“Cuz You’re Strong AF.”

memorial

This wasn’t exactly what I expected today.

But as I know, and you know, life will hand you an experience whether you want it or not.

I went back to Memorial Hospital today.

All of Adam’s hospitalizations, save the final one at Anschutz in Denver, were there. I knew every inch of that hospital: where the snacks were, what the cafeteria hours were, the restroom locations. I even had a filled punch card from the coffee shop. They knew me. They knew my drink.

I had no plans to return.

But when a friend texted, there was no hesitation. “I am free,” I said. Two of us were free, and we headed to be with her … and for me, it was an unknown experience to be on the other side of the fence, to be with a woman whose husband was tucked into a hospital bed suddenly and with little warning.

My own anxiety started while turning on to Boulder from Wahsatch. So many times I made that turn. Once it was in a panic with Adam at 3 a.m., sure he was going to die right there in my car.

The tears and shortness of breath came in the parking garage, and I kept crying trying to ask directions to a room; directions I couldn’t listen to.

So I got lost in a place I knew so well. I knew exactly where I was, but with nowhere to go.

The doctor was in the room when I found it, so I waited outside. When the nurse asked me if I needed anything, I told him I was waiting to go in. He had already heard my friends talking. I was the one with the deathversary. Here they are, with someone else in the hospital bed, and they were worried about me.

They knew this trip would cause me anxiety, more so on this particular weekend. I am still stunned by their caring: they were worried about ME! “I’ll be OK,” I said. “I know,” my friend texted. “Cuz you’re strong af.”

But there really wasn’t a hesitation. I would be there. These are my friends. These are the people who have been there for me since 1999.

The familiarity of the situation was disconcerting. Every sound is a trigger, every test result, every movement by a staff member. The yellow gown he wore for fall risk. The yellow gown that looked better on him because it didn’t match a jaundiced face.

About 8, I said I was going to the bathroom. I did go, but first I had to do something.

I took the central elevators to the fifth floor. I walked down the endless hallway toward the renal unit. I stopped at the bathroom I cried in many times. I paused by the set of chairs in the lobby, the set of chairs where I cried and asked Kathy, “if he dies, will I be OK?” “Of course you will,” she said “you are you. But I gotta tell you your breath is really bad right now.”

I smiled at that memory. I knew each of “his” rooms as I walked along the quiet corridor. There were three of them in all. I remember where I was when the nurse said his creatinine levels had dropped, and I nearly collapsed in relief. I remember the lounge at the end of the hall I slept in. The microwave I heated up my coffee in. The ice machine where I refilled his cup over and over.

Just one pass. That’s all I needed. It was ghostly. It was haunted.

But I was OK.

I didn’t want to make the visit about me, but for five minutes I did. Back in the room, we shared funny stories about Adam and his hospital stays, and how my friends were so supportive.

I got to hear the pumpkin cookie story again.

I know this situation is going to have a better outcome. My friend’s husband is safe and well-cared for now. She will sleep fitfully on the couch beside him. We will return to visit in the morning.

Because life doesn’t go as planned.

Take it as it comes.

 

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

Adam
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.

I’m Your Greatest Fear

2925002761_58af132e11_b
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.

20798985_10155588733089197_5011161261822445249_n
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.

 

I’m Going to Put on Makeup Now

Kamakura, Japan.
I want this face again. The face of “I’m holding both ice creams and I’m in Japan with the man I love.” Where is that?

If you have followed me in this blog over the last eight months, or if you just know me, you know the one thing I do is tell you what I think. Nobody expects to get too much sugar-coated bullshit from me. Can I bullshit with a sweet smile when I need to? Hell yes. But I won’t do it if you are my friend.

So here goes. I’m going to share my thoughts here and they will probably piss you off, but they are mine, and I need to share.

The suicides of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington have affected me, but not in the way you are thinking. I don’t know their music. I am not feeling the loss of their talent the way many of you are.

