June 11th is coming.

June 11th is coming. Like a storm brewing in the distance that you are powerless to stop.  Just like the freight train that May 16th was… So too is June 11th. I woke up and knew it was Monday.  It’s a week from today.  A week from today, it will be a year from that morning that I had to walk out of the hospital without him, for the last time.

And I remember standing at his bedside, singing to him, and telling him it was ok to “let go,” it was ok to “sleep well” and telling him I wouldn’t make a big deal of the date. Promising. Because he thought recognizing deathaversaries was ridiculous. He teased me about my “obsession with dates.”

But that was before I was widowed at 36.  That was before my love, the man I gave my heart, who I had babies and plans and dreams with, died in my arms.  That was before I was in the hot young widows club and was familiar with the word “deathaversary.” I think of how he responded when my friend died.  How he felt for her husband.  And I think he would forgive me.

But I think I can honor him by not making a big deal of June 11th with the kids.   We have the baseball game coming up next Saturday, followed by Father’s day.  Where we will honor him, we will celebrate and remember, like we did for his birthday.  But I think the idea of them noting his deathaversary he would have really disliked.  I decided to take the day off work.  I could plow ahead, and work that day.  I worked May 16th and 17th… I’m sure I could do it…but when I considered taking December 11th off for The half year mark, and didn’t go with that… I ended up with R in the ER the night before and taking off anyway.  So I took the day off.  And we’ll see how that goes.  But I am not telling the kids I took off, because I don’t know how I’m going to be.  And if they learn that I didn’t go to work, I am definitely not going to tell them why.

I worry about them all, constantly. This time last year top priority went with A, when her interest in what was happening was heightened… That it wasn’t just a party with friends showing up at the house all the time… But something was really wrong. And why could everyone else go to the hospital to see daddy and she couldn’t… Right now she’s the one I’m worried about most too. Will she know or find out what Monday is even if I don’t tell her? Last night she did something that upset me for the first time. At a girl scouts end of year pool party we had pizza, then she asked for a cookie AND a brownie. I was fine with it so long as there was still enough for everyone. Maybe another parent had said one or the other (my standards have dropped in the last year) because a friend said to A “no fair.” And I heard her say “don’t you know what happened to my dad?!” I was shocked and I let her know. Only one other parent heard it and it was a brownie’s mom so I’m not sure if she knows… I went over and told A that what happened to her dad is incredibly sad but it does not mean she gets extra desert. They are completely unrelated. Goodness, sometimes I have no idea how to do this.  We had another sad, sweeter moment over the weekend where I chose to sit down and look through her selfies with Dad book with her. I hope it helped. Without completely understanding the calendar, I can’t help wondering if she feels what this time of year brings.

June 11th will come.  I can’t help that I know what day it is.  But I think I can honor him by not telling them.  But I also remember that these tiny humans I look at every day aren’t only half-Tim.  They are also half-me.  So I have to hope they forgive me for not telling them what day it is.  Some day, they won’t be able to help knowing, and they can chose to do as they want with that information.  But for now, I will keep it to myself.  And we’ll see how this goes.

“You have stolen my heart
And from the ballroom floor we are a celebration
One good stretch before our hibernation
Our dreams assured and we are, we’ll sleep well… sleep well… sleep well… sleep well”
~ Dashboard Confessional “Stolen” (Our wedding song)

Flooded with memories

May 17, 2017

I have a voicemail from the hospital at 2:04 am on May 17, 2017.  I’ve never been able to delete it.   My phone is always on silent when I sleep.  I came home from the hospital exhausted on the night of the 16th… sent my neighbor home, sent Tim a telegram message I knew he wouldn’t get since I had his phone, and crashed.  At 2:30am, D woke me to nurse, I grabbed my phone and saw I had a message.  Crap!  I listened to it while I nursed and felt like I heard the judgment in the nurse’s voice… um, we need you to call back… um, we need your authorization… um, your husband is declining fast, why aren’t you here or answering your phone? Maybe that wasn’t there and its all in my head, but its what I hear.

I took D downstairs to call back without waking the girls.  I paced the playroom.  I talked to a nurse and then a nephrologist.  Tim’s kidneys were shutting down.  He needed to go on dialysis.  A machine needed to act for his kidneys.  I needed to verbally authorize the dialysis.  I’m pretty sure I only really knew what dialysis was because I had recently watched a John Oliver episode on it.  (Yup, I just quick googled that episode: Published on May 14, 2017.)  I asked if I needed to come back…. was it ok if I came in the morning when I got the kids to school? They said that was ok.

