Friday, October 27, 2006

Teeny tiny steps

Steve never mentioned it, but he cleaned up the dog poop. I happened to look outside one afternoon, when he'd said he was going to do something or other, and saw him pacing around the yard, scooping the dog doo. Yeah, it was the kids' responsibility, and he'd never been a huge fan of the whole dog concept. But he really did like that dog--doglet, as he called her, 'cause she's on the small side. And he just quietly took care of it.

He did that a lot. I wonder sometimes if on some level he knew what would happen. So many things were mine to deal with, with help and support from him, but the net result is that I'm fully competent to run the house and handle the finances and all kinds of things. I still don't know how to drive in the UK, but that's solvable and not pressing.

An odd thing: I expected that I'd be drinking fairly heavily during this time. I'm not. I really, really thought I would be just downing bourbon and vodka; that's the image in my head of what happens when you grieve, you drink. For some reason, it's not what I do. I'll have some wine now and then, but that's really about it. I don't feel completely pleased about it, either--mostly I am, but I also would love to just be unconscious sometimes. It feels like a drain rather than a help, though. My sleep pattern is so screwed up that alcohol just sounds like a stupid idea. After Sept. 11, I noticed that Steve and I were both drinking more, and a lot of other people I talked to were, too. So partly I expected to be in something like the same pattern.

Knitting is inching along. I did go to Javaroom for about an hour Wed., which seems to be what I can manage logistically, and looked at a new knitting magazine and did a bit more on the same damn sock.

These are two pictures of Steve taken in Tokyo during an interview with a technical magazine. He died the following week. His company was kind enough to make a CD for me. I see how jet-lagged he is, and his beautiful eyes.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Eye of the storm

The last 6 days have been okay. Thirty nine days, now. We're slowly feeling our way to a new normal.

I know intellectually that I need to create new routines. All the books say so, and I so don't want to blow it, right? Okay. New routines, I know, yup, need that. This is a vastly different thing from being able to do anything of the kind. Dinner time is gradually settling into something different, now: I prepare food for all four of us and we sit down and eat around 5:30 or so. What we used to do was similar, but I'd usually wait until Steve got home to fix something for the two of us--actually it'd have to be a pretty extreme situation for me not to do that. Enter Extreme Situation. So we don't have a quasi-Victorian kids eating kid dinner, followed by grownups eating grownup dinner a couple of hours later. We have three kids and not-very-hungry adult eating at the same time. So as to make sure we do the eating thing.

I'm using the time I have in not-total-breakdown to do some things that I need to do. The two younger kids and I went and bought pumpkins on Sunday, while oldest stayed home to (ahem) write an essay due later that day (cough, cough). I suggested we get a pumpkin for Dad, too, and maybe some flowers. They loved the idea. I've been going to the grave a couple of times a week, at least, since we buried him; these two, however, hadn't been yet. Trying not to hold my breath, trying to be matter of fact, we chose some pumpkins for the front of the house, and a pumpkin for Dad. They wondered if we should carve it; yes, darlings, of course we can. Let's just wait 'til a little closer to Halloween.

So they finally got to see their dad's grave this weekend. Middle child was mildly shocked that there wasn't a headstone. I explained that we had to buy one and order it and get it carved; did she have any ideas about what would be good? She did, indeed.

So today I ordered a headstone.

Yes, it makes me cry to think that sentence.

I'm going to have to call tomorrow because I was so tightly in control, so completely focussed on not losing it, that I forgot I'd wanted to have "beloved" on it, in addition to his name and dates. Crap. But okay.

I think that was the last awful thing that I had to do. All the other stuff is more indirect: sorting out legalities, filling in forms (although that can clobber me, too, all those "deceased" "name of deceased" "deceased" "surviving spouse" God help me, that of course is making me cry, too), the tiny healing adaptations of day to day life with one very important person missing. There are these small miracles of not being in pain, of laughing, and I'm grateful for them all.

We had a spiffy time at a Halloween party this weekend. Lots of running around, also the obligatory Deep and Serious Teenager Communing, and (bonus!) I got to rant a little bit about politics, one of those normal things about a normal day that I used to do. So maybe that's a not-every-day thing but still a relatively simple thing. Okay. Little bits, gradually falling into place.

The books do also say "after you've had a break, your grief will come back with a vengeance and you will be pissed off and convinced that you're losing your mind," so I guess I have that to look forward to (!). For now, small but deep gratitude not to be in that place just yet.

There's probably room for another book, one for the next generation of widows. I dunno, but for me, "What am I without a man" means something very different. I'm not busy claiming my personhood while I do all this stuff. The personhood is taken as read, n'est-ce pas? Oui. (pause as random phrases from college French piddle out my other ear) (oh, lordy, here comes the Laurie Anderson: vas sint der paranormalen troombunchschtimmen? ist und the accordion, oh god...)

