History Repeats Itself All Too Often Too Soon

Since losing Tin, I look to each new week as a new horizon that will bring brighter days. This is my fourth post and I thought, maybe by now, my blog would have small sparks of settlement in the chaos. I guess it is good to hope but bad to assume. A very fine line that I often fail to recognize these days. I’ll keep the faith that those brighter days are to come but it is difficult with the unexpected challenges that continue to appear. I feel as though I have never heard of anyone else going through all of the milestone days associated with a loss along with the strange scenarios I have recently found myself cornered in. Yes cornered is a great description of how I feel and this week has been one of the most unmanageable yet.

Those who haven’t lost a partner can’t understand the extent of the loneliness. No one to wake up to. No one texting through the day to see how you are. No one to plan dinner with. No one to fold laundry with. No one in the room at the end of the night to wish you sweet dreams and provide a sense of safety through the night. Worst of all – No one to enjoy those special dates with. The lack of a person makes them almost unbearable.

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Fire and Rain and Huge Grief Triggers

So last month, June  14th, was my one-year anniversary with Nick, my new love. My new beginning. My "next great love story." I never know how to refer to us, but thats another post for another time. I dont like the term "chapter two", because he deserves way more than a chapter, as did my dead husband Don. But back to the point .......

I just returned from a mini-road trip (2 overnights in the Berkshires and then Sturbridge Mass), which was Nick's anniversary gift to me, taking us on this getaway which kicked off with seeing James Taylor in concert at Tanglewood, on the evening of July 4th. We had lawn seats, which was so much fun and such a cool vibe, walking through the wooded path with our cooler of picnic food, blanket, lawn chairs, and excitement; as we found and chose our place on the lawn near the stage. James Taylor has a voice that brings me back to nostalgia - back to childhood days and innocent times and being back in high school with old friends. I expected his music to be a bit emotional maybe for me. I did not expect the grief tsunami of triggers that happened toward the end of the concert. I did not expect the intensity and severity of these emotions to come on so quickly and suddenly. I did not expect that, even after almost 7 years into this, grief can still take the reigns and take full control and attack you full-force without your consent. 

It was toward the end of the concert, about 4 or 5 songs from what would be the last one. We were sitting in our lawn chairs, in the dark humid night, with thousands of others, loving and basking in the music of this talented man. It happened during the song "Fire and Rain", a classic for any Taylor fan. The song is about his childhood friend, Suzanne, who died by suicide, and Taylor's reaction to it. It is also about his own struggles in life with addiction. As he sang this song, I noticed HE was getting emotional, and his voice cracked slightly when he sang the line: "I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend - but I always thought that I'd see you again." Suddenly, the tsunami hit. My heart started burning with intense sadness, and a furiously fast flash of music-related memories of me and Don started blinking through my mind, all at once, one following the next and the next. Don strumming his guitar in our apartment. Seeing Paul McCartney together in concert, twice. Seeing Fleetwood Mac together. Being in our friends recording studio doing a recording of me singing and Don playing lead guitar on "Sweet Emotion" by Aerosmith. Sitting on our living room couch and playing CD's for each other. Talking to him that first night in that music chat room.

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Planning Hawaii

I’m all finished with school for the summer and heading to Hawaii with David! By the time this posts on Thursday I will already be there actually.  I’m really excited to go. We have a lot of exciting things planned to do. Planning the trip was easy with David because we were interested in the same activities. If he found an idea of something he liked I was always super excited about it and vice versa. As we were planning, we started a shared document to use as an itinerary and for the first time since Mike died I was actually excited to use it.

I think I mentioned in a previous post when I was on vacation with my friend Heather about how I had lost my enthusiasm for trip planning. I had still wanted to go on trips but I didn’t have the motivation, concentration or memory to be able to plan the details of flights, cars, stay, and researching and coordinating things to do. It was frustrating to me because I had always been good at it and enjoyed it. It used to be my thing. Then after Mike died I couldn’t seem to care less even though I tried. And even when I tried I missed important things that could have caused a disaster travelling. I eventually just started to go with the flow of someone else organizing everything but I felt a bit numb doing that.

Planning for Hawaii has been so completely different. I feel like me. I have been on top of researching what I want to do, where, and when and following up with companies about booking.  I have every little detail documented in order with confirmation numbers, times, location etc. I printed all the excursions, car, stay, flight confirmation emails and put them in order. Maybe it’s a little intense but organizing and planning makes me feel good. I had just been in a shift for a while. I don’t want to say my trip planning “is back”or I’m the “old me”  because I don’t believe you ever really go back. Plus, this trip is so different than anything I had previously planned. It is a very active, adventurous trip. It’s full of a lot of things that I probably wouldn’t have done before. I’m not just making lists of possible sites to see; I’m planning, booking and gathering the needed gear for some pretty intense activities.  I think I’ve used my previous organization skills to be my basis for planning for a more rigorous, absolutely-need-it-all-figured-out and be prepared trip. It’s my 2.0 version of planning.

