Sharing the Story

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Adam and I at the gardens in Kanazawa, Japan, in 2007. 

Tonight, I was invited to a meeting to share my story about Adam and our struggle with his addiction. I had actually made it all day without crying, which I sort of knew meant I was going to fucking lose it at the wrong time, but I kept it together (mostly*).

My friend who asked me to speak told me she considered me one of her angels. It doesn’t matter what I think of the term, but I was moved that our story could have an impact on her and her own struggles. I’ll take being anyone’s angel right now.

I believe I spoke well and touched on my important points, but truthfully, the people in the room gave more back to me than I could have given them. I know I opened up a moving discussion on addiction and compassion, with tears from other people as well, but in turn I found an outlet for all this love that seems so bottled up inside me.

Of all the grief memes people have sent me, the one that touched me the most is the one that says “Grief is just love with no place to go.” That’s exactly how it feels. When every day you used to be able to express love, share love, do something for someone you loved, and then that gets taken from you, it’s a sadness in your soul.

When you are in grief, suddenly it’s the opposite, you are only taking, which isn’t a bad thing because you need to take right now. I get that. But I want to give, and that’s why I agreed to speak, even though the already-bleeding wound of my heart would bleed some more.

You just gotta plow on sometimes.

I hope I can start giving more love again, but I might start and stop for awhile. I might give a little and then take about 10 times as much in return. I’m not even talking about romantic love, though I can only hope I could be so lucky to have a chapter two in my life (boys ARE cute after all) someday. Laugh at me all you want, call me a walking cliche … but I know it now … love is what makes it worth it … love is better than Kirk Gibson’s 1988 home run, than getting Admiral Piett’s autograph on our Star Wars poster, better than getting a photo with Katee Sackhoff with Adam, Paul and Michelle, and you guys, it’s even better than Michelle Kwan’s free skate at 2003 Worlds.

I look back now and see how Adam and I pushed each other to be better; he taught me patience; we walked each other through bouts of mental illness, learning how to deal with our issues even when fear seemed to overwhelm both of us. We encouraged each other because this life is fucking hard. Having someone next to you to face this shit sometimes is as good as it gets.

*I’m really hoping someone out there read “mostly” in Newt’s voice from Aliens.

 

Village Nostalgia

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Christmas 2014

Nostalgia, I expect, is a funny thing, different depending on what’s going on in your life.

For me today, nostalgia was just numb.

I needed to move. I grabbed my iPhone and headphones, and headed up Alpine Way for a simulated Huff n Puff Express. The ‘express’ term was originally coined by our neighbors, the Winnies, and it was the journey up the steep hill in the Village and down the other way.

Immediately, I realized my mistake. I have about five songs on my iPhone. There is no fucking cell service still here. In fucking 2016. So I walked around the neighborhood, passed the (most former) homes of the Steins, the Englishes, the Andersons, the Flemings, the Mays. I went up the “other” Dellmont, passed the Ealys (now an ugly shade of green), and over past the Robinsons. I thought, “the Robinson house now has a wrought-iron gate.” Then I was confused because there are two houses with long driveways. I couldn’t remember which one was theirs. This made me sad.

I tried walking up one of the ditches by the Robinsons. This was much harder than I remembered. I hoped the path would lead back down to my house. Alas, I met a fence with a homeless encampment on the other side. Thus, the bars on windows and wrought-iron gates.

I thought about being kids in the village … no fear of going anywhere, playing hide n seek in the cul-de-sac until the parents forced us in. There doesn’t seem to be as many good hiding places anymore. Maybe it’s just because I’m not small anymore. I look at kids now and think “yeah, have fun assholes, because life is going to suck. It just does. You will get an A-minus in a college class and throw up nine times outside of Lisa Johnson’s apartment at Stafford Gardens. You will lose that big game on a three-base error, but know it’s your fault because you let that bitch hit that pitch in the first place. You will get dumped. You will watch the Dodgers lose another playoff game. Your pets will die. Your dad will die. Then, to top it off, your husband will not win his addiction battle. He will die as well. So, go ahead and play tag now, because that game will be outlawed soon you special snowflake.”

Anyway.

I did all this while listening to Journey’s “Only the Young,” Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines,” Jimmy Eats World’s “The Middle” and Kippi Brannon’s “Daddy’s Little Girl.” These are the only songs I had, and I just listened to them over an over. I still do not know how the Jimmy Eats World song got on there. Oh, the damn U2 album that was put in everyone’s iTunes account was available, but fuck that shit.

