For the past few years we’ve made sugar cookies at Christmastime. Well, I make the cookies then we all decorate them. Now, if you haven’t figured out by now, we are pretty non-traditional. This is evident in our cookie “art”. You can see some traditionally-decorated cookies, but you’ll also see an octopus, a ghost, a heart, a couple fish, a “dragon”, a hot-air balloon, a guitar, a crocodile head, two spiders, a cat, a squirrel, and two handguns. There is also my feeble attempt at an AR15 bolt face. It’s fun to be creative and laugh and point at our less-than-stellar results. They’re still yummy, though!
This is the time of year for hustling and bustling about, planning and attending holiday parties, Christmas shopping, traveling, and seeing friends and family. A time for giving to one another. A time for togetherness. (These should be year-round, but people are people, and we have stuff to do.)
For me, this is the time when those intensely sad feelings bubble to the surface. Those haunting memories come to the foreground. They’re there, in the crowd of other memories, jumping up and down and waving hysterically, begging to be noticed, but not like a best friend who can’t wait to be reunited with you and give you a big hug, then excitedly rambling on about all the things that have happened since your last meeting, and then swearing to not let so much time pass between get-togethers, and maybe next time we should do a cruise. These memories, if given attention, seem to want to swallow me whole and keep me in a dark pit.
The memories and images of two years ago can’t be ignored. I try not to dwell on them because they’re still so painful. I try to change focus to the kids, the boyfriend, work, and house repairs. I go to the gym (since I’m a wuss and won’t ride my bike in temps below 60). I’m doing okay. This is just a difficult time of year. Every year. It’s harder to choose happy. It’s harder to get out of bed. It’s harder to keep the tears at bay.
Still, I get out of bed. I do my damnedest to choose happy. I’m not stifling the tears today and am thankful for the release that comes with shedding them.
I logged in to add a post and found this draft from a few weeks ago, so I’ll go ahead and post it.
We’re back into the swing of school and schedules and homework. The big change is that the girls are driving! They’re sharing the car, but they’re making it work. Alex has started a class at the community college and will start two more later this month. Travis is doing very well and continues to blossom.
What I logged in to post is this:
Have you ever annoyed yourself with something you do, but you can’t seem to make yourself stop doing it?
Every time I see a date in 2013 or earlier, I relate it to what Jeff was doing. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes definitely NOT good. “That was the year we went to the Grand Canyon.” “That was our last trip to Galveston.” “He really loved that truck.” “Jeff was halfway through chemo.” “Those nurses at Harris Fort Worth treated Jeff like a rock star!” “That was our first trip to Houston.” (F*ck, I hate Houston! I know some of you poor souls live there and some have had to seek treatment at MD Anderson like Jeff did, but it holds not one good memory for me. The entire city is forever tarnished. I don’t think I’d blink if it was wiped off the map.) “Jeff was in ICU then.” “That was his first day in hospice.”
Facebook memory posts are the worst. I see what someone else was doing in 2013 and it is in such stark contrast to what our family was going through. It makes me envious, maybe a little bitter. It’s so unfair. I know, I know… life isn’t fair.
I know all our memories are supposed to make our lives richer, complete – you can’t appreciate the good without the bad… blah, blah, blah – but if you could erase one memory, maybe a whole day or even a week, would you? I think I would. Jeff doesn’t have to live with the memories, thankfully.
Note: I did this a while ago and didn’t post it, but, dammit, I’m proud of the headboard so here it is. Pardon the goofy layout of this post!
So, I down-sized from the humongous king headboard and footboard to a queen-size bed. I knew right away I wanted to make my headboard. I found this tutorial and knew it would be easy. I surveyed my materials:
- Big piece of plywood, OSB, or particle board – CHECK! I’ve been bumping the car door into it for years as it has been leaning against the wall in the garage.
- Fabric – CHECK! The mile-long window scarf will be perfect. (A la Carol Burnett’s Scarlett O’Hara “Ah saw it in the winduh and Ah just couldn’t resist it.”)
- Staple gun – CHECK! What self-respecting DIY-er doesn’t have a staple gun?
- Circular saw – DUH! Of course I have a circular saw.
- Jigsaw – Double DUH!
I had a thin twin mattress pad but I wanted the headboard to be really cushy so I ordered another 3″-thick twin mattress pad from Wally World for $25. It was convoluted, but I figured I’d just put the bumpy side toward the wood or to the thinner twin pad.
I bought a set of decorator needles ($2.97) that are super long for pushing through lots of foam, wax thread (because she said so) ($3.47), and three packages of make-your-own fabric-covered buttons ($1.77 ea).
To hang the headboard easily, I discovered French cleats. If you’ve never heard of them, you’ll be glad you’re discovering them now. They make hanging large, heavy items so freakin’ easy! I bought two of them at Big Orange for $7.97 ea.
