As 5 years without you, edges its' way ever nearer to me, and as my heart and soul hear the shuffle of time coming closer, creeping past, zooming closer, flying past..
As these ten thousand years have passed, since his death, as each nanosecond passes in the here and now, I remember how he loved me, how I loved him.
I remember his calm spirit and his groan-worthy jokes. I remember his dedication to the military and how glad he was to retire, having done his time. His quiet rebellions that grew from holding his own counsel and just going about business in the way he knew he needed to do. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, he told me many times, and that thought carried him through his military service. I remember how he not only read the Big Book of AA but read what it all meant, and the history of it; he gave context to AA and the 12 Steps and Tradition, and living a life of sobriety. Chuck lived his sobriety as honestly as he could, every day. Not perfectly, but as well as he could, and he earned the respect of many because of it.
His promise wasn’t given lightly, and I could count on his promises being kept. His promises were his word, given as a gentleman of old times would give his word. It was his honor, and he held true to it, whether that promise was made to me or one of our kids or a friend or anyone else.
Half a lifetime ago, it was esprit de corps. It was smoking breakfast, sleeping through lunch, and drinking dinner. It was hard working weekdays, and lazy weekends. It was little pay and long hours, and not caring about either.
Half a lifetime ago, days went by as years. The soundtrack was Blink-182 and Korn. The beer was warm and cheap, and almost all “home-cooked meals” consisted of some form of noodles or junk food. The only feelings were that of morning humidity and skinned knuckles. My brothers and sisters “in-arms” all shared in this routine eagerly. We’d all been through the same things, in the same places, around the same time.
Half a lifetime ago, 15 people would pile into 3 cars on a Saturday drive to the beach. Seven would return in a state best described not as “wasted”, but “happy”. The remaining eight would have stories to tell. There were no real bills and our biggest concerns were being on time and in uniform for Monday morning’s 5 mile run.
It was, simply put, fun. I miss it. Those were some of the best days of my life. Before I was a widower. Before I was a father. Before I had even met Megan, or even cared about meeting anyone. It was carefree routine, peppered with deployments to some far off land for a few months, again with the same brothers and sisters. Sure, there were arguments. There were times when we had to suffer through trying to sleep in 100+ degree desert heat, because we pulled the night shift. There were times when we had to wait for hours in line at the base barber shop, because every single Marine gets a haircut, every Sunday. There were times when we blew our car payment money on that cheap beer, and the Monday morning run was done with a hangover. But it was all worth it.
Or was it?Read more
If you’ve read Sarah's Post this past Sunday, then you are aware that she and I (and Shelby) were in Corpus Christi, Texas, over an extended weekend. One of her longest and closest friends was marrying, and Sarah herself was a bridesmaid. In that regards, I wasn’t a widower this past weekend. I was the “second partner” of a widow.
I’ve chosen to expand upon this. Sarah and I are in the unique position of both being writers here, both being widowed, and both dating (and cohabitating) with each other. While much of my writing deals with the emotions, stress, and perspectives of losing Megan, this past weekend was much more important from the other side of dating a widow.Read more
When I was a kid, Christmases were pure joy and fun. It meant cousins, grandparents, decorations, special dinners, holiday treats, and sometimes, winter fun like snowmen and sledding. It meant no school, warm fires, music sing-a-longs and laughter.
Pretty soon I grew up. Christmases were still, for a few years, about family and love and gift giving. Then I met Mike, and being a wife, having a husband, brought new meaning. I was no longer the child but the grown-up, doing the cooking, shopping and wrapping presents. Taking joy in creating and presenting the spirit of the season in the faith we shared.
The last Christmas we spent together in 2012 might have been the best one because Mike was excited like he’d never been with me yet. He helped decorate our little tree, put up the lights, and choose presents to give. I remember sitting outside on our lanai gazing at the lights and ornaments with him. I remember his sense of peace, that year. I always wonder if he knew the end was near for him, because somehow, it felt different. I had no idea it would be our last. But looking back, I wonder if he did.
Ahhh yes...the holidays. It is a constant ride of ups and downs, like the world’s most depressing roller coaster. Kicking off with Thanksgiving. Spending time with friends and family, circled around a hearty dinner and laughter, I get to remember that Megan died just a week before that day. I don’t get to remember the 33 prior enjoyable Thanksgiving dinners. It doesn’t work. All I can recall is sitting in my parents’ dining room, crying, and having to leave the room in the middle of dinner.
