It was quite the beautiful view outside the airplane window yesterday morning. Amanda and I were flying home after spending the last five days in her old stomping grounds to celebrate her parent’s 50th Wedding Anniversary (Woohoo!… 50!… that’s pretty cool!… but I’ll get more into that). After spending the night trying to get comfy in the one square foot that airlines give you these days, the warmth of that sunrise was the perfect way to be welcomed home to the East Coast. Unfortunately, there was still another flight… and then an hour and a half drive back to The Schoolhouse before the traveling was done, but that sunrise was a nice way to start the day… which hadn’t really ended from the day before.
We got home late morning so I took advantage of the time, unpacked, and did laundry so that I could start the work week feeling settled. After being up for what we figured was around 30 hours I wasn’t exactly doing anything quickly, but the sun was out so I felt the need to do something… and then sit… do something else… and sit again. It hit me during one of my little breaks, as I sat in Kateri’s/Xander’s Chair and thought about this trip, that I am kinda dealing with another sort of loss from my life that is simply collateral damage from the loss of Kateri. She came from a big family… she had 7 siblings… and each of them were a huge part of Kateri’s and my life. It’s sorta The Nature of the Beast, but when Kateri died the frequency of Damato Interactions went the way of the dodo simply because she isn’t here. I love my In-Laws just as much now as I did when Kateri was alive, and I know they still love me, but life has changed for all of us. As I was staring out the big ol’ Schoolhouse window decompressing in the chair, I thought about how much I miss having them in my life… because they’re pretty awesome. Being widowed is technically the loss of a spouse, but in widowhood… you learn that you lose so much more. (Ok, that’s sounds a little dramatic. Kateri’s death is the big “loss” here… everything else is really just… different.)
(I needed to eat dinner… then I ate a pint of Ben & Jerry’s… and then fell asleep on the couch. I’m back.)
The reason for this trip to Oregon was to celebrate Amanda’s parent’s 50th Wedding Anniversary. Amanda and her sister were asked to help with the party planning and to create a program (speech) which they would present to the guests. This was also quite a fairly good-sized shindig… 126 or so people!… so, we thought it would be a good idea to get there a few days early in case there were any party planning crisis..es. Amanda doesn’t get home much, so it was also a nice opportunity for her to catch up with family and a few friends. For me, I was excited to learn more about a woman who since the day I met her, I’ve just kinda wanted to know… more. I was looking forward to meeting people whom I’ve only seen in video, or heard stories about, or hadn’t met at all. I was thrilled to play my part in this little adventure… The Boyfriend!
For the most part, I just didn’t want to embarrass Amanda, disrespect anyone, or make an ass of myself…! In hindsight, I think I did ok. Also in hindsight, I don’t think I was expecting to receive as much as I did from this trip… even if no one knew they were giving me anything or I didn’t recognize it at the time. This trip allowed me to once again feel what it is like to be part of… how do I say this… someone else’s family… one that is sizeable and substantial… one that has history and stories and made up of all walks of life. I got to spend time with a family that loves one another. Yes, family is family and anyone reading this probably understands what that means (…eye roll, eyebrow raise, little head nod…) and can give examples of their own challenging experiences with Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Moms & Dads and annoying little brothers, but again… I’m The Boyfriend… just along for the ride with helping hands when needed…! I might’ve heard some tales about this person or that, but from my experience… they were all fascinating, delightful, and warmhearted people… mostly… 98.7%.
(Once again, I had to eat dinner… and then something came up… got distracted… went to bed. Now, take 3.)
People at work have asked me about the trip… How was it? How’d it go? and all that jazz… and I’ve gotta say that I’ve really enjoyed sharing some of the things I dug about our little excursion. It was nice to actually see where Amanda grew up and has spent most of her life. I think that where we live and the people who come in and out of our lives adds a uniqueness to each of our stories. The more we know, the better we can try to understand… well… “Where this person is coming from”… what makes them tick… what makes them… “them”.
Considering this being my first time visiting… and meeting a bunch of Amanda’s family, being “The Boyfriend” also afforded me the opportunity to sorta… observe… and there was something that kinda touched me on a couple of different fronts (Widowhood, Kateri, Amanda, relationships, marriage, anniversaries… love). When it comes down to it, we were there to celebrate the life of two people whose relationship as Husband and Wife started 50 years ago. As I tagged along here and there, as I hung out at their house watching and listening to 8 people simply doing what they do in a world I’ve only peeked into, I saw a beautiful thing… this thing called Love. I’m not talking the Love parents have for their children, grandchildren, or vice versa n such. And I’m not talking about the Love I saw between friends who haven’t been in the same space in way too long. No, I’m talking about the Love that has endured the ups and downs of building a life together for over half a century. It wasn’t the hundred and twenty whatever guests at the party or the beautiful slide show their Son-in-Law put together of their life that showed it to me. Nor was it the number of cards I saw in the basket congratulating them on this milestone. It actually had nothing to do with anything except for how Amanda’s parents interacted with… each other. They were comfortable together in that best friend kinda way. They were happy and excited to be sharing this experience with people in their life. They were proud. And when they danced to an audience at their 50th Wedding Anniversary, they were the perfect picture of two people who can take a moment away from the world as they get swept up in each other’s arms and in their love for one another… just the two of them… Husband & Wife.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Our life is a book in the making and the pages filled with our stories add up over the days, months, and years as we live on the perpetual last page. Last week, I enjoyed sharing the last page with Amanda, her family, and her friends as we flipped through some of her earlier works.
I’ve decided to use my sledding experience… the one last week, where my ass had an unwelcomed interaction with the stump of a tree…!… as my first piece as a Performance Artist… who takes pictures awkwardly in the bathroom using an iPhone 8, his girlfriend’s tripod, and late wife’s mirror. I call this piece……… Three Days of The Moon: Left Behind.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Sometimes life can bruise you up… sometimes pretty good. Just remember that bruises only grow for so long. At some point they plateau… stop spreading… and simply begin to change as they heal. It may take longer for them to mend than it did for the bruise to show up, but they do diminish over time… all the way to where you can’t even see them anymore. You may still feel the effects of the bruise, but at some point, you realize you’ve made it through the blunt trauma and frequent pain and are now simply living with the memory of the bruise… and hopefully you’ve learned to check for stumps…!
I knew I didn’t have the time to write about Thursday night because… well… I’ve just got a lot to do before my sister comes to visit! So, I decided to simply tell the story of when I found a snake… IN MY UPSTAIRS BATHROOM…! The video is 23 minutes. The actual ordeal took much much longer… and the trauma will last a lifetime.
A couple of notes:
My sister is still coming to visit… pretty sure.
The headlamp was for seeing into holes in walls and dark spots… where snakes can hide.
There is now more spray foam in my house… and less duct tape on the roll.
If you’re not a “successful”, white, man… Political “Christians” have been oppressing and suppressing your Human Rights since the birth of our nation. On their own… demonstrations, rallies, and social media memes don’t change laws. Your choices for change are using the current system in which we live in to organize, engage, and vote… or start a revolution.
(…I’ll take my answer off the air while watching from the cheap seats.)
I made a video so that I wouldn’t have to write anything!… but now I’m writing something because there are things I just can’t leave well enough alone…. things that nag at my brain that I feel I need to explain… for some reason. Like in the video when I say, ” I still love Kateri more than anything.”. I just need to say that widowhood is a daily conundrum… but we need to live in the present and with what we have. We can’t allow loss to cripple our future. Whether that be in our relationships with other people or in our day to day existence. We can’t allow loss to take away our lives. Otherwise, we might miss out on some wonderful opportunities and experiences.
There are a few things that I just absolutely love about living in Vermont… things that are simply a part of living in New England such as seeing steam pour out of sugar shacks in the spring or the hills turning so green throughout the summer that it makes you thirsty. The leaves changing in the fall creating a sea of reds, yellows, and everything in between. And the piles of wood you see in yards on daily commutes as you think to yourself, “They better get a stackin’ before the center of that pile rots and a plethora of woodland creatures decide to move in!”.
Kateri and I always loved having a wood stove. There’s just something to be said about having a hot spot to stand next to when it’s 17 below outside and the snow is piling up. We lived in just two places without a wood stove and I’ve gotta say… life just wasn’t the same! I mean, it was still pretty frickin’ good… just colder.
I’ve always enjoyed stacking wood… for my own place. As we like to say, “It warms you twice!”. Of course, I’ve come to the conclusion that it actually warms me like 4 times with the amount of times I move it… stack it here, then unstack and restack there, then move it inside… and then finally light that shit up and get the stove a crankin’!
When we bought our Little Red Schoolhouse, it was in the fall so one of the first things we had to do was find a few cord of wood. I was so excited because for the first time we actually had a covered spot to store it, out behind Kateri’s Potting Shed under the lean-to… and I stacked it there for a couple of years. When Kateri died and I was left here alone, I was forced to figure out how to make things a little easier on myself when it came to all sorts of things. The lean-to was great… and I loved seeing three cord neatly stacked and settled in for the winter between those red posts and under the galvanized roof, but it was also the furthest possible point away from the house that we could stack it! So last year I decided to simply make a couple of long rows above the lower rock wall since it would be much…MUCH… more accessible in case I needed to access it. (Current year’s wood is in the garage). Plus, it’s basically where my wood guy drops it so I thought it would make it easier to stack! That, coupled with the fact that I’m in a personal competition with my neighbor… who doesn’t know it, but is also my inspiration… on who can create the coolest stack of wood made me think about how I could take this “chore” and make it into something that would provide me with a little joy and give a sense of accomplishment more than just having my wood stacked. So this year I decided to add… lights!
As a widower, I thought about how could I take this event that happens every year and insert a little bit of Kateri into it. I guess you could actually say Kateri was my inspiration for the theme of this year’s stacking. She had bought a few iron balls which had little battery powered LED lights that you wrap around them to spruce up your garden/yard/home/whatever and they’ve just been hangin’ out in her shed for three years now. When I thought about my one sided competition with my neighbor… those globes came to mind. Yes, my neighbor has iron rings with flowers hangin’ in them and little whoop de doos n shit… but you can see mine IN THE DARK! Mwah ha ha!!
Yes, some may simply think of stacking wood as a chore and something that just needs to get done… which it does… but more so this year than in any years past I have found it is warming more than just my Little Red Schoolhouse. This year, every time I look at those tidy rolling rows and see the light shining out over the dirt road of Wild Hill… it warms my heart with the memory of my wife… and the life she gave me.
For being one of those people who are easily amused when strings of numbers show up… I can’t believe it wasn’t until I got home from work that I saw the date written out in an… amusing… way! Soooooo…. 4/3/21… I guess it’s starting people!… Here we go!!..!
I took this picture at work today. For some reason I just found it sort of entertaining. But I had an experience this evening that made me think of this picture… and that word… in a different way. From a different angle. From a different perspective. From the perspective of… me… and how that word pertains to my life.