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This Pink Anniversary

Today, Tuesday, is an anniversary of sorts for me.

It isn’t an anniversary connected to Chuck, since it happened after he died.

And yet, it is entirely connected to him.

Because today is the day, 5 years ago, that I picked up my new Ford Escape from the garage, and the man, I’d taken it to after buying it from the dealer.

I took it directly from the dealer to a man named Anthony, who had his own garage.

He and I had spoken a week or so earlier, when I’d called him and told him that I was looking for someone to create a shade of pink for me and paint my car in the created color.

I shared with him the Love story that Chuck and I had for 24 years. I told him what Chuck said about me wearing pink after his death. He knew I’d need color around me. I told him about our Happily Homeless travels for our last 4 years together. I told him that I was staying on the road, alone, and I was terrified and devasted and didn’t know how to do it, but I was doing it.

The price he gave me was just too high for me, but I told him how very much I appreciated that he listened to me and we hung up.

Not half an hour later, Anthony called me up again and quoted me a lower price. He really wanted to create a color for me and paint my silver car.

The first shade of pink that he did was too dark, and I told him to lift the brown out, and add a creamy white, but that I didn’t need to see the second shade. Paint my car in the color you get and it will be the exact right shade.

A couple weeks later I went with my daughter to pick up my car. She cried and I cried when I saw it, and we cried more when Anthony handed the can to me, with the formula for the paint on it…and the name he’d named it.

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Let it Be

It’s one of those “jumbled” days, where it feels like I have nothing worth sharing with the world.  Alison shared the same sentiment in her writing this past Wednesday.  I’m approaching four years of widowerhood, and I’ve been writing here for three and a half.  What else am I to say?

I don’t have a birthday, anniversary, significant holiday, milestone, sign or trigger.  In the past 7 days, and for at least the next 14, quite literally NOTHING has or will happen that brings poignant thoughts of Megan and her death.  I’m on cruise control right now. In times like this, as Alison mentioned, music is a tool to be used to bring inspiration. More specifically, one song.  “Let it Be” by the Beatles. Even more specifically, the album version, versus the single version.

That very particular composition, to me, it one of the greatest pieces of music ever created.  I have listened to that song since I was a boy, and even at the innocent age of 10, it would bring tears to my eye for no apparent reason other than the sheer beauty and emotion it conveys.

So, on a day like today, where just the act of writing about widowhood is difficult to find inspiration for, I’ve put the song on repeat.  I’ll write about the mental journey that the song takes me through, each and every time I hear it nowadays. I’ve thought about this premise for awhile, and after a recent visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, just up the road in Cleveland, it is fresh in my mind.

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Go Love on Life

Widowhood does not come with a map.  In the beginning, there are no familiar landmarks and the curves on the road are unfamiliar.  As you set out on your way, you will spend a great deal of time bumping into things as you shimmy along, and that's okay.  The important thing is that you are moving and forward momentum is always a good thing.  It's likely that you will not know what direction you are headed in, and that is okay too.  It is time to have faith that everything will be "okay", somehow.  

There have been many new beginnings born from Mike's death.  I have met new people and some of these new acquaintances have become friends.  And, further, some of these friends speak in Grief's mother tongue.  I easily understand them because I am now fluent in grief.  These new friends understand the language my heart speaks and there is great comfort in this.  However, widowhood is a long journey and it demands solo traveling at times.  My friends can accompany me and offer me empowering advice and encourage me with their words; but, I must recreate a life for myself.  I need to navigate my way through this "mess" - no one can do this for me. 

 

Wading through the quagmire of grief isn't easy stuff. 

But, in order to re-engage in life we must sort through the broken shards of the life we imagined. 

This is tedious.

This is grueling.

Simply put, it is hard work. 

My fingers are bloody and raw from clawing my way back towards life. 

But, bloody fingers aside, I know that the life ahead of me is worth it.   

 

Re-entering life, without Mike, is the most difficult thing I have attempted to do in my life.  There is a lot of uncertainty in my future, but more importantly, there is potential.  Before me are boundless opportunities. 

