We Are All A Year Older

The other day I was cleaning up and  I stopped for a moment to watch our digital photo album as it flipped through some photos.  I saw a few birthday pics flash by and I had to sit down and catch my breath as I suddenly realized that all four remaining Saint-Onge’s have had a birthday since Ben died.  I mean, obviously I knew this, but it really hit me hard at that moment.  The rest of us are all one year older.  And then I really thought about the fact that Ben will never know me at 46, Zak at 20, Jaime at 17, or Raegan at 15. Never.  How could he already have been gone long enough that we are all one year older and he wasn’t here to see it happen?  Time is stealing him further away from me.

It has occurred to me in the past that Ben and I are now officially the same age (he died at 46, I just turned 46), but I don’t recall really thinking hard about the fact that in a mere 6 1/2 months, all of us have changed ages and Ben doesn’t even know it.  Two of my kids have begun new romances since Ben died, and those new boyfriend / girlfriends don’t ever get to know Ben.  They don’t know the super cool dad of their current crush.  My kids have turned into the “girl/boyfriend-who’s-dad-died.”  Which is now the way it will always be, unless they are to date and marry someone from their early youth, which is unlikely. That means that my kids don’t get to reminisce about their Dad with their significant other, because that significant other will never have known him. (Well, of course they can reminisce, but the other person won’t have had that shared experience. You know what I mean.) How could that happen in such a short amount of time?

As life has moved along I find myself discovering that being a single parent is not fun. Before Ben and I ever had kids, we talked about how we saw our lives going as far as career vs kids.  We both felt very strongly that having a parental presence at home as much as possible was a priority, and so I have spent the majority of my career working part time.  (Don’t make the assumption here that it was a no brainer back in 2000 that I would be the one to reduce my hours – in fact, at one point in time we came very close to doing just the opposite.  Ben was very supportive of my career and was fully prepared to take on the role of primary care giver, but due to various things that happened around the time of making that decision we ultimately decided it would be me to spend more time at home.  So we ran with it and both of us have been reasonably satisfied with the way that worked out, except for the recent shitty ending to our story. Pretty sure I can speak for Ben here when I say that he was less than impressed with how everything turned out in the end.  But I digress….)

Back to single parenting … not so much fun.  There have been a few instances of late where Ben would have simply walked out of the home office and into the family room and given “the look.”  That usually solved whatever the problem of the moment was.  And if the “offence” was great enough and say, a phone or car was taken away, he would never, ever give in or renege on the original consequence.  Never.  And no one would dare to try to wear him down.

I’m discovering that even when a parent has died, teens still manage to be teens and there is no one I can fall back on for a break.  No one to step in with “the look.”  No one to say to the other parent “hold onto those car keys and don’t give them back for a week.  It’s the right thing to do.” Instead it’s just me, second guessing myself and getting worn out and run over at times. The last two days haven’t been the best, to put it mildly.  And amidst all the drama poor Raegan was hit with the worst migraine ever.  Nothing stopped this bad boy.  The poor girl vomited for hours until she was spitting up blood, holding her head and telling me how much it hurt.  It was horrible and I really needed Ben, but alas… well, you know.

Raegan is feeling better now and tomorrow night she goes for her MRI to see what, if anything, is going on in there.  I hope they find something very tiny, non life threatening and super easy to resolve.  I suspect that they will find nothing, which is good but frustrating because that doesn’t really help her pain.  Knowing you are “OK” doesn’t make the pain go away.

In other news in the Saint-Onge household, we were unable to secure our first pick of burial plot for Ben but we did get our second choice.  In hindsight, when Raegan and I went back to look at it, we actually preferred our second choice so I suppose it all worked out. The purchase of the plot etc is now being dealt with directly between the City of Surrey and the RCMP, so for once I just get to sit back and wait until it is all done.  Then I will start thinking about when is a good time to say that final farewell.  I’m not ready yet.

I had intended on writing about our recent trip to Hawaii, but since the girls and I are going on a further adventure down south in a few days, I think I’ll wait.  This pretty much sums up our next trip:

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OK, the truth is that I actually don’t feel like writing about Hawaii right now, because as I was putzing around here on Ben’s computer I found a post he wrote on a guitar forum about ten months ago.  I have read it before but I had forgotten about it, and now that I’ve read it again I don’t feel much like talking about sunshine and travel.  Instead I’m going to link the post he made.  Hopefully it works.  Hopefully I didn’t already post it sometime earlier.

