It’s Been Awhile – Part II

On August 31, 2015, Ben posted on this blog.  It had been awhile since he had written, hence the title of his post which was “It’s Been Awhile.”  (Clever man thinking up that title all by himself).  That day was one of the few times he acknowledged his pending death in a forum that he knew I could access.  He wrote “My visits to the BC Cancer Agency only serve to re-enforce my suspicions that by this time next year I’ll be nothing but a memory to everyone. A fond one perhaps, but only a memory.

How could a year have passed since that day? How is it that he has been gone 7 1/2 months?  He has been gone now for almost as long as he suffered with the knowledge that he had cancer.  I still cannot believe it is true.  I still wait for him to come home.  I have read that for some people, the waiting never ends.

In any case, other than that one post on this day last year, he never spoke of himself dying to the kids and I until the very end.  I know he thought he was protecting us all those months.  Even last December when we discussed what we wanted Christmas 2015 to be about I cried, “If this is our last Christmas together….” and he cut me off and said, “It won’t be. It won’t be.”  I know now he said it more for me than himself.

All year I thought he didn’t know what the ending would be.  I thought this post he wrote (click here) was a one off.  I honestly thought he forgot he wrote it.  But over the course of the past few months since his death I have read things Ben wrote where it is clear he knew what was happening.  And he was so sad.   My heart shatters all over again every time I think of him suffering emotionally in silence, with a smile on his face whenever he could manage it.

While it was all happening I consoled myself with the fact that he believed there would be a happy ending, so he didn’t have to live with the emotional torture in addition to the physical torture.  I thought it was better for that to be my burden, that it was better for me to carry that for him since he was already in so much physical pain.  I didn’t want him to carry the emotional pain of wondering if each day was his last.

Now sometimes I physically feel I may vomit when I think about the anguish he must have felt as he watched the rest of us sleep, because he knew.  Sometimes I love him for trying to protect the kids and I, and sometimes I hate that he never sat me down and told me what to do after he died. But mostly I am tortured by the fact that he carried that knowledge, and I pray every day that he really did forget because of all the meds.  I think sometimes at least, that may have been true.

Now one year has flown by and I find myself celebrating my Dad’s retirement from teaching.  I’m so proud of my Dad.  I’m also very lucky that I’m his favourite child.  (That’s right, Lisa and Barb.  As Dr. B once said when Ben was in a drug induced state and asked me if I had confessed to my crimes …. “the truth shall set you free.”)  I’m very happy that I was able to celebrate with my family tonight, despite my somewhat melancholy and a tad angry mood (which I do try daily to shake off, but some days are just harder than others). We raised a glass to Ben tonight …. he would have had a good laugh teasing my Dad about retirement.  There would have been a lot of digs about “How does one retire from a job they only went to for an hour a day?”  I think Ben was probably there drinking right along with us.

September 24th would have been our 22nd wedding anniversary.  We will inter his ashes that day.  The ending to our story, on the same day it began.  

I miss you Ben.  The world just isn’t the same without you.

 

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Half A Road Trip In One Post

I’ve been absent for awhile, as you may or may not have noticed.  I suppose that depends on how (un) interested you may be in this blog.  In any case, the road trip with the girls was fun, as long as I pretended that Ben was back at home with Zak having a Boys Vacay.  A “Big Hairy Guy Weekend” as Ben always called them when Zak was young.  When I thought too hard about the fact that Zak was actually going to work every day (and also a bit lonely it seemed, from his messages) and that Ben was never coming home again, it got a bit too much to bear.

