Each April 26, I post a blog I wrote in the days after Chuck’s death. I called it “Happy Anniversary, Dear Man”. But it wasn’t about our wedding anniversary; it was about his sober anniversary.
One year, when I posted it, I was criticized for posting about his sober anniversary, because it broke Chuck’s anonymity, which is a crucial underpinning of the program of AA.
I understood where this person was coming from, as I myself am a recovered alcoholic, but I take another tack on it, now that Chuck is, you know…dead.
Chuck and I found sobriety together; it was another anniversary that we celebrated. In reality, if we didn’t both have a sober program, our marriage wouldn’t have happened the way that it did.
His program of sobriety was his to live when he was alive, and he lived it with grace and dignity. He believed in carrying the message of sobriety wherever it was possible, to whomever might need it.
In our hospice time, there were more than a handful of men and women who came to his bedside, to bring meetings to him, to receive final sponsorship from him, to learn from him, and thank him for his service and guidance to them.
And they presented him with his 25- year sober coin, even though he died 3 days shy of his 25th year. I had to convince him to accept it when he did. Chuck was very specific in previous years about not accepting a coin until the very day, aware as he was that up to that day, his sobriety wasn’t promised. The thing is, I told him, we didn’t know if he would be alive TO receive it on that day and he owed it to those he’d sponsored to honor him with it.Read more
If many of my posts sound like a broken record, it’s because they are. For those of you old enough to remember, the slightest scratch on a vinyl album could stop the music in its literal track and replace it with two seconds of repeating sounds. It was aggravating when it happened. You could hope that it was just a blip. A speck of dust or an oddly perfect combination of bass vibrations that was causing the needle to jump back in time.
It usually wasn’t. Being that the spiraling track of a record was actually a groove cut into the plastic, you couldn’t just “buff out” a scratch all that easily. You couldn’t completely erase that imperfection. Every time the turntable spun to that exact point in your playlist, you would be greeted by a reminder that you didn’t handle your album with enough care, or that someone else mishandled it.Read more
Sometimes a song is a gentle reminder an sometimes a song is a stick of dynamite…
I woke up feeling more relaxed than usual today. I went to the gym before work and felt centered and ready for the workday. I have a 5 minute drive to work which usually happens in a blink of an eye until Adele comes over the radio. Tin absolutely loved Adele. She was his girl! Anytime Adele came on the radio the volume went to max and he belted out whatever he thought the lyrics were. I have heard her song since his passing. They bring me some sadness and other memories. Today felt different. My heart sunk as she began to sing and I began to break down. My right arm was on the arm rest and I felt someone hold my hand and squeeze. The feeling passed when I looked down at my hand but I didn’t feel alone in the car. Tears came full force and I had to change the station – Work was 3 minutes away and I couldn’t show up as the manager for the day with red eyes and a broken heart on my sleeve.
I pushed through the day staying busy and keeping a river of notes from bubbling up and forming more emotion evoking harmonies. I was efficient and effective for my day job and immediately went to a vendor event next for my second job. We drank wine and socialized. They began to play music and the first song out wasn’t Adele, It was “Sugar Pie Honeybunch” - My late father’s song for my sister. I had let my guard down and the notes pulled another chord of my heart. Fast paced questions about products generated immediate distraction and I sailed through the stormy song without alerting to anyone I was in possible emotional peril. The coast had cleared and a neighbor stopped by to ask how I was doing since Tin had passed. More chords struck and I couldn’t hide looking at the floor and putting my hands in my pockets. I jumped onto another topic but the choir of “I’m sorry for your loss” echoed again and again in the background.Read more
It’s amazing how simple things can etch a memory deep into your heart. Music, sights, sounds and smells. Food and cooking has always brought back memories of family holidays and campfire stories. Tin loved food. That’s basically the understatement of the year. He would take anything we had in the kitchen and in an hour there would be a beautiful meal on the table and every pot and pan in the sink. Tin was also an avid gardener so it’s only natural that he loved fresh herbs.
When we first met, I went over to his apartment and sat on the balcony. It was like a rainforest in the middle of Atlanta. Palms growing as tall as the ceiling would let them and flowers in every corner. A thunderstorm was approaching and we sat and talked watching the beautiful sky change and fill the air with electric excitement. The rain began to fall. A breeze accompanied the drops and sprayed them into the rainforest. I remember distinctly starting to get the summer rain smell as I listened to Clayton and the rain share their stories. I took in a deep breath and was captivated by a new note in the song of the storm. The breeze and the rain had rustled past a small bush nearby and brought to me an amazing aromatic blend of summer rain and Thai basil. It became a favorite of ours and we often spoke of that day whenever we cooked with Thai basil. That day we were etched.
When Clayton became sick last October, he could no longer garden. He could no longer do much of anything except to cook and eat. His hunger drive and specific food desires at random times grew stronger by the day. He began to show anger if he couldn’t have what he wanted when he wanted it. To some it appeared childish but to us we knew that food was the last thing Tin had control over as he moved towards his final meals. To give him back some of his gardening, for Christmas I bought him an indoor gardening kit with Thai Basil seeds. I had him open it last as the big surprise. He was excited and wanted some time to read everything and get his garden growing. Deep down it was my way to show him that he still had the ability to hold life.Read more
Something that Megan and I did every year or two was get family photos taken. While we had thousands of “candid” pictures, taken from our phones or old point-and-shoot devices, we were never posed, and neither of us were exactly professional photographers. We would make the appointment, pack up a few various pieces of clothing, and head to JCPenney for an hour or so of awkward positions and goofy smiles, followed by standing in a department store looking through each and every shot, choosing the six best, and deciding on a package. The photos are done well, and I like them, but the experience of producing them was not exactly the most enjoyable memory. If we could have had them without all of the other hassle (and money), they would have been perfect.
