Snow days

How I miss him when it snows.

I realized that yesterday.  It may have been a little hard to realize last year because I simply missed him so very much all the damn time that it was very hard to distinguish, but I remember feeling it the first time I went out to shovel, the first time I saw the white stuff out the front window, and watched as my au pair that year, who had never seen snow, was amazed.  I certainly felt it the day we went to Longwood in the snow.  I had never before seen Longwood Gardens in the snow.  He never saw Longwood in the snow.  How he would have loved it.

Snow days are hard.  There’s what everyone thinks of first.  The basic logistics.  The anxiety if we can’t get out, run out of food.  The anxiety to shovel, get the driveway cleaned… but truthfully, I think snow brings out greatness in neighbors.  Realistically, I know my neighbors will help me.  They are amazing.  At least three different neighbors attacked my driveway at various times yesterday.  So if I can quell the anxiety, I know the logistics will be just fine.

The hard part is just how much he loved snow.  Snow was his thing.  He loved to stay on top of the Capital Weather gang reports, he loved to get out there and shovel.  Even when we were in Arlington.  In January 2015, our first winter in Fairfax, we got a huge amount of snow starting Friday night all through the weekend.  The plow couldn’t get to us for a long time.   The public schools were closed for a week.  (Our kids were not out of daycare yet.)  Still, our driveway gleamed bright and black, for Tim was out there with the shovel and the salt nearly hourly.  He had a blast playing not just with our kids, but all the neighbor kids.  Yesterday’s snow was a good snow.  Tim would have loved it.  There is guilt there.

Snow reminds me of getting out there and playing in it and shoveling it, and it reminds me of snuggling up together inside.   Loving being together, and letting the rest of the world go by while we had each other.  There is longing there.

There is also an element of snow that is like Christmas.  It’s magic.  It’s a magic that their father truly loved, and I want to ensure is passed down to A, R and D in just the right way.  There is also some pressure there.

But I myself have always loved snow.  I love ice skating, ice hockey, sledding, skiing, every winter sport.  It was the driver of my wanting to go to the Winter Olympics in Torino in 2006.  There was a moment yesterday when the kids got sick of sledding and went inside to warm up.  I took that opportunity to grab a sled and go down the hill on my own… and it was wonderful.  Just wonderful.  Selfishly, it was the best part of my day.   Then I went a few times, because, why not?  I even raced one of my mom friends down the hill!

Looking out at the snow… it’s so beautiful, it takes your breath away.  I miss him when it snows for all the reasons I’ve said above, and yet, when I was exhilarated from sledding – I felt him smile.  I know he would tell me not to put so much pressure on myself to make things a certain way for the kids… he’d tell me not to worry about the shoveling, or the food, or the amount of screen time, or whatever my exact worry is… but just to enjoy these moments.  But as I am me, that is not easy to do.  However, when I let myself relax, and just completely enjoy speeding down the hill on a little sled, I feel his smile, and its the best gift I could give myself.

I know now.  I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person.  – Sylvia Plath

The second Christmas

I’ve read a lot about the second milestones and the second year being “harder.”

I remember Tim talking to me about grief on the second Christmas for a family member grieving, saying that in the second year there is less help, less attention, less sympathy, less people are thinking of you or reach out, less people remember. Or even if they remember, it’s the first year after that people make a big deal about it.

That is all true. But that’s not at all what makes it harder.

And that, in itself, is surprising.  Before I experienced this – when I imagined the sudden loss of a loved one, I never could have imagined what really makes it hard.  So I understand why others can not.

There was less attention this year.  And my heart was so full of gratitude for those who made the effort to be with us, or reach out to us.

But honestly, I remember so little about the first Christmas.  I remember D was sick.  I remember a grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it determination to make it good, and magical for the girls and for D to whatever extent possible.  I remember going to Burke Lake Park with Tim’s dad and D.  And really, that’s about it.   That’s all I remember.

In early December, a good friend of mine told me that her dear friend from high school (also with young children) was also suddenly widowed.  Her situation drove a lot of difficult “logistics.”  My friend did not ask for my advice specifically, but this is what I offered, “Before Tim died, the idea of “the logistics” seemed like the big thing. The kids and the money and the paperwork and the arrangements and ALL OF THE THINGS.. that I call logistics… Seemed so overwhelming… and it is… And yet..somehow.. it pales in comparison to the bigger thing. The loss of him… and the grief.  She will get through the logistics. Because she loves her children. And because we just do. But the big thing being the loss of the person is something that’s hard to convey. But just being you and being you for her in any way you can will be big.  It will seem small to you, but I promise it’s not. ”

I offer this not because I propose that all widows have the same experiences, or because she asked for my advice, which she did not, or because I consider myself some sort of expert on widow grief…. I offer it because in almost all cases, when I see a HYWC post I say to myself “Yes. This.”  There is an empathy and understanding there that I have never before felt or imagined.  I offer it because since one of my dear friends with young children died 6 months before Tim got sick, I recognized what I experienced on the outside, what I felt/thought/imagined for her husband and her family, and I recognize the chasm between that and what I truly felt when Tim died.  And maybe, just maybe, if I can help explain that chasm in any small way to others, it lessens the distance between the deeply bereaved and their greatest (but fortunately inexperienced) supporters.

A dear widow friend who is on a similar timeline to me, described year two in this way “Less tears.  More sad.”  Yes. This.  I guess what I would say about this Christmas is less shock, more feeling the loss of him.  The first is about survival.  In year two, you understand that you will survive.  Slightly less effort is required to simply keep breathing in and out.  Which gives you more ability to feel.   I said to my sister on Christmas day (because I can) “I am so glad you are all here.  But I would send you all back in a heart beat if I could have him here.”  Without hesitation she said, “and I would happily go, if it meant he could be here.”  I told her it was both easier and harder this year.  I was more… involved… more awake.  She said she could see that.  (I can only imagine the dead look in my eyes she must have seen sometimes in the first year.) And in a strange way, there is guilt for any bit that gets easier.  It feels bad sometimes for anything to feel better.

