In one year — and out the other.

bigstock-new-year-sign-27449927Confetti and noisemakers are so yesterday. Seriously, my husband and I never did the expected New Year’s Eve frolic.  We were either too lazy to do the whole dress up/party down scene, or thought our own couch, movies and snacks more closely equalled ‘cozy’ over ‘crazy’. Either way, we did New Year’s Eve our way.

Truth be told, we were never wild revelers. More often than not, our Saturday date nights were either a quiet dinner out, alone or with friends, or Netflix with whatever nosh looked good at the moment.  We both had been there, done that and had no wild oats to sow. We didn’t need any more hoopla to be happy; being together was plenty good enough. As long as your loving sidekick is beside you, it’s all good, right?  When they’re not, even New Year’s Eve — is just another night.

The way I figure it, the New Year’s Eve ball doesn’t need my help to make its descent this year. No liquor store will miss the sale of my one glass of wine and the only noisemaker will be the sound of my snoring. (No lie, unfortunately) No worries about a gala outfit; my flannel lounge pants will do just fine. My snacks are obscenely healthy and I won’t need excuses to duck away for calls to my dad and kids at exactly midnight. No matter my choice for this end-of-year merrymaking, my husband will still be AOL — and it’s still a hard pill to swallow.  The empty space on the couch next to me or at my side making social chatter. His absence still makes it hard to be home – and hard to be out. Awkward.

For some strange reason last week, I thought about the wide eyed, sweet little New Year’s baby who, by the end of the year, morphs into the weathered, tired Father Time. As each year closes, that long bearded dude passes the torch back to the diapered newbie who takes tentative baby steps into the next 365. While I can’t imagine ever being as innocently full of hope about a brand new year as that little tyke, I’m not yet ready to be a cynical Father Time either. Yes, the grief of this past year really, really sucked, but it also held some beautiful moments, too. Friends who touched and supported me in ways I can never repay. Insights that I am grateful for and the courage to do things I never thought I would. Continue reading

HimsELF. . . on a shelf

elf-shelf-1920x640-1024x341Does that red-suited, creepily cheerful holiday imp visit your house each Christmas? If you have anxious little munchkins, the wacky, double-jointed sprite shows his bad self in a different spot each day. Though I’m well acquainted with this Santa tattletale, my grand- teenies just visit so the imp doesn’t do acrobatics in my house. The only mischievous Elf I’d want to see — left the building before last Christmas. Since then, he’s been sighted on shelves around the house, but now stilled in timeless frozen smiles.

Last year, there was plenty of tears, numbness and grief. A plastic smile and lots of fake cheer prevailed. This year, I’m determined not to have a ‘bah humbug’ Christmas. My Elf would HATE that. Oh, he’d definitely understand last holiday’s emotional sipher. In fact, if I WASN’T in in joyless funk so soon after he died, I suspect he’d be more than a wee bit surprised. But I also remember well his favorite retort to any conversation he thought went on longer than he wanted. “Don’t belabor the subject” he’d say. Of course, the phrase was usually uttered after my spousal unit related his views on something — but before I came close to finishing mine. (And yes, it ticked me off bigtime!)

Each person has their own timetable for grief. That ominously annoying phrase really isn’t welcome in that space. Though we might each have a loving village, we come into our healing in our own time. With the expectations of Hallmark happy, holidays don’t really help change the narrative. If anything, as all the firsts morph into the next year, and the next, you might be wondering why you feel even worse. (if that’s possible)  Unless there was a second coming, your loved one hasn’t returned; nothing really has changed — except you. Each holiday comes and goes and, you sometimes you really would like your seriously deflated (I’ve fallen and I can’t get up) spirit not to ‘belabor the subject’. Continue reading

Signs of Life . . . or something like it.

christmasblog2016Anyone who’s lost someone will do pretty much anything to find them. They look for meaning or presence in the vacuum that remains ‘after.’ For someone starving for connection, a scent, a feather, or a penny might be a tempting appetizer.  Something moves; something appears, pretty much anything will do. At Christmas, especially the first one after that person you thought would always be there— isn’t,  any ‘sign of life’ would pretty much be your entire wish list.

Now, I’m not the ‘see the face in the piece of toast’ type. No matter how I want to find an apparition of the husband who exited this world so quickly, my skeptical self is always vigilant. But, last year, especially in the first few months after he died, I think I’d have had to be in a coma not to notice a few bizarre signs that visited me.

Half-heartedly hanging a wreath on the front door a week or two before last Christmas, I heard distinct screeching but couldn’t see where it was coming from. The high pitched sound got disturbingly louder as it got closer until it was above me in the unmistakable shape of a hawk – two to be exact. No big deal except that hawk-watching was one of my husband’s favorite past times. Whenever he spotted one, he’d yell “Hon, did you see that?” Invariably, I missed the sightings. But that day, those two squawking hawks stopped their racket as soon as they appeared above me, alighting on sky high branches of nearby trees. It took only minutes for one of them to take off again, leaving his partner remaining alone on her perch. Allegory? Maybe. I told myself the hawk visitation was just a lame coincidence but it still felt eerily like I was that hawk left behind. Still, I might have filed that incident under a wistful ‘maybe’ but the very next week, another moment popped up that gave me pause. Continue reading

Christmas 2.0

file-dec-07-4-22-39-pmBarely two months after my husband died last year, I insisted on picking out and dragging home a real Christmas tree myself. What was I thinking? Clearly I wasn’t. Surrounded by spirited couples and families choosing their own holiday tree, I stubbornly struggled to yank out one of those heavy green suckers. But smack in the middle of all those scented firs,  tears also threatened to spill over. Although I was more than grateful for the kindly sales guy who tied one lucky green adoptee to my car’s roof, the experience keenly reminded of my suddenly solo status.

Thanks to my grandson and loving son-in-law, the tree was retrieved from the roof and set in its rightful place. As I recounted this adventure to a widow friend of mine who had lost her husband the year before, she sympathetically also warned me that her second Christmas was actually worse than the first. Swell, I thought. That’s just perfect. Here I was thinking that no matter how hellish the first Christmas holiday would be without my merry Elf, I should look forward to the next being even worse.

With that second Christmas now a little more than two weeks away, I arrive a battered and hopefully bettered survivor of  my year of firsts. Strapped in the roller coaster I hadn’t bought a ticket for, I was too consumed by that ride to worry about what would happen the SECOND year. Yet, here I am.

My husband died barely two months before the season of jingle bells and holly last year. I don’t know if I was even breathing as I robotically threw myself into  Christmas decorating, cooking, and wrapping. I was determined to be sleepwalk-busy straight through the season. I even held a few brunches for some of the treasured pals who loved and lifted me through the long, ghastly weeks since the funeral. But I was on auto-pilot through it all and, when Christmas day finally arrived, it was clear the whole family was.  Younger grandkids were their irrepressible selves, though a tiny bit more sober. The older ones watched me for signs of meltdown, which I’m sure would have signaled their exit stage left. The adults were in their own unique spaces of grief yet all ate holiday ham, unwrapped gifts and were enveloped in the spirit of family despite being barely able to look at ‘the chair’ which somehow loomed even larger in its emptiness. Continue reading