I. Can’t. Even ……

I can’t.
I really, truly can’t.

I lost a dear friend yesterday.
Suddenly.
Shockingly.

Seventeen sets of parents lost their children yesterday. So far.
Suddenly.
Shockingly.
Horribly.

Two of my “wid friends” have daughters in that high school.
Fortunately, they’re ok.

I.
Can’t.
Even.

All it seems that I can do is cry.
The waves are back.
I have not missed them.

I had just talked to my friend.
Her birthday was Friday.
She was fine.
Or so we thought.

Some of my widowed friends will remember her.
She wasn’t widowed but she loved me so much that she volunteered at a Camp Widow just to see what this thing was that I love so much.

She was quick to laugh and even quicker to love.
She would’ve done anything for me.
I can’t believe that I’ll never hear that laugh again.
Or feel that love.

Her funeral will be this Sunday.
I don’t know if I can go.
I’ve told Daughter #2 that I’d watch the kids this weekend.
I know that I can get out of that.
But I’m not sure that I want to.

The thought of going to that service just brings the ugly cry.
The kind of cry that happened yesterday between flights at DFW in a chapel.
For an hour.
Thank God that that airport has chapels.

I feel bad about not wanting to go.
I feel guilty.
I feel weak.
And I feel panic.

I know I should go.
I know I should see her husband and sons.
And the beautiful little grand daughter who she loved beyond reason.

I.
Can’t.
Even.

I haven’t felt this depth of sorrow in a long time.
I haven’t felt this incapacitated.
This weak.

I.
Just.
Can’t.

Choosing ……

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…… to not be sad.

Is that possible?  I used to think, “Of course it is!”
You know …… back in my “before”.
I had no idea that sometimes …… you just can’t choose.
Until I couldn’t.

It seemed to last forever …… the days that I couldn’t choose.
It felt like forever.
A long, dark, cold forever.

But gradually the days became lighter and warmer and I found that I could decide.
Sometimes.
Sometimes turned into most times and most times is where I reside now.

I am able to choose to not be sad.

Which brings me to today.
New Year’s Eve.
I’ve hated New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day for ten years.
For me, it’s worse than the dreaded Valentine’s Day that widowed people abhor so much.
It’s an evening/day when you can feel like such a loser because you’re alone.
It’s an evening/day when loneliness feels magnified.
And trust me …… something as sucky as loneliness shouldn’t be magnified.

Christmas was great.
The apartment was full …… of people and noise.
Lots and lots of noise.
And fun.

But like every year, my children have returned to their homes and their lives.
As they should.
The silence is deafening.
On this night.

I know that for many people, the silence and loneliness on Christmas is worse.
And I know that I’m blessed each year to have most of my children with me for that week.
So I try to be mindful of that.
And thankful.

This year feels no different.
It’s New Year’s Eve and it’s quiet.
And a bit lonely.
I still hate it.

I wish he were here.

In spite of all that, I’m choosing to not be sad.
I’m choosing to be thankful.
Thankful for my children.
And their children.
Thankful for the love in my life.
For the friendships and the family.

Thankful that even though he’s not here …… he was.

But most of all …… I’m thankful that I can choose to not be sad.

Most of the time.

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New Year’s Eve 2006 — our last one

Ten ……

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…… years.

120 months.

3,650 days.

And 86,400 hours.  Give or take.

However you count it …… it’s a long time.
And it’s not.
It’s the blink of an eye.
The lifetime of a teenager.
A graduate to a parent.
A mother to a grandmother.
The end of what was planned.
And the beginning of what wasn’t.

Ten.
It’s not the horrible number that you might expect.
Which is odd, since most of the first five or so were pretty rotten.
But ten.
Ten feels …… natural, I guess.

I mean, of course it’s ten.
Jim died ten years ago, almost to the hour.
Ten long years that have flown by.
Ironic, I know.

So much has happened.
In the lives of our children.
In mine.
Many things have changed.
Some things have not.

My life looks far different from the life I had ten years ago.
And though it goes without saying (so why do I always feel the need to say it?) …… I would far prefer the life and plans we all had ten years and two days ago.
Far.

But, that wasn’t my choice to make.
And so this life, this ten year construction, is the life I have learned to choose.
And have worked hard to make.
This past year has been pretty awful at times.
My father died.
My house flooded, as did the homes of many of my friends.
I had to foreclose on our family home and then sell it again, for less than I had hoped.
I am selling my “flooded” house for about half of what I paid for it.
But, through all of this, and more …… I’ve been good.

Nothing that happened has been worse than what happened ten years ago.
Nothing.
The death of half of you gives you perspective.

Our children are good.
Our grandson is amazing.
Life has moved forward.
Sometimes good.
Sometimes not.
But the good has mostly outweighed the bad.