In any case, reading his words made me both sad and proud.  What a man he was.  Click on the link below to read:

Bens post on guitar forum

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An Honest Love Letter … Saint-Onge Style

This is my first attempt at reblogging. Not even quite sure what will happen when I hit “reblogging post.”  I originally wrote this post on September 8, 2015 and I re-read it this morning.  It reminded me that I told Ben that we would be OK. I said “Whatever may come, we will be Ok.” So I need to be Ok.

Mom is a widow

To my Groom,

I am sorry that you are in so much pain.  It truly, physically hurts my heart to watch you suffer.  I wish I could take all that pain away.

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(I bet this is the face you are making right now as you read this)

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “LIAR!  You would not agree to taking all the pain!”  Fine.  You caught me. You’re right.  That was, in fact, a lie … you know me too well.  But I would definitely agree to take half of it.  I would totally take half. Or at least 35%.  But probably half.  Asking me to take it all on would be a little much, don’t you think?  That would just be mean, to want me to take it all.  But I would agree to a solid 50%.

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My Dear Ben … you know I have loved you almost from…

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The Fighter And The Kid And The Titan

Remember when Ben and I made it to LA for our 21st anniversary to see Doyle Bramhall II in concert, and while we were there we met Bryan Callen?  (Click here for a little refresher).

Done reading?  OK.  Ben loved the podcast “The Fighter And The Kid.”  It inspired him.  It kept him sane.  It helped him through some really difficult times.

After Ben passed away, Bryan gave The Titan a shout out on his next podcast, and I finally found it online.

Click here to listen.  Episode 117.  Start listening at 23:35 and don’t stop until 24:55.  You’ll know when Bryan is finished.

How Ben would have loved to hear Bryan’s final words to him.  He would have laughed his ass off.  I hope he is.

Two Reasons

Full preparations are under way for Hawaii.  I am looking forward to the time with my kids in the place Ben loved best.

The days keep passing by and I find myself remaining exhaustingly busy.  Lately I have taken to wondering why I am so busy, especially since I’m not working right now. I thought it was because Ben left so much unfinished business behind, but that’s no longer really applicable. I have pretty much straightened everything out.

So I asked myself what I have been doing with my time.  Well, I have been getting the floors re-done (they look spectacular) and arranging for the cabinets to be sprayed, redoing my bedroom, planning our holidays, working out a lot … the list goes on.  But when I put it all down in writing I realize that none of those “must do’s” have anything to do with Ben. It all has to do with me.  Just me.  But why?

The working out part is a no brainer. The kids need me healthy and I also need myself healthy.  But why the rest of it?  Why am I in such a hurry to take on so much, so quickly, especially when I often find myself overwhelmed and exhausted by the end of the day? And why am I in such a hurry to change so many things around here?

I have come to the conclusion that there are two reasons.  Here they are:

Reason Numero Uno is because I love my home which also happens to be filled with memories of Ben.  Really great memories for the most part.  But in addition to all the years of great memories, I am now haunted by 9 months of horrifying memories which seem to have taken over everything. I want to stay in this house and hold onto the good memories, but the ones from Ben’s diagnosis to death are indescribably unbearable.  They hurt so much that I desperately want to erase them from my brain, but I have found that impossible to do.

I can’t walk into our ensuite without seeing Ben fall and hit his head and cry out for me while he was unable to move or get up.  I can’t stand in my kitchen without hearing him cry out “I have cancer.  It’s in my kidney and my bones.”  I can’t enter the house without seeing him sitting on the seat of his walker, completely dejected and exhausted from trying desperately to get to the front door so he could drive his truck just one more time.  (Which led me to think … when exactly was the last time he drove his truck?  Did I know it was the last time?  Did he?)  I can’t walk into the family room without seeing him sitting in his chair, feet horribly swollen and asking Dr B “am I going to die?”  and seeing Dr B’s sad face as he said “Yes Ben. You are going to die.  You get the picture. (I want that chair out of here.  I know that is such a waste of money but I hate it.  I can’t stand sitting in it.  Too bad Mom already bought the same one – she could have taken Ben’s.)

