If I’m Lucky, I’ll Be A Widow Again

wedding copyToday is the 18th anniversary of our first date. Our first date should have been Nov. 14 to see Dogma, but while working football, I called him up to chat. He asked what I was doing that night. Well, I was going to a wedding reception … did he want to come? Of course, the rest is history.

But he’s gone now. It’s over.

A week ago, I spent a marvelous five days in California, most of it in San Luis Obispo with mom and my beloved teammates from Mustang softball. You all need to know, my friends, that Saturday night in that house on Grover Beach was a revelation to me. To be with you all (and my mom), I felt the first true moment of joy I have had since Adam died. I can’t explain it. Your love, your understanding, your ability to listen, the singing, the drinks … the camaraderie of shared and unshared pasts.

I feel like I turned a corner.

For whatever reason, maybe that one, I have spent more time thinking about my Chapter 2. That’s what we widows call it … thinking of the next phase of love in our lives.

No, I’m not getting on any dating sites soon. That’s not what I mean. It doesn’t mean I won’t continue blocking the extreme number of widow predators on FB and Twitter … actually, I enjoy doing that! It doesn’t mean I’m picking up men in bars as I never did that anyway. It means I’m more open to the possibility of “someone else.” Because I love “love.” I loved having a partner with me while facing this shitty world.

To open myself up to that is daunting. I realized it when I said this to a friend on Saturday: “If I’m lucky, I’ll be a widow again.”

Fuck.

But I have something to say to you, if I am lucky enough to meet you.

I’m not forgetting about Adam. Nor should you expect me to. Nor should you want me to.

We did not choose to part. One of us didn’t decide “enough was enough” or that we wanted something else or we were bored or angry. Adam was taken from me … taken by a disease of a most insidious nature.

I might talk about him like he was perfect. That our relationship was perfect.

He wasn’t. It wasn’t. I wasn’t.

There were times in the last seven years that I wondered how long I could stay … because I didn’t understand what was happening to him. I didn’t understand that everything he did and said was being channeled through the lens of booze I didn’t know he was drinking.

Addiction takes a toll on a marriage.

But in the end, for 17 years, we chose to stay together. Through my depression. We were poor, then rich, then poor, then rich, then poor again. Poor was always just as good. Through anxiety, depression, illness, work issues; through my exasperating perfection … we were in it till the end.

And the end came.

The end came at 10:42 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016.

He’s not coming back. Ever.

If you date me, you only date me because he died and I went through hell. That is true. But he’s not a threat to you. He’s dead.

His pictures will still be on my wall. I will tell you stories that include him. If I don’t, I have to pretend that 17 years of my life didn’t exist. That means I can’t tell you about my trips to Japan and the Netherlands, or a million other things precious to me. I can’t tell you the story behind every autograph on our Star Wars poster. I will accidentally say something and realize that you won’t know what it means because it was an inside joke with Adam. Don’t be mad.

But some of who I am is because of him.

I have an infinite capacity for love. One does not replace another. I won’t wish you were him because it’s a useless wish. Sometimes I will cry because I miss him. Don’t begrudge me that. You wouldn’t begrudge me crying for my dad, would you? Or anyone else I have lost.

Know this. Adam would not be mad. I knew him well enough to know he would love you for making me smile, for taking away some of the pain he caused me. If I choose you, it’s because you are someone all your own. You are not a replacement. I expect you will be different, and I like that. I will love making new memories that fit next to the old.

We have one life. Just one. I’m just trying to figure out ways to laugh and recapture joy.

I can make it.

 

Grief Revelations

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This photo has nothing to do with the blog. This is us with Daniel Logan, who played young Boba Fett in the prequels. We got his signature on our autograph poster and he was so awesome!

Over the last few days, I have a some certain revelations and steps in my grief.

I’ve read about four books on grief since Adam died. All of them by women, a couple more story-like and based on personal experience, a couple that have been a combination of stories and tenets/steps. What I realized is that I was actually becoming confused by the consortium of stories. Was I doing this right? Was I following a good path to steer myself from “complicated grief” (yes, this is a thing…)? Am I spending too much time in one stage?

I know the only right way to grieve is my way, but these books can be confusing as you judge yourself against others with different experiences. I spoke to my therapist about this, and she told me that she was advised not to recommend grief books to grievers for about six months. The reasoning? Exactly what I was experiencing…confusion about wondering what is right and wrong. Six months or so out, she said, it’s easier for a griever to get a handle on where you are.

Thus, I decided not to read the next book on the Kindle, and at the airport, I picked up an LCD book … a Lowest Common Denominator book … which is my acronym for any mass market paperback (yes, I’m being judgmental here). I picked up “Inferno” by Dan Brown. Aside: I read the Da Vinci Code during the week up to my wedding. I was exiled to the bedroom often to rest because I was so sick I couldn’t speak.

Anyway, about 100 pages in, the writer describes Florence, Italy, in great detail, and specifically Boboli Gardens. I immediately thought “I would like to go there.” The next immediate thought is the resounding sadness that I had actually been thinking of going there with Adam. I had to rearrange those thoughts in my head. My next thought was “Well, I guess I’ll never go there, then.” I couldn’t even entertain the thought of going alone or with someone else. And … cue the tears on an airplane again.

Grief is surprising at every turn. You are hit hard with reminders of what is not to be, even though every other minute you already know your life has changed irrevocably. It’s like you know, but you still keep forgetting.

That’s two things. The third is more personal. I’m in Central City, Neb., watching football (of course) after the celebration of life today (I’ll talk about that in the next post). But last night, around the table, we talked about Adam, addiction and his illness. His dad told me that while Adam was in the Texas hospital last April, he was flat out told “If you drink one drop again, you might as well call hospice right now.”