I also discovered I needed something better than boxes of tile to serve as support for cutting the wood to size, so I bought a two-pack of sawhorses at the Big Orange store. (I don’t count those in the cost of the headboard.)
A grand total of $52.69, plus a little tax that I didn’t feel like calculating.
Wow, it’s been a while since my last post. Things are going well I guess. The kids are out of school, kinda. (Kristen managed to pass all her classes by the hair of her chinny-chin-chin.) Travis is in summer school, aka Summer Intervention Program, though he missed most of this last week because he was sick. Just one more week, then he’s done. The girls are with their dad for the next ten days for Father’s Day and his birthday.
Father’s Day… It’s another rough time for me. My relationship with my dad is pretty much non-existent, so I feel a lot of loss there. (I was invited to his birthday dinner last month [after not seeing him for…years] with my brother and his wife and it was the ultimate non-event. No great revelations. No reunion. Just dinner. And heartbreak.) And I feel loss for Travis because his dad is no longer here. I took the girls shopping for Father’s Day cards for their dad and it hurt to look at the cards, so I quit looking at cards. The boyfriend is such a good guy and very much wants to be a dad for Travis, but it’s just not time yet. I can’t explain why. It just doesn’t feel right yet. So there’s not much to celebrate.
I’ll meet the boyfriend’s parents soon. I don’t know why that terrifies me, but it does. I’m not great at small-talk. I don’t keep up with current events. I’d love to be charming and likeable, but I’m a tattooed, pro-choice, pseudo-Republican, atheist, potty-mouthed widow who is afraid of appearing stupid. Certainly I can’t screw up too much in the course of one dinner, right? Right?
Maybe we’ll go to the park and shoot rockets tomorrow. That sounds like fun.
Today would have been our 14th wedding anniversary. We had a nice, small wedding in a friend’s house. She had a large great room with stairs coming down from the gameroom above. The girls and I readied ourselves upstairs while guests gathered downstairs. We had rehearsed the day before in the empty house, but on the day of the wedding, the girls froze midway down the stairs. My maid of honor had to escort them the rest of the way. Once downstairs, Kristen went to Jeff, hugged him, and took her seat next to my mom. Alex was to do the same, but she was so scared and shy that she didn’t let go of Jeff. He walked her on his knees to her seat, with her still clinging to him. I could hear the laughter upstairs, but didn’t know what was going on.
We didn’t write our own vows and I don’t remember what the pastor had us say. I assume it was the usual. We were already committed to each other in my eyes. I didn’t see the point in the piece of paper, though I do love the ceremony of weddings. I suppose the paper is a necessity for taxes, insurance and whatnot.
Most of the attendees were work friends, so our wedding photos look a little like a work gathering. All in all, it was a wonderful day; the beginning of our lives together. We moved into our house some three months later. Life was good. This wonderful man had joined our family, bravely taking on kids who were not his own and the accompanying ex-husband.
I woke up this morning crying as I remembered driving by the hospice last week on the way to Wendy’s for lunch. I then attempted to visualize a different route to Wendy’s from work. (At 6:00 in the morning, this is not easy.) The route I take on autopilot takes me by the hospice where Jeff spent his last days. I can’t look at it. Can’t even see it in my peripheral vision. This means I have to look in the opposite direction as I drive by, which makes it hard and a bit dangerous to drive. There are still too many reminders, too much pain there. It’s where he took his last breath, spoke his last gibberish, last opened his eyes, where I last held his hand.
I formed the thought today that I didn’t get to say goodbye. Well, I did. But I didn’t. How do you say goodbye to someone who isn’t ready to go? Even his first night at hospice, he didn’t want to lie down. He kept feeling he wanted to go to the bathroom, but as he would sit on the side of the bed trying to gather strength, the feeling would pass. He was too groggy and weak anyway. So, I hope he has heard me in the last year when I’ve spoken to him, that he has seen me working and trying my damnedest. I guess the way I’ve said goodbye is by continuing to live.
Had a bummer day Wednesday. I was driving to work, listening to the Kidd Kraddick show on the radio. They were talking about a Kidd’s Kid, Rowan, who has a pancreatic disease and needed a bone marrow transplant. This 8-year-old kid has been struggling with a chronic/terminal disease but is still raising money for Kidd’s Kids by selling his autographs, lemonade, whatever he can do. He has spent 900 days in the hospital, has had 69 trips to the ER. The last thing I heard was that his siblings were tested and they had good news. I had to change the station. Not because I was touched for this young boy, but because I was feeling sorry for myself. I was jealous.
Of course, I wanted so much for Jeff to be able to at least have the opportunity to get a bone marrow/stem cell transplant. Every hope hung on the possibility that it would cure him, or give him more time. It would have turned our lives around. We were going to be better together. Everything was going to be rosy.
