ripthelifeiknew

The Brutally Honest, Awful, Hilarious Truth About Loving and Losing My Husband

Exciting News!!!

Hello Readers!

First off, thank you all so much for following my blog. It really means a lot to me.

I wanted to let you all know about some exciting news. As you may be aware, the goal and dream with this blog is for the writing pieces here and the ones still in my head to eventually become a book. Essentially, I am giving you a “preview” of the book with the blog posts, and the dream is for that book to be published. In order to make that happen, I need more readers/followers/subscribers, and also need to somehow get the media’s attention – get this thing some press!

So, with the help of an amazing investor who knows her stuff, Ive made some small changes. I have bought my domain name, so now I own the title RIPthelifeIKnew. The new blogpage is active right now, and a brand new post “Wake Me Up Before You Poop Poop” was just published last week. I would love it if you would continue to follow me over on my new blogsite. You can easily do this by going to the site (link will be below), and entering your email in the SUBSCRIPTION BOX. Or, you can also follow the RSS feed, below the sub box. Just like with this blog, you will be notified when a new post has been published, and I promise not to spam you. You will also notice that the new blogsite has many fun things on it, like videos, articles, and links to other sites Im on. If you want, you can continue to follow this blog address as well, or you can stop following this and just follow/subscribe to the new one. For now, I will continue posting on both, until most of my followers have moved over to the new site. I hope you will keep following my unpredictable life adventures … and as always, I thank you for your support. Here is the new address: http://www.ripthelifeiknew.com/ 

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Jealousy

(Originally written on 8/11/2011)

JEALOUSY

Today my mom, dad and I went with our close family friend Eve to the hospital/comfort care center to visit her husband Charlie. Everyone calls him Chuck, and I know him as “Uncle Chuck.” Hes not my uncle by blood or anything, but my brother and I grew up with them as our next door neighbors our entire childhood on Taylor Road in Groton, and we always called them “Aunty Eve and Uncle Chuck.” They were one of those couples that always seemed to be stuck in time; as if they both remained the same age year after year.They never changed. Same hairstyle, same type of clothes, same habits, same routine. Their yellow house next door looked the same every single Christmas, and they both seemed to revel in their sameness. It was wonderful, and comfortable, and they liked it. And then about seven years ago, something weird happened. Uncle Chuck started getting sick, and old. And sometimes, when you live right next door to someone forever and see them everyday, you dont notice them getting old. But because I lived in NJ and would come home to Groton Massachusetts every few months; I started to notice that the once quick-witted, funny, stubborn, nice as hell guy I always knew … was becoming a bit less quick, and a lot more stubborn.

He was also starting to forget things a lot more often; and this was someone who was extremely detail-oriented and self-sufficient. He got worse with each trip home I made with Don. And then when Don and I got married and Uncle Chuck and Aunty Eve made the 5 hour drive up to Long Island to be at our wedding, Uncle Chuck forgot to pack Aunty Eve’s suitcase in the car. They didnt realize this until it was too late, and the wedding was set to begin in less than an hour. I still remember Aunty Eve coming up to me and Don at the cocktail hour, whispering to both of us in her classic sarcastic way: “If only you knew what hell I went through to GET here Kelley! Don’t ever say we never did anything for you!” She laughed like hell. Turns out Chuck, Eve, and their daughter Cheryl had to drive around Long Island, a place they were all completely unfamiliar with, and search for a store so Eve could buy a dress, panty hose, and shoes to wear to the wedding. All they could find was a Wal-Mart. With no time to spare, they bought the first thing they saw, grabbed some pantyhose off the shelf, shoes, and got back in the car. Apparently Aunty Eve was putting her pantyhose on and her dress over her head as they pulled up to the wedding ceremony; and the pantyhose were way too small and continued to fall down to her shoes the entire evening. Don and I never heard the end of it from Eve on that one. And that was the beginning of Chuck’s downfall.

 

There was one time when Uncle Chuck slipped and fell in his house, and Don rushed over there to put his EMT-hat on and help get him into the car and to the hospital. I remember how good Don was that day at making Uncle Chuck feel comforted; like everything was going to be okay. “How we doin today Chuck? Not a great day, huh? Its not fun to fall down, is it? It sucks. We’re gonna get you to the hospital and take care of you okay? Then you can come back home and see your doggies. Here, grab my hand.” He did that with all his patients; whether he knew them personally or not. He had a gift for easing others pain and calming them down. If Don was around, you knew you would be okay. After that day, there were more trips to the hospital, until finally those trips became permanent and now he was staying in the “comfort care” section of the hospital, which is where we were headed to visit him.

Dad was driving, Eve was in the passenger seat, and I was in back with mom. I started getting that nauseous feeling again; the one Ive had in the pit of my stomach since Don died. It feels sort of like someone punched me in the gut about 50 times in a row, and then threw me on a roller coaster that never stops. It feels like Im on a boat, and the waves are slow and endless, and there is no shore. It feels like I want to throw up, except I dont have to throw up. I can feel another panic attack coming on, so I try and talk myself out of it. We sit on a bench outside before going into the hospital, and this old man comes out of the front doors and his spine and body are shaped like a boomerang. His head is literally facing the concrete and he is walking sideways. He has keys in his hand because he is walking to his car. This man cant see two feet in front of him, and can barely tackle walking; but he is about to drive home. He looks like death but he makes some lighthearted joke about the weather as he goes by us. I only half hear him. We walk into the hospital, and down several long hallways. We pass a slew of old people who have given up on life, or who have had no choice but to give up on life. Or life gave up on them. Their bodies and their minds stopped functioning, and now they sit, slumped over in metal chairs, being spoon-fed Jello and banana pudding by some overworked nurse named Helen. We go into a room at the end of one of these long hallways, and on the door it says “Chuck Wheeler.” He is one of these people now.

My parents and I sit in chairs at the foot of his bed, and Aunty Eve goes over to wake him. He is asleep and wearing pajamas. He jolts awake by her familiar touch, and they kiss each other on the lips in a very familiar, routine, immediate way. There is no thought behind it, and there is something very loving about it to me. They have had a lifetime together; and you can feel all those years in the way they talk, or dont talk, or look at one another. Eve sits at the foot of the bed, and Chuck looks up at us. His hair is all over the place like it hasnt been combed or cut in months. His eyes are exhausted, and his breathing is labored. He says hello to us, and then everyone begins talking around him and about him as if he is not in the room. This is what people have been doing to me lately too, and so I immediately feel for him. Everyone is acting like he is invisible, and he is a human being trying to reach out. He sits up fast and tells his wife “sit here.” She asks why, and he says, as if its obvious, “I just want you to be comfortable, that’s why.”

I start tearing up watching them. It is nothing romantic I am seeing. Its just the opposite. It is two people who have shared many years together, a marriage, children, a life. I am seeing the everyday workings of what happens when you have all those years together, and when you get old and sick. My eyes start to well up and I feel like I need to leave the room. I start thinking about how Uncle Chuck is probably so far from his right mind that Aunty Eve probably didnt even tell him that Don had died. And then I think about how sick he is and how he can hardly breathe because he has pneumonia on top of the Alzheimers and the bad eye sight and the almost full-hearing loss; and the strangest feeling comes over me.

 Jealousy. I am jealous. I am jealous of the length of their union. I am jealous that they got to grow old together, to die close to each other, without having to live so many years without the other. I am jealous that when their loved ones died in life; they got to hold on to one another and get each other through that. I am jealous of every cup of coffee they had together each and every morning; and Im jealous that they held onto each others arm to help one another up the stairs. I am jealous of their years. Here he is, in a bed, sick as a dog, and Im jealous. It is the weirdest feeling, and it passes within a couple of minutes. When I leave the room, Uncle Chuck strains his eyes to look at me, and finally says “Good to see you Kelley. Take care.” I take his hand and tell him it was good to see him too, and I tear up again, realizing this is probably the last time I will ever see him.

(And it was. Uncle Chuck died peacefully on December 20, 2011. Rest in Peace Charles Wheeler.)

 

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The Beginning

It was February 25, 1997. I was living in an apartment with my oldest childhood friend Sarah in Forest Hills, NY. Our entire childhood together, we both had the dream of moving to NY and becoming performers. Now we were roommates, and on our way. Sort of. I was a Tour Guide at Radio City Music Hall, a part-time waitress in a hole in the wall Irish pub in the city, and I was auditioning now and then for acting work. I hadn’t yet begun my stand-up comedy pursuit; and my personal life was on a downward spiral. Months before, I had been through a hugely traumatic event that I had shared with absolutely nobody, except for a very rude and unhelpful “counselor” on an anonymous hotline one desperate evening. I will get into what happened to me later on in this book; but what’s important right now is that something had happened; and it had changed me. I was no longer trusting of men, and I had become very insecure and unsure of myself as a person. Im not sure why I didnt share any of this with Sarah;  or my parents; or a friend; or anyone; but I didnt.

 
As a result of my trauma, I had gained a whole bunch of weight, over time. I went from being a little bit pudgy … to Precious. Other than the typical “freshman 15”, I never really had a huge weight issue until this incident. I think that somewhere inside, I told myself that if I was fat and unattractive, then nobody would ever hurt me again. Nobody would want to touch me. I built a shield of flesh for myself and then lived inside of it for a long time. Like a whale; comfortable in my blubber. It was oddly comforting to shut people out. I was unhappy and unfulfilled, and I didnt feel like myself at all. I was stuck.
 
Sarah had just bought a computer, and she put it in our living room entranceway for both of us to use. It was our very first desktop computer that either of us had ever owned; so it was a huge deal. This was during the time when AOL (America Online) was still what everyone used; and also during the time when dial-up was pretty much the only option to getting on the internet. So it took forever to get online, and there were a lot of weird and loud noises involved in doing so. Everytime you went online, it sounded like a fax machine was having a seizure inside of a tunnel. It was a horrible, awful racket. It was also completely normal, and we didnt have anything better at that time. When you finally got to your AOL screen, and that annoying male voice said “Welcome! You’ve Got Mail!” – that was just about the most exciting thing anyone could ever imagine in life. Having an email was like a small victory. It was evidence that you were cool. “You’ve Got Mail!” meant – “You’ve Got Friends!”
 