I felt so much conviction to TRY to keep things as normal as possible for the kids.  I would get A on the bus, and R and D to school…then instead of going to work I’d go to the hospital.  We’d see what the day held.  Maybe someone else could get Annabelle off the bus.  Maybe someone else could pick up the other two from daycare…

I fell back to sleep around 2:45 and turned up the volume.  At 4am my phone rang again and I jumped up like my bed was on fire.  It was my friend Anne. She happened to be in MA, and the night before when I texted friends and family, she had offered to come and I said yes.  Now it reminds me of the first week of freshman year of college when her mother offered to come get me from the dorms when I had mono… and I said yes.

I got up early and showered.  I was so tired.  But mostly, I was so scared.  While blow drying my hair I texted people.  My friend Jen who had put my kids to bed the night before offered to take the day off work and meet me at the hospital.  My friend Christine works at the hospital, but she was off that Wednesday.  I didn’t want to inconvenience Jen, but she seemed to want to do it, so I said yes.

On the drive to the hospital, a drive that would become like the back of my hand in the coming weeks, I sat at a light and texted Anne and my two other best friends from college and said at least Anne would have good weather for the drive.  Shruti who was in Austin where it was raining, asked if I was being sarcastic, so I sent them this photo:

IMG_20170517_083635.jpg

When I got to the hospital, I found my way to Tim’s room in the regular ICU area. It was around 9am.  I didn’t recognize anyone so I introduced myself.  They said they’d started dialysis at 6am, and they would be taking him out for a test soon, and I would need to talk to the new attending when he was available.  It seemed like there was going to be time, so I picked up my pump bag, “ok, I’ll go find a place to pump, and then he’ll be back?”  All of the sudden, there were a million medical professionals in his room.  The new attending doctor was very talkative.  He said a million words.   Then the cardio-thoracic surgeon showed up and everyone made it clear I had to pay attention to him. He told me they had to put Tim on ECMO.  (I had no idea what that was.)  He said it would be a surgery and it would be putting him on a machine that would bypass his heart and lungs.   He would be moved to the other side of the hospital for the surgery, and after he would return to the Cardiovascular ICU (ie the “CV ICU” or  my”home” for the next 26 days.) He told me that there was a 10% mortality rate in just going on the machine, but basically without it he’d be dead in a couple days for sure.  OMG, where do I sign?  10%?  Thats nothing.  When can the surgery start?  After I signed the paper, the surgeon went away and the attending was talking to me again about drugs, treatments, tests they wanted, all the things they didn’t know, all the blood and blood products Tim needed…. I was at the foot of Tim’s bed, under a lot of lights, holding my pumping bag, and a ton of interns were standing there,  along with nurses buzzing around… so many people and many of them were staring at me… and it was the first time in my life I thought that information was going to make me pass out.  I swayed.  I grabbed Tim’s bed.  I asked if I could sit down.

One nurse really jumped into action.  Most of the nurses seemed sort of exasperated with the attending for saying so much to me.  The attending told me they all knew about us, about my family… that they all had families… then he nodded towards the interns and said “well not them, they are too young!”  They all looked at me with so much compassion. It made me fell a little stupid?… uneducated?.. slow? I am used to people looking at me like that now.  But I wasn’t on May 17, 2017.  No one had ever looked at me the way that everyone in that room was looking at me.

I went to pump, and a nurse gave me a piece of paper and pen and I wrote down everything I could remember from that conversation. One nurse practitioner kept asking me who was coming… telling me I needed people here… telling me people needed to come.  I kept saying “My friend is here… she’s just downstairs getting us coffee, its fine.”  She was so incessant, that people needed to come… and what could she do for me?  And it occurred to me “How do I tell his parents?” So I wrote down their numbers and asked her to call them.  I had texted them both the night before.  I texted them to say to expect the NP’s call… I don’t know what she said to them, but I’m not sure that did anyone any favors based on the state they were in when they called me.  They were getting on airplanes.

Jen and I followed Tim’s bed to the elevator and down to the basement of the hospital and way across the hospital until they took him into the OR and I couldn’t follow anymore.  It was a long journey, a lot of people had to push his bed and all his machines, make sure his huge feet didn’t hit anything. Jen was helping me be sure me and my million big bags didn’t cause any issues.

