… that my life completely changed. A heart attack took Mark’s life, and everything that brought me peace and comfort was ripped from my life at that moment.
Never ever did I think that, at the age of 49, I would be a widow. I never thought I would have to pick up every semblance of normalcy that existed and fit it back into the big picture puzzle called life. In doing so, I found that some of the pieces were missing. Some of the pieces were torn and damaged. Some of the pieces even belonged to another puzzle!! It was a scary and frustrating time because in the beginning, I was paralyzed by fear and grief.
But little by little, the fog in my brain started to clear, and I pushed forward to do the things that I needed to do for MY own well-being. In the process I learned that my marriage was not exactly what I thought it was. I learned that Mark had a LOT of debt but to this day, I have no idea where it came from. I am just grateful that he had the hindsight to never add my name to an account so I am not responsible for what is owed. I found out things about his personal life that stunned me, and I sometimes wish I understood what was going through his mind when he made some of the choices that he did.
At the one year anniversary of his passing, I have very mixed feelings about what I have learned and how I feel. This morning I asked myself if I missed him. The answer was a very wishy-washy “YES AND NO”. Yes, I do miss him. He was my husband for over 10 years and my partner for almost 14 years. Like most couples, we had hopes and dreams and goals. We made plans and we had many years of memories. Yet, my life has become much less stressful and less complicated with no overwhelming debt, phone calls from (his) creditors, and the constant fear that I was going to get “THAT PHONE CALL” where someone told me that he’d passed away.
I’ve completely simplified my life which was something I was never able to do when I was with Mark. He needed to live large. He needed excess to the point of overkill. I never needed that. I have no need or desire to prove anything to anyone. I live within my financial means (for the most part). I pay my bills on time. I carry no credit card debt. I cook simple foods as opposed to seven courses meals that require HOURS of prep work and cooking. I still have the mindset of having too much food in the house. When the Zombie Apocalypse hits, my home would be a good place to hang out.
I have my groceries delivered to save me time. I have a wonderful woman who cleans my home twice a month because it is not something that I am willing to do. I have mobile groomers for Belle because they are WONDERFUL and very convenient. My home is small and just perfect for me. It’s not a three level monstrosity that cost hundreds of dollars a month to heat and cool. How much room do I really need? I have basic cable because I don’t need every single channel that ever existed.
There is still room for improvement though. I really need to conquer the “paper war”. I have no real filing system. I need one. Putting all the papers in a box is not working for me. I need to organize it better and get a handle on the junk mail that seems to accumulate. I thought when I did everything “paperless” that I would have fewer paper piles. This has not been the case. I’m not sure why and that puzzles me constantly. When will I get to this? Who knows.
Procrastination has always plagued me. My motto is, “Why do something today that I can put off until tomorrow?” Scary, isn’t it? I do manage to get things done. Sometimes it is at the very last minute, but it gets done. Have I ever missed a deadline because I procrastinated? Sigh. Sadly, yes. But we don’t need to talk about that since I know that my own weaknesses.
Ahem, getting back on track…
I will be honest, I do think about and miss Mark. As articulate as I am, I am not sure I can explain how I feel right now. When Mark first died, all I wanted to do was turn back the clock and have him back in my life. I didn’t want to have to do it all alone.
I no longer feel that way. I have no desire to turn the clock back. I love my life these days. It’s much simpler and easier. And happier. I didn’t expect to fall in love again, but I did. Say what you want about my timeline, but I have found happiness.
George and I have been together just short of eight months. I didn’t expect things to get so serious so quickly, but I am VERY happy that they did. It’s nice to have a very easy-going (for the most part) relationship that is filled with laughter and love. Neither of us are perfect. No one is. But we are happy together. Having realized what I want and what I will not accept has made my relationship with George better than any other that I have had. No one knows what the future holds, but I do know I want a future with this man!!!
As I approach the end of “The Terrible Firsts of Widowhood”, it occurred to me that I survived. I survived 365 days of firsts. There were SO many firsts this year. More than any one can EVER imagine. Some days I survived several firsts. But I survived. And as the first year without Mark concludes, I have a bittersweet feeling.
