Well, “they” were right. “They” are the women who have been in my shoes, the websites, the forums, the books.
Today is about 90 days since I lost Adam. Miraculously, beyond all hope, I started on paperwork today. I tackled the two tables full of paperwork in the living room, concentrating on what I think I will needed for taxes. Well, at least the medical bills and explanations of benefits. There are more than a hundred. Seriously.
I made an appointment with my accountant to find out what I need for taxes. Because Adam had a business, he handled taxes for the last 10 years. I just gave him my W-2 and a couple of charity receipts and washed my hands of it. Ugh. At least, we never threw anything away. How can two people collect so much paperwork?
I’m only up to a $3,000 total in receipts for medical out of pocket spending for the year, so you know I still have a looooong way to go. But those were the small bills. Pocket change.
So, waiting 90 days was correct in terms of handling pain. I threw away the paperwork from the transplant visit. The Powerpoint slides, the doctors’ phone numbers, the appointment schedule. I didn’t cry. I went through all the sympathy cards again and stacked them neatly to back to. Some of them have great messages and stories about Adam that I would like to revisit.
I have a lot more to do. But it felt good to start.
Three months. Erin was right when she said it feels like a year ago and then it feels like yesterday. It’s both.
Also, as Oscar season approaches, Moonlight is still the best movie of the year. Go see it.
So I wrote this emotional Facebook post on the death-versary of the loss of my dad. I was determined. I was stalwart. I was going to LIVE. Yessirree Bob, I sure was. But that evil piece of shit Mr. Grief was right there, just like Patton Oswalt said. Just when you think you see a spot of light, that greedy bastard attacks.
I tried to watch a movie. It was bad. I went to bed and started thinking about pain and death. I did some Googling on “why do people try and keep others from killing themselves?” Mostly, I just found selfish reasons. It seems you keep others from killing themselves so YOU don’t have to feel pain and guilt. It doesn’t matter that “I” have to keep feeling that way as long as YOU don’t have to feel that way.
I texted Brenna and asked her the question. I think she responded something like… “um, Okaaaaaay, first I have to ask, are you thinking of committing suicide?”
Me: “Not tonight. I don’t want to let Mike down.”
Brenna: “Am I going to have to ask Mike to host a tournament every weekend from now on?”
That was funny (Mike is Brenna’s husband, the hockey coach at school. I volunteer for his games because he has my great respect. Can’t let him down by doing something like killing myself.).
Anyway. That’s how grief goes. You want me to live even though 75% of the time I’m in unbearable pain. Even when you think I look happy, I’m probably not. Doesn’t that seem unfair to me, to have this pressure to live along with the grief?
But I had a long dream about Adam anyway last night, which doesn’t happen very much. I had to wait through two games before writing it down.
Adam returned in this dream. He had been in the morgue for a few days and suddenly woke up; he was still sick but his organs were all working. I couldn’t believe it, because I had his ashes on my fireplace. I went to the morgue and it turned out there was a mix-up. They had this other lady to cremate and send her ashes to Mexico, and they put those in my urn thinking it was done. Adam wasn’t cremated and thus he had time to recover.
We were back at Anschutz Hospital in Denver. Adam wasn’t feeling well because they had embalmed him and all, so his stomach hurt a little, and he was hungry as usual. We were in the ER waiting room, and I had his backpack. He pulled a giant iguana out of it. I said, “why didn’t you tell me you had an iguana in your backpack? He could have starved in there.”
Adam had come back from the dead and survived a major bleed. The doctors asked him “What can’t you do?” He was still confused because he had embalming fluid in his ears, and all he could say was “not drink tequila.” The doctors told me they weren’t convinced.
But then I was given the opportunity to make my case as to why Adam should be on the transplant list. The opportunity I wasn’t allowed officially before, because after all, I’m just the wife, what would I know or understand? I spoke passionately for five minutes. The doctors were impressed. They believed me when I said Adam was on the right path. They were amazed he had such a will to live to survive in the morgue; that his heart just kept beating.
