Pick a Card

Remember that time you walked through the Hallmark section of the store and your hand automatically reached for the husband, mother or brother card? Then you caught yourself. You remember that person is no longer here and, before there’s a teary cleanup on Hallmark aisle 6, you make a quick detour from the land of schmaltzy cards.

Cleaning out my husband’s night table drawer a few months after he died, I found a Christmas, Valentine and two birthday cards – all unsigned. He had a funky habit of buying several cards for every occasion. Go figure. He gave some, saved some and some he couldn’t decide. I was just glad he wasn’t ‘that guy’ who made a blindfolded lunge for the biggest wife card from the rack, regardless of what it said. Nope, that guy’s cards were always carefully vetted, usually eerily expressing his emotions, which could span the galaxy, but always made their mark. And isn’t that what cards are SUPPOSED to do?

Years ago, romantic cards seemed to scream – nope, not for you, keep going. They’d often tick me off. In fact, I even considered creating an entire line of funky, alternative cards. Seriously, we all have at least one relationship that is MEH on a good day, so why not a card that matches? Something neutral, kind, not mean spirited but definitely not “Oh my goodness, how I love you”. Yeah, no.

Then I met my husband. One of the many best things I realized about being with him was that I could finally march into the card aisle with abandon. That’s right, I could walk right up to the lovey dovey cards, and pick one without cringing. That was no small deal, my friends. In fact, I actually looked forward to Valentine’s Day! Imagine that. I now had a reason to leave little ‘just because I love you’ notes around. And it felt more than right because I could say those three little words without choking on them.

Those who’ve experienced painful relationships, emotional and/or physical abuse, knee-capping betrayal or disappointment totally get it. They understand that just being able to be transparent in love, let alone declare it loudly, is groundbreaking. Being able to sustain it, through the grittiest, most crushing cancer moments – is a damn grateful love miracle!

I’ve seen a shift in greeting cards these days. They are more real, more edgy, less saccharine. They speak to diversity, to coping with cancer, to LGBT couples, and parenting in real life. Unfortunately, everything seems to have a price and greeting card prices today are bordering on a small mortgage. I get it. The greeting card industry is struggling to stay relevant – and solvent. Seriously though, if you need to choose between a card OR a gift, that’s just weird.

Meaning well doesn’t always mean saying it well. That’s why greeting cards are kind of like an instant “Speak for yourself, John Alden”. Hallmark moments will never change the world, but bringing a smile, assuring that you’re thought about, and being reminded that you’re loved is always a good thing.

These days, I still steer past the husband section. Bumping into lavish, loving spousal cards, when searching for one for my handsome son, can suck. It can send you to emotional places you don’t have on your itinerary that can pitch a monkey wrench in your placid errand schedule.

My widowed friends can totally relate. 

I’m relieved we’re good with holiday cards — at least for a few months. I can use a break from sidestepping cringe worthy, lovey husband cards, or those to other people we’ve lost. Okay, maybe one day I’ll get one of those moonstruck “I love you cards” again. I might even have reason to send one, and I’m pretty sure my husband would be more than okay with that. The jokester who stashed those passionate cards in the night table would say, “Just step away from the rack and move on, kiddo”.

He was such a card.

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Life Marches On

img_7658Well, at least it marches, ready or not, in the little room where my husband kept his marbles, planes and armies of toy soldiers and knights. When he left this world, he also left this entire room of collectible ‘stuff’ behind – and I have no earthly idea what to do with it! Many painstaking hours (and dollars) were spent collecting,  planning, gluing and building this little world into a mini- museum. We should have charged admission.

My kid-at-heart husband collected marbles, no, not just the simple cat-eye ones, although he had a hefty bowl of them. His taste ran to those hand-blown, kaleidescope of color ones that preened on little stands in glass cases. Looking at these sparkling orbs one day, I realized why gradually my happy place of Cape Cod grew on him. I remember how his eyes lit up when we went to the Sandwich Glass Factory and his mouse-eating grin as he left each time, marble in tow.

Planes were part of my man’s collecting gene, and, true to his discriminating (expensive) taste, not to those plastic jobs put together  with duco cement. These little flying machines were authentic scale models of WWI planes, including the infamous Red Baron. They have all since flown to another space — but that’s another blog post. Continue reading

Freeze the moment . . . yes, even this one.

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We are all only lent to this planet — and to the people who love us. We want to believe that we have a long lease, and some of us do, but even that time is relative. How long we are able to have the people we love and care for – is not our decision.

If that was true, my husband and I would still be singing in the car at the top of our lungs. I have a decent voice but my husband, the Irish tenor, was blessed with the singing prowess. Still, the memory of our naïve, wistful voices singing our hearts out can still bring me to tears. One of these songs, by Trisha Yearwood, encapsulates our story so very well:

If I would’ve known the way that this would end
If I would’ve read the last page first
If I would’ve had the strength to walk away
If I would’ve known how this would hurt

I would’ve loved you anyway

I’d do it all the same
Not a second I would change
Not a touch that I would trade
Had I known my heart would break
I’d have loved you anyway.

