I have these cats now. Well, they are kittens. Rambunctious, playful, purring, loving balls of fur. Meet Run-PMC (Purry-Murry-Curry) aka Murry, and Jyn. These are mine now. Did I want a kitty? Of course. Did I get talked into two? Yes, because Jen is convincing. And two is better. I feel less guilty about being away from them all day.
I have to keep telling Bix he’s still my number one. I’m not sure whether he wants to love them or eat them. We’ll see.
I’ve been waiting to get “my own cat” again for 12 years. When Adam and I met, I had just gotten Patches … a roly-poly beloved 9-year-old calico … and he had Chance. Patches died shortly after we got married in 2005. And Chance ruled the roost. Adam didn’t want to bring another kitty into the house. I mean, as you all know, Chance was born in a Wal-Mart battery shed, and she just didn’t like much for most of her life.
Chance warmed up to me over the years. In fact, in her last years, she spent more time sleeping on me than Adam. But Chance died, too. Because my life is fucked, and in the last three years I’ve lost Dad, Bailey, Chance and Adam.
Sometimes I think Chance didn’t want to live without Adam so she just went first.
Getting these cats is the first major decision I’ve made in 17 years that was my own. I didn’t have to discuss it with someone else first. I just did it. I’m terrified I made a mistake, that I won’t be able to love them.
Grief really is love with nowhere to go, but I feel like it has gone nowhere for so long that I don’t know how to let it out anymore. At least with something new.
Adam and I never wanted kids, but we named them in our heads anyway. I preferred Zoltan and Gar (after a dead fish we found walking in the low Platte River. I said “what’s that?” Adam said “that’s a gar.” I said “That would be a great name for a kid.” He said “Who are you?”)
He liked the name Murray. I said “Murray is an old man’s name.” But we started naming the local fox in our backyard Murray. Murray even had kits in our window well, if you remember. Murray was a bad mom, and the kits were starving, so the wildlife man came and saved them. Soon, any fox we saw was named Murray.
So I got a kitten and I named it Murray. But I’m spelling it Murry because it works with Purry and Curry. And, Jyn, well that’s after Jyn Erso, the greatest ever Star Wars hero.
Tomorrow, April 3, means it’s been five months since I lost Adam. Five months. I’ve been thinking about it, and for the most part I think it seems unreal. Not unreal in the sense that I’m denying it happened. The shock has worn off. Now, it more or less feels like I’m walking around in a life that isn’t my own. That I go through the motions of the life, no different from before, but it’s a fake life.
It’s a life that’s sort of in a holding pattern. I’ve gone from “I can’t do these things” to “I don’t want to do these things.” I don’t want to make any big changes. I don’t want to empty his suitcase. I don’t want to change up the house.
It’s like I’m standing still while the world rushes around me. I don’t want to make any plans. I don’t want to think of my future.
While walking today, an old musical song ran through my head…one that Elizabeth and I used to sing loudly together. The song, from “Chess” isn’t about death; it’s about the break-up of a relationship. But as I analyzed the song while walking the Bix, I took it as my own. With the words, for me it was that feeling of caught between two different lives and wondering how Adam would feel if I started, I don’t know, just doing things that closed the book on our chapter. The thing is, he won’t care.
I took Adam to see “Chess” once, in a small theater in Denver. It was always one of my favorites, and I know I was taking a risk by going to see it in a local theater, but it turned out OK. Adam even liked it and wished it was still around on a big stage. That was one of my theater success stories with him. We loved sharing the story of one of our first dates, which was to a show. Although he sang in musical theater in high school, beyond Les Miz, I’m not sure he actually saw all that many. After all, he WAS from small-town Nebraska.
And I was from L.A., and my parents raised my sister and I going to big shows. Dad believed in the best tickets, of course. We saw Yul Brynner in The King and I on Broadway, and back in L.A. saw lots of first-run shows, plus excellent productions from local colleges.
I took Adam to see Cats at the Pikes Peak Center in 1999; it was like our second or third date. I loved Cats (I’m not ashamed!), but this would be the seventh time I’d seen it, and damn, the show had toured so many times, I didn’t know the troupe coming through town would be that bad. There were bad dancing cats and bad singing cats.
Needless to say, I was surprised Adam still trusted me again to ever go to a musical. But I purchased tickets to shows and he went along. Sometimes, he even liked them … I have to say he saw Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for the first time at the Colorado FAC and fell in love with the show. But he HATED Oklahoma … almost as much as he hated basketball. Or vice versa.