We still have some of those photos hanging on our walls. Shelby truly lives up to her “Peanut” nickname in most of them...being about 2 feet tall and 25 pounds at the largest. (for the record, I too have added about 30 pounds since then, so the “growing together” has a literal meaning). The memory of her simply being that size is the most enjoyable to me.
Megan has a beautiful smile in all of them. She was, simply put, photogenic, and she knew how to apply a good “picture smile”. For Shelby and I’s part, we did our best to smirk.Read more
As Sarah, Shelby and I near the time to depart for our summer vacation, I am reminded of just how different things were, and I am finding some appreciation of the very fact that as a widower, those differences weren’t always convenient. We’re traveling to my favorite place on earth, the Great Smoky Mountains, at the end of July.
Megan and I always took our “big” road trips around this time. In between her birthday and our anniversary, occuring about 10 days later. It was convenient, because of large annual festivals going on around home, it got us away from the tourists invading our space, and allowed us to be tourists ourselves. We always did quite a bit of shopping and “touristy” type things, but my eyes were constantly transfixed on those mountains, standing like 6500-foot ramparts on the edge of the tiny town of Gatlinburg.
I knew, given Megan’s illness, that the majority of the time spent in the trees, creeks, and cool air would be supplanted by more pedestrian endeavors in gift shops and restaurants. I would see far more people than birds. Kitschy “mountain man” shops, selling red plaid, black teddy bears, and pine scented soap would be chock full of persons wearing fanny packs and crocs, scoffing at the idea of walking any further than a few feet from their car to see a real black bear or smell a stately stand of pines on a mountaintop.
I hated the very thought of Gatlinburg, but I still loved going there. I still do.Read more
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.Read more
Tomorrow, Wednesday, is officially the beginning of “Drewfest” 2018. It’s an annual summer get-together of Drew’s friends, usually taking place somewhere in Texas, with the specific goal of having a fun weekend together as if he was still around, yet remembering he’s not. It’s a great endeavor, and one that in and of itself should be celebrated.
This year, the party comes to Ohio. Sarah’s best friend will be arriving from L.A. in the afternoon, with 5 others arriving from Texas on Thursday. 9 people. In an 1100 square foot home. 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, and 2 dogs. It will be a far cry from Drew’s parents’ ranch, and will be interesting for sure.
Regardless, Sarah and I are beyond excited to have everyone come to our home, so far from where Drew had ever even travelled. We’ve spent months preparing. Home improvements, cleaning, craft projects, decorating our little deck with a “pirate” theme, and even cobbling together a “new” deck out of pallets and bits we had lying around. At this point, there is still so much more to do before tomorrow, and we’ve been going flat out.
And I realize I haven’t even thought much about Megan lately.Read more
Truth 1: I had never used a power tool to cut the grass at my house (up until this week).
Truth 2: I worked 2 (or was it 3 summers?) as a city worker cutting the grass using only power tools.
Truth 3: I own some kind of fancy weedwacker that has hung in my garage for over 2 years now.
When I read the above statements I think they sound ridiculous together. It really makes no sense. I have a perfectly fine tool and am more than capable of using it but I let it just stay there untouched. But those are the facts and that’s how it has been. I guess I’ve let it be difficult.
When Mike and I lived together he cut the grass. I occasionally used our push mower but rarely since it was his domain. It was never that I couldn’t do it. I think it was more a play on how we felt like we were “playing house” in our happy little world. He decided to take it on I think in a mimic of a traditional old school male role. About a week or two before he died he bought this fancy weedwacker thing. He showed it to me with pride explaining the features. We joked about us being real adults and “making it” since we now owned this thing. He said, “okay, I’m going out to cut the ol’ grass honey” in this joking voice (he never really called me honey) and out he laughed.
2 days before he died he cut the grass. He left heaps of all the wet green grass on the weedwacker as he hung it up in the garage. Shortly after he died, the weedwacker taunted me. The grass on it was still green and the work was still fresh but he was gone. It just didn’t make sense. I couldn’t process it. He was just there. The grass on the weedwacker proved it.Read more
The month of May looms large in my heart and soul, as I remember back to that May day in 2009 when Chuck and I began our Happily Homeless travels, after selling our house and belongings, and our last 4 years together as we adventured around the country…remembering that April night in 2013 when our adventures ended as he took his last breath and I placed his cremains and his flag on the shotgun seat next to me, and...wow... remembering this month, in 2013, as I began my Odyssey of Love for him, creating, at the same time, a community of Love and support for myself around the country.
It inspired me to make a list of what was, what became, what is, sacred and holy to me.
Indulge me, if you will, and, maybe, be inspired to make your own list.
Memories of dancing with him over the years...in the kitchen, in our backyard, at social occasions...dancing as a way of being further connected. His arm around my waist, my hand in his. Holy.
The twinkle in his green eyes as his gaze caught mine across a crowded room. Followed by a slow wink. It was as powerful to me as his touch. Holy.
The confidence he always showed in me that brought me to an awareness of my own strength, my own determination, my own gutsiness. It has stood me in good stead as I weave my way into this damned new life without him. Holy.
That moment as we lay in bed together, when he put his hand on my stomach, which I, of course, immediately removed because I didn’t like my stomach and he asked why I did that and I told him and his response was to place his hand ever so gently back on my stomach and tell me how he loved each and every part of me. That memory strengthens my resolve to make my body strong again, even in grief. Holy.Read more