend is also the mother of our other friend… a dear friend… the friend who married Kateri and I? (he’s one of Kateri’s pocket people) Did I mention how I sometimes can’t stop my brain from swirling as I try to figure out how to balance old life/new life collisions? Yup… I put a lot of weight on the situation. And in hindsight… too much. I feel that seems to be the case with a fair amount of things.
Now, I feel the need to mention that my “date” happened to be a friend of mine who I’ve spent quite a bit of time with over the last year and she probably knows more about what I’m personally going through than anyone else. Basically… for me… I’m glad my first holiday with someone other than Kateri was with someone I felt comfortable going through that situation with! For all the anxiety I put on myself thinking about this or that… it turns out that when you are surrounded by people you love… good people who love you back… you can take quite a bit of worry off the table. Well that… and being somewhat “grown up” and having the ability to have “adult” conversations helps everyone involved!
Yup, Thanksgiving came and went… and now it’s Monday. I’m getting my chimney swept today and it’s still trying to snow, so I’m gonna get dressed, go and shovel some of the white stuff away from where I think these guys are gonna put their ladders, do some chores, play a little guitar, be responsible and take care of some Grown-Up stuff, and get ready for Tuesday… which is really My Monday.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’m actually getting a little excited to decorate for Christmas, but I rearranged the living room and don’t have as many flat surfaces for my little village! Don’t worry… I’ll figure it out.
I went through Kateri’s basket… the one that’s been next to her chair for the last 588 plus days. I’m glad I did… but it was weird. I just didn’t feel the need to see it every day anymore. One of those taking steps in this new life type things… creating My Space.
Now I wish I had shoveled the icy/wet/slushy crap that fell from the sky two and a half weeks ago… my driveway is 63 feet of frozen H2O! Good for sledding… not for walking.
I’m settling into this living alone thing. Last week, I moved a single roll of toilet paper from the upstairs bathroom to the downstairs bathroom probably 9 times instead of going to the store to buy more… and I was fine with that. And yes… it might’ve been a little embarrassing when I had company in the downstairs bathroom… and the toilet paper was in the upstairs one!… but we all survived.
I had my first outside fire in a while yesterday afternoon/evening… I need to do that more. Now that there’s snow… I won’t worry about burning down the hillside! (it’s the Westerner in me… fear of forest fires!)
Aaaaaand…. I hope whoever is reading this is having a good day! If not…?… well, find something good in it… maybe it’ll snowball from there!
ps… follow the blog… or hit the “like” button thing… if ya want.
I wanted to do a bloggery at some point this weekend because Friday the 22nd was Kateri’s monthly death date anniversary… and today is my birthday… yay! I took yesterday off and it’s been a good couple of days so far… a lot of thinking, relaxing, and remembering. But I don’t feel like throwing myself into an emotional three hours of writing about crap, so this morning… I made a video on the way back to bed from getting my Birthday Morning Coffee… and never got back into bed.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
It’s been heartwarming receiving little messages and phone calls from friends and family wishing me a Happy Birthday! You…. are awesome!… and thank-you!
Generally, once I start a blog or video I just go ahead and either post it or trash it. Well, there’s actually a fair amount of videos on my phone of me playing guitar or rambling on about whatever that I had full intentions of posting to YouTube and just haven’t because I either lose motivation, run out of time, or simply second guess myself about throwing things out into the world… which is why I like to just write/record and then post… no time to second guess! After 97 blog posts and something like 9ish videos saved to YouTube… nothing horrible has happened to me yet, so I’m kinda keeping on that train of thought with the option of posting something after the fact… like I’m doing right now… from my bed… on a Sunday morning… with coffee.
So here I am on Tuesday evening, rambling on about something I did… which made me feel somewhat silly… so why not share it with the world…?! (or with whoever can find it in the sea of digital memories.)
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
The snow is here. We had a storm come by last week and I debated shoveling the driveway, but there was a layer of icy/slushy crap beneath a few inches of snow so I figured I would just let the sun do it’s thing and it will melt away over a few days… maybe a week. Ummm… it hasn’t gone away. My entire property is still covered by a few inches of snow… and I’ve just been creating a nice, slick, shiny sledding run down my driveway.
I’ve decided that it’s time to start going through a few things in the house… probably this winter. Although I love our home… I wanna start making it a bit more “mine” in a way that let’s me keep Kateri… and our life together… relevant and tangible while providing me a space to grow in.
I love my new wood stove!… but I’m pretty sure I now need a new chimney… or liner… or something. There’s been a learning curve. One thing I’ve learned is that when a 6 inch pipe goes from the stove and into an old masonry chimney built in the 60’s that rises 25 feet to clear the roof line… there ain’t no draft! Ah, the joys of homeownership… and figuring things out as you go.
I miss our friends, family, and life together. I miss Kateri… and it’s hard.
Whenever I hear/see/watch anything where death is involved… my brain still instantly goes to holding Kateri’s arm… and hearing her last breath. It’s kinda rough when I’m just chilling and watching a movie to lose myelf in a story… and someone dies… and I think of that one moment in my life… the end of Kateri’s.
It’s also a strange experience as a widower when new friends who didn’t know Kateri… meet old friends. It’s a weird collision of lives that brings up all sorts of things.
I absolutely hate the fact that there is currently Christmas music being played in stores. It’s simply gross and just makes me think about how materialistic we are as a society. Yes, I love the holidays… and my house will once again be Christmafied… but it’s not even Thanksgiving! The only reason business’s do it is to get people into the “shopping” spirit.
Happy Sunday everyone… make it a good one… I know you can!
Kateri and I weren’t exactly “texters”… or really even cell phone users, but for some reason I had started texting her when the time was 1:23 or 12:34 or 3:45 or 2:34… you get the idea. I’ve always enjoyed numbers. At the ranch where Kateri and I met, there really wasn’t much to do in the winter if you weren’t working, or snowmobiling, or snowshoeing… or any of the other things you do when there’s 5 feet of snow out the window… with another 4 feet on top of that. So I watched movies here and there, put together puzzles, hung out with the other seasonal riff raff, and read a few books. Some of those books were filled with stories, some were filled with history, and some were filled with exciting tid bits of information like how the Fibonacci Sequence shows up in the arrangement of the seeds of a sunflower. Over the years I have read less and less about “math” as my interests turned towards other things… like cooking, guitar, and hanging out with Kateri… and now I think I’ve dumbed myself down to where I simply get excited when I look at the clock and it reads 4:56! Which I guess has nothing to do with equations or mathematics… but it’s a fun little observance that has absolutely no real significance in my day to day life… and I guess I thought Kateri needed to know when the numbers lined up!