We arrived home after 16 days(ish) on the road feeling not too shabby, but when I walked back in our home I felt like my world collapsed around me all over again.  I was transported right back into the shit storm of pain I have been somehow tolerating since the day Ben cried out “I have cancer.”  (April 10, 2015 around 5:20 pm, to be exact.)  I’m not exactly sure why that happened to me.  Maybe because the renos that were supposed to be completed were not done, or maybe just because Ben did not greet me at the door.  I don’t know.  But in that split second that I walked through the door I truly felt like I just couldn’t stand the thought of trying to get through another moment on my own. The pain was raw and fresh and agonizing and unbearable.  I saw this and thought that it pretty much summed up how I felt:

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(As an aside, and since this was brought up recently, let me be very clear for all who read this blog that I write these posts when the mood hits me.  That mood is usually sad because (a) my husband died and (b) quite frankly there aren’t a lot of moments in my life where I feel like jumping for joy right now.  I hardly think that is a surprise.  This blog is my outlet for my grief, not a contemplation of my own death and most certainly not by my own hand.  If you choose to read it, please keep your imagination in check.  I am still reasonably sane, I’m just sad. Really, really fucking sad.  I’m also really, really fucking strong.)

Anyway…

For the last eleven days I have just been trying to cope and trying to keep on keepin’ on. Which brings me to today, and I have decided show the world (or my twelve readers) a little bit of what took place on our Peace-Pilgrimage-That-Didn’t-Bring-Ben-Back.  I’ll do most of it in pictures which will allow me to not have to be witty or clever (have I ever been witty or clever in this blog?) and which will ensure you don’t have to read endless amounts of my drivel.

One of the things we did was leave Ben’s mark wherever we went.  I want Ben to be remembered and I feel like anyone who didn’t know him would wish they did.  So I “shouted” out his name at every opportunity.  This is what that looked like:

If you click on each picture you can see where it was taken.  Not long after we arrived home, someone (I won’t say who) sent me this:

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I love that.  Thank you.

We tried to have as much fun as we could while we driving from place to place, so we stopped randomly and did things like this:

We stopped at the Tillamook Cheese Factory for a tour (who doesn’t want to tour a cheese factory?) and the girls convinced me that Ben would have bought them some fudge if he was there.  They were right, so we ate fudge.

We drove a bit further and found ourselves discombobulated when we saw a sign telling us that we were right back home.  We pulled over and took a picture:

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From there we went on to the Sea Lion Caves (the pictures down below in the caves didn’t turn out) and then onward to take a wild ride in the sand dunes.  I thought we may die out in mountains of sand, but luckily we made it back safely. The three of us were washing sand out of unmentionable places for days:

Sometimes we just pulled over to look at the scenery as we drove south…

And then finally we arrived …

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We saw the Redwood Forest (we opted out of actually driving through the tree ourselves because there was a 30 minute wait) and drove on to San Francisco where we hit all the local tourist traps including Lombard Street (most crooked street in the world) where Jaime took a time lapse video as we drove down.  Unfortunately I can’t quite figure out how to post it, but you can see it on my Facebook page.  We did have a bit of a scene at the top of the street when some street security tried to make me drive down it without Jaime. Seriously?  That didn’t end up well …. for them.  Jaime ended up back in the car and on we went.  Click on each picture for details on where we were …

While we were in San Francisco we found ourselves driving behind none other than the Titan himself.  Look closely, bottom left …

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We also discovered the wonderful world of Uber drivers because I absolutely hated driving in that city.  I was pretty pleased with myself for using Uber, actually.  That isn’t something I would have ever done before without Ben.

I’m going to end this post here and finish the trip off in a second post at a later date.  I’m exhausted and today we brought this fella on the left to his forever home with us:

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His name is Marley.  Not directly named after the movie per se,  but we did name him after Bob Marley.  Ben would have loved that.

Before I sign off I want to skip ahead and show you this one thing:

The picture on the left is Ben and I on the Santa Monica Pier, Sept 24, 2015.  Our 21st anniversary.  The picture on the right is the girls and I standing in the exact same spot.  It was strange to think of all that has transpired in such a short time.

And then there was this:

I took the picture on the left when I was standing beside Ben last year, and I remember thinking at the time how ironic the sign was because the end of our trail was approaching rapidly, and I knew it. When I saw the girls standing beside the same sign 11 months later I realized that in fact it was not the end of the entire trail, just the end of part of it.

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Ben sat in that chair last year.  This year we left it empty.

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I’m Done

It’s 1:19 am. The girls and I arrived back from holidays early this evening. I had grand plans that I would return refreshed and ready to live life.

