June 21, 2015 has a very bright spot! The summer begins with the solstice at 12:38 P.M. EDT and it is the longest day of the year: having the most sunlight. Summer is my favorite season. It means hot weather and sunshine. It has always signified barbecues, the shore, vacations, and fun. Nothing will change that.
I love waking up in the morning with sunshine. I love being able to go outside in the evening, and it’s still light out. I love the sounds of summer. There’s nothing like the sound of the Boardwalk on a busy Saturday night or the sound of the Ice Cream Truck playing the same song as it trolls through the neighborhood. I love the sound of fireworks and the “ooh and ahh” of the spectators. Few things say summer like the smell of suntan lotion, hamburgers cooking on a grill, and freshly popped popcorn at a local carnival! But nothing lasts forever, and sadly, the first day of summer also means that the days will begin to get shorter by one minute per day.
On another note, this June 21st is Father’s Day. Father’s Day is a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers on our society. It’s been a bittersweet day for me since my Dad passed away in October of 2008. Over the years, I’ve had two father-in-law’s but I have not maintained relationships with either of them. Tony was my first father-in-law. I really liked him. He was a generous man who was always there to lend a helping hand. His Portuguese heritage introduced me to many seafood dishes that I would never have thought to try. Unfortunately, when his stepson and I divorced, I lost contact with him (and the entire family).
My second father-in-law, Lawrence, was completely different from my first. He was a quiet man who rarely spoke. I understand that he had his issues in the past, but he never did anything to me to make me think less of him. I kept an open mind and remained non-judgmental no matter what Mark told me about him. I was a good daughter-in-law to him (and his wife). I tried to maintain a relationship with him after Mark died, but apparently he didn’t want one. He never told me why, but I truly believe that he felt I disrespected him by honoring Mark’s final wishes. I know that Mark’s parents wanted a wake and church service, and a burial in a cemetery. That is not what Mark wanted, and he told them that on several occasions. When I honored Mark’s final wishes of being cremated and having a memorial service catered by his favorite Italian restaurant, it created a huge riff between myself and Mark’s family. Although I tried several times to reach out to him, he never responded, and I stopped trying.
Father’s Day is tough for those of us without Dads. It’s a reminder of what you had but no longer have. I now find the day to be bittersweet with fond memories of the many years with Dad. At the same time, it is a sad remembrance that he is no longer with me in this world.
But the zinger this year is that my wedding anniversary to Mark also falls on June 21st. It would have been 12 years since we got married on the cruise ship Zenith with our friends and family in attendance. After the wedding, I went on my first cruise to Bermuda and truly had the time of my life. In actuality, my true wedding date is September 28, 2002 when Mark and I eloped in Las Vegas, but it was a secret that we kept from people until we could have a real wedding. It’s hard to believe it’s been two and a half years since Mark passed away. Time. It can be measured on a clock in hours, minutes, and seconds. It can be measured on a calendar in days, weeks, months, and years. Yet I’ve never really felt it could be measured in one’s mind. It seems to get all jumbled into past, present and future.
So as this Whammy of a Day approaches, I will press forward, smile sweetly, love always, and live fully, and before I realize it, the day will be but a memory; like so many other days.
Happy Summer Solstice! Happy Father’s Day!
And…. even though I have set fire to my broken pieces and started anew,
memories and feelings never fade. With that…a silent thought…
Today I learned that a friend of mine from High School passed away from lung cancer. I was shocked and so saddened. He was always a friendly man with a great sense of humor. I didn’t keep in touch with him after High School, but we became friends on Facebook. I was able to follow his life and I saw how blessed he was. He met and married a beautiful woman who made him SO happy. It was evident that they were meant to be together.
His passing made me sad on many different levels. The obvious was that a man that I knew in my youth had passed away. It made me hurt for his wife and his family. His friends and co-workers and all those who knew him now must deal with the fact that he is gone.
It made me sad because as I wrote a letter of condolence to his wife, I was reminded of what was ahead for her. It reminded me of the deep pain and despair that I felt when Mark passed away, and I knew that, no matter what people said to console her, it as going to be a long and painful road. She will need to put the pieces of her life back together, and try to find some semblance of normalcy. I know it’s not easy, but it can be done.
My friend’s passing also reminded me that life is short and tomorrow is not guaranteed. What you have today can be taken away in a split second, and then everything in your life changes. We spend so much time doing the things that we think are important, but it turns out that the important things in life are the ones that are simple.
So today I remind myself that it’s not how much money you make. It’s not about working long hours to bring home a few extra dollars. It’s not about having a fancy car with all the bells and whistles. It’s not about having a huge house in the suburbs. It’s not about designer brand clothes. It’s not about buying “stuff” to make yourself look good to others.
Do you want to know what it is about? It’s about spending quality time with those people that you love. It’s about doing things that make you happy. It’s about being with family and friends. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t earn a living, buy a new car or a large house, but those things mean very little if you don’t have close people with whom you can enjoy it.
