Saturday, December 31, 2011

Uncharacteristically Odd Behavior

It's incredibly strange.  I reached down to pet both of my beautiful, sleepy kitties and couldn't stop looking at my hand.  It hit me like lightening.  I was ready to take off his ring.  I've been wearing in on my right pointer finger since the day that he died.  But I took it off, and with a steady hand put it into a box and into the safe.  I'm shocked at how sure I was.  Until that moment, it made me ill just to think about not having it on me somewhere.  But right now I feel so sure.  Now my ring, I feel very conflicted about taking off my own ring.  I almost want to take it off, too.  But I'm afraid at the same time.

I always thought it would be bad luck to take them off.  Like they protect me or something.  I wasn't even sure that I wanted his for myself when he died.  It wasn't until the medical examiner told me to take it that I did.  I remember that I could barely hold my hands still enough to tug at it.  And at first, I couldn't get it off of his hand; a combination of his stiff fingers and my shaking.  I had to stop myself, take a deep breath, and try again.  When it came off it was so odd to me.  I guess it's good that I have it.  But I hated seeing him without it on.  At the viewing, I traced his ring finger over and over where the band had left it's mark.  And now that same mark is on my pointer finger.  I don't know how long it will take to fade away, but I'm sure that when I take off my own ring, it will take a lot longer.

God, I'm superstitious.  And I don't even think that there is a specific superstition about taking off your wedding rings after losing your spouse.  I feel like I'll jinx myself if I take mine off.  But, come on.  Really?  I mean, what else could happen?  TJ's already gone, so it's not like taking my ring off will cause him harm.  I just can't quite describe what I'm feeling right now.  It's the strangest thing.  I can not believe I am so sure about putting his away for safe keeping, let alone that I'm entertaining the thought of taking mine off, too.

One thing at a time, Courtney.  Let's see how I do without his and go from there.

Friday, December 30, 2011

And here we go...

Tomorrow is New Years Eve.  And it scares me to death, which doesn't quite make sense.  I have had a completely horrible 2011.  I should be running at full speed towards the promise of a new year.  But I can't.  I just can't. 

I have been feeling intense sorrow throughout these past few months.  Thanksgiving, Christmas... Christmas was busy.  And sad.  And lonely.  Christmas day was numbing; my minds way of self preservation from madness.  But the days after, those have been the worst.  That limbo between one big holiday and the next.

New Years Eve was always wonderful for us.  Even though our plans varied from year to year, the highlight was always kissing him at midnight.  TJ was never one for public displays of affection, but at the stroke of twelve he never cared.  He kissed me as if he would never kiss me again.  His entire body was thrown into that kiss.  It didn't matter who was around.  It was as if they'd all faded away and left only the two of us; standing pressed up against one another, each pair of lips soothing the others, starting the new year off right.  Filled with love and passion and comfort.

I've decided that the only way to manage any damage control is to be alone.  I may not even stay awake until midnight.  The thought is just too painful.  The closer the 31st has gotten, the worse I feel.  I want to curl into a ball so small that I eventually disappear.

I am so incredibly lonely.  I could be surrounded by hundreds of people that I love and still feel the same way.  It's fucking horrible.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Horrifying Nightmares

I just can't shake it.  I don't understand how they're back.  I can get how I would have all of those abandonment dreams in the first few months, but last night they were back with a vengeance.

It was present day and I'd been mourning TJ for almost 10 months.  I was in the store and bumped into him, and was totally flustered.  He saw me, rolled his eyes, and approached.  He proceeded to tell me that he faked his death to get away from me because he hated me so much.  Then he told me how happy he was to be on his own and all about why he hated me.  I pleaded with him to come back to me.  Begging, crying, on my knees begging for him to change his mind.  But he wouldn't, and took my begging and twisted it even more to make me feel pain like I never have before.  He stood there staring blankly at me while I cried, but then seemed to let up in his harsh tones.  He invited me back to his new apartment so we could talk in private.  But it was all a trick.  He had no intentions of listening or even remotely entertaining the thought of coming back to me.  When we got back to his apartment, he told me he was living with a woman and he wanted me to meet her.   She had no idea who I was or that TJ had been married to me.  She came fluttering into the room and plopped down into his lap.  He scooped her up and kissed her deeply, calling her baby.  I sat there right next to them, tears pouring down my cheeks.  Then she left the room and he started to tell me all of the reasons why she's better than I ever was, and I defended myself as best as I could.  When I couldn't contain the pain any longer I stood up and he accused me of walking away because I was a coward.  Everything he said cut like a knife, over and over again.  But I couldn't leave his side.  I had to fight for him because living without him was another kind of pain that I just couldn't bear.  I had to convince him to stay.  But he wouldn't.

I couldn't get away from this dream.  I'd woken up 4 different times in the middle of it and tried to shake it off; tell myself it wasn't real.  And each time I finally drifted off to sleep again, it would pick right back up where it'd left off.  It was torture.  All day, I've been trying to remind myself that he loved me.  But the dream was so real, so so painful.  I just can't shake it.  In the dream, he hated me so much it oozed out of his every pore.  Very real, and very convincing.  The way his face twisted in disgust.  The way he spat the words at me.  It's horrifying.  I pray this isn't the beginning of another stretch of abandonment dreams.  I don't know if I can take it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"I knew that this was what I was meant to do"

I miss him so much.  Really, fuck Christmas.  Fuck New Years.  Fuck all of these experiences I have to suffer through without my love.  I've been trying so hard not to think about the holidays.  How I'm going to feel, how I will react.  I don't know how it's going to be.  But I know it will suck.  And before you tell me TJ would want me to be happy and thankful and to remember the good times, spare me.  The bottom line is my husband is dead.  No amount of thinking happy thoughts is going to distract me from this fact.  I appreciate people trying to help, I really do.  But right now, there's nothing that can be done to combat this misery.

Tonight, I refined my search in TJ's emails.  Gmail is so great.  I typed in my name and this is the first entry of his journals that came up; he's talking about our wedding day.

"For Courtney and I, today was the whole world, almost like the
culmination of everything that we knew.  This day held so much for us.
So much planning and joy and agony went into this shit.  Now, it was
about to happen.  It was just this entity that had been brought to
life, and now it was moving and breathing on its own.  There was no
longer any control of the events that were about to transpire.  The
planning was over; it was time to live the reality of what we had
created.
I remember being astounded at the church, amazed by the people that
were coming through the doors.  I had forgotten some of the names that
were on the lists that we'd been working on for months.  But the
people just kept coming.  It was fucking surreal.  So many friends and
family members came out, and looked as happy as we looked.  I remember
being so filled with love and anxiety.
I was nervous during the ceremony.  I wanted to make sure I had the
words down right, and I almost fucked them up.  Lucky save toward the
end.  I wanted to adjust my tux.  When I sat down, it bunched up in
the front, reminding me that I should have unbuttoned the jacket for
when I sat down.  Now I felt like a complete dork and was a little
uncomfortable.
But honestly, the people were not too much of a distraction,
hindrance, or source of terror.  Eventually, I came to know that they
were all here to see  Courtney and I get married, and they were
supporting us.  It helped for me to feel the love for her and to concentrate
on that feeling.  I knew that this was what I was meant to do, and the
purpose of this whole thing was our love.  It put me at ease, let me
just experience the experience."

Reading this makes me unbelievably happy yet completely and totally fucks me up at the same time.  I can't believe I had that love, and now it's just fucking gone.  Gone gone gone.  I mean, God.  Just read that!  He wrote that to remember.  To remember the feelings, to put himself back into that moment.  That's why I write.  To record the moment.  I guess it may seem obvious that he would write about our wedding day.  But how he wrote about it blows me away.

That love, it kept me fully alive.  Now, I don't know what I am.  I want to feel it again.  It lifted me always and I need it now.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A little light reading (pffft)

So, for the past 4 hours I've been reading emails from TJ.  I logged in to his gmail account and started reading his journals.  There are over 500+, but the most recent date on the ones labeled "journals" is 2008.  I knew there were more, so I went through every email in his sent folder.  All 1240 of them.  I started only looking at the ones he sent himself and then moving them to the "journals" folder, but then I started reading the ones we sent back and forth.  Always love.  Always encouragement.  There was even a very fair share of dirty talk.  All on my end.  Big surprise.  There was even constructive criticism, or the "get your shit together" real gritty stuff.  But all of them signed off with an "I love you" from each of us.  No matter what.

Reading our conversations, the context, the banter; it makes me forget that he's gone.  I can hear his voice saying the words I am reading.  I can hear the pauses.  Hear the inflections.  Even imagine the facial expressions that go with the conversation.  I miss him so much.

I wonder if he would be proud of me now?  All of the things that I vented to him about, all of the things that made me so unhappy were because of my job.  I hate that I took out that frustration on him when I got home.  So much bullshit.  Overworked.  Stressed.  Pushed to the limit.  Emails I'd sent him from my work address at 9pm... I'm so glad that that is over.  Loyalty can sometimes be misguided.   TJ wanted so much for me.  He wanted me to find a job that made me happy.  He wanted me to live a fulfilled and satisfying life.  He always hoped for the best for me.  I have to learn how to do that for myself.  It seems so much harder without his loving encouragement and gentle prodding.  I found an email that he'd sent me in 2004 with 5 listings of job opportunities.  Just the links in bright blue followed by "You are wonderful, and you can do this.  You deserve to be happy." 