I started writing this at 10:13pm… all cozied up under the first sheets I bought as a widower… with the king size duvet that Kateri stole providing weight and warmth with a perplexing amount of… poofiness. (hey kids, it’s wrong to steal… but these people were assholes… and it fits perfectly on my full size bed!) I only mention the time tonight because since Kateri died, I’ve had this thing where I simply can’t put myself to bed… like I don’t wanna miss out on living or something. The other part of that is… there is straight up just more to do when going from a household of two… to a life of one. After doing things I need to do, I always want time to “Relax”… “Zone Out”… play guitar… eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s… watch some How it’s Made or check out what Carvana is all about… you know?,… “Chill”. (By the way… buying a car online?… weird.) I usually don’t get to bed until after the One-Two… so being in bed within the 10 o’clock hour is quite the accomplishment!
Here’s the point I’m trying to get to. Patience. When Kateri died… I knew it was gonna be a life-long thing of rememberin’, feeling, learning, balancing, and… well… “surviving”. Tonight, it was a friend’s Instagram post (a picture) of two dogs walking down a bricked path, in whichever Asian country he lives in, that made me sorta realize that I have become a much more “patient” person in my widowhood. (If you saw the IG post… this would make much more sense!) For almost three years I’ve been trying to figure out how to fit it all in… how to “live”. I’ve created little routines that have helped me on the “Adulting” side of life as well as on the personal, emotional, and psychological side. I guess, in a way, they’re also helping me… cope. At the beginning of this ordeal, I had absolutely no idea how I was gonna be able to do it. But now… NOW!… I’m still not sure… but I seem to still be able to cut enough wood for the fire, keep the plants alive, do a little snowshoeing with my girlfriend, have fires at the fire pit, pay the bills, smoke a doobie… or two, AND live with the memory of how wonderful Kateri was, what I loved about her (everything), and how much I loved my life with her. At the beginning, I knew this was gonna be a life-long gig. Today… tonight… at 11:31pm, I still know it’s gonna be a life-long gig. And even though the pain is still there… and I’m still trying to fit it all in, I need to acknowledge that parts of my life have gotten… better… since Widower Day 1. Yes, it’s taken making a few mistakes and taking a step back to reassess so that I could hopefully make a couple of good decisions to maybe have a more enjoyable experience in the future…! (sheesh… long winded sentence right there!) But it’s also taken recognizing that I have a different perspective… on life… which has taken time. Some might say that it’s taken patience… and it’s clear to me… that it’s gonna take some more.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’m finding it kind of ironic that I’m really going to sleep around the same time I normally do… I just happened to be in bed a bit earlier…!
Patience… I needed to practice patience when I was replacing the little subwoofer in the back of my little Jeep because it had blown… and because I didn’t exactly know what I was doing! I was tired of hearing the buzz and rattle it would make when I put on Today’s Hits… or some smooth sounds from the 70’s…… or the intro to Morning Edition. I’ve just gotta say, when all said and done, the sense of accomplishment after practicing a bit of patience was well worth it! (…breathing exercises and weed helped, too!) By taking the time to figure it out, I have… at the least… now made the hour and a half I spend in the car every day on my round trip drive to work and back… better!
On it’s face, that is a very sad statement filled with the memories of twenty years, but we can’t sum up the complexities of life in seven words… because sometimes nine other words show up to say, “Today, I’m gonna spend it with someone I love.”
I don’t need anything from you. I don’t need you to do anything. The things I am sad about can not be fixed… they can not be changed… they can not be taken away and hidden from me… because they are a piece of who I am.
Sadness is a part of life… it’s a part of my life. Sometimes, I force myself to get up on the right side of the bed. Other times, I just let myself be.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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!
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’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’.
(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.
ps… Remember, you can always follow the blog! Just sign up! It’ll just go to your inbox! Don’t even need to read it!
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.
Kateri and I hadn’t gotten to painting the bedrooms of our first home. We started with the downstairs, the laundry area, second bathroom, upstairs hallways, and kitchen. There were other things we wanted/needed to do with the house and at the time and some of those projects took priority over painting like building chicken coops, fire pits, small stone patios, and paths through the woods. There was also the bathroom remodel that started with Kateri putting the first hole in the wall before Cancer… and me finishing five months after her death. Life was just sorta happening I guess… and we never really thought about there being a timeline. So this last Monday morning, as I was talking to a friend and trying to come up with a game plan for my Mini Staycation, the painting of the bedroom project came up and I decided to go ahead and try to get it done at some point before I went back to work on Friday.
I was actually really excited about it! It was fun trying to figure out what colors I wanted to surround myself with as I stared at a wall filled with little pieces of paper at Home Depot. Another side note… this was a time I REALLY wished Kateri was with me!… she had an eye for that type of shit, but it was still fun doing it on my own for the first time.
I wanted to wake up in a warm space. I wanted it to be bright. I figured it would help put my brain in a positive space the moment I woke up!… or when I called it a day. I was gonna go with a yellowish color, but the hallway is “Mustard” and that would’ve been just too much so I went with green. Well, actually, “Granny Smith Apple” and “Spring Leaf”. Let me tell you… there must be some very green apples out there! Yup, it’s definitely bright!… it’s growing on me.
I like doing projects because of the instant gratification when you finish. After I had decided on paint color, got together all my brushes and other painting tools, I had remembered about taping! Jesus… I forgot about how much time that takes! I also wanted to do the job right so at some point during the evening I bit the bullet and started to meticulously cover trim, doors, and floors with masking tape. Although the thought of just “being careful” had crossed my mind… I didn’t wanna risk it. I knew I would hear Kateri’s voice every time I saw a little bit of green paint creeping into the wood trim.
I ended up painting until 2:34am… with the assistance of Lizzo and various 90’s Alternative Rock artists providing me with a beat to keep moving to coming from the little JBL speaker I had gotten for Kateri when she was in the hospital… but finally… it was done. It sorta reminded me of when I laid the tile in the bathroom throughout the night when Kateri was in the hospital. I kinda like plugging away… getting stuff done… when the schoolhouse lights are surrounded by darkness and the rest of the world is sleeping. I like being in my own little world once in a while. Sometimes… I need it.
I feel good about the job and again… the color is growing on me. I guess it doesn’t actually matter if the color is growing on me or not… I’m not gonna paint it again for quite a while… but luckily I kinda like it. Kateri’s clothes are now in the spare bedroom across the hall… still in the green bins. Although it feels good that they are out of the bedroom because it allows more light in and I like not seeing them stacked in the corner every morning… I still can’t move them to the garage or anywhere else outside of the house for storage. I like having them close to me… even though I don’t look at them or anything. They provide me with a bit of comfort. And no… I don’t wear them or hold them or rub them up against my face… yet.
It was hard taking another step into this new life… changing something in my home… for me. It’s weird. It’s strange. It’s odd thinking about how I want to set up the schoolhouse in a way that would provide me with a space to remember Kateri… my wife… as well as keeping my own needs and wants in mind. Yes, there were definitely some struggles and emotional moments as I was transforming my bedroom into Fern Gully, but it also felt good to take that little step… to provide myself with a new space… to create a space… in my new life.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I saw a Pella Windows truck the other day and it reminded me of when Kateri would always say how fancy their windows were.
I miss the Rocky Mountains, ranches, and The West.
There is a red ’57 Chevy for sale down the road. I think it would look great parked in front of my little red schoolhouse… just sayin’.
Loggins and Messina-Danny’s Song… yup, that just about destroyed me as I was driving home the other day. Don’t know why… I don’t even really know what the song is about… wasn’t paying that close of attention!
I just need to figure out how to get what I want… I know the solutions are out there! I guess I also need to figure out what it is I actually want. All I really know is that I need some change. Some big changes… some small… some change.
I left work an hour early on Thursday to unexpectedly drive up to B-Town for something. Work was fine, kind of a normal Thursday for me… did some ordering, sent off invoices, had a talk or two… but it wasn’t until I got up north and was sitting at my friend’s that it hit me… 16 months… since the death of Kateri.
It was kinda strange. I’m always aware when the day comes around… the 22nd of each month… but for some reason my brain was occupied with other things all morning long. I also figure that as the months start to build up… they hit me less and less. I’m learning to live this new life and as time goes by these dates are more just reminders of what it is I’m going through, what it is that I used to have… than the stinging slap in the face or punch in the gut that would debilitate me for “X” amount of time every month.
I’m not putting much weight on the whole “I wasn’t thinking about Kateri” the entire day… I think that is probably a natural progression in this process. Of course I miss and love Kateri, but I realized I’m not gonna be a wreck every single month the 22nd comes around. Sometimes I will be a wreck… sometimes I won’t be. Life kinda happens… and keeps going… and sometimes it takes priority over the past. For me, 16 months was just another perfect moment in this pile of poop.
My friend and I were sitting on his back deck catching up and trying to figure something out, his daughter was playing with a neighbor friend inside, when I checked the time on my phone. That’s when I saw the date and it sorta hit me… 16 months. Yes, when I saw the date and realized the significance… I had to take a moment. I could feel the lump in the throat. I could feel the eyeballs get a little more moist… like when you can feel the tears holding onto the bottom of your eyelid… but they haven’t jumped off yet. A million memories flooded my mind for less than a minute… I took a breath… and we kept talking.
I loved the fact that I was going through this little unexpected episode and the person I was talking to, the person who’s home I was at… was the person who married Kateri and I. We hadn’t seen each other for more than a few months and I just thought it was kinda cool that he was the one I was with when I realized the date. It’s stoopid little things like that that I have come to absolutely love… the cool little memories some situations have given me since the passing of Kateri. They provide me comfort… when those things happen. It makes me feel good. Whether it’s accurate or not… it gives me another reason to think, “It’ll all be ok.”. Sometimes life takes away the things we think we can’t live without. When it does, sometimes it gives us back tiny little things that help us keep going… we just need to make sure we are paying attention.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Yup, I’ve made it to the point where after placing my order the lady at the Gas Station Chinese Food place actually said to me… over the phone… “I know you!… ha ha ha… see you soon.”… now that’s building community!
The dishes in the sink are piled to the highest point so far in this new life! I’ve been okay with it… until today.
I’m getting Kateri’s truck towed today to hopefully be able to get it running so I can use it for moving wood n stuff… we’ll see what the mechanic says! It’s gonna be a long process… Kateri’s truck… it needs some work… which costs money… but she’ll be on the road again!… sooner or later.
I’ve gotta say… I’m loving that the nights are getting cooler. I’m not ready for summer to be over… but the changing weather is nice.
Widower Day 490… wow. That number doesn’t feel like it’s accurate. Like the truck… this is gonna be a long process.
Now I’ve gotta go clean the house!… and mow the yard! Awe… Sunday.
Ummm… I should mention that “SEX!” was the original title of this entry but it is really just a small part of this post… although, it was the catalyst to just about everything that this post is about. Really, I don’t even know how to start this thing sooooo… we’re just gonna get into it.
It was around this time last year, a few months after Kateri had passed, that the thought and question popped into my head, “I like sex… I wonder if I’m ever gonna have sex again?…?!” Now on the widower side of things, that brought up all sorts of other questions. Questions that were very difficult to grapple with and ones that I still spend quite a bit of time on today. Questions about loyalty… mourning… and love. Questions about what the last twenty years were about. Questions about how family, friends, co-workers, and even strangers will view my actions. Although I was… and am… going through this experience my way, I felt the need to think about the special people in my life and how those actions affect them. (I may not change a course of action because of them… but as long as I think about them I figure I’m good!). It was a lot… and still is… which is why I probably don’t talk about it much.
