My kryptonite

I found my kryptonite – Breast MRI. I tried again, with lorazepam this time. The test didn’t even get started before I quit. I just couldn’t get enough oxygen laying on my stomach. I was worried about hurting my recent port insertion site. And I fought the “relaxing” effects of lorazepam with all my might. I was the opposite of relaxed. See, lorazepam was one of the anti-anxiety meds Mike took after he lost his job. He took the pills like candy, to the point of being zombie-ish. Then he started combining the pills with alcohol, which rendered him virtually comatose. I just couldn’t shake the image of him on the couch, not opening his eyes, mumbling incoherently. I wouldn’t let myself relax, not with THIS in my body. I didn’t want to be like THAT. So, I basically walked in the MRI room and walked out – didn’t even start the imaging. Not happening.

Dream and “more” – connection or coincidence?

It’s been 26 months since he died, and until last night, I hadn’t had a dream about Mike or even one in which he appeared.

In last night’s dream, Mike and I were dating, I think. At least, we didn’t seem to know each other super well. We definitely weren’t married in this dream. He was my “plus one” to a fundraiser (dinner and silent auction) at some fancy-pants hotel. He was kind of being a jerk – quiet/not talkative, not responsive to stories or jokes or questions, basically ignoring me. At one point (when he excused himself to the men’s room), I hid in another room, contemplating leaving the fundraiser alone. Ultimately, I decided to allow myself to be “found” and give him another chance to salvage the date.

Then I woke up.

I’m not a huge believer in dream analysis, but this dream comes as B and I have talked about “more” in our relationship (“more” of each other, “more” than just weekends, “more” of pretty much everything having to do with one another).

SIDE NOTE: Adult relationships are complicated – kids, jobs, responsibilities. I didn’t have these considerations last time I dated, almost 20 years ago. (Twenty years ago, it was: want to spend more time together? Move in with one another! Life was so much less complex…)

Not sure how or if the dream is connected to what’s happening with B, but I’ve been distracted all day…

Two-for-one: Dishes make me cry and In-laws still suck

Two unrelated stories today:

One:

It’s been a heck of a week. I’m on spring break, which has an entirely different meaning as a professor than it did when I was a college student. I’ve spent the week grading, drinking large amounts of caffeine, and cleaning my closet. And when faced with no real schedule but still stuff to accomplish, I procrastinate by going shopping. (This has NOT helped the closet-cleaning situation since I’m filling it back up as quickly as I’m eliminating the junk.)

Yesterday I went to campus for a few hours. Afterward I took the long way home. I saw a housewares store that I hadn’t been in for a long time, and I jumped across three lanes to pull into the lot. (I’m a sucker for off-the-wall kitchen gadgets, so I love this particular store.)

I walked through the aisles, just browsing. Killing time. No real purpose.

I came to an end cap near the dishes and stopped.

I stood there, staring at the display, for five minutes. Not moving. Barely breathing. Eyes starting to water. Forcing people to find a way around me because I couldn’t move.

I walked closer to the display, touching the dishes.

When the first tear fell, I knew I needed to walk away. But I kept looking back.

The dishes were the same as the ones Mike and I registered for when we got married. We used those dishes for 10 years. I sold them in a yard sale last spring.

Selling them didn’t phase me but for some reason, seeing the same pattern, the same brand, (even though the colors are different now), took me back to a happier time. And the pit in my stomach grew as my eyes continued to water.

I loved those dishes. I fought to have those dishes as our “everyday” pattern. So many meals served. So many family celebrations. So many happy times (and some sad ones).

I left the store, without buying anything, and finished the drive home. I just can’t stop thinking about those dishes. Funny what brings you back, and how emotions can be tied to almost anything.

Two:

My ex-sister-in-law (T) messaged me this week with a story.

T divorced Mike’s brother about four years ago. She’s now happily married, and she and her husband own a well-known bar in Mike’s hometown.

So, T and her husband were walking hand-in-hand through the parking lot of a local “taste of” festival. Their bar was one of the participants, and they were going to make sure things were going well.

It was in the parking lot where she was confronted by a crazy woman, who appeared out of nowhere.

She started wagging her finger in T’s face. “I hope you’re happy! You girls ruined my life!”

T wished the woman well, and kept walking. Her husband was confused (and probably a little scared) by this crazy person confronting his wife.

The crazy woman? Mike’s mom.

Thinking about that confrontation – and T’s perfectly calm reaction (I probably wouldn’t have been so nice) – has made me smile all week.

Still blaming T and I for ruining her life. Yep, it’s our faults that your sons turned out like they did. And, just like always, it’s about her. I REALLY don’t miss the in-laws…

Unexpected direction

Grief is a weird thing. And it’s back, sort of, in a weird way.

I’ve been fine, GREAT actually, for the last year. The kids are doing well – they’re funny and smart and kind and doing well in school and all-around awesome. My mom continues to struggle with some minor health issues, but she’s thriving in her own home now (which the kids LOVE to visit). My job is fantastic – reviews of my teaching have been over-the-top positive and there’s a move to make my position permanent (and possibly become equivalent to a tenure appointment). My relationship with B continues to grow, and we’ve had the most amazing times with each other and our kids.