If I wasn't complaining about work, I was professing my undying love for him.  Poetically listing every detail of his body that I loved.  The way the smell of his skin made me high.  The way the weight of his arm across my belly put me at ease; helped me to feel grounded.  I told him all the time how much I loved him.  I'd always wondered if it was too over the top for him.  Overwhelming to him.  But now I'm sure I did the right thing.  Even though I told him all the time, it was never enough.  I'm so glad that I told him every chance that I got.

I didn't know then that I would only have 12 years.  12 years to cram a lifetime of love into.  I think I might melt into a puddle of tears right this second.  If I were standing in a bucket, it would be filled already.  Crying for him is a way of life.  Instead of showering him with love, I cry for his memory.  Who could have ever, ever imagine this?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Making Mixes

I'm sending something off in the mail for a friend.  I always include a mix of new songs to send.  Every time I burn a disc, I find myself trying to figure out what to write on it.  I thought to myself "I'll just write I love you".  And then I remembered...

Four Christmases ago, there was this god awful song that was on the radio by Heidi Klum.  TJ thought it was hysterical, and it just annoyed the living shit out of me.  He knew all he had to do to get a rise out of me was say (in at thick German accent) "wonderland wonderland shining star jingle bells".  I mean, really?  What kind of chorus is that?  Anyway, one morning I got in the car to go to work and low and behold that fucking song was on the radio.  Or was it?  When I stopped grumbling, I realized it was my CD player that was turned on.  Not the radio.  Coming to the realization that my car had been broken in to for a covert operation, I immediately started laughing.  I eagerly skipped to the next track, knowing how amazing TJ's mixes always were, and wondering what good stuff was on it after this train wreck of a song.  But every song, all 8 tracks, were this damn song.  I can't remember laughing that hard ever before or ever since.  I was in tears, thinking of how ridiculous the song was, thinking about how much time he put into this prank, thinking of how much he must love me to try to make me laugh so much.  I ejected the CD and it said "ha ha ha, I love you".  I think it's probably the best title for a mix that I've ever seen.

Fear, It Stunts Your Growth

Everything.  I'm afraid of anyone I love getting hurt.  Afraid of the thought that anyone I love could die an untimely death.  Could suffer any trauma.  I'm afraid of living alone.  I'm afraid of never having time alone.  I'm afraid of losing my cats.  I have the most insane thoughts.  The other day I was holding Lando and I had this horrible thought of someone killing him just to hurt me.  Someone tearing him apart, crushing his bones.  Tonight, my sister is upset.  All I can think is that she'll run away, like I did.  And if she did, would she be lucky like I was?  Lucky that nothing happened to me?  I can't bear the thought.  I'm afraid of car crashes, finding the ones I love passed out on the ground when I come home into the house.  I'm afraid of murders that will try to sneak into my house when I realize I forgot to lock the back door.  Just the other day I left the sun room to go to my room and ended up being in my room for an hour.  When I came back downstairs, I noticed Alice mewing at the basement door.  She only does it when someone has either just gone down there or just come out.  I thought it was strange, and then I noticed that the back door was unlocked and the new office door was practically shut when before it was pressed open against the basement door.  The only thing I could deduce was that there was someone in the basement waiting.  I tried to shake the feeling, and I didn't have the courage to go investigate.  So I sat on the couch and turned on the TV.  For an hour, every few minutes I'd look over my shoulder.  Waiting to hear any suspicious sounds, waiting to see the door crack open.  How am I supposed to function if that's what my mind does?  How am I supposed to live alone?  How am I supposed to be alone anywhere?  These thoughts cripple me; ruin me for any shot at truly going out on my own.

I keep thinking about the morning that TJ died.  I could have never imagined it.  I could never had anticipated it.  That scares me to death.  Knowing how things can change with no warning.  No time to prepare or react.  It can be gone in seconds.  What makes me think that it won't happen again?  I can't think it.  On the contrary, I almost expect it now.  Something awful to come.  I can't live like this.  As brave as I can be, fear still drives me most of the time.

If I'm presented with an opportunity, and it scares me,  I have to do it.  And since everything scares me, fear is my motivator.  I have to keep living, even though I live in fear.  I hope that by challenging my fears it will help me work through them, or learn to handle the panic.  The fight or flight.  But even when I carry out those actions that cause fear, I still feel it.  Acting in the face of fear doesn't take the fear away.  I just pray that the next time I am faced with it I will grow stronger from each experience.

I could have never imagined TJ's death.  What else is out there that I can't imagine?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Fire that Burns

My wedding ring looks so beautiful on my hand.  I admire it often.  The slim gold band against my ruddy skin makes it bright.  I sleep on the back of my hands at night; pressing my cheek to my skin each time I shift back and forth on my stomach.  Every time I move my body, I move my hands.   From my right hand to my left, I open my eyes and look at the gold.  Sometimes I can see my reflection in it.  I always look sad when I do.

I can't imagine it not being there.  And, at the same time, I can't imagine continuing to wear it.  I will know the right time to take it off and put it away, but I don't see that happening any time soon.  It's this war, when I think about it enough.  It reminds me of him, and also reminds me that he's no longer with me.  Am I still married?  Or course I am still married.  But, on paper?  No.  On paper I am a widow.  Legally, I am single.

When I look up from my computer screen, I see an 8x10 of our wedding day.  I'm sitting, hand in his, looking up into his eyes with the biggest smile.  I can't even believe it was possible to smile that big, and to smile with my entire body.  He's on one knee, gazing down, his hand wrapped around mine.  His face shows calm, serene adoration.  It almost looks like his eyes are closed, with the reverent droop of his lids and tilt of his head.  I've never smiled so much in my entire life as I did the day I married TJ.  I couldn't stop.  Even when I tried to be serious during the service, I just had a smile permanently etched in my lips and cheeks.  So much that my face hurt by the end of the day.  But it was the most lovely pain I've ever felt.

The kind of pain that I feel now is constant.  Even when I think I have it at bay, the beast claws its way to the surface, making my eyes prick with tears.  I can never hold them back.  They pour down my face; two, three tears at a time from each eye.  As if they're in a race to see which will make it to my jaw, my chin, first.  Just when I think I couldn't miss him any more than I already do...

I talk to him at night.  Ask him what I should do.  Ask him to help me keep breathing.  At night, I panic.  Each morning, I wake with dreams lingering.  Realizing they are not real, and realizing I am waking up alone is torture.  Last night, in the last dream that I remember, he made love to me.  He held me tight, he kissed my lips, he whispered to me.  I was at peace in his arms again.  I want that to be real.  But it can never be real.  It's excruciating.  I feel as if someone has set me on fire, but I have no ability to move, or to scream.  I miss him so much.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Creeper

How is it that when I have a really decent day, I feel like complete shit by the end of it?  I had a really good day today.  I went outside, walked through the woods, worked in my sketch book, took some photos...  And now this.  This horrible feeling inside my gut that I can't shake if my life depended on it.  A lot has gone on in the past few days that will change my near future, but that isn't why I feel so awful.

When I have a good day, when I feel lighter on my feet and in my heart, that's when it creeps in.  Knowing that I've had to try so hard to have a decent day because he's gone.  I have to work to feel better.  I can't just feel better.  I have to try.  It takes all of my energy.  And at the end of the day the simple fact is that he's still not here.  I'm still not happy.  It's a ruse.

I feel proud when I manage a day like today.  And then I realize that the only person I really want to share it all with is TJ.  And then I crash and want to curl up and cry (which I typically end up doing... the waterworks are turning on right now.)  It's like "who am I kidding?"  It's like all of this work I'm doing is for nothing if it can't be for him.  He has always been my only motivation.  I have to change that.  But old habits die hard.  I still live for him every day.  It's the only way I know how.  The way it always was.  But can't always be.  I can only find that peace when I learn to do things for myself and myself alone.  To have the desire to please myself and not everyone else.  I need to matter to me.  I've never mattered enough.  That has got to change.  But where to start?  I think this new blog will be a good first step.  It's early yet.  I don't feel proud of it like I do this one.  Does that make me hopeless?  That the only thing I can feel satisfaction and pride in is my body of work centered around pain?  I don't want to be here forever.  I try to throw myself forward, only to find that I'm tethered to him still.  Whipped backwards at odd intervals.  I never know when I'll run out of slack and be jerked back to these feelings of despair.

I'm so very tired.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Fleeting Glimpse

Last night, he was in my dreams.