Often times, if Sarah was out or had gone to bed, I would log onto AOL and sort of browse around. At that time in my life, the last few guys I had dated, I had met them all online. This was due to the fact that I felt so badly about myself, that I wanted to just hide behind my keyboard and talk. I wanted to feel close to someone, without getting too close to someone. The computer monitor was just another shield, protecting me from getting my heart broken, or getting rejected. In real life, I had to be thin and beautiful and perfect and everything that someone was looking for. Behind a computer screen, nobody knew what I looked like. We could just talk, and I could be free. In real life; I was Kelley. Online; I was nameless. I was a mystery called Camelsocks.
 
Usually; if I started talking to someone, it would be in some sort of Music or Comedy Chat Room. Chat Rooms were all the rage back then on AOL. You would choose a topic; something that interested you; like baseball. Then you could go into an online chat room, for free, where there would be a lot of other people in there who wanted to talk about baseball with you. It was amazing! There was one room in particular that I used to really enjoy popping into. It was called “Guess What 80’s Song”; and it was a Trivia Game someone had made up. One person would give out a lyric from a 1980’s song; and then everyone else would have to guess what it was. The trick was to type your answer faster than all the other people in the room; because that made you the winner. I would sit there, fingers at the ready, waiting to get my one-hit wonder obscure lyric. I was a master at this game, because I have always been obsessed with the 1980’s. It was my childhood, and it’s just a hilarious time period. The clothing, the music, the movies, the way people talked … it’s endlessly entertaining. I looked forward to logging online and playing this game as a sort of “wind-down” period from a long day at work. It was mindless, and it was fun.
 
Normally; there were anywhere from 10-50 people in the Chat Room. Sometimes more. On February 25, 1997, there were only two: Wayabvepar and Camelsocks. What follows is a shortened portion of the Chat Room conversation between these two screennames. It is written completely from memory, 13 years later. So; although it is definitely paraphrased; it is not far from the actual dialogue. Here is the very first conversation I ever had with Don Shepherd:
 
 
Wayabvepar: Um ….. are we in the right place? (crickets)

Camelsocks: lol I guess its just you and me in here. Was it something I said?
Wayabvepar: It was probably your weird-ass name. Camelsocks? What the hell is a camelsocks? lol
Camelsocks: Its nothing. Its just random.
Wayabvepar: Thats one word for it. lol.
Camelsocks: Well what the hell does your name mean?
Wayabvepar: Its a golf reference. You know .. par? Golf?
Camelsocks: How old are you, 90? You have a golf joke as your screenname? Am I talking to a senior citizen?
Wayabvepar: No lol. I just like to play sometimes, and Im not that good. Hence the screenname. You know, its not very funny if I have to explain it:)
Camelsocks: Either that or its just not very funny.
Wayabvepar: Jeez. Rough crowd. Seriously, where is everyone??? Im stuck in here with someone named Camelsocks who has known me all of 3 minutes and is already mocking me?
Camelsocks: It’s a talent. I live to mock.
Wayabvepar: Great. And Im your lucky target.
Camelsocks: Well its either that or we play the lyrics game.
Wayabvepar: Go ahead. Give me a lyric.
Camelsocks: “Jumbo Me Said jumbo jumbo oh jumbo jumbo Jumbo mee ta said you wan Ya. OH jumbo Jumbo!”
Wayabvepar: LOL What the hell???????
Camelsocks: You dont know it?
Wayabvepar: Oh I know it. Its freakin Lionel Richie. All Night Long.
Camelsocks: Very good!
Wayabvepar: But those arent the lyrics. Not even close! lol. Jumbo jumbo? lol.
Camelsocks: Well what does he say then? Thats what it sounds like lol.
Wayabvepar: I dont know what the hell he says, but I know its not “jumbo jumbo.” lol. Youre on crack.
Camelsocks: lol I could have given you the lame “Hello, is it me youre lookin for?”
Wayabvepar: What is this, Lionel Richie hour? There are other artists, you know.
Camelsocks: True.
Wayabvepar: Spandau Ballet!!!!
Camelsocks: lol. Nice! So youre obsessed with the 80s as much as I am, I take it?
Wayabvepar: Yeah, whats not to love.
Camelsocks: Have you played this lyric game before in this room?
Wayabvepar: Nope. My first time in here. And its just you. Im startin to think I was set up.
Camelsocks: Yes. This is how I trap men. I lure them into 1980s AOL Rooms and then feed them Jumbo Jumbo lyrics.You are a man, arent you?
Wayabvepar: Yes lol. I knew it. Im doomed.
Camelsocks: Good Grief.
Wayabvepar: This is too weird. You love The Peanuts too?
Camelsocks: Yup. My friends used to call me Lucy in college. I guess that meant I was bitchy.
Wayabvepar: lol At least they didnt call you Pig Pen. That would mean you smell.
Camelsocks: I smell of perfection.
Wayabvepar: Oh boy. I can see why they called you Lucy:)
Camelsocks: There are normally a TON of people in this room playing this game. I dont know whats going on tonight. Its usually really fun.
Wayabvepar: Am I boring you? lol.
Camelsocks: No, you are fun to mock. I enjoy mocking you.
Wayabvepar: Glad to be of service, Camelsocks.
Camelsocks: So where do you live anyway?
Wayabvepar: in the Largo area.
Camelsocks: Wheres that? Mars?
Wayabvepar: Close. Florida.lol.
Camelsocks: Florida? Who lives in Florida?
Wayabvepar: I do. I just told you that lol.
Camelsocks: You really like that “LOL” button dont you?
Wayabvepar: Apparently I also enjoy being abused by total strangers online. You have a problem with my lol?
Camelsocks: I just feel you overuse it. I dont believe you are REALLY laughing out loud each time you type that you are.
Wayabvepar: Well no shit. NOBODY is “actually” laughing out loud when they type it. You’re kind of a smart-ass. Where do YOU live? Wait, let me guess. New York?
Camelsocks: Correct.
Wayabvepar: I knew it, with that attitude. lol.
Camelsocks: Theres that lol again.
Wayabvepar: Shut up:)
Camelsocks: We could go back to talking about Lionel Richie. His love songs are rather lovely.
Wayabvepar: He’s a dork. lol.
Camelsocks: Have you ever been to NYC?
Wayabvepar: Nope. Would love to though. Whats it like?
Camelsocks: Its pretty amazing. Nowhere like it in the world.
Wayabvepar: I’ll bet.
Camelsocks: Holy crap! Look at what time it is!
Wayabvepar: Yeah lol …. 3am … I was just fixin to go to bed …
Camelsocks: Oh WAIT A MINUTE! Fixin???  You were FIXIN to go to bed? Wow. Im talkin to a true Redneck here! yee-haw!
Wayabvepar: Oh Christ. Im not even from the South actually. lol. Grew up in Whittier California, but picked up some of these southern phrases from livin down here I guess.
Camelsocks: Yeah, well, I wasnt about to let that one slide. Fixin. Anyway, I had no idea it was this late.
Wayabvepar: Well, I am pretty awesome. Its easy to lose track of time when speaking to someone of my high caliber.
Camelsocks: Smart-ass:)
Wayabvepar: We have been talking for hours on here and I just realized I dont even know your name. I refuse to go to sleep with the knowledge that I just spent the past FIVE hours talking to someone named Camelsocks. lol.
Camelsocks: Okay. Its only fair. My name’s Kelley.
Wayabvepar: Really? I love that name. It’s pretty.
Camelsocks: Well thanks. I had absolutely nothing to do with it lol.
Wayabvepar: Well its nice to meet you, Kelley. I’m Don.
Camelsocks: Hi Don. Nice to meet you too. Like I said earlier, this room is usually filled with people. I usually stop in at the end of my work day lately, just for some laughs. If you wanna give it another shot.
Wayabvepar: Yeah. That sounds good. I should be around tomorrow night. I’ll pop in and see if you’re here.
Camelsocks: Im fixin to log in again tomorrow.
Wayabvepar: Good. Im fixin to spend more of my time tomorrow taking your abuse.
Camelsocks: I’m fixin to mock you silly; Florida-boy.
Wayabvepar: lol Okay then. Goodnight Kelley:)
Camelsocks: Goodnight Don:)
 
 
We talked for 5 hours that first night. Five hours. I did not know at the time that our conversation would turn into a future together; but I did know that I had just spoken with someone special; and that I couldn’t stop smiling that night when I went to bed. A five hour dialogue felt like 5 minutes; because It seemed as if I had known him forever. I felt like we were already best friends somehow. I was excited to log in and talk to him again the next day. I remember not being worried that he wouldn’t show up to talk some more. I just knew he would be there, and that knowledge made me feel wanted and warm. I wasn’t sure why exactly; but I felt as if my life had just changed in that moment. February 25, 1997, was the day that my life began. It was the day that I met my husband.
 
 
 
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Internal Error

You know how on TV shows, in films, and on really bad, death-related, Lifetime Movies of The Week starring Meredith Baxter Birney or Tori Spelling; there is always that scene after the loved one tragically dies where the person left behind has an epic, emotional breakdown? This breakdown, in Hollywood-land, usually happens one of a few different ways:

 A: the grieving person is shown in a montage set to depressing, sad music ( R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” or Sarah McLaughlin’s “I Will Remember You” are two overused favorites); doing different things like crying while smelling a loved one’s article of clothing, or sobbing while staring longingly out of a living room window.

 B: the grieving person is shown crying while simultaneously sliding their body down a wall very slowly; cupping their face in their hands; or

C: the grieving person, either during the funeral, or hours after, has an angry, irrational “moment” where they lose their mind with grief; and begin breaking things while yelling at the dead person; shouting things out loud such as: “Why did you leave me? How could you die and leave me all alone? It’s not fair!” This last one is popular on soap operas; where the grieving person takes every item off of a table or desk; and throws it all onto the floor in a fit of hysterical outburst. Either that, or they are drinking an alcoholic beverage at the time of their sudden angst; and they throw the glass of vodka across the room and against a wall; shattering it into a billion pieces.

