Thursday, February 26, 2015

Trigger Songs: Slipknot - Goodbye

It's amazing how a random song popping up in my playlist can strike at me.  I put so much weight into the lyrics and meanings of songs.  Some can be triggers for grief, some can be triggers for happiness, some for anger, and some can be triggers for me to want to help and or explain myself to others.  I like writing about my "trigger" songs once in awhile.  

Maybe we can all recognize a moment of silence
Maybe we can finally agree on the same point of view

A long time ago we believed and we were united

So the last thing on Earth I am ready to do is say goodbye

This should be easy enough. Good song, deep meaning to me, and even if you don't like Slipknot, you have to simply read a portion of the lyrics to see why. Let me break down what it means to me, and you can draw your own opinions. I've had my moment of silence.  It was those very early days, when all I wanted to do was crawl into a dark place and mourn in the cold hollow shell of my own mind.  Let's all agree that while we need to mourn, and we need to have bad days or moments, that really, in the grand scheme of things, it's not mourning or grief that moves us forward.  Those two things are simply reminders of where we are in the process, and when they rear their ugly heads, they remind us that life itself is a test, and the grades are handed out during the test, not after.

Megan and I believed in each other.  We believed that a shitty fucking disease would not stop us from being "normal".  

So no, I'm not ready to say goodbye to Megan.  Fuck, I never will be, and I refuse to do so.  I accept that she is no longer here in the physical sense, but why the hell would I say "goodbye" as if everything she helped me to become is null and void at this point?  Goodbye is not the same as "see you later".

The song continues.  

A long time ago we discovered that nothing could stop us
This hasn't torn us apart, so nothing ever will
How can we know where we are if the sun is behind us?
But this moment will show us the rest of our lives
No one is going to save us this time
No one can know what we're feeling.
So don't even try

This is continuance of life.  It's not "moving on" or "getting over it", it's "continuance".  I don't still feel "married", but I damn sure still feel "united", and whether or not I'm united or married to someone else in the future, I will still continue being united to Megan as well.  Life does not stop for those left behind.  

What is the indicator of where you are in life when your better half is no longer here? As I said above, those moments of grief or mourning serve as such.  Those moments show you that you're fucking human, and you're allowed to be sad that a person who loved you unconditionally is dead.  You're allowed to regress and have those days where the world keeps spinning for everyone else, but stops for you.  Those moments are what shows me the next step in life.   

You have to paddle your own canoe.  It's tough love, but it's fucking true.  No one is going to be your savior and just make you forget what you had in the past.  If it is that easy to forget, then I would wonder what you truly had.  You can never be "saved" from the fact that you lost someone, unless science somehow figures out a way to stop the loss by reanimating corpses AND souls.   

Taking advice from others can be helpful, but they are not you.  Be as open and honest as you want to be about everything with everyone, respect the opinions and observations of those who've been in your shoes, but for Christ's sake, live your life on your terms.  Take little pieces of it, but don't even try to live someone else's grief or process exactly as they do because it seems "better" or "faster".

Because you'll fail.   

Monday, February 23, 2015

Live Wire

Finally!  I have successfully been adrenalized.  As of this weekend, I am officially off of the Prozac.  I went to Crossfit tonight, and got to flip these bad boys around.

The combination of the prozac wearing off, and one of my favorite things to do at the gym has got my adrenaline flowing so much that I am just plain giddy.  Here's the thing, I'm thinking about Megan a ton right now, but in such a happy, happy fucking way.  When we were doing this together, and I would get in this state, we would have such a fun night when we got home.  All of us, as a family.  Shelby and I would roughhouse, Megan would play with the dogs like a little kid making baby talk with them, we'd have music blaring, and grill some steaks and just have a knock down, drag out damn fun party.  It wasn't planned, it wasn't talked about, it just happened.  After Shelby was in bed, well, more fun usually started that shall remain unsaid, but completely understood by everyone.

It is SO weird right now to feel this way.  To wish Megan was here to enjoy all this with us (yes, we have the music going, we're playing with the dogs, roughhousing, and I gobbled up a damn fine ribeye) but also not NEEDING her here to have fun.  It's exactly what I needed right now, but I still don't understand why it's not a sad moment for me in the least.

If it wasn't Monday night, I would be frantically calling people trying to get them here or to go out, not because I'm lonely, but because I'm in rare form and I want to share that with people.  If they can't get together, oh well, I'm still having fun.  This isn't me.  It really isn't.  It's a better person.  A silly, immature, giddy, but fun person.  Shelby loves it when I'm this way, because I'm the best playmate she could have.  I'm drunk on adrenaline, but not aggressive or angry.  I'm ready to conquer the world, slay the beast, and save the princess.  I feel like I could take care of (in more ways than one) multiple Megans right now without so much as breaking a sweat.

I'm happy.  Happy because for a few hours or days or however long it takes for the euphoria to wear off, I'm not just thinking about the fact that Megan isn't here, but about the fact that she WAS here, and got to experience these feelings with us.  These are the times now when I can start to see that really, she probably IS here, grinning from ear to goddamned cute little ear right along with us.