I just went on a tangent, I know.
But if you are still with me, maybe you will keep reading. Tomorrow, baseball season opens for me as the Dodgers play their first game. If you don’t love baseball, I don’t expect you to ever love it. Maybe it’s something you get or something you don’t. But the beauty of baseball lives with me. From the moment of heartbreak I had when I realized I could never be a Dodger, to the happiness of the Cubs fans last year.
Adam learned to appreciate it through me. He learned to appreciate it because of Vin Scully, because of the way he wove such a story when calling the game. Adam had no team, no love for baseball, but it was hard for him not to be part of the crowd and cheer for the Rockies when I dragged him to Coors Field when my boys in blue were in town. We actually got in a fight once over this. I told him it hurt that he didn’t give a shit about baseball but then would root against the Dodgers… MY TEAM, MY BOYS… just because he lived in Colorado. I told him I didn’t care if he rooted for the Rockies any time they didn’t play the Dodgers, but rooting against the Dodgers was too much for me to handle from my husband.
He never openly cheered for them again. I think he also began to realize that the Dodgers also represented my Dad and I. Taking that away, even a little, was painful.
Year after year, as the Dodgers would make the playoffs and fail, he would tell me he was sorry, and he actually really meant it! Once, the Dodgers were playing the rubber match i the playoffs on Nerd Night. Everyone was going out, and we were trying to find a place that would show the game. The nerds settled on that brewery that was in the church downtown for awhile. They didn’t have a TV, but they had cable and a projector. Adam had them set it up just for me so I could watch the game and be with the nerds. I wouldn’t even leave the car listening to it on the radio till it was connected. Kershaw was pitching, and it was a disaster for him, and the Dodgers lost the series. I couldn’t be in the room half the time I was so nervous. I was jumpy and agitated. And Adam consoled me.
Every year at this time, I would say “This is it, this is the year we win the World Series!”
And, I’ve been wrong every year.
Adam died the day after the Cubs won the Series. We cheered for the Cubs even though they had beaten Dodgers in the NLCS. Because, you sorta had to, right?
A friend acknowledged that she knew I was coming up on some hard times. The time of “anniversaries” is here. This is about the time things began to fall apart. This month ahead of me has “Adam falling down and his body being bruised everywhere,” “Adam not answering the phone when I was in D.C. and me having to call friends to find out if he was alive,” and “Adam gets an intervention” and “Adam has his first seizure in a hospital” and “Adam goes to rehab.” It has my second birthday without him.
Shit on the month of April.
I love you guys. Thanks for reading.
“I’d give the world for that moment with you When we thought we knew That our love would last But the moment passed With no warning, far too fast
You and I We’ve seen it all Chasing our hearts’ desire But we go on pretending Stories like ours Have happy endings”
“When everybody is running in the big race And having a good time Who am I to cast a shadow Who am I? I looked Death in the face last night I saw him in a mirror And he simply smiled He told me not to worry He told me just to take my time” ~ Oingo Boingo
Apparently, I need to put disclaimers on my posts—this is not a suicide note.
However, I know Karen reads this so I’m giving her this song because it’s been my earworm today … this first verse especially. She also put it on one of my favorite mix tapes when we graduated high school. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF2F88q0YDc I’m pretty sure we thought this was a fun, bouncy song and that’s about it. Because we were 18. We had the world ahead of us.
So, high school has been in my head a lot. One, I’ve decided to go to my 30-year Reunion (shit!). Two, it’s been astonishingly beautiful to recognize the support I have received online from “friends from home” — meaning Tujunga. I won’t say “friends from high school” because some of us were closer in elementary school or junior high. Three, I posted 24 FVS Faculty Funky Facts today for work, and mine was “I collected NHL autographs in high school.” Karen will know this is code for “We stalked famous hockey players to their bus, paid off ushers to get into the tunnels and meet these dudes, um, and sometimes kiss them.”
Then, this song gets in my head, and I think of how lucky I was to grow up in L.A. in the 1980s. Here me out. Sure, we had fabulous bangs, and Karen had fabulous airplane earrings, but shit, we grew up with KROQ—the best era of KROQ I have to say. I mean, we knew the bands first before anyone else did, right? L.A. was practically home for Depeche Mode… who else was at the Concert for the Masses in what, 1988? Thomas Dolby, OMD and some other group… help me here.