He was on the road to the transplant. And then I held him before he was wheeled away. I asked “Is it OK, Adam, for me to go on? Now that you have already died once I think we should talk about this.”
He laughed at me and mumbled like he did in real life “We’re going to be OK, honey. But of course.”
He was wheeled away. My alarm went off.
I suppose it’s obvious with what I am wrestling with. What do I do now in life?
Sometimes I still think I can’t do it. Despite the moments of tempered joy, I am still so full of despair that I just want to go away. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. It’s too hard, to think I am here and Adam is gone.
A friend shared a sweet story about Adam today (you know who you are), and I was so glad to hear a new story, to hear that someone else loved him, about how kind and sweet he was. And still it broke my heart again that he is gone. The gentle one. The sweet one. No one has ever used those words for me (look, I know what I’m not), and it seems unfair.
I keep replaying that quote from The Thorn Birds series in my head (because that miniseries was awesome): “(Your god) gathers in the good ones and leaves the living to those of us who fail.”
This is how it feels.
I can’t stand the lack of compassion I see in this country anymore. The lack of compassion that judges Adam. That I feel I have to defend him. The whole lens of how I view the world has focused more tightly on this one element of compassion.
Today was Unity Day at school. My favorite day. In 10 years I have learned more about different cultures and ways of life than I thought possible. Some are fun… today there was tap dancing, Ultimate Frisbee and ski culture. But there is always more. Discussions on LGBTQ issues, on race relations, Jewish traditions, Muslim traditions, the gorgeous Holi Festival of Color.
And my friend, my beautiful friend, who stood up to speak in her own workshop titled “I Fell in Love with an Immigrant.” She moved many to tears as she talked about the prejudice and bias she and her husband experienced because of his legal status in America. The lack of compassion others had for their situation, the general lack of compassi
on in general. This is one of the many friends who have been there for me during my pain.
Adam didn’t know many people at school well; he was always on the outskirts by choice, but he loved the place that made me happy. And he often talked about Frankie…more than once when I invited him to a party he asked “Do you think that guy Frankie will be there?”
Because Frankie and Missie are people; beautiful, beautiful people, and like Adam, they don’t deserve judgment.
And I get tired of it all, tired because I don’t have Adam to talk to anymore. Tired because I have to face all of this alone. I am so crushed by all of this, and sometimes the only reason to go on is because I need to accept this burden, as I don’t want to put it on other people. I’m just not that cruel, I guess. I’m so very tired.
You probably don’t understand. It’s trainspotting.
I had a lot of thoughts about blog posts for tonight. This has been a long week as I try to rebuild my life and
Nothing in my life has changed except there is one less person to help me. I am far from being the only person managing life on her own. There are millions of singletons, whether they have chosen to be single, are divorced or widowed, or whatever. Some of them have to manage their lives with kids.
I get it. I’m not asking for sympathy. I’m just trying to adjust to a “new normal.” That term really is meaningful, if cliche. I have to learn how to live alone and handle everything while also being in significant grief. I try to get things done and then am sidetracked by an ugly crying fit (oh, and there have been a few of those this week). Then I go work basketball or hockey to make an extra long day, and grief is so exhausting that just the normal day-to-day stuff is extra exhausting. I’m always tired and I still can’t go to bed early.
Tonight, though, I am just experiencing anger.
I am angry at Adam for leaving me.
I’m angry that the whole world can’t figure out how to deal with addiction and help people.
I’m angry that the world seems to have lost compassion in general.
I’m angry that I have to find paperwork to get anything done.
I’m angry that I need to sort through this paperwork and it would be helpful if I threw some away, but I can’t seem to throw them away. So the piles get bigger.
I’m angry I allowed him to do things that I knew nothing about. For instance, I’ve never bought a fucking cell phone. I don’t know anything about our plans. I don’t know how to use the FoodSaver.
