Sometimes I Smile

I was looking over some of the blog posts of late, and I realized that if one were to be reading or following my blog they may think that I am a big Debbie Downer.  Sarah Sadface.  Wendy Whiner.  You get the picture.  Honestly I’m not.  Not every day.  At least not every minute of every day.  And even when I do feel like a Depressed Darlene I try not to take the world down with me if I can help it.  Maybe just one person each time, and I try to spread it around.

But sometimes I smile.  Like when I see things like this:

                                                            Easter dinner at Mom and Dad’s.

I also smiled when my friends came over to help me put together yet another Ikea product before our weekly “Wine and Greys Anatomy” night.

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And when I watched Jaime play volleyball on Easter Sunday:

(They won the tournament, by the way.)

The kids make me smile:

                                                  (Zak came home for Easter, the Good Boy!)

I do admit that I am more often down than up, but cut me some slack – it’s only been (gulp) two and half months.  Every day that passes takes me one day further away from Ben. When I think too hard about time passing I can’t help but think about Raegan.  She is only fourteen, and in the blink of an eye another fourteen more years will have passed.  She won’t even be 30 years old and she will have been without her Sweet Dad longer than she was with him.  I am so afraid that she won’t remember him.  After all, what do you remember from that age?  I don’t remember very much, but then again, I didn’t lose my beloved Dad at fourteen, thank God.

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Anyway, the point of this post is to reassure people that I’m not a Gloomy Gus every minute of every day.  I still laugh.  I’m sad a lot, but I still laugh occasionally and I smile more then that.  It’s just that I write this blog for myself and I’m generally moved to write when I am feeling particularly down.  It makes me feel better and allows me to think about Ben while still keeping busy so I don’t totally stop breathing.  Because sometimes I think too much or I stumble across things like this, and I just can’t breathe…

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Boy, did he ever love his kids.  He was a GREAT dad.  The best.  Even when he annoyed the Hell out of me (and let’s face it, sometimes he did, and you are all liars if you deny that about your own spouse), he was still the best dad.  Ever.  Period.  And generally a damn fine husband too, for that matter.

Those texts were while he was in the hospital.  Eight days before he died.  He loved fiercely.  He fought hard.  I always feel his hand on my shoulder when I sit in his office chair and type on this blog.  I feel it now.

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When I feel particularly low, I look at things like this and I smile:

How could anyone look at that and not smile?

Hug your families.  XO

Time Marches On

I believe it has been a full ten days since I wrote on this blog.  Probably eleven days by the time I finish writing and hit “post.”  March has been a challenging month for a few reasons.  One being that my Beloved turned 47 years old on March 13.  47 years young. And he’s gone.  Our whole future was ahead of us – everything we planned for and worked for. But he is gone and will never get to enjoy the fruits of all his labour.  I will never get to enjoy everything we planned for, together  with him.  I call bullshit on that crappy hand we were dealt.

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March 13th also marked exactly two full months since I have seen the love of my life, or spoken with him, or held his hand, or curled up next to him.  Two full months since he struggled to tell us one last time that he loved us.  Two full months since he breathed his first breath in Heaven.  I miss him desperately.  I talk to him daily.  He remains the first person I want to tell everything to, and I open my mouth or reach for my phone for a brief moment every single day, only to remember that he is gone.

Every year it is tradition in our home to have a birthday dinner of steak, potatoes and Ben’s infamous Caesar Salad.  Our family always joins us and we raise a glass to whomever is celebrating. This year we continued the tradition as best as we could.

Here was the cook of the evening with his doting grandparents:

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Mr. Saint-Onge Junior produced a caesar salad that (with a little practice) may indeed eventually rival that of his Dad’s. Thank goodness Ben left us the recipe.  We will never give it away, so don’t bother asking.

We enjoyed our meal as best as we could without the Man of Honour being physically present, and we uncorked a bottle of champagne and toasted Our Beloved Ben.

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After dinner the front door opened and our house filled quickly with our nearest and dearest.  I felt like I was wrapped in love.  Here is a glimpse into what happened next:

And then naturally we had to take one of these ….

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Look at the picture carefully.  Thats a big FUCK YOU, cancer.  With a small ‘c’, naturally.

