I was standing in the garage the other night doing the ol’ routine of chopping kindling and looking around wondering how I could rearrange all the crap I’ve accumulated over the years when the thought “I Live Alone in a Life Built for Two” popped into my head. It was one of those moments that just kinda creeped into the brain. As I thought about it, I realized it wasn’t exactly accurate or really even how I feel about my widowhood and life these days, although I vividly remember the times when “alone” was the feeling I had from the time I woke up in the morning to the time I went to sleep… sometimes also in the early morning hours. I’m glad I had that sorta sad thought cross my mind… it reminded me of how life isn’t stagnated… that we have our own unique ebbs and flows… and that I’m not alone. It made me bring back into focus the people who are still in my life, those who have come into my life, and although there are those whom I can no longer hold in my arms… I carry them with me as I flub through my day to day in a reality, which for decades… I could not have imagined.
I don’t know how I found it or what I was looking for when it showed up on the computer screen, but I came across an article and snippet of an interview where Steven Colbert asks, “What do you think happens when we die, Keanu Reeves?”. The selfless simplicity of Keanu’s answer, knowing he’s had significant losses in his life, just kinda hit me when his response was, “I know that the ones that love us, will miss us.”. Thank you, Mr. Reeves, for focusing on life… even when asked about your thoughts on death. (That was totally profound, Ted… super deep. You’ve come a long way from, “All we are is dust in the wind, dude”…!)
On September 24, 2021 Xander came to the schoolhouse for a temporary stay… and never left. Sometimes when we live a life touched by loss, some of those losses teach us lessons when we look for them and gives us things when we… weren’t. Xander came into my life four days before my 4th Wedding Anniversary without Kateri. He was by my side as I went through that anniversary crying in my bed, sitting on my deck pondering life, or doing whatever. I thought about how he was in a new space… with a new person… and not with Judy (even though at that point his stay was still just a temporary thing and we thought they would be reunited). I wondered what he was thinking about. I hoped he wasn’t sad, but felt he knew something was up. For almost a year now, all I’ve wanted to do was make sure he has the best life I can give him. I want him to have the easiest life I can provide for him. I want him to be himself. I want him to be a dog being a dog. I want him to be happy and feel like he’s home in a life which is so different from what he knew on September 23, 2021. I want him to feel loved… because I’ve got so much frickin’ love for the guy that I don’t even care about his love strings (hair) being all over the couch!… and the stairs… and the chair… and my bed… my fleece pants… and… and… you get the idea… it’s a lot of love… and love strings.
The dude that turned The Schoolhouse into a house in the 60’s also made a little path through the 6.5 acres so that he could harvest lumber for the woodstove n such. When Kateri and I bought the place, I cleaned up the paths since they had started to get overgrown by the lack of use. Since Xander has come to The Schoolhouse, we have walked the path almost every day. Well, nowadays I feel like our afternoon walk is more like me walking the path… and Xander walking, running, sniffing, digging the other 6.49 acres! It was on one of these walks that I recently realized that Xander has taught me a few things as we have gotten to know each other over the last year. Lessons and exercises that I learned while running up hills in the dark yelling, “Xander!” and “Come here, Bud!”… or standing for ten minutes while getting eaten by mosquitos as he tears apart a rotting stump… or simply walking behind him hearing nothing but the pitter patter of his paws on the pine needle padded path surrounded by the sounds of the woods. I realized I have learned a lot… staring at an 83 pound Pitbull’s butt as he trots along on the hunt for chipmunks. These are a few of those things.
By the time I get home from work Xander has been cooped up in The Schoolhouse for 9 to 11 hours so when we go for our afternoon walk I want to give him… time. Time to run. Time to be outside. Time to be a dog sniffing, digging, patrolling, and playing in the woods and yard. On one of these walks I found myself standing there… for I don’t know how long… as Xander was tearing apart a rotting stump and digging deeper and deeper along it’s roots. It was hot… which in Vermont also means buggy… and I was just about over it. At that moment I recognized just how much fun Xander was having trying to get at whatever it was he was fixated on. I wanted him to stop so that we could keep on our walk and I could get to my evening tasks. And then I thought about how he spent the day surrounded by walls with only a view of the world outside the windows. So I took a breath and pushed my thoughts of evening chores to the side and took in the scenery and sounds of the woods while I waited… and waited… and let him be a dog.