I certainly had lots going for me and a golden future, so it seemed.
That’s what I always found so interesting about falling for Adam. We could not have grown up in more different environments. He used to say “I would have had a crush on you, and you wouldn’t have given me the time of day.” Maybe. His hometown had 2,000 people, and his options for fun that didn’t involve alcohol were probably limited (hey, I’m not naive enough to think that many of you were drinking during our school years, I just know that Karen and I weren’t… like I said, too busy stalking famous athletes.) Adam was a free spirit and artist in a conservative town; I was more conservative in a big town … I don’t mean conservative politically, but let’s just say I was the opposite of a free spirit. Never been me whatsoever. #typeA
But I went on to my perfect life. And now, recently, I’m finding out how much people around me are/were struggling. I talked to someone today who has been down a mighty dark path, and it’s not the first time in the last two months I’ve heard similar stories. What I find interesting is none of these dark times involve death for them. They feel fucking awful and want to kill themselves and nobody even actually died to make them feel that way. I lived in a bubble.
That’s right, I had no idea how lucky I was; how Adam and I, despite having problems in the last year due to his addiction, were pretty fucking happy. When we we lived in the 800 square foot house with two dogs and two cats and one bathroom, we were happy; we were happy in the big house when we had to scrape by when money was tight.
Anyway, so looking back at life. You can have it all and it’s gone in an instant. You can have all the breaks in the world, and it crashes down.
I grew used to success. But with Adam’s death it feels like none of it mattered. You can take back all the success, I’ll just take him back. Now, a success is getting a check for the money that was mine anyway.
Except for the part when I talked to the bank teller, the woman who was there when I first went in December. She sought me out to see how I was doing.
I said: “It’s going to happen to every one of us. I’m here to tell you it’s survivable.”
Survivable. That’s where I am now.
A far cry from success.
But I still have Karen to lav …. and we close our eyes, and the world has turned around again.
When I die, remember that I tried my very best. I wasn’t always perfect; in fact, far from it. But I made my decisions with the information I had at the time.
When I die, remember that I had to leave home. I missed so much life with my mom, my dad and my sister, but I had to wander. I had to see what was out there. Remember that I never thought I would be in Colorado this long. I just happened to meet Adam.
When I die, remember that I am sorry for all the times I was self-absorbed. I didn’t get it. I was too lucky. I was young. I had no idea what life had in store for me.
When I die, remember that I was almost never “at a loss.” I knew who I was, I knew where I was going, I knew what I was doing. I never thought “what do I want to do with my life?”
When I die, remember that I traveled the world, that my regrets will be never getting to those places I always wanted to.
When I die, remember that I gave everything I had to Adam. When I stumbled, it was out of fear.
When I die, remember I always knew I was cranky. Remember I was sorry every time I snapped at my mom or my dad. Remember that I loved them with everything; that I’m aware they gave me everything.
When I die, remember I don’t have any regrets about not having children. But I do regret not being around my nieces more.
When I die, remember I don’t like cartoons because Dad didn’t. And he was my first idol.
When I die, remember that I don’t look as good as my Mom because I was too lazy to wash my face at night.
When I die, remember that I did everything I wanted. Remember that I had fear, and I just walked over it. I just didn’t think anything could be this hard.
When I die, remember that the reason I love my dog so much is because of Adam… he got me to take a chance on a pittie… twice.
When I die, remember it’s not “live” music I hate, it’s “loud” music. My ears are sensitive.
When I die, remember that my favorite place in the entire world is wherever Adam is.
When I die, remember that I was never on the Dark Side. I was lawful good. Remember that I just wanted to help. I just wanted to love.
When I die, remember that I never read books twice. I kept them for the memories of a certain time in my life.
When I die, remember I don’t regret a single drink I had with Adam.
When I die, remember that was nothing I liked more than a good haunted house, with Adam at my side; when I would be so juked by the time I entered that a whisper would send me off the edge.
When I die, remember how good my bean and cheese burritos were. They key is more cheese than beans.
When I die, remember I fought for Adam. If they has asked, I would have died for him. Because that’s not worse than this.
When I die, remember I never figured anything out. I never saw anything that made me believe in a god. I never figured out a purpose in life. I never figured out why. I just lived. Because I woke up one day and was conscious.
When I die, remember I’ve already held the hands of two people who have died.