If I could bottle this stuff and sell it, I would be a millionaire.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mr. Mom

It's fucking hard being a mom.  Really.  Fucking.  Hard.  I tended to take it for granted, regrettably, for 7 years.  Megan sapped a lot of her own strength to make Shelby what she is today.  I've gained a new found respect for all that she and other mothers do for their children.

Make no mistake, I would die for Shelby, and not in the figurative way that it sounds like.  I would literally take my own life if it meant keeping her healthy and happy.  There was only one other person that deserved that, and well, I couldn't save her, no matter how much I tried.

With that said, Shelby is sick today.  It's hard for me to be overly concerned about it when she just says "My stomach feels weird" and wants to lie down.  I mean, she looks pitiful, but god knows I've seen much, much worse than an upset stomach.

Then she runs to the bathroom and heaves for 5 minutes.  Switch.  Flipped.

I suddenly know what it felt like for Megan on days Shelby stayed home from school because of this.  It's fucking terrifying to see your "baby" being so miserable.  I watched Megan herself do this exact same thing, daily, for 30 minutes as soon as she woke up and started her coughing routine.  I held her hair and got her water to sip and did everything I could to make her feel better, but it was different.  Megan was an adult, and she had been in this routine for long before I met her, so it wasn't a shock.  It's uncommon for Shelby to be sick, so when it happens, as it does with all kids, it's a much bigger deal, and my mind starts racing with all the terminal diagnoses it could be, when really, she's just got an upset stomach.

Intellectually, I know what to do.  I go right back to the routine I had with Megan with the hair holding, water, and comfort.  What I don't have, or at least haven't developed yet, is the motherly instinct of what to tell her to make her feel better.  Mommy had been there, done that, and always came out of the morning shittyness with a smile.  She was able to make Shelby smile just the same when she was sick.

That's just the beginning.  There are so many other things that we did the "traditional" way.  I was the breadwinner, protector, wilderness guide, nightly and weekend entertainment provider, disciplinarian, and driver.  Megan was a housewife.  She did so many more things than cooking, cleaning, getting Shelby to school, kissing boo-boos, throwing birthday parties, dealing with my dumb ass, and generally being the nucleus of the family.  Therein lies the problem.  She did so much that I have no clue what all she did.  The fact that she did it while she herself was sick is one hell of a goddamned testament.
Now I have to take on that role, and ladies, let me tell you, you deserve a metric shit ton of respect.  I had to learn how to braid hair, RSVP to birthday parties, plan play dates, cook a dinner that she'll actually eat (she's not big on brussels sprouts, but at least she likes steak), and kiss boo-boos rather than telling her to "walk it off".   I have so much more to learn.  There's no way that Shelby is not going to be awesome, a tomboy, and drive all the boys nuts, given the circumstances, but dear lord, am I terrified of those teenage years.

Back to holding hair after her nap.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I Miss the Misery

So back in January, I was having a rough time with everything.  Who the hell wouldn't?  I didn't know what I was supposed to be feeling like though.  Monday through Saturday morning was honestly pretty OK, just a few moments here and there.  I had work to distract me, and the gym in the evenings.

Once Saturday afternoon rolled around though, it was epic.  I was just in a shitty, shitty mood, peppered with bouts of crying.  Aren't weekends supposed to be fun? Isn't it sad that I would rather be at work than at home?  I would just be driving back from the grocery store or something that otherwise should be non-triggering, and it would be instant.  I had to actually pull over less than 100 feet from my house one evening because I couldn't see.

When it hit me at the gym, which has served as my only sanctuary from the grief, it was the final straw.  I was able to recognize that I needed some professional help.  I contacted the psychiatrist that helped Megan when she was hospitalized.  He went private practice soon after her death, so I had the perfect person to already know my background and situation.

We set up an appointment and I met him about a week later.  We talked through some things, and ultimately, he prescribed me prozac.

Fuck.  Prozac?  I need a fucking pill?  How are some magic beans going to help me?

I've never taken any "mind altering" substances (well, since high school at least), and I damn sure was skeptical about taking this one.   Who am I to argue with a professional though?

So I filled my prescription, and started at 10mg/ day, half of the "minimum therapeutic dose", as he requested.  By the third day, I didn't really feel any different.  However, on day four, something changed.  I was in a general decent mood, but I couldn't get excited or worked up about anything.  After a few more days of this, the mood swings had stopped completely, but the intensity and enthusiasm for anything had also stopped.  Holy shit, I was falling back into the fog.  The same one I was in the day she died.  I didn't give a shit about anyone or anything.

I actually missed the misery.

I went through the motions of getting Shelby ready for school, going to work, going to the gym, and coming home to do it all over again the next day.  On Saturday and Sunday, I stared at mindless TV for hours.  Eventually, I stared at pictures of Megan, and read old letters she had wrote, in a shameless attempt at making myself cry.  I couldn't fucking do it. I was just "existing", and it was worse.