I made middle child some pirate pants yesterday. Somebody is very excited about her costume. We went shopping in the morning, picked out suitable material, and went home and I dug out a pattern that I had for some reason or other (cough, stash, cough) for pajamas, and winged it from there. Presto: happy child. A pleasure any way you look at it.

In the ray of sunshine department--hey, that's two! three, if you count the pumpkins! four, cool party!--I sent off a small parcel to my Secret Pal. This is the 9th SP exchange, and the first one for which I have managed to sign up at the proper time and be in on the fun. So shhh, and here's hoping that I'm not the little black raincloud in the corner by the time the exchange is over with and my giftee doesn't have to read quite so much awfulness when she finally finds out Who Her Secret Pal Is (dum dum dum) (this is me doing a dramatic musical flourish; use your imagination).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I've been using his socks, since I'm perpetually out of socks somehow or other - I always feel like I should have enough hand-knit ones to last me, but of course I don't really. The other clothes I haven't done anything with. I especially haven't moved the towels he used on his last day alive. They smell of soap and his moisturizer and him, and it's comforting to stand and rub my cheek on them and inhale.

I was ready for how hard it would be to do anything with The Clothes. I was not ready for how hard it is to deal with my own clothes. The dress I wore to a party. The pants I bought on a trip to the UK and never wore. The jacket he gave me for Christmas last year. Scarves, shoes, gloves--can I please not remember? or no, really, I do want to remember. It's all part of my life with him, and I want so badly for that to still be my life.

Yesterday was one of the really hard days. Today, not so much. I am only crying a bit today. Bad days, I start crying while I'm in the shower, and go on errands and scream alone in the car, screaming how much I want him back want him back want him back, god damn it. It's wordless, just sobbing and, well, the screaming. I want to both feel better and not let go of feeling shitty. I want to hold tightly to my pain. I do not want to "get over" him. I never did.

I'm still knitting a sock. Very, very slowly, but knitting it. I don't really think I have the mental capacity to design right now (hey, I'm iffy on crossing the room), or figure out the placement of motifs on the sleeves for either the leaf cardigan (for me) or the Dale (for him). Especially the Dale. He was looking forward to wearing it, and the weather is nearly perfect for it. He would have loved today.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

27 days

So it's been 27 days. Pronounced dead on the 15th. It was after midnight, so ... the 15th.

The time has both crawled past and keeps moving faster than I am ready for it to. Wait! I want to hold on to something! The sound of his voice, the smell of his after-shaving moisturizer. I have managed to throw away his toothbrush, but not yet put away the suitcases from the business trip he'd just returned from.

I have managed to knit a little bit. A bit of sock. This is one of those things I always did during the day while he was at work, or at night after he was asleep. Nothing odd about doing that without him.

And I thought I was going to be able to write something without crying. Wrong again.

I wish I had more to say. I've gotten all sorts of horrible things done. The big one to come will be choosing a headstone--more fun than you can shake a stick at, eh? And I can't actually do anything on that until I have the deed to the gravesite. I think. I also have the execrable task of asking my in-laws to pay for the flowers they'd wanted to pay for, now that I've finally received a bill from the florist for multiple hundreds of dollars more than I'd expected. Oh, yeah, they ordered flowers, too. Great.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Hold on to what is good
even if it is
a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe
even if it is
a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do
even if it is
a long way from here.
Hold on to life
even when
it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand
even when
I have gone away from you.
--Nancy Wood

Holding on.

Steve's CEO came from Japan today to pay his respects. Like a ninny, I had some idea that he wanted to observe some traditional Japanese ritual; of course he didn't. He is an astute, cosmopolitan, heavyweight world businessman. His English was flawless. He wanted to do what was culturally appropriate for us, not impose his own notions.

I am grateful for so many things. I am so grateful for the kindness and sympathy of so many people, including you, reading this now. I had no idea there was this vast safety net underneath me, until I fell, and needed it. Thank you.

The days are still endless. I seem to alternate not-so-bad ones with pretty-bad-indeed ones. Today was not so bad. The kids and I are beginning to feel our way to a kind of rhythm. I am needing to cut loose any silliness I can muster, which is freeing and raw and okay-ish. I still start to cry if someone (the grocery store cashier, for example) asks "how are you today?" How I am is still holding on, just barely, with tired and battered fingers.

I actually did wake up yesterday to a phone ringing, and some part of my mind leapt--it has all been a horrible mistake! he is really alive!--of course I know that's not so. I knew it even while the half-formed thought peeked out from the corner of my mind.

Yesterday was one of those pretty-bad-indeed ones. But today wasn't.

I have a list of scary phone calls to make and tasks that I can't deal with yet but will need to eventually. Then there are the mildly absurd things, like the mail and the dog and which end of the grave is it again where I'm allowed to plant the flowers? Actually most phone calls are scary for me, under the best of circumstances. And people are really nice, even at large frightening financial institutions. It just takes a lot out of me to say one more time, my husband died; two weeks ago; yes, same address; yes, I'll hold.

Holding on. Just holding on.