So basically, I need change without selling my house because I no longer want to remember the tears and desperation.  I want to be able to envision Ben playing guitar, or cooking in the kitchen, or laying beside me in bed in better times.  (Strangely, our bed is the only thing I don’t want to sell. I find that odd, because I think many people wouldn’t want to sleep in the same bed where their spouse died. But I do.  It’s the only way I can hold on.)

Reason Deux for doing so much around the house is because when I’m overwhelmingly busy I don’t have much time to dwell on all that I have lost. And much like the first reason, it allows my mind to stay off of the horrifying memories that torment me.  I’m not sure what I’ll do when there are no longer any new things to fix or change around here.  Anyone need help?

Raegan’s birthday is fast approaching, and it is not lost on any of us that her 15th birthday will also mark exactly six months since Ben died.  And only six short months before that, this was happening:

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That picture was taken July 13, 2015.  Look how wonderful and happy Ben looked!  Ben was presenting her with a very special necklace.  I remember how he thought about waiting until her 16th birthday to give it to her (which was when he gave Jaime her necklace), and I held my breath because all I could think was “you won’t be alive on Raegan’s 16th birthday.”

At the moment I clicked the camera to take this picture I was thinking how it would be the last birthday where Raegan would sit beside her Dad opening gifts.  I remember really, really appreciating that moment, and knowing that even though I knew it was the last time, I still wouldn’t be able to adequately prepare myself for how unbearable it would be for her next one.  How quickly time passes.

I miss his voice, and his smile, and his steady, calm strength, and the knowledge that he always seemed to know the right thing to do.  I sure do miss having him around to calm me as I freak out as per usual in the pre-travel days.

However, we have in fact found some laughter in our lives again.

The picture in the back yard was from when we were toasting Ben on Canada Day.  The others are the girls and I out for brunch, and all of the kids mooching off of me in the mall.  (Who doesn’t need a new pair of flip flops for the beach? Am I right?)  And speaking of the beach …

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My nails are Hawaii ready!  So are the girls’ nails …. we made a day of it but I don’t have any other pictures because I was too enthralled with my own.

Speaking of nails … Jaime had to pay a visit to the doctor the other day and he told her that her chipped toe nails were disgusting.  Hahaha.  I knew better than to go there with a bad pedi, so I wore shoes.  While I was there we had a discussion about why my foot keeps randomly swelling up, and he decided I should donate some blood just to rule out a blood clot since my calf was fairly tender too.  I donated the blood and left the office, and then it occurred to me that there would be a problem with me flying to Hawaii if I had any signs of a clot.  So I sent this:

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 OK, that’s good.  I wouldn’t want to have to cancel.

By the time I went to reply again, I happened to be standing in front of my microwave which always messes with my texts for some unexplainable reason.  My phone literally develops a mind of it’s own, and “I” replied with this:

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Whaaaat????  I SCOTT u?  What the heck is that?  So I quickly moved away from the microwave and sent this:

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And good ol’ Dr B, ever with the quick sense of humour sent this:

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So you see …. laughs.

And one other thing that made me smile was an Instagram chat with guess who ….

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He remembered me.  And I still love his hair.

A little further chatting and he told me he is coming to Seattle in November and likely Vancouver.  Anyone want to join me?  That is one concert I do not want to miss!

Hug your people.

Almost Finished …

It seems the never ending “To Do” list since Ben passed away is finally dwindling.  I’m not getting too excited about that yet, because I have thought I was close before only to find that unexpected things pop up and suck up further endless amounts of time.  Still, I feel like I am finally almost there and that makes me slightly happy, which is a pleasant break from the crap feelings of the last 135 days.  Yes, one hundred and 35 days.  Holy. Shit.  When I actually counted I could not believe it has already been that long.

The old saying “time flies when you’re having fun” does not apply here.

This past long weekend we (and by “we” I mean just Raegan and I, since Jaime worked and Zak did whatever those on the cusp of 20 years old who are solidly sober do with their time) went to Brett and Lisa’s cabin for a little getaway.  I will admit to having had a panic attack at the thought of going further then a two block radius from the house, but I managed to get it together and off we went.  I was greeted by this view, which helped slow my breathing:

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It looks like a painting, doesn’t it?  That is the actual view off of the end of their dock. Taken with my Iphone.  You know it’s a beautiful view when an Iphone can take a picture like that.

