Here is another nasty secret I am here to share with you. Life is measured in paperwork. Paperwork spills out all your secrets, all that you have loved, hoped and dreamed. It’s all there in crinkled, musty receipts, and notices and letters. Paperwork is memory. Paperwork is painful.
But here I am, once again elbow deep in my previous life. Because it’s not my life anymore. My life only includes memories of those times … purchases, laughter, headaches.
I break through the piles one by one. The shred pile, the recycle pile, the “I’m not sure if I need to keep it” pile, and the worst of all… the “I’m not sure I can part with it” pile.
This pile contains dumb things sometimes. A bit of paperwork with his writing on it. A doodle on the corner of an overdue payment notice. Or my name in his handwriting.
I am in the conundrum pile. I don’t want to go through these piles alone, but I also don’t want any help. I don’t want help because you won’t understand the last pile. Maybe I’m a hoarder now. A hoarder of the last remaining bits of my husband.
Hi. I’m back. You miss me? You should because I’m awesome. Being awesome doesn’t help grief, though. So why bother, you know? Here is a picture of Murry. Because kittens go with hard truths. I have shit to say.
It’s June, so I’ve been seeing a lot of anniversary posts. June brides and all. I’m happy for you (if I like you). If you are just on my Facebook page because I haven’t deleted you yet and you are celebrating your anniversary, then fuck you because I hate you and why do you get to be happy?
Kidding. Sort of.
I’ve seen a lot of variations of the following in these posts: “I can’t imagine living without you.”
I am a snowflake, so this triggers me. I’m actually not sure if Adam and I ever said that to one another. As I’ve said before, we didn’t like the term “soulmate” or that shit, and basically, if you use the term soulmate in the sense that there is ONE PERSON for everyone I want you to go fall off a cliff because you know what you are saying to ME? You are saying “Sorry, Laura, you got fucked, but your life is over and you had your chance and it just didn’t work out with your ‘soulmate.’ Sorry about that, short end of the stick and all.” Seriously, people, rethink this nonsense about one true soulmate. It makes you look cruel. Oh wait, maybe it’s because Adam wasn’t my soulmate, is that what you are saying? Well, that cliff is still waiting for you.
I’m off topic. Sort of. You “can’t imagine your life without that person,” eh? Well, luckily, and I mean luckily, the brain is amazing and you have the luxury of NEVER thinking about it. It’s easy. If we thought about it too much, we would go crazy. But I’ve got news for you.
In the absence of catastrophe when you go down together on the Lusitania, it’s going to happen. YOU WILL HAVE TO LIVE YOUR LIFE WITHOUT THAT OTHER PERSON FOR SOME AMOUNT OF TIME. It is inevitable. Listen to me. It’s going to happen.
Be prepared. I keep talking to people, and it’s not making a difference. Couples still tell me they haven’t made out their wills, or checked their beneficiaries, or discussed what the other person wants when they die, or looked at life insurance.
I just learned that Adam didn’t list any beneficiaries on his Colorado PERA account for his time teaching at PPCC. Now, in my case, it’s going to be easy to get that money, as there’s no will to contest and I have the small estate affidavit. But seriously, Adam, we had been together for 11 years and you were too lazy to write my name down? Why, you ask? Because “we couldn’t imagine one of us not being there.” Who the fuck needs beneficiaries, because no one will die, right?
You know who didn’t think like that? My dad. Because of that, my mom is set, and things were much easier for her. Dad, thank you for being an amazing husband and father.
If you have not done this for your spouse or children and made sure everything is in order, I am judging you. Do you understand? I AM JUDGING YOU. Be a better person.
Adam didn’t have life insurance. We didn’t think we needed it because we didn’t have kids. You know, that advice is sometimes given to people without kids? Well, let me tell you, had he had life insurance, my options in dealing with grief and bereavement would have been so much better. Instead, I had to go through endless, mindless days at work to collect a paycheck when I was in hell.