On the personal side of things… that thought and question has brought some pretty hard times, hard conversations, and emotional nights… that sometimes start in the morning. Here’s the thing though… all of those hard questions and thoughts (widower/personal/whatever) are just a part of the gig and I’ve come to accept them, face them, and try to answer them the best I can. (Well, sometimes I disregard them when I don’t have the energy… or simply don’t wanna deal!) They are simply some of the challenges of this process and I figured I would get them out of the way for this post because what all those types of things comes down to is… I was holding Kateri when she took her last breath… nothing will ever be as rough as that. Now onto some greener pastures.
Sex. I was on my front porch (go figure) when that question popped into my head. The widower thing is weird. It’s just odd being thrust into this new life… alone… where I don’t have to let anyone know when I’m on my way home. That instant independence took a bit to get used to… even though the night Kateri died I took advantage of it by pulling out my laptop in bed to write notes. We never had “screens” in bed and it was the first thing I did that was… different… and for just me. A few months later as I was pondering sex questions on the porch I also thought, “How does a forty something year old man who’s been in a committed relationship for the last 18 years, who doesn’t drink, who doesn’t really wanna leave home for more than what is necessary, who doesn’t really have the energy… or desire… to “Play the Game/Field” meet someone?… who will also maybe have sex with them? Let’s see… hmmm… how about… DATING APPS!
Ya… dating apps… they’re interesting. My experience with dating apps up until this point was mostly Kateri and I poking fun at my hip sister-in-law, who lives in NYC, when she would visit and talk about how there is “no one” in this area! Kateri came up with terms like “Swipe Right Greg” as we didn’t try very hard to figure out what all went into the dating app thing. We actually sat around her phone once and collectively judged the dudes who were spread across Vermont based on their looks… and paid little attention to the minimal information in their “profile”. It was a novelty. It was something that Kateri and I had zero experience with… and we were very happy that we didn’t have to deal with shit like that. We had each other… for the rest of our lives………. yup.
A friend of mine came out last fall because he knew I needed it… I love this man… not just because he gives me Smarties. We were talking about the whole dating app thing and how it seemed like such a strange way to meet people… mainly because we were just never exposed to it. He told me of a story when a buddy of his was scrolling through the pics on one of the apps during a camping trip (or something) and was showing them to my friend asking his opinion. My buddy grabbed the phone and just started swiping away saying, “Nope”… swipe, “Nope”… swipe, “Nope”… swipe. Now with the dating apps that I have seen, you basically swipe the picture to the right if you are interested in the person and left if you are not. This is something that if you have no experience with dating apps, you might not realize. So when you say, “Nope” and swipe right… you are really saying, “YES!”… to the 73 women who’s pictures are on your friend’s phone… who all believe your friend is interested in them! And… he is now the one who will have to field all the messages being sent to him by a portion of the lovely ladies!… who he isn’t interested in. I love that my friend accidently did that to his buddy. It was an honest mistake… and obviously not the end of the world.
It was also one of those things that really made me miss Kateri. We viewed dating apps as a modern convenience that we would never have to deal with… so we dismissed it… and placed very little value on them. Heck, we even made fun of the “younger generations” who used them to meet people for ice breakers, dinner dates, and hookups… never thinking either one of us would be in the situation where a dating app would be useful! For me, the dating app has provided entertainment, insight, and some clarity in what my wants and needs are in this new life. They are just one of those “steps” I have taken looking for some sort of “good”… so that I can take another step. One thing I have realized though… when it comes to sex, companionship, and relationships… I can’t take very big “steps”… I basically have to crawl through the mud for a bit.
So, just in case you were thinking that I’ve been meeting people left and right, impressing women with my cooking abilities and witty banter, traveling the world with women who’s profile says things like, “Successful, independent woman who doesn’t need you” or “Looking for a step dad for my dog”… I haven’t. Very quickly I realized meeting people takes a lot of time, energy, and work… especially as a widower. The emotional stress that the original thought and question put on me was much more than I expected. Yeah, I wanted to have companionship… basically sex… but with my sweet sweet Kateri… which wasn’t an option anymore. It’s been hard balancing those sorta primal/human needs (companionship, sex, human interaction) with the sadness, confusion, and fogginess the loss of Kateri has inserted into my life. It’s been hard… but I’m getting there… and I’m unwilling to just wallow in the sadness.
Although it has been quite the learning experience with quite a few hard decisions, talks, and mornings, I still view my life as going as well as it possibly can… given the situation. Basically, I texted with a few women (literally a few), had a pleasant lunch with one, and met a woman almost a year ago who I now consider one of my best friends… if not my closest friend in this new life. I may not be comfortable with dating apps or meeting new romantic interests… or anyone for that matter… but things have worked out much better than I expected. Sometimes, life gives you what you need at that moment.
My new friend and I work for the same company, but we work in different buildings and had never met… that we could remember. She had “Super Liked” me (on accident) on one of the apps and when I realized we worked at the same place… it kinda brought up all sorts of things. Up until that point, I viewed the dating apps as more of entertainment… seeing what was out there… something new that wasn’t directly attached to my world because my life was still very centered on the last 20 years with Kateri. When I got the notification that someone liked me… and we worked together… and she worked in the same department that Kateri used to work in!… well, that brought the situation very close to home. I had not talked about my quest to find companionship with anyone really, and now there was someone who knows I was looking… who also worked next to people who knew Kateri… me… and us. I thought about what they might think about the steps I was taking. I was worried about being judged on this one… big… step… so I didn’t respond… at first.
Actually, I didn’t respond… my thigh did. Just as she didn’t mean to “Super Like” me, I didn’t mean to “Match” with her… yet. I was running out of the kitchen and onto the loading dock one afternoon when I pulled my phone out of my pocket to check my email and noticed on the screen the attention grabbing “It’s a Match!”… or something like that. Chef pants happen to have very thin pockets and from what I can gather is—as my phone was bouncing around, my thigh was able to click on the dating app and confirm that I was interested… which I was… just not at that moment! I thought I needed some time to hash out a few questions and concerns with the situation… my thigh thought differently. As with other parts of this whole widower thing, I figured “Well, this is happening now?”… and just went with it… and stopped worrying about what other people thought.
It started with a six hour conversation… her sitting on the couch… me in Kateri’s chair. It was comfortable. It was exciting. It was honest and open. It was easy… ish. We were lucky in the fact that we worked for the same company so it provided both of us with a sense of commonality… it helped put some of the concerns at ease when you meet new people… like if they are axe murderers or something. (Her coworkers let her know that I wasn’t one). We talked about how she was from Oregon and I was from Idaho. We talked about how she went to the CIA for baking and I had been in restaurants for the last 24 years. We talked about work… and the people we work with. We talked about how we were brought up, where we lived, where we traveled. We talked about my situation… that I had just lost my wife literally months before… she was already aware. I felt the need to put all the big things on the table if I was gonna bring anyone new into my life… and no topic was gonna be off limits. If someone wasn’t able to handle what it was I was going through… then I didn’t really have time for them… and it wouldn’t be good for either one of us. Luckily, she is a very understanding, empathetic, and compassionate woman… and didn’t let the past define the present… or dictate the future. I’m also just gonna mention… communication helps. Talk people. Talk about the hard things… it helps create a good life.
The past 11 months (the time we have been hanging) have been filled with all sorts of new experiences. Some are just regular life things, while others are very “Widower” centric. Like having sex with a woman for the first time in 18 years who isn’t your wife. Let me tell you… that’s not one of those “wham, bam, thank-you mam” type things. For me, the experience was very empowering as a widower… as a person… and as a man. I’m not going to go into details, but having sex with someone new for the first time… when the last time something like that had happened I was in my mid twenties… was just kinda fun. I was older. I was experienced… not only sexually, but in life. I felt secure… enough. I wasn’t a stoopid kid just trying to get the ol’ rocks off with some stranger I picked up at the bar who I hoped would leave before the sun came up. I’m more mature… which means we think about other people… and not just ourselves. And quite frankly, I’m just happy I wasn’t curled up at the end of the bed shaking and crying afterwards! The potential was there… I lost my “Widower Virginity” on the night of the six month anniversary of Kateri’s passing. Yup… maybe not the best time to test the new sexual waters… but that’s when it happened… and I can’t change it now!
I attribute quite a bit of my happiness in this new life to this new friend. She has given me much more than I feel I could ever give her in return. I think a lot about my situation and the obstacles I face, but I also think about how my situation affects her… and am continually impressed with how she deals with it and approaches it. I am amazed by her understanding. I am thankful for her support… and not with just the big things. She has also brought so many beautiful things into my life like s’mores in the woodstove, cake pops, Detroit style pizza, hot dogs grilled at the fire pit, long conversations in the living room, long walks around Portland… Maine, text message acronyms like DTR, kayaks, Criminal Minds, and once in a while… lazy mornings with strong coffee and comfy clothes.
We realize that there is a lot involved in our relationship. For some of you who put “it’s complicated” on your Facebook Relationship Status… you have no idea! For me, it was exciting to meet someone new, but I’ve gone through the ringer trying to figure out what it is I’m actually looking for, need, and want.
We are still hanging out because we talk about what it is we both need and want… and… well… because we both still really like each other. Our relationship has grown… even though I have had to take steps back. We still text “Good Morning” and “Goodnight” every single day… and I don’t think we’ve missed one since the first (unless one of us falls asleep), but now there is a smiley face emoji at the end instead of a kissy face emoji. At one point, it just got to be a little overwhelming for me when I realized we were basically in a monogamous relationship… and started considering each other “Boyfriend/Girlfriend”. I couldn’t wrap my head around going from an 18 year relationship… lose Kateri… and right into another relationship when I don’t really have an idea of who I am in this new life. I’m in the process of asking some big life questions of myself… and that takes time. One thing that we both agree on… one thing that we both aren’t really ready to live without for right now… is each other. Although we haven’t exactly been able to fully separate the whole friendship/relationship thing… we realize it’s because we feel we have positively impacted each other’s lives and are in no way ready for that to end. Again, communication… it helps.
There’s definitely a lot that can be said about these types of things, but this is just a blog post and not a book so I’m gonna end on this…. I am not trying to replace Kateri… because there is no replacing her. I still consider her my wife. I still wear my wedding ring. I would still give anything for her to be alive… down to my own life. I miss her so much it gives me headaches as tears gush from my eyeballs and snot runs from my nose… like it’s doing right now. I don’t want this life… I want my old life… but I can’t have it… even though I’m surrounded by remnants of it. Sometimes life just sucks. Sometimes that’s just how it goes. Other times, people come into your life who show you that life isn’t just the pile of shit you’re going through. They show you that there is happiness out there… there are good times… there is joy. They show you that you are not… alone.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
So I just got a new phone… my second one in just over a month… long story. My question is–On the iphone 8’s keyboard (when texting) the “123” is on the outside and the little world thing is to the right of it when the phone is verticle. When you rotate the phone, the little world thing is on the outside and the “123” is to the right of it… Why do they switch positions?!! (These are the things I wonder about)
A few people have checked in with me to see how I’m doing since I haven’t been on here lately. First, I can’t tell you how good that makes me feel… the support. Second… Thank you. Please know you’ve made an impact on my life… even if I don’t show it all the time.
ps… you can follow the blog… if you want… or share it if you like it… or maybe you know of someone who would get something out of it… perhaps.
