Our 43rd Anniversary

Dear Rusty,

I would like to think that if you were still here with me that we would be away somewhere warm celebrating our 43rd year as husband and wife.  Perhaps it would be in Aruba, the place you had loved so much.  Tonight we would have a wonderful dinner together and a cocktail to commemorate such a milestone.  I’d also like to think that we would both finally be retired and able to do things together when we wanted to and not be forced to adhere to any work vacation schedule.

I clearly remember that day all those years ago.  It was a beautiful Fall day — one that I had waited oh so long for.  By today’s standards we were babies.  I was only 21 and you were 23.  I also remember so clearly the night of our wedding when I was suddenly overcome with emotion and sadness and burst into tears.  You were so worried and asked what was wrong and I told you.  I was acutely aware all of a sudden that all of my happiness would be over one day when one of us would be forced to leave the other — when one of us would die and the other would be left alone.  As time went on and we grew older, I always thought it would be me to leave first.  Never in a million years did I ever imagine that I would be left alone and that it would be you who would go first.

These past two years and two months have been so sad for me.  I am so very lonely without you.  Time has marched on and I seem to be ok on the outside, but I’m not.  I hate coming home to the quiet empty house — which, by the way reminds me.  You must have been surprised to see my mom and your dad so soon after you arrived.  Life surely has changed, but my love for you remains the same.

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365 Days Ago – 1:36 p.m. –How is it possible that this much time has passed?

Three hundred and sixty five days

I have lived with your death.

I have seen your face appear

In a burst of sunshine, in a cloud of rain.

I have heard your voice call out

In a gentle breeze, in a howling wind.

I have felt your mind’s energy come through

The moving air, the night’s despair.

Your music called to me.

Your  eyes looked out intensely in a thought.

Your eyes smile down in knowledge of a truth.

I felt your presence all around – I’d start to laugh

But then I would look and you were gone.

A vision disappeared in space and time

Leaving me alone to face the emptiness,

Leaving me alone to face reality

That you are dead and I am alive.

And what was once will never be again.

Three hundred and sixty five days

I have lived with your death.

A cycle’s coming to an end as I emerge to face the light.

You were one of my greatest joys

That joy contained my greatest sorrow;

The philosophers wrote words about it

The poets wrote poems about it.

I thought I understood what they all meant

All this talk of joy and sorrow,

Light and shade, highs and lows,

Just words inside my head.

Three hundred and sixty five days gone by,

My heart has learned the lesson through its pain.

My head now comprehends

And there are now scars

But how the love of life remains.

Three hundred and sixty five days

I have lived with your death.

Now I am learning to live

With your life

Inside of mine.

351 Days Without You

Dear Rusty,

It’s 1:08 p.m., Friday, September 11, 2015.  Almost to the minute one year ago, we sat in our dining room with the representatives from the Center for Hope and talked about pain control and what hospice service was.  I remember that you didn’t feel well enough to sit through the entire meeting with them and excused yourself, returning up to bed.  Little did I realize at the time that Isabel, one of the people visiting our home, would one day be the moderator of one of my grief group meetings.  I don’t know what the hell I was thinking — or NOT thinking is probably a better way to put it.

How has almost an entire year gone by?  It is so unbelievable to me.  I never thought I would be able to survive one day without you, let alone 361 days.

I dreamed of you last night a few times, more than I have this entire year and it felt so good.  During one of the dreams, we were lying in bed on our sides and I was in front of you.  You were spooning me and I woke up briefly and had the harsh realization that you weren’t really there.  Once again, my heart broke in pieces.

I went to Florida this week for Chris Garry’s wedding to Matt Holzer.  I was so nervous about visiting with Lenore and Jimmy because it meant that I was going to be driving almost 2 and 1/2 hours from Orlando Airport to Bradenton.  Guess what?  I did it.  The car rental agency upgraded me to a little Mercedes Benz convertible and I think that made the drive a little easier for me.  But I did it, hon.  You would have been proud of me.  I had a nice two day visit with them.  They were so warm and welcoming to me and I promised I would return to stay with them this winter for a week.  I am hoping to be able to do it in January. I had a good time down in Florida, probably the best I’ve been in the last year.  But when the door to our house opened and I walked into that empty place, it was like a giant slap in the face and I returned to reality — my life without you.  I am so dreading this Tuesday.  If you can, you need to send me the strength and courage to get through that day.  I am sure it will be like a video rerun in my mind over and over all day.  I don’t want to remember the day you left me.  I want to remember your smiling face and how much we loved one another and all of the good days.  I need you, babe.  You need to send me peace and courage.

Loving you.