What is affecting me is the aftermath of their suicides and the way we talk about it. I want to start right here by saying that I absolutely know nothing about their struggles and lives and reasons (as I said, I don’t even know their music). Here, I only talk about myself.

I have suffered from depression. I remember in a way “coming out” in the early 2000s to my family and friends by telling them about my diagnosis. Many were not surprised. Many could see a pattern in my life that might have shown I was always functioning a little “off” or “below the normal.” But when major depression hit, out of the blue, when I had so much going for me, that was different.

It was hard. I nearly lost Adam. He stuck with me. I combined drugs and therapy and made it through to the other side. But in all that time, I was never once suicidal. Ever. I was immobilized by depression, able to work like I always did, but paralyzed by the rest of my life. I still had no idea why people would kill themselves.

And then Adam died.

I don’t know what depression is like for others. All I know is that for me, the major depression I suffered years ago is a soft roller to shortstop. Grief is the line drive to your body in The Drill (shout out to my CP pitchers). And you miss the line drive. You miss the out to first. And everyone is telling you to get back up for the next one. You get up. But you are never as good again.

I know what it is like to contemplate suicide. I know what it’s like to be on the edge. Without many of you, who reached out with texts and calls and coffee, I would be gone.

I’m not saying I’m happy about it. I still often want to just die. It’s a lingering feeling you have with this kind of grief. It comes with exhaustion about living. It’s more than the exhaustion of trying to put everything into my job, take care of the animals and the house, still keep my friends… that is exhausting, but everyone has that. It’s just a feeling of a lack of purpose to all of it now. That I’m going through the motions of life. With Adam alive, everything I did had a purpose. It was to get home at night and be with him. It was planning our future, seeing our future with everything we did.

So living now is exhausting. Living will be exhausting until I find some sort of passion again. If I can.

And this has only been eight months for me. Not years.

With all this, I have a rationality about me that keeps me sane. My mother is my safe haven now. But my father was the one I think who taught me to just look at life with the level-headed common sense of an engineer (if only I had gotten his sense of spatial orientation). This rationality allows me to believe that it might not always feel like this.

But not everyone has this. More importantly, not everyone will have it. Ever.

A friend told me “you would not be a candidate to answer the suicide hotline” right now.

This is true. Because I couldn’t talk any developed adult out of it. (Note: none of what follows applies to young people who aren’t adults with fully developed brains. I would wear myself out talking them out of suicide.)

In my darkest days, I asked my friends “Why are you stopping me from killing myself?” Because to me, their decision to keep me alive only appeared selfish. You don’t want me to die because YOU WILL FEEL BAD. You will feel like I do. So instead you say “It will get better, don’t kill yourself.”

But you don’t know that. What you do know is that you don’t want to feel like I do. You want to go back home to the people you love and forget about the pain someone else is in because it’s too hard. This is normal.

Who is selfish then? The person who dies by suicide? Or those of you who fight so hard to keep us alive and suffering?

The time to help others contemplating suicide is not after a celebrity kills himself. The way to help others is not by telling us “it will get better.”

It’s not better, guys. You only get used to carrying the pain around.

I’d like to say I can’t imagine what these musicians were feeling. But I can. Because if the first few months of how I felt after Adam died is the way some people ALWAYS feel, then I can imagine.

I’d like to say the answer is just keeping being a friend. Keep remembering your friend is in pain. But that’s not always going to work. Sometimes, you just can’t stop it. Sometimes, you just don’t know.

Adam slowly killed himself. I could not stop it. I know that. But I will always feel a guilt that I should have been able to do something. We want to be the savior.

Sometimes you can’t be.

I would be remiss if I did not add this: If you are contemplating suicide, there are people to talk to. I’m not a professional. I’m just dealing with this shit. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Call me and we’ll find a professional together. If this sounds like the antithesis of what I just wrote, it’s because, shit people, life sucks. Let’s try to figure out a way to make it work.