I have feelings of both pain and pleasure. I still believe that Mark would be proud of the accomplishments that I achieved this year. And I know he would harbor NO ill feelings for anything I have done or any choices I made. He always wanted me to be more independent and he wanted me to be happy. I am both of these things.
Now it is time to let go of the past. Not forget it, but let go of the things that have the tendency to suck me in to the black hole. I’ve survived a year without Mark, and I have flourished. Life is filled with endless possibilities. You just have to find the things that make you happy. You have to open your heart and your mind. Having done that, I can tell you first hand that…
The year 2013 started out just like the last five or six years did. It could have been summed up as “Ho hum… Yawn”. Nothing was different and nothing looked to be changing. Same issues. Same frustrations. Same shit; just a different day.
Then on January 17th, Mark died. No warnings were involved. There was nothing that indicated that he was going to have a massive heart attack in our living room that would take his life. It is a very surreal moment when you realize that your spouse has passed away. Initially acute numbness set in, but as the days passed, the pain, sorrow, tears and grief became overwhelming.
As the old saying goes, time heals all wounds. Sure, some of the scars have remained, but the healing happened. I realized that life is extremely fragile and to waste it is truly tragic. I realized that I wanted to live my life. I wanted to share my life with someone. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to move forward and find the good things that were still out there. I wanted to be among the living.
I received a lot of flack for beginning to date when I did. In the beginning I felt the need to defend myself to the “haters” who thought I was being disrespectful to Mark. However, it didn’t take me long to get disgusted with that, and I began dissociating myself with those who did not support me and the choices that I made. I stopped talking to people who had negative things to say. I “unfriended” a lot of people on Facebook. I’m fine with it. I only want to be around people who accept me for who I am.
‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all. ‘ ~ Thumper
This year brought about a lot of changes. I had to move from the home that I shared with Mark into a smaller condo that was affordable for me. I downsized many things in my life. Did I really need EVERY conceivable cable channel that existed? Did I need to keep a house so stocked with food and provisions that friends joked about coming to live with me when the Zombie Apocalypse hit? Did I really need an entire closet filled with winter coats? (think 13 coats — one for every winter that Mark and I were together). I donated so much stuff that was never used or worn. I donated things that were duplicates and triplicates!
I’ve sorted through the muck and mud of what used to be my life, and I organized it in the best way that I could. I attempted to prepare for my own future, but at the same time, I refused to be financially stifled the way that I was the past few years. I’m trying to learn the fine balance between spending and saving, clean and looking “lived in”, being generous and “being a bank”, and stocking up and hoarding. It’s all a learning experience for me!
With only a couple of hours of 2013 left, I’m sitting next to the man who I love. I’ve realized that, for the first time in a long time, I’m REALLY and TRULY happy. Our life is not perfect. I’d be delusional to think that it would be! No one has the perfect life. But this is MY life and I would not trade it for anyone else’s life.
Having said that, I’ve really begun to reflect on where my life has taken me this year. I can honestly say that I am stronger (emotionally and mentally) than I ever thought I could (or would) be. I’ve found love again. Some people never find love more than once, but I’ve been lucky. I found George, and it’s been a slice of heaven for the past seven months. It has not always been easy, especially after the Jet Ski accident, but it has been rewarding in ways I have never known.
Without putting my relationship on show for the world to see, I will simply say that he has so many of the qualities that I’ve wanted in a man. Like me, neither of us are perfect, but we are perfect together. When you have love, respect, communication, dedication, trust, and all those really important factors, a relationship can become a wonderful thing between two people.
I’ve met almost all of George’s extended family, and I am happy to say that they are all very nice and quite accepting and welcoming to me. I couldn’t ask for a nicer family! After several family get-togethers, it is great so see that there is no drama… no guilt trips… no fights and pettiness… I can’t say that I have ever had that in any of the relationships that I have had. My previous holidays, even though they were memorable, were filled with family drama and arguments. Who wants to deal with that sort of thing at every family get together? I didn’t but sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.
It’s been a tough year for a lot of people. Many of my close friends and family have had their own personal strife. There has been a lot of financial struggles, death, injury, and personal issues. I have had my share of all of these things. Yet I’ve learned that you have to push through the pain, walk down the road (sometimes you must do it alone), and struggle to put it all back in place so that you can find happiness. If you try hard enough, you CAN do anything you set your mind to do.
