I took today off from work. I’ve taken the last three Earth Days off… well, I guess technically the last four. Although I love the ol’ Earth… I’m kind of attached to it!… it’s not the actual reason that I have taken the day off… and plan to not work on another Earth Day for the rest of my life. Nope, I took the day off because four years ago today was the last day I woke up to Kateri by my side. Four years ago today… was the last day I touched Kateri’s warm skin, ran my fingers through her hair, or could listen to her breath as she slept. Four years ago today… was the last day I could lean over and whisper, “I love you.” in Kateri’s ear and kiss her on the cheek. Four years ago today… I was holding Kateri’s forearm, I could feel the scar and indentation from her “shark bite”… and I heard her take her last breath. Four years ago today… is the worst day of my life. Four years ago today… Kateri died. Four years ago today, I didn’t know how I was gonna wake up and face… Tomorrow.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
A neighbor of mine lost his husband and he recently wrote a blog where part of it was about how people kinda go away after a while… they stop “checking in”… they simply go on with their lives. Widowhood is an isolating experience, even at the beginning when you are surrounded by friends and family. Even though I understand that people love me, care for me, and are there for me whenever I may need them, I still have that sense of being left… “alone”.
I’ve known Kateri’s Death Date was coming up, but I haven’t really been able to give it much thought until today. With my Mom dying on February 27th, Kateri’s mom passing on April 1st, and with the normal wear and tear of the daily grind… I just haven’t given it the time. I guess that’s one of the reasons I took today off…!.. I wanted to take the time… and to have the space… to remember Kateri and my life with her.
Kateri taught me soooo much in life. I’m not the same person I was when we met. Kateri showed me how to be a better person. Kateri gave me daily examples of how to treat other people, how to find beauty in unsuspecting places, and what the important things in life are. One of the things I love about Kateri is that she didn’t change much throughout our life together. She didn’t need to. She knew who she was, what was right, and she stayed true to herself throughout her life. She was an impressive woman.
The time she rode a bucking bronco, flannel shirts & hoodies, “Balls!”, flowers and flower gardens but not tulips in a row, The Band, outdoor showers, long walks on dirt roads, Hopes n Dreams, chickens, “Yes please!” and “Who makes the best coffee in the world?!”, Lippy/Lipper/Lipstorm… but not Lipstick, a Toyota with a wooden bed, bowling balls on the side of the road (fyi… it costed around $23 to mail a bowling ball across the country in 2002… and she called it a “gutter ball”), bathtubs deep enough for boobs to float in, yard art, sufferin’ succotash, going to the beach in the summertime… going to the ocean in the off season, mini-Fridays, overalls and Darn Toughs, New Hampshire is a state… Vermont is a state of mind, the floor couch, “pills” & Pocket People, 1973 Super Beetles that were five different shades of orange, Dancing the Trump away, Dancing in the car/dancing in the living room/dancing in the kitchen or anywhere and at whatever time it needed to happen…….. Kateri’s Dance with Cancer. My life with Kateri was cut short by powers beyond my control, but I have a million and a half memories that remind me of why I loved her so much and how much she gave to the people in her life.
I’m gonna have a good day today… I am. I mean, I’ve already shot the shit with the dude who is gonna tattoo Kateri’s Birthdate and Deathdate up and down the spine of my back, I got outside and walked The Loop with Xander… and he didn’t run off!, and after a nice little drive through Vermont… I’m gonna spend the evening with people who have a deep love and steadfast bond with Kateri.
Life can be sad, challenging, confusing, and overwhelming… but that’s just part of the gig. It may be hard to see at times, but there are some pretty cool people, beautiful moments, experiences, and adventures mixed in there, as well.
April 1st, 2022… Mary Ann Damato… a beautifully loving woman with moments of Double Pump Flip Offs… Kateri’s Mom (Mom to 7 others… Grandmother or Abuela to 8ish more)… my Mother-in-Law… passed away on Friday morning. Stoopid cancer.
Mary Ann was a wonderful person in my life. I loved watching… and experiencing… Kateri’s relationship with her mom over the years. I loved getting to know Mary Ann… and her getting to know me. I love that we became family through the moments and time we spent together. I love that she considered me a son long before Kateri became my wife. When it comes right down to it… Mary Ann was part of “The Good” in the world. From here in the Northeast and across this country, to the villages of South and Central America, to the streets of Mexico where she would teach art to the kids on the sidewalk… she has friends and family from all walks of life who will feel the loss of this loving and compassionate woman. Take care, Missy… I love you… tons.
Now, I don’t really have much experience with death. I don’t come from a large family. I wasn’t close to grandparents, cousins, or anything. I’ve been fortunate that a vast majority of my friends are still around. And I live in a country where we don’t talk about death in a positive manner much… which may sound weird… but it’s something that we all experience, from one point of view or another, at some point in the timeline of life. Although I don’t have much experience with it, I kinda feel like the lessons I’ve learned on the topic were taught (and being taught) in an expediated night class that I’m court ordered to go to!
Being here with my Mom for the last three weeks is a completely different experience than being there with Kateri as I watched cancer destroy her body and take away her breath. I’m in a different role here in Idaho. I’m playing a different part… in a different scene… of a different movie. The subject may be the same, but it’s a version that I don’t quite have a handle on. Even though I already know how the movie is gonna end… it’s the final scene that’s still being written… and I’m having a pretty hard time with the writer. In all honesty, I kinda wish I could fire the writer… but I think they unionized a long time ago and have obtained… what’s that called?… tenure.
I am currently in the process of losing the most important person in my life. When Kateri died, that distinction shifted to my Mom. (Sorry… there’s a hierarchy and we’ve all got favorites.) In the last three weeks, I’ve learned a few things. One of the lessons I’ve learned is that losing Kateri sorta prepared me for the time when I will lose my mom. It kinda sucks to draw upon the memories of that time in my life, but it showed me just how rough life could get… and subsequently, that I would make it through. I mean, at the least… I’ve made it until today!… which is good enough.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple of days simply listening to my mom breath as I sit on the old wooden chair next to her bed. Every time she takes a breath, I count until her next one. 1, 2, 3… 1, 2, 3… 1, 2… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7… 1, 2… 1, 2, 3… 1, 2……. 18… and so on and so on. I actually find it relaxing… until the counting continues into the teens and twenties… that sucks. I’m sure I’m trying to get a gauge on where we’re at in the process, but for the most part… I just wanna be there for my mom when she periodically opens her eyes. I can’t really stand the idea of her being by herself in her room in the final days of her life. I want her to see… to feel… just how much she is loved and that she is not going through this… alone.
I started this post yesterday. Today, I began using a stopwatch as I sat on that wooden chair. Her breathing pattern has changed to the tune of take two breaths… a twenty-three second pause… take two breaths. Let me tell you… those pauses aren’t fun to hear.
I’ve noticed that death has a smell. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s the same smell that filled the air when I was sitting with… and holding… Kateri.
I’m tired. Physically, emotionally, and psychologically… exhausted. I don’t wanna think about leaving, because when I do it means that my mom will be gone. I wanna be here and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to be here… but I’m also ready to be home.
It took me a second to process what he said, but then my brain figured out that the meth addict looking Idaho asshole driving his shitbox ’92 maroon Toyota Corolla was leaning out his window yelling, “GO HOME!” as he passed me going the opposite direction when I pulled onto my parent’s street. It caught me by surprise as I was simply driving home after grabbing a mocha for me and a latte for my mom… which I know she won’t drink. It pissed me off. It upset me to the point where I flipped a bitch with the intention of catching up to the self-absorbed and small minded dickhead at the traffic light to inquire about his thoughts on hometowns, state pride, and what the words “One Nation” in our country’s Pledge of Allegiance means to him. Well, that and if he knew I was raised here in the city of Boise which fostered a deep love for the mountains, wildlife, and wilderness in me from the vast amount of time I’ve spent in them… and that I’m only here visiting because my mom is currently laying in a hospital bed in her bedroom dying from cancer. Fuck you… you fucking fuck… who can’t even grow a proper beard…!
Luckily, he wasn’t at the light when I got to it, which meant I didn’t have to figure out what it was I was actually gonna do when I got there! To be clear… I wasn’t looking for a fight… I’m not a fighter… I’m like three feet tall! I mean, I have no problem with scrappin’ if circumstances lead to it and it’s justified, but I generally don’t like the feeling of getting punched in the face and I don’t believe there are really that many circumstances that justify escalating to the point of violence. I may have been 100% comfortable with the possibility of confrontation at the time, but I’m glad it didn’t happen. No… instead I used this individual’s last three brain cell’s reaction to the color of my license plate (on my cute little Jeep) as an exercise in prioritizing what is important in my life, what is the immediate need, and who are the people… and types of people… I wanna surround myself with as I keep marching on day after day.
Yup, this douchebag might’ve put me in a foul mood and made me lose a tiny bit of faith in humanity (and reinforced why I live in the woods of Vermont!), but he’s just one person… whom I will most likely never see again… and I’m ok with that.
With that being said… below was gonna be my post yesterday morning. It was kinda nice for me to see that I could come up with a whole bunch of people who I care about a million times more than the inbred who screamed out his window at a license plate.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Dear Mom, Kateri, Dad, Dina, Tommy, Josh, Jacob, Addison Rose, Sadie, Amanda, Matty, Les, Keith & Michelle, Maria, Pookie, Pocker, Cassie, Trilla, Moose, Jeanette, Amelia, Cisco, Chichi, Mary Ann, Todd, Tony, Scotty (The Hottie), MPH, Jake, Kristen, Sarah, Eric, Teri, Diane, Jay, Jason, Greg, Luna, Amanda, Casey, Raph, Mike, Michael, Justin, Juice (sorry I haven’t called!), Lea Jae, Becky, Cindy, Cristina, Jeff, Jeff, Jessica, Kate, Phil, Phillip, Philip, Mark, Sue, Other Mark, Other Sue, Sandra, Bill, Shannon, Tamzen, Hannah, Gen & Jake, Luke & Brady, Michelle, Tim, Carrie, Jeremy, John, Nick, John… and another John with an “H”, Ruslan, Margot (I’m so happy for you guys!), Will, Will (More Black Sabbath…!), Sarah, Jeanie, Keri, Mike, Franny, Gardner, Abby, Michelle, Cindy, Rosie (you can take the rest of the day off!), Davin, Lil’ Eric, Corey, Orrin, Ann, Cindy, Frank, Jaime, Jamie, Tara, Tara (pronounced Tara), Lucy (Little Lion Dog), Bridget, Maggie, Lauren, Nancy… and Nancy, Paul, Rob, Wilson, Tracy, Paulie, Charles, Kate, Will, Holly, Jenny, Wendy, Brad, Maura, Luanne, Carol, Dennis, Tom, Mike, Bob, Jim, John, Susan, Lucas, Greg, Didi, Sean, Angela, Angela & Sean (even though I haven’t met Sean!), Lisa, Uncle Ron (you’re an impressively strong man… fuck cancer), Kris, Rhonda, Sarah, Ian, Martha, Matt, Chad, Julie, Laurie, Laura, Chris, Gil, Leslie, Luke, MaryJane, Vickie (not Michelle’s alter-ego), Frank & Marnie (congrats on the new place!), Dan, Marc, Nadia, Andy, Brian, Nate, aaaaaaand Xander (even though you’re a dog and won’t be reading this),
ps… And to those who aren’t listed… I thank and send ya some love, too.
I went for a drive on Friday. I’ve been in Idaho for two weeks and a day now to be with my mom and on Friday I just needed to get out of Dodge. Well, it’s not so much that I needed to get out of Dodge… I just needed to cover some ground, get into the mountains and away from the lights and sounds of suburbia and the city, so that I could feel a bit more comfortable and be in a space that would allow me to… think. Of course, I’m pretty sure it also started the process of me having a mid-life crisis… sorta. I just happen to need more money so that I can have a mid-life crisis in style. You know, like the ones you used to be able to have in the 80’s with sports cars and cocaine! (ummm… FYI… neither of which I’m actually interested in) I guess it’s not so much that I’m having a mid-life crisis… it’s more me trying to make sense of living a life without being able to give my mom a hug, being able to tell her about my day, being able to share my life with her, being able to lean on her for support and guidance, being able to tell her… I love her. After losing Kateri to Metastatic Malignant Melanoma… with mutations… my mom was there for me. She even made the trip to Kateri’s Kick-Ass Party… oxygen tank in tow, needed because of the cancer… saying she was gonna make it there one way or another and wouldn’t have missed it for anything. My mom is a strong woman. My mom is an independent woman. My mom is a caring and compassionate woman who loved me no matter what bad decisions I made throughout my life… while also celebrating the good ones. And my mom is currently in her bedroom, laying in a hospital bed resting as Joan Baez radio fills the air… dying from cancer. No, I guess it’s not so much that I’m having a mid-life crisis… I’m just really sad… I’m just feeling kinda lost… and being here watching my mom live with cancer for the last little bit of her life is just… hard.
When Kateri died, everything I thought I knew about who I was and what I wanted my life to look like simply vanished. It was cloaked with some sort of haze… a fog… this lack of direction in the world and my place in it. Being a widower… to put it bluntly… sucks balls. To be a widower in my mid-forties, to lose Kateri at a time when we were at the best spot in our lives and we were so excited about the future, our home, our history, and growing old together… honestly, threw me for a loop. But in the last almost four years, it also taught me that as long as I’m upright and on this side of the earth… I’ve gotta keep putting pants on and taking those steps to try and figure out how to keep living in a world without something that I thought I was gonna live with forever. It taught me that sometimes in life we have to adapt to scenarios that we never could’ve imagined… that never crossed our minds. It taught me that life could be hard… and living could be even harder.
Kateri’s death showed me that I could endure quite a bit while also clarifying… and simplifying… a couple of my priorities in life. My priority right now is to be with my mom because this is one of those things that’s only gonna happen once in my life. When I leave Idaho, my life and priorities will be different than when I arrived. I’ve accepted that and I know I will be ok… and I’ll continue to search for ways to make life better. Unfortunately, part of being here with my mom is seeing her frustration… seeing her discomfort… seeing her lose her mobility… her independence… seeing her in and out of lucidity… seeing her so… tired. Losing ones we love is hard, but sometimes I think seeing them having to endure the process as cancer attacks their bodies and we witness strength turn into frailty… well… sometimes I feel like that part of life is the hardest.
I just posted a blog about Xander… my friend’s dog who Amanda and I recently adopted after she died… and I just kinda didn’t like the post. Maybe it’s because I started it weeks ago and tried to finish it when I was in a different state of mind or different place in life, or it might be that I feel it doesn’t capture the impact Xander has had on me and my life…? So I thought I would briefly expand on this experience… up to this point in time.
