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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I Live for Love

Most weeks, when I write my Wednesday contribution, I have little to no idea of what I might write. What I need to write.

I think, as I start, okay, I’m going to write about this, and I open the document and my fingers still over the keyboard because, nope, that’s not what I need to write about.

I allow my mind to go blank.

I turn on what I call my writing music.

My muse, so to speak.

It’s music that Chuck and I used to listen to. Or music that I’ve discovered since his death, that fills my heart in some way that has no words.

Tears fall. Frequently.

Or I think that I have nothing to say this week. Nothing to offer you.

What is there to say after 5 years of widowhood, right?

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Now What?

With hindsight, I know that there is no way I could have better prepared for what has been required of me since Mike died.  Widowhood is something you have to live to fully understand.  There is no way to adequately explain this life in words.  It is  something that has to be experienced first hand to be comprehended. 

This being the case, there is a strong kinship among those in the widowed community because our hearts speak the same language.  We speak in fairly simple, yet carefully chosen words.  The dialect of this 'language' can not be learned or interpreted -  because it is not understood unless you are one of us.  The aching inside us, the emptiness within us, and the sadness in our eyes is spoken in Grief's mother tongue.  Widowed people do not need an interpreter.  In fact, we often have the exact same tone in our voices .  We can easily recognize what is said by others who are fluent in grief.  And, maybe, more importantly, we hear what is not spoken by those who have lost the one they love.  In short, we understand one another without words because there really are no words to adequately explain widowhood and how gutting it is.  

Grief itself has many shared characteristics no matter who you are.  The feelings of grief do not discriminate by gender, race or socio-economics.  I believe that the emotions of grief are somewhat universal.  Yet, our own grief is unique to each of us.    It's ours.  No one person feels the exact same way about losing their person. 

We widowed people understand one another without words or explanation because we have lived through those lonely nights that we thought would swallow us whole.  We have nearly crawled out of our skin yearning for the touch of our person.  We have gasped for breathe because of the permanence of our situation.  Their absence is forever - for the rest of our lives - and this changes everything about our future.  Hence, we have been brought to our knees.  We have laid on the cold, hard floor sobbing and wishing this was not our reality.  We each know exactly how these things feel because we have done these things many, many times since they died.  Thankfully, grief is fluid.  The rawness of grief changes with time; but surviving the initial months of grief is something that is etched into your Soul.  Outliving the person you love is something that changes you forever...

 

As time goes on, my grief has softened around the edges; and, for the most part, I appear to be "okay" - except that I'm not.  And, recently, I have accepted that this is the way life is for me right now.  And, I am okay - that I'm not okay. 

 

I think that this is part of grief - to just accept that you are changed and working towards a future that you can't yet imagine.  In grief, one must just breathe and have faith that things will work out - eventually.  I now know that there is nothing I can do to "heal" myself - other than just live.  I have to live the best way I can, and I must learn to forgive myself when I exist poorly some moments.  Ironically, whether I like it or not, Mike's death is teaching me about living.  (It is what it is.)

Recently,  I find that I am continuously lost in my own thoughts.  I spend hours imagining the future that we wanted to live together.  I spend far too much time wishing things were different.  And, I also spend a lot of time convincing myself that this is actually real. 

 

He is dead.  He is dead.  He is really dead. 

And, nothing can change it. 

I say these words to myself again and again,

Because, one year and seven months later,

Mike's death is still surreal to me. 

Maybe it always will be...

 

I can not believe how drastically different my life is without him.  All day long I ask myself  "NOW WHAT?" ...   What the hell am I supposed to do without him?  I don't have the answer.  I have more questions than answers and I think that's okay for right now.  It has to be.

 

 

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An Unexpected Return Home

Well I made it. I made it through the first wedding since Tin passed only two months ago and it was followed by the next day being the first Father’s Day without my father. There were times I couldn’t hold back the tears and times I couldn’t catch my breath. I felt like a stranded fish. How ironic to be a crying stranded fish that needs salt water to breathe but the water is blurring you vision instead of spilling over your gills. I made it through the night with the fun songs, the heartbreaking songs that meant joy to all the others in the room, the condolences from family that haven’t seen me since Tin passed and catching myself rubbing my own palm and realizing I was just hoping to feel Tin take my hand. It’s not just losing the person it’s losing all the plans you had with that person and watching other people be rewarded with what you have lost.

The plane ride home was going well until I fell asleep. Dreams of the plane crashing, my apartment being robbed while I was gone and “Oh my God is my dog safe?”. What would I do if Roan was gone? I need to get home and the panic sets in. I move forward and jolted awake startling the guy in the seat next to me realizing I was locked 10,000 ft. from the answers to cure my panic. Of course everything was fine and Roan was tail wag crazy but as I returned home so did the stomachaches and dark clouds I had been carrying before my trip. It was an unexpected return home to realize how lonely and depressed I was. Skip it and go to bed. Work in the morning.

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