40 hours in LA

Ben’s thoughts from our anniversary last year

Mom is a widow

Our 21st anniversary trip began at around 8pm when Wendy, my favourite in-laws and I arrived at LAX in Los Angeles. Just to be clear, only Wendy and I had an anniversary. And just to be clear again, Lisa would have been included in the favourite in-law thingy but she chose to stay home and teach school instead. Lets move on. I secured our rental vehicle using some kind of ATM machine at Alamo car rentals and off we went to explore the streets of LA.

Luckily I had the forethought to bring my GPS (and consequently saved us $14.95USD per day!). We arrived at the hotel without incident (ok maybe a few u-turns but that’s no big deal) settled in and went out for diner at a nearby restaurant.

The next day Maureen, Barb, Wendy and I went out exploring. Rob stayed back at the hotel to nurse…

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And So Completes The Circle

Yesterday was our anniversary.  Sept 24th.  We would have been married for 22 years.

On our wedding day in 1994 the weather was sunny and hot, and our limo broke down on the side of the Mary Hill Bypass in Port Coquitlam.  As we stood on the side of the road with sweat running down our faces I recall saying that things could only go up from there. I was right, and in the end we had 21 years, 3 months and 20 days together.  Far too short, but I’m grateful for every moment of it.

Twenty one years ago we celebrated our first anniversary.  We gave each other Ironman watches that we couldn’t really afford but needed for work. Ben still has his.  Well, I suppose I have it now.

Every year afterwards for several anniversaries we would spend the day wandering Granville Island together.  We continued the tradition even after we had kids – we would drop them at Mom and Dad’s and head down there for the day.  One year we saw David Hasselhoff wearing sparkly gold pants.  I’m not sure when we abandoned that tradition – likely when the kids started playing soccer – but we started a new tradition and went out for dinner every year, usually trying some type of new cuisine.  I remember once we went to a pub which was very unusual for us.  I can recall what I was wearing and how Ben took picture of me and kept it as the home page on his phone for a long time.

For our 20th anniversary Ben surprised me by letting me know that he had been secretly saving money and had saved enough for us to go to New York.  Unfortunately, Ben was also really suffering with back pain and we had just decided to get him a hot tub.  We got the hot tub for free but had to spend the anniversary money installing a patio slab that would support it.  (Surprise!  No trip to New York!) I can still see Ben looking at me and saying, “It’s the thought that counts, right?”  Yes Ben, it is most certainly the thought that counts.

For our 21st anniversary we flew to LA to watch Doyle Bramhall II in concert.  A dream come true for Ben, especially when we ended up meeting him and also running into Bryan Callen too.  I knew at the time that it was to be our last anniversary together.

For our 22nd anniversary, I buried Ben in the little cemetery near our house.

We stood at Ben’s grave site and released the Kracken until the bottle was empty, while we listened to a song that would have made Ben laugh and say “Hell yeah!” Take a listen and imagine Ben downing a shot every time Lukas Graham says “everyone better be wasted.”

 

Zak also played a song that is near to his heart.  Take a moment to listen.

When the bottle was empty we placed it inside the grave alongside Ben’s shot glass.  I hope he’s drinking himself silly in Heaven.

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We took turns shoveling.

Who could have ever imagined as I walked into the church to meet my best friend that it would all be over 22 years later to the exact day?

 

Our wedding day has now become the day I buried my husband.  And so completes the circle.

Just for fun, I’ll show you how my sister and niece ended the day.  Make sure you have your speakers on:

 

 

Grab Life By The Tallywhackers

You know how Facebook will show you on any given day what you were doing on this day any number of years ago?  Well today I woke up to two things.  The first was a reminder that two years ago Ben and I celebrated our 20th anniversary a few days early by going out to dinner at the golf course where Jaime worked at the time.  It was a lovely evening – especially because Jaime was our server which was particularly enjoyable.

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There she is, age 15 at the time, setting up our table.  Ahhh … if only that happened at home.  I recall talking to Ben about how we should require our kids to wear uniforms at home and maybe they would behave better.  Haha.

The second thing that popped up on my Facebook feed was the last blog post of a young woman who was dying.  She had asked her husband to publish it after she passed away, and he did.  If you want to read the post, click here.

