Reflections in the Shadows

It is 11:37 on Friday night and my husband and I were on the kitchen floor looking at the condenser, the evaporator coils and the compressor of our 15 year old refrigerator that isn’t working quite right. My major thought was, “Not now, don’t pooped out on me now. I don’t have the money to replace you because I need everything I have for funeral expenses.”

So, I use all of my weakened strength to push and pull this big side by side refrigerator out from the wall. I leave to get the sweeper and when I return, my husband is getting on the floor to “take a look” and determine what may be the problem.

In spite of my protests, he continues on to spread out on the floor with his over sized abdomen and he assumes the position of repairman and Mr. Fix It  just like always. I know just how difficult this is for his tired and wasted body. I watch him juggle the tubes and take extra precaution so as to not pull the PEG tube ( It can be easily dislodged from its placement ) and to not drop the IV pump that sends a steady supply of potent pain killer into his pain racked body…There is no stopping him because this is what he has always done.

The refrigerator had set on thick carpeting for the 6 years that we were away and it sucked up every bit of animal fur as well as dust bunnies…all of these things kill appliances. But the grime wasn’t the problem. In spite of it, the old ice box had kept the milk cold, the jello jiggling and prevented spoiling of many left overs. Now, at this time of night and in this kind of warm weather it was going to quit on us…and there he sat,  trying to clear a spot so as to see what was working and what was not.

We did basic Home Repair 101 by checking the power source and sure enough,  when we tested the surge protector, it was clear that it had failed and not the appliance. That was a huge relief. I don’t know if we were just lucky by finding the problem so early and before anything could spoil or if we are just that good at spotting trouble before it gets too far, but we both breathed a sigh of relief when we learned it was the surge protector.

For both of us, the absolutely last thing that either one of us needed was to be wrestling with a huge refrigerator and with deep dirt. He, because of his body’s limitations, and me, because of my asthma. No matter, there was nothing stopping him and if he was going to sacrifice his comfort and willingly experience pain, then I would follow him and treat my asthma symptoms all night, if need be. As I have posted before, we are a team…

As I approached the refrigerator with the vacuum, he looked up at me and said, ” Have I told you that I love you today?” I smiled and went on with what I was doing. As I was chasing the dirt and dust with the hose attachment, I thought about how many, ” I love you..s” that I heard for the past 17 years. I could not begin to count how many times. The number rivals the stars.

Early on in our relationship, he told me how he didn’t want to miss a day of telling me that he loved me and if he couldn’t remember doing it by the end of the day, he would ask the same question, ” Have I told you…”.

While the roar of the vacuum made conversation impossible, I pondered further on the things that I would miss. I wondered if I heard his love expressed in words enough for a life time. I began to wonder how would it feel to live my life without hearing, “I love you.” ?  Will I ever hear it said again by someone else or will I even allow someone to ever say those words to me? Will I even desire to share my life with another man again? If I thought for a minute that I wanted to find another husband, are there enough men out there?  I don’t know.

As I poked and proded the stubborn grime, I pictured myself at 11:37 PM on a Friday night worrying over an appliance. It is just me and our little dog. There is no one to ask for their opinion as to what may be wrong. I saw myself tug at this old fridge pushing and pulling it away from the wall without any help and wishing that I had this man, who is presently setting in the midst of this mess, to ask what he thought was wrong.  Or wishing that I could hear his voice asking for my opinion as to the problem.

I saw myself earlier on that Friday evening wondering if it is worth the effort to cook anything for supper and opting for a peanut butter sandwhich because I didn’t see the need to make a mess for one person to eat a small meal.

I saw myself take the sandwich into the living room and our little dog following after me as if to beg for a bite of my “supper”. I saw the TV playing and there was only one lamp to light the room of shadows. I saw myself going through the motions of living without the companionship that I craved. I would remember that I had it for too short of time and loosing it to the thief called, “Cancer”. Later, I would try to find a way to go to sleep or find a way to block out the unending lonliness.

 I feel myself sitting on the couch, trying not to think about the weekend days that held nothing for me to anticipate, no planned pleasure or outing, just sitting on the couch waiting for the hours to pass until I could return to work on Monday. I could see myself trying to will these hours of lonliness to pass more quickly. It seemed to be a long time until Monday.

It isn’t a hard stretch for me to imagine this scenario because this was what it was like immediately after my divorce and I still remember the emptiness and the lonliness. I still remember the pain of coming home at the end of a work day to a dark and empty house with no one to greet me or ask me about my day. No one to call to say that they would be late coming home and what about supper. No one to get concerned if I didn’t arrive home in a timely manner. I still remember how that felt and I fear that it will feel as badly as I remember it.