I know the kids grief will always be there.  I know it will take different shapes as they mature, different shapes for each of them based on their personalities and based on the ages they were when he died.  And I want so badly to support them, even though I have no idea how to do it.  The best thing I know how to do, is read, learn, listen, and support my own grief.

The thing that made me happiest this year, was giving the kids and my father-in-law the quilts made from Tim’s t-shirts.

I asked my niece to video them opening them because the company I got the shirts through (Project Repat) advertised a video contest on Instagram.  Always ask creative teenagers to do this sort of task.  My niece did an amazing job, and then edited them and set them to music.   She set the one of the kids opening theirs to Beyone’s Ave Maria.

She was lost in so many different ways
Out in the darkness with no guide
I know the cost of a losing hand
But for the grace of God go I
I found heaven on earth
You are my last, my first
And then I hear this voice inside
Ave Maria
Sometimes love can come and pass you by
While you’re busy making plans
Suddenly hit you and then you realize
It’s out of your hands
Baby, you got to understand
Ave Maria
Ave Maria
Ave Maria
Grazia plena
Maria, grazia plena
Maria, grazia plena
Ave, Ave dominus tecum

 

The greatest Christmas 12/28/2016

Here it is, the last post…. But first I will share Tim’s words from what he posted to FB when we returned:

The Virginia Gaiges are back on American soil.

After 10 days away, 7000 miles of air travel, 15+ tube rides (including transfers between lines), 2 museums, Warner Brothers Harry Potter tour, an iconic department store and the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park we only lost ONE MITTEN.

Boom.

Only Tim…

And here is what I shared last year….

Ok, FB friends. Thank you for coming on this trip down memory lane with me. We have now come to the end.
December 28, 2016: Saying goodbye to Edgeware, spending too much time at Heathrow, and flying across the pond.
We got home just in time for Rose to share with Timmy and I and Declan the British plague (cold/ flu) she picked up and ruin NYE 🤒😷. It was the trip of a lifetime and I fully enjoyed reliving it this year. 🇬🇧♥️

Way home I got a bassinet!!!

#selfieswithDad

#selfieswithDad

The greatest Christmas 12/27/2016

December 27, 2016, on our last touristy day, Timmy wanted to go to the British museum. It frankly was not my first choice, but he did much for me on the trip, so I was happy to let him have his pick. 🙂
The girls practiced walking like an Egyptian, we checked out the Rosetta Stone, and got lunch outside…hotdogs! I enjoyed a trip to Tottenham Court Road for the Harry Potter connection. We all had a lovely day, and Tim and I started packing when we got back to Edgeware.

The British museum

Walk like an Egyptian …

The Rosetta Stone was popular…

#selfieswithDad

Enough pics, mom -RKG

So British..

Waiting for the tube….

The greatest Christmas 12/26/2016

On December 26, 2016, after two low key days in Edgeware, we were ready to get out and about in London. And out and about we did! We walked all over and the girls were such troopers! (D got a lot of time in the Ergo :)) We went to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace, I tried to look for Will and Kate at Kensington, we walked to see Big Ben, explored St James’s park, then through Green Park to meet our friend Michael and his lovely companion Monique near Wellington Arch before heading into Hyde Park Winter Wonderland.
We totally gave Mike an out but he insisted they were up for meeting our full crew for Winter Wonderland. I was so glad we went with them because Mike and Timmy did the rides with the girls while baby Declan stayed with Monique and I. When we got hungry we hit the beer garden for brews, pretzels and the girls got down to music…and used Mike as a jungle gym. We talked international politics, life, love and had the most lovely time. Then they dropped us at an Italian restaurant to cap the night. We recently read a magic treehouse story that mentioned Hyde Park and the girls remember it well! 🙂 🇬🇧♥️❄️🍻🍝

The changing of the guard at Kensington Palace

St. James’s and Green Park

#SelfieswithDad

#SelfieswithDad

(This did not come through to the blog, bit this was a 360 degree photo)

Tim was amazing at these.

Me and the crew at Buckingham… Notice the much needed coffee!! ☕

Games and rides at Hyde Park. Rose especially loved the bumper cars… The announcer kept saying “Dodge em!!!” and she repeated it for days!
Note Annabelle pulling Mike around like she’d known him for years…

More rides… And Michael Jorge as a jungle gym!

#SelfieswithDad

She’s posing in front of that bridge in St James’s park because it was on an episode of Sherlock

Mike and Monique ♥️

Getting down to some live (American) music. Always, my loves, dance like no one is watching!

We terrorized this Italian Restaurant. Rose housed that huge bowl of pasta…look at those bags under her eyes…what a trooper.

Selfridge’s

Beautiful, crowded streets of London. Note the double decker red buses 🙂 🇬🇧♥️

The greatest Christmas 12/25/2016

Christmas 2016. Simple and yet so memorable. Santa got the message on where we were. He ate the cookie. He brought the very things we so desperately wanted. (Shopkins, a blue seahorse, a new onesie 😂) We had Christmas crackers and played the games and Timmy and I ate all the food. And Treacle tart. Harry Potter’s favorite and I’d never had it! We had traditional British Christmas pudding and Treacle tart and my heart was full. I could never ask for more joy. 🎄🎅

Warning: if you listen to the video with sound, you will hear Tim’s voice. People have been shaken by that in the past, so I’m warning you. 💔