I guess this is just me giving an example of why some people compare the effects of traumatic experiences to roller coaster rides. My last blog post was pretty darn positive… the good shit in this new life! I’m actually trying to be a pretty darn positive person… but sometimes things pop into my head on the 40 minute drive home through the vibrant green hills. Like memories. I’m gonna keep this short.
I had been sleeping in the spare bedroom for a couple of months because Kateri really needed the space to try and be comfortable. Somewhere in the last of month of her life, I was tucking her into bed when she said, “You can sleep in here if you want?”…. but by the time I was done trying to figure out hospital stuff, insurance stuff, cancer stuff, life stuff… she was asleep, looking as comfortable as she could be, and I didn’t want to do anything that would ruin that. So I laid on the bed above the covers, held her for a bit, and simply kissed her goodnight.
After that night… I never slept in my own bed… next to my wife… next to My Dearest Kateri. There’s a lot that comes along with a thought like that… a lot. Like missed opportunities… that I will never get back. Yup… just driving home.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I absolutely love driving on a newly grated dirt road!
There are more and more new people in my life… people who never knew Kateri… people who don’t really understand what I’m going through.
I should have a piano moving party!… and a wood stacking party!
I’ve started the process of fixing Kateri’s truck! Well, I washed off the dirt and talked to my mechanic. It’s gonna take some time… and a tow… she needs a little work. But she’s clean!
Some plants need more water than other plants… but I guess they all need water!
You can move inside plants outside… but outside plants will grow in the inside pots… which are outside.
There are more spiders… than I feel are necessary… around my house.
Wow… I’ve written over 57,000 words!… boy are my arms tired! (corny… I know)
Kateri named the pillow with the flowers “Squishy”… because it’s squishy. When she got sick she would ask, “Will you grab Squishy for me?”… and I did.
It was a Monday morning and we were laying in bed doing what we did on Monday mornings… Kateri was looking at bathrooms to come up with ideas for ours and I was probably looking at Craigslist for jobs, canoes, motorcycles, boats, or the random things that people sell. We were sorta coming up with a game plan for the day. It was our one day off together and we always spent them with each other doing mostly nothing… it was perfect.
Kateri wanted to build a cold frame for herbs… or lettuce… or something else we could eat… so we started to make a list of things we would need to go and get at the store to put together something that would hold dirt. Now, did I mention it was our one day off together…? because we also usually just laid in bed for a bit, drank coffee (each of us taking turns running for refills), and pretty much got into a laid back frame of mind… which also made us not want to leave the Schoolhouse. So… I started listing off things in the garage or over at the potting shed which could be used to make a box… with a lid… with the hope of not having to go out amongst “the people”!
We were actually quite proud of ourselves for using what we had! I had leftover lumber probably from the chicken coop. In one of the little plastic bins/cups that Kateri had gotten for me when we bought our house… with the hope of providing me with an organizational tool for the garage I was so excited to finally have… we had found a couple of hinges. For the top…?… it only seemed appropriate to use one of the many old windows we had laying around. (We had windows because in 2011 we had gone around picking them up from various strangers so that we could build our “church” for our wedding. No… neither one of us is religious. Kateri always said she was a “recovering catholic”). And Kateri had some garden mesh/fabric stuff… because she gardened… to line the box with. We had all the fixin’s to build our cold frame! And there was no need to leave the hill!
It was a good day. Nothing special. Nothing really out of the ordinary. Just a Monday. We were so proud of ourselves for just making do. Kateri was so happy to have a cold frame where she could grow things next to the front deck… and beside her gardens. She was putting down roots… at our first home. It made her happy. It made me happy to see her and to help make her happy. Life was good… and we were happy together just doing what we did… on a Monday.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I was gonna write something yesterday for 15 months, but there were other things I wanted to do. Of course, I kinda wish I wrote about a Monday… on a Monday. (I know… kinda weird)
The Beastie Boys will always remind me of Kateri.
I finally hung the lady in the bathroom. Kateri loved the lady in the tub.
15 months and I’ll admit… I’ve been a little rough lately. Most the time everything is basically fine. Most nights of the week… I have cried. Sometimes… a lot. It’s hard trying to get excited about life… this new life… when the crushing reality hits that I simply miss what my life was before April 22, 2018. I miss Kateri sooo much… it just sucks.
I hope you have as many good people in your lives as I do… whether that’s friends, family, or co-workers… I’ve got some good ones.
Yup, the cold frame kinda took a beating this winter. Glass and eight feet of snow don’t always mix… but shit still grows!
I haven’t actually made it to the upstairs bathroom yet… might be dragging my feet. I have decided to trim the beard down to a less “mangy” length… as a friend had described it. I personally like to think of it as “shabby” or “unkempt”. Whatever you call it… I rather enjoy it. Unfortunately, it’s also hot… and I work in kitchens.
It feels a little strange to think that I’m about to take clippers to the face. I’ve talked about it a lot… trimming… just haven’t found the time… or at least the right time. I’ve become attached to the beard as it has grown since Kateri’s death. As a widower, it has sorta helped me feel better. It makes me feel different than I was in my life with Kateri… because I look different. There was a point last summer where I found myself looking in the mirror and I didn’t recognize myself… not my face… not who I was… not my life. It was an odd experience… and not just because of the beard (which was obviously shorter then). But I found comfort in the fact that Kateri would’ve loved how long my facial hair was getting as well as it being something new in my new life… and I didn’t have to do anything! A year later… I feel as though this is almost my identity now… the small guy with a big beard!
If you’re a widower… I suggest you grow a beard… unless it’s patchy or you aren’t allowed to because of some stupid shit like “work”. I simply think it is a fun way to get a little different perspective of yourself… as you are trying to figure out who you are in this new life. Sometimes, you’ll get past using the beard as kind of a crutch (sounds silly… I know… but in many ways it’s true)… and trim it when you are ready for a change… or because it’s been in the 80’s for more than a week! (FYI… I don’t plan on going shorter than an inch… but we’ll see..?!)
Yup, now I’m gonna start to grow the beard back out!… I miss it.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
It’s weird to think there are people in my life now that only know me with a beard.
Yes… I pretty much wear either my red or hunter-orange stocking cap when it’s not warm… or my John Deere hat the rest of the time. I’m pretty exciting.
The other evening I was going through videos on my phone that I had made last summer… when I was trying to figure out what the effe just happened to my world… and I came across this picture that I had taken on July 1st, 2018. Sooooo, that would’ve been Widower Day 70… and it’s weird to think I’m at 436 now partly because much of the last 14 and whatever months are in some ways a blur… and foggy. But I remember taking this picture because of the significance of what the date on the newspaper reminded me of… April 22nd… the day Kateri died… 70 days earlier.
It was hot that week… a year ago. Come to think of it… it’s hot right now a year later! Hmmm, maybe we should track these trends…? Anyways, it was hot… like real hot. I lost a chicken that week… Taco. Although she wasn’t my favorite, I thought she was the most beautiful. She just looked like a picture perfect Silver Laced Wyandotte. Bright white and black with the really red comb thing… like the ones you see in the movies! (really… I have no idea what a good looking Silver Laced Wyandotte looks like… but she sure was a purdy chicken. And… the chicken in the picture is Lil’ Bitch… she’s my favorite) Yup, poor Taco. I opened up the door to the coop… and BLAM!… dead chicken… mostly in the nesting box… little head hanging over the edge……….. it was hot. I felt pretty bad there for a bit, and then just thought… it’s a chicken… and had to move on.
Anways, while it was sweltering outside, I remember it felt somewhat nice in the garage standing on the cool concrete. I had built shelves on the east side with the hope of getting organized. My “nesting for one”. I was going through boxes that Kateri and I hadn’t yet unpacked from the move back from Ned. We always had an idea of what was in certain boxes and I when I came to the large rectangular one housing the King and Queen I decided I’d like to see them out again. These were from Kateri’s life prior to meeting me, so they had always been a part of OUR life… hanging or leaning here or there… and I just kinda thought they would be fun to have out in the schoolhouse (currently… they are in my front little plant room).
They were wrapped in newspaper… the one with the date… which is the fun part of moving from place to place… sometimes you get to be reminded of specific times in your life as the memories attached to those times get pulled from the vaults with the unwrapping of that protective layer. Sometimes you get to open up a box from multiple moves ago… like this one… which was four ago.
We had packed that box eight years ago and July 1st, 2018 was the day it was gonna get unpacked! When I noticed the date… it was just… kind of a flood of emotions and memories. Honestly, I don’t remember exactly how I reacted… I don’t think I lost it or anything… but I probably did. The one thing I know for sure is… I wasn’t gonna hold onto that crumpled up piece of eight year old newspaper for the rest of my life because it had the date Kateri died on it!… so I took a picture of it… that I’m now afraid of losing.
I’ve come to expect these little unexpected things that pop up. I’m glad that I took a picture of that newspaper and came across it a year later. I’m also glad I came across that picture… a year later… and could recognize a few of the changes I have gone through in this experience. Yes, the picture definitely made me emotional, but it was nice to think about my life with Kateri in a different time… in a different place. It made me happy. Those were happy times in 2010. Hell, I had just asked her to marry me when we were packing those boxes… we were moving back to Vermont to set roots! It was exciting! It was fun! And ya… this aint what we planned… and not what I expected… but I’m grateful for the life we had because it provides me with countless memories (in vaults somewhere) that simply put a smile on my face.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I put up bunting this evening! I used the ones Kateri had gotten us… really for me. She knew I was fascinated by it… bunting… don’t ask me why. I bought some serious bunting last year… 6 feet across!… real fabric of some sort and all! But it just seemed a bit much and I’m not sold on them yet… so I went with the nylon or polyester or whatever smaller guys.
I wish everyone in this country a Happy Independence Day!… in two days. If you’re new here to the good ol’ USofA… Welcome!… sorry for the assholes… they’ve been fucking shit up for all sorts of good people since the beginning.
I’ve gotta tell you… I meant to post this Yesterday. I felt good Yesterday. Yesterday was a good day… for no particular reason… just one of those nice, early summer days. Yup, good ol’ Yesterday. Now, Today is good, too. There isn’t really anything I could say that put a damper on Today… no big emotional moments… work was kinda fun… heck, I’m currently on my porch again… while listening to chickens as they scratch about… hopefully eating up all the ticks in the yard! Actually, I’ve had a good couple of days. I’ve been wanting to share some of the “Big Life” questions that I’ve been tackling lately… those that come along with losing your spouse… but I haven’t really had the time that I would want to devote to those topics.