In those early divorce years, I experienced a precusor as to what life is like when you loose someone that you loved. I realize that no matter how painful that time in my life felt, it will pale in comparison with the loss of the love of my life. I thought that if I felt like I almost didn’t survive the lonliness that divorce brought to me, how in the world am I going to survive living life when every part of me is bleeding from the tearing asunder what God put together? How will I be able to function effectively while in the throes of depression. Depression almost swallowed me whole after the painful loss of divorce.

At least, in divorce, I had lost that feeling of deep love that once lived but finally died. I mourned for the loss of the life that I had known and not the loss of the person who was in that life. If I grieved so hard over a marriage that was bad on its best day, how would I survive life without the love of the man who made the worst day wonderful? How will I be able to work and concentrate so as to earn a living and be competent and effective in whatever job I find?  How raw will my emotions become when death brings a multiplied suffering such as this? I don’t know? 

The cure for the loss of companionship is to find another to share your life. I don’t know if I want to find another someone to share my life again. I don’t know if my heart can trust someone that I just met or will I ever find the same trust as I found in my husband’s heart? I don’t know if I am enough of a gambler to risk finding a companion, a friend or even a lover. Can there really be another mate who was made just for me? I don’t know. My mind cannot conceive that being a reality. In all of my questioning and confusion at this moment, I definately know that I do not want to go through loosing another love by divorce or death. I don’t know if I could survive loosing another mate. Once in a lifetime is more than plenty.

My life with my husband has been full of great love, wonderful experiences and happy memories that only this depth of love can create. This life also had many emotional wounds, difficult trials with children and the atrocities brought about by mental illness. To repeat anyone of those experiences would be beyond my ability to cope. Sorting through the family dynamics alone is enough for me to say, ” No, Thank You.”

I don’t know if it is possible to love another person in the manner in which they deserve to be loved. How can I ever open my heart up again. How can I ever be totally commited to someone else? I doubt that I could ever rightly love another man again. It would not be fair to them. My husband would always be there.

All of this thinking takes me to a place of contemplation about my “Golden Years” as a widow. A widow that cannot rely on anyone else and one that must be self sufficient for the rest of her  life. I do not have a retirement or pension. All of those plans were lost in the bankruptcy of 2003. I will have to work and hopefully have a little income from Social Security for the rest of my life. Working will be much more than a means to an income and independence. It must be a tool that will cause me to not stay inside myself. It will be a necessity to pull me through the grief and mourning that surely follows such a devastating loss…

When I think of my family helping me, I know that my son and daughter in law will be very supportive, but I do not want to be the “third wheel” or the “Obligation”.  To put it succinctly, I do not want to be a burden or live life through my children and grandchildren. I still want to live my own God given and appointed life. Good or bad, I need my identity and self sufficiency. I need that more than consolation, pity or sympathy.

I think I need to stop here. If I stare too deeply into the reflection of these coming shadows, I become too fearful and the multitude of ” What If’s” overwhelm my senses. I close my eyes tightly so as to not see anymore. I am tired and I can’t see how all of this ends. I have endured this reflection to its limit and I do not care to peer into this pool of shadows any longer this evening. I reflected and I saw enough…

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It Is What I do…

sunset-with-cross.jpgAs a child, I was quite isolatedsunset-with-cross.jpgsunset-with-cross.jpgsunset-with-cross.jpg and it was up to me and my vivid imaginations to occupy the day. I was easily amused. I would pick out rocks in the gravel driveway and I would admire the colors embedded deep within them. I especially loved quartz…it is such a mystery to me.

Then there was the huge black ant colony that inhabited the heart of the big sycamore tree. It was located in the center of the grassy part of the circular drive. So, when I tired of the rocks, I just moved a few feet to play with the ants.

These  black creatures were carpenter ants and I learned that they devoured wood like termites. I didn’t care. I found it amusing to try and stop their mindless march towards their home. I would disrupt their long caravans and I devised all manner of obstacles attempting to thwart their efforts to bring food back to the tress. In the end, it was I who was defeated. Their determination to overcome prevailed. No matter the size or complications of my contrivances, they would go to any lengths to get through my challenges. In the end, they won and I lost on a daily basis. They helped wile away the empty hours of a typical country day for a very lonely child.