I’m angry he didn’t write down all his 401K and stock information.
I’m angry I have had to search and search for paperwork for his business so I can access our money because he put OUR money in HIS business account.
I’m angry that it’s like no one has ever died because businesses are inept.
I’m angry he can’t help me take Bixby to the vet because Bixby is so protective of me there. It was better when Adam did it.
I’m angry he’s making me start over in life. He promised me he wouldn’t leave.
I’m angry I’ll never ever be the same person. I’ll never be 100% again. I can hope for 90%. That’s a shitty way to look at the next 40 years.
I’m angry that I keep saying “it’s not fair” like I’m a 5-year-old.
I’m angry I have to keep so much inside now.
I’m angry I have no passion for anything anymore.
I’m angry I have a cold and have to make my own chicken broth. And, I can’t really whine to anyone that I’m sick.
I’m just angry. Angry and sad.
But pitchers and catchers report in less than a month. So that’s something. I guess.
Well, I definitely get that whole thing about grief coming in waves now.
I thought I was on a good trajectory, but man did this week hit me hard. Many people asked what triggered it, but there isn’t a trigger; it just is. I had trouble getting out of bed again; I had breakdowns at work; I had to fight through crying through a basketball game I was working (and it wasn’t even a bad game!). I wanted friends to come to help me clean up; instead all I could manage was fried food and changing the bedsheets.
Maybe it’s because I’m having new realizations all the time. Among these revelations:
I realized while leaving work that my car was just about out of gas (one of the many things I don’t notice anymore). I thought about waiting to get home so I could go to King Sooper for the discount. Then, I realized I don’t shop anymore; I don’t have double points from Adam’s prescriptions. I can get gas anywhere I want for the same price. So, I went to Diamond Shamrock.
I never have to buy cabernet sauvignon if I don’t want to anymore.
All shows being recorded on the DVR are his. I just delete them, but I haven’t got the heart to cancel the series recordings (you know, in case he comes back and is pissed that I deleted every episode of every mediocre SyFy show).
I joined a closed Facebook group for the upcoming Star Wars Celebration. I wanted to see if it would help me make a decision on what to do with my four-day passes which have sold out (sell both? go alone and sell the other? find someone who loves Star Wars I could tolerate for four days?). All the group does is make me sad. Adam and I had the massive convention game down to a science. We bought a few items only and knew what was worth waiting in line for (and getting there when the doors open ain’t one of them).
I had to hire a dog walker in advance for those 12-hour days. I had relied on Adam.
I can now choose to watch horror movies 24/7, but I’ve sadly lost my taste for them now.
I think I can’t go to the grocery store anymore. I cry every single fucking time. This is no joke. Everything reminds me of Adam. King Sooper delivers, though, and it’s not like I need a lot. I could eat at school for every meal if I wanted to.
I think a lot about this Patton Oswalt quote: “Grief is an attack on life. It’s not a seducer. It’s an ambush or worse. It stands right out there and says: ‘The minute you try something, I’m waiting for you.’”
I went to a presentation today from a guy who focused on resilience. I’m sure it was great for the kids, still struggling with how to bounce back from poor grades, relationship breakups, not getting into their chosen college. I just wanted to laugh, and say to the guy “you asshole, until you lose a spouse, fuck your resilience advice. You have no fucking clue.”
For the last week, every time I go to the Gazette’s home page on my phone, I have seen the headline that says something like “Important People Colorado Springs Lost in 2016.”
I haven’t clicked on this post. After all, Adam isn’t on this list. But for me, he is the most important person that should be on this list. Of course, I get that he’s not on the list, but I get irritated just the same.
Many of you know how talented he was as a graphic designer. Maybe you hired him. You can see a lot of his work on his website, which is still live: gasgiantdesign.com. For the last three years, his top priority was updating this site, but he never got around to it.