After going to Tampa though, something changed again.  I had a biblical flood of emotions come out, primarily after I got home.  Ahhh yes, the "Camp Crash"  A switch was flipped back on for me down there after being with people who get it.  I'm back to writing these notes (and now even sharing them with others).  I'm already functioning better at work.  I woke up this morning, and the first thing I thought about was Megan, and I had a little weep.  I'm fighting off the drug, and I feel like I'm winning.

You know what though?  I like it better than being numb.  Having heavy feelings means that my brain is working properly.  In order to build muscles, you have to tear them down and let them rebuild themselves.  The brain is the same way.  Taking prozac, at least for me, is not allowing my mind to tear itself down properly.

For now, I'm still taking it until my follow up on Saturday.  I don't want to just stop taking medications, because after 12 years of watching 18 or more pills a day go into my wife, I know that just quitting something when it's not on a doctor's advice can make things worse.  I had a follow up with him on the Monday before Tampa, and I told him all this.  I had no depression, anxiety, or sadness, but I also had no enthusiasm, drive, or desires.

I think I'm really going to push to be taken off of it.  I can't go to Camp Widow every other weekend to be snapped out of the fog, and I can feel it starting to return again.  In my case, I can still function as a father and human being even with the mood swings, so I'll just deal with them as they come.  I made some good friends recently that get what I'm going through, so if a particularly bad one rolls in, i have someone to vent to that isn't going to be scared off.

I'm not saying that Prozac and other anti-depressants are a bad thing.  They can really, really help people get through tough times or chronic depression.  In my case though, I need some depression just as much as I need enthusiasm for life, and Prozac has killed both things off.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Camp Widow

It has now been one week since I returned from Camp Widow in Tampa.  I wanted to sleep on this awhile before giving my impressions about it, specifically what it meant to me.

When I first registered for it, it was a little over one month since losing Megan.  It was an impulsive thing at the time, because I didn't have anyone else to really talk to about it, other than friends that have Cystic Fibrosis themselves.  None of them had lost spouses, but at least they got me a little bit, because they too have been surrounded by sickness and death their whole lives.  

That initial excitement and impatience began to wane over the next month, and began turning into anxiety, then apathy.  I really didn't even give a shit about going.  I figured that I would simply be a fly on the wall there, and if I did interact, I would be so rough around the edges that I would scare people off from talking to me more.  I sincerely thought it would end up being a weekend of sitting around and watching widows cry on each other's shoulder while I sat against the wall like the lonely kid at the high school dance because I couldn't squeeze a tear out (fuck prozac, by the way).  On the other side of the coin, I thought that the fact that I was relatively young, male, and dealt with such a long term illness would disqualify me demographically from participating in much discussion.

I was really, really wrong.

Yes, of course there was crying, everyone there has lost someone that they had romantic love with, a few multiple times.  That's pretty fucking rough to listen to whether you're a widow(er) or not.  Yes, there were many times when I felt that my story wouldn't hold a candle to some of the pain and suffering that others have had to endure.  No, no one was scared off by me or intimidated by my age, gender, demeanor, or reactions to their stories.  

Within an hour of sitting down at the meet and greet on Thursday evening, I had connected with multiple people, and I began to feel at ease about the whole thing.  There were a few that I instantly bonded with, to the point of feeling like I had shared a womb with them.  It was a surreal, strangely comfortable, and overwhelming feeling that I haven't experienced in 12 years.

Friday started the workshops and the actual "Camp".  I also ended up being called by my work, ruining most of the morning.  In the "Long Term Illness" workshop, I listened to so many people talk about their dealing with losing their spouse to cancer, and I felt that I actually had it easy, because Megan's illness was present from day 1, and when I met her, I already knew about it.  I remained quiet through that workshop, not really ready to open up in a more structured environment where 45 people were focused on just me and my story.  I signed up to becoming a young widower.  I loved her unconditionally, it didn't necessarily matter to me that she was going to die young.  That's incredibly hard to explain.  Of course, I didn't WANT Megan to die, it just didn't keep me from loving her.

All in all, what was most valuable to me was the socialization outside of the structured workshops.  I definitely picked up some tips and perspectives in the other discussions, but just freely talking with people and hearing their stories outside of a rigid subject to me, was far more valuable.  I did however open up in the "Caveman" workshop on Saturday, as it was much smaller and more intimate than most of the others, for obvious reasons.  It felt good to not only get a few things out about me, but to also lend some perspective to some of the other men at Camp about my journey thus far.

Kelley Lynn's bonanza, "My Husband is not a Rainbow" started in the late afternoon on Saturday.  My god, Kelley is a girl after my own heart.  Cursing, yelling, high-energy anger and sarcasm and morbidity.  She took all the pain and suffering, and turned it into something you can enjoy with a deep, real belly laugh.  Somehow at the end, I got roped into going up and singing morbid Christmas song parodies by a few of my new friends.  I still don't know how I ended up wearing a foam Christmas tree on my head, but damned if I didn't end up enjoying it.