Sooooo, Yesterday… I figured I would do something quick and make another video. Wasn’t sure what I was gonna blab on about as my shoulder would start to ache while holding my phone at that stupid angle, but I figured it was quicker than writing about “Big Life” questions n shit! And again… there wasn’t anything quick about it. I’m a cook and I have no idea about “formats” or “upload errors” or “bandwidth”… and I don’t even know if “bandwidth” applies to this situation!… but I wasn’t able to “upload” the video until Today… after spending all night trying to force it into my media folder. Which is fun… when you have no idea of what it is you are doing! Long story short… I wanted to do something… which ended up being some ramblin’ and playing a quick little ditty on my guitar… on the porch. (Disclaimer-Another again… I’m a cook.)
ps… there’s a follow button somewhere around here… and it’s ok if you share… really… unless your momma won’t let ya. (kd)
I just got home from spending the day at an ESOP Conference up in B-Town. What is an ESOP you ask? Employee Stock Ownership Plan (look it up!). Yup, I work for one… and went to a conference where they had seminars and stuff about them… which also had me start my day at 5:30am with a nice little drive across The Green Mountain State. It was one of those beautiful drives where you would crest a hill to see a bed of fog at the bottom of a green valley. It’s funny to think that the hills are gonna just get more green… “make you thirsty” green. Anyways, the hills made the postcards proud this morning.
Honestly, I’m not exactly sure what this is about. I was about to go play some guitar in the garage… because I’m sure my neighbors really enjoy it when I do!… but just felt I needed to get back to this… Thirty Days of Mo(u)rning. I had a thought I wanted to get down, but by the time my computer got all booted up… it was gone… or at least morphed into a mish mosh of 25 other thoughts! That seems to happen a lot lately. Almost 14 months into this and the overwhelming/confused/sorta lost aspect of losing Kateri hasn’t diminished as much as I expected. The loneliness aspect is starting to set in again. I’m staying on top of everything I need to and there are things I enjoy… but it currently still sucks balls.
I was going to throw something on FB saying I was heading up to see if anyone was around… but I didn’t. Then after the conference I was gonna text this person or that person or swing by that family’s home around the corner… but I didn’t. I just wanted to get home. One strange thing about this experience is I want to reconnect with so many people… I want to start spending time with friends and meet new ones. I want to do fun things like camp or hit a show or simply have a nice dinner. I want to keep people in my world and not let them slip away because we were all just “living our lives”. But at the same time… I want solitude. I want to be alone to have the peace and quiet as my mind tries to wrap itself around what it is that I’m actually doing with my life… what it is that makes me happy. I feel I need time to take care of all the things that need attention, which cuts into time for other things… like people. It’s kinda messed up.
OK… back to the ESOP Conference (Yes Keith… ESOP). I really enjoyed it. It was informative. They had comfortable chairs. I liked everyone I was there with. It was nice to change up my week. I learned something at every workshop that I’ll be able to take back to work with me and hopefully have a positive impact on my department as well as the company. But what has been on my mind since the last twenty minutes of the last workshop was… the last twenty minutes of the last workshop.
The Best Way to Engage Employee Owners: Tell a Story… that was the last workshop. In the last twenty minutes, the last exercise was that we were to tell our partners our story of why we work for an ESOP… why we stay working at an ESOP. Jay told me a story that happened the other day which reinforced his reasons of why he works at our company and when it was my turn… I told him I would have to go with what the company was able to give me when Kateri was sick, when she passed, and afterwards. Time… and that whole story.
After this little exercise is what has been on my mind. Once the room settled down and was quiet again, one of the speakers asked if anyone wanted to share their story… silence. You could see the panic in some people’s eyes… and I heard my muffled name come from the peanut gallery behind us as a fellow KAFer egged me on to tell a story. The speaker took a few steps up the center aisle and asked, “Is there anyone willing to tell their story?”. Again… silence… and I said fuck it! (I didn’t literally say it… just in my head) I figured this was an opportunity to see how I would do standing up in front of people… while talking. It was an opportunity to push the ol’ comfort levels. It was an opportunity to share something that adds humanity to the conversation of business. And to be frank, if I want to see where TDoM takes me…? if I really do want to get my story out there…? I need to tell it… so I took the opportunity to do just that. When not a single other person even made a hint of wanting to ramble off a random story… that they had just formulated in the last five minutes… in front of 40-50 people… I did.
Now… I think it may have been a little heavy for the audience. I don’t think anyone was expecting an Axeless Mountain Dwarf to stand up in front of them and start with, “I came to an ESOP for the benefits, quality of life, blah blah blah…” and then take the turn into how our company, “gave me time… when my wife got sick. They gave me time to hold her when she took her last breath. And they gave me time in the weeks afterwards.” I spoke about why I am forever grateful to the people I work next to, day in and day out, who have supported me through this big pile of shi… poop… and why I believe the culture an ESOP fosters is just as important as the retirement fund it creates. Nope… I don’t think they were expecting that. But neither was I.
I’ve gone back and forth for the last few hours wondering if I should’ve just sat there with the rest of the crowd… but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m happy I did it. It was a good thing for me to do. Although I hope I didn’t put a damper on everyone’s day, I’m comfortable with the experience. After the workshop was over, I was approached by Barbara as she thanked me for sharing my story. David (the other speaker) also stuck around and the three of us had a conversation. David has authored a couple of books and after my whole blog and “book” idea (which I haven’t done anything about) came up in the conversation, he gave me his card and said I could use him as a resource… networking!
The conversation with Barbara and David after getting up in front of strangers to tell my story is one of the reasons I’m glad I decided to say “Fuck It”. Was it a bit much of a story for that environment?… maybe. Do I regret doing it?… no. Do I think it people took something away from it?… yes. What that is?… I’m not sure.. but by the looks on people’s faces… it made an impact!
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
My phone says the Bruins are still playing… so I can’t trim the beard. I still have no idea about hockey.
I haven’t checked to see if Kateri’s emails have reached 6,000 yet.
Fire pits are wonderful things to sit by and think. It doesn’t hurt that burning things is fun.
The geraniums finally went outside and I cleaned up the front room… and then brought one geranium back in… because I’m afraid of killing all three! (picture is before I brought it back in… there aren’t any geraniums in that picture. There’s a Brugmansia, Hibiscus… if I remember correctly, Aloe that I finally put in a pot… but no Geranium)
Being alone kinda sucks, but its probably for the best when you can smell your own feet… and it grosses you out.
ps… yup, smack the little follow button if you want…? or maybe the like button…? maybe…?
First, I just need to say that this post is pretty much a “Widower” post… not sad or anything… it’s not reminiscing about how great and wonderful and beautiful and honest and perfect Kateri was (is)… it’s about after that. For the last two days I have been copying, pasting, increasing indents… still gotta add some pics, and trying to finalize the little “My Thirty Days of Mo(u)rning” site page on this here bloggy website thing a ma jig. Which meant… I read my notes. And we all know what that means! Actually, there weren’t any waterworks the last two days… or maybe just not the last day… but, it was really kinda nice going through the notes and being able to just… remember… ponder… compare times… to simply think about them… without any convulsing, sniffing, or snorting of snot. (Kateri would always say, “Out is better than in!” if I decided to suck the snot in… instead of destroying a kleenex)
Long story short… here’s a list of observances and epiphanies (not many epiphanies, but it sounds good) and some things that have just been swirling up in the ol’ noggin… at 13 months a widower.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I think I’ve eaten enough Smarties to tell if they are “fresh” or not… it’s a texture thing.
I feel as though the further away I get from the day that Kateri died… the more I’m able to think about her. I mean, at first it was all I could think about… but it included everything!… the whole situation! I look forward to just rememberin’ Kateri… and the life we had.
I still haven’t gotten “angry” at the situation. At first, I think I tried to be overly positive. Partly because I just went through an overly negative experience and I was trying to compensate. More importantly, and a bit more on the “Who am I?” question side, I just saw some of the most beautiful things during a time filled with the most horrendous… I simply like the good shit more. That’s the train I wanna be on.
Point 1-I’m also still sorta numb and in a fog… not fog… but fog. With the loss of Kateri and everything that has come along with it… there just aren’t too many “Big Deals” in my world. I mean, the are “Big Deals” (Food, Schoolhouse, Car, Warmth)… and then… teeny tiny issues that may pop up.
Point 2-As more and more time comes between today and the day Kateri died, it makes it harder to keep that train going… being positive all the time. Fortunately, I still find it easy to recover from a negative experience, situation, or thought… I just lost Kateri… Helloooo?! Whatever the issue is… it ain’t a Big Deal to me.
Point 3-Pants on?… check. Good enough… for a lot of the time.
Point 4-It’s a learning thing. I still take a step and if it’s good?… take another. If it’s not good?… maybe don’t do that again… but there’s always another step coming.
Point 5-When one of your points are still “Point 3″… 395 Widower Days later… it makes it easier to try and enjoy the rest of what’s going on around ya.
Everything that I have done… and am going to do with the yard will have Kateri in mind. Last summer was a bust.
Sleep… I have gotten comfortable with 5 hours of sleep a night. It’s not that I don’t sleep, it’s that I just can’t put myself to bed! Once in bed… horizontal… out like a light (that has been turned off), but getting to the horizontal stage is the challenge. There’s just too much that I feel I need to do… and want to do. I think it might be part of the whole “I don’t wanna miss out on life” thing. I was given a lesson on how quickly things can end… can just go away… and I wanna fill my life with as much time awake doing things I wanna do that I just can’t put myself to bed.
I also made the decision at the beginning of this big pile of shit that if I have the opportunity to have a conversation with someone… to have an interaction… to connect with them for whatever reason… I was going to. That connection is more important to me than sleep.
The loneliness a widow or widower feels is one of those significantly unique things in life that only a person knows when they lose their spouse… and it is the worst feeling I have ever felt. There are just soooo many things that goes into that loneliness… that it physically hurts. Here at the schoolhouse in the woods, the stillness and separation from people can be both therapeutic and calming… or deafening and crushing. Just depends on the day.
The overwhelming feeling hasn’t gone away, but I feel I have learned how to manage it better.
Another sucky thing about these types of experiences… I have been forced to learn how to “manage” things… like emotions… so that I can simply function in life. At the beginning, I didn’t care who saw me being emotional and I didn’t care where it was… still don’t… but it does get to be a little old.
Although the cliche sayings (Maria’s and my “Dr. Phil Moments”) bug the shit out of me (time heals, one day at a time… one hour, it’ll get better, it’s different for everyone, she would want you to be happy, pants on—check)… they still have value and are quite accurate.
I’m sorry, the whole “they would want you to be happy” thing is nice and all, but there are complicated topics to face as a widower. Such as, I know Kateri would not want me to be having Naked Sexy Fun Time… with anyone… but hopefully I still have a long life ahead of me… and I have no plans on becoming monk. (I had a thing about priests right here on the original post… but thought better of it and decided to not offend a pretty good sized group of people… I hate growing up)
I have been simply amazed by people. The love and support I have gotten in the past thirteen and a half months from varying places, friends, family, new friends, and strangers has been heart warming, comforting, and sometimes unexpected.
I should have paid better attention over the last 20 years. There are things in my house that I have to ask, “Where did we get that?” or “Who gave us this?”. At times, my brain actually goes, “I should ask Kateri where/when/who…”, and then I remember she’s not here to ask. That’s one of those all sorts of fucked up moments.
I’ve learned that even though we may go through some pretty horrific experiences in life that seem to be all consuming, we still have things of value that we are able to share with other people who are searching for their own answers.
After thirteen and a half months… I simply miss everything about my life with Kateri. Although there are good things in my new life, I feel it was just better with her… and that makes it bit hard to get excited about the future… but I tell myself that I am.