Once again, I find myself on a ledge.  I am paused because I am scared.  But, even more significant, I am excited.  I am actually somewhat enthusiastic about life again.  I feel it - I am standing on the edge of something big.  And, in time, I am going to leap towards the new life that is waiting for me.  And, I KNOW that I will land on my feet - somehow.

 

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Through an Unthinkable Fire

Last Thursday, all of my closest friends flew in from around the country for our annual trip to see each other. Since 2012, when Drew died, we have been making it a point to come from far and wide to spend a weekend together celebrating his life and our friendships. We call it Drewfest, and this year was our sixth year. It was the first year having this celebration in Ohio, which was a big deal for both Mike and I.

I can hardly find the words to express how much this group of people means to me. I honestly believe they have made one of the biggest differences in how well I have coped with and healed these past 6 years. They are one of my strongest connections to Drew, because they were there for so much of the happy memories and good times - sharing alongside he and I. I know without a doubt they miss him the same way I do. And I know they remember all the good times as much as me. When we are together, we all feel closer to him.

They also remember the hard times, because they were there for that too. In the weeks and months after Drew died, these were the friends that showed up for me in countless ways and helped to carry me through. They were my rock. They may never really know just how much of a difference their presence has made.

Six years later, they’ve never left. Even though our lives continue on. As I found new love, they welcomed it. As some of us left Texas for Ohio, California, and Florida, we started video calling each other to stay close. So much living has happened since that difficult day in June of 2012. Good and hard times both. And still these friendships have remained. Even though sometimes we may not catch up for months at a time, I know they are there. I know because we have been through an unthinkable fire together and that fire has strengthened our friendship. It is the one greatest gift that Drew continues to give us…

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The Wax and the Wayne

Another week past and overall things have been even keel. However the dreaded dates pile one on top of another. July 15th is Tin’s first birthday. July 4th is Tin's and my anniversary and today, June 29th, 2018 is the first anniversary of my father Wayne’s passing.

I know this writing is not based mainly on my lost partner Tin but it has a strong and strange effect on my healing. My father passed away 3 months before Tin was diagnosed with terminal liver failure. My father had over 13 back surgeries, was addicted to pain medication and became an alcoholic to try to manage what the pills could not do. We all thought he would pass away from liver failure. He had heart failure the same as his father Thomas whom I got my middle name from.  The irony is that Tin, who did not drink nearly as much as my father, passed away from acute liver failure. I have recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure so now I fear the fate of my father and grandfather. All the while, a glass of red wine is good for the heart but bad for the liver.  So life feels like a walking contradiction. I have new fears that never occurred to me until the past year. As I write this there is a commercial for a heart attack medication  on the television and I can’t help but wonder if it is a “sign”.

I know that I have better health than both of the men that left my life but perhaps that is another complexity of being a gay man. You lose your father, you lose your partner and you could have the same ending. It’s easy to support family and friends that have breast cancer but that is an evil disease that effects women much more often and a man has a harder time relating to that disease. My mother has beat breast cancer and I am so thankful. A dear friend beat cervical cancer and I can provide all the support possible but I can’t relate. She could do the same but not relate if someone had prostate cancer. I’m rambling but this is what goes on in my head. Either way my fears have intensely heightened.

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Just Like That

Next month will be 7 years since my beautiful husband Don went to work one morning, and never came home. Life has been life. Ups and downs. Years of therapy, grief counseling, writing, healing, processing, finding my tribe, finding myself, re-creating myself, and here we are. I am okay. Some days, I am better than okay. I am filled with purpose and meaning and a new appreciation for the fragility of life that I never had before. It's not something I run around screaming about - it just sort of exists within me, and I live my life with a subtle sense of gratitude layering everything I do. 

 

My book has been published, finally, and is now on Amazon and out into the world. ("My Husband Is Not a Rainbow") I have now been with my new love for just over one year, something that I still can't believe sometimes. He loves me. I love him. Our love is so very different than the love that existed and still exists between me and Don. How could it not be?

 

Everyday, I find little pieces of myself. I put them where I think they might belong. Or, if they no longer fit my current life, I toss them aside, figuring they no longer serve me. 

 

Things are going very well. I am slowly discovering what my next life will be, and things feel meaningful and hopeful and joyful. 

 

And then .... 

 

Just like that ...... 

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Traffic Drives

I do quite a bit of driving now. David lives about 45 minutes from my house and my work is about 45 minutes from my house the other way. Most of my friends, my sister, and my parents are also about half an hour away. So I spend quite a bit of time on the road. I don’t mind; it’s “me” time. However, spending so much time driving I also very often end up in traffic, many times, due to an accident. I also don’t mind. And you shouldn’t either.  

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