There are so many little things that pop into my head throughout the day that remind me of life with Kateri. Lately, for one reason or another, the memories have been coming in a bit more frequently. They aren’t all big memories of exciting times, or holidays, or those special moments that are only shared between the two people experiencing them… some are little tiny random blips that show up and turn into bigger blips… like texting Kateri 12:34. I don’t know how many times I texted her when the numbers were all lined up on the clock… but I do remember that once in a great while I would receive a text from her and all it would say is 1:23… and it put a smile on my face. I knew the only reason she was doing it was because she knew I got a strange little kick out of it and looking back on it, it’s just one of those little things in my past life that now has a whole bunch more attached to it. It’s kinda like these memories are little tug boats pulling twenty years of experiences behind them with all the emotions piled up high on the barge. Once that tug boat gets to it’s destination… it’s just a matter of time until those emotions need to be unloaded from the barge… and I never know if it’s gonna get unloaded quickly… or take longer than expected!… and there’s always another tug boat coming up the river with an emotional barge in tow.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Kateri’s plants… I still view them as her’s and not mine. Broadly speaking, they provide me with a living connection to her that I need to pay attention to, take care of, and keep alive… which provides me with a sense of accomplishment along with being surrounded by other living things.
I grabbed a coat from a closet and saw Kateri’s mustard yellow and redish coat. I haven’t gotten rid of or packed her coats away, so they have just been hanging in the spare rooms. This specific coat always made me think of how un-Kateri it was. It was kinda new, kinda stylish, kinda modern. Kateri was most comfy in well worn clothes and flannels, but she also really liked getting dressed up… it made her feel good… and she always looked good no matter what she was wearing!
My guitar has provided me with an escape from the crushing onslaught of emotions, thoughts, and memories the death of Kateri brought into my life. It provides me relief. When she first died and I realized I was playing almost every day… I bought myself a new guitar… a new sound. It provided me change, but with the comfort of familiarity. This year, I thought I would take advantage of my solitude and buy myself an amplifier because of the whole “I’m not gonna bother anyone”… and plus I needed a little personal growth with my hobby. I wanted a few more options with how my “Escape Time” sounded as I searched for relief from the swirling thoughts… and it has been working. Like everything else in this new life, I try to fill time and space with people and experiences that make me feel good… with the hope of dampening down all the crap. Unfortunately… the crap is always there. But fortunately… I can sometimes swap it out for a few moments of “The Good” in the world through walks in the woods with neighbors, conversations on the couch, Stewart’s Orange Soda, Ben and Jerry’s… or simply the strumming of strings.
The cold toilet seat-I took a crap the other morning in the downstairs bathroom and the toilet seat (and bathroom) was a tit bit nipply… almost to the point of invigorating. As I sat there, it made me think about how we put the portable radiator in there when Kateri was sick so that it would keep the space… and toilet seat… warm, since she spent most of her time downstairs next to the wood stove when cancer first appeared… and we were remodeling the upstairs bathroom. (the bathroom in which she put the first hole in the wall… but never saw it finished… or took a bath in her tub surrounded by subway tile.)
I’ve been falling asleep to music lately… Tom Waits. I haven’t been able to listen to the Allison Kraus/Robert Plant album… we would fall asleep to that album or Neil Young’s Harvest Moon quite a bit. I just can’t do it… it feels too weird. It’s weird enough that the music emits from the little JBL speaker I had bought for Kateri when she was in the hospital so that she could listen to the Dali Lama chanting as she tried to relax and rest.
Squishy… I sleep with Squishy every night. Squishy was one of Kateri’s pillows. She called it Squishy because it was… Squishy. I still only use the pillow case with the three flowers on the front for it… any other pillow case just doesn’t seem to be the right fit. I still use my pillow… Squishy just happens to be crammed under or behind it, as well.
Food storage containers-Kateri bought us a bunch of food storage containers for our first Christmas in our first “Home”… the Schoolhouse. Every time I open the bottom drawer and grab one to put half an onion in, or maybe some leftover roasted root vegetables, it makes me think of that Christmas… and her. .
I was so proud of myself for getting the studded snow tires on the Jeep before the first snow flew. Then I drove over a screw and had to use my un-studded full size spare for 4 days… and it snowed. Luckily, I only had to buy one new tire and not four.
Kateri bought these current snow tires… our first ones studded… which is one of those weird memory type things. She bought them almost two years ago and I remember she had a doctor’s appointment the same day because of the headaches she was having… which turned out to actually be tumors. It’s a hard memory for me because I remember not being very sympathetic to her headache. It was before we knew what was going on and I thought it was just a headache that would go away in time… but it never did… and I’m reminded of that morning by stupid studded snow tires… two years later. (I’ve written this down before and I just find it interesting how it’s one of those recurring memories that is time specific. I wonder if this memory is gonna visit me every year when the weather changes and the people start freaking out with the first forecast snow. I swear… people lose their minds!)
I hope you have a wonderful Sunday… and thanks for stopping by!
ps… I thought it would be cool to post this blog at 12:34… but then I had to tend to the fire and missed it!
I established a draft! Yup… it’s pretty exciting! Not like a draft in the writing sense of the word… with my new woodstove and chimney. If you don’t know what I’m talking about… you’re missing out on one of the best things about cold weather… a hot spot to stand next to! It’s been kind of a fun challenge dialing in the new stove, but also kinda frustrating when I can’t get it to burn as efficiently as it should. Plus, when it’s 26 degrees out, like this morning… I wanna be all toasty and warm!
This morning, after I woke up on the couch at 4:37am (next to a pile of empty KitKat and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup wrappers)… and then woke up in bed at 7:42am… I went down to get the fire going for the day. I had planned on spending today doing home chores and getting to know the knew stove since we are in a “cooling trend” right now. You know, do some shit outside… clean and organize the garage, take down window boxes, try to leaf blow the leaves from my yard to the empty land across the road without “Sunday Traffic” seeing me!… while periodically coming in to stoke the fire to keep The Schoolhouse nice and warm. It’s the first day in a bit that I would have this opportunity so I thought I would just go with it, go slow, relax, and enjoy the Sunday Morning doing a few things that would make me happy… like drinking coffee in bed as I hear the tick of cast iron warming my home.
I’m excited to spend some time outside, too. It’ll feel good to get the yard buttoned up for winter. By next Friday, the temps are gonna start dipping into the teens, so I also feel like time is running out to take care of some of these things before the snow flies! It doesn’t hurt that it feels good to look at it once it’s all cleaned up… instant gratification! Accomplishment… I guess. And it’s always refreshing to be out in the fresh, cool air… with chickens.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
My Brother-in-law called last night. We spoke for almost 2 hours. It was fantastic. One of the weird things for me is how with Kateri not being here, neither are her family members as much… physically/phone calls/or texts. She was one of 8 kids… and she was like Switzerland. There was always someone calling, visiting, living with us from time to time, helping us, us helping them, etc., etc…. and now… not. I understand it’s just a normal part of this experience and something I will get used to… but it’s weird… and I miss them.