What I didn't expect, after all of this, was immediately wanting to go back.  I didn't expect to miss people so much.  It's part of learning who the new me is.  I only ever needed Megan for well over a decade.  She "got me" when she was alive, and I think that is why I was so sad to leave, because I finally found other people that get me, and actually enjoyed my company.  I definitely had a crash when I got home.  Actually, it started on the plane.  I expected it, and in a sick way, welcomed it.  It let me know that I could still feel, and that the fog was lifting.  It let me know that I am still human, and that I can miss something other than Megan.  It took me a few days of reflection to see it, but Camp Widow actually helped me realize that there is more to life than being a widower.  See if you can figure that one out.

One would think that a gathering specifically focused on those of us that have lost a partner would be a somber and depressing weekend.  I can confidently say that it is totally the opposite, and I will be going back.  Honestly, I wouldn't be sharing any of my writing if it wasn't for Camp Widow.  I can now say that although I might have seemed like a black sheep upon arriving in Tampa, that I left feeling like part of a new that I never wanted to be in, but also one that I can't imagine not being a part of now.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

3:00 AM

I'm not only awake, I'm aware.  I'm aware that I am alone.  The distractions and tasks that keep me alive and get me through the day have disappeared.  I fall asleep easily.  I can't stay asleep.  This is an almost nightly occurrence.  It's my witching hour, and the only things I can see are the imps and demons that haunt me and remind me of what my life has become.

There is nothing that jolts me awake.  No phone ringing, dog barking, or light flashing through the window.  I just wake up.  I lie there, wishing I could go back to sleep.  Wishing I could just have a fucking dream about Megan, because it's the only way I can speak with her.  I lie awake for at least an hour, trying desperately to clear my head, and not think about things.  I try to daydream myself back to sleep by imagining being in the mountains, which is the only place I feel comfortable sleeping alone.  When she was alive, I thought more about Megan when I was in those cold, wet mountains than when I was any other place.

I still sleep on one side of the bed.  I haven't gotten used to having an entire queen sized mattress to myself.  It feels wrong.  I slept on a twin mattress until I was 22, and when I met Megan, I had only had a full sized bed for about 3 months.  Prior to June 2014, I had only had room to stretch out at night for 3 months of my life.  I don't need to stretch out.  I need to be cramped.

At this moment, when I've again been awakened at my witching hour, it is now that I need Megan next to me, more than any other time.  I don't need to wake her up, I just need to know she's there, and that she wants to be there, and she wants to help me fight off those demons.  I know Shelby would if she could, but it's too much for a 7 year old.   Megan was my dragon slayer.

When the rejection started, I needed it so much that I physically carried Megan up our stairs to our bedroom every night for 3 months, before she had to live in the hospital.  She cried often about me needing to do that, but once she was calmed, she appreciated it immensely and was glad we could still sleep next to each other.

I figured this time, when I woke up, maybe I should write about it.  Maybe getting this out is another step in the process of becoming as normal as I can be.  I'm sitting here, bleary-eyed, staring at a computer screen and tapping away, but my mind is racing with this thought...

I want somebody to carry ME to bed and tell me it will be okay.

Happy Valentine's day babe, wherever you are.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Starting Grief Early

PREFACE: I wrote this to Megan on August 2nd, 2014, her 54th day in the hospital.  It was over 3 months before her death.  This could almost have been sent yesterday, because the sentiment, especially the last paragraph, is the same.  I think it makes a great statement on what someone dealing with a long term illness of their spouse might be going through.  I started the grief process 6 months before she died, only I never expected to have to continue it.  


I know that you've been feeling better lately, even though you're exceptionally tired, and somewhat loopy sometimes, given the marinol.  It sounds like you've gotten less anxious and more accepting that we're in this for the long haul, and it may be awhile before the call.  

The longer you are up there, waiting, the more I realize that I can't live without you.  We are a team babe, and the past month and a half, I feel like I'm getting closer and closer to insanity.  If it wasn't for Shelby, I would have already lost it. 

I want nothing more than to have you home, healthy, and happy.  I wish we could just get this over with.  I was only half joking when I said we will just move to Wyoming or somewhere when you're home.  I believe that my lack of motivation to do anything is because you aren't there with us.  Even this morning, when Shelby and I went for our hike, it just wasn't the same without you at least home when we got back, let alone going with us.  This is the longest you've ever been admitted since we've been together.  It wouldn't have been easy 4 years ago, when it was a regular occurrence, and it's definitely not any easier now.  

I miss you.  I miss doing things and going places with you.  I miss just sitting and watching TV.  Each day, I only miss you more.  I know you'll get through it, but I'm having trouble believing that I will.  It's harder for me to know what you're feeling about everything, because you can't really open up about it with all the drugs pumping through you.   I don't know if you're mad, anxious, happy, or just plain tired. 

I love you.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Magic Shoes

These are my magic shoes.  They've been there for me to put on for well over a year.  When they were first purchased, they were able to magically bring me closer to Megan, because she had magic shoes too.  Putting our magic shoes on together was the final good memory we shared.  We were wearing these shoes when she felt the "pop", that was the first sign of her lungs rejecting.  She was wearing her magic shoes when her body was reduced to ash.  