I am fortunate because I have had the support and love of family and friends. I always knew that I had special people in my life, but it was when life was really, really tough that I found out the magnitude of the bond that we shared.
I want to specifically thank my wonderful brother Jeff. I could NOT have done it without him. He’s always been there for me when I needed him! I love him and am eternally grateful for him!! Also a big thank you to his wife for always putting up with me throughout the years!!
I’d also like to thank JS and GS (and their girls) for being wonderful and supportive friends, and, more importantly, for reconnecting after a long hiatus. True friendships NEVER die, they just grow stronger. I love you guys with all my heart!!
I’d like to thank JC and JF for being there during one of the worst nights of my life. You guys went above and beyond “the call of duty”.
I’d like to thank JF again for her love, friendship, and help. Again,you helped me out during one of the worst times in my life, and I will NEVER forget what you did for me and for the trust you instilled in me. Your dad would be so proud of you!
Thank you to SS for coming to NJ, helping me and sharing a wonderful day with me.
Also big thank you’s go out to DMK and her hubby PK, my wonderful friends/co-workers, my understanding bosses and supervisors, and for every one who lent a hand, cooked a meal, shared time with me, made me smile and touched my heart.
A super huge thank you to my boyfriend George who gave me one of the BEST summers I ever had and made me fall in love again. And thank you to his parents who are truly wonderful people, and his extended family for being real and genuine!!
I’m grateful. I’m happy. I’m lucky. I AM BLESSED!
Wishing a Happy New Year to all my friends, family, co-workers, and to all those people who have, in some way, touched my heart. May 2014 bring you all good health, happiness and love. And love is the greatest gift of all!!
Today is Thanksgiving Day which, in North America, is an annual national holiday that commemorates a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621, and is held in the US on the fourth Thursday in November.
Although the year 2013 started out quite rocky for me, as this day of thanks rolls around, and the year comes to a close, I realize that I have a lot to be thankful for in my life.
Being that I am celebrating this holiday with my boyfriend George and his family, my time to sit and write is limited this morning. Having said that, I have decided to simply create a short but meaningful list of things for which I am thankful for.
- My boyfriend George, who has made me realize that I could fall in love again and who shows me love, kindness, and caring every single day we are together
- My goldendoodle Belle who loves unconditionally every moment of her fuzzy life.
- Good friends (especially the ones who went beyond the “call of duty” to help me through one of the toughest times in my life. I won’t list any names, but you KNOW who you are and I love you more than words can EVER say!)
- My job (which also includes my bosses and co-workers who are a wonderful group of people)
- My home (having a place to live, a roof over my head and a safe place to live is truly a blessing)
- My family (especially my brother Jeff who has always been there for me no matter what! I love you Jeff!)
- My inner strength (that I didn’t know that I had)
- My health (while it is not perfect, overall I am healthy, and I pray for those who are battling illness)
- My car (although this is a material thing, having a friend who is currently without a vehicle has made me realize that this is something for which I should be thankful)
- My parents who raised me to be a moral and kind person with good values
- Food (in my freezer and fridge) because so many people are hungry and that should never happen in this day and age
- Freedom (the power or right to act, speak, or think as I choose without hindrance or restraint)
- Being an American (while this country has definite issues, and our Government and “Big Corporations” leave a lot to be desired, I would not want to live in any other country — except maybe Bermuda in a Pink House)
- My new family (also known as George’s family who have accepted me and welcomed me)
There are so many other reasons for which I am thankful, but these are the main ones. I’m really very fortunate, and having said that, my heart hurts for those people and pets who are alone and have nothing this holiday season.
Wishing all my friends and family a very Happy Thanksgiving! May you have food on your table, loved ones to spend time with each and every day, and happiness and love in your life!!!
Let me preface this by saying that I am the happiest I have been in a long time. However, that does not preclude the fact that life takes twists and turns that are both good and bad, expected and unexpected. As I posted before, and updated many times on Facebook (for those of you who follow my posts), I am dating again, and things have gotten pretty serious. And if you have been following along, you also know that George and I got into a jet ski accident, and in that accident, he tore up his knee.