I took my wedding ring off last night when I took a shower. It felt strange. The other strange part was I kept forgetting to put it back on… for like 8 minutes. I had put it on my dresser, but it wasn’t until I got downstairs and had gone to adjust it with my thumb and noticed it wasn’t there! I went upstairs and put it back on.
I’m getting my license renewed tomorrow. It’s been making me think about Kateri a lot. She got her license renewed maybe a month or so before she died. I had to work, but she was with the perfect person to take her… someone she loved… a lot. The story is entertaining… if you knew Kateri… and the story. It’s a good memory for me from a time that sucked balls.
Although the memory puts a smile on my face… the Crocodile Tears are currently commencing. (a good time to check the status of the stove!.. and get more coffee!)
I’ve decided to start going through the house this winter and taking stock. I haven’t done anything yet… because it’s filled with 20… 43 years of my life and I can’t just approach it as “old life/new life” type stuff, but I do wanna take some more steps to sorta start putting my life together. Create my space… starting with our stuff… because I like our stuff!… (yup… stuff).
Ummm, that’s about alls I gots. I mean, I there’s more… but now I do feel like I need to get motivated and get outside!… and I’ve drank 3/4’s of a pot of coffee so sitting here is starting to become a challenge! I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday… and it’s filled with things that make you feel good!
Sometimes… I feel like I’m chasing a sun that has already set. Sometimes… I just wanna stop, sit, and wait for it to come back around… but I’m forced to keep moving through the darkness. (Don’t worry, I’ve got a headlamp… the batteries just might happen to be a bit weak right now!)
It was the Halloween of… ummm… 2003 maybe..? Could’ve been 2004 or 5. Well, up to 2007… but one of those years. I know we were living in South Starksboro in our cute little cottage with a loft and a woodstove… it was pretty cool. (Our first stand alone home together… rented from a couple who became very special to both Kateri and I… and who still are. It’s weird to think back at those memories right now. I wish I could get everything that is bombarding my brain right now down on paper… but I can’t… and I’m trying to get to what it is that I wanted to write about! But now… I’m thinking about how Kateri called our back yard the Dagobah System. You know?!… Yoda n shit… and it kinda was.) Anyways, I know it was within that range because on one Halloween we used the tiny bedroom downstairs and the loft you couldn’t stand up in… where we slept… up the ladder… as the places to “design” and make our costumes for the evening. We weren’t going out. We weren’t having a party. Well, I guess we never really had parties… but the point is, we were just gonna be hanging out at home that night and Kateri had a knack for coming up with some fun things to do.
I don’t quite remember much of the evening or exactly what time it was or anything… it was dark… and I was probably drunk, but we gave ourselves “x” amount of time to get into costume and to see what each other came up with! It was fun!… and funny!… and somewhat disturbing! I had made a pillow case into a huge face, tucked it into jeans that were halfway down my thighs…ish, and might’ve made arms… but I’m not sure about that! I do know that my own arms were crossed above my head with my elbows pressed into the corners of the pillow case to keep the face… well… a face. I had seen it in elementary school at an assembly or something and figured… we’ve got pillow cases!… pants!… and markers! I could pull it off pretty easily and it would be kinda silly! Kateri almost died laughing as I… or Big Head Person… ran around 450 square feet while throwing in some dancing and jumping. Yup… it was fun.
But it was Kateri’s costume that got me thinking about that particular Halloween this evening. I don’t even really remember her whole outfit… there was a lot of black. What I remember is her face. It… was… FREAKY! Definitely creepy! A little shocking… and somewhat… interesting. She had done the Scotch Tape thing all over her face making her skin look almost sorta burnt… old and wrinklyish… just simply all fucked up! We couldn’t get over how weird it looked! It almost freaked us out!… but mostly we couldn’t stop laughing and talking about how gross it was! And her nose! Oh my gosh… I almost forgot about the pig nose! Wow… I’m glad I haven’t forgotten about that! Actually, I’m glad I remembered that Halloween… this Halloween. I wasn’t expecting that!
For me, it was fun being surprised. Kateri showed and taught me sooooo many things in my life. Some of those things were personally life changing… they played their part in making me into who I am today. But it’s the normal everyday experiences that carry the most weight. I was always amazed by how seemingly easy she could provide joy to someone else. It wasn’t effortless… but it was simply who she was.
The memory that began this whole thought train was Kateri making Halloween decorations with nieces and nephews… and then me wondering if I wanted to pull out those decorations tonight because we still have them… but I’m not gonna. I just like that I have these memories… my memories… of Kateri being Kateri… and her saying, “Bloody Bloody Fangs!” on Halloween.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Now I’m gonna eat and try to watch a scary movie. We’ll see how that goes. I’ve already been asked if I’ve seen the ghosts of dead children in the schoolhouse… I haven’t… and hope I don’t! (And I don’t think I’ll watch a movie with creepy children.)
Yes, I bought Halloween Candy. No, I won’t have a single Trick or Treater.
I always think of my mom on Halloween and her giving treats (candy) to hundreds of little humans who knock on the door. I like how there is generally a run to the store by my father for more supplies, but it always gets to the point of the lights being turned off, the shades being drawn, and hiding from the masses commences on the couch… maybe with the TV on… quietly.
Happy Halloween people! Hope you have a good one whatever you do!
It’s been a year and a half since Kateri passed away… that just seems all sorts of fucked up to me. It’s weird because at some points it seems like it has been that long (whatever that means)… and at other times it seems like yesterday. Actually, anytime I think about Kateri it seems like yesterday… which is hard… and the main reason why I have to try and manage my emotions much of the time. I can function in society without breaking down in the grocery store or coffee shop… but I still don’t care if I do. Although I haven’t become comfortable living my life without Kateri (I just want her back)… I have become more comfortable with my situation… and all the bullshit that comes along with it. Mourning the loss of a spouse is one of those “Big Life” experiences that happens to be somewhat complicated and I realize I am just settling into this whole grieving process… because it’s gonna be around for a while! Oh, it’s gonna change here and there… maybe it’ll even take a break once in a while… but it’s not going anywhere. I’m just learning to live with it.
Eighteen months. I don’t even really know what to say… which may come as a surprise to some people who know me!… but there is just so much involved it’s hard for me to corral all my thoughts on the subject! Soooooo, I decided to revert back to a list of thoughts that have popped in the noggin of this widower as I remember the last year and a half without the person who I expected to live the rest of my life with… my wife… my Kateri.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I haven’t redecorated or changed much in the house because I realized… it’s my house… and I like how Kateri and I have filled it with things from our life together. Just because she’s gone doesn’t mean I’m starting from scratch. Yes, it’s hard to be surrounded by 20 years of life together… the relentless reminders… but it’s still 20 years of my life.