Here’s one final shot of the evening.  This is a lot of love for Ben, and by extension, for me. Thank you, everyone. You were here for us before Ben got sick and you stayed with us during the worst time of our lives when we needed you most.  You cared enough to ask questions, to know what was happening, and to be there for us all …. especially the kids. You remain by our sides now and continue to walk with the kids and I through the dark. I believe the time will come that we will feel the sun again.  I am truly grateful.  (Nancy and Jeremy … I am sorry for cutting you out of the picture but I couldn’t find a small enough emoji to just block out your faces.  But I include you in the love.)

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Happy 47th birthday, Ben.  How I wish you were here to raise your glass and eat some gluten free cake.  I miss you more then I have words to describe.

It was odd to not have been running around trying to find the perfect gift for Ben’s big day. I really found that hard, but in the end, Ben ended up giving  ME a gift that day.  Here’s how that story played out:

Over the last month or so I have been trying to sell Ben’s truck.  It broke my heart because he loved the truck and he had waited so long to own one.  He told me that the truck was the only place he could sit where he wasn’t in pain.  He loved that truck so much, that on the night Dr B came to visit us at home, Ben asked him, “Am I going to die?”  Dr B said, “Yes Ben, you are going to die.”  After taking a moment to absorb the horror of that statement, Ben’s next words were, “Can I still drive my truck?”  If the moment hadn’t been so indescribably painful and utterly beyond horrible, it would have been comical.  He just loved that damn truck so much.

Anyway, I was very torn up trying to decide what to do but ultimately it just wasn’t practical to keep it. So I listed the truck for sale and waited, and waited, and waited.  I had a few bites but nothing really panned out and I was quite frustrated.  I had one solid lead for a sale but in order for it to go through I was going to have to sell the truck for less then it was worth and I knew Ben would not have been happy with that.  Still, the last two months have just been so difficult that I wanted to get one more thing off my plate, so I was reluctantly set to accept the lower price just so I could be done.  I silently apologized to Ben for not holding out for a price that would have made him happy.

At the end of the evening of Ben’s birthday celebration as everyone was leaving, I received an unexpected text from a fellow who had seen the ad for the truck.  Ironically, his name was Jeff.  (For those of you who haven’t paid attention – shame on you – Ben’s best friend’s name is Jeff.  So that was a nice coincidence.)  Anyway,  Jeff The Stranger contacted me right on Ben’s birthday to say that he had seen the ad and wanted to know if he could come by the following evening to look at the truck.  I agreed, and so I held off on contacting the buyer who had offered to purchase it for a bit less than I wanted to sell it for.

To make a long story short, Ben sent me a lovely gift right on his birthday in the form of a buyer named Jeff who drove a very hard bargain …. he offered me $2,000 more than we had paid for the truck.   More than a coincidence, I would say.  Thank you, Ben.  Always looking out for me as usual.  You are the best husband.IMG_4942

It was a bittersweet moment when the truck was driven away.  But having a buyer named Jeff contact me right on Ben’s birthday and ultimately pay me a sweet price for the truck is surely Ben’s way of saying “Its OK.”  I sure hope so.  I will miss that piece of Ben.  Jeff The Stranger promised me he will take good care of it.

Three other blog worthy things have happened this month.  The first was that Ben’s sweet baby girl decided to chop off her hair and donate it to help make wigs for kids fighting cancer (with a small ‘c’).

How awesome is she?

The second blog worthy thing to happen was that Ben’s main man Zak took off for Powell River to work for a few weeks while he awaits the start of his full time job in April that will carry him through until school starts in September.  He is off earning his keep, and I miss that boy a lot.

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Ben would be so proud and happy to see us together like that, with smiles on our faces. Despite how difficult the last year has been, there has been a lot of joy and positivity. The young man who is smiling in the picture above with his Mama is one of those positive things.

The third thing that happened is that the girls and I went to Edmonton for a few days so I could surround myself with the love of Beth and a lot of retail therapy.  Beth and I (along with our four girls) spent seven hours immersed in shopping, with a brief break for a fruit salad that looked like this:

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Over the course of the weekend we also took in a rodeo (yee haw) and paid a visit out to the barn to visit their horse. (Smelly place.  I touched nothing.)

While we were walking into the rodeo I couldn’t help but notice a long wall of plaques with the bronzed faces of various “important” people, but only one of them jumped out at me and made me stop and point it out to the girls.