Xander just lost “His Person”. His life just got thrown for a loop. I know a little something about that. Because of my Widowhood experience, I feel I have a responsibility to Xander to make this shift in his life as easy on him as possible. For example, Kateri and I were always those “No animals on couches or beds” type people, but that was a different time in my life. As I see it, for seven years Xander has had his couch. It’s where he spent a lot of his time. It was comfortable for him. I can’t… in good conscience… force him to the floor by “training” him not to get on the couch by speaking to him sternly or reprimanding him. Again, he just lost His Person… I can handle sharing the couch with him… and his hair.
I bought this couch a couple of weeks after we found out Kateri was sick. I figured, if she was gonna be spending more time on our couch… it should probably be on one that she actually found comfortable and not the lumpy “Hand me Down” she mother fucked more often than not… even though the “Hand me Down” was a huge upgrade over the prior couch!
I’m keeping the bed to myself, though. We’ve all gotta compromise sometimes.
In some ways, he’s the perfect dog for me. I mean, it’s kinda like we’re two widowers sharing The Schoolhouse as we get accustomed to the lives we weren’t planning on living when we lost the ones we love. I’m glad I could be there for him. I’m glad I had the chance to tell Judy I would give him the best life I possibly could… and I intend to fulfill that obligation and responsibility.
Just as I would much rather be sitting and talking with Kateri than remembering her and our life together, I would much rather be visiting with Judy and Xander than seeing him jump around and do that funny, excited, under his breath bark thing he does when I get home from work, but there are some things in life that just… happen. I am thankful to Judy for entrusting Amanda and I to give Xander a good life. And simply… I am thankful to Xander for coming into mine.
It’s nice having new life in The Little Red Schoolhouse.
First off, I’m just gonna say that I’m not really worried about my new roommate shitting on the floor. I mean, I’m pretty sure he just won’t, but if he does..?… I guess it would be my own damn fault… because he’s a dog… whom I never want to put in the position of needing to make a decision such as, “Should I just shit on the floor?!”. He’s a very well behaved four legged animal whose actually been staying with me for the last seven and a half weeks. The first half of his stay was more of a temporary thing with us spending the second half really gettin’ to know each other to see if a more permanent stay was the best decision for everyone involved. The quick is, a few Mondays ago, after he had been up here a week or so, my girlfriend Amanda and I were asked by our friend to adopt her dog Xander when she dies… because her love for Amanda is simply immense, she thought the world of her, and knew that Amanda would love him and take care of him. Basically, we said yes and thought Xander could/would stay up here with me… since I live in the woods and he would have space to run around… because he’s a dog. Yesterday morning, in her sleep, our friend Judy peacefully passed away. At that moment, the moment in which death drew that definitive line in our life, The Little Red Schoolhouse became Xander’s… home.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
It’s actually been a few weeks since Judy passed… I’m just now getting back to this post. Life gets busy once in a while… and simply doesn’t stop for us.
I now have a dog hook. It was just a hook in my “Laundry Room”… but now it has dog stuff on it.
As of last night, at around 7:03… the Honeymoon with Xander was over after he booked it through the woods… up the hill… in the dark. Which meant that I was running up a hill… through the woods… in the dark. Fortunately, I had a flashlight… and four little LED tealights I crammed into my pocket as I ungracefully pulled myself over the rock wall to chase after him. This was the first time I was like, “We’re just gonna walk to the wood pile, it’s dark, the small woodland creatures are sleeping, he’s good at staying close…. I’m not gonna use the leash or put the reflective coat thing on him…!”… and then he bolted.
When he took off at a sprint, my plan was to run up the hill to the path, stop, and listen for him rustling in the leaves. He ended up being just on the other side of the path… the same path in which we walked down (instead of B-Lining it through the woods!) to get back to the house… me bent over holding his collar (good thing I’m short!). After a little sit and chat by Kateri’s Potting Shed… and then a bit of the cold shoulder… we made up. I figured, he’s just a dog being a dog and I’m just learning how to live with a dog… learning to live with Xander.
I have an odd “feeling of guilt” type thing going on. Xander has already added so much to my life and I’ve been having a blast with him… but it’s only because our friend died. It’s a weird thing to balance. Well, maybe it’s not about balancing anything. Maybe it’s more about recognizing the connection between two separate experiences and taking each experience for what they are…? I guess it’s kind of about living in the present… and remembering the past.
We got Xander a dog bed for the bedroom. I already gave up the couch… I wanna keep my bed…!
I love that I can see him all curled up in blankets and sleeping in it from my bed. Every night when I call it a day, there’s a few minute delay before I can here him stretch as he is getting off the couch and then the clickity-clack of his toe nails on the wood floors and stairs as he saunters up to his bed. He’ll come into the bedroom, get a pet on the head, a scratch behind the ears, and then be there until the morning.
I’m having a hard time considering Xander “My/Our” dog. He’s still Judy’s dog… Amanda and I are simply looking after him and promised to give him a good life… as he stays at my house… and sleeps on the couch… or two inches from the woodstove.
For me, the day Kateri died our Little Red Schoolhouse became… silent. Not to mention that once the bastard raccoons massacred Lil’ Bitch, Chicken, and Chicken… I became the only animal in my household for the first time in twenty years!…(besides Mutual of Vermont Wild Kingdom happening in my walls and ceilings)… and I got very comfortable with a life of not being around and/or being responsible for another living thing…! (ummm… FYI… I actually think raccoons are pretty darn cute… except those specific ones… they’re bastards). So I’ve been having to think about stuff like, “Am I ready to share my space, to share The Schoolhouse, to share my home…?” and “Do I want to be responsible for another living thing until it… or I… die!”. Oh yeah, don’t worry, I’ve also thought about the fact that if I’m already this attached to the guy… am I willing to endure the pain that will come if I outlive him?… he’s 7.
(The answer to that is yes… because unconditional love and adventures are parts of life that kinda make it worth living.)
I’m totally kicking my neighbor’s ass at this whole wood pile decorating challenge!… that they’re not aware they are a part of. (Yes, I started this post before Halloween…!)
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.
It’s raining. It’s a little windy. It’s Sunday. It’s nice…. cuz I’m comfy n cozy and still in bed… with coffee.
I’ve been pretty busy the last few months, but last weekend I took some time and replanted Kateri’s aloe plant, a couple of brugmansia cuttings which had been living on the window sill in the kitchen, and some leafy thing living in bark that I had been watering without knowing what the heck it was… but figured the leaves were still green so they would probably enjoy some agua. (I’ve been told that those leaves are actually an orchid. Soooooo… I guess I have an orchid. Yup… I’m tropical!) I’ve also had this piece of Christmas Cactus hanging out in a small old timey glass bottle for the last three years… haven’t done anything with it in those last three years… no dirt, no direct sun, not even a lick of water… but threw that in a new pot with some soil and placed it in one of the big ol’ schoolhouse windows to see if it would catch. The fact that it is still a… shade of green…… gives me hope! And why not?! What’s the worse that could happen?… all those people who come hang out at my house (which is pretty much just one other person… My Lady friend) would see that I planted a dead cactus thing?!… I can live with that.
To cut to the chase… repotting Kateri’s plants is an extremely personal experience for me in terms of the attachments I have put on them in relation to her, to my memories of her, my love for her, and to the last twenty years where I got to see how much joy plants… these plants… gave my Wife. To do it with my Lady Friend was a wonderful exercise for me as I learn to live in this state where I feel as though I’m living… in-between lives. Yay!… widowhood.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’ve had what some have described as a “Heavy couple of months”. And I guess I have. But I’m getting through. Life is simply a mish mash (mosh?) of experiences and encounters that play their parts to get us… Here. There are things that bring us joy… and things that do not. My guitar is one of those things that brings me joy, but also provides me with a little balance. Although it can be frustrating (considering I don’t know really know what I’m doing!), it will always push the world outside the windows aside and allow me to simply sit on our little green rocking chair… in our Little Red Schoolhouse… and get lost for a minute or two.
I’m just gonna say it… I’m tired. Rather exhausted, really. Physically… psychologically… and emotionally……. tired. For weeks now, all I’ve really wanted to do was lay in bed on a Sunday morning with my coffee and some weed and write a little blog post since I haven’t for a bit, but I’m in foodservice during a time when it’s difficult to find help and the entire country has decided that the Pandemic is over…. and they want to come… here… yay. It’s actually not that bad… it’s just a lot when you feel like you’re behind before you punch the clock in the morning… or after working 11 eleven hours running your ass off while peeling beets, pickling red onions, panning up and cooking 40#’s of bacon, or trying to find product because the big food purveyors cut our order due to their staffing levels…. more “yay!”. (Although I do not work for a little independent restaurant, I do feel the Pandemic is showing the public some of the cracks in our food system, how fragile and challenging our industry is, and how the little guys are strugglin’… if still around… while the big players will do just fine. It doesn’t help that customers have no problem telling the high school kid working behind the counter that they are worthless and bitch at them about the fact that they had to wait longer than expected for their muffin! Yup…. my wife died and turned my life into a game of Pick-Up Sticks. Sorry you had to wait… for a muffin… grow up… and fuck off.) Ok, that’s all I’ll say about that for now because I’d rather relax as I lay in bed and write this… and I can already feel myself getting worked up!
More than a few things have happened since my last post that I wanted to write down… that I wanted to sorta process and share. There was working Memorial Day Weekend and then Fourth of July shenanigans… which I prefer to call Independence Day. There was learning from a good friend that an old friend had decided to jump off of the Golden Gate Bridge. My lady friend and I went to Mystic for a weekend… and yes, had the pizza. I flew for the first time in a while to spend a couple of days with my mom… which was wonderful. (Seeing my mom was wonderful… the whole flying experience was mostly just an entertaining necessity. Luckily no one got into fisticuffs and the only plane I saw on fire was for training purposes as we were landing in Texas. Yup… Texas.) But for today, I’m going to write about yesterday… when I went to go see my Mother In-Law, Mary Ann… at the hospital.
Considering the fact that Mary Ann has been a part of my life for decades… I don’t really know where to start or what to write so I’m just gonna start with the immediate and set the scene. The Friday after I got back from Idaho to see my mom, I got a text from my sister in-law telling me she resigned from her teaching gig and was flying to Mexico (where my mother in-law has been living for the last couple of years) because she was having health issues and couldn’t take care of herself. After rain storms, rental cars, Mexican hospitals that only took cash due to said rain storms, four airplanes… morphine… and a wheelchair later… Mary Ann was back in the states where we learned she has cancer in her bones, liver, and lungs with a blood clot in her pulmonary artery for the cherry on top. Once again… fuck.
On the widower side of things, it’s a strange experience to go through. It brings up all sorts of things. It brings my life with Kateri right back to the forefront of my thoughts, memories, and emotions. Kateri’s family was mostly here in the East while mine are on the left side of the country, so I’ve spent more time with them than I have my own family over the last 20 years. Since Kateri died, I haven’t spent much time with any of them but I think we all still consider each other family. (Now we’re all considered Out-laws!) When I heard Mary Ann was sick and coming home, I didn’t think of her in terms of someone from a previous life whom I didn’t have any attachments to anymore… I simply thought of her as my Mother In-Law… as Mary Ann… as Mom… as someone I love very much because of the time and space we shared over the years coupled with the stories Kateri shared with me about her life with her mom. I love her… and it sucks to see people you love get hit with a big pile of poop.
Loss… it doesn’t help that I’ve been thinking a lot about loss lately and how we are forced to live with it. It’s a balancing act. This year I’ve already had two friends die and both my Mom and Mother In-Law are now living with cancer. When Kateri was in Palliative Care/Hospice, it was made apparent to me that the world doesn’t stop just because your life is complicated or even falling apart. It’s a challenge to find time to deal with everything. Sometimes, it’s a challenge to be there for someone. Sometimes…. it’s a challenge to be there for yourself. When Kateri was dying, I took the approach of, “How can I make this/these memories something I can look back on and be proud of as a person, as a friend, as a man, and as a husband… even if those memories are gonna suck to remember?”. I’ve tried to keep that approach to life since. Because of that approach… and after I was told of something that Mary Ann had said… I knew I was gonna miss another Sunday morning of drinking coffee in bed, smoking weed, and blabbing on about my little world because my priorities for the weekend had… changed.
“I want to be with Kateri.” Without knowing the context in which they were said, those are the words that made my plans for Sunday clear. I knew exactly what it was I needed to do. Sunday was the first chance I had to drive the three to four hours down to Connecticut to see Mary Ann in person… so I did… and then drove back. A couple of years ago, a friend of Kateri’s and mine who is a glass blower brought me down to the floor of the shop he works at and started the process of putting Kateri in glass so that I could give her to her family. For about a year and a half, Mary Ann’s piece has been sitting on my kitchen counter in a little purple velvet bag because I wanted to give it to her in person since she was living in Mexico. Basically, I didn’t want to risk mailing it to her and then Kateri getting lost in Mexico. Even though… to be clear… Kateri would’ve been 100% fine being lost in Mexico!… but the priority was to give her to her mom. When I heard her mom had said those words… it crushed me… and my priorities became clear. I thought, “Mary Ann is not with Kateri (thankfully)… but I can bring Kateri to her.” Looking at the situation, I would’ve had a hard time if something had happened to Mary Ann in the last few days and I had decided to simply lay in bed on a Sunday morning, smoke weed, write a blog, and live my little life instead of doing what I thought was the right thing to do for me… and her… at the time. I needed to have an experience I could look back on without regret. I’m glad I took the time. I’m glad I got to see Mary Ann’s face as I handed her her daughter. I’m glad we were able to hug each other, cry, and feel the love and energy that Kateri still brings to this world. I’m glad I was able to say, “I love you”… while holding her hand… and hear her say, “I love you more!”.
Priorities… we’ve all got our own. Decisions… we’ve all got to make them… and live with the consequences. Make the ones that are the best for you at the time.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’m attaching a GoFundMe page one of Mary Ann’s daughters had set up to help with medical stuff and the whole getting to Mexico and back. Kateri and I both come from humble beginnings… (I’m still in humble beginnings!)… neither one of us exactly came from money so events like this are just another added stress when dealing with an already stressful situation. When Kateri went into Palliative Care, a friend of ours set one up for us… and it has literally saved my life. Because of the generosity of friends, family, and strangers I have been able to limp along for three years now. Because of that experience, I personally know how helpful a few extra bucks can be not only financially, but psychologically and emotionally, as well. So…. please share if you can.