I’m writing this in “Kateri’s Chair”. She spent a lot of “Cancer Time” in this chair… I don’t sit in it much anymore.
The last movie I went to was Star Wars Something (I think The Last Jedi..?)… on Christmas of 2017. It was in Idaho… Kateri was in Vermont… and it was 6 days after we found out she had melanoma in her brain.
Kateri’s and my first piece of furniture… a stool we bought in 2001 from a store called FolkHeart in Bristol when we were living in a studio above a garage… attached to a big ass empty house in Monkton… is starting to unravel.
A positive in this shitty experience… I.. love… to… hit… SNOOZE! Really, I do… I’ve mentioned it before. It simply was not an option with Kateri… mostly if I had to get up before her. She was not a morning person! I mean, she liked the morning time once she got up, but she wasn’t getting up until the last possible minute. Of course, it was also because she had never been a good sleeper… and now I’m thinking about how I miss hearing her sleep……… fuck.
I bought an amp for my guitar yesterday… it makes me happy. That’s about all on that…. I just needed to get back to a happier place!
The constant feeling of being behind gets old… that probably sounds obvious.
In the 18 months since Kateri died I’ve basically gone from crushing pain in the beginning… to just a dull, foggy, muted existence most of the time. I wanna say that that sounds worse than it is… but it’s pretty accurate. Yup, still have times of fun n shit, but losing Kateri….
I totally need to go through my freezer… and cupboards… and chest freezer… yum.
My house was 68 degrees this morning! (that’s a good thing)
I’m pretty happy with the new stove and it feels good knowing Kateri would be happy with it, as well. Now… all I need to do is take 2″ off of three and a half cords of wood. Helloooo CHOP SAW!! (ya, ya… “miter saw”… but “CHOP” is more fun)
The things I’ve used to help me get through… to provide comfort… the things I’ve come to rely on are my friends and family, my job/profession/and co-workers, music, and my home. It’s mostly been the schoolhouse as of late… it’s just cozy.
I still wear my wedding ring. Will probably test the waters of taking it off soon… but I’ve been saying that for a while now! Sheesh, it’s odd just thinking about not having the weight on that hand!… and I play with it a lot!
So I just wrote how I play with it a lot… (never mind the sexual innuendoes some childish people may be snickering about)… and then I looked at my ring. I felt it, spun it around my finger, moved it up past the first knuckle as I always do (just because it feels good to let the skin beneath feel some air), and thought about everything that went into our wedding rings… what they are. Our wedding rings have significance, meaning…. weight. Although I miss being able to say “My wife” or Kateri calling me “Her husband”… I’m glad we played the parts the way we did… it makes me feel good.
Simply… which, come to find out isn’t so simple… I’m sometimes just tired of being a “widower” and dealing with everything that comes along with it. At 18 months… a year and a half without my wife… I feel I’m doing… ok. Sometimes I think about all of the things I should or want to do… and then literally say to myself, “Just get through today.” I actually said that at the grocery store this evening, which is why I’m writing it down now! Sometimes, that’s good enough for me. At other times, I guess I get tired of “just getting through the day”… and it’s a good kick in the butt to get something done… like making logs two inches shorter!
Just to put it out there… I think at 18 months I’m gonna start writing about some of the more uplifting and fun things happening in my life in between the piles of poop. I mean, it’s about balance right…?! (yes, I feel as though the one big pile of poop has been divided up into smaller piles of poop… but they’re all still poop.)
ps… it wasn’t the end because I wanted to say that I hope you all have a nice evening. Maybe get a fire going, eat a chicken pot pie, throw in a movie, relax a bit in comfy clothes and realize that there are quite a few pretty darn good things in this world. Ummm… unless you don’t have any of those options… then, I guess you’re on your own… but I hope you still have a nice evening with the pretty darn good things in your world!
So yeah, I’m just gonna say it… my body hurts!… but all my winter wood is neatly stacked and tucked away in the lean-to keeping it safe from the rain… and snow… and out of site! I’ve been looking at the piles on the other side of the driveway for about two months now. I was just never motivated enough or had the time to stack it, so I made it The Agenda for this weekend. My plan was to get out there just after the sun came up and have it done by early afternoon, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. However, I’m happy with how the day went… besides being reminded that I’m getting older and that I haven’t taken care of my body in the last year and a half or so! Oh well, that’s why I did it yesterday… so that I could recover today.
Generally, I love stacking wood. It feels good being outside and doing something that helps prepare for the quickly approaching winter. I love that it warms you twice!… or three times… or four… depending on how many times you need to move it. I love that it is such an ingrained part of life here in rural Vermont. I love that people have their Wood Guys and that there is always someone looking for a Wood Guy 3 months too late! I love shooting the shit with my guy in my driveway while we sum up a year’s worth of experience in half an hour. I love that I simply tape an envelope with cash in it to the top of the chest freezer in the garage and when I notice it’s gone… my wood is paid for. Yup… the Vermont invoice! I love the memories of friends and family helping with the stacking over the years, in all the different places Kateri and I had lived… and I’ve gotten satisfaction when I’ve done it by myself. This year was a little different, though.
My idea was to stack this year’s delivery by myself since I never really asked for help or got my shit together enough to plan it out. Last year I stacked it all by myself… on one of the hottest days of the summer… because I felt I needed to prove something to myself… that I could be self sufficient. I had just learned that life can take things away pretty quickly and I was freaking out about not knowing if I would be able to stay on top of everything, so I just tried to do everything on my own. Not to mention, it always feels like you are working harder when you sweat and when you stack two cord of wood on a 97 degree Vermont summer day… well… you sweat! This year, although the wood was dropped in August, I’m glad I waited till October when it’s a tad bit cooler!
My approach to the stacking of the wood was a little different this year, as well. Almost 18 months into this new life puts me in a different space than I was last year. There has been a shift in some of the things in my life… how I view things. Although I love stacking wood and everything that I attach to it, this year it just felt more like a chore… something else that I simply have to do. It felt good to be outside and doing something that will prepare me for the future, but there wasn’t really any excitement behind it except to get the job done so that I could move on to the next project on the list. You would think after almost 18 months that I would be more on top of everything, but the onslaught of widowerhood wears you down over time and quite frankly, going from a household of two to a household of one is a lot to take on! Attach the emotional/psychological reminders you are surrounded by everyday… even more fun! But, everything still needs to get done… so I keep doing it.
