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