Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Dance of Life

Memories.  Funny how they "pop up" at the strangest times.

Why did I start thinking about dancing with my husband yesterday?

Could it have been the recent visit of our youngest son as he made time to change his travel plans to swing through our city, the city where he grew up, his "home" for so long?

He and his wife celebrated another anniversary. The years are passing but they're still so few compared to the lifetime together we shared. 

We were fortunate. We were. Even with the early parting, we were still given many years and great memories made together; choices and possibilities, errors and regrets -- yes, those too.

Walking from the car to the restaurant where we were going to dinner I walked behind him.  It was raining and we gave him one umbrella while daughter and I shared another.

There he was. In a business suit. Walking ahead of me as his father sometimes had and I saw again how much he resembled this man I married, the father of our children, of this grown "child" now a husband and father and not that many years away from being a grandparent himself in the broad scope of life passing so quickly as it does.

He's built like his father. Same height or near it. Broad shoulders. Even his walk is similar. And that smile, yes, definitely the same one with the twinkle in the eye and broad enough to wrap around the world and back again.

Mannerisms and gestures are also so similar but yet many he's developed and acquired that are his uniquely.

So, why think about dancing?  

Maybe it's a need for the closeness shared. 

Perhaps it's returning to the joy of special occasions where dancing was part of the celebration.

Not all times. Especially the last dance we shared before we began our journey down life's final road together.

The sweet times.  The first dance. Can't remember where or when because we were in college and in those days there were many parties and special occasions where we danced. 

Dancing was definitely changing as the movement from "couples" changed to the individual dancing "their own way" but with a partner to today's concept of just getting out there and being a part of the "group action". 

There are some memorable times. 

His fraternity's Sweetheart Dance where I was one of the young women chosen to "compete" for the title. It meant getting a special long formal dress and not having the means of many of my contemporaries, it was quite a pressure to find an affordable dress in the small college town where we went to school.

It was so beautiful. And my then "date" and years later to be husband's wonderful Mother suggested she make a long formal coat to go over the dress as the weather was cool that Autumn. So, I bought the material (on sale, of course) and she made an amazingly beautiful coat I think I still have.

I say "think" because we experienced a fire and lost almost everything we owned when we were married seven years. Fires are horrid. 

Walking through the ashes tears you apart. We were fortunate no lives were lost and as with so much of our life, picked ourselves up and began again. 

Back to the dress and coat.

My "date" was supposed to drive me to the little shop to pick up the dress that was being altered. As I would discover through the decades of married life, he would sometimes forget, often to my frustration and yes, even anger. Seems small now, that anger; seemed big at the time.

He forgot. Completely. Totally. He called me on the phone that night and received a very "cold" reception. 

Today I can say he was honestly confused; he'd really forgotten. To me then it was a major event; the dance was the following day and I wouldn't have time to pick it up so I'd walked all the way there and splurged on a cab for the return because I had this long, flowing dress to carry. No cell phones in those days. No way to reach him.

Compounding the "situation", I asked him if he'd forgotten to do anything that day and he paused, thought a minute and said, "No, I went to all my classes and came home and took out the trash. No, nothing. Why?" 

Of course, to me, the mention of remembering to take out the trash at his shared apartment was too much. He could remember the trash but not remember the dress I needed for the dance?

Memories. The good. The bad. The movement back and forth, around, twists and turns, fast and slow. Like a dance. One you create as you move through life.

Yes, I remember dancing at our wedding, at our 25th wedding celebration with friends and family, at events celebrating life and amazing celebrations with our children.

And, I remember our last dance

In a hall we returned to in celebration of one of Mom's sister-in-law's major birthdays -- turning 90. 

I'd danced there as a child. Family gatherings. 

My uncles playing musical instruments and singing. Country music; country songs; country dancing. Some I enjoyed; some I walked outside to avoid. 

Cousins now with their own children and grandchildren. Mom seeming to be enjoying herself and everyone amazed at her "ability" at such an advanced age, older by several years than her sister-in-law.

My husband said he wasn't feeling really well. He'd had his first trip to the ER and short hospital stay. 

We didn't know this night would be our last "dance" together.

I admit, I've always loved to dance. Our song was played. The one we danced to at the college Newman Center where we'd met. Johnny Mathis' "Twelfth of Never". 

I begged him to dance. We stood and held one another for a few minutes with the familiar melody bringing back so many memories. 

Then, he begged to sit down; he couldn't stand any longer. 

His weakness increased and the following day we went back to the hospital and started our journey down the last road we went down together.

Life is a dance. Sometimes slow; often fast. 
We dance together, we dance alone. 
The notes can be high or low. 
The tempo varying or sometimes too familiar.

We write the music and sing the song along with moving our bodies with the melodies we create.

The Dance of Life continues for some and ends for others.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mourning and Being A Long Term Widow

It's like an indelible stamp. Death of a spouse. 

Does it fade with time or only if someone else enters your life and the pain and loss are replaced with more positive thoughts?