Yesterday, even though I felt like the stacking of the wood was more of a chore… it turned out to be a much better day than expected. This is where I feel the need to fill you in that I did not stack ALL the wood by myself. About two thirds of the way through my neighbor Bobbi pulled up to the mailboxes to see if her tax bill had come yet and after sitting on a rock… her still in her car… and shooting the shit for a few minutes I asked if she wanted to some up to the porch and catch up. So we did! It was nice. We hadn’t seen each other in months… and she’s always entertaining! After about an hour she said she needed to go because of a FaceTime date with her kid or something, but said she would be back to help! I told her she didn’t need to, but I would take the help if I was still stacking when she was done. It wasn’t a half an hour until she came back… ready to stack some wood… thin black leather driving gloves in hand (I mentioned she’s entertaining)! It was wonderful.
For me, it was a nice surprise to end the day hanging with someone… a neighbor… when I thought I would be spending the day alone. Yes, I took more breaks as we stacked the last quarter of the pile (Bobbi happens to be in her sixties… I think), but the conversations, laughing, and reminiscing was worth the slower pace. I guess that’s one of those “sometimes it’s good to smell the roses” type things. It simply felt nice to sit on the plastic Adirondack chairs that my father had bought when they came for Kateri’s Kick-Ass Party last year, waving to cars and trucks as they drove by, and to thank a friend for taking the time to lend a hand. It was a perfect end to the day. Plus, the sun was going down at that point so I’m glad we finished it by the time the day ended! And although it felt sorta like a chore… it definitely feels good to know that my wood is stacked and I’ll be warm this winter.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
It was also nice seeing a co-worker and friend drive by my house in his little red Mazda Miata with his wife as they were out for an Autumn Sunday drive. Yup, there was a honk… a wave… and he kept driving!
It’s always fun to try an figure out how many wheelbarrow loads you have left when the pile starts to get to the end!… Bobbi and I where way off.
I understand that it’s all part of my life… but I’ve really had to separate work life/life with Kateri/life without Kateri just to keep my head on my shoulders. It’s all sorta mingling together, but each needs their own times of attention here and there. That whole “Balance” thing can be a challenge sometimes.
Luckily, I only saw one 8 legged demon while stacking the wood… and spent the entire time freaking out about the possibility of one attacking me while I hurled logs into the wheelbarrow!
A hot tub would be nice right now… I could dig it.
ps… to let you know… it makes me feel good when people follow the blog… just sayin’.
One hard thing I’m realizing is the fact that when you are in a relationship that spans a considerable amount of time… 20ish years for me… it is natural to go through those intense, passionate times along with those times where you are just good with life and kinda plugging along. I loved our life together. I loved the exciting and adventurous times. But I really loved the plain ol’ day to day. It was comfortable… it felt good. Kateri and I spent pretty much all of our time together and some of those times we would just be doing our own individual thing. And… we got older. Out priorities… changed. We slowed down a bit as we were settling into the rest of our lives. Even though I believe Kateri was happy with her life and with me… I know… KNOW… that Kateri wanted more excitement in her life… more adventures… more passion!… and I was happy with how things were. As a widower you can take that type of reflection and put the information to use by living every day like it’s the last!… or some other homogenized cliché saying… and I do most the time. But tonight… reflecting on life also showed me that I do… in fact… have regrets.
(Just to put it out there… I still haven’t experienced that “Anger” at the situation feeling, yet… I just REALLY like to swear.)
Ok. So all I really wanted to say is that… for me… 536 days into this experience is about the time that I needed to make the decision to start looking at the future a tiny bit more. I’m tired of the “routine”. Yes, there are things I have been doing that provide me joy (guitar, sitting by the fire or on the porch, eating cake pops, etc.), but those things are literally to get through the day. Losing a spouse is crushing… in every aspect of your life… at least it has been for me. We do things… anything… to just… not… hurt. (To give you a glimpse into the emotional state of this widower… I saw Kateri’s name in a sentence I wrote… and now I’m a wreck. I love her name… how it looks… everything that fills those letters and the spaces in between. That it was who she was.) But getting back to the point… I’m ready for change. I feel the need to make some small changes… and I’m ready for some big ones, as well. (ummm, FYI… not toooo big of changes… or too many!… or ones on a whim! Even though whims make for good adventures). I just feel the need to take a step back, take a moment, and move forward with a bit more focus on having my happiness and well being in mind going into the future.
Basically, I’ve had a few challenges pop up on a few different fronts and I’m just gonna make the effort to control the things I can control, not worry about the things I can’t, and start asking myself… me… what it is I want my life to look like. I may have said all this before (sorry, I still haven’t re-read most of my posts), but I don’t think I can tell myself too many times to focus on being happy!… so that’s what I’m gonna do. Yup. The End.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
People go away. Some just because it’s part of the experience. Others… just because. But it’s interesting that the “lonely” factor, feeling, and level hasn’t really changed. It hasn’t gotten better or worse… just still kinda there. People aren’t gonna help with taking away that loneliness because that loneliness is… the loss of Kateri. I expect it will get better in time, but it has definitely held on… and it’s tiring.
I love fall. The smell of the wet leaves. The colors. The hoodies and heavier comfy clothes. I also can’t wait to be able to say that it is now “Fell”… or “Stick Season”… it reminds me of Kateri.
536 Days… the phone is still in Kateri’s name!
I met some more neighbors! Sat on their porch and chewed the fat for a bit! A friend and I were going on a walk, and a wave turned into a talk. The friend I was with was female… (ummm, and she still is)… so when R. asked if we were The Schoolhouse people it made for an interesting introduction when I had to explain that the schoolhouse was mine and my wife’s first home… that my friend is not my wife and that I live alone… because my wife died from cancer. Fun!
Just part of the life of a widower!
And it was actually a wonderful 45ish minute visit!
Yes, I got a new woodstove! Yes… I love it! (yes… I have 3 and a half cords of 14-16 inch logs… and it only takes 14″. Again… fun)
I’m just gonna preface this with my Wedding Anniversary was actually yesterday, I’ve been horrible at planning things lately, and at 10:08 in the morning… I’m still in the same comfy clothes as last night because I fell asleep on the couch! (I like to think of it as me being efficient… this way I don’t have to get undressed just to put them back on for a Sunday morning!) Long story short… well, abbreviated… this is what I did.
When I woke up, I really had no plan. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to spend the day. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to honor the date. I didn’t know how I wanted to remember the happiest day of my life in a time where the crap in life seems to overshadow and push down those good memories. I was hoping to wake up and be flooded with all the wonderful images of friends, family, and Kateri on our wedding day… but for now I guess these types of dates are just gonna remind me of how wonderful things were… of the unexplainable joy that filled my life. They remind me of what we had… what I had in my life… and what life did to my sweet sweet Kateri.