Did I mention Mary Ann would teach art to the street kids in Mexico? That’s the kinda person she is. I mean, she’s human like the rest of us and I’ve seen her do the two handed, double pump, middle finger flip off to family members!… which was always entertaining and something we all laughed about for years!… and just another reason I love her.
So, today is the third anniversary of Kateri’s last breath. I had a few ideas of what I wanted to do today to remember her, but when this morning came around… I was kind of at a loss. Yesterday, I knew I wanted to make a conscious effort to focus on the beautiful parts of my life with Kateri so I started taking notes of some ideas for a blog post… because I knew I wanted to do one (they help me process some things). I was gonna do one yesterday so that I could just take today as it comes, but I’ve been procrastinating a lot lately and… well… I guess I’m doing one today…! For some reason, I didn’t want to just sit in bed and write, so I dictated notes into my phone throughout the day and have decided to simply copy and paste them onto here. Since I was dictating… and I apparently don’t annunciate… there are words or phrases that don’t exactly add up!… or make sense!… and at some points I don’t even know what it was I was trying to say! But anyways… this is what I did and thought about throughout the day today… the anniversary of the day my plans for my future and life… changed.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Memories of places just on the drive home… Like Harry (Kateri) talking about standing at the lake with Michelle and hearing people backspace (ummm, this is what happens when you try to erase something while dictating)… a dude singing… or playing trumpet or something.
I didn’t win the lottery last night.
It’s earth day.
Started (today) with taking a bath… I didn’t really know what else to do.
I have a picture of Kateri on the last day she was alive. I don’t need to look at it… I can see it… it’s a hard image to have… even if it’s peaceful.
I’ve been smoking cigarettes off anon (“and on”-I’m not some weird conspiracy theory guy or anything) very nice (“since Kateri died”-there’s nothing nice about it). It’s time to stop.
Cleaned the house, made appointments, checked on things because life doesn’t stop… even for a day… just because I’m dealing with shit.
I worry about money, worry about losing my job… Because I know I can be a lot to handle sometimes… Dealer (“to deal with”-If I was a dealer, I think I would worry more about going to jail than losing my job!). I worry about losing more. It’s days like today that remind me that I’ll be OK… I’ve been able dad (“to”-love ya dad, but don’t know why you’re in this sentence) survive without Kateri for three years, I can handle anything else that’s on (that comes) my way.
After losing Kateri I’m OK… Or at least willing to except (accept)… That at any point anything in my life can change. I always go back to “if I lost my job, what would I do.?”. It freaks me out. But then I think about the fact that I lost Kateri, I’ll be able to handle anything that comes my way whether it’s by my own hand or unexpectedly. Luckily, pandemic has been good to me… I mean, not going out, government stimulus is (stimuli..?), “report in” pay pay (type) stuff, coupled with my personal forest (“forced”-I don’t have a personal forest… just woods) austerity measures that started when I lost a third of my household income with the death of Kateri… Tell me a (right after we) just bought our first house. For me, it always comes back to (the fact that) my home is the most important thing (to me)… It’s a cute ass little red school house in the hills of Amara (“Vermont”-I don’t know where Amara is, but it sounds exotic!), it was our (the) perfect home… For us.
It does help me simplify in my new life. Our little red school house. It is the answer to so many questions that come up in widowhood. I don’t have any plans on (of) getting rid of it. Hey (A.). At this point in time a bank will never give me alone (a loan) to buy something like this again. Be (B.). Is (It’s) my home. It’s filled with my life. My life with Kateri… And the light (“life”-I’m currently sitting in the dark) I’m currently in. Ha ha ha is (it’s) that kateri attachment that… Is the reason I have so much love from my home. Sometimes I wish I was one of those little words (“widowers”-I’ve been called little words, though) that just had a house in the suburbs… It (which) was filled with their lives, but they’re OK just moving those things to another house. This was Kateri’s dream, do you have a monster (“to have a piece of Vermont”-we’ve all got monsters, though). It was our dream. And it’s a daunting bye (life) for me to go through when I look to the future. It’s a hard way to live.
I’m just sitting in it (the bath tub) dictating into my phone… The water is definitely cooling off… And I’m finding the experience rather ridiculous.
I just had to remind myself that I am trying to make a conscious effort to look at the beautiful parts of life today and of Kateri’s life… Not be all sad and shit. But I’m sad. And overwhelmed. Don’t worry, I’ve also grown a custom (accustomed) to these types of feelings and realize that they pass. There is (They are) a part of my life.
I think one of the things I am experiencing is that I was an insecure kid and young adult,… I became much more confident in who I was over the last 23 years because of Kateri. She taught me so much about life. We were strong to gather (together). I was wrong (“strong”-definitely not wrong) knowing she was there. Because we (didn’t) need anything else… We (would) figure any challenges out… We (would) survive… We were just living life together. (In) Widowhood (I) have lost that… part of that Stranch (strength) that Kateri provided me in my life with. I think (some of) those insecurities pre-back in (come back) because you don’t… because I don’t have Kateri building me back up… Or just up when I’m down or dealing with challenges. Yes I have people in my life, people that help me stay… or try to stay… on a positive path in life… I just have this constant feeling of being alone. Which is weird when you (I) know that (feel that).
I need to say thank you. Yes I have my own personal struggles with the lightbulb (not sure what was up with the lightbulb) loss of kateri… But the experience of widowhood Aza (as a)… (as) Just another human… it’s an extremely hard and involved thing to go through. It touches every single aspect of your life. I am thankful to have so many wonderful people in my life. People are (who I) respect because of how they live their lives. I’m glad I love the people I love.
I don’t know why, but for some reason I’ve been walking around my house naked more often than usual… Which was never. I mean like when I get out of the shower or out of the bath… like I just dead (“did”-wow, not everything needs to be death, death, death!).
My life is just so different… It’s path and my expectations are just so different then (than) they were three years, four months, and three days ago.
So, what did you do on the anniversary of your wife’s death?… I clean(ed) the house and did two loads of laundry. I think I feel that if I keep my house in order that it means in someway that I’m holding my life together… That I’m doing OK. Plus it just gives you time to think.… Me (time) to think. I did end up also cleaning up Kateri‘s plants that I have in the bedroom and upstairs.
Today, honestly I think I’m just trying to get through the day.
I’m going for a drive. It’s not because I’m trying to remember fun times with Kateri as I pass landmark(s) or as I drive through the woods or anything like that… It’s really because I wanna (want a) soda.
My house is the 1921 wild Hill school house… Which means it’s turning 100 this year. I think I want to have a party… Kateri would approve of that… and have a lot of fun throwing it.
Kateri loved dance. She loved to dance. She loved watching people dance. She said she was gonna “Dance the Trump away”. She referred to her diagnosis as her “Dance with Cancer”… and she was gonna dance that away, as well. She may not have danced the cancer away, but she never let cancer take the dance away from her. She continues to remind me about the important things in life… she continues to inspire me.
Three years ago, at 7:24pm on April 22nd, 2018… my life changed. At that moment… it felt empty. Three years later… I have wonderful memories of my life with Kateri that help me deal with the loss of her. I’m thankful I had twenty years of life… with her by my side.
I’m not angry. I’m not disgruntled. I’m not mad. I’m not better (“bitter”-I’m definitely better than I was three years ago!)… most the time. I’m not weak. I’m not vulnerable.
I am grateful. I am thankful. I’m honored. I am strong. I’m confident. I’m capable. I’m curious. I’m determined. I am loved.
I’m also…. tired. But since I don’t drink anymore… meaning the worse I’m gonna feel in the morning is tired and not hungover… well, I can handle that…!
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!!..!
My plan was to grab some Indian food from the house in WRJ… (it’s literally a house that sells take-out)… but when I was eating my salad for lunch in the driver’s seat this afternoon, I saw there were only twenty-five more miles until I hit 100,000 in the (my) Cute Little Jeep! Of course I Google Mapped it… (or used whatever app it is that shows me how to get from here to there)… and my phone told me that it was only twenty-FOUR miles to my house! So, needless to say, I decided against getting the super tasty Indian food to hopefully maybe make the memory of pulling into my driveway… of arriving Home… when those five numbers turned into six! And… well… it did!
I’m pretty good at attaching all sorts of significance… to all sorts of things. 100,000 is just a number. A car… even a Cute Little Jeep… is just a car. But we use numbers, such as 100,000, as milestones… they allow us to chunk up our lives. Kateri is attached to every memory, feeling, thought I have about my Jeep because it is the first brand new vehicle we ever bought! It was a big deal to us… we had just bought our first home and were somehow able to by a spanking new Jeep! Inch by inch… over the years… we kept working towards the life we wanted… towards our Hopes N Dreams. For people like us, with the life we lived, buying a car in which you don’t have to worry about the radiator blowing, or fuel pump leaving you stranded, or the window not rolling up when you accidentally hit the down button… and it’s 3 degrees out… is one of those moments in life where it makes you feel as though you’ve “arrived”… or “grown up”. It was a time in my life when “The Struggle” seemed to finally be dissipating. Fuck… life was good! WE HAD CHICKENS FOR CHRIST’S SAKE! (…sorry for using the Lord’s name in vain) Things were humming along!… until they weren’t anymore. So ya… I guess I can say that a car is just a car, but nothing is that simple. Seeing my odometer hit 100,000 miles is an opportunity for me to remember the memories I have with this vehicle during my life with Kateri… and in my life since. 100,000 miles is a lot of ground to cover… which would take a long time write down… so here’s just a few of those miles.
Widower Notes n Thoughts… about my Cute Little Jeep:
I’m really diggin’ that it turned 100,000 right when I got home. It’s just one of those cool coincidental things… that provides me with a pretty cool memory.
Driving the Jeep home from Burlington right after agreeing to pay for it over 7 years, we opened the sunroof on the interstate… just because we could. We noticed it didn’t shut the first time we tried and thought it just had to do with the wind. It still doesn’t shut sometimes… and I still haven’t done anything about it except awkwardly pull it shut… sometimes. If I have a friend in the car with me and it doesn’t shut… I sometimes ask them to help..!
We took the “Sky Roof” off in the parking lot of a laundry mat where we met up with our friend Keith to take him for a spin in it. When we hit the highway at 70 mph, we didn’t think the interior roof was gonna make it from the wind current bouncing it up and down! It survived… I guess Jeep had thought about that.
Beach trips with friends… and beach camping trips with friends. They were fun… and can be entertaining when your friend get snippy with the campers in the neighboring camp site. We also learned that it’s a tight fit in the Cute Little Jeep with four people… and beach supplies… for four people.
Studded snow tires. Kateri bought us our first set of studded snow tires a month before cancer. Where she bought them from, the people let her lay on a couch because she had such a bad headache… which turned out to be tumors in her brain. Those tires are on their last winter.
Satellite radio! And a decent stereo! We had a lot of fun with music… and were amazed by how many times Yah Mo B There kept coming up. Today, if I’m on certain stations… it still comes up… and I change the channel. Kateri and I would joke about how often if played. Now I just find it annoying.
For three days I drove across this country in it, sleeping at Rest Areas and eating out of a cooler during the election so that I could see my mom during a pandemic. I love that I had that experience with this vehicle.
Kateri made the monthly payments on our first new vehicle ever… but would rather drive her 2001 Toyota Tacoma (which is rusting away next to the Cute Little Jeep in the driveway) to work everyday on the farm. Her dream car was a Toyota with a wooden bed… she was pretty awesome… and hopefully one day the Yota will get there.
I remember helping her into the back seat, running inside to grab towels and another blanket (or something), coming back out to her having thrown up… and other stuff… because her colon had given out from either the cancer or immunotherapy. I helped her out of the back seat… got to the front door… stripped her clothes off and threw them in the snow covered back yard… cleaned her up… and called an ambulance.
Heated steering wheel… that’s all I should really need to say… they should be standard in every car…!
Again… I wish that there would be some sort of little celebration on the dash/screen/odometer thing when it hits 100,000 miles… it would just be fun.
I’ve had this Jeep for four years. Although Kateri experienced our brand new vehicle for just one of those years… I’m so glad that she (we) had that experience. From the “wheelin’ and dealin'” to the last time I drove her in it on the way to the emergency room… it provided us with the comfort of not worrying if we’ll get to our destination… even if we weren’t sure of where we were heading. A 100,000 miles is a lot of ground to cover. Ya, you can say it’s just a car, just a truck, just a whatever… or you can focus on what you’ve filled that vehicle with as the miles slowly pile up… whether it be physically or metaphorically. You can fit a lot of memories into 100,000 miles… and even though some of those memories are difficult for me to remember… they only make up a few of those miles. I’m fortunate… I have a lot of good memories of Kateri and this Cute Little Jeep, which will help me as I drive through the next 100,000 miles of life… making new memories… without her in the passenger seat.
I love that this is the one video I have of Kateri in our Cute Little Jeep. It’s just sooooo Kateri. This was New Year’s Day 2018… 16 days after they found the mass in her brain. She was at the very beginning of her four month and three day Dance with Cancer. (Sorry, but Youtube let me know that if you live in Iran, North Korea, Cuba, or Syria… this video is blocked. You know… just wanting to keep all my followers in those countries informed!)
I took this picture at work today. For some reason I just found it sort of entertaining. But I had an experience this evening that made me think of this picture… and that word… in a different way. From a different angle. From a different perspective. From the perspective of… me… and how that word pertains to my life.
I started writing this at 10:13pm… all cozied up under the first sheets I bought as a widower… with the king size duvet that Kateri stole providing weight and warmth with a perplexing amount of… poofiness. (hey kids, it’s wrong to steal… but these people were assholes… and it fits perfectly on my full size bed!) I only mention the time tonight because since Kateri died, I’ve had this thing where I simply can’t put myself to bed… like I don’t wanna miss out on living or something. The other part of that is… there is straight up just more to do when going from a household of two… to a life of one. After doing things I need to do, I always want time to “Relax”… “Zone Out”… play guitar… eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s… watch some How it’s Made or check out what Carvana is all about… you know?,… “Chill”. (By the way… buying a car online?… weird.) I usually don’t get to bed until after the One-Two… so being in bed within the 10 o’clock hour is quite the accomplishment!