Balance. That is the key. Balance work with home responsibilities. Balance spending with what you make. Balance the time you spend with loved ones with the time that you spend doing other things that you feel are important
So today, I ask that you show someone special that you care. Show that special person that he/she is important enough that you have chosen — out of all the things to do on your busy schedule — to find the time for them. You may not get the chance to do it tomorrow.
Are you judging me for the choices that I have made in my life simply because you do not agree with them? Or are you jealous because I managed to pick up the shattered pieces of my life and move forward?
We were both dealt some bad cards. I threw all my cards on the table, and I got myself a new hand. This was MY choice. You were also dealt a new hand of cards, but you chose a different path in life. This was your choice. Neither choice is wrong or right. It was simply the choices we made that fit our own particular needs and desires.
You have chosen to remain single. I have chosen to find a partner. These are the choices that we have made in our life. Personally, I would not want to spend years and years alone. It’s not my personality. I like being in a relationship, and I love the whole concept of marriage. Apparently you prefer to be single and have chosen to remain alone. This does not make you a bad person. But in the same token, my choice to be in a relationship with someone does not make me a bad person.
I have no idea (not even an inkling) why you dislike my boyfriend so much or why you express such sarcasm and bad feelings toward him. He’s never done anything to you. In fact you barely know him. Even if there were something about him that you do/did not like, you do not have to spend time with him and you rarely see him. If nothing else, I would think you would accept him as a part of my life simply for the fact that he makes me happy.
Maybe that’s it. Maybe you are unhappy with your own life, and you dislike seeing me happy and content. Maybe you thought that when Mark passed away, I would crumble and walk around with a “poor, poor pitiful me” attitude. That’s not me, and if you thought that it was, then you do not know me at all. Mark’s death made me realize that life is short, and no one is guaranteed tomorrow.
Maybe you think that I started dating too soon after Mark passed away. In fact I know that you thought I did. It’s okay. You were not the only one who felt that way. Several of my friends felt that I was setting myself up for hurt. Yet I would have figured after a year and a half of sharing my life with my boyfriend, you would realize and understand that what I have developed with George is something serious. It’s not a rebound relationship. It’s not a fling nor was it ever a one night stand.
I don’t need to explain my time line for dating. Everyone deals with grief in his/her own way. I dealt with mine. That is not to say that I don’t miss Mark. I will be honest, there is not a day that goes by that I do not think of him in some capacity. However, he is gone. He’s been gone for over two years, and he is not coming back.
After this last incident with you, I was told I was overreacting to the situation. I beg to differ. Had this been an isolated incident, I could concur that my reaction was over the top. However I have been subjected to snide comments from you for well over a year and a half. I am a very peaceful person. I rarely lose my temper. But when I am subjected to repeated comments about things that are no one’s business but MINE, I can snap and lash out. It’s not pretty, is it?
A friend told me that I should take you aside and tell you that your comments about me and my relationship are hurtful. At first I thought this might be a good idea. But then I realized that your comments don’t hurt me. I haven’t done anything wrong, nor has my boyfriend. I have no regrets about how I have lived my life since Mark passed away.
Instead I realized that your comments PISS ME off. Your inconsiderate comments are not hurting me, but they are hurting our friendship. After writing this (which is my way of venting and putting things into perspective), I am putting this incident behind me. I have brushed this off my back once again. I have a feeling it won’t be the last time that will do this. But there WILL be a last time. There will be a time when I am just too tired to care any more. And I will be done. Finish line reached.
My mom became an orphan at a very young age and was put into a “home” (I think orphanage) with her two older sisters. If I recall, her older brother went to live with relatives (although after all these years, it is possible that I remember the story wrong).
Mom went to Nursing school, and she married my dad (My mom’s older sister Sarah’s husband Ed worked with the man who became her husband). After 14 years of trying to have children, they found that they were unable to conceive. They decided to adopt. Sarah knew a young woman who was pregnant (my biological mother), and a private adoption was arranged. As it turned out, my mother was able to get pregnant, and my brother was born before I was two years old.
When I was a young child, my mom developed Breast Cancer. She had a mastectomy. Not long after, she developed Breast Cancer in her remaining breast and again had a mastectomy. My mother developed cancer a third time and was forced to have a hysterectomy. She fought hard to become healthy, and lived quite a few healthy years.
In 1986 my parents retired to Florida, and only a few years later my mother developed more health issues. She had a seizure in a supermarket, and it was determined that she had a brain tumor, and she had fractured a vertebrae in her spine. She had surgery for the broken vertebrae and with the help of titanium rods, she was able to get around again. However, the brain tumor was worrisome. She did have an operation to remove it, but ultimately it came back. Radiation treatments helped but in the end, after a 10 year battle, my mother succumbed to Cancer of the Brain. It was an ugly illness. It left her unable to speak, see, hear, or move. Hospice was needed for the last few weeks of a life that was cut short by cancer.
Through everything that she battled in her life, I never once remember hearing her complain. I am sure she had struggles that I never knew. The last ten years of her life were difficult, but she endured it with grace and dignity.
I was 37 when she died. I’m going to be 52, It’s been 15 years since my mom passed away. Sometimes the timeline seems right, but other times I have a hard time believing she has been gone for such a long period of time.