*Disoriented as I came into consciousness, I found myself sitting still, yet in motion.  A large, comfortable charter bus seat.  I had no idea where I was headed.  I felt warmth in my left hand; the heat woven between my fingers.  Brushing the last curtains of sleep from my eyes, I studied my surroundings.  I'd been slouching, so I scooted to an upright position.  At that moment, I realized where the warmth was coming from.  It was him, he was holding my hand.  I tried not to cry when I looked in to his beautiful face.  He rubbed his thumb over my ring finger, feeling the ridges and dents left where my wedding band should have been.  "Why didn't you wait for me?" he said.  Desperate to soothe him, I started to sputter out the words... "I did, I have it, it's here with me.  I don't know how it came off".  I pulled my hand free, scrambling to reach.  I tore at the ring mysteriously resting on the finger of my right hand.  Shaking and frantic, I returned it to it's home; covering the indentation it had left behind when removed.  I laced my fingers between his, locking myself in place as tightly as I could, and looked into his eyes; "see, I never left.  I'm here.  Always"; breathless.  And he looked at me.  I can't place the expression in his face, but his eyes seemed to relax, find contentment.  Just then, I knew that it was safe.  He wasn't leaving me now.  I closed my eyes and nestled my head against his shoulder, basking in the warmth and scent of him.  Drifting back to sleep, I could feel the softness of the smile across my lips.*

I went in and out of many other dreams after this one.  None of them as powerful.  None of them as confusing.  I want it back, I want to slow it down.

Friday, November 18, 2011

One is the Loneliest Number

Tonight, I wish I could be writing something else.  I've been reading my friend Julia's blog head to toe in the past few days and it makes me wish for a happier one for myself.  I'm anxious for the time that I am able to talk about something besides my feelings of sorrow.  But I have no idea when that will be.

Over the past month or so, I've found myself pulling away from people.  When they leave messages, I don't always respond.  This is not something I am proud of, and it is very unlike me to behave this way.  I'm not doing it because I don't care.  It's that I have nothing good to say to anyone.  I haven't for the past 8 months.  Everything that comes out of me is steeped in sadness, loss, and wanting.  That has got to get old, right?  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm guessing I'm right.  I wonder how many people secretly cringe when they ask me how I'm doing.  It's just that life without TJ is nearly impossible to handle.  I can't pretend that I don't feel like I'm dying each time I remember we'll never be together again.  Lately, it's easier to keep to myself.  Why bother talking about the same shit over and over again?  Or worse, talking about shit that doesn't really matter.

I'm actually sick of hearing what comes out of my mouth when it's not the right time to be honest.  It weighs on me because I want to be in tune with my insides.  Stifling what I'm experiencing makes me feel even more awful, but it's not always the right time for expressing it.  This new position I'm in is fucking tricky.  I'm alone.  I'm frustrated.  I'm tired.  I'm jealous.  Often I find myself sitting still and staring at nothing.  I wish I was someone else.  I yearn for real conversations.  Serious conversations.  I don't have patience for niceties.  I want to dive head first into the reality that is loss.  I want to know everything I can about how you're feeling.  How are you experiencing this loss?  Please share with me.  I can't hurt any more than I already do.  I want to do this together.  I'm so, so tired of being alone.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Up Against a Wall

I'm always working.  Always trying to think about what I want.  How to get started in the new direction.  The past few weeks have been killing me.  The pain of missing him is too great.  I can't seem to focus on anything but the hurt.  The emptiness.  Today we celebrated my birthday with the family.  It wasn't as bad as my birthday, but still difficult in many ways.

My birthday was really hard.  The only time I felt relatively normal was in the middle of the day.  Feeling that, I thought for sure things would turn out much better than I had anticipated when I'd woken up crying earlier that morning.  But I was wrong.  So wrong.  As the light faded, so did the little bit of joy I had felt.  I spent the evening with four friends.  Two couples.  I didn't feel much like eating.  I didn't feel like talking.  Everything was so wrong.  That picture of us sitting together wasn't right.  Two couples, and then me.  I feel like I float out there on my own.  This is the way it is now.  I have to get used to it.  But knowing that doesn't make it any easier.  What makes it so difficult is that I knew what that was like.  I had a husband.  I know what it felt like and now it's gone.  They get to go home and sleep next to each other.  They don't have to climb the stairs alone to a dark room.  To pull back the covers on just one side of the bed knowing the other side will remain perfectly undisturbed.  I hate sleeping.  I just can't manage sometimes.  It's the loneliest time.  I want to feel his warm body next to me.  I want to fall asleep listening to the rhythm of his breathing.  Now the bed is large, cold, and empty.  I can never get comfortable.  I can never get warm.  I'm so lonely all the time and it's fucking horrible.

I took about an hour this afternoon to go to the cemetery before our family dinner.  I needed to get outside, to see him.  I sat down on the cold, damp ground by his feet.  I just sat and stared at the grass that covers him.  Noticed the different color leaves that had splayed so nicely over his grave.  I wondered if any of our friends have come to sit by him since his burial.  Do they know how much grass is there?  Have they seen the clover that has sprouted on the lower left side of the plot?  I started to cry.  And then I spoke to him.  The darkness I've been feeling inside came out in my voice.  I wanted to scream at the ground in front of me.  Suddenly, I realized that nothing had changed even though everything has changed.   Even though I wanted to scream, I started out the way I always do; the run down.  Like he's still alive and I'm telling him what I've been up to.  It's so lame, but it helps me get started so I can dig deeper.

"I love you so much, baby.  My birthday sucked, and I went to a baby shower yesterday.  She's got the cutest baby belly.  I wonder what mine would look like if I were pregnant, too."  Then I couldn't talk any more.  I sat there in silence, tears pouring from my eyes, the pain choking the words I wanted to come next.  I don't know how such a simple thought could have eluded me for so long.  I thought to myself "I still want the same things".  I've been trying so hard to figure out what I want now that he is gone, but the reality is that I still want all of the things I've always wanted.  Finding my voice again, I told him what I want out of life.  I want to be loved.  I want to be married to a wonderful man who will take care of me and be my equal.  I want to have babies.  I want the security and comfort I know only a partnership can bring me.  And then I thought to myself "I want to scream at you right now.  What am I supposed to do with this?"  I want the same things, but how can I ever have them without TJ?  How?  I threw up my hands and said out loud "It's impossible."  I feel so old.  Thirty one may as well be eighty one for me.  There is no way I will have what I want without TJ.  It's impossible.  How will anyone ever love me as much as he did?  But I don't want anyone else.  How do I get what I want when I can't have him?  It's impossible.  I said it over and over again, out loud.  I stared at his grave and cried.  I'm so mad at him for leaving me like this.  What am I supposed to do with this?  This body?  This life?  Where do I go from here?  I wanted to yell, I wanted to demand that he answer my questions.  Just what am I supposed to do now?  Now that I've been left with nothing.

This is torture.  Knowing what I want and being pulled in the opposite direction.  Like a nightmare when you're running towards something in the distance, but it just keeps getting smaller and smaller.  Moving farther out of reach until it disappears into the blackness.  I know what I want.  I know what kind of life I desire.  But how do I get it?  How?  It's impossible.  I can't attain those goals without a partner.  And I don't want another partner.  Everything I want is in conflict.  I want a happy life with a husband and family.  But I don't want anyone but TJ.  I don't want another man.  I can't imagine getting to a point where I could love another man deeply enough to be married and have babies.

I know what I want, but I can't work towards it.  It's not something I can create on my own.  I feel cosmically fucked.  It makes me sick.

Friday, November 11, 2011

111111

Today is my 31st birthday.  I woke in the middle of the night crying.  Twice.  Tears streaming onto my pillow as soon as I was conscious.  I'd wipe them away and try to fall back to sleep, my mind blank.  As soon as I awoke for the day, the tears came again.  For years TJ had been the first person to wish me a happy birthday.  He'd roll over in bed, prop himself up on an elbow, kiss my lips, and say it into my ear.  Today I spent 45 minutes lying in bed trying to hear him say it.  Trying to remember what it felt like to have his arms around me, his lips on my lips.  But I couldn't find his voice in my head and I couldn't remember the feeling of being embraced.  I couldn't remember what it all felt like. 

I had the strangest dream last night, too.  I'm sure that doesn't help.  TJ was in it, the star.  He was with me every second but I knew he wasn't alive in the dream.  He explained to me that in order for him to move on to become something super natural he had to find another man to take care of me.  I was so confused because he was there, and why did he have to find someone else?  But I knew he couldn't stay.  I followed him around like a puppy as he talked with different men in the places we went.  I'd hook my arm in his while he chatted.  I remained silent, hoping he couldn't find anyone suitable so that he could stay with me.  Right before I woke up, he'd found someone for me.  And so I cried.