I paused to look down at Little League fields. On April Lane, I thought about heading up to the very top. A few Christmases ago, Adam and I discovered the Rim of the Valley Trail. Yes, I have never been on it. We walked a mile on it to stunning Valley views.

Back at home, I wandered the house. Upstairs, I remembered the way Adam and I would have our laundry and clothes strewn everywhere; how we would start the night in the queen bed, but Adam would move to the couch half the time because a) too fucking close! or b) I’m snoring. We loved the shower, which had great pressure and would get extra hot.

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On the walk

I’d get out of the shower and Adam would have Star Trek:TNG on the TV while I got ready. Sometimes, he’d go down and talk to mom, make coffee. He learned to appreciate reading a good newspaper here … the L.A. Times.

We would think about what we wanted to do.Was it time to take the requisite beach trip and find a new brewery? Go to Hollywood for the Museum of Death? Sushi at Tori-Yen? Maybe this year we would have gone to the Harry Potter world at Universal Studios. We’d find a bar that looked cool, have a drink and just talk. Together all these years, and we never ran out of things to talk about. If a silence went too long, I’d say “want to get married?” Because our joke was that was the only reason people got married because a couple couldn’t stand the silence in a conversation.

I loved showing Adam L.A., just as much as he loved showing me Central City. We thought about moving back, but only if we could live by the beach. And we couldn’t afford that. Also, where would the dog be able to go?

I think if we had made it to retirement, we would have found a small shack somewhere near the beach. We didn’t need much. Just the Internet, cable, our pets, a big TV and a place to cook.

Nostalgia’s a bitch.

 

 

Takotsubo

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Dogs can also help.

The newscaster just finished his report on the death of Debbie Reynolds, calling it “mind-boggling” that she died just one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher.

Hey, doofus, don’t go off your teleprompter. Only someone who has never experienced massive grief would ever think this was mind-boggling.

For me, it was not surprising. I have spoken about this before. Ms. Reynolds’ son said that his mother was under a lot of stress since her daughter’s death, and she “just wanted to be with her.”

Been there, done that. Sometimes still am there. I am so sorry for Ms. Reynolds’ loss, so sorry for her son and her granddaughter who are still living and now must grieve doubly. Are she and her daughter together in the afterlife? That’s nothing we can know. Trust me, if I thought death would mean Adam and I would be reunited, you would not be reading this blog.

There is a real phenomenon called the Widowhood Effect. Others have written about it more eloquently. Here’s the gist: one definitive study says that a widow or widower has a 66 percent greater chance of dying than a person with a living spouse in the first three months after a spouse’s death. This study only looked at people over 50, but the researchers (in this article at least) suggested that percentage may be greater with younger widows (jury is still out because there is less of a sample size).

Of course, the researchers also couldn’t account for what causes this increase.

Obviously, those researchers have never lost a spouse. Based on my own experience, this death can happen from any of the following:

  1. Suicide
  2. Car accidents because we simply aren’t paying attention like we used to
  3. Tripping on cords, stairs and pebbles
  4. Bleeding to death from chewing on your cuticles too much
  5. Dehydration due to tears; malnourishment due to not eating; obesity due to too many chips and pop-tarts
  6. Leaving appliances on and dying in a house fire
  7. Serious illnesses because we haven’t taken care of ourselves; been to the doctor; or given a flying fuck about ourselves
  8. Broken-heart syndrome (I suspect this might more likely happen to older spouses, but it’s real. Read the link).

Although Ms. Reynolds had a stroke, I do not doubt it was related to broken-heart syndrome.

You know what lessens the chance of bereaved people dying?

You do.

“You” meaning friends, family and any support system available. This is why you can’t stop thinking about me and helping me … I NEED IT. I am thinking about Adam and my sadness just about every minute of every day. But you guys can help me move forward. You guys can keep me from being a statistic.

The Princess

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Reaffirming our vows in the Star Wars Commitment Chapel at Celebration V in Orlando, 2010.

The fact is, Princess Leia was never a role model for me.

I didn’t grow up thinking I needed a female hero. I didn’t grow up thinking she was a maverick character; a hero who was unlike women who came before her.