I miss her. I can’t remember a day when I did not think of her. What I wouldn’t give to spend a day with that amazing woman I called MOM!!
RIP Mommy ; January 23, 1926 – January 22, 1990
I have been pretty absent this past year, haven’t I? I used to love to write posts in this blog. It hasn’t really felt right in the past year. In the beginning this blog was about my life with Mark and our struggles with his kidney disease issues. Then he passed away, and it was my struggles as a newly widowed 49 year old woman.
Now I don’t have the dialysis stories, nor do I have the stories about widowhood. Sure, I am still a widow, but the pain that I initially felt when Mark passed away has lessened significantly. I still think of him often, but thinking of him is no longer associated with a deep, agonizing pain.
I can still remember that night. January 17, 2013. Two years ago. I can remember calling 911. I can remember the police and ambulances in front of my home. I remember my neighbor Adam coming over to see if he could help. I can remember talking to the Emergency Room doctor. I can remember when they pronounced Mark’s time of death. I can remember talking to the social worker. I can remember when I said goodbye to the the man that I loved. I can remember my two absolutely wonderful friends who came to the hospital and stayed with me. And I don’t know what I would have done without my brother Jeff who has ALWAYS been my rock throughout the years. I reconnected with a few friends in my time of mourning, and I still see them today.
When Mark first passed away, I was in shock. Then the sadness and pain hit, and I did nothing but cry for weeks. Months. One day I realized that Mark would want me to get my act together and stop wallowing in sadness. I did just that. I found a new place to live. I downsized and “merged and purged” all the material things I had in my home. Again I have to ask myself, was it necessary for me to have three food processors? I put my financial house in order, and I took drastic steps to put my life back together. I found a new love, and I have tried new things that I have always wanted to do.
Today I find myself approaching the two year anniversary of Mark’s passing.
I miss his very unique sense of humor. I miss his laugh. I miss his cooking. I miss collard greens, southern fried chicken, Okra soup, Soul Food, homemade mac and cheese, southern style BBQ beef short ribs, and fried varieties of fish. I miss entertaining with seven course meals that would leave our guests stuffed and amazed that he could cook like he did.
I miss going to Dunkin’ Donuts on Saturday mornings and getting coffee and a glazed donut, and sitting by the waterfront watching the boats and watercraft. Going alone is just not the same.
I missed seeing the Christmas decorations. We used to drive around neighborhoods and look at the decorations. He always loved Christmas. He loved when I decorated the house. It was never really my thing, but I did it because he liked it so much.
I miss the silly, stupid inside jokes that we had. I miss playing “Old or idiot” when we would drive around. I miss the stories about his students at school and the corruption that went on in the district.
I miss how he would do impressions of various people and accents. He used to make me (and everyone else) crack up.
I miss the places we went together over the years. And it is often bittersweet when I drive by them.
When I look at my sweet and lovable Belle, I remember that it was Mark who bought her for me. He did his research and found me the perfect furbaby. If not for him, I would have never gotten Belle. He was not a dog person at all, but he knew how much I wanted a furry friend. After Mark passed away, Belle became even more special than she already was. She helped me through so much in those first few months. She didn’t come away unscathed though. For months she would sit and wait for Mark to come through the door at night. And my non-shedding dog became a shedder; in all likelihood from the trauma and stress.
When anniversaries such as 9/11, Hurricanes (Katrina, Irene and Sandy) or a famous person who passed are mentioned, I think of Mark. After all, we dealt with those tragedies together. We lived them together, and we healed together. We were on a cruise when Katrina barreled through the Gulf. We both felt guilty and saddened. That was the very last vacation that I took so it has definite bittersweet memories.
Now in the wake of finding out that my boss will be retiring and selling his practice, I find myself in a whole different scary position. I could not only be without a job but without health insurance as well. Being married to Mark was a security blanket. He had a good income, and I could have been unemployed for a while, and he would have found a way to carry me financially. He also had TERRIFIC health insurance. He would have allowed me time to “wind down” before I looked for new employment. Now I don’t have that luxury. Now it is ME supporting me.
I wouldn’t give up my life and independence to trade it for “what was”. I can’t go back in time. I only look back in time so I can see how far I have come. Losing Mark was NOT something I ever wanted or asked for, but it is what it is. I am looking toward the future, but definitely enjoying my PRESENT.
I remember those that I have lost in my life. That includes those who have passed away or simply walked away. Everything happens for a reason. I don’t know what the reasons are. I used to think I wanted to know. Now I am sure that I don’t. The bottom line is that it happened, and I reacted and then I acted.
I am happy with the actions that I took to change my life. I really am happy with my life now. It is simple. It is fun. It is filled with happiness and love. What I have now is what I have searched for all my life: love, independence, family, security, and friendships that run deeper than words can express. That is something that I have wanted forever. Belle has a new Daddy. And I have a new love in my life. Actually it’s not “new” any longer. This new “family” has been thriving for over a year and a half. I’m happy. Belle is happy. And George says he is happy. We are planning a new future. This is a new chapter in the “Book of Bon”. There will be other chapters to follow. And I am looking forward to it.
… 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!!