I’m still wearing my wedding ring, but have started thinking about weening myself off of it. Thinking about… just can’t do it yet. It’s the one thing that provides me with the most connection to Kateri… to my wife… to the commitment I made to her… to the love that I have for her… and the love that she had for me. I’m not ready for that weight to come off of my ring finger.
Yup, that’s enough sad widower shit for a Sunday morning… I gave it it’s time. Now, it’s time to get excited about friends coming to make cookies and family coming to catch up. It may be a horrendous experience losing a spouse, but cookies and conversations help ease the pain and burden of having to go through it… and I’m thankful for the people who help me get through the day… one day at a time. (stoopid Dr. Phil Moments!)
Yup, the ol’ Adirondack Chairs that Kateri and I had bought 15 years ago from The Christmas Tree Shop finally bit the dust. Well, one of them had a run in with a chunk of snow that jumped off the roof this winter… I probably should have moved it before then… oops. In all honesty, they lasted ten years longer than we expected them to! Of course, we treated them pretty well. In the beginning we would bring them into the house as our “winter furniture”. We didn’t have anything else besides a papasan and the stool (our first piece of “furniture” which I still use by the woodstove) and if you add a cushion to an Adirondack Chair… they are quite comfy to sit back in and watch a movie!
It’s a little weird seeing something that has been a part of my life… a part of mine and Kateri’s life… start to go away… and I’ve realized I’m not exactly ready for that. So I decided to take apart the broken chair, trace each piece, cut ’em out, sand them, and reassemble the same Adirondack Chair… with new wood. I wanted to keep the memories, but needed to replace enough of the chair that I decided it was a good opportunity for a fresh start… and for a project. It was fun blaring music, setting up saw horses, and pulling out the old power tools. A friend had just come and helped me organize the garage the day earlier so it was nice to have an open work space after the winter, too! I hadn’t work in the garage since last fall (it’s kinda cold out there in the winter) and it just felt a little bit like summer… early summer… late spring with fires still in the woodstove. It felt good. Comfortable.
I’m glad the chairs will have an attachment to my memories with Kateri… that I didn’t just go and buy some random piece of patio furniture because it was convenient or inexpensive. Kateri would have dug the fact that I took apart a chair and built new ones. If she was around she would just let me go and do my thing in the garage while she would dig in the dirt. I would proudly bring out the finished product and place them on the porch… and we would sit. I can picture her sliding her dirt covered hands back and forth on the arm rests… leaving little dark trails on the freshly sanded wood. All part of testing them out… of breaking them in… of enjoying them and the things they provided us.
Yup, Kateri would dig them and that puts a smile on my face. That’s the “widower” sad side of the chairs (filled with a ton of good memories and stories), but we live in the present and I’m walking into the future. I look forward to sitting on the porch in one of those new Adirondack Chairs, maybe for hours, and maybe in silence. Then again… maybe not! I did make TWO chairs! That’s the perfect number of chairs needed for a conversation on the porch! I mean, there are other seating options and space to accommodate at least 4 other people… but I’m not making another chair for a while. And just so you know, if you are ever sitting on my porch with me… you will witness me wave to every car that drives past. Except one. I have my reasons.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Hours… I just need more hours. But, don’t we all?!
I’m not trimming the beard till at least the 12th… because of hockey… or some shit. I don’t have any idea about hockey. Kateri was always impressed by how light on the ice such big men could be, but past that… not a part of our life. Someone at work told me I couldn’t… so I figure it’s been 9 months since the last trimming… what’s another couple of weeks?!
Now… I’m just gonna say that I’m one of those people who actually enjoys it when they look out the window and sees a little bit of the white stuff on the grass in the Spring. No, that isn’t some hip and modern drug reference I frequently use in this rock star life I live… it was just snow… in the yard… and it was kinda nice to see.
Wow. It just took me waaaaay too long to write that paragraph… and I need to eat. Aaaand… I need to come clean. There are actually no sump pumps in the video. It’s just me talking about my sump pump and how a simple thing like a sump pump provided me some comfort. The sump pump is in the sump under the house through the bulk head… where there’s spiders… and snakes… and other evil things from evil worlds… so I don’t hang out down there making videos. Sorry you won’t get to see the sump… or the sump pump… maybe some other time!……………………………….. sump pump.
Ya… so… that was all written a few days ago… the snow is gone and it has actually been a beautiful couple of days here in the Northeast weather-wise. Life on the other hand, well…. it’s been good, but a little rough on both the professional and personal side. All just part of the process… and life I guess. I’m not sure if acknowledging the challenges makes them any easier, but I feel being aware helps me get through the day as I’m trying to look to the future. The future… hmmm. For right now, I’m starting to think about it… have to… but mostly, I’m still just figuring I’ll see it when I get there.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
One challenge of being a widower is that people try to protect you by not wanting to put more on your plate. Although I find comfort with the intentions, it doesn’t help… it just pushes things off for a while.
Without kids, Kateri, animals, or neighbors… I’ve got a lot of time to think about this stuff… to be self reflective. Because of that, I feel I have been able to handle the multiple piles of shit that had plopped down in my life as of relatively recently.
For the last year, I’ve been filling my space with things that help push some of the pain and sadness away… and I kinda don’t wanna do that anymore. I sorta wanna just miss Kateri, remember Kateri, remember what made our life so great… and try to save a bit of that to bring along with me into my new life.
I’m about to mow the yard for the first time this year. I’m so fortunate to have our home to heal in and I’m gonna try to keep the yard and gardens up to Kateri’s standards (which she made seem effortless… not talking about the sweat and dirt that would cover her hands and face… which she loved). As a widower it’s also weird to be thinking about making your home beautiful… in case you have to sell it. I have no plans like that, but it pops into your head to be prepared.
Sometimes… things come into your life that provide nothing but joy… like Ben & Jerry’s Milk and Cookies Ice Cream. Yes… it helps… because that’s some good shit!
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(Yup, when I started this post it was NOT Mother’s Day… and now it is) Simply… after the one year mark… things are different… I feel different. I was gonna go into all the ways “this” has changed… or how “that” has been replaced by “those”, but there will be other times for all that jive. I just felt the need to say that through this experience, every once in a while there is a tangible feeling when a shift takes place. Kinda of like on the first day I didn’t cry… or when six months hit and I felt like I had a little bit of control over my life… and had to make decisions for myself. Although there is no destination, there’s this tedious little march going on that keeps pushing me forward and with every step, I overanalyze it… and then adapt to make the next step.
As I have flubbed my way through this, there are times that I just feel lighter. Sometimes it’s happens when I come to a realization of something that has been weighing down my brain. Sometimes it was just getting through a holiday or birthday or our anniversary. For right now… for today… I attribute my “I simply feel a little better!” state of mind to two main things… getting past a date… and a text saying, “GOOD, GOOD NEWS!!!!”.
Now, there are actually a gazillion little things I believe that contribute to noticeably feeling a little better… i.e. getting most of the yard raked, not needing to build a fire every night, rearranging the living room, meeting new people from all walks of life… in my new life, SPRING!!, the fact that I’m still on top of sh… stuff, that I haven’t acquired some strange illness that causes a baby’s hand… and arm… to grow out of the top of my head! (although… could be useful) Yup, there are a bunch of things that come into play, but currently it’s the continuous passage of Time during my tedious little march that helps me get through certain checkpoints. For me, hitting the one year mark without Kateri felt like I was just gently pushed into a new chapter of life. Of course, it might just be a new paragraph, but might as well use the universally accepted homogenized term to reference a point in the story line. Hopefully it’s a long story… and as long as there are more pages to turn… I don’t really care what chapter or paragraph I’m on!
The text… “GOOD, GOOD NEWS!!!!”… came from my father… and he wasn’t lying. We found out that my mother had cancer (lung cancer that had also traveled to her brain) 4 or five months before we found the sh… stuff (really trying not to cuss!) in Kateri’s head. For me, it has been quite the experience having to process and accept that the two most important people in my life were handed the cancer card…. and cancer is a fucked up thing. Once you live with cancer in your world, you begin to see not only how prevelant and inconsistant the disease is, but also how many people it simply affects. It’s a strange trip. When I got the phone call that they had found something in my mom’s lung… I was devastated. When it hit Kateri… and then she died… well, I didn’t think about what was worse than “Devastated”, but I felt it. Luckily… time does help.
Sometimes, you just have to hold on for a while and let the time pass. If you do, sometimes the big pile of shit get’s a couple of shovel loads taken out of it by three simple words… written in all caps… with exclamation marks. Sometimes… “GOOD, GOOD NEWS!!!!” pertains to the best news you’ve heard in a year and 19 days… at least for me. What’s the “GOOD, GOOD NEWS!!!!” you ask? The docs could no longer see any tumors in my mom’s brain!… yup, and we’ll take it!
Honestly, it’s been one of those roller coaster months, but for now I’m just gonna allow the “GOOD, GOOD NEWS!!!!” to stick around for a while and give me another thing to smile about. Today is Mother’s Day…. and I feel fortunate that when I’m done here I have the opportunity to pick up the phone… and talk to my mom… because I love her. (yes… I’m a momma’s boy. When I was a kid, I remember crying after a swim lesson… not because I was afraid of water or got it up my nose or anything, but since I was having so much fun in the water… I forgot about my mom… and I didn’t like that.) There’s a lot of crap out there, but the good is hangin’ around, too. Sometimes it’s so good… you have to say it twice.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
A commercial with LL Cool J came on last night talking about how his wife “Beat Cancer Like a Boss”. I think it’s great that she is an ambassador for the American Cancer Society and for the positive message of facing adversity with a positive outlook, but it just kinda hit me strange and it’s been swirling around in my brain. At first, I was like “Well, Kateri dealt with this experience with strength, courage, empathy, grace, and love. She never even took anything for the pain besides weed. She still supported other people. She still lived life and tried to control what she could… and what she thought she could. But… she still died.” Last night, I took the commercial as saying that if you try hard and have positive thoughts… you can beat cancer… and I don’t fully subscribe to that train of thought. Thinking more on it and actually looking into it a bit… I saw the commercial in a different light… and realized that that’s not what the commercial was saying. Cancer does what it wants… and it doesn’t give a hoot who you are or how much you wanna beat it. Yup, cancer kills…. but the message is more about how are we gonna live with it… that’s what we have control over… and I’m glad LL (we’re not really on a first name basis) still has his wife… and that on Mother’s Day, their children still have their mom.
I think there is some “bitterness” in my brain about this whole experience which makes me initially look at things from certain angles…. which aren’t always completely accurate.
Although I feel sorta “better”… this is still an overwhelming experience… life is complicated.
I bought a toilet brush for the upstairs bathroom. That may not seem like a big deal, but it is. I’m starting to bring things into my home… for my life.
I raked the paths on our land yesterday (6.5 acres). Although Kateri sorta laughed at me the first time I did it… she still enjoyed walking on them! Nowadays with Kateri gone, I sorta feel like the crazy ol’ widower on the hill raking the woods!… the beard, John Deere hat, and rubber boots don’t help that image.
To all you mothers out there… the ones who are supportive, encouraging, and present… thank you. Having a kid gives you responsibility. Loving and nurturing that child… for the rest of your life… makes you a mom.