There was a ton of waiting.  We waited for hours.  It was awful.  But then all sorts of people started showing up. I can’t even remember all who arrived that day but it was a lot.  Anne arrived later after he was out of surgery.  She ended up sleeping at the hospital that night after I left to go home and get the kids to bed and get some sleep. His best friend and his wife came up from Fredricksburg.  My sister and her husband and 2 teenage children.  My sister-in-law.  My mother-in-law and father-in-law.  Friends.  I remember when the doctor came out to tell me about how the surgery went. Someone had just made me laugh.  I jumped up to go talk to the Dr.  He looked so serious.  I felt judged for my laughter.  My friend  Christine, who works there, followed me and stood there basically holding me up and rubbing my back. He told me they were providing way above the normal standard of care.  Those words “standard of care” were said a million times and I just didn’t understand.  It felt like medical speak that they understand.  There are words in my industry like that. And acronyms.  That other people don’t understand.  I recognized this as that.  But I WANTED to understand.  I asked Christine.  And she couldn’t really translate it for me.  Much later, I would understand.  At the moment, I said “are they saying I’m going to have to make a decision to have them stop?”  and she said no.

After that it gets blurry.  Eventually I got home and my sister told me to go to bed.  My sister and her husband and kids were downstairs.  My 3 were asleep.  I knew I needed to sleep because D would be up to nurse at some point… but when I laid down… unlike the night before.. I could not sleep. I could not even sit still.  I was freaking out.  I ran downstairs and asked my sister if I could take some sort of tranquilizer.  She looked concerned. She didn’t let me take anything, but she came up and got in bed with me.  Warmed a heat/rice thing and put it on my chest.  And I did get to sleep….

____________________________________________________________________________________________

May 17, 2018

This morning I was going to a conference in Arlington.  I turned on Waze and started driving… and it took me the exact way I went to the hospital last year…

Then, I drove through Arlington on the way in and out…  Arlington, where Tim and I had lived as friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, fiances, husband and wife, and parents for 10 years…. the memories were on every corner. I  drove by his Ballston apartment, the restaurants where we went on dates in our 20s before going on dates was a big deal, the house where two of his best friends lived and we spent New Years Eve, barbeques and random drinking game nights.  I drove right by the rose garden where we did Annabelle’s 6 month photos, the park where we had Rose’s 2nd birthday, 7 corners and all the stores we went to a million times… the memories almost drowned me like today’s rain.  They are all good memories.  I am so blessed to have so many good memories.  I know that.  But goodness, today, they hurt.

Tonight I had a gym class scheduled… as I was parking, the James Arthur song came on.  The one I sang to him nearly every day in the hospital… until I could no longer ask him to “say you won’t let go.”  The song that now makes me cry every single time I hear it.  Immediately after that I heard the new Shawn Mendez song :In my blood:

 

I’m looking through my phone again, feeling anxious
Afraid to be alone again, I hate this
I’m trying to find a way to chill, can’t breathe, oh
Is there somebody who could
Help me, it’s like the walls are caving in
Sometimes I feel like giving up
No medicine is strong enough
Someone help me
I’m crawling in my skin
Sometimes I feel like giving up
But I just can’t
It isn’t in my blood
It isn’t in my blood

So the memories hit hard today.  Big memories.  I just wanted to write some of it down.

It’s absolutely true that sometimes I feel like giving up.

But its also true, that it isn’t in my blood.

Reliving the trauma – a year without your voice

My dearest Tim,

I had told myself this time was going to be hard.  This week especially, but mostly the time between Mother’s day and Father’s day when I’d re-live the worst 26 days of my life… the memories of the hospital… when all of the sudden I’d flip the switch, and Facebook would no longer share “1 year ago” memories that you had posted…. all of YOUR posts would all be older than that…. putting you just a little further away from us.

I thought I had prepared myself for how hard this was going to be.  But I had no idea.  Similar to what I said in my Pain post, its hard to imagine that it’s real – the physical manifestation of grief, or that you have no control over it… much as you may WANT to be happy, to live in the present, the past has a way of sneaking up and taking the wind out of you.  Even just seeing May 16th or June 11th on the calendar, or on a meeting notice that I am sent… it takes my breath away.   I sometimes think that you would laugh at this… call it my obsession with dates… but I mostly think this was all so beyond your realm of imagination, that you would accept whatever I think/feel/experience as fact.