And the best thing of all …… is the love Jim gave.
To me.
To our children.
To his family.
To his friends.
To our community.
To God.

God has multiplied that love.
In my life and in the lives of our children.
In more ways than one.

So yes, it’s been ten challenging years since I last kissed him goodbye.
Ten years where some dreams have died and others have been born.
Ten years of missing him.

But this year, on this day, I am celebrating his love.
That love has made me who I am.
The love that gave me our children.
That love will never be gone.
Even when I am.

Long live love.

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Thanks ……

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…… for the memories.

I’m watching the “Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special” as I write this.
The memories come flooding back whenever I see this wonderful lady.
She was, and still is, my favorite comic actress.

Saturday nights.
With Mary Tyler Moore.
And Bob Newhart.
And Carol.

My mom putting my hair in curlers as I sat on the floor in front of her …… for church the next morning.
Every Saturday night.

One memory stands out the most: the Saturday night when Carol was doing a parody of “Gone With the Wind”.
I had to work that night (at Braum’s for all my Oklahoma friends) and was so depressed that I’d be missing that episode (“Gone With the Wind” was my favorite movie back then.)
Then a miracle happened. At 8:30 (Central time) the manager told me that I could leave early (I wasn’t supposed to get off until 11:00 p.m.). The Carol Burnett Show started at 9:00 p.m.
I was thrilled and raced home in time to watch the entire show.
I’m still grateful to that woman … especially because she had no idea that I wanted to be home, watching that show.

The scene of her walking down the stairs wearing the drapes, with the curtain rod attached, still cracks me up to this day.

There’s another reason that Carol floods my heart with warm memories.
Jim knew how much I loved her.
One year, not long before he died, he found out (before I did …… which was quite a feat) that Carol was coming to Houston to do a memory lane kind of program with clips from the show, questions from the audience and her thoughts and feelings about those years.
He surprised me with tickets.
And it was wonderful.
It was also a bit emotional.
She had a lot of clips that featured people who had died over the years since being on her show.
Bing Crosby
Edie Gormet
Bob Hope
Harvey Korman
Jimmy Stewart
Ken Berry
Sid Ceaser
Art Carney
Ella Fitzgerald
Mickey Rooney
Mel Torme
George Carlin
Kay Medford

I could go on and on listing people who most people don’t remember or have never heard of.
But, as those clips played …… I remember feeling a kind of sadness that my children would never know the world in which those people lived and entertained. And I shed several tears during those clips.
It still makes me feel a bit sad.
I’m more than grateful that I had no idea that Jim would soon be on that list.

I love Carol Burnett.
I admire her for all that she’s done …… in spite of where she came from.
And how difficult her childhood was.

But I love her more because Jim used her to show how much he loved me.
He spent a night enjoying being with me, loving her.
He wouldn’t have been there if it hadn’t been for his love of me.

As the tenth year slowly marches towards me …… I find myself thinking of him more and more.
Not because I choose to.
Not because I’m stuck.
Not because I have nothing else to think about.

The mind is a mysterious thing.
As is the heart.
They remember things …… all on their own.
Whether you want them to …… or not.
It just happens.

So tonight I remember my childhood on Saturday nights.
And I remember the man who loved me beyond reason.

And I am thankful.
For so very much.

Thankful ……

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…… yes, I can say that I am thankful.
Beyond thankful, actually.

In spite of all of the crap that’s happened these last ten years.
And truthfully, because of all of the crap that’s happened these last ten years.

Ten years ago today I had no idea that my world was soon to be turned upside down and inside out.
I had no inkling that my heart would be ripped out of my chest and that my future, my dreams, my expectations would be ripped out right along with it.
When I think back to the “before me”, I am wistful.
I’d like to be her again, just for a moment.
Innocent.
Content.
Loved.
Secure.
Naive.
Happy.

It’s taken much time, but I am able to say that I’ve regained some of those things.
I’ve had most of them back for more than a few years.
I’m content with the life I have now.
I feel mostly secure. Not totally, but mostly is much better than not at all.
And I’m happy.
Again, not the same happy, but happy nonetheless.

It’s been quite a road.
A tough road.
A shitty road for the first few years.
If you don’t believe that, or can’t comprehend it, then I invite you to go back in time …… all the way back to 3 months before Jim died.
Back when I first started a blog to write about the humor of raising six kids.
That’s all it was.
At first.
It changed very quickly.
You can find it here: http://txmomx6.blogspot.com/2007/09/what-heck-am-i-doing.html

Thanksgiving is usually the time that the sadness/grief starts creeping back in. It’s the beginning of what some of us call, “the death march”. Thanksgiving was like the beginning of the end …… 10 years ago.

