I’m Out Of BBC Dramas, So I Might As Well Go Back To Work.

Sometimes, I pretend to be artsy with prosecco and photos.

It’s a weird thing for me, seeing this five months come to an end.

When I made the choice to leave my job last September, a confluence of issues made it so necessary that every one of my final 14 days was a struggle. It took enormous will (and a genuine love for my co-workers and the school) to do what I could to leave things in order.

Before Adam died, I never considered needing or having a break from work … a sabbatical, as I called it. I just kept plugging along, putting money aside for the time when the two of us would retire, move to Cocoa Beach, eat steamed clams and watch launches from the deck of Coconuts.

But, damn, did I need a break. I needed to rest, to grieve fully in a way that was quite different from those early months. I needed to reach the top of the mountain in terms of what to do with all the fucking stuff, to work with my financial adviser to start planning for a new second half of life. I needed to zone out and pet my dog. I needed to bond with my cats. I just needed to be me.

I did what I needed to do, but inside all of that I found more.

I spent endless hours in nature with Bixby, exploring new and old hiking trails with him. Most of the time we were alone, but I spent about four days with Christie hiking all over, getting to know one of my best friends all over again. I wore holes in my favorite hiking shorts and wonder now to myself, “Do I learn to sew or find a new pair?”

Sometimes, Bixby whined while I sat on a rock and cried. But that wasn’t often. Most of the time, I blocked out the sounds of nature with a horror audiobook or a murder podcast. Maybe you think that’s not soothing. It was for me. And for Brenna, I finally gave in and became a murderino.

I binge-watched a dozen BBC and Netflix crime drama series. I rarely said “no” to an invitation, and if I did say no, it was because I had a prior commitment. Sometimes I drank too much. When I did, I let my friends know and we talked about it. I spent more time on Instagram and Twitter, becoming familiar with a handful of interesting journalists.

I ate too much. I lost weight. I gained it back. Fuck it. I tried intermittent fasting. I failed. I tried to become a morning person. I failed at that, too.

I went bowling with Paul, then with Charlie and Andy. I fell while bowling. I did freelance work and kept cheering the hockey boys.

I worked on scrapbooks. I threw things away, and then, when the office trash can had to be moved to the outside trash can, I went through everything again just to be sure I didn’t throw away a memory I wanted to keep.

For the first time, today I dumped that office trash can without looking again. Because I have more confidence in what I need to keep.

I didn’t pick up enough dog poop. I didn’t clean the cat litter as often as I should. I paid for both in messes.

I watched my bank account dwindle, but only panicked here and there. I spent 10 days in California with my family … who gets a 10-day holiday vacation any more with family? I updated my resume, wrote cover letters and applied for a handful of jobs. I got one.

I wish I’d gone to Texas to visit the Currys. I have a million wishes, but in general, I’m pretty proud of what I did on my sabbatical.

And interestingly, the further along in my grief slog, the more I found myself retreating to my online wids. My widowed brothers and sisters in WD30. At first, I thought this group wasn’t for me, but I was wrong. The judgment-free zone is compelling. I have the ability to learn from others there, and I have the ability to impart wisdom as well. I can genuinely laugh now at the guys and gals with the nerve to try searching for a Chapter 2, and roll my eyes at their hilarious dating adventures. I can cry with them when they have “one of those days.”

The strength and frailty of widows is astounding, both its highs and lows. I see why we reach out to each other.

My sabbatical ends today. Bixby will be confused with me gone more often than not. I’m am thrilled with where my life has decided to go. I go forward but I return. I’ll announce what I’m doing on Tuesday. For now, I say, thank you to Mom, Barb, Keith, Ava, Colette, Kathy Curry, Bev and Steve Curry, and all my friends who have helped me in each shitty step.

Here’s to another.

Is There Life on Mars?

“But the film is a saddening bore, for she’s lived it ten times or more.”