Now, through the pain, these shoes can magically transform me in a different way.  I can don these pieces of rubber and nylon, and turn into a different person.  For one hour, my magic shoes let me feel like a kid again, like I never experienced all of the sickness and struggling and love and dedication and fucking death.  The part of my brain that remembers death exists is shut down, and replaced with focus and energy.  It is the only time my body and mind are separated.  These shoes deconstruct me, and reassemble me into a better person.  They perform the opposite function as before.  I am distanced from Megan while I wear them, and it brings relief.  

I'm careful not to abuse or overuse them.  They mean too much to me; so much more than simple coverings for my feet.  They are always hand carried into the only setting that they work in, and they are removed when the magic has ran out.  

Luckily though, their effect lasts for a few days, until my mind powers back on and I'm plunged back into remembering that there really isn't any permanent cure for life, except death.  That's when I know that I need to put my magic shoes back on and recharge them.  See, they are powered by my body.  The longer they sit collecting dust, the more their batteries run dry.  The first time I put them on again, after 8 months of hell, my body had to work so hard to juice them up that I vomited twice and hovered on passing out.  By the end of that cycle though, I knew that my magic shoes were still working to transform, protect, and improve me in so many ways.


People cry not because they're weak, it's because they've been strong for too long.

I really believe that saying, because I've experienced it. God, did I fucking bawl like a baby for 10 days straight after Megan died. It actually started two days beforehand, when she had to be paralyzed, and I saw the writing on the wall.   I hadn't spent every day of the last 6 months at her bedside. Like most, she had good days and bad days, and when she could string a few good days together, I might have taken a day off from driving 45 minutes to be with her. I still had to work, we still had bills to pay, a daughter to raise, a house to clean, and a yard to mow.  You can't imagine how guilty I feel about skipping going up there once in awhile.

I was strong. I checked on her multiple times a day when I was at work, and as soon as I left the office, I was driving to Cleveland, then coming home and making sure homework was done, clothes were washed, and hair was braided. I was a father, mother, husband, caretaker, breadwinner, delivery person, coordinator, planner, and scribe.

We never even fathomed her not getting a transplant. Everything we heard from the doctors was fucking unicorn farts and rainbows.

"It should be any minute, and h
er numbers look outstanding, she might even be able to come home and wait it out"

We heard those words countless times, and we always accepted them at face value.  I had enthusiasm and drive to keep everything going at home and with the hospital. She would be coming home soon, and we could have our life back. Days turned to weeks, and weeks turned to months. I was on pins and needles any time I wasn't there, because "the call" would be coming soon.  If my phone would so much as beep at 3:00 A.M., I was out of bed, scrambling to see if it was a message about lungs.

Megan knew it long before I did that she was going to die. I think she knew at least a month beforehand. I didn't know until two days before. She had accepted it, but she never told me so. She asked to have more visitors, which I thought were just for company during the day while I was working, but really, she was saying her goodbyes. She didn't want me to know, because she was protecting my heart. She knew that if I had to accept it before it actually happened, that I would have shut down. I would have quit my job, and lived at Cleveland Clinic, still trying to maximize every moment we had left in this shitty situation.

All she wanted was for Shelby and I to continue living. 

The fight is over.  I'm just now to the point where I have some emotional strength.  It's very little, and very fleeting, but I can feel it.  There are other people I care about now.  Nowhere near the extent that I cared about one deserves the fight and fire I put into her except Shelby.  I'm aware of myself now though.  It's not just raw loneliness that draws me to people.  I've accepted that Megan is never coming back.  I don't agree with it.  I don't like it, but I've accepted it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Shelby Deserves Better

Shelby is a rock star of a little girl, and I am incredibly proud of her.  What is the worst are those moments when she does something that makes me proud, and her mother isn't there to be proud of her as well.

Don't tell me she's watching from above.  That doesn't help me.  So what?  She gets to enjoy it all from her lofty perch while I have to sit down here all alone wishing I just had somebody to fucking take a picture of me holding my trophy daughter?  That's all well and good if true, and I'm happy Megan gets to see it, but I'm by myself.  They're now my memories with Shelby.  I don't get to say our memories anymore.  We'll never take another family picture like the one I'm staring at right now as I write.  Shelby will never be able to talk to someone, in her sarcastic, Megan-like way of making fun of me, about a "remember when dad did this?" memory, because I'm the only other person that would remember it.  

Tonight, Shelby and I attended "Scholars Night" at her school.  She has a 4.0 GPA for the first half of the school year, and received an award for it.  I'm proud of her, but it's not easy to do anymore.  Sure, I shared it on Facebook, and tons of people commented on how proud they were, but there was someone distinctly absent.  I shouldn't have been the one making that fucking post.  Megan should have.  Shelby had what should have been a happy occasion, and now that memory is fucking ruined because she came home with a crying dad, again.