I have previously said that over the last four months, my life has pretty much been exactly the same: except for this giant gaping hole-in my heart, on the red chair, in the kitchen, in his office, in the bed-where Adam used to be.
But, I’m not sure it’s really true. Because I am in “opposite land.” I’m sure that just means I’m grieving.
I used to be content being home with Adam, watching TV, cooking, laughing at things on the computer, playing with the Bix (or before that, Bailey, Meka, Chance, Patches). We turned down invitations to do things just to be with each other. Now, I accept almost every invitation (almost).
I can’t remember if that’s the way it used to be before Adam first got sick in 2011. I think we were out all the time, but the stress of his disease and his mental health perhaps created a shell around us. We protected ourselves and made choices to protect him. Ultimately, it failed. But maybe it gave him more time. Maybe it gave US more time.
I drink more than I should now. I’m spending more than I should. I have more free time than I ever had, and I can’t get the things done I should. You’re probably thinking “oh, but that’s everyone.” But it wasn’t me. I know what I should be doing: I should be going through the paperwork for taxes. Instead I’m watching a bad horror movie, eating shitty food and thinking about drinking. Damn, I haven’t even brushed my teeth.
This may be your idea of Saturday, but it isn’t mine. But I’m in opposite land. Three months ago, when I did this it was out of sheer inability to process my entire existence. Now, I’ve processed that existence and I’m faced with a fear of doing shit, because doing shit just seems like another step in putting a previous life behind me.
I have to gather those medical bills, but I don’t want to be reminded of the X-rays, the ultrasounds, the blood tests, the hospitalizations, the five-minute trips to Memorial Hospital, the names of the doctors, the cafeteria food … and the hope.
I used to get on Adam about how he would never clean his bathroom. Now that’s me. Fuck the bathroom. I would rather live in filth and drink Saturday afternoon Cape Cods than get out the scrub brush. I washed my comforter a week ago, but I haven’t put it back on the bed. Putting the duvet cover back on by myself, without Adam helping, just is fucking overwhelming. Still. I mean, four months later. Pathetic.
I realize I have to just start doing these things. I get it. I can’t go running to friends and asking them to fill this hole. It seems like a lifetime since I had Adam, and it’s only been four months. I don’t know which is worse.
I’ve been a lot of things in my life, but I’ve never been pathetic. That’s how I view myself now even when I put on clothes besides the black jeans, curl my hair, do my job.
In 1999, on a rainy April Friday afternoon, I packed up my things to leave my cubicle at U.S. Figure Skating. I had been working there for a little more than a month; just three days earlier I had celebrated my 30th birthday, and my new co-workers (who are my friends to this day), plastered my office with “30 things of 30” to show how old I was getting. This included 30 Q-tips because I would need to clean my ears more as I got older.
I jumped in my 1997 Geo Prizm and headed to Denver for the weekend. I had no one to be accountable to. I had yet to retain ownership of Patches, the 11-year-old cat who would become my buddy, and I was still slightly melancholy after being dumped about seven months earlier (lame, I know, seven months for a 2.5 year relationship).
I was on my way to Wings Over the Rockies Museum for the first-ever Star Wars Celebration. Although in its infancy, the celebration was still glorious. We had serious rain; it was a mud pile with wooden planks, not unlike the village in the move “The Piano” (without a naked Harvey Keitel). There were giant tents holding vendor areas and the panels. We saw the premiere of the Duel of the Fates video, excited about the scenes and music from the yet-to-be-released Phantom Menace (we didn’t know…). Ray Park made an appearance and did his Darth Maul stunt demonstration. Anthony Daniels was the host. I posed in front of a life-size Jabba the Hutt, played video games, took photos with a REAL camera because we had no phones or social media. I ordered takeout and stayed in a hotel renting science fiction movies.
It was perfect.