I did not know this. This was one of my own personal bits of anguished guilt and regret, thinking that I didn’t push doctors hard enough to tell him he could never drink. But someone did, and he drank anyway.

This gave me some sense of peace. It’s hard to explain why. Maybe it’s because it seems to be greater confirmation of the fact that he had an illness that affected his ability to make rational decisions. It wasn’t about loving alcohol more than he loved me… or loving alcohol more than he loved life … but whatever was going on, he struggled with making a completely rational decision not to drink… and there is science behind it. It’s not just willpower.

From the recent Surgeon General’s report on addiction:

… substance use disorders are said to involve compromised self-control. It is not a complete loss of autonomy—addicted individuals are still accountable for their actions—but they are much less able to override the powerful drive to seek relief from withdrawal provided by alcohol or drugs. At every turn, people with addictions who try to quit find their resolve challenged. Even if they can resist drug or alcohol use for a while, at some point the constant craving triggered by the many cues in their life may erode their resolve, resulting in a return to substance use, or relapse…

I guess my thought is, I’m still trying to work my way around the guilt I feel. Even in the above paragraph, there are phrases that trigger my guilt … Adam had triggers … they were our house, our city, our friends, our routines. We probably would have needed to uproot our entire lives to help conquer this, and we were talking about it. As I’ve said, we just ran out of time.

My therapist asked why I was continuing my sobriety. I first said “it would dishonor him.” She asked me “how would it dishonor him?”

My answer finally was…”Having a drink means I no longer have to be/need to be/want to be sober. I no longer have to adjust my life willingly for the person I love. Drinking means admitting Adam is gone. That I have no one to support anymore.”

 

Drinking means going on with my life. Going on without Adam.

I guess I’m not there yet.

Remnants of Hope

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St. Mary’s Falls hike. Uphill. Seven miles. Out of water. We did it. 

Coconut water. Low sodium V8. Six Triscuits and six dried apricots in a Ziploc bag. A half-eaten roll of SweeTTarts. Low sodium pasta sauce. These are the things I stare at; the things I have to throw away. The remnants of the last hopeful part of my life. When Adam and I were doing everything to keep his body going. It didn’t work.

Maybe it gave us some weeks.

Liver disease is full of complications. It is these complications that usually kills. I started following Cirrhosis Remedy on Twitter, among other liver accounts, but just had to stop. The reminders of the complications and the anxiety were too much.

Jaundice. Ascites. Portal hypertension leading to variceal bleeds. Hepatic encephalopathy. Muscle wasting. Fatigue. None of these were a surprise to me as they came as I knew this disease. I knew it for Adam so we could be prepared. We fought through every symptom. Now I have to throw away the remnants of our hope. Perhaps in many ways that is good because that’s not who Adam was or what we were about.

Is it fate that the surgeon general came out with his big report on addiction this past week? His message is mine. Addiction is a brain disease, not a moral failure. The full report is available here: https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/. I haven’t read it yet either, but I just gave you the summary. We need to help people with addiction with a full frontal assault, not judge. I can only hope that this is a step toward saving another husband or wife or parent or sibling from the pain and despair I am experiencing.

I can’t get the sounds of the hospital out of my mind. There are three distinct beeps. The IV. The respirator. The blood pressure. Each one different. I learned to sleep through the occluded IV sound. The respirator beep just meant someone was maybe moving him. The BP sound was the harbinger of death.

It is the one that haunts me.

 

 

These are the thoughts you have…

  1. Why are all these horrible people still living when Adam is dead?
  2. I don’t give a fuck about Donald Trump being president anymore. I don’t care about politics. I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care.
  3. Wait, I care. I can’t imagine other people being in serious pain because of bigotry or violence.
  4. Nope, right now I don’t care.
  5. Maybe I do.
  6. Is reading The Name of the Wind now after so much resistance an honor to Adam or a slap because I resisted so long?
  7. Does the pit in my stomach ever go away?
  8. This was the worst day so far.
  9. Tomorrow is the 17th anniversary of our first date. Way to get that one out of the way quickly. This was our real anniversary.
  10. Adam tried to break up with me six months after we started dating. I talked him out of it. Literally. Of course I did.
  11. Fuck. I’m stuck caring about Nebraska football for the rest of my life.
  12. I can’t make plans in advance right now. I can’t even plan a shower.
  13. These Pringles are making me thirsty. I need a Coke.
  14. I hope they let me work Air Force football again next year. I’ve really let them down this season.
  15. I’m going to eat this whole can of Pringles. Maybe I won’t need those new pants.
  16. Can I just fast forward through this whole year. I know I can’t.
  17. Please don’t call this a journey. Patton Oswalt is right. It’s a fucking numb slog. It’s not a fucking journey.
  18. Am I going to piss people off my using the word fuck all the time? Well, I guess not if you know me. It’s my favorite word.
  19. Is there crack in Pringles?
  20. Adam finishing the taxes was his last great gift to me. I love him so much.
  21. Seeing life go on around you is very hard. Seeing people smile is hard. Seeing couples happy is hard.
  22. Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? These are the moments that test that stupid cliche. Are only people who have never loved the ones who say that?
  23. I’m still not going to watch Doctor Who.
  24. If I hadn’t decided to be sober 90 days ago, I probably would be drunk all the time right now. It doesn’t solve anything.
  25. I don’t know what my relationship with alcohol will be in the future. I just know now is not the time to make the decision.
  26. I’m going to have to find someone else to drag to musicals.
  27. Adam sort of kept me in tune to hip music. I am going to be even less hip than I ever was now.
  28. Brenna, did they find the plane while I wasn’t paying attention? #neverforget #mh370
  29. Once again, why are shitholes still alive while Adam is dead?
  30. Why did this happen to me? It’s because I got everything I wanted in life, isn’t it?