I’m on my couch, the Bix at my side, the premiere of the series “Taken” on TV, working on the #FVS24 campaign… a day in the life for Duke the Dane. I stayed home from work sick (actually sick, guys, not faking it!), eating food from the local health food store that really tastes like crap but I didn’t want to go to the big store, so I chose the “emotionless pit” store.
But weirdly, I can only think one thing.
I hate you.
I hate you all in the world. I hate that this didn’t happen to you. I hate you when you fight with the person you love. I hate when you take it all for granted.
This is who I am today. I’m full of hate.
I went to therapy and was positive. I love the social media plan we’re doing at work. But the undercurrent is hate.
I hate that you don’t have to go through this.
Yesterday, I said I am glad to take this burden for you. That I would hold it for you so you could be happy and love. All of you.
Today, I hate.
That is grief.
I cannot explain it. I don’t even try.
I look at pictures of Adam and remember every detail. What his earlobes felt like. That’s what I’m stuck on today. His earlobes with the hoop earrings. He only took them out this year because of the CT scans and shit. No metal.
That is weird. I don’t hate his earlobes. I love them.
I’ve crashed since my family and friends from across the country left. Yesterday I ended up in full “November grief” mode. I ate a can of bean dip (thanks, Karen!), ate au gratin potatoes for dinner (the whole box, Adam would have said “that’s a great dinner!”), and watched movies. I slept in even though I didn’t sleep. I took a nap. I went to bed early. I didn’t pay my bills this week (please forgive me, I know I owe you, friends). I didn’t check my email, didn’t check in on my friends online who are hurting. I cried. I have a friend who lost her mother (and her dad lost his wife), and somewhere out there Bill Paxton’s wife is having her version of my November 2016.
So, I’m posting the below letter because my head is too full to speak. Adam has not given me permission to post this, but I do know if he thought it could help anyone, he would be OK with it. He wrote this in rehab. He was trying. He was getting it. This is Adam’s gift to all of you who are struggling, whether it’s with addiction or loneliness or mental illness. He was trying. We can, too.
Also, I edited for a couple spelling errors, because…it’s me.
When we first met, I really didn’t care for you much. Even though my friends all thought you were great, I still felt that we were incompatible, but you stuck with me anyway and eventually won me over.
We’ve had so many good times together. You helped me meet people, and even showed me that I had a sense of humor. However, the longer we knew each other, you became more pushy…and instead of helping me out, you began to urge me to do more obnoxious things, and sometimes pushed so hard that I wouldn’t even remember our fun time the next day.
Then you took it way too far. I thought you were my friend when all the while you were killing me from the inside out. Of course, I couldn’t see this…you kept your facade of ‘best friend,’ the one who makes me happy and more interesting.
So I had to break away from you five years ago. I thought that this distance would make it possible to remain friends. I just wasn’t going to let you bully me around anymore. And you played nice for a while. But then you started to sneak up on me and convince me to hang out for just a while longer until I stopped caring when you would leave.
Once you had your toe-hold back, you started up again with more fervor than ever. You didn’t even care about helping me have fun. You just concentrated on destroying me. I even knew you were doing it, but I didn’t have the energy to fight you off. You let me shrink away from everything I loved, and pushed me even more violently into an isolated, dark closet… telling me there was no way to leave, but that you would stick with me and it would be OK. I now know that you are a liar. You are insidious, cruel and poisonous and it’s time for you to go. I am so disappointed in you…and you made me hate myself, then stole all of my most prized possessions and sold them for your own profit. Now I have to track them all back down and try to buy them back (for a loss, no less).
There may have been a time when we could have reconciled, but you have burned that bridge, and I am paying for it.
I have changed the locks, and I will never respond to you again. I’m walking away now. I have real problems to solve now, and you caused most of them. Your ‘help’ was a ‘hindrance’ and I don’t want you around anymore. Goodbye.
Grief is becoming one of my closest friends. Luckily (or unluckily?), this is a friend I will never lose. Forty years from now, he will still be sitting on my shoulder, poking me with a stick. Sometimes I won’t feel that stick, but other times he will hoist Gandalf’s staff, screaming “You shall not pass!” every time I try to move forward.
Grief is the Babadook. Sometimes, even though I feel I have managed to tie him up in the basement, he screams so loudly I can hear him all the way to the tri-cities of Fountain-Security-Widefield. As I know, that’s 21 minutes away.