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You’d think Mr Hole would have considered changing his name.  Ben would have busted a gut if he had seen that.

That’s Jaime riding Miss K, with Kalyn alongside. On the right is Raegan, Jordan and Jaime.

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                                                                A random pic of Rae and I.

It was a good trip.  We rode a roller coaster that almost made me wet myself.  I spent far too much money.  Beth and I laughed a lot during the day and cried together at night while watching video clips of Ben.

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Being with her healed my soul a tiny bit.  I still have quite a way to go.

 

Happy Birthday Sweet Man

It’s after midnight.  Today would have been Ben’s 47th birthday.  This was what this day looked like exactly one year ago as Ben and Zak cooked up a marvellous Mexican meal and enjoyed each other’s company.  We had spent most of the previous year away from Zak, and it was the best birthday gift Ben could have ever received to have Zak home and cooking with him again.  Look how happy Ben is.

  
Damn right he was built for war.  And what a war he waged.

I remember telling Ben that he should refuse the chemo.  That it would just make him sicker and for what?  He looked horrified and said “If I don’t do the chemo I’ll be dead before my next birthday.”  He did the chemo. And yet here we are.

The kids and I have decided that March 13th should be a day for celebration each year.  A day to remember Ben and probably shed some tears but hopefully have a few laughs too.  And maybe, just maybe, every March 13th afterwards will get just a little easier.  A little happier.

Tonight we will have our usual birthday dinner of steak and caesar salad, just as Ben would have wanted.  We will spend a few hours together with Mom and Dad and Barb and Makeda, which is exactly how we would normally celebrate. And then our nearest and dearest will come over to join us so we can raise our glasses to The Titan and have some cake.  Not gluten free. (Sorry Ben, but let’s face it – no one likes gluten free.)

  
We love you, Ben.  Happy birthday.  Xox

A Parable For Mothers

I was cleaning out some things last night, and being as nostalgic as I am right now I started opening old letters and cards.  What I found brought a smile to my face.

The first thing I found was “A Parable For Mothers.”  I had made a note on it to remind myself that Ben had sent it to me at work around Mothers Day, 1998.  (It was particularly funny that I noted that “Ben forwarded this to my computer at work.”  Computers were new to us and I’m sure I thought they wouldn’t be around long and I might wonder how it was that Ben had sent it to me.  Lol.)

This is what he sent:

A PARABLE FOR MOTHERS

The young mother set her foot on the path of Life. “Is the way long?” she asked. And her Guide said: “Yes, and the way is hard. And you will be old before you reach the end of it. But the end will be better than the beginning.”

But the young mother was happy, and she would not believe that anything could be better than these years. So she played with her children, and gathered flowers for them along the way, and bathed with them in the streams, and the sun shone on them, and life was good, and the young mother cried: “Nothing will ever be lovelier than this”.

Then night came, and storm, and the path was dark, and the children shook with fear and cold, and the mother drew them close and covered them with her mantle and the children said: “Oh, Mother, we are not afraid for you are near, and no harm can come.” And the mother said: “This is better than the brightest of days, for I have taught my children courage.”

And the morning came and there was a hill ahead, and the children climbed and grew weary, and the mother was weary, but at all times she said to the children: “A little patience and we are there.” So the children climbed, and when they reached the top, they said: “We could not have done it without you, Mother.” And the mother, when she lay down that night, looked up at the stars and said: “This is a better day than the last, for my children have learned fortitude in the face of difficulty. Yesterday I gave them courage, Today I have given them strength.”

And the next day came strange clouds which darkened the earth – clouds of war and hate and evil, and the children groped and stumbled, and the mother said: “Look up! Lift your eyes to the light.” And the children looked and saw above the clouds an Everlasting Glory, and it guided them beyond the darkness. And that night the mother said: “This is the best day of all, for I have shown my children God.”

And the days went on, and the months and the years, and the mother grew old, and she was small and bent. But her children were strong and tall and walked with courage. And when the way was hard, they helped their mother; and when the way was rough they lifted her, for she was as light as a feather; and at last they came to a hill, and beyond the hill they could see a shining road and golden gates flung wide. And the mother said: “I have reached the end of my journey. And now I know that the end is better than the beginning, for my children can walk alone, and their children after them.”

And the children said: “You will always walk with us, Mother, even when you have gone through the gates.”