Well, as a grieving widow, I am here to tell you from personal experience that those scenes are complete and utter bullshit. Sort of.

The things that you see in movies or that you read in “grief books” often feel like they are covered in a plastic-coating of the “proper” or appropriate ways to grieve; telling you what should happen during your grief, or how you should feel during this month, and then this month, and so on. “There will be stages of grief” – they all say – “anger, denial, blah blah blah, until finally you will come to acceptance.” Yeah, well FUCK YOU and your acceptance, grief book! Using terms and phrases such as “your path” and “your personal grief journey” are condescending and unhelpful; at least to me. The word “journey” makes it sound as if we are taking some kind of long, luxurious vacation; and there is certainly no “path” that is marked to follow, or that make any sort of sense.

 Forget paths. Forget roadmaps. Forget stages. I have felt anger, sadness, denial, numbness, and many other emotions all in the same day. Hell, I have felt them all in the same hour sometimes. Grief is not pretty. It is not something you can wrap up and tie with a bow and define so specifically. It is not something that can be shown with one simple movie scene; or with “steps” in the chapter of some book from some expert who has never lost a spouse and is talking out of their certified, psychiatric ass. It is not black and white. It is grey and foggy and shades of vague. It eats you up whole and throws you into an unfamiliar ocean; where you always feel like you are drowning; where you are screaming and nobody can hear you for miles. Try to imagine, if you can, the loss of your bowels. Disgusting, I know. But imagine it. Imagine if wherever you went; everyday; you had no idea whether or not you would piss or poop your pants. Imagine the humiliation, the shame, the confusion, and the frightening feelings associated with that condition. Imagine feeling like an alien inside your own body. Imagine feeling like maybe you died and nobody told you. Grief is like that. It is like you lost your bladder in every  physical and emotional part of your body. You have no control. You never know when or why or what will trigger you into feeling 87 different possible emotions. The things that you THINK will upset you the most, often don’t; and the things that you never even thought about; can send you reeling or sobbing for hours. The absolute worst part is that there is literally nobody that will ever truly understand your pain; or how much you miss him. The only person who would get that is gone, and there is nothing at all you can do about it.

Now go back to that list above from the movies and TV; and their version of what grief is like. Today, I experienced “C.” Today, I had my first real screaming, emotional, angry, yelling, irrational, throwing random items, classic breakdown. Only unlike in the movies; mine did not happen hours or days after the funeral. Mine happened 5 months and 21 days after my husband’s death. It happened at about 1pm this afternoon, to be exact.

I was online, at the Adelphi University website, trying to get some important work done that I had been putting off for the past month. I was in the midst of creating an email contact list for my upcoming Stand Up Comedy class this spring; when suddenly I got knocked offline. My computer went insane; displaying various pop-ups and messages about Trojan viruses and Internal Errors. Something was very wrong. It immediately went to my desktop screen, and then this: DANGER! XP Internet Explorer Security 2012 found 2 Trojan viruses on your computer! Activate protection scan now or you will be at risk for identity theft and stolen files!

FUCCCCKKKKKK!!!!!!!! This message was familiar to me. I had seen it before. In fact; our computer has suffered random “viruses” probably 4 or 5 times in the past few years. Seems to happen about once or twice a year with our PC; and there is never any kind of pattern to it. One time Don was on a guitar site when it happened, another time I was on Facebook. Another time he was checking his email, and BAM, Virus Alert! The “Virus Protection” is fake; and it masks itself as a program that is trying to remove viruses from your computer, when in fact, activating it will ADD viruses to your computer. Basically, it is a phony, malicious asshole that is there to screw with you because it has no life. And, oddly enough, it was this malicious asshole virus that started my epic, emotional breakdown.

 “No! Not NOW! I need my computer right now! I have too much to do! DAMMIT!” I screamed to myself and nobody and the air. Immediately the crying started, and it was an angry crying this time. It was months of frustration and disbelief and sadness and “WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME???”; all balled up into this computer virus. Why is this happening? I can’t do anything without my computer! Life should KNOW that, and not screw with me right now! Why isn’t Don here? Where the hell did he buy this computer? Was it a Dell Store or a computer repair shop or what? I only vaguely remember. Whenever we would get a virus, Don would unplug the computer, hold it in his arms like it wasn’t the heaviest thing on earth, and carry it out to the car. He would then drive it to this place that I cannot for the life of me remember the name or location of where he bought it, and they would clean out our harddrive and always be sure to save all of our files. They would usually have it all finished within a few short hours, and for only about $75. Now it’s happening again, and I’m alone. I don’t know where the place is to fix it, I can’t look it up because I CANT GET ONLINE, and the thought of having to remove the computer and then carry it downstairs, across the street, into the parking garage, and into my car – sends me into insane panic mode.

Now I’m losing my mind. I am crying angrily and loudly. People next door can hear me. I don’t care. It is a beyond caring kind of cry. I shake the computer monitor with my hands as I scream at it; then I pound my fists into the desk several times. My crying is extremely loud. I can’t help it. It’s been building. The anger has been building. “I miss my husband. I want you back! Where the hell are you? Why did this happen to you? Why?” I say all of this out loud and through massive, impressive tears. I walk into the living room, and without thinking, grab my favorite wedding picture of us off of the Entertainment Center. With the other hand, I grab the canister that contains what is still left of Don’s ashes. I go and sit in his favorite chair, and I hug our picture and that canister as tightly and insanely as I possibly can. I bawl for a solid half hour; not moving from his chair. I try like hell to feel close to him somehow. I grab whatever I have of him and cling on. I want to hold him so badly, and instead I am holding a wooden picture frame tight against my chest. None of it helps.

 I search for signs. There still aren’t any. “Why won’t you talk to me?” I scream at him. “What’s wrong with me?” Everyone else gets signs from their loved ones. Why not me? Why can’t I ever feel that you are with me? I stand up and smash the wedding picture into the floor; trying to break both in one shot. I grab some sheet music of his and throw it onto the floor like a child. I am having a tantrum. I want to break everything. I want to hurt myself; but I know I won’t. I just want something to hurt as much as I do in that moment. I walk into the bathroom and look at my reddened, old eyes in the mirror. I see the fear of the future looking back at me. I punch the mirror hard. Yes. That feels good. I really showed that mirror how pissed off I am. A bunch of Q-tips and pills fall out from behind the mirror/medicine cabinet and land inside the sink. The mirror is cracked, and I cry through the cracks. I feel crazy. I am a lunatic. All those people that keep teling me how “strong” I am – if they could only see me now, alone in my apartment. Strong my ass. I have become a cliche’. I have become a Lifetime Movie.

Eventually; I calm down enough to make a phone call, but not enough to stop crying. I am still crying through my words; and I am still so angry. My first call is to mom and dad. No answer. Probably a good thing; since Dad doesnt know the first thing about computers anyway; and I wasnt making much sense at the time to explain the issue to him in a way he could understand. I never know who to call first when I am in this hysterical crying condition; so I usually end up calling nobody at all. I just simply get through it. This time I called John. This is the second time in a month I have called him while sobbing. He must hate when my number comes up on his phone at this point. I am a mess, and I keep apoligizing for it. I am half-yelling at him: “My computer won’t work. I fucking hate this. I hate my new life! I don’t know how to do these kinds of things that Don just took care of so easily! I dont even know where he took our computer to get it fixed! Why didnt I pay attention?”

 I break into sobs again. John calms me down and starts entering different things into Google searches for me to try and figure out if we can get rid of the virus together. He eventually comes across something that tells us to shut down, and then press the F8 key while the computer reboots. This is supposed to put the computer into Safe Mode, and then allow me to follow a bunch of steps to hopefully rid the fake protection away. I do this, and everything, including all the virus pop-ups, disappears from the bottom of my desktop screen. The safe mode screen does not appear. It is just the normal desktop. Now Im confused. Where did it go? And where did everything else go that was down there? All the icons are gone at the bottom, but the desktop itself looks normal and I am able to get back online. I ask John if he thinks I should reboot again, and he suggests that I try to complete whatever tasks I need to complete for the day on the computer, and take advantage of the fact that it seems to be working for the moment.

So that is what I do. And right now, it is still working. Functioning. The problem is, the second that I shut down the computer, and then reboot it, the virus pop-ups will probably come right back. On the surface; everything looks normal. Everything looks fine.

Just like with me. People assume that I am doing okay; that I am “getting better.” People are wrong. I am able to make jokes, go to work, continue my sarcastic and now more dark than ever sense of humor, be creative, eat food, sometimes sleep or not sleep, take care of our kitties, try to take care of myself, and get through the various days that keep happening and coming up. I am able to function. But underneath all of that; there is a pain that cannot be described, a hurt that can’t be fixed. There is a monster and an infant waiting to come out and cry. There is an internal error; and it is just sitting there, ready to pounce. Lurking. Just like with everything else; I will have to deal with it tomorrow. Maybe.

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NOLA, Part One: You’re Fat

originally posted November 1, 2011

One thing that has become evident throughout this whole horrific ordeal of losing Don, is that I have some pretty amazing friends.

Two of those great friends are Marina and Dave. They are married; and they met one another over 20 years ago; in our college days at Adelphi. Marina was an Acting Major, like me, and Dave was a music major and brilliant pianist. I was friends with both of them seperately. I remember one time on campus, Marina asking me about my friend Dave, and saying she thought that he was cute. Dates were set up, and fate was put into play. Once they got together, they were pretty much inseperable. Marina continued acting, and Dave switched from being a music major to being a med.student! It was literally an overnight change for him. Perhaps he had thought about it for a long time inside his own head; but for the rest of us; it was completely random. He had long hair and smoked cigarettes and played Jazz and Rock music; and then one day he told all of us: “I think I want to be a doctor.” The next day he cut his hair off, quit smoking, and changed his major. Now he’s a doctor at NY Presbyterian, and Marina is his wife. She is still an actress, and Dave continues to play piano as a hobby. The piano that sits in their home is played more often, though, by their son, Ben. They have another boy named Jake; and they are both cute as hell.

