Sunday, October 19, 2014

Contemplating life

There are definitely days when it's a struggle to just exist and you think a lot about death. This is one of those days. Heck, it's been one of those weekends. It will be seven months tomorrow. I had to actually stop and think about how long it had been. Hard to believe that he's actually gone and then there are days when it slaps me upside the head. I had to admit to myself (finally) that I couldn't have done anything differently. Ron killed himself just as surely as if he'd pulled a trigger. He just chose to do it more slowly and a piece at a time, taking me and his children along for the ride. That wasn't very fair of him. That is harsh. But, sometimes reality is harsh. He always thought he wouldn't live to be any older than his father had been when he died, but he failed to take into consideration that his dad was a heavy smoker and he died from emphysema and lung cancer. He sabotaged his own life to live "down" to those expectations.

It worked, except he lived nine years longer than his dad did.

Now, I'm faced with cleaning up the emotional mess that was left behind and I'm not doing a very good job of it. I was thinking about my life here and how long I've lived here. It will be 31 years in January. I was thinking about how many "friends" I've made through the years and who I could call on if I needed someone. I came up with no one. N.O. O.N.E. (Except for two of my children.) That is sad. Oh, I have people I consider as being my friend, but I don't know that I'm their friend. You know, someone they invite places, call to chat, drop by for coffee/tea/etc., or invite to their house for the same. I am lonely. Spending every Saturday and Sunday like a hermit is not necessarily fun. Crashing Amy's house isn't always convenient for her (she just had a baby last week) or fair to them.

I hear from one son and my daughter (and son-in-law) on a regular basis. The rest? Not so much. I paid Faith to take me to get my eye surgery. Amy was too busy and it would have been an inconvenience to her, and no one else stepped forward to volunteer so I asked Faith and told her I'd pay her. I know that she would have taken me without money and she is one person I don't mind paying; she's working part-time and going to school full-time.

Yeah, I'm having a bad day and a bit of a pity party. BDD. Deal with it. Sometimes life is very tiring and I'm not always certain that what's left is really worth it. I want to give up and not get out of bed some days. Then I remember those who take time out of their lives for me and the beautiful grandchildren that I have, and I know that I'll keep plugging away at surviving until I have overcome the darkness that threatens to engulf me.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Rule #1 for Widows

There are no rules. 
The grief process is different for every single person. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are. It doesn’t matter if you were married 5 months, 5 years, or 50 years. Once that spouse is cut from your life, no matter the circumstances, a piece of your existence has also been chopped off. You could have lost your spouse to a tragic, quick accident or due to a long and drawn out illness. Neither one of these affect how long the grief process will last.
You may be fine today and hear a song on the radio that will reduce you to tears. You may be totally sad one minute and happy the next. Whatever. Go with it. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotion that you feel. Anger. Resentment. Loss. Sadness. Happiness. Contentment. Anger (sometimes there is a lot of anger over the situation). Tears. Laughter. Good memories.  Feel them all, and then work through them. If you need alone time, take it. If you need to talk to someone (or to listen to someone), do it.
Don’t allow your feelings to consume you. Don’t close yourself off from friends and family who love you. They probably don’t know what to say or how to help, but even if they have nothing at all to offer except their presence, take it. 
If you need help with everyday chores, ask someone who has been there for help. Not sure about finances? Look into a financial advisor (my Edward Jones advisor is fantastic; find one you trust). Do you have a life insurance policy for yourself? I thought “I” was the owner on ours since it had been mine before we were married; somehow it got converted into Ron being the owner so I had to do the application process all over again. Do you have a will? If you don’t have one, you can always find documents online (depends on the state you live in) to create one yourself. If you have a complicated estate, or minor children, I recommend you contacting an attorney who specializes in estates and trust planning. 
How about home repair and maintenance? Luckily, I’m a renter (we did the home ownership thing before Ron’s health got so bad and then we became renters) so my landlord takes care of those issues for me. Do you have maintenance agreements on your appliances? I’m not sure how I feel about those; my mother-in-law swore by them but unless you have them serviced annually to make sure they’re in good working shape, I’m not sure they’re of added value. (Just my personal opinion.)
Car repair and maintenance?  My husband took care of our cars for years and then he no longer could. We found a reputable mechanic we trusted and started taking our vehicle there for repair and maintenance. Good maintenance, and tire maintenance, will save you lots of money down the road. This is one area I do recommend extended warranties for. I had a fairly new minivan one time and purchased the extended warranty. Six weeks later the transmission went out. A year later, it went out again. The extended warranty paid for itself at least twice. 
Eating... This is my biggest failure. I’ve gotten into a rut where I quit cooking for myself. Cereal is good. It’s a food group. It’s OK. Right? Not really...