I’ll tell you what I have planned for tomorrow.  Because it will make you laugh.  You will shake your head because you think its ridiculous, and smile because it’s so me….

I remember what I wore that day.  May 16, 2017.  It was a Tuesday.  I went into work my regular time after taking A to the bus stop, and taking R and D to daycare. I left work like a bat out of hell after lunchtime because you told me you had vomited and you still had a fever and were sweating through your clothes.  But I often wonder, why did I even go to work that day?  What if I had realized how sick you were, and simply stayed home and just lay in bed with you… sleeping while all the kids were at school or watching Netflix.  What if I had had those final, quiet, peaceful moments with you?  Moments I can never get back…. but I rushed to work because we were working a Task Order proposal… because I would have felt so much guilt to send the kids to school and lay in bed with you…so much guilt to not be contributing at work…  I remember what I wore because I remember looking down at the skirt in the hospital.  A long, flowery skirt.  After that day I would look at that skirt and it would remind me that I went to work that day, instead of reading the signs and staying home with you… I couldn’t take seeing it much less wearing it so I put it at the back of the closet.  So I wouldn’t have to see it, and feel that guilt and heartbreak.  I will wear it again tomorrow.  Because let’s be honest, I’m going to feel the guilt and the heartbreak tomorrow no matter what.

A year since I heard your voice.  Since you teased me. Since I heard your laugh. Since I told you not to pull out your catheter and freaked out your nurses… who I then had to explain about my bad-patient-father who you, my rule-follower, are nothing like… who told me they thought girls married men like their fathers… and I said, not my sister and I!

So often I hate how things went down.  That I never got to ask you… so many things.  That I never got to hear directly from you what you’d want me to do on my own… But mostly I don’t hate it.  You would have hated to face your own mortality.  Better that all you knew was that you had pnemonia.

Here’s a really fun fact about the disease that you got:

Median age at diagnosis of SMZL is 69 years. The overall age-adjusted incidence is 0.13/100,000 habitants per year. The percentage change in age-adjusted incidence is 4.81%, with most of the patients being White. Gender prevalence is controversial, but there is an increasing trend to male predominance. – from the NIH at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5457460/

Seriously.  69 years.  You had literally JUST turned 37. What. the. fuck?

I had a dream last night in which you and Colleen were playing golf… I can’t imagine Colleen playing golf…and I don’t think you played at all since A was born… Maybe a trip or two to Top Golf with friends?… But you were in this little stretch with strips of green grass… and I had the impression that you guys were growing tomatoes in the patches of dirt in between…the area was small but it overlooked the ocean…like you guys were hitting balls out into the ocean. The kids were up a bunch last night so I was in and out of sleep… I dreamed this scene and later I dreamed it again like I was watching it on TV… with other people… remembering you and Colleen… and I told the people with me “its how I imagine them in paradise.” (Though I’m not sure if that’s true?) You were both facing away from me so I never saw your faces….but I heard your laughter...and I can hear it still.

I had another dream too, which was so much worse. All of the sudden I was at your side as you took your last breaths again.  Only this time it wasn’t your dad there with me, it was my sister.  And she wasn’t on the other side of you, she was behind me.  I remember looking down and both your legs had been amputated at the knee.  There were just two silver plus signs.  I asked the nurse why and she said because you didn’t need them any more, you couldn’t walk.  They told me you were gone… I was lying on your chest again, feeling the last of your warmth, the lack of machine-breathing that there was at the very end. The silence when they turned off all the beeps on all the machines for me…. I forget why but Jean said to me then that you were gone, you were not suffering…  And she said that dad was suffering more, so much worse…(in fairness, I know she’d never actually say that to me, but it probably is true)… and my response was “there is nothing worse than this” and I sobbed and fell to the floor.  I woke then to D calling for me, in my bed with R asleep beside me.  My eyes were dry but squinting, and my whole body was still shaking from those wracking dream-sobs.

Damn, that was a terrible way to start the day. This Tuesday-after-Mother’s-day.  You would tell me not to celebrate anniversaries of sadness, but I can’t help it, Tim.  I can’t control my dreams.  I can’t control re-living the trauma.  All I can do is survive it.  And keep our kids alive and thriving.  I don’t know that I am doing this dead parent child raising thing right, but I’m doing my best.
I have low moments.  I have low lows.  Sometimes I think they would have been so much better off to have had you rather than me.  But I chase away the lows, I chase away the “what ifs” as you would want me to… I don’t make you proud every moment, but damn, I am trying.  I miss you as my love, my husband, my partner, my co-parent, but more than anything else, I miss you as my best friend.  Isn’t that a funny thing about life?