Six months later, Adam and I started dating, and from then, I was no longer “solo” at Celebrations. We attended every one from then on except Celebration II in 2002. In 2005, we chose our wedding date based on when Celebration was expected to be held.
It’s possible that 2005 (Celebration III, Adam’s first) was our favorite. The con was in Indianapolis, and to save money we rented a hotel room on the outskirts. It was completely gross and had bullet holes in the walls, so we checked out, splurged and found expensive rooms right across from the convention center. It was worth it. One night, we met some random guy in a speakeasy type of place, and we walked the streets to dinner with him. We were terribly drunk, the guy fell in love with Adam, and we even invited him to our wedding. Of course, we never saw him again.
At Celebration IV in Los Angeles, we bought the Tsuneo Sanda poster that became our autograph poster. We participated in our first Bounty Hunt, winning a prize as Geeks Who Drink, because we were WAY into quiz back then. We stayed at the Bonaventure Hotel, the iconic landmark in downtown L.A., and spent two days at my parents’ home to save money.
Celebrations V and VI were in Orlando, where we started a taxi war, found a great drag show, went on the Last Tour to Endor at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It was so hot at night we would sit in concession areas just for the A/C.
At one of these events, we renewed our vows with the greatest Star Wars fan ever, Steve Sansweet. We spent time with Margie, waited hours for Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher autographs, and always spent time in Cocoa Beach.
Celebration VII was in Anaheim, coincidentally a few minutes from where my mom was doing rehab for a broken hip. This was 2015, and the cracks in Adam were beginning to show. He had just quit a miserable job and was dealing with low self-esteem. He was struggling trying to limit alcohol. But it was amazing. We arose early early one morning to wait in line for The Force Awakens event, and we cried when we saw the trailer with “Chewie, we’re home.” We gave a commemorative poster to a guy on the shuttle who could only go for one day and couldn’t believe there was anything this amazing. We bought ONE random souvenir (by then we were experts at what to wait in line for and what not to waste our money on).
In all those times, we met our Star Wars heroes, from Captain (Admiral) Piett, to young Boba Fett, to R2D2 and even Major Derlin (John Ratzenberger from Cheers). We struck up a conversation with one of the droid builders behind BB-8.
In April 2016, I purchased passes for Celebration VIII, back in Orlando again. I reserved a room. Because, of course we were going.
As he grew sicker and transplant was on the horizon, I told Adam that we were probably going to miss it. He said “why?” I said, “Well, you will have a new liver and we will need to be focusing on your health.”
“Wine is like people. The vine takes all the influences in life all around it. It absorbs them and it gets its personality.” ~ French Kiss
Adam grudgingly admitted he liked this movie, and this scene, with Kevin Kline describing wine to Meg Ryan, was his favorite. Of course, my favorite parts were all Meg Ryan, like “The mucus is here…lactose intolllerrrannnnttt!” and “OUI!” But Adam liked the wine description.
French Kiss is the first thing I found today on Super Bowl Sunday. Today, the day after I realized searching for duct tape made me cry. You see, I looked for duct tape because Bixby (who obviously NEVER GETS FED) has found a way to open Rogue’s food container. So I looked for duct tape to close it, but the first place I looked was Adam’s office. His office, his closet and his dresser are the three “shrines.” Not shrines, just untouchable areas I won’t go into yet.
The office is full of stuff I have been begging Adam to get rid of for years. Now, of course, they are memories. Not important memories, actually, just remembrances that he was alive. This is the fear—that I will forget him if I throw away 12 books of paper samples, work samples from a job he hated, shirts he hadn’t worn in six years that he never would again. I never said grief made sense.
Fucking duct tape.
“Oh beautiful, gorgeous, wish you were here!” Meg Ryan is awesome in this movie. Hey, I went to France with Adam! Best part was the catacombs and me saying through the long tunnel walk “There are going to be catacombs on this catacomb tour, right?” Movie line. Adam took a picture that actually got picked up by a travel site!