I've done the math.  This will be the first birthday without TJ in 16 years.  16 years of him wishing me a happy birthday.  12 years of him kissing me after saying it.  5 years of snuggling in bed and kissing me.  I told my family last night that I just want today to be over with.  I want to pretend like it's just another day.  Maybe if I don't make a big deal out of it, it won't hurt as much.  But it'll be impossible to forget that he's gone.  And that I'll never hear him wish me happy birthday ever again.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

All I Ever Wanted

A family.  My own family.  I almost had it.  I was so so close.  I had a husband who loved me more than anything in the world, and we were trying to expand.  It's all I've ever wanted; to be married, to be a mother, to be content.  When TJ and I had been dating for just one month I told him I wanted children.  I've wanted children for as long as I can remember.  When my sister came along it was the most amazing gift.  To be able to help raise her, to take care of her.  To feed her, to coo at her.  To make her giggle.  Even before TJ I knew what I wanted.  And when TJ did come along, it made my dream that much better.  Knowing he was the one I wanted that life with.  He made that life dream perfection.  All else was secondary.  It was the two of us, loving each other the best way we could.  And it worked.  As soon as we were married I begged for them.  He wanted to wait to settle in more, to have some more time together.  It was so hard to accept.  But I wanted him to want it, too.  So I waited.  Sometimes not so patiently.  Our friends would get pregnant and I waited.  I got used to waiting.  After a while, I tried to forget about it temporarily.  To enjoy what we had.  We had a great marriage.  We had lots of fun together.  I tried to remind myself not to push any of that way.  To not wish the day away on a future I knew would come soon enough.  Finally, the day I'd waited for my entire life came; hearing him say those words... that he was ready to start a family with me.  I think it was the best day of my life.  And so that was life for the next 8 months.  Paying attention to my ovulation schedule, propping a pillow under my butt after sex.  Eating healthy, taking prenatal vitamins, exercising, one cup of caffeine a day.  I know I could have continued to have a drink or two here and there, but I didn't want to risk it.  And then came the disappointment.  Every month tracking my schedule, waiting to see if I would be late.  Paying attention to everything my body did or didn't do.  I would constantly press on the sides of my breasts to see if they were sore.  Was I extra emotional?  TJ did his research, I wasn't surprised.  He had questions for me; had my sense of smell changed?  Reasons why my breasts would be sore or at what time the morning sickness might kick in.  Watching him so excited and prepared made me so happy.  This was really going to happen for us.  Finally.  All I'd ever wanted and it was almost here.  I took pregnancy tests every month.  I bought the early result fancy ones just in case.  And every month, nothing.  Always the little minus symbol, or the blue line, or the pink line.  Or the pink negative.  So many different tests, so many different ways for it to tell me that my dream hadn't come true yet.

All of it is over.  Gone.  And I thought seeing a negative result each month was the end of the world.  Now I have nothing.  No future with TJ.  No family of our own.  I don't think I'll ever get to be a mother.  I talked after TJ died about adopting or going to a sperm bank on my own, but I don't want to do this alone.  I want a happy family.  I just can't see it happening for me.  I feel like I"m being punished.  What could I have ever done to have been dealt this blow?  I wanted TJ.  I wanted his babies to grow inside of me.  I wanted to watch him put together the crib.  I wanted to watch him playing with them out in the grass.  When I tell my friends that I won't have that, they tell me that you never know what the future will bring.  That is true.  I just can't see it.  I have this horrible feeling that I don't deserve it.  That the universe it trying to tell me something by giving me what I wanted and then taking it all away.  I almost had it all.  Almost.  This is the fucking worst.  I would kill to be a mother.  A mother to our children.  It feels completely hopeless.  Like I don't even have a uterus or something.  I already feel barren.  So completely empty and useless.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Last Nights Episode

I hate waking up the morning after a break down.  It's very anti climactic.  Even last night, as I was melting into oblivion, I was able to think about how angry I would be when I woke up in the morning and felt "fine".  Not fine, but numb.  As if the horror of the night before happened ages ago, or that maybe it was something I'd seen in a movie once.  Not that it happened to me, not only hours before. 

As I lie awake in my bed, shaking sleep from my mind, evidence of the night before presents itself.  My eyes are swollen from crying, my pillow still a little damp.  The sheets twisted all around me.  My body aches from the specific muscles strained as I curled up and wept.  Remembering the feeling of lying on my back, tears streaming down my face into my ears, muting the sound of my cries.  Feeling as if my chest will explode.  Taking in small, sharp breaths and pushing them out of my lungs in time with the heave of my shoulders.  Kicking off the covers in frustration.  Sweating.  Curling over on my side facing the empty space that was TJ's side of the bed.  Gripping and twisting the fabric of his fleece that I lay in his place, soaking it with my tears and spit.

Then, slowly, as if my mind is showing me a montage of events, I am reacquainted with my thoughts from the night before.  They're mostly vague, like some strange fever dream I can't fully remember.  What I do remember; covering my face completely with both hands, shaking my head no, asking out loud "why why why".  Forcing myself to conjure images of him.  TJ in our kitchen, cooking.  TJ at his drum kit in the basement when I walk in from the garage, TJ in his office at the computer.  I stretch my mind further, trying to remember details.  The way his shoulders felt when I wrapped my arms around him.  The way he'd try and pull away from me when he was tired of the embrace and I didn't want to let go.  How I would reach up from bed, arms stretched to him.  Beckoning him to come to me, then watching him walk past me out of the room.  He was always so busy doing something.  I wonder if he ever regretted those moments.  He would get frustrated when I'd hold on too long, or want too much of him.  He knew I'd never be finished.  But now we are.  Does he understand now?  And yet, there were so many times that he showed me.  Probably more times than he walked away.  Coming home to find him in the bathtub, candles lit, waiting for me after I'd told him I had had a horrible day.  Sitting together in our living room, TJ sharing new music with me while we sat together and sipped our drinks.  Watching him stand up and reach out a hand for me.  We slow danced in our living room to a song by Band of Horses, though I can't remember which one.  I felt the secure hold I had on his shoulders, I felt tears pricking my eyes before they silently slid down my face.  He leaned in to kiss me, and I lingered on his lips as long as I could.  Looking up at him, I curled my hand around the back of his neck.  Gazing into his eyes, my voice was a merely a whisper "I love you.  I love you so much.  Can you feel it?"  He smiled and nodded.  We kept dancing until the song was over.

These memories are the only ones I can recall from last night, though I know there were many others that I'd sifted through in my sadness.  I've been trying to record all of these memories that pop up.  Seventeen years of them.  I wonder how many I can unlock, long since forgotten.  This is why I am upset with my numbness after an episode.  I need to be able to tap into that melt down to extract the goodness.  To be able to remember the images, the experiences I was plucking out of my brain and examining.  I want to remember those as clearly as I'd felt them for the first time.  I don't want to forget anything.  I want to preserve all that I can, so that as the years pass I have something to look back on, to feel the warmth of his memory.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

To Baltimore, with Love

I went into the city yesterday.  Dear friends welcomed a beautiful baby boy and I couldn't wait to meet him.  I've always jumped at the chance to drive into the city.  I've always loved it.  I remember my first ride in, as an adult, TJ at the wheel.  We were driving in to go to a club, so it was dark and the city was a ball of light.  Driving up the long, elevated ramp the city looks like a pop up book.  A page opened up to reveal buildings, all shapes and sizes.  Old and new billboards alike.  My eyes always flying to the older, dilapidated industrial buildings to admire the lettering style on their signs.  It was always special, riding into the city.  And yesterday was no different than any other trip.  The sun shone bright in the sky and the weather was so pleasant.  Not too hot, but not too cold.  I had my windows cracked to let in the air.  When I'm stopped at lights, I look up.  I always try to remember to look up as often as possible.  There's so many beautiful and interesting things to be seen that so few experience.  I took the familiar roads past the harbor, watching people bustle through their morning.

The closer I got to the hospital, the more nervous I became.  My stomach restless, doing little flips inside me.  Listening to the sirens of the ambulances.  I shook my head in an attempt to clear it several times.  This was a good trip.  Beautiful new life.  I found my way to the garage and drove to the very top.  I couldn't wait to view the city from that height.  Before I opened the door to reach the elevators, I took three deep breaths and let them out.  Then I opened the door.

It wasn't the same hospital that TJ died in, but there are characteristics that all hospitals have.  I found the information desk to check in, got my badge, and worked my way towards my destination.  The lobby was just a lobby.  I was just fine.  I was directed down a long hall towards the correct set of elevators.  As I went, I passed several waiting rooms on that main floor.  I looked at the faces that I saw.  Some were sad, some tired.  I wondered what they were suffering from, or who they loved that was suffering.  I made a point to smile as I walked along, tricking myself in some ways and genuinely meaning it in others.  When I came off of the elevators on that 15th floor, the smell hit me.  I was in the hospital again.  I closed my eyes and tried to remember what it smelled like in the lobby instead of up here.  It didn't work.  I lifted my hand to my face, fist clenched against my mouth, my index finger slipping upward to rest under my nostrils.  I smelled the salt of my own skin.  I breathed deeply and prepared to move forward.  This was a happy time.  New life.  Time to build new associations.

I enjoyed my time spent with my friends and their precious baby.  I relished the small moments I was able to steal time just to look at him.  I kept thinking about how TJ would look holding him.  Welcoming him to the world along with me.  How much he would have wanted to congratulate and dote on our friends as much as I do.  I realized then that this will be my new future.  Being able to help friends any way that I can.  To be able to play with their little ones and spoil them rotten.  I'll be that weird "aunt", the one everyone has.  That woman with the tattoos, organic smells, flowing skirts, and a hoop in her nose.  I accept this new part to be played.  It will be a pleasure and a gift.

