2014 Can Suck It.

I’m a record with a scratch across it and the needle is stuck on April 13th, 2014.  The absence of Jason seems more acute now than it did months ago.  I keep reliving the day before the race and the day of…as if the (almost) 6 years preceding the event never happened.

I replay how I was annoyed with him on Saturday night because the elevator in the hotel was broken and we kept having to take the stairs up and down, and he forgot the keys on our trip down to get gas in the car and energy drinks for the next morning.  I waited downstairs while he ran back up 5 flights of stairs.  Why the hell was I annoyed?  I just had to stand there and wait on him.

I replay how we drove around Raleigh for 30 minutes on Sunday morning trying to find a place to park because we didn’t leave early enough to park in the deck, even though we pre-paid for parking the day before.  I kept thinking that we should leave earlier but I didn’t want to say anything because I was trying to play it cool and not be a nag.   And how I didn’t even really want to walk 13 miles that morning…and even made the comment in the truck that pancakes sounded better than sweating for the next 3  hours.  Then I wonder if that feeling of dread was some sort of premonition that we should have ditched the race and gone for breakfast instead.  Would he still be here?  I got the same sick feeling every single time he hopped on a plane for a work trip so I wrote it off to being a neurotic worrier.

I think about how I got THE PHONE CALL right after mile marker 9…and how I didn’t answer the phone because it was a number I didn’t recognize, but there was some overwhelming feeling that I needed to listen to that voicemail.  And I did.  It turns out that he was already dead when that call came through.  And I didn’t feel him leave.  I was just walking a fucking race listening to 80’s music in complete oblivion while he was dying up ahead of me.  And even when I was told there had been an accident I just kept telling myself that he sprained an ankle, or tripped and broke a wrist.

How in the hell was he 1 out of 250,000 runners who die of a cardiac event, and what are the odds that another man in his 30’s died that same day at that same race?

I remember walking into the room where Jason was and seeing tubes coming out of his mouth and a brace around his neck.  I didn’t even notice the huge gash on his chin from when he fell and didn’t even put out his hands to catch himself.  I wanted to crawl on top of him and just stay there forever, but even in that moment I recognized the inappropriateness of that gesture.  And there was some horrible ridiculous chaplain who wouldn’t go away…so he kind of ruined our last moment together.  And that also makes me angry because I was too polite to tell him to leave us alone.  But I should have.

And then someone from the marathon group drove around downtown Raleigh so I could find Jason’s truck, and go back to the hotel without him.  In my lap was a clear plastic bag with his phone, sunglasses, shoes and his wedding ring…oh, and the scratchy Project Linus blanket.  And there were all the other runners celebrating and drinking that free beer that was promised at the finish line.  I remember looking at them through the back window of the car and wondering how they could possibly be celebrating when Jason was dead.  But that is probably exactly what we would have been doing had Jason crossed the finish line.

But he didn’t finish.  He collapsed around mile 11 and checked out forever.  And I went back home that day and picked up my dogs because they were all that was left of our family.  And now even one of them is sitting on my dresser in a box next to Jason.

I’m making a shirt for New Year’s Eve.  It’s going to be white with black iron-on letters and it will read:  2014 Can Suck It!

And that is really how I feel.  I will wear it proudly while I drink inexpensive beer and wonder who I’m supposed to kiss at midnight.

 

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And I Ran…

I am a sponge absorbing the pain of the world today.  I cannot stop crying and the tears falling aren’t just for Jason but tears for everyone…and everything shitty that seems to be happening everywhere I turn.  I avoid the news for this very reason but today bad news is inescapable.

I heard about a horrible car accident that claimed multiple lives from a friend’s family.  Then someone sent me a link to the Ottawa soldier who was killed on Wednesday.  There’s a photo showing his dogs waiting for him to come home with their noses peeking out from under the gate, next to all of the flowers and Canadian flags left outside his door.  My friend sent me the link because of the likeness between his dogs and Klaus.  She didn’t send me the link so I’d break out in tears and want to hide in the restroom for the remainder of the day.

But that is what I’d like to do.

Instead I have to sit at my desk on display like a puppy at a pet store until 5pm.  And then I can finally escape to the solitude of my car and cry without worrying what everyone will think.  It gets so tiring…holding it together.  I have an office door but it does little good when the wall is made of glass.  Sometimes it’s like coming to work naked, emotionally naked. Showing up at work without clothes probably wouldn’t bother me as much as coming to work with a lump in my throat and the bottled up tears and snot.  I’m glad it is Friday.  I’m glad I can spend the next two days crying and screaming if I so desire, or running in the park and playing with my dog.  I have no idea how I’m going to feel tomorrow when I wake up.  I have no idea how I’m going to feel in 15 minutes from now.

All I know is that at this moment I feel an overwhelming and paralyzing sadness that steals my breath and makes my eyes feel hot and watery.

I just want to escape all of these horrible things happening around me, and from all of the uncomfortable emotions bubbling like lava inside my heart and my head.   So I think what I’m going to do is take a 15-minute break in my car and listen to “I Ran (so far away)” by Flock of Seagulls and maybe scream for a few minutes.  I might also go through the McDonald’s drive-thru and order a hot fudge sundae.  With extra syrup…and nuts.