The last time I was here was less than two short years ago for Dad’s 70th-but-looks-55 birthday:

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I suppose I need to adjust to the fact that unless I plan on moving out of province (I do not), I will have to get used to a lot of “first time here without Ben” moments.  I might as well get them over with, and what better way to do it then with those I love most.

The weather was iffy and Raegan was actually quite sick, but here’s a few pics of our time:

I am still waiting for Jenna to send me the rest of the pics.  Hint hint.

The rest of the week thus far has been rather mellow.  A few moments of anxiety and freaking out that were tamed by the Lovely Lisa Opsahl, interspersed with taking care of Raegan who cannot seem to shake this sickness, along with some actual normalcy.

This day last year (yes, that is how I still continue to think) Ben wrote this.  (<< click there.) He had received the most thoughtful gift from a complete stranger who still remains near and dear to my heart, despite having never met him.  He really brought Ben a lot of joy after several weeks of anguish.

Today I did this:

One on each shoulder.  Excuse the bruising and the bleeding … that will go away.  The left shoulder is a vague replica of the picture on the urn that holds My Beloved’s remains.  The words are mine – well, mine after I stole them off the internet.

The right says “The love and the laughter will live on long after all of the sadness and the tears.”  That is a line from the song that Jeff chose to play at Ben’s service.  When I sent him a picture of the tattoo he took the opportunity to remind me that I had mocked him mercilessly for choosing a country song to play for Ben as he was dying.

Ah, Jeff.  Our relationship is one of sarcasm and insults, with an underlay of pure understanding for how we both loved Ben.  I am very grateful for him.  I wish he lived closer, but don’t tell him I said that.

This morning he also told me to check out a particular song by Miley Cyrus.  I thought I would hate it (not her biggest fan, plus it is called “The Twinkle Song”  WTF?) but it turns out I loved it.  I’m never going to hear the end of it.  I’ve tried to post the song several times but it doesn’t seem to work, so I’ll link it.  Click here.

I was also checking out a FB group recently and found that someone had posted a remake of The Sound Of Silence.  It was done by one of my son’s favorite bands … Disturbed. (Never heard of them?  Me neither until Zak went to their concert.  Pretty sure that no one over the age of 21 knows who they are.)  In any case, I normally have an automatic dislike for the bands that my son covets – must be the generation gap – but I actually loved this remake. Mostly for the passion with which it was sung.  Take a look / listen:

When I told Zak I had found a song by Disturbed that I loved, he said “Sound Of Silence?”  I said, “Yes.  I loved it.  Can you believe it?”  He said, “Meh.  I didn’t like that song.”

Apparently the generation gap cannot be closed.

In a few days our son will celebrate his 20th birthday.  Another first without Ben and I’m so very, very sorry for him that he will miss it.  I wish our story had a different ending.  In the meantime I will continue to swim through this shit storm that landed on the Saint-Onge Five.  I’ll keep looking for that crack of light and remain grateful for the time we had together and for what he left me.

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One last thing … since it is one year to the day that Ben received an unexpected Happiness Bomb from someone he never met, I want to do the same in a small way.  I want to take a moment to give a shout out to a man I have never met.  A fellow Lower Mainlander who has found himself in the same unenviable position that Ben did.  G. William Gould is his name.  I can tell from reading his blog that I would really like him, and so would have Ben. He has started an amazing foundation – a Make A Wish For Adults, if you will.  I’m going to link his blog to my home page, but in the meantime I want to share the link to the words he wrote today. He got some great news, and you can read about it here.  I have a pretty good feeling he has discovered his real purpose in life (forgive him …. he was a lawyer previously.  Lol) and will be around for a long time helping others in similar positions.

I love good news in the fight against crappy cancer with a small ‘c’.  If you want to spread some random love and good wishes, give his post a ‘like’ and let him know that strangers are rooting for him.  The comments Ben received on this blog really kept him going.  Pass on those feelings to someone else.

And in the words of G. William Gould, shamelessly stolen directly from the Welcome page of his blog, I would also like to say that “If you enjoy or otherwise find any value in my writing, please take the time to share, tweet, reblog and like your favourite posts.”

Have a great rest of the week, friends.  Hug your families, spread the love, and take a moment to remember The Titan.