Me

ALMOST A YEAR WITHOUT YOU

There is no end to grief and there is no end to love.” – Bono

It’s almost a year since you had to leave.  This time last year you were in and out of the hospital.  I don’t recall that I was fearful that you were getting ready to leave.  Perhaps it was because I didn’t feel your condition was worsening.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  I believe it’s because I was on auto pilot for most of 2014.  I want to remember specifics and sometimes I can, but about this my mind seems too foggy.  Maybe it’s my brain’s way of trying to lessen the pain. I wish I knew. I wish I could remember more of the little details.

I dreamed of you last night.  I was walking with you and Joe Dee.  You were wearing a suit and I was fixing your lapel.  I asked you if you were really there or if you were dead.  I didn’t wake up upset nor can I say that I woke up peaceful and happy.  I was glad to dream of you but wish that it was more of a personal and a much longer dream.  I have absolutely no idea why Joe Dee was in the dream, but it reminded me of the time you and I drove to Florida with him.

I went to the beach house this past weekend with Judy and Pattie McDonnell.  We spent Saturday in Atlantic City and then went back to the house for the night.  We laughed and cried and I enjoyed being with them.  We promised each other that we would try to do this at least twice a year. You would have been so proud of me.  I drove down to the beach house and then to Atlantic City and back.  The girls kept telling me that they thought I was brave and strong.  I say it’s not bravery or strength.  It’s purely a matter of having no choice and refusing to give in.

I got to see Pattie’s house.  She and Ron moved into a 55 and older community and their home is beautiful.  I think you would have liked their community, too.  I remember the few times we went to look at places and it just makes me so very sad that we never got to see the fulfillment of our plans for our older years.

The kids and I are trying to come up with an idea on how we will spend September 15.  I don’t know what to do.  Our year of “firsts” will be over.  I don’t know if it will ever get easier going through the holidays and special days without you for any of us.  I have to believe it will get better because I don’t see how people would ever able to continue on without those they love.

Come to me again tonight in my dreams.  I need to feel your presence.  I love you and I always will.

We Got Through the Day Without You

Father’s Day came and it was sad.  I watched the faces of our children as the day went by and could see the sadness behind their eyes.  Our sons were more quiet than usual.  I think that as time goes by, they are missing you more and more.  Kelly is alot like me.  She cries often.  It doesn’t take much.  She said that she heard a Van Morrison song the other day in the car and it brought her back to a time when she was alone with you in the car driving somewhere and you told her how much you liked the song.  Well, when she heard it the other day, it just made her sad and reminded her how much she misses you.

Your parents visited the cemetery before they came to the house.  I wish that they wouldn’t go because it is just too upsetting for them when they do.  I remember you telling me that “this is going to kill my mother and father.”  Well, it hasn’t killed them, but I can tell you that it has destroyed them.  They will never be the same.  How can any of us ever be the same without you?

The family (your family) was all together at our home on Sunday.  It was good for me because I had been so busy since Friday night preparing that I didn’t have much time to think and dwell on the fact that you were not here for the first Father’s Day in the forty years since you became a father.  I did go to the cemetery alone on Saturday and that is always hard.  This time it just seemed baffling to me that the past year and four months even occurred and I literally found myself talking aloud to you and asking how the hell did this happen and how did I end up alone.  I miss you, babe.  I just don’t see how I will ever get over losing you.  I know that loss is something everyone experiences during their life at one time or another.  I know that it doesn’t discriminate for age, race, sex, education or any other reason.  It is just something we must experience by being alive.  It is as inevitable as breathing.

I need to know that you are okay.  I wish there were some way that you could give me a real sign that you are in a better place and that maybe you are there right behind me if not always, at least some of the time.

We made it through the day, but Father’s Day will never be the same.  I know that for sure.  I only hope and pray that perhaps there will be a day when we can be together and smile when we think of you instead of cry.

Our First Father’s Day Without You

It’s been nine months and four days since you left.  How have I managed to get through this time? Riding on the train this morning, I began to remember snippets of our life together and, as usual, was sitting there crying.  A woman across from me stared and I became aware of her as a tear trickled down my cheek.

I remembered a moment in the delivery room when Russell was born.  I clearly saw your face again and how you leaned over to me and kissed my cheek, telling me, “it’s a boy”.  Then I remembered when Matt was born and you were ecstatic over having a second son.  The other morning I remembered a moment at Gemma and Joe D’s wedding when I overheard you talking to someone and I heard you refer to Kelly for the first time as “my daughter”.  I remember sitting there seeing the look of utter love and pride on your face as you animatedly discussed your “daughter”.

Our kids were so very lucky to have you for their father.  I was so very lucky to have you as the father of my children.  I know how much you loved them and I know how much they loved and still do love you.

I don’t know how we will all get through this Father’s Day on Sunday.  It is our first without you.  I know that it will be a very sad day for our children because for the first time in all of their lives, they will not have their father –their dad — their daddy.  I won’t have the love of my life with me.