Dave was about to turn 40. For his birthday celebration, they planned a big trip to New Orleans with 3 other couples. One night; a few weeks after Don died; I got a text from Marina saying: “We are taking you to New Orleans. We want to pay for your hotel and your flight and everything. We just want you to come and see a new city and hear the incredible music. Please come!” I was so touched. And floored. And overwhelmed by the idea of hanging out in a strange city with a bunch of married couples; and me; the widow. The very thought of that made me sort of sick to my stomach and sad inside; and the last thing I wanted to do was ruin everyone else’s trip with my sadness and misery. So I told Marina I would think about it; and then I thought about it.

Turns out that while I was thinking about it; my other awesome friends Andrew and Rodney were also planning a seperate trip to New Orleans for that same weekend! Andrew is from there originally; so he was going to give Rodney a few days in his city for a Bachelor Party. This changed everything for me. Two friends that wouldnt be coupled up? People that wouldnt be holding hands with or kissing anyone while hanging out in the city? People I can surround myself with if I get too overwhelmed or sad being with the couples? Yes! I would like to go on this trip please! The best part of the whole thing is that Rodney and Andrew are also Adelphi friends. All of us went to college together; so in a weird sort of way; this trip would end up being like a mini-reunion. Like old times. And there it was. A trip to New Orleans. All of a sudden, here was something to look forward to.

Thursday, October 20th. The day is finally here. We are going. I get into a cab and head to Newark airport. It’s a super early flight, and I hate flying. Let me be more specific. I hate crashing. And when I fly, ALL I think about is crashing. If there is a noise of any kind, I am 100% sure something must be wrong with the plane. When there is turbulance, I am convinced that death is soon to follow. The last time I flew, I was with Don, and we were taking a vacation to Florida together, to spend some time in Orlando, then Tampa to see Yankees spring training baseball, then St. Pete; where he used to live. I remember him gently laughing at me and shaking his head like he always did at my crazy, overdramatic antics. He always accused me of being overdramatic; when in reality; I was simply stating how I felt. I was never trying to be dramatic. For example; if we were on a plane and the plane was shaking back and forth nonstop in a frightening manner; I might say to him: “Boo – are we gonna die? Why is the plane shaking like that? Why isnt the pilot saying anything? Oh my God, we are going to die, arent we?” And he would respond calmly: “No Boo. We arent going to die. We are fine. Its just turbulance. Youre so overdramatic.” Then he would see that I was white as a ghost, laugh at me some more, and then take my hand in his. “Here. Use my arm to pinch and squeeze if you need to.” And then as I was squeezing his arm, he would sit there and patiently, quietly explain to me how a plane works, why there is turbulance, and why it is normal. “It’s just the plane going through some wind. Think of it as a tiny bump in the road in your car. That’s all it is Boo. We are perfectly safe up here. Keep grabbing my arm.” He would always explain everything to me in a logical way, so that it made sense, and so that I didnt feel as scared. And he was never condescending about it either. He never made you feel like you were stupid for not knowing something; yet he usually knew more about most topics than I did. By the time we landed, his arm would be all red and scratched up to bits with my fingernail marks. He never complained. He would smile and say: “See Boo? We are here and we didn’t die.”

This time, there is no Don here to make me feel safe. It is just me. When its time to board, my heart starts pounding as I walk down the tiny hallway thingy and finally find my way onto the Continental plane. B34 …. B 34 …. Where the hell is B 34? I walk for what seems like days, until I finally reach the aisle I will be panicking in for the next few hours. B 34 is all the way in the back; across from the bathroom. Great. So not only do I get to have anxiety for three hours straight; I also get to smell stranger’s poop. Awesome. A/B/C … even more great news! I have the B seat, which means Im in the middle. So now I get to feel extremely clausterphobic, stuck in between two people Ive never met and dont care to ever meet.

I put my bag up above, and then slide my fat body into the middle seat. My huge thighs fit into the seat, but there is a tiny bit of “spillage” hanging out the side. I feel like a sausage link again.There is noone in the Window Seat, and an older business looking guy with a labtop is in the aisle seat to the left of me. He seems unphased by me and my fatness. As I sit down and try to locate the seatbelt, I start to realize very quickly that I am too fat to buckle it. Is that possible? Last time I flew was about a year and a half ago, and I buckled it fine then. There is no way in hell Ive gained that much weight since then. Hell, if anything, I have lost a few pounds since Don’s death, from simply being too lazy or depressed to cook and eat! How is it that I cannot get this belt on? Okay, hold your breath, I tell myself. Try again. Again. Again. One more time. Do not make a scene. Do not make it obvious that this wont buckle. Am I going to have to ask for a seat belt extender? Am I THAT person? Please dont let me be that person.

 

And then, it happens. Just as I am feeling like I couldnt possibly ever feel worse or more embarassed with myself for simply existing; it happens. Minutes before takeoff, a woman boards the plane. A last minute passenger. She makes her way down the aisle until she gets to 34C. She is the missing person who has the Window Seat. Our eyes lock for a second. She gives me a look that expresses disgust. Then she says in a really annoying, over the top, Long Island accent: “I’m over there …. ” “Okay”; I say; as I pretend to remove my seatbelt that wouldnt close; from underneath the magazine that’s on my lap to hide the fact that my seatbelt isnt closed. I really deserve an Oscar for this performance. I get up and stand in the aisle so that she can get in. She isnt even halfway in, and she is already looking annoyed that I walk the earth. I sit back down and again, pretend to re-buckle my seatbelt, putting the magazine in my lap so noone can see the belt is not locked. She sits down, buckles her seatbelt, then lets out a huge sigh. This was a sigh that said: “I am being severely inconvenienced by this fat bitch next to me, and I simply won’t have it!” She undoes her belt, stands up quickly, and then proceeds to step OVER my entire body to get to the aisle of the plane. (the business dude was in the bathroom.) Really lady? Was that necessary? I would have moved so she could get out, but at that point, she was pretty much finished with even acknowledging me as a human being. She stomps up the aisle to the front of the plane; and seconds later; she has a whole circle of crew surrounding her, as she tells them of the horrible monster that is sitting beside her.

I can’t hear what is being said, but I can see it, and it’s very obvious. Every few seconds, one of them looks over at me. They keep talking. We are supposed to be taking off now. It is time for takeoff. I have never been so humiliated in my life. I start to sweat, and I am seconds away from crying. Why is this happening? Why now? Am I really going to have a Kevin Smith incident and get thrown off this plane for being too fat? I suddenly start picturing myself, an hour in the future, calling Marina or Andrew, and making up some story about why Im not going to be able to go to New Orleans. There is no way IN HELL I am telling them that I was too fat to fly on a plane! Is this actually happening? I can’t stop sweating. I feel like I’ve just commited a crime. I feel so guilty, and awful, and angry. I wan to run away.

Bitch Lady stays up at the front of the plane, and this very security-official-looking Staff Member guy starts walking down the aisle toward me. He looks very serious, as if he is about to confront a possible terrorist. I can’t breathe. Finally, he leans into me, and he says in a whispery voice: “Maam, we have encountered a problem. The passenger in the seat next to you is feeling a bit crowded and uncomfortable. She says that you are spilling over into her seat.” He looks at me, as if I am supposed to come up with some magic solution to my being fat. What the fuck does he want me to say? Should I instantly lose 30 pounds so she can be more “comfortable?” Should I just put a gun to my head and kill myself, so that I dont inconvenience this twat? What the hell do they expect me to do about this? I say nothing, and the tears start coming. They are the silent ones, that just trickle down your face slowly. People start looking at their watches, wondering what is going on, why we havent taken off yet. If these assholes want me to volenteer to get off this plane, THAT AINT HAPPENING!!!! First of all, this Long Island bitch is tiny. TINY! She is about 5 ft 4 and weighs nothing. She is skinny as shit, and even though my thigh fat stuck out of my seat a tad, it wasnt even CLOSE to touching her perfect, spoiled self. She had plenty of space in her stupid little bubble of a life. Second of all, I just had my husband cremated. I just made the decision to donate his organs. I just picked up his ashes in a freakin canister and placed it in my freakin living room. I DESERVE to go on a vacation, and I am NOT getting off this plane! I want to scream at all of them that my husband is dead. I want to cry my head off until I get my way. But I cant. I am paralyzed. I cant say anything.

 few seconds go by, and Bitch Lady comes back to the aisle. Her arms are folded and she is just standing there. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a stewardess appears. She looks at my face, and seems to understand that Im in some kind of pain. She gently says: “How about if you two switch seats? You could sit in the Window Seat, and you can sit in the middle. You might not feel so crushed or crowded if youre not pinned into the window.” At the same time, I say: “Okay, Ill sit in the Window”; and Bitch Lady says: “I dont think that will work.” I move over to the Window Seat, sit down, and make the motions with my hands; “pretending” to put my seat belt on. And then a small miracle happens. I hear the clicking sound of the belt. It closes! I dont know why the hell the middle seatbelt would not even REACH my waist, yet this one not only closes, but I have extra room. Whatever the reason, for a second, I feel victorious. I feel justified in my ability to sit on a plane and not harm others.