Here’s the point I’m trying to get to. Patience. When Kateri died… I knew it was gonna be a life-long thing of rememberin’, feeling, learning, balancing, and… well… “surviving”. Tonight, it was a friend’s Instagram post (a picture) of two dogs walking down a bricked path, in whichever Asian country he lives in, that made me sorta realize that I have become a much more “patient” person in my widowhood. (If you saw the IG post… this would make much more sense!) For almost three years I’ve been trying to figure out how to fit it all in… how to “live”. I’ve created little routines that have helped me on the “Adulting” side of life as well as on the personal, emotional, and psychological side. I guess, in a way, they’re also helping me… cope. At the beginning of this ordeal, I had absolutely no idea how I was gonna be able to do it. But now… NOW!… I’m still not sure… but I seem to still be able to cut enough wood for the fire, keep the plants alive, do a little snowshoeing with my girlfriend, have fires at the fire pit, pay the bills, smoke a doobie… or two, AND live with the memory of how wonderful Kateri was, what I loved about her (everything), and how much I loved my life with her. At the beginning, I knew this was gonna be a life-long gig. Today… tonight… at 11:31pm, I still know it’s gonna be a life-long gig. And even though the pain is still there… and I’m still trying to fit it all in, I need to acknowledge that parts of my life have gotten… better… since Widower Day 1. Yes, it’s taken making a few mistakes and taking a step back to reassess so that I could hopefully make a couple of good decisions to maybe have a more enjoyable experience in the future…! (sheesh… long winded sentence right there!) But it’s also taken recognizing that I have a different perspective… on life… which has taken time. Some might say that it’s taken patience… and it’s clear to me… that it’s gonna take some more.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’m finding it kind of ironic that I’m really going to sleep around the same time I normally do… I just happened to be in bed a bit earlier…!
Patience… I needed to practice patience when I was replacing the little subwoofer in the back of my little Jeep because it had blown… and because I didn’t exactly know what I was doing! I was tired of hearing the buzz and rattle it would make when I put on Today’s Hits… or some smooth sounds from the 70’s…… or the intro to Morning Edition. I’ve just gotta say, when all said and done, the sense of accomplishment after practicing a bit of patience was well worth it! (…breathing exercises and weed helped, too!) By taking the time to figure it out, I have… at the least… now made the hour and a half I spend in the car every day on my round trip drive to work and back… better!
In the winter time, when I get home from work one of the first things I generally do is get the fire going. (Kateri would’ve followed that line up with, “In my loins!”… but I’m not talkin’ about that kinda fire.) Sometimes I need to cut wood first or maybe snow blow/shovel the driveway, but invariably I end up sitting in front of the wood stove on my little stool that Kateri and I got in 2001 (maybe ’02..?), when we lived above a garage in Monkton, as I get the fire going for the evening. I enjoy this part of my day. It’s a built in time/task that sorta forces me to just sit for a few minutes. Of course, when I just sit for a few minutes… I think… about all sorts of stuff!… like how the stool I sit on was Kateri’s and my first piece of furniture!… and I hope it doesn’t spontaneously collapse on me as I’m starting the fire! But it hasn’t yet and I’m glad… because once the fire is going I absolutely love sitting on that stool and letting the wood stove heat my knees, hands, face, and top of my head that used to have beautifully thick hair keeping it warm. It provides me with space… to think… to remember… to reflect.
Sometimes I sit there and think about heavy things… when heavy things are going on. Other times I think about other things… when other things are going on. And sometimes I think about things and have no idea why I’m thinking about them! So… over a few days of sitting there on my stool as I got the fire going, I thought I would make a few notes of what it was I was thinking about as I lit old newspaper I had crumpled up and stuffed under my methodically stacked kindling.
Random Widower Notes n Thoughts… as I get the fire going:
Kateri would get excited and announce when she got the fire going by using only a single piece of paper…!
I think a lot about how I want to remember my old life… my life with Kateri… instead of just remembering.
I’ve always wanted to be a truck driver. I still wanna be a truck driver. I just don’t wanna quit smoking weed.
Road trips… adventures… ones with Kateri… ones without her… and ones I have yet to go on.
I’ve been sad lately. Sometimes I can sit here and just be… sad.
Cars should have a little icon of balloons, streamers, and champagne bottles pop up on your odometer when you hit 100,000 miles… and every 100,000 miles after that!
I’m actually pretty happy I don’t have chickens right now. I loved them… miss them… miss the eggs… but I don’t miss the chicken chores… or poop.
I bought a new coffee maker and grinder. My old coffee maker was… well… old. The coffee grinder I just didn’t like so I went and got a different one… which I like less than the old one. So… I’m going back to using the old grinder.
I would love to see Europe, but don’t know how I feel about flying over the ocean and one of my biggest fears is drowning in cold water so I don’t know how I’d do on a boat thousands of miles away from land… it’s quite the conundrum.
I still haven’t seen Tik Tok or know what it’s all about… which sometimes makes me feel older than I actually am. (I’m still young damnit!… but in a “middle-aged” man’s body. Or maybe I’m just immature.)
I think about my mom… a lot. This week I’ve been thinking about the tumor on her adrenal gland that has grown significantly. After talking to my sister, I’ve been able to also think about how the tumors on her spine and in her lungs haven’t grown… and after months of being off of chemo, there aren’t any new ones! Cancer… it fucking sucks.
I think about next winter when I won’t have to cut each piece of wood I burn so that it’ll fit in the stove… it’s gonna be glorious!
I think about shaving, but I haven’t seen my face since Kateri died and am kind of afraid that I’m gonna look gaunt and sickly since my healthy eating and sleeping habits went the way of the Dodo… for the most part. Fortunately… I like the beard.
My land line and internet are still in Kateri’s name… I really should deal with that, but I like my phone number and don’t wanna lose it!
Friends… I miss them, but I understand we are all simply living our lives… and we’re currently in a pandemic. Luckily, I’ve hit that point in life where I feel as though the friends I have will always be a part of my life… whether the last time we spoke to each other was last night, last week, last month… or in 2007.
I sit and think about life. Sometimes it’s complicated. Sometimes it’s not. And sometimes I just need to sit… and get the fire going.
I don’t need anything from you. I don’t need you to do anything. The things I am sad about can not be fixed… they can not be changed… they can not be taken away and hidden from me… because they are a piece of who I am.
Sadness is a part of life… it’s a part of my life. Sometimes, I force myself to get up on the right side of the bed. Other times, I just let myself be.
It’s Christmas….!! Things I’m gonna do on my third Widowed Christmas.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Go downstairs and make my own coffee (I pretty much made the coffee when Kateri was alive… so don’t worry, I’m used to it.)
Be happy that there’s still an inch of wet, slushy snow because it’s raining and I thought I wasn’t gonna wake up to a white Christmas! Of course, it may be a green Christmas come dinner time.
Take a moment and look at my tree, do some rememberin’, and smile because of all the good times Kateri and I had in Christmases Past… be grateful for the loved ones I have in my life today… and be happy that Gobble is still hangin’ out on top!
I’m gonna open all of the Christmas cards sent to me! (I saved them so that I would have something to open on Christmas Morning…!)
I’m not gonna go to work… because we are closed for four days…! which is unheard of in the Food Service World… and I’ll take it! (It was a wonderful… wonderful… gift to us. If you haven’t worked in the industry… you really don’t have any idea of just how wonderful this is.)
I’m thankful Kateri and I moved to this area for my current job. Switching from independent little restaurants to a decent sized company because we were feeling the need to “think about our future” has kinda saved me through both her cancer and death (Insurance, Earn Time, Co-workers, our Company Culture, etc.)… AND through this stoopid ass Pandemic… where I’m perfectly happy not going out amongst The People!
I’m gonna get in touch with friends and family and wish them a Merry Christmas… and tell them I love them.
I’m gonna eat Crullers… maybe all six of them.
Kateri loved Crullers. We would actually have fried dough on Christmas… but I don’t wanna deal with the fry oil… so I bought Crullers!
Ummm, I may be eating Cinnamon Rolls that Amanda made, as well…! (I’m pretty sure Diabetes and I are gonna be friends in the future.)
I’m gonna relax… take a breath… sit by the fire for a moment… and just be warm.
I’m gonna wear the new hat I bought myself yesterday for Christmas… and maybe the new Muck boots… if I go outside!
Dishes… I’m gonna do my dishes leftover from my Christmas Eve Tacos. (Nothing says Christmas in Vermont like Pork Tacos!)
I’m gonna remember Kateri… our life together… her life… who she was… and all the reasons I loved her so much. (…and now, I’m also gonna cry.)
I’m gonna put A Christmas Story on the ol’ tele… and then How the Grinch Stole Christmas (original)… or maybe the other way around. Don’t worry… I’ll figure it out.
I’m gonna be happy that I don’t have a bunch of sticky kids waking me up at 3:30 in the morning (I was still awake) wanting to open presents while losing their minds for the next four hours!
But first, I’m gonna smoke a Joint for Jesus while drinking coffee in bed as I jot down a list of things I wanna do this Christmas and be thankful that if you look out the correct window… it’s a white Christmas!
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.
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!
So… the world is going to shit… I guess. That’s what I see on my little phone when I check the news. (CNN/Fox… I like to see propaganda from both sides. Of course, I feel like Fox News is the annoying richy rich frat boy who’s drunk and yelling at all the other party goers to do keg stands and chug vodka so that he and his cronies have easier prey in the hours ahead to make fun of, influence, or take advantage of for their own pleasure or benefit…. just sayin’.) Yup, the west (where I’m from) is on fire, The Rona hasn’t gone away no matter how much disinfectant we drink or how much we stare at the sun, we’ve lost some really good people (John Lewis, Notorious RBG, Chadwick Boseman, Jerry Stiller… Regis), there have been so many storms that we’ve gone into the Greek alphabet to name them, schools are now the petri dishes of some strange social experiment where no one knows how the heck to do it while parents are just happy to get their offspring out of the house for a few hours, and in some parts of the world they are canceling Halloween… that’s just fucked up. But you know what..?… there’s toilet paper on the shelves and they’re coming out with another season of Cobra Kai! It’s not all Doom and Gloom!… which I guess is what I’m trying to get to.
I’m just gonna say it. For me… life is good! Really… it is! Not like “I just won the lottery and am gonna party like it’s 1999 Good!”… but it’s still good. Yes, there have been some heavy moments and a few bumps in the road in the last little bit, but nothing really compares to the loss of Kateri in my life so I feel I’ve been able to somewhat deal with… life. Nope, some things haven’t gone as planned, but one of the things that being a widow has taught me is that the unexpected is to be expected and I just need to plow on through… or stroll… or crawl. OK… sometimes I just need to lay in bed and let time pass to get through certain moments, but I tell myself at some point I’ve gotta just get up, get out, and get going!… because otherwise I’ll get bed sores… and that’ll just create more problems!
I think the loss of my chickens has made me think about the timeline of my life. Specifically, my path since Kateri passed just under 2 years, and five months ago. I feel now that I’m here alone, it’s another step into “My New Life”… and oddly, it sorta feels good to get to this point… the point without chickens. I knew the time would come… it did… and now I’m here. It’s like I’m now living a more accurate picture of what my life will be like post Kateri & Darren’s Time as I’m more firmly rooted in… Darren’s Time. I guess in some way those stoopid raccoons provided me with a little bit of “closure” with the massacre of the chickens… and then I gently pushed the door shut with the subsequent Viking Funeral of Lil’ Bitch up at the fire pit with a couple friends last weekend.
Yup, the Pandemic hasn’t really changed my life much. I’ve got firewood for this year… and next!… and a new stove and chimney to keep the schoolhouse warm as winter is steadily approaching (there have already been a couple of fires… and a Nub Night! I’m still cutting 2-4 inches off of two cord of wood so they fit in the new stove.). The bulk head stairs are built, the deck is painted, the garage is in order… somewhat, rooms are painted, and toilets aren’t leaking anymore… after 17 trips to the hardware store. On top of that… I’ve got friends… good friends… who help. I know we all get caught up in our own worlds and we’re all different types of peeps, but the cool thing about friendships is that just because there may be more miles between us or more time between visits… those aren’t the defining factors of what makes two, three, twenty seven, or a couple hundred people friends. It’s the bond created through shared good experiences… and how we treat each other through the not so good experiences. (Actually, I feel there’s a boatload that goes into what makes people like and not like other people… and the relationships they have, but sometimes I like to not overthink it and hold onto the perspective that there are some friendships/relationships where it simply boils down to the fact that they just… click.)
For twenty years, Kateri was my best friend… and I wish she didn’t die. But I’m thankful for the life I had with her, for the friends we made, and for the lessons she taught me… which I try to use as I figure out how to live my life without her. Yup, there’s all sorts of shit going on in the world… and in our little lives… but there are things in our control and there are things that are not. For today, I’m not gonna focus on the piles of poop being plopped all around us and take some time to focus on the good things, get in touch with some good peeps… and simply have a good day. I hope you do the same!
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
That was rough… even though I’m talking about how I feel good, the moment I wrote “Kateri was my best friend”…. I lost it for about 10 minutes. Yay!… widowhood.
I passed a house that had clothes drying on a clothes line in the back yard. Kateri loved letting nature do the work…. I use the dryer.
I’m at 96 followers!… so close to 100! (You can hit the follow button if you want. I don’t even care if you read the blogs! Well, I kinda care, but I also realize it’s basically sort of a personal journal about loss n shit with no real structure or fully thought out intentions behind it… and I don’t even know how long I’ll be doing these things… so maybe just commit to the “like” button!)
Tomorrow is my Wedding Anniversary. Although, I wish I hadn’t waited ten years to ask for Kateri’s hand in marriage, our wedding and life together was perfect… just 30 to 40 years shorter than expected.
If you throw a whole frozen chicken on a fire… it’ll take a couple of hours until you can’t distinguish it from the other coals in the pit… and will smell like chicken.
Be kind, be supportive, relax… and be good. (I don’t think that is a correctly punctuated sentence. I feel like there could be more periods. Man, I’m glad I’m an adult and not in school gettin’ graded on that shit!)
As of 7:44 last Saturday night… I no longer have chickens. It was kind of a horrible experience that I knew was a very real possibility, considering the fact that I live in the woods. It was jarring. It threw me off. Since Kateri died, people have asked if I’m gonna get a pet, a dog, a kitten, fish… whatever… and I would always reply that once the chickens die I don’t wanna be responsible for another living animal for a while. I just didn’t expect that to happen on Saturday! Stoopid nature.
I’ve attached all sorts of things to those chickens. They were Kateri’s Hopes n Dreams. But they also helped me ease into this new solo life by simply being around. I loved that they would be at the door to their little yard when they heard my car pull into the driveway or when I would open the screen door. I loved that they would follow me around the yard as I watered this or worked on that. I loved that they would come when I called out, “Here chick, chick, chick!”. I loved watching them run… and I love that I have the memory of Kateri impersonating a chicken… running! I guess I loved those little ladies for all sorts of reasons, but the fact of the matter is I don’t have them anymore and I need to adapt… to settle into… this new reality. After waking up alone the day after Kateri died…. well… nothing compares. So, I could add more sadness to this experience… or I can accept it for what it is… give it it’s time and space… and keep moving forward. My last week has been filled with some wonderfully supportive and beautiful moments, and some coincidences that I have just kinda dug. I guess that’s what this is about. Here are a few things that have helped me look on the brighter side of life as I adapt to being the only living thing in my household for the first time in twenty years after the death of Kateri… and then her chickens.