 

 

 

 

Am I Turning Soft?

Last night was the first meeting of the “loss of a spouse” support group.  I had no idea what to expect since my only experiences were the scenes from Fight Club.  I was the youngest member as expected but I still felt an immediate connection with the rest of the club that nobody wants to be a member of…ever…despite your age.   Listening to the stories and struggles of the others quickly made me realize how lucky I am to have so many friends surrounding me.  Some of the widows seemingly had nobody to turn to and I felt very sorry for them because this support group, full of complete strangers, was the most comfort they’ve had in months.

I know there was initially some concern about how I would feel being the youngest member of this shitty club but grief doesn’t discriminate with age.   We are all mourning a future we thought would be there, whether it be 50 more years or just 5 more years with our best friend.

I have homework for our next session.  I secretly love homework and projects so I was delighted when I was given as assignment before leaving.  I have to bring a couple of pictures of Jason and also write about what I hope to gain from these group sessions, and what I hope for others in the group.  I already know the answer to that question.  I want the other widows and widowers I met tonight to rediscover happiness and not feel guilty or angry.  I want them to know they aren’t alone and even though I only just met them, I feel like they are my family.

And I want Jason to know that this experience has oddly enough made me less bitter, even though sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.  He always told me he thought people were inherently good-hearted, and I always told him that only four-footed furry animals were inherently good-hearted and pure.  I’m starting to come around to his way of thinking.

I keep imagining him with a warm, yet slightly smug, smile on his face.  That was the look he’d give me every time he fact-checked something I said on Google…and then he’d delightfully point out my inaccuracies.  I never thought I would miss that, but I do.

 

First there were 6 and now there are 4

I had to put Jason’s dog Dieter to sleep on Wednesday morning.  It was clearly time and I had been postponing for purely selfish reasons.  He went very peacefully and I stayed with him throughout the process.  I cried all over his face and his ears were completely soaked but I don’t think he minded.  I had the past several months to make peace with the decision and slowly and gradually accept the outcome which was very different than suddenly losing a husband.  I found an urn that looks very much like Jason’s and I am going to put Dieter next to him on my dresser.   I keep thinking how eventually my entire family will just be wooden boxes full of ashes.  My oldest cat Riley is probably next and I can already see the 14 years  showing in his gray hairs and cloudy eyes.

I finally heard back from the medical examiner late last night.  She said that Jason had Adderall, which was prescribed by his doctor, in his system as well as caffeine.   Both are stimulants and could have contributed to the fatal arrhythmia.  I cried until I couldn’t breath last night because I’m the one who introduced Jason to Adderall which I have been taking for years.  I purchased the Starbucks Refresher he downed on the way to the race.  So naturally I feel like his death is my fault.  What if I had never told him how Adderall had saved me from spinning my wheels on a daily basis, and what if I hadn’t picked up Starbucks beverages at the gas station the night before the race?  Would he still be here or would something else have eventually triggered a malfunction in his heart?

I think it is natural to want all of the answers and to want to take responsibility for a situation that is so uncontrollable and awful.  I couldn’t sleep last night because my self-hatred was so loud, so I took 25 mg of Ambien and then failed to wake up until 9am, which made me two hours late for work.  There was certainly a part of me that didn’t want to wake up at all but I knew two Ambien wouldn’t lead to an eternal sleep, and I don’t want to die because I still have too many things to take care of and do.  But the feeling that you could have prevented your husband’s death is the most toxic and nauseating sensation I’ve ever had in my life.  I’ve been thinking about it all day and I am sure I’ll be thinking about it all night.

I have friends who take Adderall and the first thing I did this morning was start making phone calls, telling them what all I had learned last night and asking them to PLEASE be careful.  I put my own prescription down the garbage disposal this morning.  Consequently my mind has been like a ping-pong ball all day and I’ve completed absolutely nothing.  I can’t even read an email without losing interest three sentences in.   It has taken me over an hour just to write this blog because I keep finding distractions, like loading my stapler or getting more water from the kitchen…or cleaning out my desk drawers and checking which highlighters still have ink left in them.

Hearing back from the medical examiner was very bittersweet because it helped to solve some of the mysteries but it has given me an entirely new layer of guilt to hide under.

Attachment Leads to Suffering, or the Desire to Clone Dead Husbands and Dogs

Last night I wrote Jason a letter in my private journal reserved for only him.  I wanted to make sure he knew it was okay to visit me in my dreams or give me any kind of sign that some essence of him was still present.  Unlike many other people left behind I rarely, if ever, feel his presence or dream of him.  It makes me feel not only abandoned once, but twice.   Then I start to worry that I did something wrong and maybe he’s just mad at me…and then I remind myself that I don’t necessarily believe in life after death either, or the ongoing existence of a bodiless soul.   So why should I be upset that he’s not visiting me on a regular basis and sending me signs that he’s still part of my life, just in some other ethereal realm.