Then I just wait. This is ridiculous. I know I am overweight, but this is insane to me. I am not crushing this woman. I am not even touching her. She just hates fat people and has no soul. She probably has a perfect fucking life and one of those cars with the big bows on it that Daddy bought her senior year in high school. I bet she has never worked for one goddamn thing in her life, ever. I bet that Kim Kardashian is her fucking hero. She gets back in, hesitantly, and puts her belt back on. Without ever looking at me, she says to the stewardess: “Okay. This is a little bit better.” And suddenly, it is over. I am allowed to stay on the plane. A few minutes after we take-off; she says to me in a faint and unvconvincing voice: “I didnt mean to offend you or anything. I just get really clausterphobic and need to have space.” I want to scream at her that I just lost my husband to a sudden heart attack, and really make her feel like shit. I really want to. But I dont. It will accomplish nothing, and Im much too exhausted anyway. Besides; she would never in a million years understand or care what Im going through. To her; Im just some lazy, disgusting fat girl. To her; its that simple. For the entire 3 hour flight, I stare out the window and cry. There is a lot of turbulance, and I grab the tiny window ledge and pretend it’s Don’s arm. “Its Just wind. It’s just wind. It’s okay Boo. We’re okay. We didn’t die, Boo.” I say this to myself over and over, like a prayer. I just keep repeating and repeating Don’s words until we are safely landed in NOLA.

 

To Be Continued ………..

 

 

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Dear Boo Bear … (A Letter to my Husband)

originally posted September 6, 2011

Dear Boo Bear,
 
I am very grumpy today; and it is multiplied by not having you here to whine and bitch to when I get home. First of all, I have my stupid period. I used to love how you would refer to my period as simply “friend.” The way you used to say it, in that sarcastic tone, was so adorable. You would always seem to know when it was coming too. My back would be hurting or I would complain about a particularly bad headache, and you would say “Well Boo, friend should be arriving any day now!” And you were usually right too. You always made fun of me because I would always get “friend” on the day of a very important event. “What is it with you and your stupid friend? You ALWAYS get that damn thing on the worst possible day!” I had friend on the day you proposed to me in NYC. I had it on our wedding day. And guess what arrived the morning of your funeral, as I was crying in the restroom before the service began? Friend!
 
You also never ever made fun of all the PMS crap; the backaches, headaches, cramps, and exhaustion I would feel during “friend.” So many guys make fun of us, but you never did. You were so good with me. I would say “stupid friend is here”, and you would say “Aww, that sucks Boo,” and then you would make me a bottle of ice water with the ice cubs half frozen and slushy the way that I like it. We used to call it “kickass water.” Sometimes on my way home from teaching, or a comedy gig, I would call you and ask if you could prepare me some “kickass water” in the freezer so it would be ready when I get back. When I had a headache, you’d get me a washcloth and rub my back and neck, and lay next to me in bed and tell me silly stories or sing to me. You would make me laugh. If I was still grumpy, you would just deal with me until I felt better. But it was very hard to stay grumpy around you; because you did everything to try and make me feel better. Well, today I have “friend”, and Im even more angry at it’s existence than normal; because what is the point of menstruatiing at all? Any hope or possibility of having children in the future died when you did. We may have never had children together; or we may have adopted one day; or maybe I would have gotten pregnant. Or perhaps absolutely nothing would have happened. But the fact that the possibility was taken away from us, from you, to be a dad one day, hurts me inside and makes me cry. You would have been such an amazing father. And now the conversations that we had while lying in bed together about the possibility of parenthood together; and about how other people’s kids suck; haunt me every month when this horrible “friend” arrives. Once a month, I have this awful, cruel reminder that we will never have our family together; our future; whatever that may have been.
We will never ever know what that future may have been.
 
I woke up grumpy this morning Boo. I woke up with a headache; and I struggled to leave the apartment to go drive to Long Island for my second full day of teaching. On my first day back teaching at Adelphi last week; I ended up having to leave one of my Acting Classes as my students were filling out a survey I made for them. I had to leave the room so I could run into the bathroom stall and cry. Thankfully, I dont think anyone really noticed, but it was such a sad day. I was crying during my 90min car ride out there, and crying during my car ride back. In between, there were a lot of slow hugs by faculty members and caring people; and a lot of whispers in the hallways. I heard one student say to another in a hushed tone as I walked by: “That’s the professor whose husband just died. He just, like, collapsed.” The other one replied: “Oh My God!” I had thought that maybe today would be a little bit easier. Everyone keeps telling me that the first time I do anything without you will be the worst time. But Boo; today was worse. I felt like shit all day and didn’t have you to complain to. When I got up in the morning, and got ready to leave, I kept waiting for that cute goodbye hug and kiss you would give me before I walked out the door. You would say in a teasing voice: “Do you have everything you need Professor Niemi?” You always teased me by calling me Professor. Sometimes you would put an apple in my shoulder bag; or make me a peanut butter sandwich for my lunch. I kept looking at my Blackberry in between each class for your texts, cheering me on hour by hour:”How are you feeling Boo? How are your students? Do you have a lot of dumbasses this semester?” You always wanted to know about the one or two pain in the ass students. You would laugh so hard hearing about my misery in dealing with them.
 
 Let me tell you Boo; today really sucked without your support. My Stand Up Comedy Class is all women. There are no men at all. And today I found out that all of those women are very, very funny. You know how rare it is to have all girls in that class, and to have them all be talented and funny too? The second the class ended and they all walked out; my first instinct was to call you up and excitingly tell you:” Boo! You wouldnt believe it! I have all girls in my class and they are awesome! I cant wait for you to see their show!” And you would have said “Awww Boo, thats great! Be careful driving home.” But today there was noone to call with my little tidbit of information; and noone to tell me to get home soon. People keep telling that whenever I feel the need to talk to you or tell you something, I should do it, because you can hear everything I am saying. I wish I could beleive that Boo. I dont feel you there when I talk to you; I dont feel that you can hear me. I feel so alone. I hate coming home to my new life without you. I hate being this grumpy and staying this grumpy because youre not here to cheer me up. After my classes today, I sat in horrendour traffic going through the city and into the Lincoln Tunnel. I always used to call you and bitch about the traffic. It really sucks to sit in your car and realize you have noone to call to bitch to about the traffic. Noone to feel badly that you are sitting in traffic; noone to take the chicken out of the freezer for you so it can start to defrost for our dinner later on.
 
When I finally got home, I tried to print something up and realized our goddamn printer isnt functioning. AGAIN! How many times did you go inside and underneath and into that stupid thing and try ot figure out which random issue it was having now? But you fixed it each time, beccause thats what you do. Then I picked up the vacumn cleaner and the top handle part fell off. It just randomly fell off. For no reason. I broke it. I then proceeded to throw it across the room in frustration. Next, I went into the bathroom to pee. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the toilet seat just falls off completely. Right onto the floor. Are you fucking kidding me? I dont know how to fix this kind of shit. Could everything please stop breaking??? I turned on the TV and it started doing that goddamn thing again where the picture moves all around and jumps? Yeah. We never did figure out why it does that, but unplugging it for a few minutes, and then plugging it back in always seemed to help. So I did that. It didnt help. Just another phonecall I will have to make. I can add it to the ginormous list of “things that need fixing”, or “things that need to be done” or “things that need to be paid”. So many lists of things to do relating to your death. Everytime I try to tackle any of them; I end up getting overwhelmed, emotional, and have to stop. The whole thing is so incredibly exhausting and pointless.
 
Before I met you, I lived here alone for 3 years. I lived in this very apartment by myself. Ever since leaving Massachusetts at age 18 to attend college in NY for Theatre, I have been by myself. I have done things by myself. I have always had to strruggle for every piece of shit thing I have received in my life. I worked hard for this mediocre life and this shabby piece of crap furniture. I had my dreams , my goals, my accomplishments. It was really fucking hard doing it alone. It is really difficult when you dont have someone to share your food with, your drinks with, your meals with, your pets with, your annoying days with, your life with. When you were here Boo; I would be grumpy and look forward to coming home to hang out with you. Now I dont look forward to being anywhere. When you were here; our crappy things and our crappy life were endearing and sweet, and there was hope. Now theres just crap.
 
I miss you so fucking much. And I wish that me saying that out loud or typing it made me feel better. But the truth is, it doesnt.
 
Nothing makes me feel better. You are just gone, and I hate it. I hate it with everything I have inside of me.
 
Love, Boo

 

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SURPRISE!!! I’m Dead!

originally posted September 26, 2011

Today is my Birthday. It is my 40th birthday, and I had been making a big deal about it the whole year. I always do. Birthdays have always been a huge thing in my family. My parents always made us feel really important and special as kids on our birthday. When I was little, mom would make homemade cakes in the shapes of Mickey Mouse or Raggedy Ann, and all my friends would come over for cake and ice cream and an awesome party. Dad would put together the bike or the new Playskool record player they bought for me, and there were lots of laughs and fun. I always kept that spirit as an adult; every single year. I love the idea that there is a special day set aside for every person on this earth; the day they were born. It is truly something to acknowledge and celebrate.
 
 Then again, its all about how you grew up and what you are used to. Don never cared much about his own birthday. He told me his mother never made a big deal out of them when he was a kid, and she was often working 2 or 3 jobs just to stay afloat and raise him; so there werent many gifts happening either. Once he collided with our family, however, all that changed. When his birthday rolled around, I would always ask him what he wanted to do for it, what gifts he would like; and he would say: “I dont need anything Boo. We can just hang out together.” Of course, I never listened. The day that Don met me was the day his birthdays went from nothing special to very important. I loved making a big deal of his birthday; making him feel loved. It was so much fun to do, and you could tell he really appreciated it. One year I took him to see one of his favorite guitarists and Jazz musicians, Larry Carlton, at the Bluenote in NYC. It was such a nice evening, and he even got a picture with Larry backstage in his dressing room. Other years, we would go to Yankee games together, or see a concert or Broadway show. I woould always get him a couple little gifts too, and wrap them up for him. We also had this tradition between us of getting each other 3 cards for every occassion; one serious/romantic one, one funny/ridiculous one, and one from our pet(s). Don would always write these really detailed, specific “notes” inside the cards from the pets, along with little pictures of the cats, and conversation bubbles above their heads. It made me laugh so much, because it was so incredibly silly, and he spent more time on the card from “Isablle” or “Autumn and Ginger” than he would on the one from HIM.
 