Turns out that as of tonight I suddenly feel nothing except completely done. Finished. My grand vacation plan did nothing for healing.  I feel worse then ever, actually, and in addition I believe I have a massive sinus infection as of about 30 minutes ago. My teeth are aching and I cannot breathe through my nose at all.  I would like to have a really good cry but I can’t even seem to do that.

I also don’t feel like trying to be happy, I don’t feel like talking to anyone, I don’t feel like seeing anyone and I don’t feel like explaining my feelings.  And, I don’t feel like writing about my vacation or why I feel like this.  I couldn’t explain it if I tried and you couldn’t understand anyway.

Seven months is not a magic number for healing at all.  Nothing I have done has worked.  So I’m just done.  I won’t be visiting anybody.

Wendy

Peace Pilgrimage

Well, here we are, day 3 of our peace quest. Maybe it’s just my peace quest – the girls both insist they are fine so I suppose we’ll all find out in about a decade if this trip was helpful to them or “just a trip.” Either way, we are all having a good time. Even the one who hated me for it.

Due to a need to keep costs down, I have managed to get (I think) pretty good deals on hotels so far. Much lower rates than advertised on the hotel sites themselves. Much lower than Trip Advisor too. I call bullshit that they get the lowest rates, by the way.

For fun we have been getting our kicks out of doing silly things like claiming it is Jaime’s birthday at The Cheesecake Factory, just to hear them sing to her.  I tried to post the video clip but for some reason I can’t make it work.  It made Jaime laugh, but there was no free cheesecake!

Speaking of free, we have yet to actually purchase lunches. No, I’m not starving the kids, but our hotels come with breakfast and so we take a little extra breakfast which morphs into lunch a little later in the day. Don’t judge me.

We have left a little bit of Ben in a couple of places:

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This picture was taken in Astoria. We hiked for two and a half hours in total, much of it straight up hill! Walking the streets here is like walking in San Francisco, and we started from our hotel which was the lowest point. We climbed straight up for a mile to reach the tower, and then climbed to the top of that. Awesome views and worth the climb!

We also did a river stroll. Good for the soul.

The next day we made it to Cannon Beach which was amazing. I want to come back for an entire weekend. I wish I’d known about this place when Ben was around. This is a prettier beach than Hawaii, I kid you not. The people are lovely, except for the woman who lost her mind and screamed “YOU CAN’T PARK THERRRRRREEE!!!” Twice. Yes, we get it.

And we left Ben’s mark there too…

Today we are off to ride the sand dunes in Florence (hopefully) and then on to California. Livin’ life the way it was meant to be lived, I think.

That Damn Toothbrush

One learns interesting things about themselves when they lose one fifth of their world. I have discovered that I have three predominant ways of coping.

  1. Purging
  2. Shopping / Spending Money
  3. Keeping Busy By Renovating

Ben’s Olympic Hoarding habit drove me to the edge of sanity.  I actually feel a little shudder go down my spine when I look around my home office where I sit to write this post and recall a short time ago when I actually had to cover the glass door and never cross the threshold lest I disappear into the abyss that was “Ben’s space.”  Looking into this office gave me a physical reaction that mimicked a heart attack.

Since Ben died I think it would be safe to say that I have emptied this residence of at least 50% of the “stuff” it contained.  My home is not small so that is a lot of “stuff.” Much of it had zero sentimental value to myself or the kids (if everything has sentimental value, doesn’t that contradict the actual intended meaning behind “sentimental value“??) and so I sold it for cold hard cash.  I’m nothing if not practical.   The kids and I quite easily filtered through the piles of impedimenta, accoutrement, paraphernalia – also known as crap – and quickly found what meant the most to us.  The rest went buh bye.  How many guitars is it reasonable for one to keep when it is not their own passion?  I know the answer to that question … TWO!!!  That’s right.  The one that started it all about a dozen years before this picture was taken …

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and the last one before it all ended …

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Almost everything else in here was history and I moved at a frenzied pace with the sole goal of being able to breathe.  I don’t regret any of it.  I found most things very easy to get rid of,  but I continue to be surprised at the small things I can not let go.