As I said my goodbyes and closed the door behind me I felt a sigh well up inside me.  As I exhaled, I thought about how much I really needed different air in my lungs.  I walked quickly past the nurses station to the elevators.  In the lobby, I wove a path as best as I could through the sea of ailing people.  I needed to get my ID back and some cash for the garage.  Finally, I arrived at my garage elevator.  I watched the lights tick away my ascent; 4th floor, 5th floor, all the way to the rooftop.  Swinging open the glass and metal door, a rush of crisp air filled my lungs.  It tasted like fall and exhaust.  It was wonderful.  I didn't leave right away.  I just leaned over the cement wall looking out into the city buildings and breathing deeply.  I wasn't ready to get into my car yet, I needed more air.  I looked around, studying each building I could see.  Wondering how many people were in it at that moment and what their lives were like.

Once I was home, I couldn't seem to get the smell of hospital off of my hands.  It's the soap there.  After TJ had died I didn't want to leave him.  After a few hours, the medical examiner arrived to make his assessment.  He said I didn't have to leave, but that it may not be a good idea for me to stay.  I decided to allow myself a break.  I hadn't used the bathroom, brushed my teeth, or even combed my hair at that point.  And it was after 9am.  I went to the restroom down the hall.  When I went to the sink to wash my hands I cried and cried.  As I scrubbed, I couldn't even see my reflection in the mirror; my vision was clouded with tears.  Whenever I cried, I put my hand over my mouth.  As if the action would save me from hearing the sound of myself.  I know that's why the smell of hospital was stuck on me yesterday.  Being so familiar with the smell of the soap from covering my mouth with my freshly scrubbed hands that one morning in March.  I tried all kinds of smelly soaps all evening, but it just wouldn't go away.  It was distracting, the smell.  But it didn't suck me back in time like I kept waiting for it to do.  The memory of the scent was there, and the association to my emotions was there.  I felt unsettled when I'd get a whiff of my skin, but it never held my mind back there.  I was able to let the wave pass instead of being swept away by it. 

Ever since I left the city yesterday, I've been thinking about going back.  How I think I'd like to live there, in Baltimore.  A friend told me two days ago that he thought I should move away.  It stung.  I heard it as rejection.  It still stings a little; my vulnerability ever present.  But I get it.  It's a way to be in a new environment that isn't so fraught with memories of my old life.  I'd be lying to myself if I didn't admit that he might be right.  Visiting Alaska was freeing.  Being in a whole new place, a new routine, smiling at people knowing they could never know what happened to me.  Frederick is small.  Everyone knows my families.  When I leave a room, I can only imagine what goes on.  If I'm discussed.  At what length... but in Alaska I was just me.  Tragedy wasn't so extreme.  I could breathe easier.

I realize that at this point in time I could never go that far.  I don't know if at any point in my life I could ever go that far.  But maybe I could get the same desired effect and not have to move across the country.  Maybe moving down the road to Baltimore, or outside of it, would be a step.  It's a different place filled with newness and also familiarity.  It's not far, but far enough.  I could still see my friends and my family often.  It couldn't hurt to try it.  If it doesn't give me what I'm looking for, I can come back.  TJ always had a special place in his heart for Baltimore.  We even talked about moving there just months before his death.  I hope he won't be too upset if I make that move without him, after all of the years of poking and prodding me in that direction.

I've got a lot to think about, but I'm feeling good about a change of scenery.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Future Dissolves

Life is moving forward.  Not for me, but for everyone around me.  I watch others lives develop and change in front of me.  Yet I stay still.  Not by choice.  If TJ were still alive I wouldn't feel so empty.  If TJ were still alive I could look into his eyes and tell him that I love him.  If TJ were still alive I might be pregnant.  If TJ were alive we would be moving forward into that future we saw for ourselves.  But none of those things will ever happen for me.  For us.  Tonight, I think about all of the things we won't ever get to have.  I won't see his heart swell with love for me as I tell him that I carry our baby in my womb.  The way husbands look at their wives.  The way father's look at their children.  The way father's look at the mother of their children.  I got a little taste of that once.  It was last Christmas.  I was two weeks late, and on that Christmas day I felt terribly tired and nauseous.  I could barely eat.  TJ would look at me with a face I had never seen before.  It was full of hope and love.  I can't even begin to describe it, yet it is burned into my memory.  I wish it weren't.  I will never see that look again.  I can only imagine how he'd look at me after our child was born.  After creating something beautiful together like that.  The depths it would take our love for one another would be endless.  The memory of hope in his eyes is killing me tonight.  Knowing how badly we both wanted that life.  To be settled, to be content, to be a family.  The new adventure to share with one another.  The joyous roller coaster it would become.  All gone.  I feel the pain ripping at me from the inside.  Deep down in the pits of my belly.  I feel like gagging.  I feel like retching this pain up out of me.  But it will always be there, no matter what I do.  Life goes on without us.  He is gone forever, and I am mentally gone.  I find no hint of momentum.  I can't figure out how to get started.  So tonight I allow myself to mourn the future we wanted.  The future we were right on the cusp of having before he was taken away from me.  When I think the pain couldn't get any worse, I am pulled deeper and deeper into it.  I try to fight against it, but tonight it swallows me whole.

I can't stop thinking of what could have been.  I am filled with hate.  Hate for whatever took him from me.  Hate that I am sitting here alone in a bed that is not our own.  Hate for this empty future I face at this moment in time.  I want him back.  I want to have his baby.  I want to have our family.  I want to feel all of the love that I had before.  There is nothing left.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dazed and Confused

I can't stop myself from thinking about him.  It's constant.  I wish he could see me now.  He doesn't know my hair is red.  He doesn't know what my new sweater looks like.  He doesn't know about my new tattoo.  I found this really great photo of us from 1999.  We're in his dorm on the love seat.  We're so fucking happy.  I'm laughing with my head half thrown back, leaning in to his chest.  He's got his arm wrapped around me and his head tilted touching mine.  I framed it and put it on my night stand.  I leaned over tonight to look at it and something inside me snapped.  I was overwhelmed with complete and utter confusion.

Twelve years we were together.  Well, just shy of by one month.  We did so many things together.  I have so many memories.  He's been a part of my life for the past 17 years.  How can I keep going alone now?  He was always there.  Always.  He was my best friend.  I know that sounds cliche, but it's true.  We could do everything, or nothing, and have a fabulous time.  We could fly all the way to Las Vegas just to see Morrissey, or we could lay in bed and read next to each other.  Both of those things made me happy beyond words.  We went to a concert, just the two of us, in October before he died.  I really didn't feel up to it; he always joked that I was in my 40's.  But we went, and while I was dancing in the balcony of the 9:30 Club I looked up at him.  The connection we shared was blinding.  When I looked into his eyes, I saw the same love I was feeling right at the exact moment he was feeling it.  He leaned down to kiss me then, and it was one of the most exciting, most contented feelings I've ever had.  All I'd ever wanted was to settle down with him.  To build a life and be content.  To not want for anything more.  We were there when he died.  The happiest, most solid I have felt in my life.  I know he felt it too, and for the first time he wasn't afraid of it.

I can only imagine all of the adventures and new experiences we could have shared if he hadn't died that day.  Life seems so boring without him.  Almost meaningless.  I fill my time with friends.  Having lunches, dinners, low key parties.  I love my friends.  But I honestly could take it or leave it.  The outings.  The niceties.  99% of the time I would rather just sit in the same chair and not move.  I've been struggling with that recently.  Just wanting to be alone, be quiet, and not move.  I could think, or not think.  Like a permanent time out.  But there are expectations.  And I do enjoy those outings once I force myself to move.  But it just feels right to sit still.  To be alone.  That's how I feel.  Without TJ, nothing is as fun or as satisfying.  I hope that feeling subsides eventually.  But, I find it interesting that I'm afraid for it to go away, though.  I embrace those urges at the same time.  It means that he was real.  That he existed.  That our love was just as strong as I remember.  The pain has come to be a faithful companion to me.  If I can't live with TJ, I can live with the emptiness he left and cling to it.

I can't imagine anything in this world, or anything elsewhere, filling that space that was created when TJ died.  He was such a huge part of my life for more than half of the years I've been breathing.  How do I recover from this?  I can't project myself into the future and see happiness.  Not at the level we'd achieved right before he was taken from me.  Everything was perfect.  We were finally on the same path.  He had his goals that I supported, and I waited for him to be ready.  To be content.  So we could start a family and continue our adventures.  There will be so many missed opportunities for love.  For joy.  For contentment.  Without TJ, life doesn't make sense.  I'm always confused, or dazed and floating through.  My life have no purpose or direction without my partner by my side.  I have to work hard to make things happen for me.  I have to start all over.  All over.  I have no foundation.  TJ was my rock.  Everything I do feels superficial.  I feel like a shack of a person that will tumble at the slightest winds.  I really have no idea what I'm doing.  I really have no idea where I'm going.  I really just want to sit in silence and be left alone right now.  I'm tired of fighting against the grief.  I just need a break.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Courtney Luck: List Maker

It's a beautiful day.  I took my lunch to the park and found a nice half shaded picnic table.  I always carry a note pad around just in case the urge strikes me to write.  Or make another list.  I keep them all in my notebook so I can reflect on them, too.  I made several lists at a time today.  While I sat in the sun and enjoyed the breeze, I wrote...