Adam and I met because of graphic design. He worked at Gowdy Printcraft in town as a prepress operator with his friend Steve. He would do these wild designs for some of our Air Force Academy posters, and the guys and I would laugh and say “what was he smokin’?” Of course, I loved them because they were absolutely out of the norm for the academy.
When I left Air Force for U.S. Figure Skating, I brought Gowdy with me, and he worked magic on media guide covers. Eventually, it became clear to my co-workers that I was always “volunteering” to drop stuff off at Gowdy’s. I remember Dave distinctly pushing his chair back in his cubicle to look at me and say “Does this guy know you’re stalking him?”
When we started dating, I was probably one of the only people ever to religiously sign the conflict of interest form at figure skating every year. Adam moved on to work for a web design company and helped design an early version of the U.S. Figure Skating website. Later, when he decided to freelance, Amy Partain hired him to design SKATING magazine. Amy and I both loved his clean, white-space design. He won a Colorado Springs ADDY Award for his Marshall’s SkateFest poster, designed the logo for the Four Continents Championships, and created some beautiful layouts in the magazine.
He left freelancing to be the graphic designer at the USOC. In many ways, I look at the USOC job as the pivotal moment in his life. He loved the job, loved the people he worked with, and getting the chance to be in Beijing for 2008 and designing USA House was truly his proudest moment in life (after marrying me, right?).
But working for the USOC also had a dark side for him (doesn’t Olympic land have a dark side for all of us who have worked there?). He was hired by a guy who wanted Adam’s type of creativity and style, but I think his boss left in less than a year to take a major job overseas. His next boss was a “sweater vest” guy, and I don’t think he and Adam (and then a subsequent boss) ever clicked. For the first time in our life together, Adam developed sometimes debilitating anxiety from that job. He loved it; he hated it. And when he was part of the massive USOC layoffs in 2009, he was devastated, and his confidence was shattered.
Over the next eight years of his life, he ran Gas Giant Design and also taught at Pikes Peak Community College. He was overwhelmed with his first teaching job … unprepared and frazzled. But he was a natural teacher and grew to love working with students.
Side note: The original name of his company was Designature Graphics. He changed it to Gas Giant Design in honor of my dad, the “rocket scientist at JPL.” Adam learned a lot from my dad and grew to love the spacecrafts Dad worked on, learning all about them. So Gas Giant Design was sort of named after the Voyager, Galileo and Cassini crafts, but I always teased him that people would think his company name was about farts. He would just smirk at me with the look that said “maybe I named it after you.” True love that is.
Adam was my go-to design and computer expert. U.S. Figure Skating and FVS benefited from his expertise, often getting hours of free design work and problem solving. He wanted to help me when he could. He’s the one who found the answer to compress the photos on the fvs.edu homepage so they loaded quickly; he built most of the banners on the site.
His last project was for FVS. I am proud to say he is the one who put together two of the “All In” videos last year. Sure, our office had the idea and did the filming, but he spent hours lightening and adjusting the videos, editing sound, working with music and graphics. These videos were a huge success, and he was a big part of it.
Adam’s designs have been seen in athletic venues across the country (and the world if you count China!), he has helped bring in Annual Fund dollars for FVS … a school he loved because I loved it. If you follow U.S. Olympic sports, you probably have seen his designs in your lifetime, and you didn’t even know it. You might have the team pin or memory book he designed. He created Sky Sox media guides, worked on the military papers, and so much more.
I’m not sure he ever had the confidence in his abilities that he should have had. He was amazing. His Photoshop and Illustrator skills were second to none, and I have never, ever worked with a graphic designer with more attention to detail. He could mask anything!
He is a great loss to the Colorado Springs community. He had so much more to give.
At 1:45 a.m. exactly I woke up suddenly last night. There’s no particularly meaning to 1:45 a.m. It’s not like it was 3:15 in the Amityville Horror. But it was kind of horrific.
