Spring Has Sprung

I’ve always thought of Spring as a new beginning, and this one is no different.  In fact, as I write these words I am counting down the last of (approximately) eleven hours to another new beginning.  At midnight tonight I will be officially retired from the RCMP.  A pensioner.  HA!  You have no idea how much that word makes me laugh.  If I close my eyes for 30 seconds I can literally see, hear and feel those early days where I privately thought of the “Over 40’s” in the RCMP as “Dinosaurs.” I “tolerated” them but thought it was time for them to move over and let the new blood in.  Good grief.

When I close my eyes I can see these Training days as if they happened moments ago:

… and the first post …

It’s true that the older you get, the faster time passes.  I am now acutely aware that every day is, in some way, a “last time.”  Today it is the “last day I am a police officer.”  I’m moving over and making room for this …

Hahahahaha!

Starting this new life without Ben is not something I ever thought I’d be doing, and yet here I am.  The other day I read this:

“You are living without the person you can’t possibly have lost. The loneliness can not be captured in any word, phrase or song. It’s palpable, breathtaking and seemingly void of all reality. It’s cold, cruel and takes your heart to a level of pain you didn’t even realize existed before death laid its cold hand on your barely beating heart.”

Those words capture the way I have felt since the moment Ben took his last breath, and it will remain the way I feel on some level until the day I die.  But I am also acutely aware of the fact that I am not dead.  Ben’s body is dead.  Mine is not.  Fair or unfair, that’s just the way it is.  Sometimes I have to say the words out loud to myself to both believe them and to remind myself that my life does, indeed, go on.  And Ben would want it to.

So, in the spirit of continuing to move forward, I whisked Raegan off to New York for a week of sightseeing … just the two of us.  Unfortunately, I was super sick the whole time we were there, but I loved every second of being with her one on one.  I love that we have New York all to ourselves.

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the 911 Memorial Museum.  We were there for several hours and I could have stayed several more.  This art covers one of the walls, and I loved it so much I now have the saying on my key chain beside the guitar pick with “The Titan” on it.

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No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory Of Time.  Damn right.

Raegan and I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and, as usual, left a little piece of Ben there until the end of time.  Or until the bridge is replaced, anyway.  This time it was Raegan who whipped out the marker before I had even thought of it …

While Raegan and I explored New York, and Zak attended classes at school (sorry Zak … that is the life of a student), Jaime explored Australia and New Zealand with her classmates.

 

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She had a great time, by all accounts, and now is prepping for the big day … GRADUATION!!  (Well, first her birthday … can’t believe she’s almost 18 … and then grad).

Despite the fact that Zak didn’t travel over Spring Break, what he has done is far more inspiring.  Today my boy celebrates three years of sobriety!  I am thrilled.  Ben is thrilled for sure.  You may recall how that first sobriety anniversary was bittersweet for us.  (You can read Ben’s post about it here. )  Zak hit his one year sober-versary a mere two days before Ben received his death sentence.  Talk about sobering (pun intended).  But as Ben wrote, Zak was a source of inspiration for him, and I love that both of them got to experience it. And since I’m in a bragging mood … here is my inspirational man-child with his equally inspirational girl friend.

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Ahhhhh …. my pride cup runneth over.

And so, despite the fact that my grief continues to haunt me every moment, it now does so at a lower volume.  Low enough between waves that I find I can enjoy some of what life has to offer again.

One last thing … while I was going through some photos I rediscovered these two.  The one of Ben was taken in Hollywood on our honeymoon in 1994.  The one of the girls was taken in the exact same spot just weeks shy of 22 years later.  Funny how life works.  I sometimes imagine it as this continual reel of film where you can see all the things that happen in one spot over the years.  Perhaps our grandchildren will visit this same spot one day.

Happy April 6th.  Happy Spring.  Happy birthday, Lelita.  Happy sober-versary, Zak. Happy retirement, me.