When it happened… I didn’t know what to do. I felt the need to let someone know what I was dealing with. I needed support. So I texted my girlfriend, “I don’t have chickens anymore.”… and she was there for me… again. She is a caring, compassionate, and understanding woman… and I’m glad she is in my life.
My mother called me on Facetime for the first time… ever! (except for the one time she did it on accident)… once she heard what had happened. I loved it! I love her.
I had a friend from work (from another department and building) seek me out to say sorry. She walked through the kitchen without hesitation simply because she knew what this event meant to me. At the same time, another friend showed up who had seen what had happened on social media. Although she was really there to deliver yogurt, her words were supportive and filled with compassion. It felt good.
Our old friend David called after he heard about the massacre. During our conversation, we came up with a plan for Lil’ Bitch since I didn’t want to let the raccoons take her. (I was fine with them taking Chicken and Chicken… but it was dark and Lil’ Bitch was still in one piece… so I removed her from the coop… and now she’s in my chest freezer! Kinda gross… I know.) He’s gonna visit at the end of the month, we’re gonna light a big ol’ fire at the fire pit… and lay Lil’ Bitch to rest!… in the fire. Yeah, the feathers are gonna smell a bit at first, but then I figure it’s just gonna smell like… chicken!
My friend Raph took me on a Jeep ride through the back woods of Vermont simply because he thought it would be a nice way to take my mind off of the heavier things in life for a while. It was awesome. It was fun. It was beautiful… except for the zombie we passed standing next to her shanty town looking home-made mini RV parked on the wrong side of the dirt road… in the dark. We didn’t stop.
My neighbor Bobbi called… for no reason except to check in. She hadn’t heard about my chickens… she was just seeing how I was doing. We hadn’t spoken for a spell, so I kinda dug the fact that she was simply thinking about me and decided to give a shout. (She sold us the Schoolhouse)
Last night… my favorite coincidence in the last week happened. I was at a friend’s house down the road getting an introduction into motorcycles since I’ve been thinking about getting one… maybe. (I’m actually leaning towards starting to fix up Kateri’s truck… it’s safer… but I still have those dreams of owning a motorcycle!) When we got up to the garage and were doing the whole Vermont thing of looking at wood piles and log splitters while smoking a joint and drinking beers (I wasn’t drinking), a dude was peddling past the “driveway”. I kinda put my joint to my side and said, “Evenin’!”. The dude looked at me, I looked at him… I walked a little closer and we realized… we new each other! Not like we met once through friends or at a show or something… like, he’s been at my house… like, he was on my floor laying next to Kateri when she was sick… like, Kateri loved this man… almost as much as she loved his wife… who was peddling up the hill right behind him! I simply yelled out, “Jeff!”… and then, “Cristina!”…! (Cristina actually made a pill schedule for Kateri that I kept on my refrigerator up until just a bit ago… she’s a nurse… and I still have the schedule.) It was surreal. It was so unexpected considering they live on the other side of the state, and yet here they were!… just peddling through Vermont! I wish we lived in a time where I would’ve just grabbed them for a hug, but seeing them there… in person… was such a wonderful coincidence for me that it helped lighten the heaviness that has been my life for the last three weeks. I can just imagine how entertaining it must have been for them to stumble upon us all high n shit as my buddy started up Harleys while giving them his idea of what the best route would be for the rest of their evening ride! It was simply awesome.
Ya, the Schoolhouse feels different… it has changed… it’s not the same as when Kateri and I bought it… it’s quiet. I’m trying to train myself not to look towards the coop every time I walk out of the house. I’m trying to get used to not having the ladies as a source of entertainment… because FYI, they were very entertaining! I’m getting used to not worrying about them. I’m getting used to living alone… on the hill… without Lil’ Bitch. I’m adapting to change. I’m adapting to life. Fortunately, I’ve got a lot of good things going on in my world… a lot of good people. Sometimes those people… sometimes, they just pop up out of nowhere… as they’re riding down the road… at just the right time.
I took a couple of days off so that I could meet a friend in PA this weekend. And yes, I literally mean “meet” them. It’s kind of amazing how much someone can impact your life without ever standing in the same room as them! Unfortunately, the stoopid Rona put the kibosh on that so I decided to still take the time off, stick around the house, and get to things that have been nagging at the brain for a while now… like the leaky toilet… and mess of a garage. After painting the porch, I’ve been sorta motivated to keep on the train of seeing how I would like to set up and/or maintain my new life and home. Getting a few things checked off of the list of things to do does wonders for the psyche!
So, I’ll just say… I had my extended weekend kinda planned out. Start with the toilet (flush valve) and then move on to the garage, chicken coop, truck, and wood. Well, of course things don’t always go as planned. I was able to replace the flush valve OK… for being a cook… but after I attached the tank to the bowl, I noticed one little drip of water… on each of the three anchor bolts! (I don’t even know if that’s what they’re called…?!) Now, originally the flush valve was leaking, but just into the bowl on its way to the septic tank. It was one of those every once in a while things where I would hear the tank replenish the top inch of water, but at least it wasn’t leaking onto the wood floor! Luckily, two mason jars were enough to hold the bolt problem at bay (wherever bay is…?!) until I was able to hit The Home Depot for some new hardware after a few hours of work on Friday.
It was during my learning experience with the toilet, running in and out of the garage to be exact, that I decided it was about time for me to buy one of those stand up tool boxes on wheels to help me organize all the crap I have accumulated over the years while fixing this or building that. So, on Friday I bought the bolts/washers/nuts I needed to finish the toilet… and also bought a tool box to put my crap in! (…after watching the dude struggle to get the box off the top shelf with one of those lift things while I stood guard at the bright orange gate. I tried not to stare… but it was an entertaining struggle!)
I finally finished the turd herding (plumbing) on Friday afternoon around four and then it was on to the garage and tool box…es! (I got two of them…!) Friday night was basically me dorking out in my garage with my stuff, listening to music, and enjoying the process of putting friends with friends. I didn’t finish tidying the garage until Monday morning… there’s a lot going on in there… but it was well worth the effort. It feels good. I feel accomplished. I feel… better.
Yup, those are a few of thing that I did. But now, for the widower shit… the roller coaster… the “rolling with it” type stuff. At the beginning of the week, my intentions were to fly solo, listen to some tunes, smoke some pot, and just be productive at the schoolhouse while I worked on my “New Life”. And then my sister-in-law reached out to say she was in Vermont and was hoping to come up! So, I amended my plan… and prepared for the tidal wave of Kateri and “Old Life” memories and emotions that were gonna come along with having a Damato in the schoolhouse.
First, I’m gonna say that it was an absolutely fantastic couple of days seeing her, talking, remeniscing, building fires, roasting hot dogs, and hanging on the porch until the heat drove us inside or to the garage… while watching a four year old take a bazillion trips up and down the driveway with his scooter.
It had been too long. She was there with us for the last three… fourish weeks of Kateri’s life. The three of us… Kateri, her, and I… had a ton of good times. We spent a lot of time together. We lived through a lot together. And I am forever grateful that the three of us were together… that she was there for Kateri… in the last weeks of her life. I simply love her.
As a widower, I’ve learn how to adapt to change a little bit better… because I was forced to. This weekend was one of those times. For two years and four months I’ve been on this journey. I’ve had to learn how to live in this world without Kateri. I’ve had to learn how to go through the days without being completely devastated by what life has shown me… by how cruel it could be to such a beautiful person… to the person I loved more than anything. That takes work… and a lot of it. Two years and four months after Kateri’s death and I feel as though I am firmly rooted in this “New Life”. I’m doing things that are for me… for my home… for my own well being. I’m able to look a little further into the future… a little… further. I’m at that point where I am living my life… and am doing OK. I’ve adapted. Even though I’m surrounded by the 20 years of life with Kateri and the memories of how it used to be… I’ve learned how to live without her. (basically, you just keep waking up and dealing) So when a family member/friend comes to the schoolhouse to feel close to Kateri, to be in this space, to be close to her things, to find comfort… emotions and memories come with them.
I welcomed those emotions and memories this weekend because most of the time I need to kinda push them to the side just to get through the day. I actually enjoy it when moments like these come around because it provides me with the time and space to simply remember Kateri with someone who also loves and misses her. These days, it’s less devastating when someone comes to visit (which has been no one in this time of Covid!) and more comforting… which feels good. Ya, the plan was to be “productive” this weekend and to spend time with myself in this new life, but I’m soooo happy that plans changed and I got to spend a few days of my new life remembering some of the wonderful parts of… my life.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Facebook reminded me that 5 years ago today we signed the purchase agreement on our first home… on our Little Red Schoolhouse.
I finally emptied the little trash can that we (now I) used to dispose of the lint from the dryer… it has been a while. Like, there was still some Kateri Lint in there. Sometimes… you just gotta let go!… of lint.
I hope you have a good day!… night!… whatever!
ps…. I started this post last week, but WordPress updated me to the new Block Editor… and I don’t really know how to use it!… so it’s taken me a bit. Since then, on Saturday at 7:30ish in the evening as I was trying to figure it out… a raccoon (I’m pretty sure) killed the last three of my chickens… of Kateri’s chickens. Yup… also pretty sure there is gonna be a post about that experience!… which I’m still dealing with… considering the fact that dreams of Lil’ Bitch and me on the hill are over. For the first time in twenty years… I’m the only living thing (besides plants) in my household… weird.
I love the instant gratification you get from painting something. It gives the room, the cabinet, the cart, the box, the house, the dresser, the whatever that clean and new…ish feeling. Today, I’m sitting on my newly painted front porch/deck… and enjoying it. I’m actually on my deck writing this as we speak! I know… it sounds exciting!… but it’s really just relaxing and satisfying more than anything else.
I’ve thought about all the things I could attach to me painting the front porch. There were a ton of memories and emotions that popped into the mind and body as I rolled and brushed away (the Karate Kid also came to mind! (the original!))… but this was simply something I wanted to do for myself… and my home. I guess I wanted to feel like I accomplished something that would give me the sense as though I was making an improvement, cleaning something up, preserving something for a bit longer… taking steps forward. So I grabbed a mask, ventured out among the infected, bought some white paint… and started with the railings.
I thought I would get the porch and railings done in a couple days… it took a week… which I was fine with. I knew it would probably take longer than expected so I simply planned on moving shit, cleaning shit, painting shit, and moving shit again being my evenings for a few days. The weather was gonna lack precipitation so I thought it would be kinda nice to get some sun while getting some work done, as well! Heck, when “Today’s Hits” is blaring out of your garage… you can paint until the sun goes down! A word of caution—when you can paint until the sun goes down… maybe put on some sunscreen while it’s up. Yup… itchy.
It’s amazing how time weathers the things in our everyday lives. I jumped on painting the deck because I saw a picture of our house when we were first looking to buy it. I remember when our offer was accepted, we drove up Wild Hill where I stood on the front porch, looked at those large windows, red siding, and white trim and said to Kateri, “Well, we just bought a really old schoolhouse… with a really new paint job!”.
As I sit here today, there is still paint peeling on the garage and on the north side of the house. (ummm, it’s peeling on the east, west, and south sides, as well!) My downstairs toilet’s tank is still slowly leaking into the bowl on it’s way to my septic tank. My wood is still tucked away in the lean-to on the other side of my yard… and I don’t have next year’s wood yet. I still want to go through some stuff… and organize the garage. There’s all sorts of things that we each need to “get to” in our lives as we go through… our lives. I’ve been overwhelmed quite a bit as I’ve gone through the past 2 years, 3 months, and a few weeks more, but as of right now… I’m not. Right now, I’m enjoying that sense of accomplishment… while sitting on my newly painted deck… as I wave to the people as they drive on by.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
The Perseid Meteor Showers were this last week so I pulled one of the Adirondack chairs up onto the unpainted part of the deck and zoned out to the stars for a while Wednesday night. Saw some good ones!
Since Kateri died, I have painted a spare bedroom, my bedroom, and now the deck. The deck was basically to maintain. The bedrooms provided me with a new “feel”… in this “New Life”.
The moment I saw that bag and realized there were only three cards and a bunch of colorful tissue paper in it… I felt wonderful! If you watch the vid… I kind of explain the situation… but basically, I saw a bag… and recycled it. Sometimes, we gotta start small. One step at a time people!… or some shit like that.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Since making that little video and feeling so good… I’ve had a few Crocodile Tear moments. Sad… yes. But not depressing.
It’s nice to be able to smile while I cry.
When I watched the video and the flood of emotions came rushing in, I looked to my left and saw this scene. The simplistic beauty of it was relaxing to me… the light, the colors, Kateri’s planters that I had filled for the summer and her geraniums enjoying being outside for a few months. It was evening time, there was a calmness… there was a warmth all around.
I came downstairs from taking a shower on Thursday and thought I would get ahead of the game for the weekend, so I threw in a load of laundry. After starting the washer, I took a swing by the kitchen and then had to run back upstairs for something… probably something really important… when I heard a strange noise coming from the mud room. Upon inspection (it was pretty apparent what was going on!), I realized that the pump for the washing machine was trying it’s hardest to fill the washer… but there weren’t no water!… always a fun feeling as a homeowner. I did the whole running around inspecting faucets and pipes looking for leaks, went to the basement to check fuses, water tanks, gauges, and boilers. The boiler has a digital display that said “GOOD”… which made me feel better… but had nothing to do with my issue! After realizing the issue was above my plumbing skills (…still a cook), I decided to wait till morning to give anyone a call… I can survive a night without water. Plus, I generally have a couple of coolers full just in case we lose power!
When I got to work in the morning I gave ARC Mechanical a call and they said they would get someone out that day… they’re great. I got the initial call from Bruce telling me when he would get there, and then he called back a bit later telling me he had fixed the issue! It was a simple little fix of replacing the pressure valve!… yay! As a fairly new homeowner, and more recently a widower, when things like this happen (no water flowing from your faucets) the brain instantly goes to that worse case scenario so when he said it was a valve… I was fucking ecstatic! Although I would’ve managed getting through the weekend without water… (a friend had already filled up four-22 quart Cambros of agua for me and I can pee outside)… I was glad I didn’t need to deal with it!