This year …… Thanksgiving has been a really nice day to hang with 5 of my 6 kids, and my parents. A day to be thankful for all that I have.
And all that I had.

My life looks nothing like it did 10 years ago, three weeks before Jim died.
But it’s a good life.

I couldn’t have said that 7, 8 or 9 years ago.
Again, the road to here was sometimes horrific, often times shitty, most times lonely.
In spite of that, I kept putting one foot in front of the other.
I didn’t always move forward. Sometimes I moved backwards several feet. Sometimes I just laid down in the middle of the road, bereft and without enough strength to even raise my head.
But …… slowly but surely …… I got from there to here.

Don’t get me wrong …… I’d still prefer that Jim were here along with my “before life”.
But that’s not an option.
And never will be.

So I keep moving forward, and am thankful for each day and each person in my life.
I’m thankful for the ways I’ve changed because Jim died.
I’m content with my life that I live without him.

My heart is full as my 3 year old grandson comes over, takes my laptop away and crawls into my lap …… making me take a break from writing this post.

I love my life.
It’s a life I wouldn’t have if Jim were here.
It’s a life I have because he isn’t here.

It’s not a life I would have chosen …… but it’s a life for which I am eternally grateful.

So on this Thanksgiving Day …… I thank God for my family, my friends …… my life.
And I thank Jim …… for my “before” and for my “after”.
Because he’s a huge part of both.

 

Apartment 8J ……

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…… it’s time for me to tell you, my first NY apartment, goodbye.
And while I feel a bit emotional …… there are no tears in this goodbye.

That’s because I have nothing but great memories with you.
You were my first NY home. And while you were small-ish, you’ve slept over 10 people at a time.

You turned out to be in a terrific building where I’ve made some great friends. You even welcomed one of my widow friends last month, making my life even fuller.
I didn’t think that was possible.

You were never just an apartment …… you were home.
You helped me fulfill a dream that Jim and I started talking about …… but never got to do. Together.

You made it easy for this “Texan” to make the leap and start her “Second Plan A” …… all on her own.

You been a home to two of my children, a couple of cats and a couple of dogs.
You’ve hosted Christmases and Thanksgivings. All very full and somewhat cramped, but joyful and memorable.

I only have one regret about leaving you.
And that’s because of your name.
I wish I could take your name with me.
You see, your name is more than a letter and a number.
To me.
And to our children.

Your name immediately told me that this was the apartment for me.
Your name took away any nervousness I felt about choosing you.
I will never forget you …… because of your name.

8J.
J for Janine.
And Jim.

8 for our family.
There were 8 of us.
I love the number 8.

So thank you, 8J.
Thank you for helping me to know, and feel, that New York is my home.

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I Feel ……

…… that I am at a loss.

I’m at a loss for words.
I’m at a loss for feelings.
I’m at a loss for some kind of permanence in my life.
Something to anchor myself to.
Other than God.

Yes, God is my anchor …… most of the time.
See? I’m going to open myself up here.
Again.
Hopefully you won’t take advantage of the openness and preach at me.
Because I’m being honest.

And maybe this is just me.
In fact, it’s probably just me.
But as I told one of my daughters last week, after learning that my father had died …… and that it will cost over $150,000 to put my house back
together …… sometimes I just can’t pray anymore.

It doesn’t help that I’m watching a telethon right now to help the victims of Harvey and Irma.
I’m ugly crying as a result.
A result of the telethon and of my feelings, which I guess I’m finally feeling.

I know without a doubt that I am beyond blessed.
I didn’t lose everything.
I lost the house that I had.
But I didn’t lose anything in it.
It can be fixed.
For a price.

No one I love died.
My family is safe and well.
I didn’t lose much, really.

But many of my friends are now homeless.
Car-less.
Clothes-less.
Memento-less.
And my heart hurts for them.

It also hurts for all of those who lost so much in the past few days.
It feels like our world is spiraling out of control.
That many of us are losing our sense of permanence.

My heart hurts for the relationship I never really had.
My heart hurts for my sister, who has spent her life seeking love and support from a man who couldn’t give it.
My heart hurts for that man …… who spent his life missing so very much.
My heart hurts because sometimes …… life just sucks.

Not always, thankfully.
But sometimes.
And sometimes …… so often and so long that it’s difficult to see a way out.
Or a way through.

I am so thankful for all of you who comment and who tell me that you feel (or have felt) the same way.
Bless you.
You help me feel so less alone in the suckyness (yes, I know that’s not a word).
I appreciate all of you and thank you for your words.

I want you to know that I don’t feel this type of loss all of the time.
Or even most of the time.
But sometimes.
And sometimes is sometimes too much.

I miss him.
Always.