I'm trying so hard to be strong for her, because no little girl deserves this.  She should be able to grieve for her mother without having to console her dad.  She should be able to achieve and excel in anything she wants to do and have her dad celebrate it when she does so, and comfort and help her when she doesn't. I'm not worried about financially supporting her, or making sure she has clean clothes, good food, and a roof over her head.  I've always done that, since the day she was born.  I'm more concerned that eventually something will come along that her mom would be proud of her for, and I won't recognize it.

Sometimes, I think I have more growing up to do than Shelby does.

Armor Plating

I'm lucky.  It seems weird, maybe even egotistical to say that.  I'm lucky because I've been surrounded by death and morbidity and sickness for a long ass time.  It's shaped me in some sick, twisted way that lets me put myself into an armored shell to protect myself.

There was only one person that could enter that armored place unannounced, because she had a key.  Not only could she walk right in, she would join me inside and close it back up.  She put up wallpaper, decorated it, and made it a nice place to be, because she knew we'd be spending a lot of time in there together.  We watched her brother die together, and somehow married four days later without so much as a tear for him.  We were already in our shelter at the altar.  We were stone faced at his funeral two days afterwards. It's like we had a video feed to the outside world, but we could go ahead and turn the monitor off and play cards while the world kept being the world outside.  She was able to leave the bunker once in awhile, and even drag me out with her, even though I didn't want to leave most of the time.  

Now, my shell is thicker than ever, and it's lonely.  It's cold, dark, and empty.  The power's out, so I can't turn the video feed on anymore.  I've boarded the window up.  There have been people that tap on the plating, trying to get my attention, and I just ignore them from inside like you ignore those travelling salesmen you see walking your neighborhood before coming and knocking on your door.  Nobody is home, at least that's what I want people to think.  I'm just quiet and I try not to move.  I've poked my head out to look around a little, and I didn't like what I saw, so I crawled back inside.  It's safe in here.  The decorations are still up, the wallpaper still looks good I'm sure, but I can't see it.  The boards on the window don't let any light in.  I'm just content in knowing that it's all still there, and it's not changing.  The only working device is a phone that a very select few people have the number to.  Sometimes though, I leave it in do-not-disturb mode, so they can't even call to catch up.

Eventually, someone will come along that found the key.  They won't have to knock and ask to be let in.  I will be sitting there in the dark, and I'll see a sliver of light as the hatch cracks open, and I'll be fucking terrified.  I'll probably grab the inside handle and try to pull it shut, because all of a sudden the entire cocoon will be illuminated.  I don't want to come out yet, and I don't want someone coming in, because what if they don't like the decorations, and they decide to change the wallpaper, or god forbid, put a window in?  This is MY shell, god dammit, don't you dare touch it!  I'll fail to defend my lair though, because secretly, I want the light in here.  I want someone to change the wallpaper, but maybe leave the pictures.  I wouldn't mind an open window once in a while so I can watch a thunderstorm roll by without going outside.  Most of all, I want some company with me behind the plating.  I don't want to venture outside and invite people in though. I'm for damn sure not putting a sign on the hatch that says where to find the key.  That's why I'll be so scared when someone finds it, because it means Megan must have given it to someone on her last trip outside, the one she never came back from. 

And you know what?  Megan wouldn't have been careless with that key. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

That Girl I was Seeing

Maybe that girl and I were different.  Maybe we truly did have the "love at first sight" thing.  I never tried to date her.  It just happened.  We talked over the phone a few times, and we decided to watch a movie together as our first "date".  It was in her mom's basement, on December 10th, 2002.  I can still remember every single detail about our first night together, from her little brother eating popcorn at the top of the basement stairs, trying to spy on us, to her mom coming down to "do laundry" and peeking around the corner from the laundry room to check on this strange guy that was in her house.  We watched Van Wilder, then made out in her front yard while her creepy brother watched through the window and gave play-by-play to her mom.  We drank little hugs and ate snack packs.  It was the most romantic fucking date any girl has ever been on, and don't you tell me otherwise.

The next day, she was admitted to the hospital for her run-of-the-mill (for us, at least we would find out) Cystic Fibrosis treatment.  Guess who came to visit her that night?  That's right, her knight in dress blues, me.

I didn't bat an eye about seeing someone who was hospitalized the next day.  In fact, I didn't even think about it in that sense.  I just wanted to see her, and I didn't care how difficult it was going to be to arrange the logistics of my Marine Corps drill weekend and a trip to University Hospitals in Cleveland.

I spent that night on December 11th, 2002, in a hospital room, with a girl I had just met yesterday on the worlds most romantic date.

I spent the night on July 24th, 2003, in a hospital room, and celebrated that girl's 22nd birthday.

I spent the night on December 11th, 2004, in a hospital room, and proposed to that girl.

I spent the night on August 2nd, 2005, in a hospital room, and watched that girl's brother die while holding her hand.

That was four days before I married that girl, and six days before we buried her brother.

I spent the night on March 14th, 2006, just after being told that I was not a carrier for the CF gene, and that girl's eggs were fertile and that she must have a child now, or she likely would never be able to...she was 24 years old.