When Kateri died, I was thrust into this weird “Instant Independence” kind of life. I was responsible for only myself… and Kateri’s chickens. When the last three chickens (Lil’ Bitch, Chicken, and Chicken) got eaten by raccoons (bastards), I was the last living animal left at The Schoolhouse besides the mice, snakes, and other country creatures. The moment Amanda and I told Judy we would take care of Xander and he could live at my house, I assumed the responsibility of providing the best possible life I could for him. I was responsible for his health, his safety, and his happiness. It’s a responsibility that fills me with warmth every day when I come home and can see him through the big ol’ schoolhouse window sitting on the end of the couch with his paws hanging over the edge just waiting for me to walk past so that he can run to the door to meet me. Of course, sometimes I see him on the couch and by the time I open the door… he’s not there. Nope, sometimes when I open the door I can hear him in the dining room crunching away at the food in his bowl leftover from the night before. Yup… gotta say… sometimes it hurts just a little knowing that food is the bigger priority for him than seeing me at that moment!… but I’ve accepted it.
There have always been dogs in mine and Kateri’s life, but we never had one of our own. We moved around a bunch… and were renters… and just thought it would be easier to pick up and start another adventure if we didn’t have animals. Once we bought our Little Red Schoolhouse, once we had our own land, once we had our own Home… that’s when things like pets, chickens, Hopes n Dreams would really start to take off. That first Spring in our first home is when those Hopes n Dreams started to take shape in the form of 8 chickens. And then two Springs later… Kateri died… and things like Hopes n Dreams turned into a cloudy and muddled view of life, love, and the world in which I was living in. Over the last four and a half years some of those challenges that come along with Widowhood have eased and some of those cloudy views have started to clear up a bit. Love is a complicated thing. For an emotion that can make you feel as though you are on top of the world… there are also circumstances where it plays it’s part in making us feel completely isolated… and alone… even when we’re surrounded by loved ones. A dog… Xander… brought life back to my Little Red Schoolhouse. A dog… Xander… has provided me with companionship, friendship, and love every single day over the last year. A dog… Xander… lost his person. Xander lost the life he knew and was thrust into an unfamiliar world… my world. Judy entrusted Amanda and I with the love of her life… and she gave me the opportunity to feel loved every morning as Xander nudges his way under the blanket for warmth an hour before my alarm goes off, every evening I come home from work to a wagging tail and the funny hoppity hop around the living room, and every night he makes his way up to the bedroom with that familiar clickity clack of toenails on wood floors… fashionably five…ish minutes after I have crawled into bed. As her life was ending, through her asking for Amanda and I to bring Xander into our lives, Judy gifted me with the feeling of Unconditional Love at a moment in time I needed to be reminded of it.
Loss in life is simply a hard thing we all go through at on point or another in varying degrees, but we need to remember that we’re living in a world where beauty, love, and happiness still exists and hopefully we have people in our lives that can remind us of that… even after they are gone.
I knew I didn’t have the time to write about Thursday night because… well… I’ve just got a lot to do before my sister comes to visit! So, I decided to simply tell the story of when I found a snake… IN MY UPSTAIRS BATHROOM…! The video is 23 minutes. The actual ordeal took much much longer… and the trauma will last a lifetime.
A couple of notes:
My sister is still coming to visit… pretty sure.
The headlamp was for seeing into holes in walls and dark spots… where snakes can hide.
There is now more spray foam in my house… and less duct tape on the roll.
I’m actually gonna get back to writing in the next couple of days, but as of late I just haven’t found the time. I’m currently in Idaho after driving cross country to visit my mom because on January 19th she/we got the news that the Docs are out of options for treating her cancer. Don’t worry, another… longer… video that I made at the rest area right before Boise will be coming of me babbling about why I just drove 2697.1 miles… and of the shift my thoughts took after being in the “Cute Little Jeep” for two and a half days with nothing but my thoughts. (That’s a lie… I had music, a sleeping bag, instant coffee, phone calls and Facetime with friends and family, my guitar, my camp stove… and Squishy.) For today though, I thought I would start with when I was doing laundry as I was getting ready for the road trip. Who knows, maybe someone will find my “Housekeeping Tips for Widowers” helpful…?! (Martha would probably be appalled by my directions and fitted sheet folding abilities, but Snoop would probably be in the same frame of mind as I was in and realize… it’s just a fitted sheet.)
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…!)
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.
Well, I’m laying in bed on a Sunday morning… drinking coffee… smoking a little somethin’ somethin’… and trying not to be annoyed that it just took a half hour for my computer to connect to the internet… errrr!! I’ve been pretty excited about getting to today. It’s my first day off since Easter and my first “weekend” since the end of March. Luckily, I enjoy working and I enjoy my job, but I also really enjoy my time off…!