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Forever missing you Ben. #BenTheTitan

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A Letter Left At My Front Door

Well, I made it.  While the season is not yet over, I have made it through my first Christmas.  I’m told (from those more seasoned than I) that the second Christmas / year is harder than the first.  Perhaps that’s true, but for now I will allow myself a little bit of self satisfaction knowing that I made through number one.  And I’m still here to tell the story.

Every day is a mixture of good and bad, but in honour of Christmas I’ll start with the good part.

Back in November I wrote this post about Christmas stockings  (click here) and I mused over the fact that I would never again open a stocking from Ben.  He did great stockings, and that is honestly something I will miss so much. So you can imagine my surprise this morning when I wandered downstairs and discovered that my empty stocking had been moved from the fireplace onto the chair, and it was stuffed. Full.  It was overflowing. And I will confess to getting a bit teary eyed as I realized (thought) that my sweet parents had stuffed my stocking after I had gone to bed.

When my Mom came into the family room for our morning coffee I moved my stocking and all the contents (everything was wrapped individually so I couldn’t peek) onto the floor so I could sit on the chair, and I said to my Mom “You didn’t have to do that.”  I was referring to the fact that she and Dad did not have to fill the empty space in my Christmas by taking over the stuffing of my stocking.  Mom didn’t answer me but I assumed that was because her hearing is a little less than it once was (sorry Mom), or because sometimes we all just don’t know what to say in those moments where you find yourself trying to stem the waterworks.

Anyway, I was distracted from the full stocking because everyone wandered downstairs and I was busy taking the yearly Kids-On-The-Stairs photo….

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…. and we all went into the family room as per tradition to open our stockings.  When the kids were finished, I started in on mine.  I forget exactly what I said but at some point while unwrapping the many gifts I said something that made my mom respond, “I didn’t give you that.”  Whaaaattt???  I assumed she was joking but she insisted that she had not stuffed my stocking.  At least not with all those wrapped gifts.

I looked at the kids and asked them who stuffed my stocking, and each of them denied it. Zak said that if he had done it he would have taken the kudos for it (haha) so I knew it wasn’t him.  A Christmas miracle, it seems.  It certainly did appear as though Santa had popped down the chimney after we all went to bed, and I was briefly creeped out as I thought about the fact that an unknown person appeared to have been in the house. (Then I thought we had the makings for a made for tv Christmas movie.)  Anyway, after much prodding I managed to get a teeny confession from Jaime …. she knew who had filled my stocking and she had helped by getting the gifts into it, but she refused to tell me who it was.  She still will not say, and I swear I have no idea at all.

This is what I unwrapped …

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It is possible that a few items were left out when I took this picture, but let me just say to whomever is my Santa … thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I am so moved that someone would do that for me…to try to fill in where Ben is not able.  I cannot tell you how much I appreciated your efforts to try to ease my pain.  Thank you.

Christmas morning continued …

…. and there were smiles amongst the underlying sadness.

Eventually we were finishing up with the gifts and for some reason (I forget exactly) I ended up opening the front door and discovered a note.  Well, technically I did not discover the note immediately.  I actually discovered this:

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I discovered this gigantic Santa sack sitting on my front porch, overflowing with gifts. What the heck?  After hiring a crew to lift it into the family room, I opened the note that came with it:

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I am not often rendered speechless as my nearest and dearest are well aware, but today I was.  As I write this I am teary over the love that flowed from that Santa sack.  I know it was put together to try to help ease the pain of not having My Ben here to be my “Santa”, but in fact what it actually did was serve to remind me, once again, that there is still love in my life.