I was all about Luke Skywalker. It’s just the way it is. I was boy crazy I think from birth, and I liked NICE guys. Han Solo, that rogue and scoundrel, wasn’t for me. I liked the fresh-faced farm boy. How apropo, huh? Because that’s what I got in Adam (although yes, I know he got into a wee bit of trouble in his youth).

The thing is about Princess Leia … I hadn’t grown up thinking girls and women couldn’t be heroes. In 1977, I think I still thought I could actually be a Los Angeles Dodger. My mom and dad taught me through their love, trust and support that I could do anything or be anything. I didn’t need Princess Leia as a hero for that. But many girls did, and I’m glad girls today have Jyn Erso and Rey.

I preferred male heroes anyway. It’s just the way I was. Luke instead of Leia, Hicks instead of Ripley, Rico instead of Dizzy, Jamie Lannister (yes, Jamie, at least book Jamie) instead of Arya, Star Lord instead of Gamora.

It wasn’t Princess Leia who I loved, it was Carrie Fisher. As I grew older, struggled with my own depression here and there, I admired her candid nature. I like to think that maybe I’m a little like her. I say what I want to say; I’ve always been open about my mental health struggles to those who asked. I went out in my life and tried to kick ass. I knew what I wanted and I got much of it, perhaps a little like Princess Leia. I like to think maybe that’s something that Adam loved about me. Who is that sent me a birthday card that once compared me to a Mack truck with an “I need a hug” sign on it? I sort of always relished in that.

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With Steve Sansweet, the greatest Star Wars fan, who performed our commitment ceremony.

In Orlando at Star Wars Celebration V in 2010, we waited a long time for autographs with Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. Ms. Fisher was pleasant and generous, and shook hands with each person; she looked them in the eye. We freaked out like Laura Linney in “Love Actually.”

That Celebration, we also reaffirmed our marriage vows in the Star Wars Commitment Chapel. How lucky were we that we got Steve Sansweet, the greatest SW fan and collector in the universe, as our officiant. Margie Halloran was our witness and took these photos for us.

With Carrie Fisher dying, a little of our passion in Star Wars dies. Sixty is too young, just as 43 is too young. Adam and Ms. Fisher both struggled with addiction. She conquered hers, and she has pushed to make mental illness an everyday topic. I like to think Adam may have conquered his at the end as well. I think of him as a success despite his death.

Show compassion for your friends and family with addiction and mental illness. Have courage in dealing with it. Make the lives of people like Adam and Ms. Fisher matter by passing on what they have taught us.

May the Force be with all of us, but selfishly, especially for me right now.

 

Airport Musings

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Here’s Adam putting Amidala on top of the Christmas tree last year. He loved sticking a stick up her ass.

Somewhere, I read that losing a spouse is like losing your language. Suddenly, you have no one to speak it with.

I feel that way now while sitting in the Denver airport, people-watching while waiting to fly home for the holidays. I watch, and I want to roll my eyes at Adam, give him that knowing look as the rich blonde woman, dressed head to toe in pink headed to Sun Valley for a skiing holiday, thinks everyone wants to hear her rat dog bark in the terminal. I can see Adam’s face right now as she gets down on her knees in front of another dog to publicly coo.

I have no one to look at and share my language with. No more inside jokes, except those inside my head.

I watch couples who are together yet seem so distant. I wonder if that’s why I always spent so much time in the airport with Adam giving him kisses. The terminal often seems to be a place of coldness now; everyone on their phones, snapping at each other; too much carry-on luggage because god-forbid you fucking check it.

I have walked through the over crowded airport trying to keep a smile on my face today; saying “please,” “excuse me” and “thank you” despite having a veil of grief no one should experience. And yet I see wives exasperated with their husbands, yelling at their kids; frustration with gate agents.

Don’t get me wrong. I have done of all of this. In fact, I could be such a bitch that I was banned by Adam from being in eyesight of gate agents if we had flight trouble. I handled things badly while he could smooth talk us on to the next flight just by being him. He charmed everyone.

It’s just with death, it all seems so pointless now. I hope I can hold on to this feeling for a long time, the full realization that our pettiness is a waste of time. I suspect it won’t happen; that years from now I will be once again like the masses. I think that’s the way our brain works.

But for right now, I am sad for those who haven’t realized the full preciousness of what they have.

My wish for you … take a deep breath when you get frustrated this holiday season. It can be gone in an instant. It really can.