I don’t know if paradise is playing golf into the ocean and growing tomatoes with Colleen, but I can imagine it to be the sound of your laughter.  This morning I heard your son laughing in the other room.  It was the most amazing sound of baby giggles.  But it was also solid,  joyous, sustained laughter, and I thought of you.  Wherever you are, Tim, keep laughing, keep Col laughing, and I’ll do the best I can to keep your legacies laughing, until we are reunited.

All my love, always,

MaryBeth

Mother’s Day

The village is amazing, and many people reached out to me regarding Mother’s day plans and for this I am so incredibly grateful…

I answered them mostly in much the same way, “I have very complicated feelings about mother’s day.”

And that’s the truth.  I do.  My feelings about mother’s day are very complicated.  Mostly, maybe because they are overwhelmingly negative.  And no one is supposed to feel negatively about mother’s day, right?  Especially not when you are a mother, right?

So at the simplest level there is this: Mother’s day is the day when my husband got sick… and never got better.  And that was last year.

But there’s more.  We spent many mother’s days at the winery where we got married.  In 2015 we had a great day there.  I had a bit too much to drink, and that night, after we got the girls to bed, Tim and I had the worst fight of our marriage, or our friendship, of all the years we’d known each other.  I was very willing to move on from the memory of that low moment.  But Mother’s day 2016, when I was 8 months pregnant, he “had to work” and I took the girls there alone, and met my friends with my pregnant belly for a day at the vineyard.  Last year, even before he got sick, he told me he didn’t want to go…. that he couldn’t go there on Mother’s day and remember the lowest point of our relationship. And I was incredibly moved.  I was a little bitter, that he was making my holiday about his feelings… but I was also moved that that lowest point in our relationship had such an effect on him.

So last year, I didn’t have a lot planned.  Maybe Peterson’s (ice cream) in the afternoon. The girls had swim lessons in the morning.. When he asked me what I wanted for Mother’s day I said…. to sleep in, to get time in the bathroom alone.
I was running low on my perfume. If he could order some more on Amazon that would be great.  Maybe it would be great to get another family photo shoot, since the last was in October when Declan was only 3 months old… but it was probably too late for that… He told me I’d get a Mother’s day do-over.  He was so incredibly sorry for being sick and not helping with the kids at all all weekend.

But I will never get that Mother’d day do-over.  Although honestly, people take a lot of the logistics off my hands. And I have often thought, I’d take all the hard stuff and the exhaustion of the day-to-day, for just one more day with my Tim.  But that is not meant to be.

And I often wonder – was I bitter?  Or did he think I was?  I’d hate for him to have thought that…. there was a text from him that weekend where he thought I was ignoring him and said “I know you’re mad at me but..”  And in telegram there is no response to that… but I know I went up to our bedroom and saw him and said “I’m not mad, hun, I’m just tired, and busy. with the kids.. what do you need?”  It just makes me hope I wasn’t bitter.

And maybe there’e also the what-ifs.   The what-ifs that I try my best to chase away but creep in.  What if it wasn’t mothers day but a regular weekend – maybe then he would have given me more details?  What if not wanting to burden me on Mother’s Day weekend made him hold back details of how he was feeling that would have raised my red flags sooner, or given me critical information to help the doctors make a diagnosis sooner?  What if it being Mother’s day was the problem?

Tonight I went to see the movie Tully with two mom-friends.  And in the end, it made me feel better.  I don’t remember feeling bitter exactly, but if I did, it was no more than the average new mother with a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night.  I loved him.  He knew that.  No matter if I was exhausted that weekend, no matter if we had that terrible fight in 2015.  He knew how much I loved and was dedicated to him, always.  I showed it in life, and I show it now.

Maybe some day I will feel differently about Mother’s day, but for now,  and for my children, I will grin and survive it, just like I do every day.