Currently, I’m in the midst of memories of the shittiest time in my life. Last Sunday, April 11th, was the anniversary of Kateri going into Palliative care. It’s weird, things seem to be coming back… memories… that sorta kinda just pop into the brain. Things that are rough to remember. For example, like when I just typed “April 11th”, the memory of talking to Kateri’s Cancer Doc in a hallway of the main hospital as he told me the option(s) going forward popped up… which was the option of drilling a hole in the side of her skull to relieve some of the pressure that the tumors were putting on her brain. For a seven days now I’ve known I’ve been in the anniversary of the last two weeks of Kateri’s life, yet today was the first time that that memory came back… and it’s just kinda hard to deal with. It’s really fucking hard to deal with, actually. It’s a challenge, which was actually the topic that started my thought process for this blog post… dealing with everyday challenges as a widower… but since I started thinking about that over a week ago… challenges… it has snowballed in my brain to the point where I simply have a mish mash of heavy thoughts (because one thing always leads to another!) swirling around and I can’t seem to grab any specific one to focus on. Yay!!
Last Wednesday is when I first started to feel some relief from my workload and as I was standing on my porch that evening, I thought about how my life as a cook has instilled this attitude of doing whatever it is I need to do to get the job done… to get through service… to get through the day. The last four months have not been easy for me at my gig… there have been all sorts of challenges… but I fell back on my work ethic and my new approach and attitude towards everything in life since Kateri died to get through… to keep going… to get to today… with the hope of getting to tomorrow mostly unscathed. When Wednesday hit… I felt good… I felt proud of facing that immediate challenge of needing to focus on work shit until I had a moment to focus on myself. Although I had to pay more attention to this and less attention to that, I was able to get to a point where I could lay in bed… drink coffee… smoke a doobie… and take some time to face the emotional and psychological shit storm that comes along in my life that starts the end of December, picks up in intensity on April 11th, and then hits the crescendo on April 22nd… the day I heard Kateri’s last breath. On the work side of things… I’m glad I got to this point. On the life side of things… this point kinda sucks… but I’m glad I’m here and going through it.
Last Thursday I woke up ballin’. No, I wasn’t having dreams of dunking on Lebron as we battled on the court in a game of One on One… I literally woke up sobbing. I had dreamt that I had cancer in my brain. The last image I can remember was me in my back yard checking to see if my sump pump had spewed any water out from the bulk head. There were people around, but I don’t recall anyone specific… except for my father… for some reason. I was crying in my dream because I felt alone… because in my dream, Kateri had already died. I felt lost without her there… and the loss of her in my life was unbearable as I was faced with the uncertainty of some not so fun information. It was intense… hence the waking up with a wet pillow and puffy eyes. It was one of those odd feeling moments when you recognize you are coming out of sleep and start to separate dream from reality. After I wiped and rubbed my early morning eyeballs, I was able to temper my emotions… put my big boy pants on… grab a cup of Joe… and head to work. Even on the way out to my cute little Jeep I could feel myself getting emotional and not wanting to face the day, but I did anyways… because that’s just what I had to do.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
The other day I wrote down the note, “It took me a lot of living to get… here.” As I’ve thought about it more and more… I don’t really know where “here” is. I guess that’s what it feels like when you’re feeling… “lost”.
“Lost” is one thing. Coupled once in a while with feeling “insignificant” in the world… kinda sucks.
Almost three years out… I still sleep on “my” side of the bed.
Sometimes when laying in bed I wedge my Achilles tendon between my big toe… and the toe next to it. It just feels good.
I have found “Widowhood” to be an extremely hard life to live… but it’s my only option. I have an even harder time with the fact that life told Kateri she didn’t have an option… and it took her away from me… from us. The world would simply be a better place… if she was here… next to me… laying on her side of the bed.
Before I left for my trip to see my mom, I had the idea that I would be writing quite a bit while I was out there…. that didn’t happen… and I’m cool with that because it just meant that I spent more time with my mom! Going into it, I sorta approached each of the three segments of the trip… The Drive Out, Hanging with My Mom, The Drive Home… into their own unique emotional, psychological, and personal experience’s… each of which I feel sooooo fortunate to have had! I got back last night and am taking advantage of the time I have to recoup, relax, and reflect on the past week and a half. I’m excited to write a few blogs during this time, share some pics/experiences, and was gonna start at the beginning, but we’re gonna work backwards because… well… this is where I’m at right now! For today… I just need to stop. I need to stop moving. I need to stop thinking about everything. I need to rest my body and mind… maybe while on the couch, from my bed, in the tub, or maybe all three! Whichever way, it feels good to be home.
As a widower, I could’ve attached all sorts of things from my old life to this trip… but I didn’t… that’s not what this trip was about. Even though I took a part of Kateri with me for the ride (She was always up for a road trip… and I could hear her voice saying, “Where the antelope roam!” as I rolled across Nebraska and back into Wyoming), this trip was for me… as time moves forward… in my present life. The day I left I thought about Widowhood and how it’s a layer of complexity which I would much rather not have in my life. But I also thought about how it’s just part of my life. A big part… but just a part.