Yesterday George had his first surgery to repair the damage. The surgery reconstructed his Lateral Collateral Ligament, repaired the muscles and tendons, and decompressed and removed scar tissue from the peroneal nerve (which controls the foot movement). There was about a four-inch section of the nerve that was scarred. The nerve itself was not torn, but it was all stretched out and twisted up with the damaged ligaments, tendons and muscles. The doctor said that it would have been better if it had torn. The stretching will take a VERY long time to heal (if it actually heals on its own). The nerves regenerate at about 1 mm per day which equates to about 1 inch a month. The nerve will need to regenerate from the site of injury which is close to the knee cap and go all the way down to the big toe. That’s going to be a lot of healing time. The doctor told us that there is a 50/50 chance of recovery on its own. If it does not show improvement (after a nerve test is performed), they will consider tendon transfer surgery as another option.
This morning the occupational therapist came in to see George to teach him how to move around without putting any weight on his leg. He will be using a walker because he does not want to use crutches. There is a chance he will get out of the hospital today, and his mom will simply drive him to my home, and I will meet them there rather than driving back up to University Hospital in Newark to go get him.
He will be staying at my home for the majority of his recovery. We all decided that it would be best for him because I have a single floor home so there are no stairs. I am close enough to my office so that I can be home for lunch and get home if he needs me. He also expressed that he wants to be with me, so we think that will help his recovery.
So how do I really feel about this? Well, I never EVER thought that I would be back in the shoes of being a caregiver only 8 months (6 if you consider that the accident happened in August) after Mark died. It was not something that I even considered at this point, But as the saying goes, “shit happens.”
After much thinking about this whole situation from different points of views, I have realized that I am fine with taking care of George while he is recovering. I never ever hated caring for Mark. That was never the issue. Yes, it was exhausting. It was demanding. It was lonely (only because I had ZERO support from his family). But I did it for about six years. I was very good at it. I was patient (about 95% of the time) and even though I needed to vent (which is completely normal), I knew it was what I wanted and needed to do.
I love George, and I have no doubt whatsoever that he loves me. And with that being said, I am ready, willing, and able to take care of him. It is what I want to do. It is what I need to do. And it is going to be what I WILL do. I will adapt… (so haters, just deal with it!)
I’m not sure what the future holds, but I am ready to face it head on. In the last six weeks (since the jet ski accident), I have realized the extent of my relationship with George. We have become very close on many different levels. We have pushed through the fears, and we have learned the fine art of trusting another person implicitly. Not only did I gain a boyfriend, but I also gained a family. I have been spending quite of lot of time with George’s mom and she is a wonderful person. I feel like I can talk to her. We have shared a lot and the best part is that we can laugh. She has a great sense of humor, and when we laugh, we laugh so hard that tears roll down our cheeks! Even George’s dad is a good guy. He is a typical man and he is rough around the edges, but he has been very kind to me as well.
With a full day of sitting in a hospital, we all did a lot of talking together. Mostly it was me and his mom, Sue, but his dad, George (although in conversation I refer to him as “Big George”) often talked as well. I’ve come to realize that I am completely accepted into the immediate family. Both of George’s parents are great to me, and I feel very comfortable with them. They both told me that they are happy that George has found someone like me. From what I have been told, his previous girlfriends left a lot to be desired, and the ones that his parents knew about, they were not very thrilled with. They have expressed to me that they would love for me to continue to be part of their family. They are appreciative that I am so involved in George’s care. I must reiterate that I am happy that I have a gained a family!
I did really feel bad for Sue yesterday because when we were getting George prepped for surgery, they only allowed one person at a time to be in the surgical prep area at a time. George requested that I come in first. I wanted to switch out so his mom could get a chance to spend some time with her son, but George wanted me to stay with him. I didn’t want to “step on toes” by not letting his mom get her share of time. When they took George back to surgery, I went out to the waiting room and apologized to Sue for not letting her have her time. She was not upset, and she was happy that he was with someone who loved him, and that he was calm and happy with me there.
Another time I expressed that I did not want to step on toes by going along to all of George’s doctor appointments and consults. I told Sue that I was appreciative that she didn’t mind that I went along. She told me that she and Big George were appreciative of ME for wanting to be a part of George’s care.
