Ken, my son who lived with me, killed himself the day after Christmas. I’m still in shock and disbelief. I’ll write more later..
February was a difficult month, physically. Had some setbacks, saw a lot of professionals in the medical community. No one knows what is causing my problems, so they don’t deal with it. In the meantime, I just sort of ‘exist.’ Since I don’t get out, except to keep appointments, my life is rather dull.
I’ve lost a couple more friends. Each time this happens, I’m filled with fear and dread. Don’t think I need explain.
The brightness in my life has come from reading and writing. I’ve joined an eight week writing class on Writers On the Nert called ‘Shadow Writing,’ which is digging deeper to help us get in touch with our authentic selves. We’re in the sixth week. I find the classes help motivate me to write. I haven’t posted here for a while, but if it wasn’t for the class, I wouldn’t have written anything at all. At least I have produced something for the class.
But the big news is that my last name is once again officially that of my husband of 51 years. My lawyer called me today. Now I just need to get a new social security card with my ‘new’ (old) name. Hooray! I can’t say how relieved I am. It’s like coming home. The other name felt so foreign and uncomfortable. I can rest easy now.
I started the process today of having my last name changed. This is the story behind such an action:
I was married to Forrest for 51 years. He died in 2007. I was lonely, met Richard and married him in 2011. Just weeks after our wedding, Richard fell ill and he died six months later of pancreatic cancer. We spent a lot of time with hospice health care givers and Richard’s family and friends. The circumstances prevented us from developing the give and take of a real marriage.
I was able to keep Richard at home, which was his greatest wish. He died in his favorite chair in the living room with his family and friends around him and me holding his hand.
I knew that Richard’s first wife had been the love of his life; I placed her photo on the mantel where he could see it and just be with her as he watched TV.
I’m glad I was there for him and able to help him die at home, but now I want to finish my life with the name of the husband I grew up and shared my love and most of my life with. I spoke with a lawyer today and the process has begun. I feel as if I’ve taken the first step of coming back home.
Yesterday was your birthday, Scott. You would have been 50. Thinking today was the 10th, I’ve thought of you all day, trying to picture what you would have looked like and what you would be doing.
I can’t believe you’ve been gone 14 years! It doesn’t seem nearly that long.
You once told me that if you killed yourself, I’d get over it and go on and live a happy life. You were wrong, Scott. I haven’t been happy since you did that unthinkable act. Yes, I’ve gone on with my life. What else could I do? And there have been some moments of joy, not in living, but in nature.
I have not felt happiness in a long time.
Last Thursday, Beulah, one of my closest friends died unexpectedly. I’m still in shock. Then Connie, another close friend, was admitted to the hospital with clots in her lungs. Wednesday, your brother, Ken, found out he has a hole in his heart. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s wrong with him.
I’m not so well myself.
All this makes me wonder about life, it’s purpose, and what happiness really means. And what difference any of it makes since it all ends and is repeated and ends again.
I resent it that we have to die, that we go through life with ambitions, dreams, desires, failures, accomplishments and then have to go and leave it all behind. We take it with us, as if we had not walked on this earth, breathed in the air, watched the grackle with the broken wing, read Mary Oliver or Thomas Merton, seen “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off” three times or eaten that piece of cherry pie. Two hundred years from now, none of it will have mattered. Sometimes I think of those who lived hundreds of years ago and I honor them in my heart.
This day is almost over. I’m relieved. Next month, we have to get through the anniversary of John’s death. And so on. It seems that every month, there’s a hurdle to get over.
I’m trying very hard to find pleasure in something. To experience faith, and hope, and love. To enjoy giving while losing so much. To find a reason for it all.
I’ve been a giver all my life. What happened? The well has run dry.
I thought I’d review my experience of 2012 tonight and maybe list some wishes for 2013, but my mind took me to another place. Earlier this evening I started a novel by Helen Garner, “The Spare Room,” and I started thinking about my son, John, johnshome.wordpress.com , who died of colon cancer in February, 2001. The book is about two friends, one of whom is dying of cancer. But when I thought of John, Cancer wasn’t what I thought of.