I spent the night on August 6th, 2006, on that girl's first wedding anniversary, while she was pregnant.

I spent the night on February 16th, 2007, when that girl went into labor.

I spent the night on February 17th, 2007, when that girl became a mother, and I became a father.

I spent the night on March 2nd, 2007, when that girl's daughter went home, while she had to stay at the hospital for another 2 weeks.

That stopped me spending the night.  We had a newborn at home, and it was better for me to be with her than that girl, until...

I spent the night on January 2nd, 2011, when that girl's lung collapsed, and she was rushed to the ER.

I spent the night on January 3rd, 2011, when they needed to ventilate that girl to keep her alive.  It was the first time I cried over losing her.

I spent the night on January 4th, 2011, when they told me that that girl may be joining her brother.

I spent the night on January 5th, 2011, when they told me they found a donor for that girl.

I spent the night on January 6th, 2011, when that girl had 18 IV pumps, 6 chest drains, a catheter, a central line, and a giant zipper scar running down her chest.  It was her new birthday.

I spent every night from January 2nd to January 21st at that girl's side.

Until the last 6 months of that girl's life, starting on June 6th, 2014, I never again had to spend the night, because she wasn't admitted again until that date.

I had watched her slowly die for 8 years, and we finally had strength.  I had spent hundreds of nights in the hospital with her.  Now it was like a reset button had been pressed, and we got to start all over again like the healthy kids we were.  For three years after her transplant, we were able to do everything we wanted to do, and then some. We feverishly tried to complete her bucket list, and we were constantly adding more.  Not because we knew that there wasn't much time, but because she never even got to start it before.

I'm thankful that I found love at first sight; it maximized our time together, because on November 19th, 2014, that girl's bucket list was closed out.


I've stepped out of the fog again.  After spending the weekend at Camp Widow, and coming home to the subsequent crash of emotions and a good night's sleep, I finally feel some fire in me.  I'm not really feeling any enthusiasm for work; it still fucking sucks, but my desire to do some things is ramping up, and I can physically feel it.

I know what I need right now, and I need to spit it out as I'm thinking of it.

I need to be "adrenalized".  I need some intensity.  I need to throw some weight around and grunt and yell and listen to some goddamned angry music.  I need to be fucking sweaty and tired and broken.  I need to throw a medicine ball through a goddamned brick wall.  I need my eyes to sting from sweat and tears at the same time.  I need to collapse in a heap on the cold rubber floor of the gym, then drag my ass off of it and crank out some pullups.  I need to start bawling in the middle of the workout, and have everyone look at me and think they should stay the fuck away, like a doberman that just got a broken leg that will bite the first thing that comes near.  I need beast mode.  I need to work so hard that my hands bleed from all of the ripped callouses.  I need to be younger, so I can re-join the Marine Corps, go overseas, and rain motherfucking fire down again.  I need the type of euphoria that you can only get from one other thing.  Most of all, I need my wife back, so I can wear her the fuck out, hit the bottom and tear up the sides, and make her walk funny for two days and still ask for more...shit.

I'm addicted to adrenaline.  But it's a certain kind.  The kind that's triggered from the "fight" side of the flight or fight response.  I can't be "scared" into it.  I need to force myself into it.  I need to push myself off of that bridge.  There isn't a pill available that's going to give me this feeling.    

The fucking prozac had killed this drive off for awhile (I'll write more about it later), but it's back, baby.  Yeah, I'll have more bad days too, but I know what drug fixes it.  Goddamned adrenaline.  If Sunday night was bad, Monday evening fixes it right up, and it lasts for days. If Megan left me with one thing, it was her fucking intensity, and it only added to mine. 

It's so nice to be back on the roller coaster, because while it has its ups and downs, it never ceases to adrenalize me. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

I'm not Made of Stone

PREFACE: I wrote this in January, prior to going to camp widow.  It was kind of a "Where I'm at" statement to myself.

My wife is fucking dead. No sugar coating it. There's no "finding the words" to make it seem sentimental and spiritual. That's not what I am, and it's not how I think. She didn't either. Obviously, in public, I know when to tone it down a notch so as not to offend, but this isn't what I'm doing here. You try holding your spouse's hand, and feeling it go from warm to ice cold, knowing that you will never feel the warmth in it again, and tell me what words you can find.

I'm 34 years old, and my wife is dead. I will never get the chance to grow old with her. She will never get to see our daughter even make it past second grade, let alone be there to see her graduate and grow up and marry. Shelby will never have her hair dried or nails painted or take another picture or any other mundane thing that moms do with her mother.

There is no more “we”. It just Shelby and I now. That IS NOT the fucking same as “we”. I love Shelby with all my heart, and I will do everything in my power to keep her safe, healthy, smart, and happy, but she is not my goddamned wife. Shelby didn't choose me. I’m left to pick up the pieces alone. Yes, I have outstanding parents and in-laws. Yes, Shelby is the most exceptional little girl and is very easy to raise. Yes, I have a good job, the bills are paid, and we aren't struggling in the physical sense. Yes, many, many widows have it worse than I do.