And they stood and watched her as she went on alone, and the gates closed after her. And they said: “We cannot see her, but she is with us. A mother like ours is more than a memory. She is a living presence.”

— Temple Bailey — 

Ah … sweet Ben.  He really, truly believed that my job as a Mother was the most important job in the world.  Not in a sexist way, but in the way that he wanted our kids to feel a sense of security, love, and safety that he believed was so important.  He believed that everyone had a specific role in other people’s lives, and that a mother has it within her power to provide her children with a sense of nurture that no one else truly can.  He didn’t think that responsibility should be taken lightly.  More important, he really believed that I was up to the task.

Then I found this … a note written by Jaime to Ben 10 years ago, in the way that kids used to write “Will you go out with me?  Check this box if ‘yes’ and this box if ‘no’.”  I love the way she left room for his answers, and I love how he answered her, especially where he said “yes yes” when she asked him if he thought it would be fun…

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The responses Ben gave sum up exactly how he was as a father.  Involved.  Present. Enthusiastic. Always making time for his kids.

And then I found this.  The first card he ever gave me.  It was for my 23rd birthday, and we were both still in Regina at the Training Academy but he had been posted to Gibsons and was about to head west.  I don’t remember what he bought me for my birthday, but I do remember the card.  I’m so glad I saved it all these years.

Here’s the front:

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Here’s the inside:

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And this is what my sweetheart and best friend wrote to me.  When I read the words he wrote to me back in 1993, I’m reminded of why we worked so well for so long … because we were best friends.  We understood each other.  We were friends first, and that friendship sustained us through so many trials over the years.

We found each other when Ben was just coming out of a dark time in his life, and he felt very alone.  We made each other laugh.  We were great, great friends and we made a fantastic team that sustained through Ben’s life and would have sustained through many, many more years.  Our time was too short, but man, was it ever good.

Here’s what he wrote, all those years ago:

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Thank God I was also posted on the Sunshine Coast a few months later, where our friendship picked right up where it left off, and never quit.  Destiny.

I hope all three of my kids are so lucky to meet a steadfast, true and honourable life partner just like their Dad.

How we all miss him.

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“We cannot see him, but he is with us. A husband / father like ours is more than a memory. He is a living presence.”

What About The Kids?

I thought that with time passing, things would get easier.  That appears to not be true. What actually seems to be happening is just the opposite, in fact.

The girls are struggling.  I’m not going to go into specifics, but they are suffering badly.  I don’t know how to help them.  I can barely help myself.  I am not without resources and I am definitely trying, but it is so hard.  We all feel like we are barely keeping our heads above water.

I also worry about Zak, although honestly he seems to be doing fine.  He has a lot of support and Zak, much like sweet Ben, has always had a knack for deciding whether or not he can actually fix or change something.  If not, he focuses on what he can do.

Zak and I went on a date the other night, because he is leaving for Powell River for three weeks.  We had a nice time, but when I mentioned Ben his face clouded over.  He told me he tries not to think about it too much – about losing his Dad.  I can’t decide if that is a good coping mechanism or one that will come back to haunt him later.  I’m probably not the best person to figure that out.

As I write this, it is 9:55 am.  Jaime has been texting me since 8am, begging me to come pick her up from school.  Her stomach hurts her a lot.  Constantly.  It is pretty apparent that her grief is coming out in physical pain, but knowing that doesn’t make the pain any less real.  The pattern seems to be that I try to walk her through it in various ways via text. Sometimes it works. Often it doesn’t.  Today falls into the “doesn’t” category.  I am going to have to go pick her up.

PS.  I picked up the mail today and found that my new cheques had arrived.  In my name only.  With my new account number.  In my name only.  I haven’t had my own bank account since I was 22, and I don’t really want it.

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I Fucking Hate Cancer

I FUCKING HATE CANCER.

I flip through Facebook to pass the time, and all I see over and over again are GoFundMe pages with heartbreaking stories about parents who are dying from cancer and leaving their children.  Or I see photos of happy couples smiling at each other, out celebrating birthdays and anniversaries and I am so jealous that I will never have that with my one true love.

I FUCKING HATE CANCER.

Today I took my girls out for mani / pedis courtesy of sweet Julie.  I was really looking forward to it.  But as I sat in the chair in between the girls I was suddenly struck by a memory of Ben sitting in the recliner with his horribly swollen feet.  He never complained.