What Do I Want?
a job I look forward to going to every day
a cozy little apartment of my own
self love
ability to make my own happiness
visit all 50 states
conserve my energy for the things that matter
mutual relationships
write a book
live healthy
outdoor seating/fresh air
plants/garden/herbs
an apartment with utilities included in the rent
being in a position to make a relatively significant difference for others

As I looked up from this first list, I found a curious sight.  A young man, about 18, who decided the picnic table right in front of me was a great place to work out.  He was in a ball cap, low slung jeans, and a wife beater.  He proceeded to check his cell phone repeatedly, then progressed to doing several reps of push-ups and hanging from the beams to do chin ups.  It's wasn't as distracting as it was ridiculous.

And now on to my next list...

What do I want my new life to be like?
quiet
intellectual
simple/minimalistic
no debt
loving relationships
confident
comfortable in my own skin and mind
Then I wrote "Side note: there are way too many sirens around here!"

There really have been an excess amount of ambulances and fire trucks in and around my neighborhood.  I don't like it.  The sound makes me cringe.  I just pray they aren't too late, like they were with TJ.

Things I'd like to work on:
quelling my desire to please others first
worrying about what others think
getting healthy
depending on others for my own happiness
expecting to figure it all out
expecting others to reciprocate love
mirroring others behavior to try and find myself
quit waiting for opportunities to magically land in my lap
bending and changing to suit others
fear of telling someone what I really feel
Remembering that I am not being punished

Qualities I like about myself:
Openness
genuine love for others
sense of humor
lust for knowledge
hard worker
emote well/ able to find good words
good communication
compassion
loyalty
nurturing
I am pretty and smart
I like my eyes, my cheeks, and my chin

By this point in my afternoon, I was distracted once again. This time a huge hawk landed on the roof of the pavilion to my left.  It was holding something with a long tail in its talons.  As it flew away to meet it's other hawk companion, it dropped what it was holding; a squirrel; then quickly caught it before it slid completely off of the roof.  They were huge, and made loud cawing sounds to one another.  I literally said "whoa" out loud, Bill S Preston Esq style.

Jobs I would Enjoy:
librarian
college professor
researcher
therapist
NPR reporter (I think I have a great voice for this)
writer/journalist
photographer

Several of these will require a masters degree of some sort.  And others I really have no idea what those professions entail or require in an applicant.  I have some research to do.  I'd love to hear some feed back regarding my career speculations.  I'd also welcome new suggestions, if you care to post them in the comments section.  I know there are virtually tons and tons of different jobs out there, and I am feeling a bit limited when I made my list.  Brainstorming with others is always good.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Day After

I didn't think it was possible to miss TJ any more than I already do, but I was mistaken.  Since Grandpa died, I've cried more over TJ than anything else.  It makes TJ's absence even more painful.  Any time I feared, any time I felt sad, TJ was there to help guide me out of the dark.  He held me, made me feel safe.  He is all I know.  Losing Grandpa and TJ both has been a bigger blow that I realized.  It's more evident now that the hustle, planning, and services are over.  It's the same let down as before.  It's the dam breaking.  You have so much to focus on between the death and services.  Lots of things to do, events to anticipate.  But when it's over all you're left with is your grief.

Two strong men in my life are gone.  Two men who made me feel safe, made me feel loved, will never walk this earth again.  I'll never hear their soothing voices.  I'll never feel their arms wrap around me tight.  I'd dreaded my Grandpa's death in the past couple of years.  Speculating, worrying.  The images in my head, the events to transpire... that picture always included TJ.  Being able to collapse into his arms when I got the call.  Having him hold me during the viewing.  Being able to bury my head into his shoulder to weep.  Feeling his hand in mine during the services, squeezing mine tightly.  I never could have imagined the tragedy of losing TJ first. 

Three deaths in 7 months.  I feel numb regarding my grandfather's death.  Like my brain won't allow me to process it fully as a defense mechanism.  At the viewing my grandmother embraced me and cried harder than I have ever seen her cry.  Finally she said to me "oh, dear-heart, you've had a double whammy".  I thought she'd been crying for Grandpa.  I'm sure she was, but also crying for TJ and me.  When I went up to see Grandpa in his casket, when I got relatively close, the smell hit me like a punch in the chest.  The pungent smell of flowers mixed with the chemicals and cloth in and around Grandpa's body.  I hadn't gone up to see Uncle Spud in his casket when he'd died.  Now I'm thankful that I didn't.  Those scents brought everything back for me.  I couldn't bring myself to touch even his hand, knowing all too well how cold and stiff he would feel.  He looked good, though.  Like he'd sit up and say something.  TJ looked so very painfully dead to me.  He didn't look at all like himself.  People commented on how good he looked, but I just couldn't see it.  The way he was lying with his head on the pillow, his lips- lifeless and wrinkled.  I don't want to remember him that way.  But the image, the scents, the emotions are with me.  Carved forever into my memory. 

I don't know what to do with myself tomorrow.  Or the day after that.  Or the day after that.  I have no motivation.  I have no energy.  I will wake up tomorrow just as I have every day for the past 7 and a half months.  Alone and wondering.  I can't even tell you what I've done with myself.  It all blurs together.  Every day blending into the next.  Little series of blips come up: Spud's funeral, quitting my job, traveling to Alaska... but every other day is just that.  A day.  Just another day that I have to live through.  I guess that's how I get through each day without TJ.  I wake up alone, I try to fill my days.  I end up thinking about how to start my life over again, along with mourning my love and my life lost.  I lie awake and count the hours until it's acceptable to try to sleep, and then go to bed knowing I'll do it all again.  Living like that for days, weeks, and months.  Biding my time until the day where the fog will begin to lift and show me my new path.  Until then I suppose I'll just concentrate on breathing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Hard Working Man Finds Rest

This post is dedicated to my Granddaddy, George Raymond Wilhide II

My Grandfather died today.  My father was with him as he took his last breath.  It was peaceful and seamless from what I am told.  It doesn't feel real yet.  Being home while he was in the hospital in North Carolina has made me feel detached.  I'd been receiving updates since Sunday night when my Dad and brother's arrived.  I keep bursting into tears at random moments.  I feel such a great loss, and yet I am so numb to it.  I assume it's my minds defense to feel less right now.  Deciding to stay home; recognizing the pain inside of me surrounding TJ's death and Grandpa's illness was, and is, overwhelming.  I know I couldn't handle it.  It's going to get worse when the boys come home tomorrow.

Grandpa, me, and the boys




He loved us so much.  I can't stop hearing his voice in my head.  He was born and raised in Norfolk, VA.  He's got a slight twang in his voice that I can never mimic.  He'd called me "Courtney Annie" and "Darlin".  He'd leave voicemail messages like "Courtney Annie, this is your Granddaddy.  Call me back when you get this, there's no rush, and don't call me while you're driving.  Bye bye."  I have one saved that he left me a month or so ago.  I haven't been able to listen to it yet.  I can hear his voice so clearly in my head.  I'm going to hang on to that as long as I can, the sound of his voice.

Something is funny, and only he and I know about it.

He was in the merchant marines during World War II.  He traveled all over the world.  He and a buddy stole a train, he drove a cab and sold liquor to sailors out of his trunk, he got arrested for knocking out another guy, he went on a date with one girl and ended up wooing my grandmother instead that same night.  He was so smooth, even my grandmother to this day says she had no idea she was getting married, even when they were standing in front of the judge.  There isn't a person who's met him that hasn't loved him from the start.  He was so charming.  You should have seen all of his nurses over the years.  I took him to a few appointments and one in particular was amazing to me.  It was about a year ago, and I had to take him to the eye doctor in Towson.  We'd gotten settled in the waiting room, and I'd left him to go use the rest room.  When I got back he was leaning on one elbow over the nurses desk, and there were about three or four of them gathered around him like moths to a flame.  They were all smiling, giggling, and blushing.  And the thing is, he was never fresh.  Just had a way about him that made everyone feel special.  When his name was called back, all of the nurses watched him walk away with disappointment on their faces.  One called after him "We'll get that drink after you're finished".  "OK!" he shouted back at her from over his shoulder.  That's the kind of man my grandfather was.  Infectious.

How I Picture Raymond
 Grandpa was also smart as a whip and tough as nails.  He started his own painting business.  One my father runs today, and my brother has plans to continue for our family.  Grandpa worked hard all the time.  He built his beach house with his own hands.  My father helped.  If Grandpa was breathing, he was working.  Even a week and a half ago I was with him in North Carolina and he was trying to drill in some slats in the railing that had come loose in the hurricane.  Strapped with his oxygen tank and tubes up his nose, he sat down on the deck with power drill in hand.  He eventually acquiesced and let Dad put the screws in.  It was really hard in the past few years for him to ask for help.  Even when I saw him last, he hated to ask me to bring him even a glass of water and some pills.  He was always able to do everything for himself.  More like he could do anything for himself.  He really was a jack of all trades.  He could fix your car, make a killer steak, paint your house, and make you forget you were ever mad about something he said.

