Day in the Life

DITL was a term in one of my jobs.  It was even the nickname of one of the guys I played softball with… yes, pre-children I played a lot of work co-ed slow-pitch softball!

Today, two-thirds of my children threw up… one in the car on the way to school, one at the dinner table.  They have incredible gag reflexes.

Today, after the months-long process of calling MetLife critical illness insurance to check on my claim, calling doctors, getting a friend who works at the hospital to physically stalk doctors, getting my company benefits administrator to call, fax information, seeking clarification, giving my claim or certificate number, my DOB, address and contact number should we get disconnected…over and over and over again… today, it got to me.  Today, I found myself shaking with rage, and then, as close as I’ve ever come to bawling my eyes out at my desk at work.    It’s dirty money.  Insurance money.  That’s how it feels.  Critical illness, or life…insurance feels like dirty money.  I remember one life insurance check specifically stating “death benefit” and it made me feel like I was going to vomit (which I know never to do in front of my little gag-masters.) But I survived, I got through the day. (Stay tuned because Critical Illness insurance is still not resolved, even though Tim was critically ill close to 6 months ago.)  I even finished a compliance training.  I drove home.  I played with A, R, and D.  We read books.  We talked about the sunny, stormy, and surprising parts of our days.  I got everyone to bed. I listened to a podcast while I made egg salad and did the dishes.

And you know what?  I conquered the car seat cleaning.  That was always Tim’s self-appointed job.  There have been many car trip puking incidents… and on each one I handled the cleaning of the child, and Tim handled the cleaning of the car seat.  Once, on our way to Richmond in 2015, we pulled over to the side of the road IN THE SNOW, jumped out, I cleansed and changed R, and he cleansed the car seat.  We were back on the road in record time and Tim gave me a huge high five and was incredibly proud of our efficiency.  Never did I imagine that was something we would get good at together as a couple, as a team.  But we did.  We were quite a team.  We handled a puking in the car seat child with the best of them!

Tonight, I reinstalled the clean car seat cover, and the car seat back into the car.  I didn’t want to, but it was a necessary evil.  I missed him.  And not just because it was a gross annoying job I didn’t want to do, that he did valiantly without complaint…. but because I just plain miss him all the time.

This is a day in the life of a 36 year old widow with three small children.   Thanks for asking.

This is Us

Last year I binge watched the first season of This is Us.  Tim started it with me but eventually found it too intense.  He kept asking me “do you know how the dad died yet?” He wanted to know, but he couldn’t handle the suspense.

A friend and I decided to get together at my house every Tuesday night to watch it this year.  I knew what we were getting into.  So did she.  We were watching a show that is at its core about 3 kids whose dad dies, and how it affects their lives, going back and forth in time.

In the first episode of this season, Rebecca, the mother who lost her husband, talks to her adopted son, Randall, about how he (the husband, Jack) was the one to push for the adoption.  “Sometimes in marriage, someone needs to be the one to push to make the big moves… and oftentimes in our marriage, yes, it was your father.  Our marriage wasn’t perfect, it’s true.  But none are.  And your father wasn’t perfect either, but he was pretty damn close.  As close as they come.   He pushed this stranger on me and that stranger became my child, and that child became my life.  He became you.”  That’s how I feel especially when I remember those days in the hospital when I told him every day that even if I had known this would happen I wouldn’t change a thing…  because I knew if he could talk to me, and knew what was going on that he would apologize.  Unnecessarily, but he would have apologized.  Because kids, 1, 2, 3… it was all him pushing. And now – they are my life.

In the Halloween episode this week, they cover when Rebecca’s first grandchild is born.  After, she cries saying “That was one of the happiest moments of my life”and Randall asks her if they are happy tears, she nods, “but also your dad isn’t here.  And that’s just something I’m going to have to deal with for the rest of my  life –  the happiest moments will also be a little sad.”  It rung so true, because I remember thinking that exactly this summer, and I am pretty sure I said those exact words to my sister.

It was a tough moment watching that episode this week, it was so incredibly close to home.  And I know it was for my friend who watched it with me.  But I reminded her – we knew what we were getting into here.

When I watched the final episode of Season 1 last year, Tim had already gone to bed.  There is a big fight scene between the two main characters, Jack and Rebecca, where Rebecca asks Jack what he loves about her and he can’t answer.  In the morning, he wakes up and has a very moving speech before he leaves for his friend’s couch for some space.  Tim and I had 3 kids.  We didn’t devote as much time to each other, to our relationship, as either of us would have liked.  I went up to bed after watching that episode and Tim rolled over to greet me when I climbed in so I said, “Tim, what do you love about me?”  I couldn’t tell you honestly all the words he used at that moment, but I can say this: He did not hesitate to answer, and he listed many things.