If you don’t want to read the post, let me just share the jist of it with you.  Charlotte Kitley was 36 years old with a husband and two young children when she died on September 16, 2014.  She knew she was dying.  She knew she was to be denied the opportunities that she had hoped to live to see.  But this was the part that caught my attention last year:

But, they are not to be denied of you. So, in my absence, please, please, enjoy life. Take it by both hands, grab it, shake it and believe in every second of it. Adore your children. You have literally no idea how blessed you are to shout at them in the morning to hurry up and clean their teeth.

Embrace your loved one and if they cannot embrace you back, find someone who will. Everyone deserves to love and be loved in return. Don’t settle for less. Find a job you enjoy, but don’t become a slave to it. You will not have ‘I wish I’d worked more’ on your headstone. Dance, laugh and eat with your friends. True, honest, strong friendships are an utter blessing and a choice we get to make, rather than have to share a loyalty with because there happens to be link through blood. Choose wisely then treasure them with all the love you can muster. Surround yourself with beautiful things. Life has a lot of grey and sadness – look for that rainbow and frame it. There is beauty in everything, sometimes you just have to look a little harder to see it.

I believe that everyone grieves in their own time, and if they are forced to do it in a way that doesn’t work for them I am certain they will suffer much longer than they would have otherwise.  I am very pleased with myself, quite frankly, for refusing to allow others to dictate a time frame for me.  I am a people pleaser by nature but this time I have (mostly) stood my ground.  I have taken the time I needed.  I have done it my way.  I will continue to do it my way.  And in doing so, I am starting to find myself healing a little bit.

I miss Ben desperately and I don’t think anyone could read this blog and not realize that. Half my soul was ripped from my body the day he died.  It wasn’t only because he died, either. It was also from having had to live through the most torturous nine months.  It was watching him die over those months.  It was watching our children watch him die.  It was watching others who loved him watch him die.  Between April 10th 2015 and, well, pretty much today, I have felt like I have been running through a mine field trying to save a child. No one reading this can really understand what that was like for us, and thank God for that.

But lately I have found my heart beat slowing a bit.  I feel as though it might just be possible to allow myself to live in a state of happiness without betraying Ben’s memory.  I know, without a doubt, that Ben would want me to take pleasure in life, and so maybe it is time to try.  Maybe the real betrayal lies not in my own continued living and my own happiness, but rather in not enjoying my life?  The one I am so lucky to have, despite the fact that Ben’s ended far too early.  And since I know Ben would have wanted me to be happy and to live in a state of happiness, then possibly I am not in fact doing him any favours by living in a constant state of mourning.

Maybe the best thing I could do to honour him is to grab life by the tallywhackers.  Food for thought, anyways.

Today I went to the gym for 7am.  After working out for an hour my trainer was helping me stretch when she started laughing and said, “You have your pants on inside out.”  Ben would have cracked up over that.  I’m still laughing about it.  So is our new puppy.

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It’s December 9th In My Alternate Universe

Yesterday marked 8 months since Ben died.  Eight.  Months.  After he was diagnosed with that-which-shall-not-be-named-because-I-hate-it-so, he survived 9 months and 5 days.  Eight months after he was diagnosed, it was December.  Eight months plus one day after he was diagnosed was December 9th, to be exact.  So today I figure that in a weird way it is the equivalent of December 9th of last year.  Can you understand my crazy?

This is how I think now.  At any given time, on any given day, if you could see inside my brain you would see me thinking either “on-this-day-last-year-we-were…”  OR “8 months and 1 day after Ben was diagnosed we were…(insert activity here.)”  So if you get my thinking, this day is kinda sorta December 9th, 2015, which is the day that Ben went in the hospital for his chordotomy.

Last November I wrote about Ben finally agreeing to see the Neurosurgeon about having a chordotomy, and I put this explanation in the blog post of what a chordotomy was.

“Cordotomy (or chordotomy) is a surgical procedure that disables selected pain-conducting tracts in the spinal cord, in order to achieve loss of pain and temperature perception. This procedure is commonly performed on patients experiencing severe pain due to cancer or other diseases.”

Well, the truth is I edited that definition slightly, because Ben was still reading the blog and I knew that he would read my post.  So I lied and left out one shitty word.  This is the truthful definition of a chordotomy:

“Cordotomy (or chordotomy) is a surgical procedure that disables selected pain-conducting tracts in the spinal cord, in order to achieve loss of pain and temperature perception. This procedure is commonly performed on patients experiencing severe pain due to cancer or other incurable diseases.”

