Category Archives: Life After Loss

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.

Sometimes the Only Thing You Can Say Is ……

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…… shit happens.

That’s all I’ve got right now.
It has happened before in my life.
It is happening now.
It will happen again.

The one thing I’ve known for almost 10 years is this:
there are worse things that could happen.

The home I moved to Waco from is flooded.
Thank you, Harvey.
You suck.

There’s nothing I can do right now.
I can’t get in. Lots of people can’t get out.
My friend who rents this home from me had to swim out of the house with her son and two dogs.
In over 5 feet of water.
I am beyond thankful that they are safe.

Yes, I’m grateful.
But I also have a confession to make.
And it won’t be popular.
So if this offends you, I’m sorry.
It’s just my reality.
Which changed dramatically on December 18, 2007.

I’ve been on Facebook almost constantly since Harvey hit Houston. It was the only way to keep up in real time with my friends and neighbors in my community.
It was hard to keep looking at the growing devastation, but it was necessary, too.
The rain has finally stopped, but they’re still letting water out of the lakes and reservoirs, which is what caused the flooding in that area. So it might get worse before it gets better.
There is a long, long road ahead for so many of my friends.

So here’s my confession:
I tend to cringe every time I read a post from someone whose house stayed dry that says, “God is so good!”
It’s not that I don’t believe that God is good.
I do.
But I don’t believe God spared one house over another.
I believe that shit happens.
And sometimes …… it doesn’t.

I know that people who write that don’t mean to insult anyone whose house flooded.
But, in my opinion, it is an insult.
My house was flooded.
Does that mean God wasn’t good to me?
Does that mean that God was upset with me?
Does it mean that you’re more faithful/religious/better than I am?
Does it mean that you’re a better prayer than I am?

I don’t believe for one minute that you think that.
But it feels that way.
Just as it feels that way when someone claims God/prayer saved their loved one through an accident/illness/catastrophe …… but didn’t save mine.

I don’t believe that God brought Harvey to us.
I don’t believe that God spared your house because you prayed for him to do so.
Thousands of praying people lost their homes and/or belongings.
Many praying people lost their loved ones in this storm.

I don’t believe in a God who cherry-picks whom to help.
I don’t believe in a God who gives us what we ask for, like Santa.
I don’t believe that prayers are granted because you prayed harder.

I believe in a God who loves us, no matter what.
I believe in a God who is sad when tragedy occurs.
I believe in a God who will carry us through the darkness.
But we have to go through it.

And I believe that shit happens.

Thirty Four ……

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…… years ago today we were married, Jim.
Thirty four!!
I should be teasing you about being so old now.
But you’ll never be old.
You’re frozen in time at 47.
Fair?
Nope.
But it is what it is.

I had an apartment full of kids this weekend, which is always wonderful. This visit was no different.
J-Bear really saw NY for the first time. He’s been here several times but this was his first visit to really “see” things. And he seemed to have a blast. He was exhausted in the evenings, if that’s a clue. I wish you were here to have carried him on your shoulders through Times Square. Or Central Park.
He loves the Park.

We walked all over the city, saw a few shows, ate some great food, and just enjoyed spending time together.

The worst thing about having the kids visit? Watching them leave. But you knew that because you felt that way, too, when the girls would leave after a visit from college.
Daughter #3 and her hubby were the last to go. I decided to go see a movie before they left so that I wouldn’t be the one left alone in the apartment.
It’s the little things that help.

I’ve been emotional for a week.
I’m guessing that I brought a lot of that with me from Oregon.
Do you know that my father is dying? Are you aware of that up there?
Do you know that I’m trying my best to be there for him, to help him if/when he needs it?
Do you know that it feels like it’s slowly killing me inside?
I decided to extend my stay in NY so that I can just have some time to myself before I head back.
I also decided (with the help of Daughter #1, God bless her) to head back to Texas after her visit in July. That gives me a set date and something to look forward to.
It’s exhausting, draining, sad, and horrible to just sit with someone …… not knowing when something will change. Not knowing if tomorrow will be worse than today.
Just …… not knowing.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t go back, it just means that I emotionally/physically can’t stay in that kind of atmosphere for an indeterminate amount of time.

So today should be our anniversary.
My heart hurts.

Today is my father’s birthday.
That, too, makes my heart hurt.