Normally, we would travel home to my parents house for the weekend of our birthdays, and mom would make the favorite dinner of whomevers birthday it was. For Don, that was usually my Nana Mary’s famous and very different lasagna. Nana Mary would simmer tomato juice for hours on the stove, then make homemade meatballs and pork ribs to add to it. The lasagna was made not with lasagna noodles, but with bow tie pasta, and a ton of ricotta cheese and sauce. It was so delicious. The sauce had that flavor that just made you want to take each bow tie pasta piece with your fork and catch every nook of sauce you could inside of it. The first time that Don flew here to NJ to meet me in person; we came back here to my apartment and I made him Nana Marys lasagna. He fell in love immediately. With the lasagna, and with me. After that day, I made it only one more time; on the day he moved in. That lasagna was such a pain in the ass to make; it took forever to make the sauce. Hours and hours of simmering. I left the job to my mom once a year when we would come home for our birthdays.
 
Don knew how much my birthdays meant to me, and so he would always make sure they were special. He would come home with flowers for me, chocolate truffles or some kind of candy, and three cards. Then he would take me out for dinner somewhere local; and we would both kind of dress up a little bit. A normal day for the both of us was jeans and tshirts, so putting on a nice top was a huge freakin deal. I loved going out with him, being in his company. He was always such a gentleman with me, from the first day we met , well into our marriage. Whenever we would walk out to the car to go somewhere, he would walk around and get the door for me. I always thought that was so nice. We would try a new restaurant, or go into NYC, Central Park, or sometimes just hang out with our friends. Whatever the case though, he always made me feel like I mattered and I was loved. He always made fun of me because I loved my birthday so much and coudlnt wait for it. He would say “Its YOUR month. Your birthday month is coming up Boo! I think Im going to call the President and see if we can make your birthday a National Holiday, and make the month of September officially KELLEY Month.” “What are ya waitin for? Heres the phone!” I’d say.
 
All year long, I had been both dreading and looking forward to my 40th birthday. The idea of turning 40 years old was just overwhelming, and I would say to Don: “Boo, Im going to be 40! This is the BIG birthday! You konw you have to plan sommething epic right? You have to plan the best surprise ever!” I think my husband accomplished the biggest surprise ever when he dropped dead. “SURPRISE! Im DEAD! What? Not funny? Not good?” He always did have sa sick sense of humor. So instead of whatever epic surprise he was planning for me, he died instead. And since that moment, my 40th birthday suddenly became not so important anymore. In fact, I didnt care at all.
 
When your husband dies unexpectedly, old plans change into new plans. Everything just becomes about “getting me through it.” The old, my husband is alive plan, was for us to go to mom and dads, together for the weekend. Mom and Dad were going to throw me a huge 40th Birthday party at the house, with loads of family and friends. Then Sunday, we were going to the party of a very good family friend named Thelma Mollot, who shares the same birthday date as me, September 26th. Today, when I am 40, she is now 100! So, we were all invited to her 100th birthday party. Well, turns out the 100 yr old lady made it for her 100th birthday, but the 46 yr old man didnt live to see 47, or to see his wife turn 40. People die. Plans change. The new, my husband is dead plan still had me going to mom and dads, but I was driving there alone, in the car that my amazing brother bought for me so Id be safe. Instead of a big ole party, we decided to make it small and mellow; so the widow doesnt have a nervous breakdown. Just me, my parents, my brother, Jen and Brian, and my Aunt Ginny and cousin Faith; who she was babysitting for the weekend. We did lobsters and steaks on the grill, and mom made her famous Red Velvet Cake; the same one she made every year on my birthday, Daves, Jens, and Dons.
 
At first, I was doing alright. I wouldnt exactly call it a happy day, since right now there is little to no joy inside of me. If I laugh for a few seconds, its a different, dark laugh that is filtered in pain and sadness. Mostly Im just walking around in a fog, with a constant headache from the endless crying and stress of grief. So we ate delivious lobster with drawn butter, and my dad grilled the steaks to perfection out on the deck. I was even able to bribe a hug, a kiss, and an “I love you Auntie Kelley” from Brian. His price? One black olive. Everyone gave me cute little cards with gift cards to Target and Trader Joes inside; which was really nice. Then, it was time for cake and the traditional “40” gifts. Years ago, my mom came up with this crazy thing where she would wrap up the number of gifts corresponding with the persons age. She and Aunt Ginny did it for Nana, their mom, on her 80th birthday, because Nana used to love opening gifts. She was like a litlte kid at Christmas. When Don turned 40, mom wrapped 40 gifts for him. Now it was my turn.
 
 Mom brought out a big laundry basket filled with tons of little wrapped gifts and placed it in front of me. Then she cut the cake that was being eaten to celebrate my life. Suddenly, I felt like I couldnt breathe, and left the room. I found myself in the bathroom trying to catch my breath, crying, and missing him so badly it was hard to focus. It felt so wrong and so sad and so awful to be celebrating LIFE, when Don doesnt get to live it anymore. How can I feel happy and eat cake when his time was cut short for no reason? From inside the bathroom, I can hear the laughter and chatter of my family. They are mourning too, but its different. They get to have moments, like now, when they arent thinking about Don; when every single part of their heart isnt being ripped out or consumed by thougths of him. They lost their son in law, their brother in law …and its so awful and the pain is real … but they get to walk away from it and turn to their own spouses for support. For me, there is nowhere left to run. Im trapped inside of this hell, and the one person I want to talk to, who would comfort me better than anyone else, is dead.
 
 come out of the bathroom and sit back down. Mom asks me: “Are you okay? We dont have to do this now if you dont want.” My eyes are teary and I dont say much. Little Brian appears out of nowhere and looks inside of the laundry basket. It is a basket filled with wrapped presents! It is pure heaven for a little boy! He picks one up and starts unwrapping it. “I open cuz youre sad”, he says, and he unwraps each and every gift, one by one, and then hands it to me. It is the most beautiful and perfect thing anyone has ever done; and he doesnt even know he is doing it. He is just being a kid. At that moment, I didnt want to celebrate anything. I didnt want to open presents when my husband is dead. I didnt want any focus on me. So the plan changed. This new plan had my 2yr old nephew opening up pairs of socks, stationary, lipgloss, and more things he couldnt comprehend, and handing them to me with a confused look. He didnt care that the gifts were not for him, he just liked the act of opening them. And in that moment, opening gifts was the last thing I wanted to do. It all worked out. It was not a joyous day, but I got through it.

 
The next day, as we celebrated the 100th birthday of our dear friend Thelma with a really nice catered party, I was back in my fog again. I couldnt stop picturing Don in my head. I do that all the time. I see him in my mind; or try to feel him touching me; try to hear his laugh somehow, feel a memory. I mingled adn talked to people, but I dont remember much of it. I just kept thinking about how he should be here with me, how he was looking forward to the party, how much he liked Thelma. “I hope Im that cool when Im 100!,” he owuld say about her. He would talk and joke all the time about what he would be like as an old man. He relished in it. He would say “I cant wait to be a grumpy old man. I can say and do whatever the hell I want, yell at kids for no reason to GET OFF MY LAWN … act insane … its gonna rule!” He always imitated himself talking to me when we are both old; using this really spot on cranky old guy voice for himself. He would say: “Come on Kelley … we gotta get to the Golden Corrall , the Early Bird Special ends at 4!” He would do this voice as he pretended to be bent over and holding a cane. He always cracked himself up at the thought of the two of us being old together. I would say “Please stop that! Youre scaring me!”, and of course, he woudl just do it more. These are the things I was thinking about as Thelma gave me a hug. I pictured Don bending down to hug her, because he was so tall and would have to bend down to hug a lot of people. I ate the  piece of 100th bday cake in silence as I kept picturing Don inside my head.
 
This morning, I got back in my car and drove back to NJ and my new widow life. The drive seemed longer than normal, and my headache wouldnt go away. I am 40, i kept thinking to myself. Don always teased me about it, and he would say “Well, I will ALWAYS be older than you no matter what, so just think of it that way. Youre just a baby.” Are you still older than me if youre dead? Probably not. As I pull into the parking garage and shut off the XM satellite radio, the regular radio comes on and the DJ says “a very Happy Birthday to a very talented, wonderful lady – here she is – Olivia Newton John!” Then her song “Magic” plays. Olivia Newton John has my birthday date too. I listen to the song for a minute and suddenly, Im crying hard. Again. I start thinking about Don telling me how Olivia Newton John was one of his first boyhood crushes and how he had her pin-ups on his bedroom wall. I think about how I have to open my own damn door from now on, carry in my own luggage and heavy bags, and face the rest of this year, this life, by myself.
 
So today, on my 40th birthday, I sit here in what was once our bed, and I cry. Again. It never stops lately, and Ive stopped caring. Ive come to the realization that in this new life, I cry a lot. Deal with it. There wont be any cute cards this year from the kitties, no cute little cake from Don that he would present to me with candles while singing really badly, and no nice dinner out together; spending time with each other and making fun of the world. Right now, at this moment, it is just me, and noone else. Happy Freakin Birthday. Who wants cake?
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Mirrors

originally posted on September 4, 2011

 

So many random thoughts going through my head this morning. About Don, about life, about us. I am having so much trouble adjusting, accepting, living with this new reality. I still dont want it to be true. I dont want to have this new life without my husband. I hate this new life that I have to grow into slowly, and take time with. I am getting so tired of all the advice. On one hand, people are constantly telling me how this is going to take a long time; how it might be years and years until I am ever happy again; and even then; I will never ever be the same. On the other hand; some people act as if I should certainly be moving forward by now. Hell, its been almost two months! I appreciate people and hate people all at the same time right now. I need people, but I need to be alone. When Im alone, I cry like hell and often feel like there is no hope; like it will never ever be better.