Paula (Kathy), Connie, Susan, Lelita, Teresa, Christine, Nancy, Lisa, Beth, Jackie, Barb and Lisa … what can I possibly say to you?  There is nothing adequate.  Thank you.  Thank you for thinking of me, and of the kids, when you all have your own families and your own things going on. Thank you for walking with Ben and I every minute of his last nine months.  Thank you for your constant love and support.  Thank you for your kindness.  Thank you for being gentle with my heart.  Thank you for your understanding when my head is not in the game.   Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone.  Thank you for knowing how much it hurts. Thank you for being there for me when Ben died. Thank you for still being there for me a year later, and for being a constant reminder that all is not lost forever in my world. Thank you for your friendship. Thank your for the coffees, the shopping, the laughs, the tears, the dinners, the quiet company, the hugs, the workouts, the pep talks, the yoga, the texts.  Thank you for the insanely overstuffed stocking that made me smile, that I loved so much, and not one bit of that love was due to the actual gifts (although….come on you crazy ladies … who could not love all that?!) but because I was reminded that even when I’m alone, I’m not alone. So … just … thank you.

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When the house was quiet and everyone had left for a bit, I had time to do this …

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It was a nice visit.  I didn’t cry.  But I did do a shot of Kracken while I stood there. 🙂

Tonight there was this:

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That is the table I worked on for weeks.  Napkins folded courtesy of Jaime.  Shot glasses to release the Kracken (why couldn’t he have loved a nice white wine?). Empty spot at the head of the table for Ben.  And there was this:

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And then there was this …

And although Chase wasn’t at our dinner table, I stole this picture taken today from Raegan’s Instagram, because his presence was missed tonight:

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So there you have it.  That was our Christmas.  The first without Ben, but I never really felt alone.

Mom and Dad … if I failed to mention it while you were here (and I think I did), thank you for staying here with us.  Your presence made it easier.  And thank you to all the others out there who came by over the last week to drop off baking and the champagne – because there is really nothing that can’t be helped by deliciously unhealthy eating and some bubbly, am I right?

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that every day is a mix of good and bad.  I started with the good, and honestly I do not have anything bad to follow.  Sad?  Yes.  Lonely?  Yes. I don’t anticipate that ever changing because Ben is never coming back, but I did not feel alone.  Life without Ben is sad, and there’s no getting around it.  Ever. But I did not feel alone.

So thank you.  And Merry Christmas.

Thinking Out Loud – Part Deux

Some days it’s just hard to get out and find ways to fill up all the empty space in order to crowd out the loneliness.  It is still a rare occurance for me to have a day that is not filled up with all sorts of “must do’s”, but today happened to be one of those rare, empty days.

I erringly assumed that without a slew of appointments scheduled I would be able to stay calm and relaxed and enjoy some quiet time.  I went for a mani / pedi, but surprisingly that did not fill the void.  There was a time in the not so distant past when a good mani / pedi had me on a high for a solid three days.  Four, if I followed it up with a glass of wine, and five if I went with a good friend.  Sadly, not so anymore.

I wonder if I will be searching forever for ways to fill the void?

I came home and did some half hearted puttering in the garden, but that didn’t do it either.  I went for a haircut but spent most of the appointment trying to stifle a panic attack so that I didn’t look like a complete crazy woman in front of a hairdresser I have never met before.

Truth be told, part way through the appointment I was eyeing up the clippers and contemplating pulling a Britney Spears, circa 2007.

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I came home from the hairdresser and found my office floor finished, minus the baseboards …

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… but even the new floors didn’t make it better.

I poured a bath so that I could hide and spend some alone time with my anxiety without scaring Raegan, who seems to have taken over the mothering roll in this house.  (I’m guessing my shrink would not think that was cool.)  I thought that perhaps a good cry in the tub might solve the problem, but the tears, much like my sanity, were also not to be found. WTF.

Tomorrow morning I will wake up and remember that 365 days earlier I woke up on a sunny April 26th and wrote Thinking Out Loud – Part One.  I distinctly remember thinking that Ben was going to die. And soon. That I was never going to see seventy years old with him.  But at that particular moment I still had him.  Blink.  He’s gone.  I’m jealous of me from one year ago.

I have to work in the morning, and I do not want to go.  How do I possibly explain that it is the anniversary of the day I woke up with Ben’s arm stretched out towards me, and how it is the anniversary of the day I snuggled right in?

I do not want to get out of bed tomorrow.  Maybe not the next day either.