It’s very hard to know who I am right now.  I am many things.  There are many things I am not.  Someone asked me recently if I felt like I’m living a label.  Last weekend, a fellow widow commented on not being the old her… and another reminded us that we are still the person that he loved.

It is incredibly powerful to remind myself that however lost I may feel right now, without that person who pushed me, however difficult it is to swallow that every joy in my life will be hand-in-hand with sadness… I am still the woman he loved.

Time

Time marches on.  It’s so hard to believe.  Tim used to make so much fun of me for my obsession with dates.  I’d always remember dates, birth dates, anniversaries, compare year after year, put significance in dates… when it was 12:23, I’d say it was my birthday in time… point out my sister’s birthday in time too.  He thought it was crazy, over-the-top. Mostly, I think he just liked to tease me about it.

At his bedside on June 11th, I promised I wouldn’t make a big deal out of the date, because he wouldn’t want me to. I’ve mostly kept to this.  I noticed 7/11… partially because it is his mother’s birthday, and because it was the date of the blood drive my company had in his name.  I largely let 8/11 go by unrecognized.  Mainly because I was packing for the beach. I didn’t acknowledge 9/11 in a big way other than to reflect on 9/11/2001.

But today I gave blood.  Which means it was 2 months or 8 weeks since the last time I gave blood.. the drive that was  in his name. The drive that was a month after he died. 3 months ago, my Tim breathed his last breaths on this earth.  It’s hard to avoid all that.  So I didn’t really try.  One of his friends told me we have to mark the passing of time.  Like it or not, I do.

This weekend we will celebrate what would have been my and Tim’s 7th wedding anniversary.  I have two big events planned – the dedication of a bench at the Vineyard where we were married and the planting of a tree in a nearby park that we liked and was where we took our family photos since moving to Fairfax.  It might be a lot.  But I wanted to fill the time… so I can’t wallow.  I look forward to this weekend and am grateful for all those who plan to join us!

It’s just so hard to believe.  As recently as early May, Tim was asking me what I might want to do for our anniversary this year…that seems like yesterday, and it also seems a lifetime ago.  Which I guess it was.

I can’t stop time, I can’t slow it down. I simply have to live in the present.  Breathe, survive the present.  Survive with my constant companion, Grief.  Try to recognize the wonderful moments with my little ones as they come.

Try to make a difference.

Any way that I can.

IMG_20170912_101740.jpg

Why I’m doing This

First and foremost, this is for me.  I thought almost immediately after Tim died that I should blog again. Even if that’s so 2008.  If I have ever had anything to write about, it’s now.  As I’ve started to read the pile of what I call “my sad sack books,” everything suggests keeping a journal.  I could do that, but why make it public?… well because:

Secondly, this is for the kids.  To look back on what THIS time was like.  When they want to.  Or when they think they are ready to. Mostly, I try to talk about Tim as much as possible to keep him alive with us anyway I can.  I try to live in the present, look forward to the future… but there is so much comfort in the past for me, and I imagine for them as well right now.  We talk about the past a lot.  But my brain is not what it once was.  Just ask anyone who has needed me to do something, send some piece of information… I say yes, then almost immediately forget.  People say all the time they don’t know how I am doing this.. as in living my life.  One day, when my children are grown, they may wonder that as well.  Well, I am doing it because I have to.. because of them, with them, for them.  I think that often when it seems like a blessing and a curse at the same time.  The curse, how HARD it is to bear the grief of three other people when I don’t know how to handle my own.  The blessing, that I don’t know how I’d survive the grief if I didn’t need to for them.  It reminds me of the line from that Chris Daughtry song (Home): “I don’t regret this life you chose for me.”

Tertiary, its for anyone else.  Now  – because people ask how I am.  Because many more people THINK about how I am.  For those strong enough to bear witness, I will answer that here.  Later, because this unimaginable life I’m living may seem familiar to someone else someday… and if anything I thought, or felt, or said, or did helps someone else… I’m happy for the opportunity to give back.    I’ve received so much. A friend’s words that have stuck with me are his offer to “compare notes on this impossible situation.” This is a situation that just 4 months ago I could not have possibly imagined.  Yet here I am.  I am proof this tragedy is possible, even if I wouldn’t wish this grief on an enemy.

So here it is.  I will do my best to write as often as I can.  Raw.  Uneditted.  This.