Yup, the weekend was looking better already. So, I went to the store to grab some provisions and then went on home to enjoy the conveniences of modern life. When I got to the kitchen with the groceries, I turned on the faucet just to reassure myself that the liquid of life was flowing through the pipes… and that I’d be able to take a shower. With a turn of the knob… the water came out… and I was reassured. So while feeling good, I put groceries away and was about to start planning out the ToDo List for the weekend when I felt the need to alleviate some pressure in the guts. The easiest way for me to explain the experience is… took a shit, flushed toilet, went to wash hands… no water… yay. I called ARC back… and Bruce turned around… postponing the start of his weekend.
When Bruce got here, he immediately mentioned that he thought it was something bigger than the valve and gave me the number to Sargent Artesian Wells since it was coming upon quitting time for just about everyone. Luckily, when I called Chaz from the well place he was just as awesome as everyone from ARC and said he would get there tonight at some point… which didn’t happen… but I was fine with it. Even though the experience was somewhat nerve wracking on a couple of fronts, my interaction with Bruce along with knowing what is currently going on in the world made it so I wasn’t freaking out about what the possible fixes may be. However big the issue was… however painful it may be financially… I was gonna be fine.
Long story made a little shorter… the issue was that my well pump gave up… 282 feet below my front yard! For me, it went from the relief of it being a valve to needing to pull up a pump almost three hundred feet down at the bottom of a hole… but at least I didn’t need to drill a new well or anything like that! So… not the best outcome… but no the worst! In all honesty, meeting those two guys and witnessing how they approached their jobs with their sense of responsibility to the people who call upon them when things go awry… was worth the Benjamin’s that I’m gonna be handing over at some point. They seemed like good people… good neighbors… and I’m glad I can support local business.
After Bruce couldn’t fix the issue and had gotten me in touch with the well guys, he helped me prep the well for Chaz… and then we chatted for the next hour and a half in my driveway! (He also had five gallons of my water in the back of his truck from when he was testing the valve that he gave back to me after saying that it was my water to begin with). The moment Bruce approached the wishing well and simply started pushing it over… my mind was blown. I didn’t realize it wasn’t attached to anything!… at all!… it was simply around the well and over the years earth and grass had accumulated up the base of it! I mean, I kind of understood that, but there were also wires going to the light in it… that we never used… but that didn’t stop the toppling over of it! Bruce pushed… I guided it down… and when it was on it’s side, just laying there in the front yard with the rotted parts holding on for dear life… I thought of Kateri.
Kateri hated that wishing well… she thought it was cheesy… and it is, but I have always kinda liked it… the cheesiness. Although I like it, I have also known that it has been needing to be replaced… and it was on the agenda for the summer.
When we first moved in, we had some friends helping us move wood from the lean-to to the garage. They all knew Kateri’s thoughts on the wishing well… because she told them. So… every time MPH would turn his truck around in the front yard, he would give the ol’ well a little nudge… as Kateri would be egging him on, with her arms in the air, yelling at him to keep going!
Fortunately… it never got to the point where I had to build a well that day, but it did give me that wonderful memory to look back upon with such love, fondness, and entertainment as I was dealing with the uncertainty of my current water situation. It brought back so much… and not in a bad way. I felt good as images from that day filled my thoughts. I remembered Kateri in her (my) brown flannel. I remembered David standing on the pile of wood. I remembered the tiny Milk Snake striking at MPH’s heel over by the potting shed. I remembered that that day was the first day we experienced snow… in our first home. It was a wonderful day… in a different time. And unexpectedly, running out of water on Thursday made me remember a time five years ago of stacking wood and nudging wishing wells… with people I love.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’ve started making my bed again every morning… most mornings. It just feels better.
I still haven’t gotten used to the whole being alone and thinking about what would happen if I… say… tripped and broke my ankle, or fell off the roof, or slipped in the tub, or put the chainsaw in my thigh, or had a heart attack, or fell down the stairs, or was mauled by a bear, or if a swarm of bees attacked me while I was sleeping, or my lawn mower blade flew off and took out my shins… or something. Then what would I do?
In general, I feel as though I am happy. But I also feel as though it’s still a subdued happiness… like there’s this weird blanket of “meh” on everything.
I pulled out the last trash bag from the box Kateri and I bought from Costco, which was probably four years old. It was strange thinking about how that box of trash bags was from my life with Kateri… and that was over two years ago. Yup, it took me about two weeks to get it to the recycling bin.
It was a hot one this week. I mean, after nine months of winter, 85 was simply sweltering! When it hit 91… forget about it! So with the heat wave I thought I would make sure The Ladies had everything they needed to stay cool, clean, and safe. No… I did not sew little tiny face masks for their beaks (they are already quarantining themselves and have the social distancing down), but on Tuesday evening I shoveled out their shavings, put new hay in the nesting boxes, took out the vent covers in the rafters (well, where the top of the wall and rafters meet… I have no idea what that would be called… I’m a cook), clean water, new food, and even shoveled some of the shavings and shit from their little penned in area. Gotta say, nothing like cleaning a chicken coop after it has warmed up a bit!… yummy.
I felt pretty good about the shortened week due to Memorial Day… was already being productive! Until Wednesday morning when I woke up, groggily went downstairs for coffee at around 6:00am, and looked out the window to greet the day. What I saw out in the back yard was Lil’ Bitch… who should’ve been in the coop I just cleaned the evening before! When I went outside to investigate… after I put pants on… I noticed the door to the coop was open. Did I forget to latch it?! That seems odd… I thought I remembered latching it…?! And then I saw how the eye hooks were still attached to the shingles they were screwed in to, but those shingles were now attached to the door as if something simply ripped them from the wall!… the feeder was empty and broken, and Chicken (not sure if it was Chicken #1, 2, or 3…?), was a mangled mess laying lifeless just out the coop’s door in their little yard! Yay!…. Wednesday!
At first, I simply thought it was a bear looking for food considering the door was ripped open. So, Wednesday when I got home from work the fortifying began. Basically, after I cleaned up the broken glass and tipped the window box upright… I got a bigger latch. (The perpetrator pulled the window off… it was old and part of our “church” from our wedding) The wood studs in the window opening provide too small of an opening for a bear to get through and there is wire mesh covering it so I just left it open for some fresh air. Other than that… I thought I was good. I even taped some Pop-Its to the steps to try and deter the visitor! And then Wednesday night happened.
It was around 11:30pm when I decided to just pop my head out the back door and shine my headlamp on the coop to see if ol’ Smokey (although, I feel he’s more of a western/Rocky Mountain bear) had come around again. What I was met with were two little beady eyes staring back at me from the top step of the coop as it paused from it’s task of ripping the shingles off around the new latch I installed on the front door! No, it wasn’t a bear… it was too small. And in all honesty, if it was a bear that was getting into the coop?… I’d be ok with it. But noooooo…. it was… was… a RACCOON!… little bastards. And Rocky the Raccoon was going to town on the front of my coop trying to get to that food! It wasn’t really small… quite large actually… kinda disturbingly large… and the Pop-its didn’t deter shit! So then the fortifying began again… under the cover of darkness. (well, with lamps and the light from the garage)
In all honesty, I was a little high and the thought of it maybe being a raccoon with rabies or a fisher cat crossed my mind, so as I ran back and forth from the garage grabbing supplies… I also carried a short, flat head shovel in case I was attacked! I mean, I would periodically shine my light into the woods and those two little beady eyes would still be staring back at me just waiting to pounce!…. or for me to leave so it could get back to business.
I felt a little bad using circular saws and impact drills when it was past the one-two (midnight) for my neighbors’ sake, but the task at hand, the one that took priority at that moment in time was for me to make sure Lil’ Bitch, Chicken, and Chicken were safe. I don’t consider them pets… they’re chickens… but they are living animals that I now have the sole responsibility of making sure they have a good life… a safe life. These chickens were part of Kateri’s “Hopes n Dreams” and they remind me of that every single morning I go to open their little door along with every evening when I go to shut it, make sure they are comfortably roosted, and tell them, “Goodnight”. (Yes, I say “Good morning, Ladies!” and “Goodnight, Ladies!” everyday) So, although I felt sorta bad for using power tools when most people are sleeping… I didn’t feel THAT bad.
I still need to get the coop looking a little better, but I feel it has been secured enough to keep the larger animals out for the time being. The experience definitely threw a wrench in the week I had planned, but I’ve learned that we can only plan on so much while dealing with the things that pop up… which sometimes, we simply can’t plan for. The chickens provide me with an attachment to Kateri and I love them because of that (mostly Lil’ Bitch… she’s my favorite… it’s gonna be me and her on the homestead!), but they can also be a hard reminder of the life I had just two years ago… and of April 22, 2018 when all of my “Hopes n Dreams” were thrown out the window.
On Tuesday night, I lost a chicken and over the next couple of days I did what I needed to do to try and make their life better. Today… this morning… I went out to the coop with my coffee in hand, opened their little door, and said, “Good morning, Ladies!” as a few chickens came popping out the opening… and one of them was Lil’ Bitch! Kateri ordered eight chickens four years ago. This morning there were three. A lot can happen in four years, five years, seven years, twenty years or whatever. A lot can change. We need to know how to adapt to those changes… or at the least we need to try… because Life is still all around even when Death reshapes our worlds.
We bought our Five Different Shades of Orange 1973 Super Beetle at a garage sale in Bristol back in ’02 or 3. That kinda makes it sound like we were rolling in cash and just picking up cars as we were out and about enjoying a Saturday, but it actually took a few weeks to make sure we had the money… and Bob (the seller) was having a fair amount of separation anxiety… so it was a process. He would come into the restaurant Kateri and I were managing to grab a bite and we would chat to get acquainted with each other a bit more so that he could feel comfortable knowing his little bug was going to a good home. We feel it did.
It was one of those days where we were simply out and about driving around Vermont, watching shit go by, and hitting some yard sales…Kateri loved “Yardsaling”. The Super Beetle was parked on the road with a for sale sign in the window, so we started the whole kicking the tires, inspecting underneath, checking out the rusty spots, and dreaming of what it would be like to use for one of our favorite pass times… smoking weed (with a couple of Road Sodas back in the day) and driving the back roads of the Green Mountains… together.
The inspection and dreaming was all going along fine until I had decided to roll a window down… and it didn’t go back up… and we hadn’t met the owner yet! Yup, Kateri was pretty proud of me at that point! Well, really all it did was force us (me) to find the owner and have a conversation about the vehicle… because I might’ve broken it. When we found Bob we told him we were checking out the car and his first response was, “You didn’t roll down the window, did you?”. Yup…. proud.
We had a nice conversation, checked out some of the other stuff he was selling, purchased an iron gate that we carted around with us for years (not sure where that ended up!), and set up a time to take the bug for a test drive. Of all of our experiences with that little beetle, the test drive was my favorite. Kateri had never been in… or at least driven…(?) a Volkswagen Bug before and we figured that even if we didn’t buy the car, she at least got to have that experience! I’ll tell you… from the moment she saw that little, Five Different Shades of Orange Super Beetle… with a sunroof!… it always put a smile on her face. To be able to clearly remember her enthusiasm when she got into that car, fired it up and heard that distinct Bug sound as she cautiously took off down the road with the windshield six inches from her face, it makes me happy to this day… even as I can feel the tears on my cheeks. (I guess that’s how you know it was a good thing)
I love all the memories I have of Kateri and I with that little buggy. It was an adventure every time we pulled away from our little house in the hills… to drive around other hills… never knowing if it was gonna start up again once you stopped for gas, a bite to eat, or to just take in a view. There was one time we decided to putz down south a tiny ways to where Kateri’s little sister was working for the summer at a kid’s camp. Luckily it was a beautiful day because at every stop we had to wait, let the engine cool down (I think. Again, I’m a cook and not a mechanic!… but believe those engines were air cooled.), and hope that it would start so that we could get to the next point on the trip… and eventually home! It was a great lesson in patience.
The license plate! Oh my gosh… I loved our license plate. It was the first time we got vanity plates. (Are they still called that? Personalized?… whatever) At first, Kateri wanted to have some sort of variation of Pickin’ Apples… her code phrase for sex when she was younger. But we weren’t able to get one of those. We live in Vermont… there are a lot of “Apple” people here… so we started brainstorming other ideas. As much as I like to think it was “our“ Five Different Shades of Orange ’73 Super Beetle… it was really Kateri’s. Once we realized her nickname would fit on the plate, we just thought it would be appropriate! And then we found out THAT was taken. So what do you do?… You add a number to the end! Yup… people would see us puttering around The Green Mountains, smiles ear to ear, in a bright orange bubble with green rectangles on either end that said… SQUIRT1..! Although “Squirt” is what a lot of people call Kateri, we got a kick out of thinking about how drivers who were following us would interpret it!
When we moved to Colorado in 2007 we had to get rid of it. A friend said he could hold onto it for us and used his ex-girlfriend’s AAA membership to pull it out of it’s winter storage space… tarped in the woods… and transport it north to his place. It wasn’t in too great of shape at that point, the rust was kinda running rampant. As the tow truck guy was slowly using the winch to pull it up the angled flatbed… the battery fell through the floor! It’s sorta sad thinking about how she never hit the road again, but it’s kinda fun thinking about how our friends would sometimes pack into that broken down and stationary Bug after they had a few drinks, pass around a joint, talk, and reminisce about the good times. Kateri got to have that experience once when she came back to help a friend out. I love that image… Kateri smiling and happy in her ’73 Super Beetle… with people she loves.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Last night I realized I had stopped counting how many days Kateri has been gone… how long I’ve been a widower… and I was comfortable with it. I figured it just meant other things were starting to fill my brain in this new life. Transitioning… or some crap like that. Then I rambled into my phone… and played a song.
ps… you can follow the blog if you want… there’s still time! Just hit the follow button… or share it if you like!
The story pretty much goes that my life hasn’t changed too dramatically as we are going through this whole COVID-19 thing, but enough has happened that I’ve had to refocus some of my time and energy away from my blog!… which has been an interesting little pause for me as I come up on Kateri’s Death Date. I guess that’s why I felt the urge to at least post something!
So…… last week I made a video which I shared on Facebook… and this week I’m just gonna share it on here because I talk about… well… stuff I’m going through and how our current environment has had an affect on me as a widower and as a person. There have been other things that have recently happened in my life that I could write about such as getting a new chimney two days ago… and finally being able to burn some wood to keep the house warm instead of propane!… after a month and a half! (Man, I love having a “hot spot” to stand next to since I have a cute but drafty house… and it’s still 29 degrees at night.) Or I could write about how I fixed the water lines to my washer so that I don’t have to “get my steps in” every time I do a load of clothes as I would shuffle stainless steel mixing bowls and coolers full of water from the kitchen to the laundry room! I did this for months… MONTHS I say!… just because I didn’t want to deal with plumbing in the winter time in case something went wrong. (Water leaks and winter just don’t jive with me!)