Would we choose to be all-in for someone, in all the dimensions love calls us to, if we knew our person would be stolen without even a whisper? Can we really say that foreseeing decimating heartbreak we’d still choose to ‘love anyway’ ? I’d like to say I never doubted it but in the deep of night, at the moments I feel most alone, I admit I’ve wondered. Would I do it all again, knowing what I know now? Continue reading

“You Are You. Now isn’t that pleasant.”

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Dr. Seuss always nails it.

You are YOU — just a wee bit different than you were ‘before’.  The first time you check  the “widow” status on a form, have to change your emergency contact or start to say ‘honey, I’m home’ and realized no one is there, you are a different you. And it sucks. But it’s life now. Whether it happened with no warning or after months of dread, the title ‘widow’ is as foreign as if you shucked your identity for the Witness Protection Program. You feel  like you woke up on another planet — without rocket re-entry to your old life. This is it.

My husband is gone almost 10 months. I should be used to the title but ‘widow’ still doesn’t compute. To totally absorb it, means I need to accept the basic fact that my husband died and is never coming back. Before you think I’ve lost it entirely, of course I know he’s gone. I know he’s not just on a business trip; he’s not on a road trip. I get it.  I’m the one who found him that fateful night.

Cancer perched on the sidelines of every facet of our lives for years. Often sneaky, even silent, sometimes we ‘almost’ forgot it was even there. There were more emergent battles to fight. Debilitating treatment side-effects that dogged him constantly that we both knew would never leave. But sometimes even the most upsetting can be business as usual when you’re immersed in the day to day and you almost forget the gorilla waiting to pounce.  Continue reading

I (almost) . . . left my heart in San Francisco.

13912510_10210190201178352_467848970915089957_nNo, I didn’t go on vacation. I didn’t fall in love. And I didn’t go to find anything I was looking for – the love of my life already left the building. But, what I almost lost in the city by the bay was precious and would have broken my heart – again.

The jaunt to California was actually a business trip for a travel client as background for a snazzy review I will need to write. While going anywhere that smacks of fun and enjoyment doesn’t quite feel right to recent widows, as they said in The Godfather (one of my all-time faves) ‘It’s not personal; it’s business’. So I sucked it up, and forced myself to go to the Golden State. (I know, it’s rough to be in sunny California but someone has to do it, right? lol) Ready or not, I was booked on a tour, packed for the trip and grabbed a dear, sweet friend, who was gracious enough to be my travel bud for some California dreamin’.

With the first stop San Francisco, I was hesitantly optimistic. Yes, I was somewhere I had never been before but compared to the traumatic uncharted territory of widowhood, this would be a piece of cake!  Ha! Said cake fell flat my first night in the city ‑ and I can’t help but think my guy had a hand in it. Continue reading

Keeping It…REAL

pakiet.na-zdrowie.3Newsflash – No matter how any of us try to be perfect – that’s not happening. Neither people – or marriages are born to be perfect. Sure, we may WANT perfect, the ideal — but  REAL is what we get.

Marriage is rarely a Hallmark movie or 24/7 euphoria. Instead, authentic marriage means sacrifice, issues, chores, schedules, love, irritation, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, anger, affection (not always in that order). It’s also idiocyncrasies, snoring, worries, richer and poorer. When critical illness and its side effects enters the mix, now that really transforms the playing field. One partner undergoes endless procedures/surgeries, diminished quality of life, anger, pain and fear. The other juggles worry, research, is the keeper of the medical records, and caretaker extraordinaire. That was our  marriage; that was our REAL.

I’ve poured my heart out these past months, writing about deep grief, and the missing of a husband I loved beyond words. It came to me recently, that the painting was incomplete. It was in black and white with pieces missing. While stark pen and ink art has always been my forte, when it comes to portraying a real picture of real marriage, black and white doesn’t cut it.  Grief outlined only in high contrast is pretty flawed and does a disservice to the flavors and colorations a real marriage holds. Continue reading

Ready or not . . .

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAMzAAAAJDZmNGEwNDkwLTA0ZTYtNGFhZC1hNmI0LTc5MWM3Y2Q4MDcyOQ. . . . . . . you’re on your own.

Wait, what?  I really didn’t order that. Star-spangled freedom wasn’t on my wish list. Been there, done that. I know independence is a good thing– both for people and countries. Being able to stand on your own is an asset in every situation, whether you choose to walk solo or not. Brexit may be one of those times when that ability may be tested.

When I met my husband, I walked into coupleness with eyes wide open – and then some. Having been married before, I knew the difference between being controlled and being intimately connected. Having a base, feeling ultimately at home in a relationship, that’s a cool thing and what we strive for, right? Unfortunately, when my almost-fairytale ended a few months ago, there was no ‘happily ever after’ – at least none that my emotional binoculars can see right now.

My husband’s sudden death set me free into a life, an independence I hadn’t planned on or wished for. Unlike the independence we celebrate today, that kind of freedom doesn’t invite the Grucci brother’s famed fireworks. Nothing about being cut loose in a sink or swim ocean of grief calls for flag waving or bbqs. (I’ve never been a hot dog and beer girl anyway) While I celebrate the heck out of our United States today, sometimes freedom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be if it’s the last thing you were looking for instead of what you were fighting for. Continue reading