 

Daddy’s Girl #2

By the nature of more time together, and being the oldest, and their love of watching sports, there are infinitely more photos of Tim with A.  She was the quintessential Daddy’s girl.  R has always been attached to me, and it seemed whenever dividing and conquering was necessary, Tim took A, and I took R.  He did a lot of fun daddy-daughter things with them both on Sunday mornings when D was first born, including an adventure where he printed out a map and they followed it all over the county… to Home Depot, Lowe’s, Barnes and Noble, Target….

Despite there being less total photos, R was daddy’s  girl too.  He adored her. And she adored her daddy.  I love the picture I have of them in the hammock on her 4th birthday where he posted “chilling like April birthdays do.” The shared birthday month and astrological sign was a special connection for them.

She is our sensitive flower, and I know she struggles with her grief.  She sometimes tells me she can’t remember his face.  We have pictures all over so I don’t point this out.  I don’t think a picture will help.  She is getting her little heart and head around her grief and her loss, and she has poignant words for it sometimes.  These have included “I can remember daddy’s glasses, but I can’t remember his face.”

These photos were from a year ago today.  A Sunday afternoon when Tim returned from a brew tour weekend in Richmond with 5 of his best friends.  He walked in and told me he was tired.  I was like um, right, but you know I had all 3 kids all weekend, right?!?  D was down for his nap, and Tim asked R if she wanted to go nap with him in the hammock.  “Yes!” and they both fell asleep.  I took the photo below of them in the backyard from our window.  Then I brought the monitor outside.  A had run down to play at a neighbor’s house, and I was sneaking off for a quick pedicure with one of my friends (and a wife of one of his friends from the brew tour!) The other two photos he took, their view from the hammock, and of course  – a selfie of he and R.

I am grateful for the photos.  I can always tell her how much he adored her, but a picture speaks a thousand words.

The memories are hitting me hard right now.  I am marching steadily towards the anniversaries of those traumatic days, and I feel them coming like a freight train.  Each day I can remember with more precision what we were doing last year, because they were his last days with us.  How crazy to think we had no idea.  But again, how glad I am for his sake that we had no idea.

Pain

“On November 7th 2015, almost a year to Aaron’s deathaversary, I woke up so stiff and sore I couldn’t even move my head and glancing through my diary from that day one year earlier I saw that I had found Aaron alone on the floor of the bathroom after coming home from the gym………. it was a year later and my body remembered this… It remembered all of the horror to follow and it was bracing me to lose Aaron again.” – Nora McInerny

The above quote is from my absolute favorite widow, Nora McInerny.  That’s saying something because its an elite club… Katie Couric, who is a “sister” of mine through Tri Delta, and Sheryl Sandberg who I adore… add to the list so many widows I’ve now met in real life through the support group I did, and the Hot Young Widows Club.  Nora said this in the Podcast Terrible Thanks for asking – the Chapter 2 episode, which is likely also my favorite episode.

I have definitely read that loss and grief can manifest into real, true physical pain.  I think if I’d read that a year ago, I’d have believed it… but with some skepticism.  Like… is that really a thing?

It manifests itself differently in everyone.  In all sorts of different ways.  For me, it was this incredible upper back, neck, back of my head excruciating pain.  Pain so bad that only consistent heat and ibuprofen could make me functional.  This started slowly, almost without me realizing it right after Tim died.   And took a long time to go away.

This week, that pain is back with a vengeance.  I suspect it started due to my dad being admitted to the ICU on Sunday.  Even just that word – ICU… all the memories it brings back.  I can’t seem to quite get the pain in check yet.  And I realize I probably just have to manage it the best I can through the coming weeks/months.

I write this not for an answer, a fix, or even for any sympathy.  But simply as someone who might have previously been a skeptic to put down in writing: I am here to tell you its real.  It’s definitely a thing. The physical pain that can be manifested in the aftermath of trauma is absolutely a thing.  My body is remembering this time last year… the horror to follow, and is bracing me to lose Tim again.

 

Milestones

April, May, June.  They feel big.  Full of big milestones.  Full of firsts.  Full of anniversaries of lasts.   And then I start year two.  Year two which everyone says is worse than year one.  Which I get.  I get it – people expect you to be ok now.  You’ve already experienced the first one of those without him, so… you’re ok now, right?  Or, you’ve moved on.  Even when you see us moving forward, my friends, we do not “move on” from this kind of loss.  I will carry this loss with me… I will carry Tim with me.  Always.