Silliness with Hats
 
He was always teasing us.  He'd wrap his arms around us, pinning our arms down and daring us to try to break away.  He'd challenge us to punch him, and pretend it hurt really badly when we tapped his arm.  Grandpa loved try and get a rise; "How old are you?  Oh that's right, you're only five..." "But Grandpa, I'm eight now!"  or "You don't know how to use a knife, you're just a baby..." and we'd be at least 10 years old or something.  It was always "I bet you can't do this" or "I bet you can't do that".  He'd quiz us on math all the time.  All the time!  "What's 1,549 plus 3,571?"  He'd barely give us time to answer before he'd blurt out the correct number.  I'd checked him on a calculator and he was always right.  Genius at math, that man.  He would have contests with me to see if he could look up a phone number in the phone book faster than I could google it.  I always won those, though.  Ah, technology.

My Happy Place

My grandpa built my happy place.  It's where I spent my summers, it's where I lived and worked right out of college.  It's where I played with him in the surf as a child, it's where my husband told me that he wanted to start a family.  It's where I ran to this summer to get some peace of mind.  It's the last place I saw my grandpa before he died.  When I walk in, I inhale and revel in the scent of sea air and tobacco.  I look up at the marlin that he caught and had mounted on the wall.  I see his many golf awards and his tumblers with Duck Woods Country Club etched into the glass.  In the cabinet are his putter swizzle sticks, his McNaughtons, his "El Cheapo Vodka".  In the hall closet is his Cattle Queen towel and his bright green polyester shirt from 1975.  Everything about that house in Duck, NC screams "RAYMOND" to me.  I'm unsure of it's fate.  But I know that my Grandpa will always remain with me, no matter where I am.  He was always looking out for us, and I know that job will never end for him if he has anything to say about it.

Grandpa, I love you.  I'm so sad that you had to go, but I know you needed to rest.  All of those years of working and worrying and doing.  We will miss you terribly and it will be hard, but you taught us well.  We will be ok.  Now it's your turn to rest.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Turn for the Worse

My grandfather is not responding to the treatments for pneumonia.  They are keeping him in the hospital in order to stabilize him enough to be moved.  Moved into hospice.  To make him as comfortable as possible.  That's all there is left to do.  My father and brother's are headed for North Carolina tomorrow morning to see him, and also for my Dad to meet with his sisters in order to discuss the future.  I can't go.  I don't think I can take it.  I thought about it, but it is painfully obvious that I am not in the position to make the trip.  It was painful seeing him the way he was just last weekend when I was in NC.  And he was not nearly as bad as he is now.  I remember trying to keep it together until he was able to vocalize what he needed me to do for him.  One night, he'd walked from the dining table to the island in the kitchen.  Only 5 feet.  When he got to the island, he could barely breathe.  He said "Courtney, I need you to go into my room..." and then he had to stop.  He'd said that first part of the sentence so slowly, and was already unable to speak.  He had to concentrate on getting the air that he needed.  A few minutes later he managed to say "it's so scary to not be able to breathe.  Poor TJ."  I felt my breath hitch in my chest.  I tried to take breaths myself as he continued to tell me what pills he needed.  As soon as he finished the sentence, I turned towards the hall and began to cry as silently as possible.  I love my Grandfather.  He's been a force and presence in my life since I was born.  And he has never wavered from that post.  As much as I want to be with him now, as much as I want to help him in any way that I can, I can't imagine seeing him in a hospital bed.  I can't imagine all of the beeps, and compressions of air coming through the tubes.  I haven't been in a hospital since TJ went in and never walked out.  As blessed as I was to be with TJ in his final moments, the images and sounds haunt me daily.  As wonderful as it was to hear him tell me that he loved me, and that I was able to return the sentiment of love, I wish I could erase all of the fear I saw in his face when he looked at me.  I wish I could forget how he looked while they performed CPR.  I wish I could forget the sounds he made when he gasped for the air he so desperately needed.  Having been through those experiences, I feel extremely fragile.  The choice is obvious to me, yet I still fight it.  I love my Grandpa.

Because of the choice that I have made, I'd resolved to make sure he knew even a fraction of the things I wished to share with him.  So I have written a letter that I will send with my dad and brother's to be delivered to my Grandpa in that North Carolina hospital.  And I share it with you now.  Please keep him and our family in your prayers.

To my loving Grandpa,

I'm sorry that I am not with you now, but I am glad to have such wonderful carriers who can bring this letter to you.  Grandpa, I love you more than words could ever permit me to express.  Do you remember when you used to tell me that I was your favorite granddaughter?  And I would always giggle, or roll my eyes, and reply "but Grandpa, I'm your ONLY granddaughter!"  I always loved that exchange.  I know we had to discontinue it when Olivia came along because it was no longer true.  Because you love us all so equally.  Growing up under your influence has been immeasurable in it's benefits.  I will never look at my coffee while I'm walking.  I will never stand on my breaks when my car starts to skid on the road.  I will always leave the correct car lengths between me and the driver ahead of me on the road.  I will never loan money to a friend, because they're the first ones to take advantage.  I will always have a soft spot in my heart for cokes and gingerale and Judge Judy.  I remember spending the night at your house and being so excited to have white bread with spray parkay butter, and a gingerale to wash it down.  All of the things I didn't have at home.  Soda, white bread, and butter that sprayed.  It was so much fun to squirt it.  It was as if you gave me permission to play with my food.  I remember when I would get sick.  You would always come over to visit when I was sick.  And sometimes you'd even come over with a McDonald's cheeseburger and a chocolate shake.  No matter how sick I felt, I enjoyed them because they were a treat from you.  You have always taken such good care of all of us.  I can't even begin to recall all the fantastic memories of my childhood.  But every thought of you makes my heart sing.  My life is filled with moments with you.  Your charm is insanity.  I've seen how you can win over any young lady just by talking to her.  You're smooth, Grandpa.  Yet always a gentleman.  You can get anyone you speak with to crack a smile and loosen their grip on life.  You are as tough as nails, yet as loving and sweet as a lamb.  You can build a house with your bare hands, and you can speak with a soft caressing voice to sooth your grandchildren when they fall and scrape their knees.  To call your son "Pal".  To always tell us that you love us, and to "be careful".  I remember recently, over the phone, you said that you loved me before I had a chance to say it to you.  You actually burst out with a "HA!" after you said "I love you" and then said "I said it first this time!"  I could hear the smile in your voice through the phone.  Triumphant.

Your care and concern for those you love runs deeper than any of us may know.  But we feel it.  It overflows from you.  TJ's death was the worst thing that has ever happened to me.  I couldn't wait to seek comfort in your strong and loving presence.  And I found that comfort.  You came in through the back door and came straight to me.  The only other time I'd seen you cry was at your mother's funeral.  It was shocking then, as it was on March 4th, 2011.  You kept saying "TJ was our 5th grandchild".  You loved and accepted him as your own, and you have no idea how deeply that touches me.  I know how sad you were, and still are, about his death.  And also what will become of me through all of this.  You call to check on me often, just to see how I am doing.  How I am coping.  I feel so lucky.  I forget that not everyone is as fortunate as I am to have such loving and supportive men in my life.  You and Dad are my rocks.  You're always there when I need you.  And even when I don't.  I can't even begin to count all of the battles you have fought for me.  Always researching things for me; shopping around for repair prices, fighting with insurance companies when that cab hit me on Patrick Street, negotiating charges on my Verizon bill when I'd just gotten out of college.  The list could go on and on. 

Out of all of the many lessons you have taught me, out of all of the many examples you've shown me, there are always three things: love, strength, and honesty.  You've taught me to fight for myself.  To do what is right and good.  And to love as deeply as possible.  You have taught me to remind the ones close that you love them.  I know I don't have to tell you how much I love you, Grandpa.  But I'm doing it anyway.

Please lay back, relax, and rest.  Let those who love you take care of you now, just as you took care of us for many many years.  It is our honor and pleasure to help you in any way we can.  Let us, as a family, return the favor.   

I love you forever and for always.

Your Devoted Granddaughter,
Courtney

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fear

My grandfather is in the hospital.  He has pneumonia.  And if that wasn't bad enough for someone of his age, he also has emphysema.  Every time my Dad's phone rings I am frozen with fear.  Fear that this is it.  The call to say that he's died.  The thought makes me want to vomit.  I know he's old, and that he's had an exciting, full life... but he's my Grandpa.  I'm his first grandchild, and he has always spoiled all of us.  Just the 4 of us.  None of my aunts had children.  We're it.  He has always taken amazing care of us.  Always teaching us, always doting on us, always worrying about us.

As he's gotten older, it's gotten harder to accept for me.  He's always been so strong.  So able.  It's hard to see him in such a state of dependency.  When I would feel fear and sadness about his condition, TJ would hold me tight.  He wouldn't need to talk.  He'd just hold me while I cried.  I'd wrap my arms around his waist and rest my head on his chest.  His strong arms and broad shoulders allowed him to fully envelope me.  Shield me from harm and ease my worst fears.