No, it is not fucking easy.

One of the most poingant verses I've heard in a song is from a band called "Five Finger Death Punch", and the song is "Wrong side of heaven". It strikes so close to my feelings that I've titled this blog after it, and I'll probably have it tattooed on my ribs.

"Arms wide open, I stand alone,

I'm no hero, and I'm not made of stone,

Right or wrong, I can hardly tell

I'm on the wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side of hell"

Chew on those words for a second. Try as hard as you can to put yourself in the mind of a 34 year old man that spent 12 years of his life building a family, and taking care of a woman that wanted nothing more than to not need to be taken care of, only to have it ripped away. I'm welcoming the help I'm receiving with open arms, but I am still alone. I'm not a goddamned hero, because a hero would have successfully given his own life to save his wife. I couldn't. I just couldn't be that fucking hero that she and Shelby needed. I can't get over that feeling. That I'm a goddamned failure. Go ahead and say what you will about how it was out of my control, or in god's hands, but I don't believe it. I've no clue what I'm supposed to do going forward. Should I focus all of my heart on Shelby and only Shelby for the rest of my life, and just be content in being alone? There isn't a manual for this shit.

I don’t have any motivation to do anything except go to the gym. Why should I? My mind races every day with different thoughts, fears, anxiety, plans, wants, and just plain daydreams. It’s all bullshit. The only constant has been wanting to be with Megan again. If I could ask her one question and receive an answer, it would be “will I get to see you again?”. It’s the only question I would ask, and it’s the only one I don’t want to know the answer to. If the answer is “no”, then what the fuck do I care about anything? The last 12 years would just feel like a waste of fucking time. If the answer is “yes”, then I would feel some comfort, but there would definitely be some dark thoughts about taking my own life just to be with her again. If I confess that to someone, then suddenly I need mental help or I’m a danger to myself or Shelby. I like to think anyone that’s identified as a widow or widower has had those thoughts, but I don’t know. At this point, I’m just going through the motions. You know the whole cheesy, “you complete me” thing? It’s fucking true. I am no longer a whole person. I’m half that. I’m trying my hardest to keep it together for Shelby not because that’s would Megan would have wanted, but because it’s the right fucking thing to do and I love her. It’s all I have to give, and as time goes on, I’m losing hope that I can keep it going.

I don’t have anyone to just sit with at night once Shelby's in bed. No one to make plans with or discuss stupid shit like TV shows or the latest gossip. I feel like the only person that even likes me is sitting in a fucking box in my dining room in powdered form. Over the entire 6 months, Megan got 2 full days at home with us. All I can remember from all of that is just sitting on the floor, in front of her on the couch, watching TV, and she ran her fingers through my hair and smirked. I miss that so fucking bad. That’s the kind of affection that we had. We didn’t do the fucking hallmark holidays like valentines or sweetest day. We were beyond that. This was a random Thursday night, and I felt more loved by her then than at any other time.

Watching Shelby cry over having too much homework or not getting a cookie makes my blood boil, and it takes everything in my willpower to not want to yell.. She hasn’t cried since the mass about Megan. I cry every goddamned day at some point. Sometimes it only lasts 2 or 3 minutes, sometimes it lasts for hours. If you see me smiling, it’s either A) because I was distracted for 5 seconds by something funny and/or calming, or B) I’m faking it because I have to. At first I said she was “my rock”, but really, she was a captive audience that was doing OK with it so far. She couldn’t run away or avoid me talking to her. She’s been moody lately, and I don’t know if it’s her own version of dealing with it, or if she’s just getting a little older and that’s just going to happen. It would sure be nice to have Megan to discuss it with, even if she didn't know the answer.

I’m sick of people telling me that Megan is watching from above, or guiding us. If she’s supposedly guiding me, she’s doing a really shitty job, and not in a funny or sarcastic way. I can’t even dream of her any more. I can’t picture her voice. One of the things I want most is to just dream of her. I don’t even care if it was a nightmare, I just want to see her in my head again, and it needs to be non-forced and in my subconscious brain. She is simply not fucking here in any way, shape, or form, and I'm terrified that she's gone forever, and even the good memories are going to vanish.

I’m trying to distract myself with things like the gym or TV. It’s gotten to the point that I’m just flat out telling people that I’m broken, lonely, and in a bad mood, and I just want to hang out to have 4 hours of relief from it. Guess what? I’ve spent the past month by myself, alone with my thoughts. It’s like I have the fucking plague. Like suddenly I’m going to infect people with my problems or demons. I don’t expect others to be in my state at this point, but stop treating me like I should be happy-go-fucking-lucky before you want to be around me. Stop trying to give me advice or condolences, and let’s just forget about it and hang out. We all have fucking problems. Mine are pretty goddamned big. That doesn’t mean that I want to sit and talk about them and bring everyone down with me.

I’m coming to the realization that what I thought was good progress over the first few months was actually just being numb to the whole thing.