Then, following that Thursday comes the epitome of consumerism...Black Friday. I avoid anyplace that may sell something like the plague that day. “You’re not going to con me into buying your baubles, Mr. Scrooge!” as I shake my fist in the air. But it’s fruitless. Inevitably, I'll need to fuel up my car, and Christmas music will be playing everywhere, even at the gas station. Sure enough, “Blue Christmas”, or “I’ll be home for Christmas” will softly emanate from a tinny speaker somewhere. Done. You’ve succeeded, Ebeneezer, in depressing me.
Mike is everywhere, and nowhere. I feel him in my bones, like a part of my own body. He haunts my every waking hour. I never forget. It never slips my mind that my husband is dead. I can’t stop the memories that flood in. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing. Shopping, celebrating a holiday, watching his birthday come and go, sorting through his old things, touching a spoon he used, looking out over the same view he loved.
He’s always there.
And yet he is not here. I can’t hear his voice reply to me. He can’t reach out and touch me. I can’t ride passenger in his truck. I can’t make plans with him, cook with him, or call for him on the phone. I can’t sit next to him on the couch. I can’t touch his lips.
November 19th. It’s “the” date. A week before Thanksgiving, and the start of the holiday season. The weather has turned cold, the leaves are off the trees, halloween is over, My work begins to slow down, as does the seemingly endless string of summer and early fall weekends where we have plans with family and friends.
For all intents and purposes, November was always a “quiet” time of year, when I could sit back and take a breather. I could focus on preparing the house for winter, lazily erect a Christmas tree, and read the newspaper as the first snowfalls and blustery winds crisply blew in. Full blown winter hadn’t arrived yet, and you would not catch me anywhere near a shopping area this time of year. The lawn and any gardens or flowerbeds are dormant, leaves are cleaned up, and there isn’t any real snow to shovel yet.
November was “easy”. Three years ago, that all changed.
Last Monday was just an average day. I had some running around to do and appointments to attend. A pre Vegas hair colour, a dentist appointment... that sort of thing. Nothing too crazy or anxiety inducing, and the panic I tend to experience on the daily remained at a reasonable low for the most part.
I ended the day by attending a relaxing yoga class with a friend of mine. It was exactly what I needed to wind down and I was well on my way to feeling the zen when, for no reason at all, a most unwelcome memory popped into my mind.
The memory was of a text Ben sent me from the hospital shortly before he died. Death was inevitable and it coming fast, and every moment felt like we were staring down the barrel of a shotgun. I had spent the entire day with him and had gone home in the middle of the night to be with the kids and make sure they were safe. I crawled into bed, texted Ben "I love you" and he texted back saying “I don’t want to die. I have so much to live for.”
At that moment I felt as though my heart had been ripped out of my chest and thrown across the room. I texted back and told him that I didn’t want him to die, but i did not say “You aren’t going to die.” To deny his pending death seemed wrong to me. It just seemed so dismissive to say “oh, don’t be silly...you aren’t going to die.” He was indeed going to die. So many people had spent the nine months after his diagnosis in denial, and that had angered me to no end. There was nothing helpful about denying what was to come, because denial has not been proven to be an effective method of curing cancer. So instead I told him that he was leaving a legacy in his three kids. And he responded that “legacy or not” he still didn’t want to die, he wanted to fight. He didn’t want to die.
As I write this I have just pulled into the parking lot at the office of my urologist, Dr A. I have parked in stall number 61 and I find myself frozen in the drivers seat of my car as unwanted memories come flooding back into my brain. I remember the day I pulled into this parking lot with Ben. I don’t recall what stall number we parked in that day, but I do recall repeating the number out loud and saying “that’s our good luck number today.”
On that particular day in April 2015, which was two and half years ago but feels, smells and tastes like yesterday, we thought we were coming to find out how Dr A was going to help save Ben. How he was going to operate on Ben’s kidney in conjunction with another (as yet unknown but definitely brilliant) surgeon who would simultaneously remove the tumour on Ben’s sacrum. ON, being the operative word.
Sadly, that’s not how that day turned out.Read more
I was planning, this morning, to write about the total solar eclipse that Sarah, Shelby and I witnessed just a week ago. As we sat on the banks of the Oconoluftee River in North Carolina, at the foot of the Smoky Mountains and watched the sun disappear, I was speechless, awed, and felt transcendent.
That was the plan, at least. We had a family vacation to those mountains, topped off by the eclipse, and I was sure it would still be at the forefront of my mind when I sat down to write.
But it’s not. The memories and pure joy at what I witnessed are still present, certainly, but a little rain storm has consumed my heart and thoughts since last week.