Today, I received a text from a beloved, snarky friend who made me laugh. It read “While you’re sitting around bingeing, cuddling your pets and worrying about your bras, can you get a group text going for tonight?”


Now, I don’t mind throwing her under the bus here, because I have like 10 coming to me after the epic throwdown she gave me about eight years ago at work … that I still laugh about.

But it might get you wondering: What does Laura do all day now that she is not working?

It’s true. I’ve binged a lot of shows. Mostly British crime drama, yes, but I’m through six seasons of American Horror Story as well. I can tell you I have never appreciated Jessica Lange for the treasure that she is until hearing her sing “Life on Mars” in the Freaks episode. That woman is a goddess.

I also spend an enormous time cuddling my pets, but we all know that’s part of every major therapy. I only worry about my bras when they haven’t been handwashed.

What do I do?

I work on healing. I can tell you, despite my love for what I did at FVS and the enormous respect I have for the teachers, leaving was the best thing I’ve done. I could no longer grieve there.

So I grieved at home … on the couch, in the woods, on the trails, in bed, in front of the TV, at bars, at coffee shops, at friends’ houses, in Los Angeles. I grieved with everyone. I grieved when I was smiling and laughing as well as when I was crying. You don’t see the tears much anymore. They mostly come at night. My sleep schedule is still erratic, and the last thoughts are always of Adam in the hospital. Of his last breath, of the things I could have done better.

Does this surprise you? That after 14 months I’m still dealing with that? It won’t surprise my widows and widowers out there… the ones I’ve met and the ones I adore in an online community. In a recent New York Times article, a woman who lost her child wrote “You never ‘get over it,’ you ‘get on with it,’ and you never ‘move on,’ but you ‘move forward.’”

And that’s what I’ve been doing these last four months: Getting on with it.

It could be the best description ever. You make your choice to live, and you get on with it.

I got on with it by resigning from my job. I got on with it by beginning an exhaustive process of diving deep into the house, the possessions, the memories. Friends will come into the house and might think “it looks no different.” Same wine red disintegrating couch we got from Deb at FVS. Same hodgepodge of decorations.

It’s in the nooks and crannies that the changed has occurred. It’s in the bedroom where I have not just moved some of Adam’s stuff out, but have taken the step of moving my stuff in. It took time to put my clothes in his dresser, as if the emptiness of it was waiting to return. What happens if he comes back and needs drawer space?

I’ve donated thousands of dollars worth of items .. his, mine, ours. I took that Swedish death cleaning approach to my mom’s to help give away the last of Dad’s clothes.

I discovered new hiking trails with Christie. I continued to wrestle with Adam’s computer and files. I scrapbooked hundreds of photos. I found pictures of us where I don’t even remember where we were at. I marveled at pics of Adam when he loved another gal so many years ago… and I scrapbooked those as well, because it was part of who he was.

I tried food I never would have tried. I watched every episode of the Great British Baking Show and found no desire to bake. I followed my nieces and their successes online. I finally moved all my money to one place and have someone guiding me. I lost some weight, gained it back, lost it, gained it and now just miss Adam, who loved me whether I gained it or it lost it, because it wasn’t the weight, it was the way we treated each other and the way we loved.

In January now, I’m taking the steps to re-enter the workforce. Am I done grieving? Hell to the no. I won’t ever be. But I have a better grasp on it than before, a greater compassion for those around me.

I miss my best friend a lot. Every day, every decision I make is because he lived.

I am lucky. I had the ability to take time off from work on my own terms. Other widows aren’t so lucky. They have been fired, they have had to slog through thankless jobs without more than a few days of bereavement.

I’ll end this by saying… We need to do better for our widows and widowers in America. We need to prepare each other from the beginning and stop pretending one spouse isn’t going to die before the other. Women, especially, have to learn to be resilient now while they are still in their marriages. Resiliency starts when you don’t need it yet. Build it.