Yep, things were rolling. Happy. Fun.

B and I decided to go to Chicago for the weekend. It’ll be our second trip there together (but the first time he got really sick and we came home early). We checked our calendars and agreed on a date. It wasn’t until I opened my calendar to write it down (yes, I still use a hard copy calendar) that I noticed the actual DATE.

January 25.

The second anniversary of Mike’s death.

Thoughts flooded my head: Do I cancel? Would it be wrong to be in Chicago (my favorite city in the world) with B? Would it be awful to be having FUN on that day? To laugh, to kiss, to hold hands with someone?

Overwhelmingly, I thought no to all these questions. Mike and I were separated when he died! I had filed for divorce! We should have been divorced, but dammit, he refused to sign the papers! I should be enjoying my life! I’m going, no biggie!

But I felt the need to gut check someone so I called my mom. “Go,” she said. “If anyone deserves to be happy, it’s you. You and B should have a great time. I’ll have the kids. It’ll be okay.”

(Side note: Ethan knows the anniversary date is coming up, but he doesn’t know the exact date. Lauren has no concept of when/where/why/how of her dad’s death. Because they don’t “know,” we can memorialize on a different calendar date.)

And for weeks, I’ve been completely okay with the decision that I will be in Chicago with B on the second anniversary. Until yesterday.

I’ve been hit with feelings of sadness. Sadness that my marriage failed. Sadness that I missed so many signs. Sadness that my kids will grow up without knowing their dad (the good parts, of course).

It isn’t so much that Mike is dead and cremated and buried. It’s more of the loss of what was. The happy times of our marriage and relationship. His physical death has become a symbol for the loss of the life we HAD. It’s all just coinciding with the date on the calendar.

I’m not changing my plans this weekend. B and I will still go to Chicago and enjoy each other’s company and take in the marvelousness of an awesome city. But I owe it to him and our relationship to let him know what’s going on in my head and with my feelings/emotions.

So I’ve scripted out the conversations I need to have with him tonight. Letting him know what I’m going through and what I need from him (random and unexpected calls and texts, hugs and hand holding).

It’s the first “anniversary” that I’ll go through while not “alone.” There are milestones for milestones on this grief roller coaster, aren’t there?

Birthday card

I don’t know why I opened it. I’ve never opened one before. But something just… MADE me open it. Thank goodness I did.

It’s been a month since I picked up mail at my PO box. Everything “real” and important (i.e., bills) has been rerouted to my house, and the only things that still go to the mailing location are addressed to Mike – or from his parents.

It was a birthday card for Ethan. Just a card, nothing else. But it was what was written inside that really pissed me off.

In its entirety (spelling, grammar, punctuation errors belong to them):

Ethan,

Just remembering all the great times we spent together makes us smile. Thank you for being such an amazing grandson. Warm wishes for a Happy Birthday to you.

We look at your pictures and see how much you look like your father. We wish we could see you and share pictures and stories of your dad while he was growing up.

We pray your safe and happy each night.

“All Our Love”

Grandma and Grandpa

Allow me to break this down:

The time “we spent together” amounted to MAYBE twice a year for a day or two each time. And during those times, Mike’s parents spent almost no time interacting with the kids. They would sit on the couch and watch, but not talk to or play or engage with Ethan or Lauren in any way. And they took every opportunity to NOT be in the same room as the kids…

“We wish we could see you” – this is probably the most offensive and inappropriate line in the entire note. If Mike’s parents were interested in seeing my kids, all they’d have to do would be call. I’ve told numerous people IRL that I’d allow them to see the kids (supervised, of course) if they reached out. It is NOT my obligation to reach out to them. However, in the interest of Ethan and Lauren, I would allow them to see their grandparents – IF their grandparents wanted a relationship with them.

My offense comes from including this in a note to a child – I’ve sheltered the kids from all the asshole things their grandparents have done before, during and since Mike’s death. And for them to include this line without context (like they haven’t even TRIED to see the kids), is amazingly inappropriate. I AM NOT THE ONE KEEPING THEM OUT OF MY KIDS’ LIVES, but I will not pawn my kids off on people who don’t want to see them (again, it would just take a phone call if the grandparents truly want to see E and L).

“Share pictures and stories of your dad while he was growing up” – this is another head scratcher for me. I have the handful of photos that exist of Mike as a kid. His parents’ basement flooded years ago and almost all their family photos were destroyed. And of the few photos that were saved, his parents couldn’t distinguish between Mike and his brother as kids. (Really? What kind of parents can’t tell their kids apart – the two don’t look ANYTHING alike and are four years apart in age!) Same thing with stories about the boys’ childhoods – his parents ALWAYS got the stories wrong (Mike’s stories were attributed to his brother and vice versa.)

I won’t even bother nitpicking the grammar and punctuation errors.

I decided not to share this card with Ethan. In fact, this makes me want to close the mailing address so I (the kids) won’t receive this kind of correspondence from them anymore.

Assholes.