I was just lying in bed trying to remember what that felt like.  I can almost feel it, and yet it's so painful to try. 

TJ is gone.  And one day, we'll get that call that I am dreading.  It may be soon, or it may be years.  No one knows.  But I do know that I won't have TJ's loving embrace to hold me up and comfort me.  I miss him so much.  Oh, TJ, I need you.  You always made this easier.

The thought of losing someone else so soon is just too much for me.  And there is nothing I can do but wait.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I feel like I'm dying

My brother was able to hack TJ's computer and give me his email password.  I've spent the last three hours sifting through years and years of journal entries.  I'm not even close to finishing them all, either.  I think in the last hour I read all of our chats that were saved.  Seeing our typical banter is killing me.  Reading those exchanges makes me feel like he's still here.  It's so familiar and safe.  And then I remember that he's dead.  I want to talk to him again.  I want him to make me laugh again.  I want him to make my heart race again.  I miss him so fucking much.  I want him back.  Our life together was so wonderful.  We had so much fun together.  So much love was shared.  He always knew how to make me laugh.  Reading his words to me is so familiar.  It's the closest thing to normal that I have felt since he died.  But those are old words.  I'll never see any new ones from him.  It's killing me.  Killing me.  I can't take it.  I have to try and sleep.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What's with today, today?

I made it.  I made it to Sept 25th.  I have to admit that I really couldn't picture today.  I honestly didn't know how I would make it through the 24th, so today has left me a little befuddled.  The thought of our first anniversary after TJ's death had been on my mind over the past few months, but never as much as it had been once September hit.  All month long I tried so hard to keep it out of my mind as much as possible.  Yes, Miss Queen of Welcoming Emotions wanted to avoid something... GASP!  But seriously, I knew that if I let myself think about it too much it would crush me long before Sept. 24th.  I knew yesterday would be bad enough without letting the nervousness and anticipation grow and grow into this giant scary monster of a thing.  I was so consumed with this event approaching, I really couldn't imagine living through it.  It's funny; it's as if I thought today, Sept 25th, would never come.  Not that I would die, but when I woke up it was the strangest feeling.  It's hard to describe.  In a way, it felt like the world was supposed to end yesterday, but it didn't.  I woke up thinking "hmmm, now what?"  Silly, I know.  But that's how it felt to me.

Yesterday was painful, giggly, sad, thoughtful, tearful, and everything else.  Some beautiful friends came to keep me company.  I smiled.  I laughed.  I cried.  I took lots and lots of deep breaths.  I tried to keep it together when I was around people.  Don't ask me why I bothered.  I know that I didn't have to, but it just felt like what I was supposed do.  I guess it was because I let some words, that were meant as loving encouragement, influence my actions.  So many people told me to be thankful for the day we wed.  Not to mourn that blessed day.  That it was a day for celebrating.  I felt self conscious feeling sad.  I could never forget all of the good memories.  I know anniversaries are for celebrating.  Well, yeah, any other year.  But really?  REALLY?  How could I not mourn my heart out on a day like that?  How could a day that was always filled with joy and celebration not be devastatingly awful considering that my husband is dead?  For heaven's sake.  Of course it sucked.

I actually threw up.  I puked on my anniversary.  It's funny; I really wasn't very surprised.  It could have been from any number of reasons: the anxiety, the sadness, or taking my vitamin on an empty stomach...  Either way, it seemed natural.  I know that may sound gross, but really.  While I was bending over the toilet, holding down my necklace so I wouldn't get any chunks on it, I thought "well, this is fitting".  No matter the actual cause of the intestinal disturbance, it seemed like the appropriate physical manifestation of my emotions.  Puking my guts out.  I was committing an act of personal disservice by not letting my emotions go, and my body knew it.  So, my emotions came up on their own; out of my stomach, through my esophagus, out of my mouth, and into a toilet (accompanied by some horrible gagging sounds).  That's what I get for worrying about what other people expect instead of doing what I feel is right for me.

To Avoid: Don't do what you think is expected.  Do what you feel is right and good in your heart.



And so I reached up, flushed the toilet, gargled at the sink, spit, and looked at myself in the mirror.  I took a long hard look.  And after I'd thrown up, the face looking back at me wasn't ill or weak, but strong.  I can say, without a doubt, that the symbolism of vomiting on September 24th, 2011 was immediately recognized as I looked at my face in the mirror.  I actually smiled at my reflection before turning to walk back out into the world.  Message received.  Loud and clear.  Lesson learned.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

So this is it.

The first FIRST.  In just nine minutes, it will be September 24th.  Six years ago at this time, I was trying my best to sleep.  I was way too excited to sleep knowing in just mere hours I'd marry the love of my life.  Tonight, I can't sleep for another reason.  One I could have never in a million years imagined.  This year, on our six year wedding anniversary, my husband is gone.  We will never get to celebrate again.

Our one year anniversary was a lot of fun.  We couldn't afford to do anything major, but I remember the two of us celebrating at home.  Saturday night was the evening before our anniversary that year.  We'd been home together, watching movies and drinking.  We had a serious case of the munchies, so TJ went into our tiny kitchen to poke around.  I heard him laugh, and when I went to see what was going on, he had our freezer open and was eyeing the wedding cake topper.  See, on our wedding day we just had a small one for TJ and I to cut and eat.  It was only served to the family and bridal party.  But, towards the end of the reception my mother and mother in law realized that the staff had served the entire cake, not saving any for our one year anniversary.  So they both ran around from table to table grabbing the plates with the seemingly uneaten slices.  Realizing that wouldn't work, my mother in law had it recreated for a party they had for us after we returned from the honeymoon.  After we cut it, she immediately wrapped the topper for us to have.  And there it was.  Frozen solid in layers of saran wrap, encased in a thick tupperware tub.  I told him that we had to let it thaw overnight and eat it the next day for our anniversary, but he wanted it right then.  We were both always so impatient.  So we threw it in the microwave for just a little bit so that it wouldn't melt, and had at it standing up in the kitchen.  It must have been a sad sight, but we had so much fun feeding it to each other and clashing forks when we'd dive for the same section of cake.  That's all we needed.  Just each other and some cake.  Perfect anniversary.

We never were able to do anything fancy.  We'd talked about it often, but could never really afford to go away, or do anything extravagant.  Last year we weren't able to celebrate together at all.  The week leading up to our anniversary, TJ had been sick with a bad cold.  The morning of our anniversary he was in so much pain he could barely move.  When he inhaled, his back would spasm and cause him excruciating pain.  He was a groomsman in a wedding on the 25th and so that night was the rehearsal and dinner.  I begged him to  go to the doctor.  How could he stand up straight or have any energy in his condition.  So he finally went.  When he got back he told me the diagnosis: a lung infection that caused him to retain fluid in his muscles around the outside of his lungs.  He was so completely wiped out just from going to the office and back that I had to take his prescriptions to the drug store to be filled.  The doctor gave him a pain killer, a new inhaler, and steroids.  I called a friend while I was waiting for them to be filled.  I was trying to sound normal; discussing with her the plans to meet up since her husband was a groomsman too.  But was so worried and upset that I ended up crying with her on the phone.  Finally, I made it home to deliver to him what he needed most.  He popped his first dose and we headed for Gettysburg.  The wedding weekend was a whirlwind, and come Sunday TJ was pooped from the illness and all of the excitement and running around.  He sat on the couch and told me we'd start saving right now so that we could go back to Canada for our 6 year anniversary.  We'd honeymooned there.  We could only afford to go for 4 days, and we'd always wanted to go back and spend more time in the places we found on the first trip.

We could be in Canada right now.  We could finally have that anniversary we'd talked about.  But life had other plans for us.  No more anniversary toasts to each other.  No more sweet kisses.  No more dreams of Canada.  No more dreams of any kind.  They're all gone.  Everything we ever wanted now for our lives is gone.

It's 12:07am now.  I have no idea what's in store for me today.  I don't know how I'll feel when I wake up.  I found out today that someone removed the empty Wild Turkey 101 bottle from his grave.  I wasn't sure if I could go there tomorrow, but now I will.  I need to take him some more.  I remember on our wedding day he wanted to do a round of shots with the boys during the reception.  The bartender said he couldn't serve shots, but he could serve singles in tumblers and then winked at him.  I know if he were here, he would most certainly be celebrating with some whiskey.  So, as his loving and devoted wife I will take him some whiskey.  I'll even do a shot with him.  He used to try and get me to do shots with him all the time, especially with whiskey.  I never did like it.  He would look at me with puppy dog eyes and say "If you loved me, you'd do a shot..." so TJ, I love you.  I love you to the moon and back again.  And to prove it I'll come visit you tomorrow, even though I don't know if I can handle it.  And I will do a shot to show you how much I love you.  I'll even go to the spare garage and dig out your favorite shot glass.  The one you bought at the BC ferry on our honeymoon.  Hell, after that I might just drink the entire pint.  I don't know.
 
09-24-05 

All I know is that I miss you.  I've never felt so empty.  Please help me get through.  I just can't imagine how it's possible.  So just do something, ok?  I love you.  Oh, baby, I love you.  I will love you forever.