“It’s chaos. Be kind.” – Michelle McNamara

If I’m Lucky, I’ll Be A Widow Again

wedding copyToday is the 18th anniversary of our first date. Our first date should have been Nov. 14 to see Dogma, but while working football, I called him up to chat. He asked what I was doing that night. Well, I was going to a wedding reception … did he want to come? Of course, the rest is history.

But he’s gone now. It’s over.

A week ago, I spent a marvelous five days in California, most of it in San Luis Obispo with mom and my beloved teammates from Mustang softball. You all need to know, my friends, that Saturday night in that house on Grover Beach was a revelation to me. To be with you all (and my mom), I felt the first true moment of joy I have had since Adam died. I can’t explain it. Your love, your understanding, your ability to listen, the singing, the drinks … the camaraderie of shared and unshared pasts.

I feel like I turned a corner.

For whatever reason, maybe that one, I have spent more time thinking about my Chapter 2. That’s what we widows call it … thinking of the next phase of love in our lives.

No, I’m not getting on any dating sites soon. That’s not what I mean. It doesn’t mean I won’t continue blocking the extreme number of widow predators on FB and Twitter … actually, I enjoy doing that! It doesn’t mean I’m picking up men in bars as I never did that anyway. It means I’m more open to the possibility of “someone else.” Because I love “love.” I loved having a partner with me while facing this shitty world.

To open myself up to that is daunting. I realized it when I said this to a friend on Saturday: “If I’m lucky, I’ll be a widow again.”


But I have something to say to you, if I am lucky enough to meet you.

I’m not forgetting about Adam. Nor should you expect me to. Nor should you want me to.

We did not choose to part. One of us didn’t decide “enough was enough” or that we wanted something else or we were bored or angry. Adam was taken from me … taken by a disease of a most insidious nature.

I might talk about him like he was perfect. That our relationship was perfect.

He wasn’t. It wasn’t. I wasn’t.

There were times in the last seven years that I wondered how long I could stay … because I didn’t understand what was happening to him. I didn’t understand that everything he did and said was being channeled through the lens of booze I didn’t know he was drinking.

Addiction takes a toll on a marriage.

But in the end, for 17 years, we chose to stay together. Through my depression. We were poor, then rich, then poor, then rich, then poor again. Poor was always just as good. Through anxiety, depression, illness, work issues; through my exasperating perfection … we were in it till the end.

And the end came.

The end came at 10:42 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016.

He’s not coming back. Ever.

If you date me, you only date me because he died and I went through hell. That is true. But he’s not a threat to you. He’s dead.

His pictures will still be on my wall. I will tell you stories that include him. If I don’t, I have to pretend that 17 years of my life didn’t exist. That means I can’t tell you about my trips to Japan and the Netherlands, or a million other things precious to me. I can’t tell you the story behind every autograph on our Star Wars poster. I will accidentally say something and realize that you won’t know what it means because it was an inside joke with Adam. Don’t be mad.

But some of who I am is because of him.

I have an infinite capacity for love. One does not replace another. I won’t wish you were him because it’s a useless wish. Sometimes I will cry because I miss him. Don’t begrudge me that. You wouldn’t begrudge me crying for my dad, would you? Or anyone else I have lost.

Know this. Adam would not be mad. I knew him well enough to know he would love you for making me smile, for taking away some of the pain he caused me. If I choose you, it’s because you are someone all your own. You are not a replacement. I expect you will be different, and I like that. I will love making new memories that fit next to the old.

We have one life. Just one. I’m just trying to figure out ways to laugh and recapture joy.

I can make it.


I’m Your Greatest Fear

Finding an Irish pub in Bruges

Scrolling through Facebook, I came across someone who filled out one of those “get to know you” things. You know… Favorite food, favorite color, place you want to travel. One of the choices was “Greatest Fear.” This person had answered “widow.” So there you have it, I thought, I’m living someone’s worst nightmare.