After awhile, I am dying to get outside of these ugly walls that I call my home. When Im out, I feel suffocated by people and the joy on their faces, and I cant WAIT to get back home. I feel so out of place anywhere and everywhere. Everything I see, hear, smell, or experience bothers or upsets me in some way. Everything somehow relates to Don. Last night I was in the city getting my hair straightened. Its that Japanese hair-straightening procedure that takes like 5 hours to get done; and I normally do it a couple times per year. A few days before Don died, my hair had gotten nasty and ugly-curly from the humidity of summer. All of it’s straightness had well worn off since my last straightening treatment back in December. We were standing in our bedroom, sort of hugging, and I told Don I was going to make an appointment with Izumi soon to do my hair again. He got excited. “I love your hair straight. It looks so pretty like that,” he said. “Thanks Boo. I’ll do it soon.” So last night, due to some weird combination of doing it because I told Don I would; and because it really needs to be done, I got on the bus and went into the city.

My hairdresser is this really sweet Japanese girl in her twenties I think; who runs and operates a salon from inside an apartment building. She rents out a very small studio apartment and uses it as a hair salon. She has no help. It’s just her. The place is super tiny and feels clausterphobic, she plays the weirdest, creepiest music you have ever heard in your life as “background” noise, (literally – I have no idea what this music is, but there are often sounds of animal noises, clanking and banging, and people screaming as if they are being viciously murdered) and its completely out of the way. It’s way downtown on the corner of Avenue A; which; for me; is a pretty long hike from Jersey. But here’s the thing; the place is always packed with customers, friends stopping by who decide to get their haircut on a whim, and an energy that comes from Izumi herself. Whenever I go there, which is only a couple times a year for this treatment, it is always a challenge to get an appointment. She is very busy. It kind of amazes me what she has done with this teeny little space; all by herself. There is noone there washing people’s hair, or sweeping the floors; or taking phone calls or greeting people at the door. She does all of it; and she is very good at it too. The motivation it must take just to come here from another country, start up a business like that by yourself, and keep it successful; simply astounds me. Actually, the thought of it is exhausting.

I admire her tenacity as I get buzzed in to the apartment/salon and she is working on another customer. She says hello and tells me to sit in the other empty chair by the window. Before making my appointment, I had emailed her to let her know about what happened, because I cant stand walking into new places or situations with people that I forgot to inform that my husband died. I am so tired of telling the story of how it happened to different, random people; over and over again. I hate reliving that awful morning; and I hate having to answer a bunch of questions that I cannot answer; because I still dont know the answers and I might not ever know the answers. Questions like: “Did he have heart problems in his family? Was there a history of heart attacks? He was an EMT right? But this happened at his other job right? Not on the ambulance? Were you alone at the hospital when they told you? Did he ever go to the doctor? Were there any signs that he wasnt feeling well? Was there an autopsy done? What were the results?” On and on and on, every single day, from unexpected people and places, and people that I keep forgetting or neglecting to inform about his death. Izumi gives me a look that says “I am so sorry”, and I sit my fat self down on the chair that is made for normal-sized people. I absolutely hate going to the hair salon. I hate it because you are seated in a cramped, tight seat that your ass sticks out of on both sides because you are so damn fat; and you are placed in that seat with a gigantic full-length mirror directly in front of you; taunting you with how disgusting and huge you have become; and how much more weight you continue to gain; it seems.

On an average, ordinary day; I hate this hair-straightening procedure because you literally have to sit there in this chair for almost five hours. There is absolutely nothing to do except read yet another magazine. Let me tell you right now; there is only so much of US, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, and People that one person can take. I reach into my shoulder bag of magazines that I brought with me in preparation, and begin reading an article in Redbook about a 9/11 widow with 2 daughters. Her husband worked in the World Trade Center and never came home that day. For some reason, the magazine opens to this article and I just start reading it. Even though Don and I never got to do more than talk about possibly having kids, or adopting together one day in the near future; and even though the way Don died is completely different than the way her husband died, for some reason, her words resonate with me and I immediately relate.

There is one part of the article where she talks about mourning all of the things that her husband would be missing; important days in their children’s lives; milestones; her getting a job as a Science Professor; something she had always wanted to do. I cant stop thinking about how she woke up that morning and her husband went to work; and then he never came home. Just like mine. Different circumstance; same horrific empty shock. All of a sudden tears are coming down my face; and I excuse myself to go into the creepy, tiny bathroom. This bathroom is the size of an airplane restroom; and as I pee and then reach over to try and wipe myself; I suddenly realize I am so large that it’s actually exhausting to navigate wiping in a space this small. I start crying harder and stay in there for a few minutes; hating my new life and how I am coping with it. I think about all the people who have told me how “strong” and how “courageous” I am; and I think about what a lie that is. Its a fucking lie. What does it even mean really? Why am I strong? Because I havent killed myself yet? I am not sure what it means, and I certainly do not feel strong. Yeah. Im so damn strong, I cant even wipe my own ass. I start thinking about how so many other people deal with sudden loss and death; how they drink or do drugs to mask their pain; or fall into a depression that maybe they never come out of. I think about the bag of Cape Cod chips I ate in one sitting the week after he died; and the box of Triscuits with Alouette garlic cheese I devoured a few days ago. The tater tots sitting in my freezer that I can’t wait to heat up. The Edy’s chocolate chip ice cream that is made even better and crunchier with loads of chocolate sprinkles and crunchy sugar cone goodness. I wipe my tears and look at my fat chins in the bathroom mirror. Suddenly, I am wishing like hell that I was an alcoholic.

The next four hours in that chair feel like a decade. I am starting to get that dizzy, hot, clausterphobic feeling again, like I want or NEED to run away. I have this feeling often now; as part of my new life. It usually happens after a few hours of being out in public, getting overwhelmed by people. If they are asking me questions about Don’s death, I get overwhelmed and want to run. If they are strangers that don’t know me and are just living their lives and sharing happy moments; I get overwhelmed by their happiness and my sadness and want to run. The problem is that there is nowhere to run to; because no matter where I go; whether Im home alone; with friends; at dinner; at work; onstage; or getting my hair straightened – he will always be dead. There is nowhere to go ever again for any feeling of comfort. This is what I have found out; and so wherever I happen to be; I feel like an alien who noone understands. I feel like I am crawling out of my skin, and want to run from myself and from life. The only thing I want to do is see, hug, kiss, talk to my husband; and I simply cannot do that. Everything else feels forced and fake to me. I am everywhere and I am nowhere. Suddenly I hear Izumi talking to me. She is telling me about her father; who died suddenly last May after he fell of a roof. I am half-listening to her gentle, soothing voice and half not. I feel as if I have been drugged; that “heady” feeling you get when you are on allergy or cold medication. That is how I feel everyday since July 13th. Drugged.

Finally it is over. I get into a cab back to 42nd street; and the ride seems to take forever. It is now almost 11:30pm and we are sitting in bad traffic in Times Square. The cab is stopped right in front of BBKings, and I start to remember all the times Don and I went there to have a drink or dinner and listen to a great Jazz or blues band. I remember how much he loved the Sunday Beatles Brunch we went to that time; how he talked about the guitar player and how talented he was for days afterwards. There are hundreds of people on the streets of NYC; loud and happy and filled with life and hope. There is a young looking couple that is smiling at each other and hugging tightly.

The cab doesn’t move. Their hugs and their love are taunting me as I think about the many, many times Don and I hung out in NYC; and how much he loved it there. I think about how he will never see it ever again; and how I will never go for a night out with him ever again. I think about how young we were when we first started talking and falling in love; and how we had that same smile for each other. They are definatley a new couple; you can tell by the gleam in their eyes and by the feeling of hope as they practically skip down the street together. I instantly hate them just because they get to exist together. I hate their laughter and their joy. The tears are coming hard now; and as I pay the fare and run out of the cab; I realize I haven’t eaten anything all day. You would think that a fat person like myself would never forget to eat; but thats not true. There are days when I eat absolutely nothing until after 5pm. I have terrible eating habits. I rarely eat breakfast, and then I am starving in the late afternoon, and I make every wrong choice and I dont care. There are many days since his death where I simply dont remember or dont care enough to get something to eat. Until I realize Im starving. Right this minute, my comfort comes in the form of a Burger King sandwich and french fries, and I stuff it into my bag as I get on the bus to go home. Please just get me the fuck home.

By the time I finally eat my dinner, it is after midnight and the next day. My time-clock, my emotions, and my life are all so fucked up right now; and I dont even care anymore. I am just glad to be home; where I dont have to sit in a hard chair and stare at my own failed-self in the mirror. There are no mirrors in my home, and there is noone here to tell me that my hair looks really nice or to give a shit that I got home safely. There are only french fries.

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Irene

Sunday, August 28, 2011 10:20

8/28/11

Was jolted awake this morning, not by Sammy pawing at my face as usual, but by water. Dripping. On my head. Specifically, on my eyelids and forehead and onto my pillow. Got up and took a closer look, only to realize Don’s entire side of the bed was soaked in water. His pillows, comforter, everything. After managing to get almost 3 hours of Tylenol PM-aided sleep, I guess my head had wandered over to his side of the bed unknowingly, and the result was being woken up by what felt like a heavy drippy faucet to the face.

Hurricane Irene. I wasnt planning on writing anything about it, because up until now, I had actually been getting through it okay. It was and is a significant storm for the NYC and NJ areas; and the first time MTA has been closed completely due to a “natural disaster.” (Let’s not get crazy here. This ain’t no Katrina … but that is what these asshat Newscasters call it – a “natural disaster.” In actuality, it is a LOT of rain, for hours and hours, and some wind. So far anyway. It’s not over yet, but it isn’t all that bad thus far.) Mayor Bloomberg, the Grinch Who Stole NYC, basically closed NYC in preparation for this storm. No Broadway, no transportation, no bridges, no nothing. “Get out, you idiots!” is pretty much what he has been saying in his 4,000 condescending, “Im better than you and dont have time for your nonsense” press conferences yesterday and today on TV.