I had thought about hitting George’s in Gloucester and maybe spreading some of Kateri’s ashes in the ocean. Or maybe spending a night in Lake Placid where Kateri and I would spend a weekend if we needed outta Dodge. Once, we kinda just wanted to get out for a weekend… but also needed to do laundry! Kateri simply found a hotel with laundry services… we loaded up our dirty clothes… and spent the evening getting room service while waltzing down the hall every so often to switch it over, throw in another load, and spend another small fortune because we were doing laundry in a hotel! Oh well… it was fun… and that’s not what I did yesterday.
We got married at a place called Camp Common Ground in Vermont. It’s not toooo far away from where I live and for some reason I thought it would be nice just to go back, walk around, and remember what it was like on September 28, 2011. It was early enough that I also thought I could cruise up there and be back in time to chill at home for a bit, too! So I headed out.
It was a beautiful drive… cloudy… cool. I took the dirt roads for the first bit and just got in the right frame of mind. When I hit Montpelier I thought, “I should probably eat breakfast…?!” and then Penny Cluse in Burlington instantly came to mind… because I love it there. As I got a little further down the road, another thought popped into my head that put a smile on my face… we cooked a majority of the food for our wedding in the Penny Cluse kitchen!… how fitting that I would be eating there!… today! It’s that whole attachment to experiences thing that I seem to keep trying to do, but it worked for this! So I got to Burlington, ate my Mama Cruz’s Huevos Rancheros, caught up with a couple of people, gave and got a hug from Charles, and moved on to the next phase of the journey.
It was nice driving south from B-Town. I hadn’t driven that route for quite a while and it was interesting to see the changes… the growth. It was while I was taking in all this change that another thought popped into my head. I realized that I was going to Camp Common Ground because of the memories and experience of getting married there. Well, yesterday was a Saturday… and even though we got married on a Wednesday, most people get married on Saturdays… so the thought was, “I wonder if there is gonna be a wedding going on when I pull up?!”… there was. At least, that’s what I’m assuming… because there were people milling about as if they were getting ready for a wedding!
I had prepared myself for that possibility and thought about what my reaction would be. I even thought about just sliding in and start milling about myself!… Who would know I’m not with the wedding?! But instead, I just flipped a bitch before anyone could ask me how I knew the bride and groom… or bride and bride… or groom and groom… and started the journey back home. I would have loved to have stood in the spot where Kateri and I committed our lives to each other in front of our loved ones… beneath those two majestic trees holding court over the open field we had made into our church… but I couldn’t. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I knew I had inserted any of my experience into “The Happiest Day of my Life!” experience for these strangers… for these two people who were about to embark on their own journey filled with their own ups and downs. A wedding should be pure joy. Yes, “Till Death” is sometimes inserted into the ceremony, but on your wedding day… at least on mine… it is nothing but love. It’s a celebration. It’s a time to focus on all the reasons we want to spend the rest of our lives with someone. It’s about “The Good” in life. It’s one of those days in life that you just push all the crap aside and fill the time with music, laughter, conversation, life, and love. And I don’t think there are many days like that in our lives (except for maybe the birth of a child) so I wasn’t about to be “The Ruiner” for these people!… who didn’t happen to think about my needs when they were planning their wedding!
Since plans were sorta foiled, I started the journey home with stopping by a friend’s house in the area. They weren’t home so I decided to take the scenic route home (it’s Vermont… it’s all scenic) and go over the Appalachian Gap. Luke and I would drive it every day when we worked in the Mad River Valley and the view from the top is wonderfully convenient.
Driving south, I thought about food again and decided to take myself out to a nice “Anniversary Dinner for One” at a friend’s restaurant in my area… well, close to my area. Again… it was wonderful… and kind of just what I needed. Good food, good atmosphere, good conversation, and a couple of hugs.
I wish my day yesterday was filled with nothing but the joyous and celebratory memories that our wedding provided us for years… but it wasn’t. They were there, but the pain of losing Kateri and the complicated life that that loss has created is all consuming. I guess it’s the whole, “We hurt so much because we loved so much” type shit… and I just haven’t gotten past the pain that these dates periodically insert into my new life. For now, in my new life, they are just reminders… that I don’t have Kateri by my side. The passage of time has helped with some things and I suspect it will help with this. I won’t know for another 365 days… but I look forward to seeing that day come… and to see what fills the other 364 days.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
It… fucking… hurts… today. (September 28th)
It doesn’t hurt as much today! (September 29th)
The memory of Kateri telling me, “I don’t want to die.” one day in the schoolhouse and her saying, “I love you.”… in that weak, soft but scratchy voice while in palliative care four days before she died… the last time we would say it to each other… was almost debilitating as I was driving up to Burlington.
The memory of Kateri shouting, “Just let her go!” as we would crest a hill while driving our 5 Different Shades of Orange ’72 Super Beetle through the Green Mountains of Vermont on a Sunday afternoon… well… that put a smile on my face.
So…. today happens to be the 6 Year Anniversary of employment at my job. I know, I know… doesn’t seem to be like a huge deal, but for me… it kinda is… for a few reasons. Shortly after Kateri died, I needed to put some parameters/guidelines/goals/rules on my life. The whole experience is just an onslaught of everything and I didn’t wanna just lose my shit… so I told myself I wouldn’t make any “Big Life” decisions until at least today, September 23, 2019. It seemed like a decent amount of time to at least let the dust settle… figure a few things out… learn a few things… and a point to just check in with myself. The other reason… is purely financial.
First… the financial side. I’m pretty sure that as of today, I will be fully vested as an Employee Owner of the company I work for! For my company! It’s an ESOP… Employee Stock Ownership Plan… so a few hundred and some other people can say the same thing… but whatever! (Which means, I ain’t no CEO,CFO, PPO, MTG, DRM or anything… just plain ODD) Basically, we get money when we leave the company as it buys back our stocks… or something… it’s a good retirement thing. Fully vested=I get 100% of those stocks instead of 60% or 20% n such. Plus… wait for it… I get………….. A VEST! Embroidery and all! But really… it’s about the money. Since I just lost a good chunk of my household income when Kateri died, I figured sticking around for at least 17 months seemed worth the financial return. (I’m soooo pragmatic!… and thinking of my future!). The fact that I like my job, coworkers, company, and most of the guests made the decision to use Sept. 23rd as a target date pretty simple.
Ummm… honestly… yes, getting vested is sort of a fun thing for me… but there other things I have attached to that date, as well. Like some of those “Big Life” questions that losing a spouse brings up in the widowed person’s life. The questions it has brought up for me, in my life with the loss of Kateri… are significant. Questions like:
Who do I want to be? Who am I?… me?… now that I’m by myself? (yup, still me… but it’s different)
Where do I want to be?… Vermont?, Rockies?, somewhere completely new and/or different? Travel? Stay put?
What fulfills me?
What do I enjoy?… What puts a smile on my face?
What options do I have for any given obstacle?