For a moment, because I was having a good day, I considered responding and saying “don’t be afraid of being a widow, you’ll make it.” But I couldn’t. Because I reconsidered. And she should fear it. She should fear it because it sucks so much. At the same time, these fears are sometimes weird, right? I mean, I could say my biggest fear is being struck by lightning (it’s not), but the chances of that happening are so so slim. But for a woman, well, damn your chances of being widowed are greater than 50 percent.

You might as well face it head on.

I’ve returned to this blog today after a four-mile hike. I thought a lot about a year ago today. We were apprehensive as we made the drive to UC Colorado Anschutz for our first appointment with the liver doctors.

It didn’t go well. The doctor did not give us much hope for getting accepted for evaluation. She didn’t give us much hope of making it to the six-month mark. I cried and cried, talking about the unfairness. She promised she would advocate for us.

The drive home was silent. I am sure Adam was facing his own greatest fears: he had gone too far, taken one drink too many, hit the point of no return. He had no one to blame but himself.

He was tired upon returning home, and we went upstairs and held each other in bed. We snoozed. The atmosphere was thick with grief in the room. We still told each other we would make it; it would be OK.

Around 5 p.m., we went down to make dinner and the phone rang. The doctor. Fear. But then elation as she told us we had been accepted for evaluation. Yes, we understood it didn’t mean we would get on the list.

We held each other again, this time so confident of our future. I told him we wouldn’t be able to go to Star Wars Celebration because he would still be recovering from transplant. He laughed and said, “I should be good by then.”

Two weeks later he was dead.

A year ago I experienced one of the most genuine moments of joy I’d ever had, the feeling that somehow our lives would continue as they were.

I think of this because I know there is one part of my grief I haven’t accepted. My resentment of the transplant team and the transplant process continues to fester. I want the chance to scream at them again. “You let him die.” Alcohol use disorder is either a disease or it’s not. You say it’s a disease. Then treat him.

Maybe my anger toward them grows because the next two weeks of my life a year ago were spent in that hospital.

I don’t know.

You should fear being a widow. Because it’s going to be the worst year of your life, just like Christy said it would.

But you’ll make it through anyway.

And so it begins.

2917508814_e0eab911b0_nThere is a picture somewhere out there of us at Bear Creek Park. We are with Bixby and a number of friends from school. Faculty fun day hike and doggie meet-up on a Sunday, one year ago today. In that picture, wherever it is, we look happy.

I didn’t know that Adam was internally struggling so much when we took that picture. I didn’t know that this would be the last walk I would have where I wasn’t consumed with fear and anxiety, and now grief.

You see, one year ago today the downhill began. That evening after the hike, I walked in on Adam drinking out of a gin bottle. My first internal reaction was anger, borne out of fear. But then I made the most important decision of my life.

I held him.

He cried. He was afraid. He was confused. He could not understand why he was doing what he was doing. He said, “I’m scared, honey.” So I held him, and said it was OK, and we were going to keep working and keep trying. On that day, perhaps I finally understand the power of this disease. I was too late. But I will never regret holding him.

I stayed home from work Monday, saying I was worried about him. I was right. On Monday night (tomorrow), he went into the bathroom, and five minutes later I heard the most horrible howling sound I had ever heard. I found him having a seizure. It was my first call to 911.

That week, we thought we still had it under control. He was released from the hospital in time to put our beloved Chance down on Wednesday. Yesterday, I was in the same vet room with my two kittens, and I broke down in front of the new vet, spilling my guts and fear.

We put Chance down. We came home, and two hours later Adam was vomiting blood. He said he had salsa for lunch, and that’s what it was. His denial. I knew better. Back in the hospital. A day later, the ICU was calling me to tell me they had to majorly sedate him because he tried to leave to just “get home to my wife.”

With his parents there, the doctor said “He could die or he could live.” We celebrated our Sept. 4 anniversary in the hospital.