Incurable.  See how I left that key word out? Yes, its true.  While technically there could be a few other reasons why someone may receive a chordotomy, the truth is that the only people who actually receive a chordotomy are those that are going to die and the doctors are trying to save them from spending their last weeks in agonizing pain.  When I wrote about the upcoming chordotomy in this post (click here), what I left out was that Ben was going to die.  And soon.  And the neurosurgeon was trying to find a way to get him out of pain as soon as possible, because Ben The Titan had put off the procedure for far too long.

So on this-kinda-sorta-day last year, Ben had a chordotomy.  And it worked.  But the problem is that The Titan waited so long that the damn cancer (small ‘c’) made a lot of progress while he was in the hospital.  By the time it was over Ben could no longer walk. We pretended that it was the chordotomy that had weakened his legs, but not for one second did I ever believe it.  Maybe it was because his body was in a further weakened state while in the hospital that allowed that disease to move so quickly, but there was never a doubt in my mind or the doctor’s minds what was happening.  You could practically see that fucking disease eating him up minute by minute.  The cancer had now essentially robbed him of his ability to walk, or at least the ability to walk as he had been before entering the hospital.  I was MAD.  I was so fucking angry … at Ben.  Yes, I was furious with him for having waited so long for that pain relieving procedure that he never even got to really enjoy the sweet relief of having no pain.  He didn’t have it in time to be able to enjoy some pain free time while still being able to walk in the days leading up to what the kids and I all knew was to be our last Christmas together.

If I’m going to be honest now (I should be, since I lied so much in this blog before Ben died) I would have to admit that I was so angry I wanted to scream at him.  I wanted to shake him hard and yell “WHY????  WHY?????  WHY DID YOU WAIT SO LONG??”   But I knew why.  He waited because he loved us, and he wanted to live.  He knew a chordotomy meant the end was coming.  So instead of screaming I left the room and cried for the unfairness of it all.  My poor, poor Ben who had just wanted to battle and fight so hard for the kids and I, instead had suffered such extreme agony and for what?  Abso-fucking-lutely nothing.  Nada.  Zip.

Two of Ben’s friends from Ontario stopped by the hospital while he was there. They were also very close friends with Chris Thomas, whom you may recall died two days after Ben. When they were leaving the hospital I walked them outside, and I told them that Ben was going to die.  Soon.  It was a sad, sad moment.

So that’s what I’m thinking about on this day that is kinda-sorta-December-9th-2015.

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My God, how I wish he had lived.

Bad Mom

I am not feeling particularly successful at this single parenting thing.  If nothing else, it is at least a comfort to have a partner that loves your kids as much as you do.  When you have a partner and the going gets tough, or perhaps there is a situation involving your child that can’t necessarily be fixed, at least someone else understands the pain you feel on behalf of your child, because they feel it too.

My current state of mind can be best summed up as “muddled.”  I don’t know where my old self went, but she seems to be gone, gone, gone.  (That was a little play on the song by the same title played during the slide show at Ben’s service.  Gone, Gone, Gone.)  I used to be focussed and confident.  I was semi-reasonable.  I was able to deal with multiple issues that arose on any given day because isn’t that what we do as women?  Multi task.

Not so much anymore.  I find myself hyperventilating if more than one issue arises at a time, and they don’t have to be significant issues.  Air conditioning not working?  I may cry.  Fireplace won’t turn on?  That could be cause for a day in bed under the covers. A call from a doctor about a cancellation appointment available for one of the girls?  I could stare at the calendar for an hour and be unable to figure out whether or not I can get her there. Ativan is my current best friend.  We get along well.

I think that the entire world should understand what is going on in my mind.  Isn’t everyone a mind reader?  Aren’t my problems bigger than everyone else’s?  Why shouldn’t the stranger in the parking lot who took my space (she got there before me, to be honest) know that my husband died and therefore they should have driven on and let me have the spot?  Ridiculous, I know, but those thoughts still come into my mind.  The only positive thing is that I am too worn out to make a fuss, which ensures that I don’t tell anyone off whether they deserve it or not.  At the same time that I’m outraged at the (perceived)  injustices in the world, I am equally too worn out to do anything about it.  Thank Heavens.  I couldn’t handle the guilt if I started losing it over ridiculous things, but I hate the fact that I want to.

However, sometimes the injustices are real, and they are big, and they are worth fighting for.  Such is the case with something that has happened with one of my girls at school. The problem is, I am too damn exhausted to fight.  I am tired of explaining what she is going through and how difficult it is for a child to cope with this.  I think it is truly impossible for anyone to really understand.  I have always been compassionate towards other people’s losses, but I now realize that in fact I didn’t really have a clue.