April came crashing in with Easter.  Easter was April 1st this year.  I planned big Easter bunny plans.  No family was going to be in town, so I made other plans and had a big, busy, exhausting weekend.  Which was wonderful.  And then I had a moment when I took out the trash and I saw cardinals in the trees and I burst into tears.  These are just moments I have.  And Easter night was… interesting.  A story for a later post.  But April came in with a bang.

April 4th would have been Tim’s 38th birthday.  I took the day off.  I knew I’d need it.  I made an appointment at a friend of A’s mother’s tattoo shop.  I’d been considering this tattoo a while and knew I wanted it, and felt his birthday was the right day for it.  The day he should have turned 38.  But he did not.  Because he will forever be 37 years old.  I also bought orange star balloons and a Happy Birthday balloon at the dollar store.  And I made a cake.  With orange frosting.  I planned to make red velvet but both girls asked me not to.  I drove out to Veramar to pick up my wine and sit on the bench I bought him there.  I put candles on the cake and sang with the kids, and we wrote on the balloons, and went outside and let them go.  During the cake, R said, “I wish Daddy could come back.” I do too, my love. I do too.  As the balloons drifted out of sight A shouted “I love you, daddy!!”  Handling their grief and my own is often overwhelming.

The tattoo I got is his signature from my last Valentine’s Day card in 2017.

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A friend asked me on April 5th if I’d get any more tattoos.  He didn’t know this was my second.  I don’t know.  Maybe.  Probably.  When I got the first, I thought it could be my only.  Maybe.  But I’d be open.  Tim wanted to get one involving the kids.  But he never formulated exactly what he wanted.  This one came to me easily.  I asked one colleague what he thought about its relative visibility regarding professionalism, really just out of curiosity.   Nothing was going to change my mind.  He told me his wife advised against it for professional reasons.  I get it.  I would have done the same, a year ago.  But it was too obvious to me that this was something I had to do.  I didn’t want it on my wrist where it was very easily visible… but this seemed the right place.

All the decisions I’ve made lately are challenging.  But I do my best to always do what seems like the right place… or what simply feels right.  I’ve gone with my gut most lately.

On Thursday night, we celebrated our dog’s birthday.  His adoption day really.  10 years since when Tim and I took him home. Tim loved that dog so much.  He was really our first baby.  When I started traveling for work a lot in 2008-09, Tim started letting him sleep in our bed and getting on the couch!  In 2015, my in-laws took him for the summer while we prepped and sold our condo, bought and moved into our current home… Tim told me he thought maybe we should leave him in New York… because it would be so hard on all of us when he dies!  He was literally afraid of the grief we would all experience when our dog inevitably dies.  I can’t believe our dog outlived him.  That fact was not lost on me as we celebrated the dog’s “birthday” on Thursday.  I felt the loss.

This past weekend, I took off Friday.  I took my son to get ear tubes.  I was constantly reminded that Tim would have been there for that.  Forms and people asked me where Tim was… who else was coming…  there was a little boy (older than D) who got out of surgery just after he did who had something done on his eyes who was really hysterical.  His dad was called back and I swear they asked him a half-dozen times about Mom.  I was close to saying “He said she’s not here!!!”  English wasn’t this family’s first language, and I know there could have been a million reasons this poor child’s mother was not there, but my heart went out to this boy and his father in such a big way.  D was a trooper, and yet, doing this without Tim felt big.  I felt the loss.  I then went to R’s classroom to celebrate her 5th birthday.  Something we had done together last year.  I then took R to Kindergarten Orientation… which I attended 2 years ago with Tim, on a day where I had an ultrasound (that he also went to with me) in the morning.  I felt the loss… that he wasn’t there… for R and for me.  I also had a 5th birthday extravaganza at my house on Saturday… and bought her a big gift, that nearly wasn’t ready on time… and  pretty much emotionally shut down at that point.  It all just became too much and my brain shut down.  My sister and my sister-in-law and my two college friends who flew in for the event took over, and simply did.  And everything got done.  And I think R had fun.  All the kids had fun.  That night, my father-in-law took A to the father-daughter dance with her girl scout troop.  It was lovely.  Beautiful.  And yet what Tim wouldn’t have given to go to that with his girl?  And I felt the loss.

I guess the point is that it’s impossible not to feel the loss in the big milestones.  Sometimes its crippling.  Sometimes less so.  But its unavoidable.  All I can do is let myself feel it.  Feel the loss.  And try to feel less of the guilt.

“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them” – Leo Tolstoy