How will I keep my home?… Do I keep my home? (definitely yes. I’ve answered that one on multiple occasions from a couple of different angles for myself… and plus… my house is totally fucking cute)
Then… How will I make more money?… doing something I wanna do!
I’m actually willing to do things I don’t wanna do… I’m just not willing to do them right now! I’m not there yet… and I’m not gonna start there, neither!
What do I want to do professionally?… Hmmmmm. (I still enjoy what I do and take pride in my work, but 25 years is a long time to do one thing!)
Now it’s September 23 (well, the 25th really) and I am happy to inform you……… I haven’t really answered too many of those questions! But one thing I love about my life are the little things that happen to pop up at the perfect times… sometimes… like this afternoon. I stopped to get gas and as I was pulling away I noticed I hadn’t shut the cover to the fuel filler inlet (yes… I just asked the Oracle what it was called!), so I pulled into a parking space to shut it. As I got out of the car, my phone started doing it’s little shimmy and shake as a friend was giving me a call. After a couple of “Hey Bud!”s it quickly went to… “How would you like to come work for me in blah blah blah?”. Then I heard a crashing in the background… an “I gotta go!”… and we made a plan to catch up later. It was kind of an unexpected thing
I’ll let you know, we chatted for about 2 and a half hours… along with another friend of mine (who happens to be his wife)… and a majority of that was simply catching up. Yes, we spoke about the possibilities of working together again and I asked my initial questions, but there are a lot… A LOT!… more questions that need to be asked that also need to have some pretty specific answers! But that’s not what I found most exciting about this little “catch up”. For me, the fact that a really good friend of mine happened to have an idea on this day… and he decided to share his idea with me on a day in which I have put quite a bit of personal significance on… just warmed me to the bone! The timing! It’s experiences like these that make me think about how things just fall in line once in a while to make you feel good!… to put a smile on your face! I’m not saying I’m quitting my job and am just gonna thrust myself into a new kind of life quite yet, but the fact that it even came up was just… perfect. (Kind of like when Heman stopped by and introduced himself the day after Kateri passed!… wonderful experiences.)
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’m getting a new woodstove tomorrow…! I’ve been super excited about it and I’m sure I’ll share at some point, but it sorta just hit me… I have some pretty significant memories attached to this woodstove!… (like Kateri laying next to it… on a pad that a dear dear friend had made her… as she lived with cancer… the last four months of her life.)
She kept the fire going. It kept her warm. It made her feel good. She was there a lot.
Yup, totally had one of those sobbing moments with those memories tonight… and then I realized how much I’ve adapted to those things as I was crying away while getting the fire going. Still got shit to do!… wet face action or not!
There was no real need for a fire tonight except for the fact that I wanted to have one more!… for Old Times’ sake! I’m sentimental n shit.
We were talking in the kitchen the other day how we couldn’t believe September is more than halfway over! Seeing the trees already trading in their bright green leaves for the vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges of Autumn Time in New England (well, Vermont) came up a bit quicker than expected… but then again… I don’t know where the summer went… or the last 17 months.
I kinda get annoyed with how we all talk about not knowing where the time went… like we were caught off guard that time didn’t stop for us… that nature didn’t take a break. But I also think we focus on the time because we live good lives, with good people, with good experiences… and we hate that that time is limited. We find ourselves in disbelief that we didn’t take advantage of seeing this person or talking to that person… or going ziplining, parachuting, to the beach, out to a nice dinner, or to the Snoop Dogg and Friends Tour featuring Warren G as they celebrate 25 years of Doggystyle (a classic album). The missed opportunities are amplified as we attach the passage of time to them as a gauge to the success of us “taking advantage of life” or not. Ya, there are all sorts of things I wish I had done in the last 17 months… but I can’t dwell on those things too much… and I am trying to not be too hard on myself as I wrestle with figuring out this new life… in a new time.
Seventeen months. In some regards, it simply doesn’t feel like Kateri has been gone for a year and 5 months… in most regards, actually. Although I have woken up every single day without her, it feels like just yesterday I was able to feel her skin, her hair, her love… without having to remember it.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
One pot/pan dinners… that’s usually my goal… if I’m not eating Gas Station Chinese food or pizza. I’m trying to eat better, but I’m also just kinda over doing dishes.
50 Followers!… (I think that’s WordPress..?) and it only took a year!…ish… might’ve been a bit longer… but 50!
I’m getting a new wood stove on Thursday. It’s the first “major” purchase for the house without Kateri here and although I’m excited about it… it feels kinda strange. I decided on a Vermont Castings because of sentimental reasons… and I think Kateri would be proud of my decision.
Side note… it’s always fun (sarcasm) when you think about new woodstoves and it reminds you of your wife laying next to the old woodstove on a cold winter day… on a pad that a friend made… knowing she has cancer… and knowing it’s not good.
I have now heard the terms “Axeless Mountain Dwarf” AND “Hermit” to describe me or my tendencies… and I’m ok with that.
I’ll make this short n sweet since I had no plans on opening up the computer in bed when I woke up this morning! It was a Facebook post that sorta hit me… and I subsequently sorta lost it. It was from my sister and she was talking about how you don’t just marry your spouse… you become part of a family. She posted this because my brother-in-law’s mother passed away… her mother-in-law… and it just made me think about how death touches us all the time… from all sorts of different angles.
I know my sister is hurting from the loss, but she wasn’t who I focused on at first. My heart sank for my brother-in-law… because he just lost his mom. There was a flood of emotions as I read her post, but it was the thought (and my own made up image) of my sister holding her husband… consoling him… loving him… and showing him that she loves him that hit me. Her being there for him. Her being his wife. And him being a husband who is needing to look to his wife for strength, love, and support.
I love my brother-in-law. He is a good man. A strong man. A good father. A good husband. A good person… a friend. He is family… and he just lost his mom. I’m glad he has my sister to be there for him… she’s one tough cookie. Oh, I’m sure she’ll have her moments of weakness and he’ll need to be there for her, as well, but she’ll be ok. They are both pretty amazing people, a pretty amazing team… with an impressively resilient family.
One part of relationships is being there for each other in all sorts of situations. It can get messy and confusing like having to be there for your wife even though it’s your mother that passed away… but death affects everyone involved… and we all deal with it differently.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
T—-I’m so sorry you won’t be able to hold your mother anymore or call her up or hear her voice in the other room. I’m sorry that you have to feel this loss. I’m sorry that it hurts. I’m glad that you have my sister by your side and family to help ease the pain. I love you. I wish I could be there and give you a hug. I wish I could be there for you… for my brother.
I still love the memory of when in my senior year of high school you let me borrow your jacked up Nissan for a graduation event/party and at one point the grill went flying into the front yard when we couldn’t get the light fixed or something! (don’t actually remember what the issue was, but it was exciting!)