 

At one point, he told NY’ers “If you are stupid enough to remain in high-rise buildings after we have repeatedly told you not to, don’t expect anyone to come and rescue you.” Well alrighty then. He just warms the heart, doesn’t he? The local news has been even more obnoxious and predictable in their coverage of Irene. If you were an Extra-terrestrial visiting Earth from another planet and you put on the local news, which has been on literally 24 hours a day, you would for sure believe that the world as we know it, is coming to an end. Last night, FOX News literally broke into their OWN coverage of Irene, to give us some more “BREAKING NEWS” about Irene. The local weathermen have been relentless. They live for this shit. Sam Champion, Al Roker and the like … I would bet serious money that they all woke up Saturday morning with giant hard-ons; and started immediately jerking off furiously at the very thought of their own upcoming Irene coverage. I have NEVER seen anyone get so excited about tides and wind gusts than CBS’s Lonnie Quinn. Seriously, I think this guy watches Weather-porn to get erect. He is a madman. Al Roker, on the other hand, only gets excited about a meatball sandwich.

So, I had gotten through the day and most of the night just fine, despite dreading the very idea of being completely alone during this storm. I kept thinking: “what if the power goes out? It could go out for hours or days. What the hell will I DO here all alone?” I kept looking at other people’s status updates on Facebook, saying things like: “hanging out with my family playing board games and drinking wine during Irene. No power!”, and thinking to myself: “Wow thats great. I HAVE no family. My family’s gone.” So, despite getting very sad about the whole thing and feeling sorry for myself and my impending loneliness, I was doing okay. You know, for a widow. But then I woke up to water dripping into my eyeball.

As I grabbed some towels to throw over his side of the bed, and a tupperware bowl to leave there and start collecting the water, I started to have a very specific memory of the last occurance. This wasnt the first time this leak had appeared. About 6 months ago, on another very rainy night, I was woken up by Don jolting himself out of bed in the middle of the night while mumbling: “Goddamit! Stupid piece of shit apartment … Jesus … I’m all wet! WTF! Sorry Boo … I cant see …” (as he flicked on the bedroom light, forcing my eyes to immediately adjust to the shitty flourescenty ceiling bulb in our bedroom)

I remember Don doing the same thing I had just done. Grabbing towels and throwing them on his side of the bed, using the same tupperware large bowl that I just used to collect the drips, and then us moving the bed over a few feet in our tiny, already cramped bedroom, so that we could possibly go back to sleep. This was the story of our life together. Everything we owned was broken, or seconds away from being broken. We joked about it all the time; how at any moment; anything in our life was in danger of exploding, combusting, breaking down, or just deciding to randomly not work for no particular reason at all. It literally happened all the time with us; so often, that it became a running joke throughout our relationship. If I needed something printed up for classes the next morning, the printer would decide to stop functioning. If we HAD to get somewhere with our car; like the time we were all set to drive to Long Island for the weekend for Sarah and Julio’s wedding, the car would choose that moment to fuck with us; and make it so we would end up having to take the LIRR train out there and then a cab to the hotel AND to the wedding itself. Even our computer keyboards would stop working. For no reason. Don would be typing away, and then, out of nowhere, the keys would stop working. “Oh, youve GOT to be kidding me!” he would say. Then he would do a middle of the night run to Walmart to buy us a new keyboard. He did a LOT of middle or late night runs to Walmart to buy us keyboards, printers, a toaster, printer ink, and many other things. He also took our computer in to the local shop AT LEAST four times over the years for different random viruses that would stop our computer cold. Everything we had was broken or falling apart.

But Don had such a great sense of humor, and he was one of those people that made you laugh when he would get angry or frustrated. He was not an angry person at all. We didnt ever fight about stupid shit. We laughed about it. When things would break, we would lay in bed and laugh and mock our stupid, broken life together. That night, when the ceiling was leaking on HIS face, I remember lying in bed with him, holding hands like we did often, and laughing about the whole thing. “Seriously, who wakes up to water dripping on their face? Only me! This piece of shit apartment in this piece of shit city is gonna take me out, I swear! This freakin 99 cent ceiling built out of paper machee and scotch tape is gonna cave in one morning and youll find me underneath it. ” “Noooo!” I would say. “Stop it!” He was always coming up with all the various ways that he might die. He wasnt being serious. He found it hilarious. He would make me laugh all the time coming up with the varoius ways that New Jersey or one of our horrible appliances would end up killing him. Then I would always say “Noooo Boo …. ” at the thought of him being gone, and I would hug him tightly while we both laughed. I didnt ever once think that he would really die young, or that it would be because he had a heart attack. Turns out, he was broken too I guess.

So now, as I think about all of this, and about how Don would know exactly what to do in this situation while also making it a hilarious night to remember for us; I cant help but think about all the many things that Don used to take care of. All those manly “husband” type things that you dont realize are SO important and hard to do on your own, until you have to. Like carrying in all the groceries for me; filling up the gas tank, checking the oil, putting in coolant whenever the “low coolant” light would come on in that old car of ours, figuring out how to fix the towel rack in the bathroom when it randomly crashes down in the middle of the night and scares the living shit out of us, figuring out whats wrong with the printer this time, brushing the cat’s teeth as the vet instructed, taking care of me when my back went out and I literally couldnt move for almost 5 days, carrying my heavy demo table for my part-time job; or my supplies into and out of wedding receptions that I would coordinate, offering to drive me to far away comedy gigs on his one night off so that I wouldnt have to drive back home alone at night, figuring out what the fuck was wrong with the vacumn cleaner when it kept making a ridi,culous noise, showing me how to set the time and create a contact list on my own smartphone, making me soup and tea when I was sick, getting up in the middle of the night at my request, to see what that noise was and make sure there wasnt a murderer in the apartment … the list is endless.

Don always made me feel safe, and made sure I was safe. Before I met him, I lived alone for years and had to always just figure shit out.Im a very independant person, but I hated that. And now that Ive lost him, I have to do it alone again, and I hate it even more the second time around. It stings to know that I no longer feel safe; that Im back to being that scared girl who has to keep the TV on all night, because the silence of being alone is too awful to fall asleep to. The thought of him never being here again to laugh with about our ridiculous life, to keep each other company in a hurricane … hits me like a ton of bricks right in the gut … and I sob uncontrollably.

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Don Would Have Loved This Sandwich

Ever since Don died, I have this weird feeling inside me that is a bit tough to describe. It is an overall feeling of guilt; and it happens immediately after anything that is even mildly pleasant or enjoyable. It happens at least once a day; and most times; it happens multiple times a day; and it results in my tearing up and sometimes silently crying. It is such a strange thing; because it takes things, events, experiences, that are normally joyful and happy; and turns them into something incredibly sad and uncomfortable. I dont know if this is a normal way to feel after someone dies; I’ve never heard anyone talking about it before; so Im not sure; but it’s not a feeling of comfort because it feels like you are being robbed of something wonderful because you no longer know how to enjoy things anymore.

 

Here’s an example. Last week a new Deli opened up on the corner of our block. There had been another Deli there for years; but they sold it because they couldnt afford the lease. The new guys moved in about a week after Don died, and I went in there yesterday and ordered a turkey sub with lettuce, provolone, and mayo. That was Dons favorite sandwich and mine too. Whenever we would get subs, we would both order the same thing. Well, I got home and ate the sub, and it was really good. For three seconds I enjoyed the goodness of the sub, and then I broke into tears. It wasnt even on purpose. Just uncontrollably started crying out of nowhere. And it was because immediately after feeling the joy of eating something delicious, my next thought was “but why cant Don be eating this too? Why am I getting to enjoy this turkey sub and he isnt? He would love this sub.” It sounds so silly, but it makes me very sad each time it happens. It happens with things big and small too. It doesnt matter. It can be a turkey sub, a new song, or even a TV show. The other night I was watching one of our favorite shows to watch together; LOUIE; and It was a great episode and I even laughed slightly a few times; which I havent done much of since this happened. I laugh; but its more of an inside laugh than a laugh out loud, hearty laugh. Don had a hearty laugh, and I havent had one since he died. But I was laughing inside at this show; and then immediately I got really sad. I thought about how much Don would have loved this episode and how we would have watched it together and he would laugh out loud and say out loud to noone in particular: “Thats awesome…. thats awesome ….”

 

He would always say that in reaction to a great song, piece of comedy, or something he was watching on TV. Later; I saw a commercial for the upcoming new season of Modern Family; another favorite show of ours. Don was absolutely in love with Sofia Vergada; and would pay extra special attention whenever she was on the screen. The ad showed some upcoming scenes that looked really funny, and I just felt instant guilt for being able to watch it, for the fact that I get to be alive to see the show, and he doesnt. And it made me so incredibly sad thinking how unfair that was. It is really unfair. This feeling of guilt and sorrow doesnt only happen with small things though. It also happens with bigger things; like a car.

My brother bought me a car. He BOUGHT ME A CAR. My dad keeps saying things like “this car is great, isnt it? What a great car!” And I want like hell to be grateful, and I AM grateful. But whenever I get inside the car, I instantly feel sad. Sad because Don isnt in getting the car … I am. Don should have had this car. Maybe if someone had offered us this car when he was here, he wouldnt have had to take a second job, and then he wouldnt have been so stressed out and exhausted, and then maybe he would be alive. Who the hell knows. I dont want to have anything BECAUSE he is dead. I wouldnt have this car if he was still alive; so it makes me upset to have this car because in order for me to have it, he has to be dead. I know I sound like a crazy person; but this is what goes through my head. I love the car; but I want so much for Don to see it and drive it and for him to say: “Wow, this thing is great! Its exactly like our car, except it WORKS!”

I want to tell my brother thank you. Thank you for caring about my safety. Thank you for stepping up the way you have and giving me this gift. Thank you for putting so much time and effort and CARE into my feelings and into doing what you think is best with our/Don’s car. Thank you for taking care of me in the same way that Don would have. I want to say thank you, but all that comes out is silence. And tears. And the guilt and unfairness of simply being alive and able to drive a vehicle while Don has to miss great sandwiches and TV shows and cars that work when you need them to.

 

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