So the result of all that, is that I’m doing a poor job of coming to her rescue.  I can’t seem to make myself understood, and I suspect that is more my fault because my thoughts are scattered and I can’t speak without crying.  I want them to just know.  To understand without explanation.  To just do the right thing without me having to battle for it because I am out of energy.  And if I can’t do battle for my daughter, then I feel I’m just a bad mom.

I read this today:

For those who understand, no explanation is needed.  For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.

My time would probably be better served just trying to love the kids through it, even if that doesn’t solve all the injustices in their world.

 

 

Quiet On The Home Front

The first week of school is done, and SO ARE MY RENOS!!!  We all literally jumped for joy!

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While I am glad to no longer have strange men walking to and fro in my home, the house now is (as I had feared would happen), very quiet.  I am trying to busy myself hanging pictures back up and rearranging furniture, but Ben is very noticeably gone.

One of the renos I have longed to do since the day we moved in was to tear down all the cutouts on the “feature” wall in our family room.  Neither of us could ever figure out what to put in there, but Ben hated change and hassle and so somehow it never got done.  This is what the wall looked like.  Blech.

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It was one of those spaces that collected junk and I hated it immensely.  Anyway, when all was said and done I decided that feeding my kids and putting them through university was probably more of a priority then moving the fireplace and filling in those cutouts.  So instead I had it painted, and this is what it looks like now:

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If you look closely on the left you will see this:

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And if you look closely next to Ben’s picture you will see this:

When Ben was cremated I did not want any of his ashes separated, but recently the thought of putting all of him in the ground is no longer sitting well with me.  I just can’t bear the thought of truly being without him, so I had this little urn made so that a small piece of Ben will always be with us.  When I join Ben, these ashes will be put back with the rest of his ashes.

I also made some changes in the kitchen which used to look like this …

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… and now looks like this ….

Much improved, yes?   (Although I love the first picture because of all the people that were in my house.  Plus, Ben was alive when that picture was taken, so there’s that too.) Getting the cupboards painted was in fact something Ben and I had planned to do, so I’m pretty sure he would approve.

Anyway, the renos are completed (or least as much as I could afford) and so now I suppose I will have to find something else to occupy my time.  Sitting around talking to Ben as though he were here will probably end up with me in the nut house.  Knitting, anyone?

So It Begins

The first day of school.  This is the first time Ben has ever missed the first day of school. Yes, that’s the kind of Dad he was …. always present on that first day, even if it meant leaving for work late when they were a bit older, or zipping home quickly when they were younger just for photos.

Today was the first day of Jaime’s grad year, and Ben is not here to see it.  Such a loss for Jaime, but oh how my heart breaks for Ben.  How thrilled he would have been to help her navigate through scholarship applications this year.  He would have loved going to University open houses, and he even would have loved the search for a grad dress because that’s just the kind of Dad he was.  Present and involved.  How cruel life is that he will never have those experiences that he so deserved …. that he had earned the right to enjoy.

And so begins this school year, where every day is a day closer to Jaime’s grad without her Dad.

                                                 Jaime and Jonah – Grade 1, Grade 7, Grade 12.

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                                             Raegan and Jaime – Grade 10 and Grade 12

My goal this year is to do everything I can to try to be everything the girls need.  To be present for them as their ever patient Dad was, and as I promised him I would be.  I’m not entirely certain that I’m up for that task – Ben was the homework helper, the driver, the motivator and the pep talker.  (One might read this and wonder exactly what I did, since Ben did so much.  I don’t blame you really.  Since Ben died I have wondered that too.  At this point in my life I cannot remember exactly how I fit into my daughter’s lives while Ben was alive, because his absence has left such an overwhelming void that it feels as though he must have taken care of everything.  I know that’s not true.  I know I’ve been involved because the girls insist I smother them.  So the good news is that I obviously participated in some fashion, but I just can’t remember how.)

As I write this, Jaime has just come upstairs to ask me how to hook up the speakers to the television so that she can watch tv with her boyfriend.  (Remember the boyfriend?  The one Ben never got to meet?)  The speakers were unhooked because of the painting, and I don’t know how to hook them up again.  Ben would know.

Clearly it seems as though I cannot in fact be everything for the girls after all.  But I hope I can be enough.