Ok, that wasn’t the best part, but it was pretty damn good. Adam and I could vacation together, and we were good at it. In France, Germany, Belgium or Japan, we knew how to combine sleeping, eating, drinking, hitting the tourist attractions, and then walking miles (including accidentally into someone’s personal yard) searching for the elusive Ninja Temple in Kanazawa.
We were lucky to have that … the same type of tourism mindset. We would often pick one or two things we “had” to do, then spend the rest of the time in a pub, outdoor cafe, or just strolling side streets aimlessly.
My latest thing was England. I have never been, and I told him when he got his transplant, our next vacation was England. Dammit. Now I’m going by myself.
This was the first thing that had me completely at a loss. Could not figure out why/how I couldn’t access our emails suddenly. I was up till 3 a.m. calling all sorts of 24/7 help lines. Today, a wonderful woman named Christine at Insider Hosting spent an enormous amount of time tracking things down for me. I have access again. I know what to do in the future (I think).
This was horrifying. I kept thinking “I’ll just ask Adam and he will help.” Then it would hit me he couldn’t help and I panicked. Hysteria. Thank you all who offered advice. I feel like this was my first real accomplishment. But it made me want to die all over again. I just am so lost. What do I do with Adam’s business website? How do I save the files? What do I save? What do I delete? This horror is too much to bear. I hate this life.
But thank you to the people who have reached out. Those who have sent food or gift cards or gotten me to eat: Andy N., Mickey and Robyn, Andy G., Amy, Kelly, Christine and Dave, Mark, Dan, Hollie, Lisa, Molly and Angus, Steve, Laurie, Jen, the Coffee Club, Brenna… who I am forgetting? Amy texts me to remind me to take my meds. I have received every card and read every txt and email, listened to every voicemail. The energy to respond is too much.
I feel like I’m becoming every woman I didn’t want to be. Feeling hopeless and sad and empty. I didn’t want to be broken. I wanted to be strong. I want to tell Adam’s story. I want to help others in addiction. I don’t know who I am anymore.
And I thought the Bix just stayed on the bed with me for 12 hours.
Nope, left two boxed chicken wings in reach and found the box on the living room floor. Bix knew he did something “bad” and was scared. I was just scared he was OK. I mean, those bones could kill him and that sauce could give him the runs. I told him it was OK. Probably not the best idea in dog training but it was MY fault for leaving them in reach, right?
He seems fine.
Today, it’s early episodes of Law & Order! Yay the Ben Stone era!
I thought getting out last night would help today. Nope. Didn’t get out of bed till noon. I did fall asleep at midnight which was good.
That fucking movie last night: Arrival. It was good, but spoilers here. Don’t read if it bothers you.
So much of the point was “If you knew the future, would you still do everything the same, even if there was pain?”
Last night the answer for me was yes. Of course, if I knew what the end would be I would still do it all over with Adam. But in my sadness moment today I thought “no. Fuck that.” That is how hard this grief is. I didn’t mean that of course. My 17 years with Adam were awesome. We had some hard times, but we stuck together. I don’t know who originally said it … but the first time I heard it was from Ossie Davis about his wife Ruby Dee. But this was what I said to Adam all the time in some form:
“Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”
Further reading now says it came from a French novelist named Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
That’s the way I felt. I always felt life was often full of some shitty things (though all those shitty things seem trivial now), and marriage was about having someone to deal with it all of it together. The person you could share thoughts and jokes with that you wouldn’t share with anyone. The person you could do with this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEh3IxROChU.
Seriously, we laughed our asses off (pun intended) on that one. Hadn’t been forced to do that with each other yet, but we were like “that’s so coming someday!” I mean, how do you find THAT again? Do you even want to find that again?
Those times when you say something totally mean about someone or something in the world, and then follow it with “I’m so going to hell for that.” And your husband laughs and says “I’ll be there with you.”