I did wake up this morning at 3:23am after a horrible dream involving the funeral home misplacing his ashes, and being unable to locate the thumbprint I had asked them to make so I could have jewelry with the impression made at a later date.  Both of these concerns are baseless since I have his ashes and they have his thumbprint.  I  haven’t ordered the “thumbie” jewelry as they call it because of course the piece I want is a little expensive and not something I must have at the moment.

Then I sat up in bed and started thinking about how during the first couple weeks following his death I had tried to save anything and everything with his DNA on it.  I had this weird Jurassic Park idea where maybe I could find a way to clone him.  I neurotically put everything from his hairbrush to his toothbruch in Zip-loc bags just in case…  I remember finding his stray hairs on the bathroom sink or in the bed, and saving those in the baggie too.  And then I moved on to the laundry and pulled out everything he had worn that hadn’t yet been washed.  I even have the once sweaty but now dried out socks he was wearing the day of the race that now resemble paper-mache.   I have the last two “to-do” lists he had hand-written out still sitting on the counter where he left them the day we drove to Raleigh.  I haven’t removed anything from his closet yet, I’ve only shifted things around so his shirts are not the very first thing I see in the morning.  I did finally remove some of our photos because walking into every room in the house and seeing a reminder of my former life became overwhelming.  It took me weeks to wipe off his computer screen and iPad because I wanted to see his oily fingerprints.

I’ve since washed his bath towels and got new sheets for the bed.  I cleaned out his truck and tossed away all of his energy bars and hydration cubes.  I even cleaned out his sock drawer because he had at least 40 pairs of running socks and I kind of needed the space.  I’ve sorted through the 30+ 3-ring binders he kept from all of his Engineering and MBA courses.  I tried to keep the papers he wrote and anything that had lots of his handwriting, but he saved EVERYTHING, including handouts given to the class by the professors which could easily be accessed again on the Internet.  I was needing some bookshelf space for all of my newly purchased self-help and Zen meditation literature, and those binders always irritated me because they were unsightly.

I feel as though his existence is slowly disappearing and becoming faint, including some of my memories.  The other day I was thinking about the HBO show Girls and I realized he never watched it with me because that was A.J.D (After Jason’s Death).  I then moved on to the conversation I had with him about the spread of Ebola…and then realized that dialogue was with someone else too because Ebola wasn’t even news worthy last April.  I have a hard time talking about him to the majority of my friends because they get uncomfortable, as if me saying the word husband or Jason is going to send me into some fit of hysteria they will have to save me from…so instead I don’t say his name very often.

Sometimes I wonder if I just dreamed him.  Like he never existed anywhere other than inside my own head, except for the Zip-Loc bag under the sink containing his hairbrush, chap stick, and electric razor.

I was the fat kid in school from age 9-21 who had the occasional boyfriend but usually because the guy just needed an excuse to hang out with my best friend, who was the opposite of everything I had to offer.  The only thing I had going for me was my sense of humor but I used that as my protective shell.  I would make fun of myself before others had the chance.  It knocked the fun out of it for them.  I was never considered pretty and always dated whatever boys would date me back.  I had very low self-esteem and figured I’d end up as the crazy cat lady.  Side Note: I did still have 8 cats when Jason met me.

And then I finally get my act together around the age of 22 and decided I was tired of being the fat friend with a sense of humor who always went home alone.  I graduated college weighing as much as I did in the 5th grade and for the first time in my life knew what self-esteem and confidence felt like.  I met a guy, moved to Seattle from North Carolina, and felt like there was a happy ending waiting on the other side of this story.  And then he dumped me after 5 years because he wasn’t in love with me anymore.

I was shocked and devastated.  I moved out of our house and found an apartment in another city.  I would go out with friends on weekends and drink myself into oblivion waking up in the front yard of their houses with a purse full of vodka tonic receipts, or I would spend the night in my car in a parking lot knowing that I couldn’t drive.  My weeknights consisted of taking Tylenol PM or Benadryl at 6pm sharp and passing out until my alarm clock went off the next morning.  I had managed to keep a job but I had found a new rock-bottom.

And then I met Jason.  Within weeks my life completely turned around.  I no longer wanted to drink every weekend and put myself to bed by 6pm.  I wanted to spend as much sober time as possible with this new person who I had given up on ever finding.  I always wondered what he saw in me and how on earth someone 5 years younger could be so much more responsible and wiser than I  was,  but I tried not to ask too many questions because I didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that he could be doing better.  I just enjoyed it and hoped it would never end.

My life was about as close to perfect as it could have been, minus the heavy work schedules, but I was holding out hope that would improve as well.  And then I get a phone call at 9:58 am on April 13th and my entire life dissolved like a carefully constructed sand castle surprised by a rogue wave.  I keep thinking how long I waited to find him and how quickly he disappeared.

I’ve been making it a point lately to cease becoming so attached because that only leads to suffering.  And yes, I’ve been reading a lot of books on Buddhism, Zen and Meditation.  I’ve always been drawn to Buddhism but now I think I can really put it to use.  On one hand I keep asking myself does that mean I’ll forfeit any other meaningful relationships? On the other hand I don’t think I can live through this type of loss again…so really I’m just saving myself, right?