Ok… instead of me writing about all the things I could write about… I’m just gonna throw on this video, let the chickens out, and have morning coffee over Facetime with people I love who are thousands of miles away. Awe… technology in the time of The Rona. Thanks smrt people… for keeping us connected!
ps…. I’ll warn you, the vid is eleven and a half minutes long!… and there are no pyrotechnics.
First… Happy Birthday! You’ve always loved your birthday being on St. Patrick’s Day… it might’ve been the Irish in you. I love how you would make sure to have a bottle of Bailey’s around for today… usually starting the morning off with a “little” in your coffee… until the time came to start drinking it out of one of the two tiny plastic beer steins. I especially loved it when you would fill up both of the miniature mugs, hand one to someone you loved, clink them together as well as two small plastic mugs could clink, and celebrate simply being there together on your birthday.
Well babe, I’ll be honest… I had a little emotional breakdown just a second ago, decided to run to the store for some papers and on the way back I realized what it was I needed to say to you. I wanted to write to you about all the fun St. Patty’s Day/Birthday adventures we had at the ocean, in pubs, with friend’s and family… or just the two of us, but I’m not going to. Those are all simply wonderful memories… which I have. What I don’t have… is you. And today…. I’m having a hard time with that.
Since just under two years ago, I’ve been trying to figure out how to do this alone. To fill you in, we currently have something happening in our world that will ultimately touch every living person on this planet… in one way or another. It’s called COVID-19 now, but get this… at first it was called Coronavirus! I know!… CORONA-VIRUS! I thought you would get a kick outta that. Although there were a plethora of beer jokes when it first came to light just a couple of months ago… and I may have made some remarks about licking door knobs to get out of work… aaaand I know you would still be making inappropriate jokes (at times) about it to ease the anxiety… it’s actually a very unsettling time and serious thing.
This is where you come into play. When I drove home from getting my papers, I looked around at the open fields, the sparsely filled Park n Ride, a family in a four door pick-up truck at the stop sign waiting to turn, everything felt… different. I’ve gotta tell you Kateri, when I heard your last breath… I heard my world change. Now, as I face a changing world, I simply wish I never heard that silence and that you were with me now. I wish I had our life again. I wish you were here to stay in comfy clothes, drink Bailey’s, and watch horrible movies on your birthday because everything is shut down. Hell, maybe we would be at an empty hotel on the ocean making cappuccinos in our room because we got it for dirt cheap! Once again, your cappuccino would probably have Bailey’s, but it doesn’t really matter what we would be doing… I just wish you were here with me because you always made uncomfortable times better… or uncomfortable in a different way… a better way!
I hope you are having a wonderful time however you are spending your birthday. I have all sorts of scenarios playing in my head, but my minds eye can only focus on your smile… that big, innocent, genuine smile. I want you to know that our friends have been reaching out today showing us they love us. It’s been nice, but I haven’t really responded to anyone yet… I’ve kinda just been thinking about you. Well, and dealing with work… and a chimney guy!… but mostly you.
You were my partner in everything… in life. When life got crazy… as it is right now… I looked to you… and I still do, Kateri. I want you to know that. You taught me so much. You provided me with direction… with purpose… with guidance. You may not be standing next to me or sleeping upstairs or at the farm or in the garden, but you are always with me.
I’ve been much more emotional today than I expected to be… you would have a blast yelling, “CRYYY!” at me… but I just wanted to send you a note… which made me more emotional… so I’m gonna stop now and say, “I love you, Kateri. Happy St. Patty’s Day and HAPPYBIRTHDAY!… you would be 46.” (because I know you still aren’t paying attention to your age)
ps… Coronavirus: Reason #317 that trees make better neighbors.
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.
Kateri and I weren’t exactly “texters”… or really even cell phone users, but for some reason I had started texting her when the time was 1:23 or 12:34 or 3:45 or 2:34… you get the idea. I’ve always enjoyed numbers. At the ranch where Kateri and I met, there really wasn’t much to do in the winter if you weren’t working, or snowmobiling, or snowshoeing… or any of the other things you do when there’s 5 feet of snow out the window… with another 4 feet on top of that. So I watched movies here and there, put together puzzles, hung out with the other seasonal riff raff, and read a few books. Some of those books were filled with stories, some were filled with history, and some were filled with exciting tid bits of information like how the Fibonacci Sequence shows up in the arrangement of the seeds of a sunflower. Over the years I have read less and less about “math” as my interests turned towards other things… like cooking, guitar, and hanging out with Kateri… and now I think I’ve dumbed myself down to where I simply get excited when I look at the clock and it reads 4:56! Which I guess has nothing to do with equations or mathematics… but it’s a fun little observance that has absolutely no real significance in my day to day life… and I guess I thought Kateri needed to know when the numbers lined up!
There are so many little things that pop into my head throughout the day that remind me of life with Kateri. Lately, for one reason or another, the memories have been coming in a bit more frequently. They aren’t all big memories of exciting times, or holidays, or those special moments that are only shared between the two people experiencing them… some are little tiny random blips that show up and turn into bigger blips… like texting Kateri 12:34. I don’t know how many times I texted her when the numbers were all lined up on the clock… but I do remember that once in a great while I would receive a text from her and all it would say is 1:23… and it put a smile on my face. I knew the only reason she was doing it was because she knew I got a strange little kick out of it and looking back on it, it’s just one of those little things in my past life that now has a whole bunch more attached to it. It’s kinda like these memories are little tug boats pulling twenty years of experiences behind them with all the emotions piled up high on the barge. Once that tug boat gets to it’s destination… it’s just a matter of time until those emotions need to be unloaded from the barge… and I never know if it’s gonna get unloaded quickly… or take longer than expected!… and there’s always another tug boat coming up the river with an emotional barge in tow.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Kateri’s plants… I still view them as her’s and not mine. Broadly speaking, they provide me with a living connection to her that I need to pay attention to, take care of, and keep alive… which provides me with a sense of accomplishment along with being surrounded by other living things.
I grabbed a coat from a closet and saw Kateri’s mustard yellow and redish coat. I haven’t gotten rid of or packed her coats away, so they have just been hanging in the spare rooms. This specific coat always made me think of how un-Kateri it was. It was kinda new, kinda stylish, kinda modern. Kateri was most comfy in well worn clothes and flannels, but she also really liked getting dressed up… it made her feel good… and she always looked good no matter what she was wearing!
My guitar has provided me with an escape from the crushing onslaught of emotions, thoughts, and memories the death of Kateri brought into my life. It provides me relief. When she first died and I realized I was playing almost every day… I bought myself a new guitar… a new sound. It provided me change, but with the comfort of familiarity. This year, I thought I would take advantage of my solitude and buy myself an amplifier because of the whole “I’m not gonna bother anyone”… and plus I needed a little personal growth with my hobby. I wanted a few more options with how my “Escape Time” sounded as I searched for relief from the swirling thoughts… and it has been working. Like everything else in this new life, I try to fill time and space with people and experiences that make me feel good… with the hope of dampening down all the crap. Unfortunately… the crap is always there. But fortunately… I can sometimes swap it out for a few moments of “The Good” in the world through walks in the woods with neighbors, conversations on the couch, Stewart’s Orange Soda, Ben and Jerry’s… or simply the strumming of strings.
The cold toilet seat-I took a crap the other morning in the downstairs bathroom and the toilet seat (and bathroom) was a tit bit nipply… almost to the point of invigorating. As I sat there, it made me think about how we put the portable radiator in there when Kateri was sick so that it would keep the space… and toilet seat… warm, since she spent most of her time downstairs next to the wood stove when cancer first appeared… and we were remodeling the upstairs bathroom. (the bathroom in which she put the first hole in the wall… but never saw it finished… or took a bath in her tub surrounded by subway tile.)
I’ve been falling asleep to music lately… Tom Waits. I haven’t been able to listen to the Allison Kraus/Robert Plant album… we would fall asleep to that album or Neil Young’s Harvest Moon quite a bit. I just can’t do it… it feels too weird. It’s weird enough that the music emits from the little JBL speaker I had bought for Kateri when she was in the hospital so that she could listen to the Dali Lama chanting as she tried to relax and rest.
Squishy… I sleep with Squishy every night. Squishy was one of Kateri’s pillows. She called it Squishy because it was… Squishy. I still only use the pillow case with the three flowers on the front for it… any other pillow case just doesn’t seem to be the right fit. I still use my pillow… Squishy just happens to be crammed under or behind it, as well.
Food storage containers-Kateri bought us a bunch of food storage containers for our first Christmas in our first “Home”… the Schoolhouse. Every time I open the bottom drawer and grab one to put half an onion in, or maybe some leftover roasted root vegetables, it makes me think of that Christmas… and her. .
I was so proud of myself for getting the studded snow tires on the Jeep before the first snow flew. Then I drove over a screw and had to use my un-studded full size spare for 4 days… and it snowed. Luckily, I only had to buy one new tire and not four.
Kateri bought these current snow tires… our first ones studded… which is one of those weird memory type things. She bought them almost two years ago and I remember she had a doctor’s appointment the same day because of the headaches she was having… which turned out to actually be tumors. It’s a hard memory for me because I remember not being very sympathetic to her headache. It was before we knew what was going on and I thought it was just a headache that would go away in time… but it never did… and I’m reminded of that morning by stupid studded snow tires… two years later. (I’ve written this down before and I just find it interesting how it’s one of those recurring memories that is time specific. I wonder if this memory is gonna visit me every year when the weather changes and the people start freaking out with the first forecast snow. I swear… people lose their minds!)
I hope you have a wonderful Sunday… and thanks for stopping by!
ps… I thought it would be cool to post this blog at 12:34… but then I had to tend to the fire and missed it!
I established a draft! Yup… it’s pretty exciting! Not like a draft in the writing sense of the word… with my new woodstove and chimney. If you don’t know what I’m talking about… you’re missing out on one of the best things about cold weather… a hot spot to stand next to! It’s been kind of a fun challenge dialing in the new stove, but also kinda frustrating when I can’t get it to burn as efficiently as it should. Plus, when it’s 26 degrees out, like this morning… I wanna be all toasty and warm!
This morning, after I woke up on the couch at 4:37am (next to a pile of empty KitKat and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup wrappers)… and then woke up in bed at 7:42am… I went down to get the fire going for the day. I had planned on spending today doing home chores and getting to know the knew stove since we are in a “cooling trend” right now. You know, do some shit outside… clean and organize the garage, take down window boxes, try to leaf blow the leaves from my yard to the empty land across the road without “Sunday Traffic” seeing me!… while periodically coming in to stoke the fire to keep The Schoolhouse nice and warm. It’s the first day in a bit that I would have this opportunity so I thought I would just go with it, go slow, relax, and enjoy the Sunday Morning doing a few things that would make me happy… like drinking coffee in bed as I hear the tick of cast iron warming my home.
I’m excited to spend some time outside, too. It’ll feel good to get the yard buttoned up for winter. By next Friday, the temps are gonna start dipping into the teens, so I also feel like time is running out to take care of some of these things before the snow flies! It doesn’t hurt that it feels good to look at it once it’s all cleaned up… instant gratification! Accomplishment… I guess. And it’s always refreshing to be out in the fresh, cool air… with chickens.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
My Brother-in-law called last night. We spoke for almost 2 hours. It was fantastic. One of the weird things for me is how with Kateri not being here, neither are her family members as much… physically/phone calls/or texts. She was one of 8 kids… and she was like Switzerland. There was always someone calling, visiting, living with us from time to time, helping us, us helping them, etc., etc…. and now… not. I understand it’s just a normal part of this experience and something I will get used to… but it’s weird… and I miss them.
I took my wedding ring off last night when I took a shower. It felt strange. The other strange part was I kept forgetting to put it back on… for like 8 minutes. I had put it on my dresser, but it wasn’t until I got downstairs and had gone to adjust it with my thumb and noticed it wasn’t there! I went upstairs and put it back on.
I’m getting my license renewed tomorrow. It’s been making me think about Kateri a lot. She got her license renewed maybe a month or so before she died. I had to work, but she was with the perfect person to take her… someone she loved… a lot. The story is entertaining… if you knew Kateri… and the story. It’s a good memory for me from a time that sucked balls.
Although the memory puts a smile on my face… the Crocodile Tears are currently commencing. (a good time to check the status of the stove!.. and get more coffee!)
I’ve decided to start going through the house this winter and taking stock. I haven’t done anything yet… because it’s filled with 20… 43 years of my life and I can’t just approach it as “old life/new life” type stuff, but I do wanna take some more steps to sorta start putting my life together. Create my space… starting with our stuff… because I like our stuff!… (yup… stuff).
Ummm, that’s about alls I gots. I mean, I there’s more… but now I do feel like I need to get motivated and get outside!… and I’ve drank 3/4’s of a pot of coffee so sitting here is starting to become a challenge! I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday… and it’s filled with things that make you feel good!
Sometimes… I feel like I’m chasing a sun that has already set. Sometimes… I just wanna stop, sit, and wait for it to come back around… but I’m forced to keep moving through the darkness. (Don’t worry, I’ve got a headlamp… the batteries just might happen to be a bit weak right now!)
It was the Halloween of… ummm… 2003 maybe..? Could’ve been 2004 or 5. Well, up to 2007… but one of those years. I know we were living in South Starksboro in our cute little cottage with a loft and a woodstove… it was pretty cool. (Our first stand alone home together… rented from a couple who became very special to both Kateri and I… and who still are. It’s weird to think back at those memories right now. I wish I could get everything that is bombarding my brain right now down on paper… but I can’t… and I’m trying to get to what it is that I wanted to write about! But now… I’m thinking about how Kateri called our back yard the Dagobah System. You know?!… Yoda n shit… and it kinda was.) Anyways, I know it was within that range because on one Halloween we used the tiny bedroom downstairs and the loft you couldn’t stand up in… where we slept… up the ladder… as the places to “design” and make our costumes for the evening. We weren’t going out. We weren’t having a party. Well, I guess we never really had parties… but the point is, we were just gonna be hanging out at home that night and Kateri had a knack for coming up with some fun things to do.
I don’t quite remember much of the evening or exactly what time it was or anything… it was dark… and I was probably drunk, but we gave ourselves “x” amount of time to get into costume and to see what each other came up with! It was fun!… and funny!… and somewhat disturbing! I had made a pillow case into a huge face, tucked it into jeans that were halfway down my thighs…ish, and might’ve made arms… but I’m not sure about that! I do know that my own arms were crossed above my head with my elbows pressed into the corners of the pillow case to keep the face… well… a face. I had seen it in elementary school at an assembly or something and figured… we’ve got pillow cases!… pants!… and markers! I could pull it off pretty easily and it would be kinda silly! Kateri almost died laughing as I… or Big Head Person… ran around 450 square feet while throwing in some dancing and jumping. Yup… it was fun.