Death is complicated. Death and how it affects family and friends is complicated. Death and how it affects relationships is complicated. There’s so much that goes into the experience of death that the best description I have been able to come up with is… it’s complicated. Well, traumatic… and complicated.
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I didn’t actually realize it was the anniversary of me deciding not to drink until it popped up as a “Memory” on my Facebook. When I saw that in the past I had posted “11 years” and “8 years”… I figured today is probably the day I quit drinking!… 13 years ago.
The morning actually started off pretty darn nice. It was a good morning…. not even knowing it was the anniversary of a pretty big thing in my life. For the record, I don’t exactly pay attention to how long I haven’t drank alcohol… I just don’t drink anymore… it’s been a reality and no big deal to me for quite a while now. But…. that doesn’t mean I don’t think about the decision I made… about drinking… because I do… quite a bit. Mostly though, I draw upon my decision to cut the ol’ sauce out for strength. Ya, at first it was pretty hard… but then it was just a part of who I was… and who I wanted to be. I like me better not drinking. To be up front, I quit drinking because it was either one or the other… beer (or whisky… or Jägermeister… or Bloodies if it was before noon)… or Kateri. I’m sorry to everyone who struggles with it… but the choice was simple for me. I never “fell off the wagon”… never went on a bender… never went in and out of rehab or AA… but I also never really had any reason to question my decision. Every single day since September 9th, 2006 I had a reason to make better decisions. I had a reminder next to me every morning I woke up… and every time I heard that laugh. I had that reminder… I had Kateri… until 7:24pm on April 22, 2018… and I still haven’t had a sip. I feel good about that. I know my life is better because of it. And yesterday I used that accomplishment to feel good about myself… to feel strong and secure about decisions I’ve made… because it was a moment when I needed to.
I was gonna go into the whole timeline of my feelings, emotions, and events of yesterday morning… but I’ve decided I wanna eat leftover pizza, a piece of poundcake, and watch the Denzel movie that Netflix sent me instead of rehashing it. The morning basically went: good… shitty… better, with a jolt of positivity. I will tell you… seeing that “memory” pop up… well, it came at the right time! Again, not getting into it, but it was weird experiencing something that I had seen over and over again on the online support group I’m a part of and thinking how I never thought I would experience it!… but I did. It was kinda sucky. It hurt. It was unexpected. Somewhat understandable… but unexpected. Then… on an iPhone 8… life reminded me of thirteen years dry… and the morning got a little bit better.
The only time I have been sailing. It was fun… but freaky… Especially when I couldn’t see land! (glad we had beer at that point!)
Yup, I 100%… 96%… 89% believe I could have a drink and not watch my life spin out of control, but I just don’t feel like risking it. I always told Kateri I was gonna start back up when I retire so that I could sit on our porch in my rocking chair with my dog, my shotgun, and my whisky. (I know… how many times have you heard that?! I think that’s a lot of guys’ idea of retirement!) I don’t have any idea if any of that will actually happen… or if that’s even how I envision “retirement” these days. I don’t really think about that far off anymore. Those thoughts and stipulations were when there were two rocking chairs on the porch… and one was Kateri’s.
(wow… that was sort of a sad thing to end on… but I don’t really have anything else to say! And… I gotta get to Denzel!)
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I got four pieces of mail today. Two for Kateri, one for Gordon (original owner) or current resident, and one for me… Denzel (I’ve mentioned him). Just kinda funny… I’m the only one who lives here… but gets 25% of the mail!
Just food for thought about the strength and pull of the drink… I broke both my legs (femur in half/compounded tibia and fibula) when I ran into a mountain after a night of drinking in town, flipped end over end a couple of times, and did this to my Jeep.
Broke both my legs. I know, I know… impressive and looks fun!… but I don’t recommend it.
That was 7 years before I quit. (I will say being young and stoopid didn’t help!) I actually have another picture of it with my mom holding a togo coffee cup in the background with her arms folded and head slightly tilted down. My mother and father were on their way to the hospital in Wyoming from Idaho and the wreckage was on the way. I keep that image to myself… but you can just think of your mom (or anyone you love) in her place if you are on the fence about some of the choices you’re making with drinking. Ya… don’t put them through it.
I’ve been kinda freaking out about losing pictures and videos… memories… as the time keeps piling up so I started going through them in an attempt to organize them… it’s a slow process. I realized we all get a YouTube account with our google account so I figured I would at least throw the videos I have hanging out on my phone on there so that they are consolidated, I could expand the sharing of this experience, and I could learn a bit more about this technology stuff. Again… slow process.
This morning I had planned on looking at what I’m doing here… Thirty Days of Mo(u)rning… and begin the process of narrowing my focus since I feel I’m doing this sorta half hazardly… I’m all over the place! Well… I’m still gonna be all over the place for at least another day or two… or more. I got sidetracked… by those memories I’m trying not to lose.
Long story short… I came across this video that Kateri had taken on the morning of her first immunotherapy treatment. It was an early appointment so we were there before the masses of sick people and their loved ones started inundating the hospital. The pianos are generally locked… I’m assuming so people like me don’t just start banging on the keys… but this one wasn’t locked on this particular morning…. opportunity.
Now, if you watch the video you’ll notice that I am not a concert pianist! Heck, this is really the only song I sorta know (and it’s only part of the song), but that wasn’t the point. As Kateri, Maria, and I walked into the hospital and I saw the piano wasn’t locked… I saw the opportunity to give Kateri something… a moment to forget exactly why we were there. I wanted to provide her with something that might just take some of the worry away… even for just a moment.
I’ve gotta say… watching this video brought me back to that morning. It was strange to remember that moment so vividly. It was hard to deal with the emotions that came rushing in… ones which have stuck with me throughout today’s morning. I miss my wife. I miss being with her in the good times… and to be there for her during the hard times. And currently… I miss her being there for me. I miss her being here. I miss Kateri.
Ya… so… yesterday I wondered what it would be like to read one of my blog posts and record it. Well, the reading of it was emotional… and the process of trying to record myself (and then watching it)… was interesting. Long story short, on the drive home tonight I was thinking about it being Widower Day 500 today… good, solid number… and just thought I would share something with the widows and widowers out there. (ummm… you can watch this even if you haven’t lost a spouse… it’s ok. Just to forewarn ya, though… it’s eight minutes long) There’s no real significance to the number 500 for me… but for some reason… seems like there should be!
Sooooo, this is me reading my “Random Widower Thoughts” page… n stuff.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Honestly, I kinda enjoyed Widower Day 500… it was kinda funny. (you should’ve seen my “recording” set up!… entertaining sight I’m sure!)
I’d just like to say that I still wish I lived back in the old timey days before all this technology… like the 1800’s… minus all the bad stuff.
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.