 

Ugh

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Christmas 2015. We stayed home last year and went to Electric Safari at the zoo. I remember Adam saying “I am really enjoying this.” When I think of how much anxiety and depression was in his life at the time, this makes me happy.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. I can’t remember what I’ve written and often the same things go around and around in my head.

My favorite horror movie is “The Descent,” and I have always had a favorite part. I wonder if it was some sort of foreshadowing that it was. Spoiler alert, but the movie starts with a woman losing her husband and child in a car crash.

Later she gets stuck in a cave. She panics, and her friend comes to help her. Her friend says “What are you so afraid of? The worst thing that could have happened to you has already happened, and you’re still here. This is just a poxy cave.”

This sums up my life. The whole scene actually sums up grief really well and was probably meant to, and you should watch it (three minutes of your life):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ay-20NVD78

That’s the thing. What am I afraid of? The books all say to face your fear and tackle it head on. But for awhile I couldn’t think of what scares me.

I’m not afraid of being alone. I’d just rather have Adam with me. But that’s not going to be, and the reality hits more as the shock wears off. For me, this is the worst possible thing to have happened to me. You can’t even try to imagine it. Don’t try. It’s depressing. It is often unreal still. I miss him. I miss him so much I can’t breathe sometimes. I shout all the platitudes, “Why me?”  “Why him?” “Life isn’t fair.” And it doesn’t change a fucking thing. He’s just gone.

I’m afraid of not having joy in my life again. I’m afraid of this pain lasting forever, and I’m afraid of the pain going away. I’m afraid if the pain goes away, Adam goes away. Sometimes I can still feel his fingers, his hands. I can feel his hair, and his ears.

I went down to the basement with just my phone light. I shined it on boxes and books and papers. The last remnants of his life. What are these now? They are just things. I don’t feel like I have the authority to do anything with them because they are not mine. They are his.

When you have “things” taken from you, no doubt the grief is real for the loss. When you have all these “things” and it is the person taken from you, the realization of the worthlessness of “things” is overwhelming. “Things” serve as a reminder to a memory. And what about the “things” that were Adam before I was in his life? How do I ever make a decision on that? How do I pass on or throw away what was precious to him?

It’s haunting in the dark, with the dog by your side, to look at memories. To look at your own memories. It’s all that’s left.

Everybody dies. Everybody. You just don’t imagine it will be you. You just don’t imagine it will be your love. Even if you try, you can’t because you can push it away and think of other things. You think there’s always tomorrow. We all do.

Until it crashes.

 

One With The Force

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In line for The Force Awakens

On Facebook tonight, I posted “Adam is one with the Force” on a lark.

I just didn’t know how prescient that would be. I won’t be giving any spoilers here, but you will see Rogue One, and you will know what I mean. And you will know the Force is real.

Seeing Rogue One by myself so soon after Adam’s death might be one of the hardest things for me, more so than the holidays, or maybe even birthdays or anniversaries. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, this was our goal through his illness… he promised he would be around to see Rogue One with me.

I forgive him for not keeping that promise. I know he tried his hardest, just as I did.

But oh, how glorious would our experience have been. I had a lame crowd because without him I chose to not go 3D. With him, I would have. Every Easter Egg, every cameo, would have delighted both of us. Fans will pick up on many of them. I can’t wait to see more of them each time.

We would have held hands because I still did that in movies with him. Shared the big popcorn and bought the giant souvenir cup of Coke to share. He would have snuck in candy. We would have squeezed our hands every time some throwback came up. I would have said “Dude, that one guy is hot!” because that’s what I do (I’m talking Diego Luna here). He would have responded “That Jyn chick isn’t so bad either.” I would have had to get up and pee halfway through, but I would have come back and Adam would have said “You didn’t miss anything.” You know why, because I am the fucking fastest pee-er in the world!

He would have loved seeing it was Alan Tudyk voicing the droid. Firefly connection!

I would have said “I hope Tsuneo Sanda does a poster with all the Rogue One characters. Then it will be our new autograph poster!” That would have excited us—a new poster goal!

We would have come home and immediately talked about when we were going back to see it.

Also, there is ONE QUOTE in the movie that would have definitely become a go-to quote in our relationship. If you know what it is, post in the comments. Up there with “Mostly” from Aliens, “Poke it with a stick,” “Hold me like you did on Naboo” and “It’s naht a tumor.”

I used to say if I believed in anything, it was the Force. I said it off-handedly because what really does that mean?

I don’t know.

But I bet Adam does.