You see, I was awakened by sirens, but more disturbing, the chugging sound of a fire truck and paramedics heading up the hill. At first, I had that “where am I and who am I” feeling we get when awakened out of a deep sleep. Then my first thought was “Adam, where is he? Is he OK? They’re here for him, finally. It will be OK now.”
I thought maybe, just maybe, this trauma had passed. After all, it’s been more than two months since the last time the paramedics came to our door. It’s stupid, I know. Two months is hardly any time at all. So I was awake, reliving every moment of both 911 calls.
After the first 911 call, I was so relieved and thankful that the system worked the way it did. Adam had a seizure. For a long time, I couldn’t get the sound of the “seizure breath exhalation scream” out of my head. It mostly has faded now unless I think too hard. I remember the woman on the phone, how incredible she was to calm me down and make sure I was doing the right thing. He was out of the seizure by the time the paramedics arrived.
I was so stupid then. I knew it was a withdrawal seizure; I had stayed home that day from work because I had caught him drinking the day before. For the first time in my life I felt like I had handled it correctly. He was scared I would leave him. I held him and told him it was OK; we would work through it and keep trying. But he was fragile, and I wanted to stay with him that day so we could talk about next steps.
I thought it was just the first step on a withdrawal process again. That’s it. I thought “damn, I haven’t showered today and these firefighters in my house are hot.” Because I’m still 16.
I got Adam to agree to go to the hospital. As he was being packed in to the ambulance, our neighbor came out. I just gushed out, “Adam is an alcoholic. He had a withdrawal seizure.” I’ve never even gone over there to tell them he’s dead now. They were always so nice to our dogs; so patient with our lack of yard work. I think they had a son who was figure skater, so we had a connection. I should tell them. I can’t. I don’t want to cry like that.
I called Kathy to pick me up because I didn’t think I could drive. At the hospital, the ER doctor said “Why are you here? We have people who have seizures all the time and don’t come to the hospital.” I wanted to say “fuck you, asshole, if it was your wife, what would you do?”
The second and third times he went to the ER I didn’t call 911, and just took him in. Let me tell you this … call. Use the ambulance and the fast track into the doctor. It’s less stressful than seeing your husband collapse at the ER door.
The fourth time was in October. I couldn’t wake him up. When I did, he only talked to me in gibberish. I knew it was a severe H.E. episode. I didn’t know what to do. Give him his meds and wait it out? No, I called 911.
I had to leave him in bed to open the door when I heard the lumbering sound of the trucks. Suddenly, there were five people in my bedroom with clothes and bras strewn across the floor. Watching them go through the motions with Adam. Later, he told me it was so frustrating. He understood what was being asked and responded, and couldn’t get it when we didn’t understand.
Words again jumbled out as I spoke to a female paramedic. “We have end stage liver disease (yes, I used ‘we’), this is hepatic encephalopathy. I know it is. We’re going to be evaluated for a transplant next week. It’s going to be OK. This happens. This is normal. But I didn’t know if I should give him his medicine or he should go to the hospital.”
This woman knew what questions to ask me. She had some familiarity. I wish I knew who she was to say thank you.
Is this what PTSD is? To have a sound send you spiraling back downward?
I think everyone thinks I’m better now. I engage more. I argue at work. I laugh every once in awhile. I tell morbid jokes (which is the right of every widow). But it’s not that I’m better. I have “better” moments. I have “better” days. I made breakfast this morning. I am going to try to clean the house again today. No, really. At least I’m thinking about it. The Bix and I will go get cold and muddy at the park.
I have never been lonely in my entire life until now. I have certainly been alone but never lonely, but I sort of get loneliness now. I lived with Adam for 14 years. We spent lots of time apart because we had our own lives, but in the end, we were always there for each other. God, I hate saying I’m lonely. I feel so fucking pathetic. The one thing I never have been.
But what are you supposed to do when the worst things happens, and the person you always talk to about the worst things actually was the worst thing that happened. Try that on for a brilliant sentence, eh.