I’m sick of “life goes on.”  Because Ben’s does not, does it?

I Did Not Anticipate The Extent Of The Loneliness

I love gardening, but my motivation to get out there seems to have vanished.

Ben was not interested in gardening, so I did all the yard work.  We had a unique division of labor in our house, but it worked for us.  I have always loved getting out there and cleaning things up, planting flowers and mowing the lawn, and then sitting down and admiring the beauty of it.  Ben only enjoyed it when I was finished and we could sit outside and just talk as the sun went down.

Now I just find it lonely, because at the end of the day when I am finished there is no one to enjoy it with.  What’s the point of putting in all the work if I can’t show Ben when I’m done?

This is how we enjoyed the deck last year:

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Now when I go outside, all I see is this:

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Empty.  And dirty, I might add.  I’m not that motivated to clean it up when I know Ben won’t be sitting there.  And, side note, I don’t find those chairs very comfortable.  We spontaneously bought them for Ben last year because he liked them, and how does one say “no” to a person who has been freshly told they are dying. Right?  But I still think he has some nerve to leave me with uncomfortable chairs.

This time last year we were muddling through Ben’s recent diagnosis but I continued to do the yard work and all the pruning because, despite the fact that Ben was sick, he was still there to appreciate the work and to enjoy it when it was done.  He was still poking his head outside while I worked, and asking “what would you like for dinner when you’re done?” and sometimes just sitting on the deck while I worked.  Now there is no one I can call out to when I am filthy and want a glass of water, or when I just want someone to come admire my progress (of which there has been none to date.)  Today as I looked up at this crazy “half tree / half bush” in the yard that has to be violently pruned back every spring I wondered, “Who’s going to hold the ladder for me?”  That’s a lonely thought.

Last year I admired an azalea bush while I was out with a friend, and the next day I found it sitting on my doorstep.  I planted it in my front garden …

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… and the other day I hung this above it:

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It’s not just the fact that he’s not here to keep me company while I garden, or at least to admire it with me when I’m done that I find lonely.  Its everything.  He is still the first person I want to tell when anything happens.  A hundred times a day I think, “I have to remember to tell Ben that” or “I have to ask Ben how to do that” or, more frequently, “I have to ask Ben to fix this because I screwed it up.”  Its very lonely when I remember that I will never tell him anything again.

The other day the kids, my parents and I attended a presentation for Ben at Headquarters. The person making the presentation was someone that Ben and I had talked about in the past.  We had seen his name on several email updates about Ben, and we had tried to figure out how Ben knew him.  Ben couldn’t remember.  During the presentation a light went on in my head and I connected the dots.  I thought to myself, “Ah … after this is over I will have to explain that to Ben.”  Then I remembered that I will never get to explain it to Ben.  He never gets to find out the answer to his question.

Lonely.

This is what “Ben” was presented with.  I’ll take a better picture when it hung on the wall. It is a certificate recognizing Ben’s service in the Force with his Regimental number on it and signed by the Commanding Officer of ‘E’ Division. I was very touched.

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The other night I was fast asleep and I heard Ben say “Hello”.  Not just “hello”, but more like, “Hellllloooooo.”  I actually woke up and sat straight up in bed and said “Hello?”  And then I looked around and said, “Hello?” again.  I really thought he was there.  It was funny for a moment.  Then it wasn’t.

Here was a bittersweet moment this week:

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Our “little” girl got her “N”.  This time last year she had just gotten her “L”….

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… and Ben wrote about it here.  Now she is a fully licensed driver, and today we were working on getting her a car.  Without her Dad.  He really wanted to be there for this.  I can’t believe he has to miss it.

Lonely.

In two days Jaime celebrates her 17th birthday.  The first without her Dad.  How will we ever get through?

I miss you Ben.  I tried to prepare, and I knew for the last year that it was going to hurt a lot.  But it turns out I did not adequately anticipate the extent of the pain and loneliness. I guess I didn’t think it was possible to hurt this much.