Our entire closet was emptied of all Ben’s clothes within days of him dying because practicality kicked in and I needed the space.  What girl doesn’t want more closet space, right?  I saw no practical point in waiting what some might consider to be a “decent” amount of time when it was clear that no one in this home would ever wear those clothes. What difference would it make if I left the closet stuffed full and overflowing with clothing that would never again be worn by anyone here?  Ben certainly wasn’t coming back to wear them or complain about them being gone.  So I purged, and yet I found myself needing to keep his t-shirts.  I tucked away about 40 of his “favorite” t-shirts to be transformed into something awesome when the time is right.  I also have every single one of his ties hanging neatly in a row, which is odd considering he rarely wore a tie.  His hot tubbing flip flops remain by our back door, waiting for him to step right back into them despite the fact that I am re-homing our hot tub.  His tooth brush remained on our bathroom counter.

I commented to a friend the other day about my ruthlessness in clearing out our house and how I found it odd that I couldn’t bring myself to throw out his damn toothbrush.  It just sat there and stared at me and taunted me, day after day.  Many times I picked it up to toss it out and then I put it back down.  The very next day after having the toothbrush talk, my cleaning lady was over and she asked “do you have an old toothbrush I could use to get some of this grime out of the sink?”  Without hesitation I walked straight over and handed her Ben’s toothbrush.  Apparently cleanliness wins.

Most things I got rid of had monetary value, and being the ever practical one I sold them for money to support coping mechanism #2 – Shopping.  First it was clothing and some shoes.  Since I had the room in the closet now I figured I’d fill it back up in ways that made me happy. One of my friends walked in one day and took a look into my newly filled closet and said “Stop.”  I stopped.  (Thanks, Lisa).  Some of the clothes still hang in there with the tags on, but mostly I don’t regret those purchases.

I have also done some redecorating courtesy of the sale of Ben’s truck.  I know that Ben would have a fit over the money I have spent on the house because he would have much rather had the truck, but I guess that’s my choice now since he is not here to drive said truck.  I like to think that Ben would be happy that I spent somewhat responsibly and have not gone outside the budget I set out for myself, and also because coping mechanism #2 (Shopping) which kind of morphed into coping mechanism #3 (Keeping busy by renovating) has helped keep me sane.  After all, he rudely left my world and clearly refuses to come back, so he has to expect that I must find something to do to occupy my time.

I do know for certain that Ben would be 100% supportive of the travel we’ve done and the travel we plan to do.  One of his regrets that he voiced quite clearly before he died (how it hurts to know he had regrets) was that he wished we had spent more money on travelling and less on the house.  So you see, he’d support half of what I’m doing.  I’ll take that as a win.  I don’t mind being a bit defiant of his wishes, since he was assholish enough to go and die on me.

I know not everyone agrees with my methods of coping, but in the words of Rhett Butler …

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At least I haven’t started drinking.  Well, at least I haven’t started drinking heavily.  I will admit to having had to walk home last night after a few glasses of wine in the company of friends who make me very happy because they meet both of my current friendship requirements

  1. they talk about Ben and
  2. they don’t judge my coping mechanisms.  (They also take care of my dog when I’m away and they always have wine).

(I suppose they also meet requirement #3 – they invite me.)

This week the girls and I are going to make Ben very happy by taking off on a healing journey.  We hope it involves hiking and exploring and being with nature.  Maybe it will end up involving Universal Studios and Alcatraz.  We’ll see.  We’re flying by the seat of our pants.  One of the girls is thrilled beyond words that we are doing this, and one of them hates me for it.  I’ll let you figure out which is which.  (Zak is staying home and working. Someone has to.  lol).  I am very pleased with myself for committing to taking this trip for multiple reasons that I can’t explain.  Considering the way I was feeling this time last year, I feel like I’ve come a long way.

Speaking of travel, here are a few pictures of Hawaii that I haven’t shown off yet.

And then there was this:

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One year ago I felt like this (click here) and I was desperate.  I cannot adequately explain what living in a constant state of fear, helplessness and desperation does to a person.  But one year later I feel like I’m ready to head off and seek some healing, and I think that is probably a good thing.  I feel like I’ve come a long way.  And so we are off.