I do remember all that we had, Jim …… the good along with the bad. We were blessed to have so much good.
And so I do focus on that when this day comes around, when you’re birthday comes, the kids’ birthdays, etc.
I do.
I was beyond blessed to have you for as long as I did. I will never stop thanking God for the gift of you.
I don’t expect, nor do I want (at this point in time) to have that with anyone else. I’m good.
Truly.

Or, I thought I was until this past Thursday, when I took D#2 to see Josh Groban (her celebrity crush) in “The Great Comet of 1812”. I was enjoying it more this second time …… until I notice during intermission that Katie Couric was sitting in front of me. With her husband. The husband she married in the not-so-distant past after being widowed for a couple of decades.
I could no longer focus on the show.
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They held hands through the rest of the show, sometimes both hands.
They smiled, laughed and giggled secretly together.
They enjoyed each other.
They truly love each other.
You can see it in their eyes.
And man, do I miss that look.
And holding those hands.
Telling those jokes.
Whispering to you.
Just sitting next to you.
Knowing you’re there.

I cried through the rest of the show, knowing that the people next to me thought I was bonkers.

And when it was over, I hesitated but then gathered my courage …… and I tapped Katie on the shoulder. She looked at me with uncertainty for a moment and then moved in closer so that I could whisper in her ear.
“I just want you to know that, speaking personally, you give widowed people hope.”
She pulled back so that she should see me, see the tears running down my face and then said, “I’m so sorry”.
“Yeah, me, too. But thank you for this, and him (pointing to her husband)”
“Life does go on.”, she said. I nodded and smiled.
“Yes. Yes, it does.”

So Happy 34th, Jim.
I love you so.
My life is moving forward.
In most ways.

I miss you tons,

Janine

Forever and a Day ……

IMG_0038…… is how long it seems since I last posted.
Usually, when there’s not too much going on in my life …… I find it difficult to post.
And then there are other times.
The times that require too much of me to even begin to think of a title of a post, let alone write a few paragraphs.

So here we are.
It’s been quite some time. The last time I posted I caught you all up with my comings and goings in NY.
I really, truly, need to move to NY full time. Life is much simpler there.

The week before I was to head back to Texas I received several frantic texts and a few phone calls from Daugter #2. The time differencee is only an hour, but depending upon how late you stay out the night before …… that hour can make a huge difference.
We finally connected.
It seems that poor J-Bear had slipped and fallen on the floor (nothing more exciting than that) and broken his femur.
Yes. His femur.
What the what???
Of course they did full body xrays to see if there have been other breaks in the past, but nothing showed up. Which is a huge sigh of relief to any parent, adoptive parent or foster parent.
His bones looked good. His break was just a fluke.
And of course I was not in town to be of assitance.
Luckily for J, our local hospital has no pediatric ortho doc so they loaded him and D#2 in an ambulance and took them to another town. He loves to tell you about the ambulance ride.
At that hospital he was put into a cast that went around his waist and down his left leg …. to his ankle. His foot was set at a 45 degree angle.
And then the fun began!

D#2 took off one week of work to stay home with J.
Then D#3 took off a week from her job in Austin and came to Waco to watch him.
(Day cares don’t seem to like these kind of casts …… and who can blame them?).
And then it was my turn.

I flew out of NY, flush with the memories of all good things on Broadway (GO SEE “DEAR EVAN HANSEN” or you will regret it for the rest of your life!!).
I flew back to Waco to take over the last two weeks of cast-wearing.
Or so I thought.

Now let me just say up front …… that I love my grandson fiercely. Exactly as I loved my children. Fiercely. Ferociously. With an Agape love that will never change. Now you need to note that an Agape love is not a love that condones misbehavior, foul deeds, stuff like that. It’s not a love that says, “I will love you and support you no matter what you do.”
No.
An Agape love is a forever love. I will always love you. No matter what.
But ……. I will not condone, excuse, make exceptions for your behavior. Your behavior is yours.
But love is forever.
There’s a difference.
For those of you who don’t get that, feel free to message me to talk more about it.

So back to the 2 year old.
I love that boy fiercely.
But MAN!!! That can he drive me crazy! He’s two. He’s a professional.
And for that, I have to give him respect. 🙂

Fortunately, he’s getting closer to being 3. His personality shines forth now and he is mostly hilarious. When he’s not mad at you. Actually, he’s even more hilarious then, which makes him even madder.

He and Gracie have a love/hate relationship. Which means that when one loves the other, the other hates him/her.
They are JUST like siblings! They actually bicker and fight. No kidding. I’ll have to record it sometime.
It drives me nuts.