But it was Kateri’s costume that got me thinking about that particular Halloween this evening. I don’t even really remember her whole outfit… there was a lot of black. What I remember is her face. It… was… FREAKY! Definitely creepy! A little shocking… and somewhat… interesting. She had done the Scotch Tape thing all over her face making her skin look almost sorta burnt… old and wrinklyish… just simply all fucked up! We couldn’t get over how weird it looked! It almost freaked us out!… but mostly we couldn’t stop laughing and talking about how gross it was! And her nose! Oh my gosh… I almost forgot about the pig nose! Wow… I’m glad I haven’t forgotten about that! Actually, I’m glad I remembered that Halloween… this Halloween. I wasn’t expecting that!
For me, it was fun being surprised. Kateri showed and taught me sooooo many things in my life. Some of those things were personally life changing… they played their part in making me into who I am today. But it’s the normal everyday experiences that carry the most weight. I was always amazed by how seemingly easy she could provide joy to someone else. It wasn’t effortless… but it was simply who she was.
The memory that began this whole thought train was Kateri making Halloween decorations with nieces and nephews… and then me wondering if I wanted to pull out those decorations tonight because we still have them… but I’m not gonna. I just like that I have these memories… my memories… of Kateri being Kateri… and her saying, “Bloody Bloody Fangs!” on Halloween.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Now I’m gonna eat and try to watch a scary movie. We’ll see how that goes. I’ve already been asked if I’ve seen the ghosts of dead children in the schoolhouse… I haven’t… and hope I don’t! (And I don’t think I’ll watch a movie with creepy children.)
Yes, I bought Halloween Candy. No, I won’t have a single Trick or Treater.
I always think of my mom on Halloween and her giving treats (candy) to hundreds of little humans who knock on the door. I like how there is generally a run to the store by my father for more supplies, but it always gets to the point of the lights being turned off, the shades being drawn, and hiding from the masses commences on the couch… maybe with the TV on… quietly.
Happy Halloween people! Hope you have a good one whatever you do!
(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.
I’ll make this short n sweet since I had no plans on opening up the computer in bed when I woke up this morning! It was a Facebook post that sorta hit me… and I subsequently sorta lost it. It was from my sister and she was talking about how you don’t just marry your spouse… you become part of a family. She posted this because my brother-in-law’s mother passed away… her mother-in-law… and it just made me think about how death touches us all the time… from all sorts of different angles.
I know my sister is hurting from the loss, but she wasn’t who I focused on at first. My heart sank for my brother-in-law… because he just lost his mom. There was a flood of emotions as I read her post, but it was the thought (and my own made up image) of my sister holding her husband… consoling him… loving him… and showing him that she loves him that hit me. Her being there for him. Her being his wife. And him being a husband who is needing to look to his wife for strength, love, and support.
I love my brother-in-law. He is a good man. A strong man. A good father. A good husband. A good person… a friend. He is family… and he just lost his mom. I’m glad he has my sister to be there for him… she’s one tough cookie. Oh, I’m sure she’ll have her moments of weakness and he’ll need to be there for her, as well, but she’ll be ok. They are both pretty amazing people, a pretty amazing team… with an impressively resilient family.
One part of relationships is being there for each other in all sorts of situations. It can get messy and confusing like having to be there for your wife even though it’s your mother that passed away… but death affects everyone involved… and we all deal with it differently.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
T—-I’m so sorry you won’t be able to hold your mother anymore or call her up or hear her voice in the other room. I’m sorry that you have to feel this loss. I’m sorry that it hurts. I’m glad that you have my sister by your side and family to help ease the pain. I love you. I wish I could be there and give you a hug. I wish I could be there for you… for my brother.
I still love the memory of when in my senior year of high school you let me borrow your jacked up Nissan for a graduation event/party and at one point the grill went flying into the front yard when we couldn’t get the light fixed or something! (don’t actually remember what the issue was, but it was exciting!)
Death is complicated. Death and how it affects family and friends is complicated. Death and how it affects relationships is complicated. There’s so much that goes into the experience of death that the best description I have been able to come up with is… it’s complicated. Well, traumatic… and complicated.
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I didn’t actually realize it was the anniversary of me deciding not to drink until it popped up as a “Memory” on my Facebook. When I saw that in the past I had posted “11 years” and “8 years”… I figured today is probably the day I quit drinking!… 13 years ago.
The morning actually started off pretty darn nice. It was a good morning…. not even knowing it was the anniversary of a pretty big thing in my life. For the record, I don’t exactly pay attention to how long I haven’t drank alcohol… I just don’t drink anymore… it’s been a reality and no big deal to me for quite a while now. But…. that doesn’t mean I don’t think about the decision I made… about drinking… because I do… quite a bit. Mostly though, I draw upon my decision to cut the ol’ sauce out for strength. Ya, at first it was pretty hard… but then it was just a part of who I was… and who I wanted to be. I like me better not drinking. To be up front, I quit drinking because it was either one or the other… beer (or whisky… or Jägermeister… or Bloodies if it was before noon)… or Kateri. I’m sorry to everyone who struggles with it… but the choice was simple for me. I never “fell off the wagon”… never went on a bender… never went in and out of rehab or AA… but I also never really had any reason to question my decision. Every single day since September 9th, 2006 I had a reason to make better decisions. I had a reminder next to me every morning I woke up… and every time I heard that laugh. I had that reminder… I had Kateri… until 7:24pm on April 22, 2018… and I still haven’t had a sip. I feel good about that. I know my life is better because of it. And yesterday I used that accomplishment to feel good about myself… to feel strong and secure about decisions I’ve made… because it was a moment when I needed to.
I was gonna go into the whole timeline of my feelings, emotions, and events of yesterday morning… but I’ve decided I wanna eat leftover pizza, a piece of poundcake, and watch the Denzel movie that Netflix sent me instead of rehashing it. The morning basically went: good… shitty… better, with a jolt of positivity. I will tell you… seeing that “memory” pop up… well, it came at the right time! Again, not getting into it, but it was weird experiencing something that I had seen over and over again on the online support group I’m a part of and thinking how I never thought I would experience it!… but I did. It was kinda sucky. It hurt. It was unexpected. Somewhat understandable… but unexpected. Then… on an iPhone 8… life reminded me of thirteen years dry… and the morning got a little bit better.
The only time I have been sailing. It was fun… but freaky… Especially when I couldn’t see land! (glad we had beer at that point!)
Yup, I 100%… 96%… 89% believe I could have a drink and not watch my life spin out of control, but I just don’t feel like risking it. I always told Kateri I was gonna start back up when I retire so that I could sit on our porch in my rocking chair with my dog, my shotgun, and my whisky. (I know… how many times have you heard that?! I think that’s a lot of guys’ idea of retirement!) I don’t have any idea if any of that will actually happen… or if that’s even how I envision “retirement” these days. I don’t really think about that far off anymore. Those thoughts and stipulations were when there were two rocking chairs on the porch… and one was Kateri’s.
(wow… that was sort of a sad thing to end on… but I don’t really have anything else to say! And… I gotta get to Denzel!)
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I got four pieces of mail today. Two for Kateri, one for Gordon (original owner) or current resident, and one for me… Denzel (I’ve mentioned him). Just kinda funny… I’m the only one who lives here… but gets 25% of the mail!
Just food for thought about the strength and pull of the drink… I broke both my legs (femur in half/compounded tibia and fibula) when I ran into a mountain after a night of drinking in town, flipped end over end a couple of times, and did this to my Jeep.
Broke both my legs. I know, I know… impressive and looks fun!… but I don’t recommend it.
That was 7 years before I quit. (I will say being young and stoopid didn’t help!) I actually have another picture of it with my mom holding a togo coffee cup in the background with her arms folded and head slightly tilted down. My mother and father were on their way to the hospital in Wyoming from Idaho and the wreckage was on the way. I keep that image to myself… but you can just think of your mom (or anyone you love) in her place if you are on the fence about some of the choices you’re making with drinking. Ya… don’t put them through it.
I’ve been kinda freaking out about losing pictures and videos… memories… as the time keeps piling up so I started going through them in an attempt to organize them… it’s a slow process. I realized we all get a YouTube account with our google account so I figured I would at least throw the videos I have hanging out on my phone on there so that they are consolidated, I could expand the sharing of this experience, and I could learn a bit more about this technology stuff. Again… slow process.
This morning I had planned on looking at what I’m doing here… Thirty Days of Mo(u)rning… and begin the process of narrowing my focus since I feel I’m doing this sorta half hazardly… I’m all over the place! Well… I’m still gonna be all over the place for at least another day or two… or more. I got sidetracked… by those memories I’m trying not to lose.
Long story short… I came across this video that Kateri had taken on the morning of her first immunotherapy treatment. It was an early appointment so we were there before the masses of sick people and their loved ones started inundating the hospital. The pianos are generally locked… I’m assuming so people like me don’t just start banging on the keys… but this one wasn’t locked on this particular morning…. opportunity.
Now, if you watch the video you’ll notice that I am not a concert pianist! Heck, this is really the only song I sorta know (and it’s only part of the song), but that wasn’t the point. As Kateri, Maria, and I walked into the hospital and I saw the piano wasn’t locked… I saw the opportunity to give Kateri something… a moment to forget exactly why we were there. I wanted to provide her with something that might just take some of the worry away… even for just a moment.
I’ve gotta say… watching this video brought me back to that morning. It was strange to remember that moment so vividly. It was hard to deal with the emotions that came rushing in… ones which have stuck with me throughout today’s morning. I miss my wife. I miss being with her in the good times… and to be there for her during the hard times. And currently… I miss her being there for me. I miss her being here. I miss Kateri.
Ya… so… yesterday I wondered what it would be like to read one of my blog posts and record it. Well, the reading of it was emotional… and the process of trying to record myself (and then watching it)… was interesting. Long story short, on the drive home tonight I was thinking about it being Widower Day 500 today… good, solid number… and just thought I would share something with the widows and widowers out there. (ummm… you can watch this even if you haven’t lost a spouse… it’s ok. Just to forewarn ya, though… it’s eight minutes long) There’s no real significance to the number 500 for me… but for some reason… seems like there should be!
Sooooo, this is me reading my “Random Widower Thoughts” page… n stuff.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Honestly, I kinda enjoyed Widower Day 500… it was kinda funny. (you should’ve seen my “recording” set up!… entertaining sight I’m sure!)
I’d just like to say that I still wish I lived back in the old timey days before all this technology… like the 1800’s… minus all the bad stuff.
I took three days off of work last week… I felt that I needed to. I’ve been trying to take some time off during the summer, but it just didn’t really happen until this week. I’ve been feeling like I need a bit of time to address some of the obstacles this new life has put in front of me. It’s strange for me to think that it has 497 days… because I face it every single day. So at points it still feels like it literally just happened… and other times I can feel the space growing between points in the timeline. Either way, at the beginning of my Mini Vacation I had no plans on painting my bedroom… but I’m glad I did.
Kateri and I have rented a room in a house with meat heads in Burlington, slept in a studio above a garage attached to a large empty house… on an air mattress in Monkton, slept in a loft in Starksboro (our first stand alone house… we felt so grown up), had a king size bed in our “Secluded Apartment” at the ranch in CO… the squirrels in our room weren’t the worst part… it was the racist and untrustworthy managers. We stayed on our friend’s futon up Four Mile Canyon until we found our little cabin in Ned… where we signed our lease in green colored pencil… and had no jobs at the time. Loved that place… and the people. We stayed in our friend’s basement apartment in Huntington (well, Hanksville… but only people in Hanksville care about those specifics) when we came back to Vermont… where we could hear the kiddos riding their three wheeled machines in a circle through the kitchen, back hallway, living room, front hallway… and kitchen again…. as we laid in bed with smiles on our faces at 6:32am. Our next bedroom was just an open second floor loft with a staircase in the middle. Actually, it was more of a glorified ladder, but it had a railing to hold on to! Side story… I heard Kateri fall down those “stairs” one night when I had forgotten my keys and had to wake her up by calling to her loudly from outside and knocking on the door as I stood in the darkness. When you can hear something like that, your fiancé (at the time) hitting the floor, but aren’t able to see what’s going on… well, I just about broke down the door. Our next place was The Condo… where, from our bed, we could hear the horses run back and forth in the arena on certain mornings. On other mornings… you simply smelled the shit.
The next place we would lay our heads… our next bedroom…. would be in our little red schoolhouse. It’s funny to think about all the places we’ve lived, all the places we’ve slept… and then to think about where I am stretched out right now. I just can’t believe how much is packed into this little corner of the house. Our first night sleeping on the mattress on the floor… of our first home. Moving the bed around every couple of months to find the best light. Figuring out who’s clothes will go where. Those Sunday mornings of laying in bed with coffee as we planned out our day… and dreamed about our future… between runs to fetch a fresh Cup of Joe for one another……………………. And then Cancer.
Three days after Kateri died Maria helped me go through all of (well, most of) Kateri’s clothes. It had always worked out that Kateri would keep her clothes in our bedroom and I would keep mine usually in the spare room… if we had one. It’s not like she had a ton of clothes, it was more that we lived in small spaces! When she first died, I didn’t see the point of waking up every morning being surrounded by her clothes as I would go to another room to grab mine for the day. The thought had hit me that there was absolutely no reason for her clothes to be hanging in the closest… or to fill the two dressers in the room. She wasn’t coming back…. but I had to keep waking up there. I wanted to start my day in my space… with my clothes… because this was now my life. I have a house and twenty years of memories that are constantly reminding me of Kateri and what we had. I needed to chisel out a little space that was just mine as I tried to figure out this new life… so I figured I would start in the place I wake up every morning… and where I end my day every night… when I don’t fall asleep on the couch!
For me, going through Kateri’s clothes wasn’t as hard as I expected. Maria would ask if she could take this or that for herself or a family member and I would say “Sure” or “No”. I had seen Kateri in these clothes throughout my entire life with her and we generally remember people dressed… so there is a huge attachment for me between Kateri and what she wore… her “Style”. In the moment, it was simple… I couldn’t get rid of much… but I didn’t have to either. So, Maria and I went from drawer to drawer and into the closet. We talked, we laughed, we remembered, we cried… and then we put her clothes into green bins which sat in the corner of my bedroom for 16 and a half months… until I painted.
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.
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”!