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Beginning Again

I’ve been thinking about the last six months of my life, and how they did NOT go the way I thought they’d go. Even though I’d known for quite some time that Ron’s body was winding down, it was still a shock to my system. I’d been on the edge of what I can only describe as a great abyss so many times, only to have a reprieve of sorts. I can’t say for sure how many times over the years that I didn’t expect Ron to survive – but, somehow and by the grace of God, he did. When I actually fell into that abyss, I didn’t know how to react or what to expect. I think I shocked the hospital chaplain because I wasn’t a basket case. Of course, she didn’t know me and didn’t know how many ER trips or ambulance rides or stints in ICU or surgeries or hospital stays we’d gone through. She only could see a seemingly calm (on the outside, anyway) woman who had just lost her husband. I caught her looking at me several times in that two-hour space of time that I sat in the ER cubicle with Ron. Amy was the basket case and I had to be strong for her. I held it together for everyone who needed my strength – as long as I didn’t have to talk about it. For every phone call that needed to be made or that I received, I handed the phone to someone else. I just wasn’t ready to admit out loud (except when absolutely necessary) that the unthinkable, unimaginable had actually happened.

I have many questions that I know will never be answered on this side of Heaven’s door. I know that Ron slipped quietly away in his sleep and that he wasn’t in pain. That part gives me comfort. But, as he was slipping away did he have any conscious thoughts that it was time? I know he was ready to go and had said as much the night before. Did he understand that I didn’t want him to go? That I wasn’t ready for him to go? Did he understand that I did all that I could or did he think I could have done more? To be honest, I’m still not sure that “I” understand if I did. Could I have delayed the nursing home a bit longer and still maintained a level of care and health for both of us, or was I selfish in my part? I will find that out once I’m on the other side of this life and until then, I have to live with the consequences of my actions – always wondering if I could have done just one more thing. I’m not looking for sympathy or for anyone to qualify what I did. Because I was the one responsible for Ron’s wellbeing, it had to be my decision. He was beyond making rational decisions – even though he sounded perfectly fine and rational when speaking, he really didn’t see the bigger picture. The disease processes had robbed him of “himself” and the ability to comprehend the what if and what could have been scenarios.

This blog has served as a means to communicate my fears, his challenges and victories, and mine. There were times that I know I sounded crazy, nuts, selfish, resentful, and mean-spirited. When I’m being perfectly honest with myself, I admit those feelings were present at times. Many times I felt things that, although normal for a caretaker and someone grieving the loss of independence – whether your own or that of someone you love, weren’t pretty or flattering. Sometimes writing down those feelings helped to get through them. I had my share of pity parties. I had them for me, I had them for Ron, and I had them for the kids/grandkids. One of the things that I remember very clearly was early in the multiple surgeries to try and save Ron’s right leg. The toilet was clogged and I wasn’t strong enough, nor did I have the right tools, to do what needed to be done to clear it. Ron was no help because he was tied to the wheelchair. I had no “man” I could call on because I just didn’t have anyone. I sat on the wheelchair ramp in the garage and just cried. And cried. And cried. (I still feel sadness for that hopeless and helpless person.) My brother asked me one time if I felt a sense of pride once I accomplished a “man job” and my reply was that I did not. Accomplishing those manly, husbandly tasks meant that my husband was slipping farther and farther away and as I took on those roles, he knew that he was slipping away.

My oldest son didn’t live close, my youngest son really didn’t know any more about taking care of things like that than I did (and he didn’t live with us, either), and the only two people who could have helped make a difference for me didn’t realize that I could have used help. I was very proud and, as such, didn't feel comfortable asking for help. I wanted people to care enough to ask if I needed help. Without realizing it, I was holding them to standards they didn't know existed, and that wasn't totally fair to them. On the other side, the times I did ask different people (who had said "let me know if there's anything you need), what I got back was, "God bless you." That's not really the help I was looking for. So, I no longer asked or assumed that someone would get the hint and volunteer. (This was before Amy met Rex.) So, yes – I resented those times. But, did they make me stronger? I don’t know – probably. Over the course of the next several years, a clogged toilet was one of the milder issues that we faced and overcame.

As I look back, I can see so many instances that were “close calls” and so many that just became routine – our new normal. We were constantly adjusting what was a normal day in the life of Ron. And for me.

Now, it's time to begin a new chapter. I was going to stop using this blog but I think I'll keep it open and take it in a new direction. I also want to change the name to be more fitting. I'm not sure exactly what yet, but something that includes beginning again. I hope that you'll continue to read and cheer me on from the sidelines.

Take care and God bless... You've all helped me get through more than you can ever imagine.