Random Widower Notes n Thoughts… of my trip:
It’s a big, beautiful, diverse country… and everyone needs to drive across it… when there’s not a pandemic happening.
I have never “dictated” so much to my phone. I hope I don’t start saying, “Period” or “Coma” or “dot dot dot” when I’m having conversations with people!
Three days in the car… you think a lot.
Tom Petty Radio is a pretty darn good Road Trippin’ station. The news channels will drive you batty.
It’s scary as hell thinking about giving your mom with cancer a hug after driving cross-country during a pandemic… and you think about it a lot.
I’m glad I got to be on the road… out in the world… seeing our country… during the election. Isolated in the thick of it.
I overpacked… waaaaaay overpacked.
Driving 80mph is weird. Luckily… no sharp turns.
Why do your knees hurt when you just sit for three days?
I miss my mom and family… and love them tons… but it’s nice to be home.
I’m ready to get back into my life!… tomorrow.
The Video Description
Well, I literally just got home from my drive to go spend some time with my mom in Idaho. The gist of it is…. I left Vermont 11/1/2020 at 5:30am and got to my P’s house in Boise on Tuesday… Election Day… after driving 26 hundred miles or so… only stopping for gas/to pee/poop/or to sleep in the back of my Jeep Renegade (it’s “cute”… ugh) at rest areas. Hung out with her and my dad… didn’t go out because of the pandemic/she has cancer/not much energy right now/etc. So we watched election shit because it was happenin’… and important… and was something we could do from the couch. I’m glad I saw her… and was able to see how she was doing. (She’s doing well… she’s good) It was nice to talk… and share pictures… and watch movies that I never thought I would watch with her! And then I drove back to Vermont on 11/9/2020… post election… doing the same thing but adding in a snowstorm in Wyoming/Nebraska and arriving home on 11/11/2020… at 11:00pm… funny. On the drives, I thought about my life, my widowhood, my mom, my future, my past, my country, my job, my home, my friends, my family, my feet… and more! This is me in my driveway… after sitting for a few moments… after 63 and a half hours in the car covering 2,667 miles (or so!)… and before opening the door and getting out of the vehicle. Ummm… yeah. I’m writing this description the next day after unloading a little/eating/sleeping in/decompressing/reflecting and relaxing because I realized… after a couple of “moments” this morning… I’m exhausted. It was a wonderful trip during an extraordinary time to see someone I love more than anyone…. but I’m glad to be back at my little Schoolhouse… in Vermont… where there’s a wood stove and a bathtub… both of which I’m about to use.
For some reason I decided to search The Oracle for widowed celebrities… and I’m not exactly sure why besides simple ol’ curiostity. I mean, I’m not exactly up on celebrities and I kinda don’t care for reading or watching stuff about widowhood, but I searched it anyways. If you became famous in the last decade… 15 years or so… I probably can’t pick you out of a line up!.. or really care to! But, if you’re a widow(er)… I feel for you. It don’t matter how many people know ya or how much money you got from that horrible 90’s sitcom… or one hit wonder!… if the person you loved more than any of that type of shit… the person you loved more than anything else… up and died… life sucked.
So… that first part was really just notes I made the day before the 2 and a half year mark. The video below I made the day after the 2 and a half year mark. And now I’m posting this blog three days later. Yup… I’m slackin’! But what it comes down to is, I had a moment where I decided to simply look at the last two and a half years of my life… and tried to not let the emotional attachment to last 20 years with Kateri be the focus of my thoughts. And I’ve gotta say… it felt good to look back at my accomplishments over those two and a half years and be comfortable with how I have handled them! Sure, I’ve taken some wrong steps, but just took a step back when I realized it. Sure, I’ve said some things that I probably shouldn’t have said in certain moments or environments or to certain people, but I’m learning to think before I speak… a majority of the time… sometimes… here and there……… I’m working on it! Sure, I’ve made some mistakes, but as of right now… I’m ok with all of that.
We all make mistakes. Luckily, for two and a half years I have been surrounded by people who are understanding, caring, and supportive… and realize we are all just fallible animals trying to get through the day. It’s because of those people and the lessons Kateri taught me in life that I was able to have a positive moment on this new timeline where I could feel accomplished, comfortable, and proud of how I have dealt with my “Widowhood”… even if that “moment” came to me while in the shower! (I’m pretty sure we all do a lot of thinkin’ in the shower!.. when we’re not singing.)
ps… if you take a gander at the video… I know I say, “ya know?” a lot. This is why I prefer to write things down… I ain’t no orator!