I’ve been thinking a lot about other widowers and widows lately… more so than in the past. I think that the whole “Time heals” bullshit has something to do with that. Plus, I belong to two support groups (1 just widowers, 1 widowers/widows) and it’s kinda hard not to feel for people who are going through… or who have been through… what I’m experiencing when they pop up all over your Gosh Darn (trying to be respectful) Facebook feed! In all seriousness, I’m not exactly a “support group” kinda guy and I definitely don’t engage as much as other people, but the names on the screens and the words of support I see them write to strangers has provided me with an unmeasurable amount of encouragement for not only my life to keep moving forward, but for theirs as well! It has just been one of those things that has pleasantly caught me by surprise.
I’m at a point where some of the fog is starting to lift and my mind isn’t fully consumed by figuring out how to just “survive”… the shock is dissipating, I guess. A few other people who have lost their loved ones (spouses) have reached out to me… and I can’t tell you how wonderful that makes me feel… that they found some sort of connection to what I was saying or that it put them, at the least, a little bit at ease knowing they weren’t the only ones going through this horrendous experience. They could see there are other people who somewhat understood their pain… which is unrelenting at the beginning of this life changing event.
Soooo, on this beautifully overcast and chilly Vermont Sunday morning I decided to jump back on the ol’ blog and update the “My Thirty Days of Mo(u)rning” page with adding the first 6 days of notes from my experience being alone in the world again after nearly 20 years with Kateri. I’m currently in the first anniversary month of my Thirty Days of Mo(u)rning and it’s nice to use it as sort of a gauge to how I’ve changed, coped, and dealt with this slap in the face from life. I’ll admit… it’s a little strange looking back at these notes a year later, but I love the fact that I can remember most of it so clearly. Of course, revisiting pictures makes for a lovely emotional Sunday morning… but it’s nice to recognize that it’s a different time, it’s a different space, and that I’m different. I don’t know if I can say “Better”… there’s a lot that goes into that… but I can definitely say things have changed… and that I’m ok. I’m may even be good… ish… and I hope you all are, too.
Thirty Days of Mo(u)rning
Widower Day 6… (April 28, 2018). Woke up at 6:58am on the couch… in the same position.
Took truck to recycling in Thetford
a. Broke the law (not my town’s dump… shhh), saw Joan, she turned right. I figured if she was going to the orchard that it would give me an in… so I followed her, so I could meet a neighbor. Laying down foundation. b. John and Peggy c. Beautiful view d. Sprayed me with tick shit. New thought… I am going to constantly be paranoid of ticks since I now don’t have that person to Tick Check me (Tick Check Yourself before You Wreck Yourself…).
Took Jeep to Kmart for more green bins. (For Kateri’s clothes)
Drove to Hannaford’s in Bradford. Figured I should have at least a little bit of food I know I would eat, but don’t have to make.
a. Interesting how I’m a cook, but I was buying things I only needed to heat up. b. First real shopping trip shopping for just me… odd sensations, realizations.
Went to Local Buzz for a sandwich.
a. Abby made it for me. Came up from behind me. b. Same approach as Wild Hill Orchard… I need to step out of my comfort zone if I want the keep the same types of things that Kateri provided for me. I would pretty much never go get a sandwich by myself and bring it home to eat. c. Got a pack of smokes from The Bliss (not sure if that is the name of it).
Called Will… he and Kate came over.
a. Brought enchiladas, mole, guac, beans, chips b. Chatted in the kitchen and then on the deck… sunny, warm c. Will called an hour later mentioning that he can always come over and we can just smoke a joint.
Tidied the garage.
a. As I type this, I realize it is giving me “purpose”… something to do, something that keeps my mind going… even if it is about what I am going through. b. Built a support for plywood. Moved wood to middle so that I have space to move around and to start setting up the garage for the beginning of my life. c. Threw scrap wood in black cart, baby rocker to shed, wheelbarrow.
Flipping through pictures, I came across the 3 I had taken of Kateri (the morning she died)… didn’t shock me as much as I expected it to. I was conflicted about taking the pictures, but I felt I need to have the option of being able to see her… I find the picture beautiful with the army blanket… I just love her and found it to be somewhat peaceful.
a. Deleted one photo b. Didn’t take any other photos at Palliative.
Had a Fire.
a. Figured… why not? I’ve got a fire pit. Burnt all scrap wood from garage except planter box and piece of house (would be good to start the next fire). b. Light out for the whole thing. Sun just starting to go down. Chickens just roosting up… I watched them march to the coop. c. Used old gasoline to start… ya, stoopid… but kinda fun (kept thinking “WFC Style”). It got a little big at one point… need to expand the ring. d. Looked around—this is all mine… just an odd feeling and made me think about the fact that I wouldn’t have this without Kateri… no bank would give me a loan off of what I make. Lucky that I have all of this in a time I am dealing with such sorrow and loss. I’ll figure the money shit out… hopefully.
Took a shower. Facetimed my P’s. Planned on watching Justice League (Kateri loved superhero movies… those where really the only types of movies we would go out and see… “big screen movies”), facetimed with Keith.
a. I haven’t really been able to cry when I’m alone. Talking with my P’s and Keith I got a little weepy… I was able to release a little. It’s strange all the different types of emotions and angles and just “things” the brain does as it tries to cope. I feel mellower emotionally, but I can’t tell if it’s any easier. b. Fell asleep on the couch again (I’m writing this from bed on Sunday… at 12:30pm. Came up at 6:30 for a “Sunday morning” and haven’t really left except for 2 smokes… and had to wash my hand after each one).
Some thoughts during the day/night:
a. Willing to invest my personal time in KAF if they are willing to invest in my future… hell, I can work at home on shit and it won’t take time away from Kateri these days. b. I still get a kick out of numbers (1234) and remember how we would text the time back and forth. c. Realized I haven’t looked at myself in the mirror for a while… don’t even know the last time. I looked hairier to myself. d. People are telling me “You did good”… no regrets type shit, but I don’t really care that they feel I have been a good husband/partner/”soulmate” through this and through our life. I only care about what Kateri would think… and I will never be able to ask her about that, if I gave her enough love/support… if she was proud of my actions through life and through this big pile of shit. (I am now crying). Just one of those mindfuck type things. The tears feel good.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
It’s nice that there is no more snow at the schoolhouse. It’s not so nice that winter beat the crap out of my chimney, gutters, siding, and GAS GRILL! A few learning experiences I guess… and I get to get a new grill!
When I came out of the grocery store yesterday, I had: Milk, Cheese Dip, a frozen Chicken Pot Pie, and Oreos. Yup… my professional title is still “Sous Chef”.
The sump pump is going off every 8 minutes and 44 seconds. It was every 2 minutes and fifty seconds. We’re going in the right direction!
It’s 7:35 in the morning… I’ve been up for about 47 minutes… and I don’t know what the fuck to say. I do know that the first text of the day came in a bit ago… and I’ve been crying those good ol’ crocodile tears ever since. Although I don’t really care if people see or hear me being emotional, I am sorta glad that I don’t have people walking past my house on their way to work or school hearing me as I sob uncontrollably while making odd noises through my mouth because my nose is so plugged up with snot! Kateri always said, “Trees make better neighbors!”… and right now I’m glad they are the ones right outside my window listening to me cope and come to terms with the fact that I haven’t been able to hear her laugh, hold her hand while walking down the dirt road, or kiss her goodnight… like I did every… single… night. It has been a year since Kateri has not been on this earth. For 365 days I have come home to an empty house filled with memories of a life that life decided to take away from me… from all of us. It hurts. It’s painful. It’s something I don’t want… but it’s what I’ve got… and I’m glad life didn’t take away the memories.
In the winter of 1998/99… December… Wyoming… I watched Kateri walk from The Chalet (female employee housing) down to the lodge, from the window of The Stables (male employee housing). She had on her blue snow pants, her white winter coat with the god awful neon patch work, and her funky hat from Nepal or some place (I should remember where she got it… she told me… it’s just not coming to me!) keeping her head warm. Kateri would sometimes tilt her head as she walked. I found the image to be calming. We didn’t really know each other at the time… we had just met. At the time, there weren’t any romantic inclining’s yet… she was just someone I found to be interesting. She was unique. There was something different about her. Thankfully, we got along and became friends!
Twenty years later, I love the fact that the image of Kateri strolling through the snow is still clear as day in my mind… and that it was just the beginning of her filling my life with friendship, purpose, guidance, and love. It has been the surprise of my life watching this young twenty something woman from the east coast walking through the snow turn into the most important thing that ever came into my world. I am grateful and lucky that I am the one who got to spend the rest of Kateri’s life with her… I am fortunate in that way… I just wish she didn’t have to leave.
For the last 365 days… and for the four months and three days before that… I have been consumed with either the experience of watching and being a part of cancer ravish Kateri’s body and brain, the loss of Kateri, or trying to figure out how to survive without her. It’s been a struggle. I don’t eat, I find it a challenge to put myself to bed, I’m stressed out worrying about my future, my job, my home. I’m sad, I’m confused, and I hurt… this process physically hurts… but I’m here. I’m here surrounded by the memories that Kateri and I made with each other as we built our life together. She gave me twenty years of memories to draw upon when I feel the need to be close to her. She filled our home with relics which are attached to experiences over those twenty years which I can hold in my hand, I can feel, I can smell… I can touch. Kateri will always be with me… a part of me. That’s just what happens. This last year has sucked balls, but the great things that Kateri brought into this world… into my world… are still here… even if she isn’t. That is how we hold on… to the people we love more than ourselves. That is how I hold on to Kateri… because I miss her… I love her… and I always will.
ps… the video is kinda dark, but it did happen to be night time… and we were just sitting in our driveway. This is simply a minute and 18 seconds of Kateri being Kateri. Yup, sometimes she just had to finish out a song! (love ya Nina)
This is kinda one of those “spur of the moment” posts. It’s cloudy and a bit chilly…. with large patches of snow adding to the coolness of the image out the ol’ schoolhouse windows. I’m still in comfy clothes… from last night… because I fell asleep on the couch after watching the first scary movie… alone… in said schoolhouse… since Kateri passed away (“The Silence”. At least it wasn’t a ghost/paranormal/psychological sorta movie. And… I survived!). I actually woke up at 6 something, but was comfortable enough and warm enough, so I just decided to stay horizontal… till 9:13!… (a.m.)… and not trudge upstairs. It’s been one of those slow moving/Tupelo Honey on the radio types of mornings… and it feels good. The coffee tastes nice, dark, and strong… and I’ve already gotten to have a nice visit with a friend from down the road. I even got to pull out power tools!… and use them in my front yard while still in those comfy clothes… with the addition of rubber boots! It was literally just replacing a couple of straps… but some people… well I… will take any opportunity to fix something using tools.
Basically, I’ve enjoyed the morning. I’ve actually enjoyed the last couple of days. Last night, when I got home, I let the chickens out so that they could stretch their legs and remember what scratching in the grass and leaves from last fall feels like. I also learned that we all have a little slow motion option on our phones!… yup. As I’m going through life learning about what makes me happy, what doesn’t, and everything in between… I thought, “A slow motion video of Lil’ Bitch, Chicken, Chicken, and Chicken running to me might make me happy?!… and it did. Soooo…..