I FUCKING HATE CANCER.

My strong, brave man had swollen feet and could barely walk.  He was 46 years old, he had fought bad guys and saved lives, worked for hours and hours straight and then came home and taught his son how to throw a football, and he had to use a walker?  A FUCKING WALKER.  Like a 90 year old.  He crawled up the stairs.  He closed the bedroom door and sobbed in pain when he couldn’t tolerate it anymore.  He went from appointment to appointment, day after day for nine months but he never complained.  

I FUCKING HATE CANCER.

I am haunted every day by the memory of him trying to walk and seeing him fall down and hit his head hard on the tile floor.  I’m haunted by the memory of him calling my name as he lay there, unable to get up.  I’m haunted by the fact that he lost all control of his bodily functions.  I’m haunted by the fact that his children cleaned up after him.  I’m haunted by the memory that he died with a swollen, black eye.  I’m haunted by the desperation in his voice as he asked Dr. B if he was going to die. By the look of horror on his face as Dr. B said, “Yes, Ben.”  By the tone of his voice as he told me he didn’t want to die.  By the memory of him looking at Dr B and saying “I waited 15 years for a truck and now I can’t drive it.”  By the tears he shed and the sense of abandonment he felt in his final days from those who were not here for him emotionally for so many years.  Not even in the end.  For the fact that they didn’t even pay attention to the fact that he was dying.  Ignored the fact that he was dying.  I’m angry at the pain they caused him.

I FUCKING HATE CANCER.

I’m anguished.

I FUCKING HATE CANCER AND ALL THE SHIT THAT GOES WITH IT.

I wonder if the horror of those memories will ever fade.

I just want to see him dance again.

 

8,395 Days

That’s how many days I have known Ben.  (Give or take a few days for Leap Years, and then of course there is the fact that he died 47 days ago so I suppose I should subtract those days too.  But I digress….)

I know that it has been eight thousand three hundred and some odd days, because it was this exact day 23 years ago that I landed in Regina at the RCMP Training Academy and promptly met the love of my life.

That morning looked something like this …

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Yup.  Thats me.  Twenty two years old.  Swearing to serve and protect the good people of Canada (not to mention jumping for joy at the knowledge that I would be earning a whopping $31,172 per year. Canadian dollars.)

That afternoon I hopped on a plane and landed in frigid Saskatchewan where I was immediately introduced to my “Big Brother” Troop which happened to be … Troupe Douze.  Ben’s troop.

Within days, this picture was taken …

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Followed shortly after by this one …

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(I’m pretty sure I was not allowed off base when this picture was taken, but Ben was a bad influence and he was very good at sneaking out without getting caught.  He was the one that taught me “If you don’t sign off of base then you can’t forget to sign back in.”  Seemed logical at the time, and I never did get caught).

That picture was followed the next year by this one …

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And these …

Those two were on the cruise ship on our honeymoon.  We had to take them of ourselves.  I love how we always posed.  We laughed a lot together – he really was my best friend and there was no one I would rather be with.

And all of a sudden in the blink of an eye, twenty three years have passed.  We have three beautiful children and we have loved each other even when we couldn’t stand each other. There was never any real question that we would “love, honour and cherish until death do us part.”  I just never imagined that the “death” part would happen before our 22nd wedding anniversary.  In fact, I’m more than a little annoyed at Ben today because he promised me he would live until he was 100.  Literally.  He actually promised me that several times over the duration of our marriage.  And I believed him too, so today I am calling him out as a big fat liar.  (I feel like he is standing behind me as I type this, with his hand on my shoulder, smiling that sweet smile of his and chuckling as he always did. I cannot stay mad at him.)

Today Raegan asked me to pick her up at the Save On mall after school.  When I pulled up, feeling rather gloomy and missing Ben on this 23rd anniversary of the day we met, there stood our beautiful daughter holding out a Starbucks upside-down-long-pour-Americano for me.  Just because.  And I was reminded how grateful I am for the fact that I had Ben for his entire adult life, and now I am so fortunate to be blessed with these pieces of him.  I have so much more than so many others.

Ben, I miss you more then I could ever adequately describe, but these three young people help take the sting away like no one else but you ever could.  Thank you for them.

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