But you can’t tell that was going to happen from that picture.

You can’t tell that a year later I could be so broken. When I most need relief, the pressure increases. They don’t want you to grieve. There are bills to pay. You can’t take a break. It’s not acceptable. You can’t run away. They want you to be better. They want you to be who you are as long as it means you look happy and smile and play the game. So you fake it, until someone who knows you too well tells you that the Oscar will go to you next year. You do what they ask even though it has no bearing on your ability to perform. Because they want comfortable. They don’t want to face their reality right now because their spouse isn’t dead. And it’s been 10 months, so get over yourself already. You pretend and pretend and pretend.

You find it harder to dress yourself in the morning again, and there’s no one to say “it’s OK honey about your clothes, because your boobs look spectacular in that new bra.”

There’s no one to laugh at you when an hour of throwing away things makes you so mentally unstable you take a four-hour nap, which just isn’t something you do.


The Bix Barks at Midnight

It’s Aug. 11 now. I didn’t mean to stay up through today, but here I am.

For Ryker, born Aug. 10;

This week has been horrible, but made better earlier tonight by the birth of Ryker Hardt Windham, new daughter of my dear friend Amy. My happiness for Amy, for this dream come true, is great indeed.

It is one of the only signs of beauty in an otherwise dismal week.

Today, I went to a visitation for a young man, the 18-year-old son of one of my friends. She may be one of the friends I’ve known the longest here.

And her son is gone, tragically. Tomorrow, on Adam’s birthday, I will go to his funeral. No matter how much I want to make tomorrow all about me because of Adam, I can’t. Because it’s about another family right now. Their loss. Patrick was our batboy years ago, hanging with us in the dugout. I remember him sitting with us after games at the Squatting Chicken. He probably rolled his eyes a lot as we drank beer and laughed about the game. I remember his mischievous smile. I hope you will take the time to read his obituary. We should all be remembered.

I attempted to be strong at the visitation, but that didn’t last. I ran into old co-workers from Air Force, and another former teammate from our now-dismantled women’s rec team. I tried to focus only on others, and I failed, falling back to the grief that can overwhelm me.

Today, Adam would have been 44. We would have gone out with friends. He probably would have chosen sushi or seafood. I would have tried to make today special. He most likely would have bought himself some gadget for his birthday.

I’m claiming Ryker’s Aug. 10 birthday as a gift to me from Adam. Amy said I could. Besides, Adam would have been thrilled with the name!

Happy Birthday, Ryker. Happy Birthday, Adam. Farewell, Patrick.

This Is What it Takes to Live

pillsLiterally and figuratively.

I started on the pills today. It’s been nine months, and all those pills have been gathered in the same plastic bucket in the pantry. Just hanging out and waiting. This is what it takes to live. This is what you need if you are going to survive liver disease and make it to transplant. It’s also what you need to hold on to when you are grieving.

To live, you need vitamins, diuretics, sleep medicine, anti-depressants … and medicine to keep you from actually going crazy when the ammonia builds up and you suddenly are mentally confused.

This doesn’t even count the medicines the wife was/is on to survive.

I wasn’t ready to throw them away. Maybe I would need them. There’s this “holding on” you have that says “if I keep the meds, maybe he will need them again. They are expensive. Maybe he’s not dead and we will get to fight another day, and if that’s the case, well, I’m going to need that Lasix.”

At the highest it was nine different pills … nine in the morning and seven at night. This wouldn’t hold a torch to what Adam would have been on had he made it to transplant. I laid out the pills every day for him, sat with him as he took them. I organized them into pill containers. I was going to will him to live.

“Do everything the doctors say.” That was our mantra.

It was too late to listen to that advice.

I confirmed this morning that you can dispose of prescription medication by mixing them in kitty litter. Well, I’ve got two kitties now who pee and poop like you wouldn’t believe. So there they are, multi-colored gems mixed with crap.

The pills were just crap in the end, too.