I also wished he had been taking better care of himself and that he had never gotten sick in the first place. But then, we would have likely continued on in our “okay” lives, going through the motions, taking each other for granted, doing what we felt was our best at the time, with nothing to snap us out of it. That made me even sadder.
The cold, crappy weather doesn’t help my mood, either. At least we had a little fun in the snow while it lasted.
So… life is good. I’ve seen glimpses of it over the past year, the sun peeking through the clouds, but it now feels… good. The sun is out like an August day in Texas and I’m basking in it’s glow.
Work is still going well, thankfully. My employer has rewarded me nicely and I feel appreciated. The stress is manageable.
The kids are healthy and doing well. Travis got braces and had a rough first day or two, but he’s back to his happy, smiling self …until his next appointment in March when he’ll be sore again for a couple days. He’ll soon see the cycle. Kristen is now considering college. She had been pretty set on cosmetology school (she wants to be a make-up/special effects make-up artist), but now wants to check out UT, maybe A&M, probably others – for what, she doesn’t know! She’s got to get really serious about school first if she has any inkling of going to college. Alex will be going to college this fall, if it kills me. The child is immune to any attempts at motivation, but I’m determined.
It’s a blessing not having to worry about home, kids and work. I think this stability in my life has allowed me to open my heart and find love again. I feel alive again. I feel cherished. I feel loved. It’s amazing. He’s amazing. He’s very unique – I guess that’s my “type”. Comparisons to Jeff are inevitable, but they do have quite a bit in common. Maybe that has made things even easier. We’ve only been dating a couple of months, but things look promising. One might advise me to Take it easy. Don’t let him break your heart. You’re still grieving and vulnerable. Well, I don’t want to be in a relationship fearing the worst, waiting for something bad to happen. I’m jumping in headfirst, into the deep end. I would rather give my heart a work-out – pumping fast, full of adrenaline and excitement, even if it gets smashed to smithereens – instead of allowing it to gather dust in the corner, withering and faltering from lack of attention. I’m tired of being sooo careful. Maybe this comes with age.
The house projects continue, though not as maniacally as before, since I have someone new attracting my attention. I’ll be painting in the master bath soon and replacing the baseboards. Later will come new carpet, countertops, and some bitchin’ fireplace tile after a bit of construction to remove the monstrosity of a plant ledge that abuts the fireplace. …goofy floorplan. What were we thinking?
Friday night I was going through the text messages on my phone. At 2 am, for some dumb reason. I had all the messages transferred from Jeff’s phone so my phone is LOADED! I came across beautiful messages of love, sadness, inspiration, grief, and support from all the beautiful ARFCOMers, and Texas Hunting Forum and Godlike Production buddies. There are too many messages to count. Each of them special and perfect. I can’t tell you, each of you, how much those messages meant to Jeff and still mean so much to me. Of course the messages brought me to tears, but the one stupid message that really did me in was a text message from him to me that was oddly all by itself: “Get taco bell”. It was December 3rd, the day before he went to hospice. We had just been given the news that there was no more chemo. No more treatment. The tumor had practically exploded in his belly. I was driving home to get some things for Jeff and a change of clothes and things for myself so I could return to the hospital for the night. I was driving El Blanco, the little white Elantra we bought when we traded in Jeff’s truck. My phone wasn’t paired with the bluetooth in the car (first world problems, eh?), so I had to look at my phone to call my daughter to see if I needed to pick her up from her friend’s house. It was just after the call connected that I rear-ended the car in front of me, so my daughter heard a few choice expletives. There wasn’t a whole lot of damage to the car in front of me and, as luck would have it, there was a policeman one car behind me who saw the whole thing. He facilitated the exchange of information and advised me not to drive since the hood was a little crumpled and he didn’t want it to fly up while driving. I told him I didn’t have far to go and drove on. A friend of ours stayed with Jeff while I made the mad dash home so I called her to let her know I had just had an accident, not to tell Jeff, and would be a little later than I planned. Jeff subsequently changed his mind on his last meal to beef and cheddar sandwiches from Arby’s. He ordered three. I knew he’d maybe eat only one but I ordered them anyway.
I spent the next day in my jammies with Jeff. I greeted hospice coordinators, the chaplain, grief counselors, friends, and doctors in my pajamas. Jeff’s spirits were up. He was happy to see his friends from Masco. He was pretty drugged and drifted in and out of sleep, but he was happy when he opened his eyes. That was really his last coherent day.
So yesterday I got up, went to Home Depot and bought paint. I finished painting in my bedroom and got the baseboards done on three walls. (Slight miscalculation on materials and I’ll have to move my heavy bed again to get to the fourth wall, but it still looks kickass.) And I feel better. The tears still come a bit easy today, but I’m better.