I remembered an experience John had at a new middle school he attended after we moved to Connecticut from Indiana. He was taken into a booth in the boy’s bathroom and beat up by a boy from a corrective institution. The boy was there on some kind of grant from the government, I believe, a trial program for delinquent boys. The boy took John’s watch, gave him a black eye, a busted lip and a messed up face. John was borderline autistic, a mild mannered, gentle soul who was trusting. Even though the other boy had no marks or injuries, the incident was treated as a “scuffle between boys.”
Even though John was hurting physically, he was mostly injured emotionally. He drew into himself, stayed up late at night teaching himself to play the guitar, picking out soft, haunting tunes. He checked a book out of the library called “Violence in America.” It broke my heart.
I was so angry, I took him to the principal’s office and insisted the principal explain to him why nothing was being done about the boy who hurt him. I don’t remember the explanation, but it was lame. It was obvious that something political was going on. I took John to the head of the education board, Again, sympathy, but no help. I called the local newspaper. A lot of sympathy but no help when the reporter learned where the other boy was from.
I think John and I both lost faith and respect at that time for people in high places. It’s been a long road trying to change my opinion.
Not a very pretty story. I’m sorry I can’t do better, especially today when I should be looking back at the positives in my life and thinking about going forward. But this is real; anything else I might write would be forced.
Tomorrow, perhaps, I’ll take stock and look ahead. For now, I’m sending John a hug and a prayer, and then I’ll get back to my novel.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” is on the TV tonight. Scott loved that movie. He watched it every year. I’m surprised at how just knowing its on fills me with dread. It’s been 13 years since Scott killed himself and I still can’t watch his favorite programs, look at his photos, his handwriting, anything that reminds me of him. He loved sizzlers, Seinfeld, Star Wars, roast, rice and gravy.
I often wonder what he would look like now, if he’d be married, if he’d have children. I loved him so much. I still can’t believe he’s gone. And I miss him.
I’ll be glad when Christmas is over. Next, I have to get through his birthday, January 9th. He’d be 49. The hurt never goes away.
The woman looking out the window is not me, but she could be me. I spend a lot of time looking out the window.
I cry every day. TV, poems, telephone conversations, everything makes me cry. Sad things, happy moments, but mostly beauty. There is so much beauty in the world. And it fills me with tears. The innocence of children, little acts of kindness between strangers, a loving heart, nature, the long suffering and loyalty of dogs and other animals, and the awful beauty of loss. Yes, loss, and what it does to us. Or, what we do with it. Loss changes people, makes us more patient, compassionate, understanding, loving.
But I cry so much! It bothers me sometimes. I remember when Henry, the man Mother married after Dad died, cried at a birthday party we gave him. Forrest, my husband, said, “Don’t be a baby.” It made me sad that he said such an unfeeling thing; And I hope Henry didn’t hear him. Having worked with the elderly, I knew, from experience, that older people tear up more easily than the young. There are exceptions, of course. One obvious reason for this, I think, is that by the time you reach those elder years, you’ve had countless losses and gone through many changes. And, I believe, we are also grieving our own coming deaths. Every time someone I care about dies, I feel a little closer to that day.
Tonight, watching Christmas in Rockefeller Center on TV, I had to change the channel. So many memories attached to the songs. Happier times, when we were all here enjoying the season together. I haven’t put up a tree since Scott died thirteen years ago. My only two grandchildren, both adopted, live in Connecticut; I live in Missouri. We don’t have much contact since John, my son (their dad} died. Sadly, Christmas and many other holidays, are just times for me to get through. Giving to others, especially the needy, helps, but, still, the heart of Christmas is missing for me. And many others.
This may seem like a contradiction to what I said about the elderly being compassionate, understanding and loving because of their losses. And I guess it is. Much of my life, and feelings, are contradictory. I’m trying to put it all together so I can feel whole again.