I had told myself… and I guess the digital world… that I wanted to take these next two weeks (the last two of the first year without Kateri) to mourn the loss of my wife. The other day, at the end of a conversation with a friend, he asked me, “What does that mean to you?”…. and I realized… I have no fucking idea! But I figure rememberin’ has somethin’ to do with it so that’s what I’m gonna do a little of and see how it goes. I mean… we’ll see… it took me three days, 2 baths, a pint of Ben n Jerry’s, two hours and 23 minutes of Aquaman, and 13 packages of pills (Smarties) to get through 8 photos! (yup, the kind you can hold in your hand)
Yesterday… a year ago… Kateri went into Palliative care after we spent all night in the ER (except for an early morning run home with Maria so we could grab… something?… don’t really remember). I’m not gonna talk about seeing her doc in the morning, before the hospital was humming… when I could see the sorrow in his eyes as he went over options of drilling holes in Kateri’s head to relieve some pressure. I’m not gonna get into how I kicked the wooden box out of frustration because Kateri said, “We… can’t do this anymore.”… a box I walk by every morning and every night… splintered wood that reminds me of the time I wasn’t willing to give up hope… I wasn’t willing to accept it… but my wife… Kateri, couldn’t take the pain any longer. I’m not gonna talk about that because… as awful as those sound… I thought I still had time.
A year ago yesterday, I sat on a couch. Across the room from me was my wife, my best friend, the love of my life… Kateri. It was quiet… calm. Kateri was asleep… well, drugged… but finally some relief for her. Keith was on one side of me… Michelle on the other. Each with an arm wrapped around my shoulders… a hand on my leg… one on across my chest. I remember them just holding me as I was processing what was going on… while they were processing what was going on… and I just remember saying to Keith… “This is it. We’re here for a reason…. right?… this is it?”… and all he had to say was, “Yes.”
What does “mourning” mean to me? I guess it’s remembering picnics with bologna sandwiches (bologna was not a part of our normal diet) in the back of Cherokees… in the middle of Iowa while a thunderstorm is wreaking havoc across an empty campground. It’s remembering Kateri saying, “Fear the poke!” as she would flex her index finger to show off her second digit muscle. It’s remembering that Kateri was the most loving, thoughtful, honest… sometimes brutally honest, and simply the most beautiful person I have ever been fortunate enough to meet, to be friends with, and to share my life with (of course, she’s basically the only one I’ve shared my life with!). It’s remembering sitting on that couch being comforted by friends I love. It’s remembering walking over to my wife to hold her… crying… knowing she was going to die… knowing… Kateri was going to die… soon. It’s remembering a time… when she was alive.
(before anyone says anything about her always being around, will never truly be gone, she’s in the wind and yada, yada, yada type stuff… I get it… I’m not talking about that stuff)
It’s been nice going through some old pics, but really it’s not the time. It’s hard, but the memories of Palliative Care are really what are consuming my thoughts right now… and I’m OK with that. That’s what was going on a year ago. I feel it’s only natural that they would still be ever present in the ol’ noggin around the first anniversary. And quite frankly, I believe it was probably the most intimate experience Kateri and I had together so I’ll just roll with it. Being with the person you love more than yourself when they are in pain, when they are sick, when they are told there is nothing that can be done to save their life… and them looking to you for comfort… them looking to their husband… looking to the love of their life… well, that’s when life shows you a bit more of what love is.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
On a happier note… the chickens looked really happy standing on wet, soggy grass. There’s a strip between the coop and the house… which I was excited about… and then the chickens crapped all over it! (At least they looked happy!)
No… I’m not one of the guys in the first picture, but when Kateri was around 24… ish… she had a deal with one of them to help her become a mom if she was still single and childless by the time she was 40. The day Kateri passed, that guy arrived on the east coast early in the morning… from Alaska. I love that guy… and just realized he’s basically “our” oldest friend. The three of us met in Wyoming… 1998. He was there at the very beginning of mine and Kateri’s relationship… and standing with me hours after she took her last breath… he was there with us at the very end. The memories I have that involve this man mean the world to me… and I’m glad he didn’t impregnate my wife!
It hit me last night… I’m trying to jam “healing” into a time frame and attaching it to all sorts of things. This is one reason I’m thankful I decided to use writing, to start a blog, as a tool for myself as I go through this process. Recently, my plan was to just get all those things that I associate with “widower” stuff on the blog by the one year anniversary of Kateri’s passing. I wanted it all there… consolidated… organized… so that I could start year 2 with a fresh and brighter outlook, but I can’t do it. Tomorrow is the anniversary of one of the roughest days of my life… the day we found out there were no other options (two immunotherapy treatments which had two drugs at each treatment… along with one radiation session… did absolutely nothing). The day after that is the ER. The day after that… Palliative Care.
I need to remember those times without trying to pile on what I was going through after she had passed. I mentioned that I need to take the next couple of weeks and mourn the loss of Kateri, to remember her, and this experience. I just can’t do that while posting and thinking about the time right after she passed. It’s just too much… and it takes away from the uniqueness of each experience. I feel it would diminish them… to just notes about an experience. Writing and this blog has shown me that.
Soooo, after reading my notes from Day 15, I thought it was fitting to pause the “Thirty Days of Mo(u)rning” notes here (I’ll still be posting other things) until after the 22nd, and to remember not only the last two weeks of Kateri’s life… but the 44 other years we were all so lucky and thankful to have her in our lives. For me, I just want to remember the last 20 years… my life with Kateri… and not the life without her.
Thirty Days of Mo(u)rning
Day 15… woke up at 8:00am… got out of bed at 8:45… just needed to be horizontal a little longer.
As I get ready to go back to work, I decided to shoot the entire company (for some reason) an email to show my gratitude. This is what I sent out.
Good Morning Everyone, As I try to reintegrate back into life I was going to write to my crew, to my peeps, to our department, to say “Thanks!” for supporting me and for picking up my slack over the last however long when I realized that I needed to thank everyone who makes up this company. What I just went through (and am still going through) requires support from all sorts of different angles, from all sorts of people who are in my life in varying degrees. I don’t know most of you and I’m sure most of you don’t know me, but we have KA that connects us and right now those connections are helping me as I try to navigate, cope with, and live with this new life that was thrust upon me. My wife, Kateri Marie Damato, died 2 weeks ago after a four month and three-day dance (she considered it a dance… not a battle, not a fight… although she fought hard) with Metastatic Malignant Melanoma in the brain at the age of 44. She had a rare mutation in the disease that was just absolutely brutal to her body. She faced it head on and with that “Kateri” approach to life. She never asked for a prognosis, never took narcotics for the pain because they disgusted her, she never said the “woe is me” type stuff, she never stopped living her life or being who she is when faced with an obstacle that would have left most of us destroyed on the floor and unable to function because of the weight of it. This has been the absolute worst thing that has happened to me in my life so far. I have never felt so saddened, so scared, so sorry for someone else. I have never felt so many different emotions, so much pain while… numb at the same time. It is a strange thing to go through losing a spouse, a partner. Two weeks ago, I went from traveling through this life and all that it brings (a home, experiences, travel, friends, moments, chickens) with someone who I planned on being old and wrinkly with… to instant independence and all the challenges that that brings emotionally, physically, and financially. To say the least, it has been a bit much.
The point of this email is not to list all the horrible things that come along with a big pile of shit like this, but to shed light on the amount of beauty that I have seen while going through this experience. The amount of love and support from friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, and strangers has been simply overwhelming. The conversations, the phone calls, the texts, the emails from all sorts of people in our life from all sorts of places has made some of this bearable and the rest of it not quite as daunting. Life doesn’t stop for any of us roaming this planet, but sometimes we need to stop and say “thank you”. I thank everyone for giving me time to be with my wife as she lived with cancer, to care for her when it got rough, and for the time to initially cope with my life after it had taken her’s. I thank you for providing me with the memory of being treated as a person, not an employee, in a time of adversity. I thank you for the opportunity to look back at this and say, “Ummm, that went as well as it possibly could… for a big pile of shit”.
I am just one person within this company and I know we all have a different experience with it, but I felt the need to share part of my experience with all of you because it has been a positive one… and this is what it’s all about. We are a company made up of people who are all just living life… it’s as simple as that. I look forward to using some of my new-found time to get to know some of you a little more. You can check out my FB page if you want a fuller story of our life recently and in years past (I’m cool with friend requests at this time… filling voids n such), and I’ll check out yours. If not, that’s cool and groovy… we don’t all need to be friends. More importantly, please just be kind to one another, respect each other for being here, and support the people who you are surrounded by every day because that is the way life should be lived, that is the way people should be treated, and that is the experience that you have given me. Regards, Darren
a. I’ve gotten some replies already and they make me feel hesitantly better.
a. Paid the bill, my name is nowhere on the account, they transferred me to CS… got sick of waiting and have to wait for death certificates anyways. b. Haven’t gotten death certificates yet… kind of annoying, but not really. Doesn’t really matter at this point… I’ll get them at some point.
Set up the new phone.
a. Kind of a fun little new thing. I like that it is black like the router… sorta blends in, doesn’t stand our as much as the white.
Keith came over and we chatted on the front deck for a bit (left at 3:30ish).
a. The sun was nice. Had to open up the umbrella. b. First time I hade cried in a bit. It feels good to be able to cry when he visits, I’m finding I get more emotional when other people are around c. He’s gonna start working 5 days a week…
Drove up to Burlington for Penny Cluse’s 20th Anniversary. It was something that is uncomfortable for me… social situations… alone, but I wanted to congratulate Charles and Holly and say thank you for being a part of my life. It is still one of my favorite restaurants and I hold Charles in such high regard as a cook/restaurateur
a. Didi and Nick pulled up besides me as I was texting with my dad about places to stay when they come out. b. I felt awkward about going in, but I felt pretty secure with my actions… I knew I needed to go in and I knew that I really did want to see people. (It didn’t feel weird) c. People I saw: Didi, Nick/John, Charles, Holly, Tracy, Stasia, Dan Marshall, Moira/Joe, Andy, Carlton, Juan, Sabra, Betzida?, Ruslan/Emily, Dale, James, Clarence/Sandy, Jake/Kristen, Gardner, Sipha,…. d. Stayed longer than expected, but was gonna roll with it anyways. I’m glad I stayed as along as I did to see the people I did and to have the conversations I had.
Drove home, talked to my folks about some Freedom Farm house (looked it up when I got home… hopefully they can book it).
a. I had to just get off the phone with them considering my father kept running downstairs to the computer to get information on it… I was trying to get home… and it was late already, but that is what makes it interesting and entertaining.
Read cards from Leo and Heidi, and Nancy D.
Went to bed at 2:10am…. First day of work tomorrow. Another first day of my new life… more Dr. Phil moments to come.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
If you have lost a spouse, if you are going through any type of traumatic experience, take care of yourself. If you don’t know how?… you’ll figure it out… and there are people to help you along the way.
I love how this little website gives me information. I saw people were searching for “Kateri Lidstrom”… she didn’t take my name! We were progressive n shit. (Actually, we didn’t like the idea of changing her name… Kateri Lidstrom wasn’t who she was… and it sounded stupid)
Yup… just looked down at myself and it made me kinda laugh. A friend once referred to me as an Axeless Mountain Dwarf… I guess this is what one looks like in the morning!