I am guessing all is good in this case. I just never want to be disrespectful or step on the toes of his family. But then again, George is a grown man, and he can say who he wants in the room with him and who he wants to take care of him. I do feel honored (is that the right word???) that he wants to be with me as opposed to his family. (But then again, that “Jewish Guilt” makes me feel badly for his mom and dad!)
As far as being a caregiver goes, I thought long and hard about what I am doing. I know that with the three broken bones in my own foot (yes, originally there were two, but the fifth metatarsal broke in another place, and now I am in an air cast for EIGHT WEEKS) I need to take care of myself. I know that I need to stay healthy and get my rest. I know that I need to function and life does not stop just because I am taking care of someone. I know that some of you are wondering why I would care for George when he is not my husband. I know that taking care of someone who is sick or injured is tough. Yet, as I can personally attest, caring for someone is one of THE most rewarding and selfless things a person can do for someone he/she loves. It is the epitome of love. And love is what George and I share.
It’s hard to keep up with the pace in which my life is changing these days. In so many ways, my life has gotten better and simpler. I’m actually having fun for the first time in many years! I’m actually getting out and doing things this summer. I’ve been to the movies about half a dozen times, I have gone out for dinner (to various places including my local Italian place, Friendly’s, and a high end Steak House in northern New Jersey) and hit up several Dairy Queen’s for my most favorite snack of soft serve ice cream cones. And I’ve gone out on a jet ski!! I have George to thank for all of this! It’s been almost 3 months of us being together, and we are settling into a routine of comfort and caring, which we are both enjoying!
Yesterday I spent the day with my dear friends JS and GS who live about 45 minutes away from me. It was a fun day of food, talking and a 3D movie. It was wonderful to see them, and I look forward to seeing them again soon!! If the weather is nice, I am going to go tubing in the Delaware River with GS. I would have loved for JS to go with us, but she is recovering from surgery, and tubing would be a very bad idea!! As I drove to their house, I was acutely aware of how far I have stepped out of my comfort zone in the past seven months. I can remember being paralyzed with fear when it would come to driving to places I’ve never been. Now that seems to be a fear that I have conquered since I’ve driven to Jackson, NJ, Little Ferry, NJ and Exton, PA. I don’t know how I overcame the fears, but I think it is combination of necessity and the fact that I don’t have someone putting negativity in me. I used to think I was being supported by Mark, but in a way, he was stifling me to keep me from doing those things that would free me from my fears. Didn’t realize it until just recently, and I didn’t like what I realized.
Yet, even with all the fun I have been having, I am acutely aware of the magnitude in which my life has changed. I am not saying that this is bad — or even good, it just is. I am liking my new home, and I most certainly like that I am finally, at the age of 50, able to do this on my own without the help of anyone. However I spent 14 years with Mark and life is definitely different. I can’t say it’s lonely nor am I unhappy, but it has changed. And even though I am so happy with my life as it is now, I occasionally miss my old life. It was not perfect. It was stressful. It was chaotic, but it was mine. I sometimes can’t believe that Mark is gone. He was not a perfect man, but the life we had was “mine”, and it was a relatively safe life. Granted, the “unknowns” were scary, and the future would always be stressful, but it had its moments.
I am loving my time with George. I don’t know where it is going to go or how things will end up, so I simply enjoy it each day that we are together. It’s becoming comfortable in new ways each day, and I like comfortable. It equates to peace and simplicity, and those are two of my favorite things. George is a “fly by the seat of his pants” kind of guy. I’ve learned that you cannot be a regimented person when you are with a man like George. He has no timeline and he has no real schedule. I did regimented for many years, so this is something that I am enjoying. I am easy-going so this works for me. I never realized that I didn’t like schedules until recently!! I am not a leader so making the plans and being in charge is no fun for me. I am perfectly happy with letting someone else to do it. George does not seem to mind the task, and it is working for me.
Where is this going to go? I have no idea. I am enjoying life as it is now. I have been so happy these days, and I get terrified that it is going too well and it will all come crashing down around me and implode! But even though it is human nature to think this way, I try to push the fears back, and just go with the flow, enjoying all the fun I am having, spending time with the wonderful and loving people in my life, and doing things that make and keep me happy.