But, for the most part, the two last weeks of his cast went pretty well. We went for walks, visited the zoo, visited the neighbors, and watched way too much Daniel Tiger. At 2:00 in the morning I still wake up to strains of “What Do You Do When You’re Scared”.
Sigh …….

Then came the day when J got his cast removed.
If only it were as simple as that sentence.
We tried to prepare him with the sounds and actions of the saw as it would cut into his cast.
We thought we did a good job.
Ha!
When it came time to cut the cast off, his screams far outshone the sound of the saw.
Daughter #2 held him down and talked to him closely to his face as he cried and screamed, “Mommy! Mommy!” in a blood-curdling way. I held his legs down and helped the saw tech by moving the diaper out of the way and the other leg.
And then …… about 2 minutes in, when J realized that his mother was of no use to him …… he screamed out, “GIIIIIIIII GIIIIIIIII!”
Several times.
My heart broke into a million pieces because there was nothing I could do to get him out of that situation.
I bent down to his face, cuddled him as best I could, and tried to reassure him that it was almost over.
I have no doubt that he will never trust Gigi again.

Oh well.
So the cast was off! Hooray!! Yippee!!
But ……. he couldn’t walk. Which meant that he would not be able to return to daycare.
Which meant that Gigi would still be on duty. Sigh ……

In the meantime …… I’d been trading calls with my father, who lives in Oregon and who I don’t get to see all that much.
He’d been in the hospital a couple of times with some worrisome symptoms and now he had a diagnosis.
Stage 4 Lung Cancer.
AKA: Mesothelioma
Thank you to the U.S. Navy for the work that he did that will now end up killing him.

It seems that this horrendous disease moves quickly. Way too quickly. After speaking with him a couple of times I realized that I needed to go see him sooner, rather than later.
So I took care of J for 3 and a half days and then flew to Oregon, the state of my birth.
And here I have remained for the past week or so.

This is never something that anyone of us sees ourselves doing, I dare say.
My father is 77. Too young to be told that he will probably be dead in 2 months.
I can’t keep up.

The hopice guy came over to see him a couple of days ago and they really like each other. They have a lot in common, other than this death thing.
They chatted for a while and then Mr. Hospice asked if my father had a walker (he thought he had) but my father shook his head. He said, “That’s ok, I’ll order one. We’ll also need to get a portapotty to put beside your bed. And then a hospital bed which will help you breathe easier.
My father asked, “When do you forsee all of this happening?”
Mr. Hopsice: “A couple of months.”

Holy Shit.

How do you get past the thought that right at this very moment …… you can do whatever you want? Yeah, you might get short of breath, but you’re still in control, for the most part.
To …… in two months you’ll be bed-ridden and totally helpless?

This.
Sucks.
So.
Much.

My father and I have never been close. I didn’t even know him until he came back into my life when I was 14.
There have been sporadic visits and the usual cards.
But this wasn’t the Dad who raised me.
This wasn’t a man that I really knew.

We’ve kept in touch over the years and I’ve come up for visits here and there. Fortunately Son #1 has come with me on a couple of visits so he’s been able to learn a bit about this side of the family.

I think that most of my children will come up here this summer to reaquaint themselves with their grandfather and say goodbye.
I’m proud of them for that.

I have a sister up here who I didn’t grow up with, but whom I still love. And I love her precious children as much as I love my other nieces and nephews.

I tried to explain this to her, as well as to my father.
I’m not sure why I’m here.
Except for this.
He is alone..
No one should be alone at such a time as this.
My life, at this point, allows me the time and flexibility to be here.
For him.
And maybe for me.

I would hate to think that anyone would be alone at a time like this.
And if I can help it …… he won’t.
So here I am.
I hope that when my turn comes …… I won’t be alone.

Yes, there’s more to write. Like how Gracie got poisoned by cannabis and I had to rush her to the ER Vet, but that story will come later.
Suffice it to say that she is all better and I am 1,000% relieved.
Yesterday was a very scary day/night for me and I’m not sure how I would’ve handled a tragic outcome.

But I didn’t have to.
So yay for that.

I will be going to NY in a couple of weeks for a short visit, to celebrate my girls’ birthdays and see some shows, but then I’ll be back in Oregon.
For as long as it takes.
All prayers, positive thoughts, good wishes, etc. are appreciated.