Your spouse has passed. You get letters and cards honoring the person. Friends and acquaintances express their condolences and their concerns for you -- for a while.

Life goes on. That's it. Adjust. Move on. 

Funny, looking back I remember sermons in Church after my husband passed about the "goodness" of the single life, of remaining true to the one that's been "lost".  

I didn't really get the message back then but since I've chosen to move away from that place I somehow find the memories of those advisories to be directed towards me even though I had no thought then nor do I now of "moving on" with someone else.

My daughter, however, had mentioned there was someone, a man, who wondered how long I'd stay a "widow" and thought I'd be quick to remarry. 

That was four and a half years ago. That was at my husband's funeral. 

Some people just don't have what used to be referred to as "class" to say that in front of an immediate family member.

But then there's no accounting for people's inability to have what was also called "manners" and the foresight to know what to say, when to say it and where to say it.

Oh, well.  Moving forward.

We're allowed to talk about the pet we had as a child and how much we missed the dog,cat or even goldfish when it died but people don't really want to hear about a dead spouse.

Yes. There is life in the here and now after death. For some it's a return to normal or a new chance. For others it's life continuing down a path somewhat planned, somewhat by chance but moving forward, sometimes looking back.

Maybe a son remembers it's still a difficult time -- father's day, his father's birthday, your anniversary.

Perhaps it's because my husband passed at a time in life when we were supposed to be beginning to enjoy our "freedom" from work, from the everyday -- a new start.

You still have some of his things. Hanging in "his" closet or in "his" drawers?  Give them away. Get rid of them. They're only reminders of what isn't and it's time you moved on.

No. 

Reminders are all around the widow or widower. 

They're not necessarily sad but sometimes they're not fun.

Amazing how you become "older" to some family members when you lose a spouse. 

You seem to lose your ability to "think clearly" and any annoyances or challenges they have in their life become reflections of how you, the remaining "parent', did a poor job and messed their lives up forever unless they totally "cut" the "imaginary umbilical cord" some people call contact or connection.

And, heaven help you if you finally succumb to momentous pressures you've risen to slay with your imaginary sword, in real life perseverance and persistence, and cry or show emotions reflecting your rejection of how you're being treated or actions taken not in your best interest.

YOU can have "mood swings" due to "change of life" or setbacks at work or for any reason. 

I dare not show I'm human, too, just like you, because you'll think "there's something wrong with me".

GET OVER IT. That's what I seem to hear even when there's only silence.

Although sometimes you have to go around, under, beside, between or over "IT" through many trials and tribulations and a little "help", a measure of "assistance" as with any challenge in life, often provides the "teamwork" needed to move positively and progressively.

My second son talked about perspective when we were last together. As with so much in life, sometimes it's the slightest comments that "stick" with you. He wasn't lecturing me, he was talking about a presentation he'd given to some younger and less experienced people where he works.

His comment reflected on making statements about a group of numbers he presented. It showed the amount of time he spent travelling, how many weeks he was on the road, the amount of air miles he'd accumulated and more -- all in the space of a few months.

The positive was how "successful" his efforts had been and how the group, as a whole, was moving towards their goal.

The negative came in the form of a text message from his oldest daughter about him not being around.

PERSPECTIVE.  Life is all about that word. 


A key to life, in my world, is realizing it's not just perspective but it's more REALIZATION.  

Recognizing the need to dig deeper, hear more completely and above all, respect the other person's viewpoint even when it's not your own.

How long will I be the widow? As with many other life experiences I may not choose to be nor have the ability to control or foresee the answer to that question. 

Time can be so short and it can be too long. These past four plus years moved ever so slowly yet now when I stand and look backwards, they passed so very quickly. 

It truly seems like yesterday we took that walk down the church aisle to get married and then I walked alongside our daughter and behind you as your friends walked alongside you honoring your life, honoring the man you were and the memory you continue to be.

I forgot some things for your funeral but I wasn't really expecting there to be one. 

You were getting better, you were coming home in a few days. Then it happened. The change. The turn around. 

The swift but slow movement towards our separation and your never coming home, never returning here to be with me again.

No. I don't need to "let go" to give away or throw away EVERYTHING about you. It's not a constant reminder, it's simply a part of life. 

As time moves forward, I take a little here and a little there to shelters and other places I think some man will benefit from having "new" clothes even if there are some small signs of wear and use.

We've always given to others; it was always a part of our life, of who we were separately and together. 

This should be no different. 

And, if there remains any visible signs of everyday life as it used to be what difference is that from living with family heirlooms passed from generation to generation.

It is my life; it was our life. It hurts no one. It helps me.

And that has become a part of my mourning, as individual as I am and always have been. 

A long term widow?  A long term wife, mother and daughter.

Friday, June 12, 2015

LIght and Darkness: Social Gatherings Bring Joy and Pain

On Sunday, we'll celebrate Father's Day. As some things do, I've just truly realized the depth of loss on this day knowing my sons and daughter no longer have a father to honor on this day. No grandfathers, either.

The gauntlet has been passed, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post about attending funerals and how we seem to "move up" closer to the front and then into the front row as those dear to us move away from us and onward.