Grief will follow me around waiting to strike. It hides. It’s like a cockroach on the wall of my apartment in Atlanta. Most of the time, when you turn on the lights, the cockroaches scurry away … that’s what my Southern friends taught me so I didn’t have to see them. But, sometimes, the big one just stays there over your bed. That’s grief. And when you go to hit him with a shoe, it doesn’t kill him. Instead, he flies at your face. Then, you’ll see that cockroach come from a hole in the bathroom and you will stuff the hole with paper towels thinking it will solve the problem. But cockroaches find a way in through other cracks.
Yes, grief is a cockroach in Atlanta.
But there are good things around grief. Because there were cockroaches in Atlanta, but there was also Amy and Carolyn, my first working Olympic Games, Georgia State, Burritoville, Jocks and Jills, having dinner and drinks with Darth Vader, and watching Georgia Tech upset Duke after paying some dude $50 apiece to sneak us in the VIP entrance.
Grief is the cockroach. Grief is the Babadook. Grief is the hidden man on my shoulder with the very long stick. He is scary, he drowns me, he takes away hope and meaning. He forces me into the corner to cry and to miss the man I love. He sometimes doesn’t let go, and no matter how many times I stomp on him, his shell is too hard to crack.
Sometimes, when you are all around, he falls asleep. His naps get longer for awhile, but then they get shorter, and I feel like I’m starting all over again.
To all of you with me this weekend, this special weekend when we celebrate Adam, I ask you this:
The perils of this numb slog are unavoidable and deadly.
Today, I decide to take a stab at “things around the house.” By that, I mean “Adam’s office.” I took pictures of it. I wanted a remembrance of what it was, even though it’s nothing without Adam in it.
First I went through the trash and recycling bin in his office … just to make sure. Just to make sure there wasn’t one scrap of paper that I couldn’t part with. I pulled stuff off the floor; packed programming and design books into a box for the Arc — maybe some young artist or tech person will benefit. I recycled a hundred empty pads of paper, read every scrap of note with his writing on it, weighing the decision for each one: keep or let it go.
I recycled sign-in sheets from classes he taught at PPCC; threw away anything related to the horrible last job he held. I emptied the bookcase, cleaned it, moved it to the basement, then vacuumed.
I cried the whole time. I talked to Adam, asking for his forgiveness; asking him to understand. Of course he didn’t hear me. He’s gone.
Then I came across his notebook from rehab. I knew it was there somewhere, and I have avoided it. It might now be the most precious thing in this house (shit, am I going to need to carry that with me in the backpack everywhere now?) It was filled with the eloquent journal entries of a man trying to find himself; trying to deal with depression and a lack of self-worth. A man who realized alcohol and depression took his art and his music from him. That he wasn’t the same person he was.
I came to a page that had a number of nouns listed on it … an exercise of sorts. He was supposed to write something small about each. This is what I saw:
Relationship: Challenging … but worth it.
And I feel terrible now, that I made things challenging. I can’t even focus on the “worth it” part because all I see is the “challenging” part. I don’t want to admit that even I felt the last couple of years were challenging as he fell deeper into depression and struggled more with anxiety. That I became a different person as I lived in constant dread of him drinking.
I read his words about how my “honey-do” lists or “boundaries I set” were stressing him out more. We were failing in communication there. After all those years of having this perfect life, we were breaking down in communication. I thought I was helping focus him, helping show him little things he could do. I knew he was suffering from depression, wasn’t getting help, and I know the enormity of feeling like you couldn’t do anything. I thought I was nudging him. Instead I was stressing.
So I fall right back into wondering what I did wrong; how responsible I was for everything. I’m ignoring everything else he wrote … about the devastation of being laid off twice, about his fear of failure with his business. I gave him every encouragement I could think of … I would support him with anything he wanted to do, I was with him… probably neither one of use realized exactly how much the alcohol was affecting him.
He was ready to conquer alcohol … his writings showed it. But the real world was more than he could handle.
If you read this, and if he ever told you that he loved me and he cared, please tell me. Because I feel so responsible for everything again right now.
I told him once during the last year that it was OK, that if it was me that was causing the stress, I would go, because I wanted him to live more than I wanted anything else, even if that meant we were apart. He told me something like “absolutely not. It’s not you, you are the one thing it’s definitely not.”
But I continue to focus too much on the negative right now.
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.
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.