This morning on the train I recalled a few moments in our life, very personal and intimate moments that did bring a smile to my face as a tear trickled down my cheek.  We were so lucky to have many of those moments together over the years.  I know many people don’t experience even one of those special moments in their lifetime and we were lucky to have many of them.  Maybe that’s what makes it so very sad for me.  I know and I remember what I truly lost.  My heart is broken and will never be whole again.

I hope that wherever you are that you know how much we will miss you this Sunday; how hard it is going to be to get through the day without you and how no Father’s Day ever will be the same for either me or our children and grandchildren.  We’ll go through the motions.  I am having your family over.  The kids wanted to do something special to honor you this year.  When they asked my opinion on what they could do, I thought about it and told them that I thought that the best way we could honor you was to honor your father.  That’s why I decided to cook dinner for everyone and have them all over to our home.  I’m hoping that by being in your home with your family, it might help your parents get through the day, too.

I love you and I always will.

February 27, 2015

To the battle that you did not choose, but fought anyway.  To the fight you had left in you until you took your very last breath.  To the most amazing person I will ever know, fly high my angel.  I’ll be counting down the days until I get to hug you again. I love you with all my heart.

Five months and eighteen minutes short of 12 days ago, you had to leave.  I continue to try to adjust to my life as it is now without you.  Sometimes it’s unbearable and others, I float through the days, as though I am looking through the lens of a camera that has been in the cool air conditioned house and brought into the stifling heat of a summer day.

I’m continuing with the grief group at hospice on Thursday nights, although I didn’t go last night because the “widows” as I call them asked me to go to get a bite to eat.  It’s amazing that there are sometimes there are ten of us who get together.  We range in ages from 60 to 66 and 8 of us are widowed.  Two of us are widowed 20 years and 17 years and then you have the newbies like JoAnn and myself who are both widowed for less than one year.  It just baffles me how we ended up together — this group of sad sisters, trying to adjust to life without our other halves.

We had a close call with Pops this week.  He’s developed a condition called c-diff which is highly contagious and can be life threatening for a person with a compromised immune system and of his age.  He’s in the hospital again, but they are talking about moving him to a rehabilitation center today where he can get i.v. fluids if he needs them and will be taken care of by people who know how to care for someone with this condition.  It is can be highly contagious.  I am trying to be there in your place, but work and other obligations doesn’t me allow to spend as much time as I would like to — like I know you would spend.  I feel like I have been called in to substitute for you.  No one is making me feel like that.  It’s in my own head.  I guess the truth of the matter is that on some level when I am around your mom and dad, I feel like I am around you.  It’s funny because that is what they told me last week.  They feel you all around whenever I am with them.

Our daughter signed a contract on a home this week. It’s an older colonial in the village section of Maplewood.  I think you would like it.  It’s pretty much in move in condition, except for a few things that the home inspection report revealed, so there might be some negotiations in connection with the price she is paying for it.  It’s not an overwhelmingly large home like the one she had before, but it’s more than enough for her to take care of.  I’m not going to lie and say that I am not a bit worried about her living alone in a house with her daughter, but I know it’s important for her to be back in a home rather than an apartment.  She told me this week that since she began the house search and visited the home, she felt like you have been there right with her and she feels like everything is right about this house purchase.

I am planning on a trip and, in fact, made the reservations today.  I will be going to California with my sister and Patricia.  We’re going in the late Spring and will be seeing places like Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, San Diego, Monterey, Big Sur, San Simeon, Santa Barbara and others.  This is not going to be easy for me — going without you — but I am going to do it and I am going to try to enjoy it.  I know that you would want me to.  I am also making plans to visit with Joe and Esther while we are in Los Angeles.  I know that you loved them as much as I do.  I also know that the feeling is mutual.  They are two of the reasons that I miss that job.

The “widows” are also planning a trip to Key West in October.  Now that will be a hard one for me.  You wanted to visit there badly and that was one of the places I envisioned us spending one winter during our retirement years. We are planning to fly into Miami, visit the Saccos and then driving down to Key West.

Remember how you kept asking me not to be bitter about having family obligations that kept us from retiring and traveling? Well, I think you would be happy and proud to know that bitterness is not one of the emotions I feel.  It’s just mainly plain old sadness that envelops me when I think of what you and I missed out on sharing together — not bitterness at all.  I remember how you told Kelly you wanted me to do the things you and I would not have a chance to do like traveling.  I want to do those things, but the reality of it is that I want to do them with YOU.  I love my friends and love how supportive they are of me, but I miss YOU and want YOU. I find myself wishing l could just touch you again.  I find myself wishing I could run my fingers across your lips again.  I find myself wishing you could hold my hand in yours and hear you tell me how much you love me again. None of that is ever going to happen again and it makes me really sad. We really did have it all while we were together.  Didn’t we?

I try to focus on what we did have and not all that I lost, but it is so hard.

Love,

Me