Another wave of realization came over me just  last weekend.

Arriving at an annual dinner function to honor a special member of the group, I looked for people I knew but saw infrequently.  

Usually seated at a table with parents from my sons classes, I look forward to catching up on what the "kids" are doing, where they're living, families, etc. 

I missed last year's event and was looking forward to this one to see people who once were so important in our daily lives.

Moving around the room in the pre dinner socializing, I saw one of my son's teachers, a woman I'd admired but not kept touch with over the years. She came up to me and we started to "catch up".

What a difference a year or a little more can make!  

She told me she'd never heard of MRSA before we spoke at the last gathering. 

Then came the shocker when she told me her husband was diagnosed with MRSA and survived only a few months. I'd at least had my husband longer than that. 

I'm not sure but believe we're close in age so to hear her tragedy mirroring my own, I felt the loss of my husband, again, knowing she'd also lost hers.

When you experience what is seen as a "rare" disease causing death, you feel isolated, you feel "different". 

Cancer, heart disease and other "afflictions", people grasp, they "know about" and they somewhat share your challenges. Not so with those diseases or afflictions we've been through, the MRSA and the Lewy Body Dementia.  

We still get puzzled looks and questions. 

Many people politely listen and then offer their condolences but I don't think they believe their lives can also be affected by these killers. 

Now, I'd found someone who had been a very close part of my life, of our family's life, a teacher who left an indelible mark in our youngest son's life through the ways she helped him along the way, who knew my pain, my suffering and my loss. 

I wish she didn't, I wish she hadn't had to endure and I wish her husband had not had to go through those times I know he had.

Turning to find another "old" acquaintance, we started talking. She had sons in my son's classes.

Then came the second wave of shock and awe, as I learned about another mother, of a son in my oldest's sons' class and someone I'd worked with. The last year I'd attended, I was seated next to her with her husband beside her and her youngest son, a close school friend of my oldest, and his wife also at our table.

Now, I'm listening to the tragedy of another life unfold through the voice of another Mom from our class.

A little over a year ago, this Mom, with whom I'd talked and who I somewhat envied because she was with her husband and life seemed so "normal" while I was just beginning to return to some of the things I "used to do" and places I would "usually go" with my husband or my mother, had experienced in less than two years tragedies mirroring yet surpassing my own.

Flashback.

The first year I attended this event, I felt so strange. A part of me was missing, my husband. 

We were a pair, a couple, together even when far across a room or standing talking with a group away from one another. 

This place had been our "second home" with our sons for eight years. We'd worked side by side and with others to develop and grow so many programs and possibilities.

At the many functions we attended together, some in this same area, I was usually the one "abandoned" as my sociable husband "worked the crowd".

I remember those first business meetings when I was so young and he was "climbing the corporate ladder". 

He didn't intentionally "leave me"; he'd just get involved and like a wave on the sea, as the person he was with and he moved to join someone else, there was a rippling effect as he moved farther and farther away until I lost direct sight of him. 

Sometimes, when we traveled for his business, he'd be in meetings and ask me to meet him at a pre-function where I'd find hundreds of people and where I was often one of the few females in attendance. 

In a sea of men, you'd think it would be easy to find your husband but it's not, especially when they're all dressed similarly either in jackets with dress shirts and ties or business suits. 

I always felt more "whole" when I found him and somewhat lost when I couldn't.

Fast Forward 

Now I was listening to the story of someone whose life paralleled mine but moved in a direction I am most grateful has not been my fate.

However, I often wonder what life would have been like without my daughter, so often a source of strength and continuity. 

Oh, we have our times, life is like that, but we have the same mother/daughter relationship I was so fortunate to have with my mother. That's why when I found out "late in life" I was expecting again I was overjoyed with the possibility and then the confirmation I was expecting a girl, a daughter,

But I digress.

My "old friend" with whom I'd lost touch as we often do when we move in different directions after leaving a group, had lost her youngest son to an accident while he was travelling out of the country. She'd had two sons, just as we had, their oldest being in the same class as our oldest.

Within just a few months that followed this tragedy, her husband passed. We had slightly longer, our double family tragedy lasted through many medical challenges and diseases that moved slower.

Now, I'm told, she's had a stroke and is living in an Assisted Living facility. 

Two stories of loss and extreme change. It comes with age, many would say. No. Just another episode in life.

I remember losses and medical challenges along this life's journey. 

The cousin with recurring Breast cancer and finally getting a double mastectomy.

A cousin whose mother died of Ovarian Cancer and she was thinking of having a hysterectomy when she suddenly passed totally unexpected of an Aneurysm.

A nephew's wife killed in a car accident followed within a little over a year by his own death in a car accident and suddenly our becoming Guardians of a little girl, their daughter, just a couple of weeks older than our own daughter.

The stories were many. The stories were varied. The losses were great and they weren't always after lengthy or long lives.

Light and Darkness. Joy and Pain. Life and Death. In many variations we move together, apart and back again as we weave this fabric of ourselves.