The indoor past time was coloring. I was fascinated by color. I wanted every color that Crayola  ever developed. Coloring and drawing pictures kept me occupied and I wanted so much to be an artist. Alas, I have no talent, so I admire.  I love color and anything that displays its beauty. Flowers, sunsets, paintings, all were tangible representations for color to me…and in the midst of this, my dream was to capture the colors, not in a rainbow, but in the sunsets.sunset-in-pastels.jpg

I can’t remember when I discovered the intrigue of sunset. But, I am sure that it was the burst of colors that originally mystified me. I think that it was the subtle changes of hue as the sun sank farther below the horizon.. All of those iridescence on the clouds reflected and emanated from the last rays were pure eye candy for me. No matter how I tried, I could never find the right shade of the right hue that captured the corals, muted purples and the pinks!…The varied shades of pinks, like cotton candy, were too difficult to match in the 64 quantity box of Crayolas.

184d695fc1.jpgMy childhood home faced westward. Daily, I was treated to the day’s grand finale. It seemed that sunsets were just an extended part of me and I don’t understand how I lost touch with them in my adult years, but I did.

As adulthood traveled at the speed of light, I failed to stop and inhale the sunsets. It wasn’t until I tasted the bitterness of divorce that I recalled the wonderful evening light-shows. I needed to stop and watch the sunsets again. Pain and loss propelled me into the evening display for consolation and I couldn’t say, “No”. My memory highlights three sunsets in particular.

During and after my divorce, I chose to do a lot of business travel. The changing of scenery seemed to help me muddle through those dark and unforgiving days. It was on one of those westward flights that I noticed, as I was flying close to evening, it seemed the plane was chasing the sunset. If we could just fly faster, we could cause the sunset to  stand still, maybe never end. I would look out of the airplane’s window and marvel at the moment by moment subtle color changes .flying-above-the-storm.jpg

It was on business travel to St Louis, MO. that  I decided that I wanted to view a sunset from the Arch. My hotel was a few blocks away and one late afternoon, I cancelled my dinner plans and walked to the Arch.

I thought how this Arch represented new life for all those who passed through St Louis. The brave and ambitious ancestry ventured and wagered on a new start in the unknown. I needed to connect to that kind of spirit. Divorce calls on you to let the past go and only look forward. I, too, needed to be brave and ambitious and venture forth in a new life…

When I got to the Arch, I stopped in mid step when I saw just how small the cubicle was in which you road to the top. I have slight claustrophobia and I am  taller than average so the idea of folding myself into that tiny space was about to cause me to turn on my heels and go back to find my friends in the hotel.304dae27b1.jpg

Then I stopped again, in mid step, and I turned back towards the Arch. I didn’t know the future and this may be my one and only chance to see a sunset from the magnificent wonder. Should anyone around me have the misfortune of reading thoughts, they would have thought that I lost my mind with all the self dialog transpiring within my head.

I decided I could do this. I just had to stop hyperventilating long enough to enfold myself and sit on this chair like contraption. This wasn’t going to be so bad….

It wasn’t so bad until  somehow, I overlooked the architecture of the Arch. I had failed to notice how narrow it became as it got closer to the top. As the space in the cubicle also became even more cramped, my breathing became more shallow…I needed to get to the top and back on the ground quickly.

Just as I was about to pass out from lack of oxygen, the sunset came into view through that tiny window. In the next instant, I forgot about breathing because the sunset was breathtaking. I didn’t have words to discribe this beauty. It seemed to last forever. I thought for a moment that time had stood still. It definitely was worth hyperventilating for…

The next sunset that stands out in my mind is one at Marco Island, FL. My Association held its Annual Meeting on this marvelous island or in Scotsdale AZ….I attended most years. It was held in the middle of February and it was wonderful to leave the cold and bitter days behind. In February, this trip was paradise.

I loved the beach side hotel with its balconies and colorful sails of the sailboats that were pulled onto the white beaches.  I loved the sound of the waves on the shore. I was surrounded by everything my weary soul needed. On this particular trip, I arrived a day before all of the meetings. After the flight. it was an hour’s drive to the island. Even though I like to drive, this was tiring for me, so I always came the day before to set back and relax.

686dae5151.jpg As the valet parked the rental, I entered into the lobby.  I stepped through the doors into a welcoming space, and immediately, I was bathed in the light of a majectic sunset. As I looked up, it seemed that the windows became a frame for one of the most glorious settings of sun…

I hurriedly checked in and had my bags taken to the room. I sat down in one of those overstuffed chairs that faced the windows and watched the sun set into a deep blue sea.  The music was wafting through the lobby and I was oblivious to everyone and everything around me. I was mesmerized by this huge orange ball before me. I felt as if I had stepped into this wonderful picture that was hanging on the wall.

It was a year after the divorce and I was in the healing process. I had adjusted to being alone and I was becoming more confident that I would be alright. This scene from a movie had enveloped me and I basked in the last rays of the day…I was convinced, I would not only survive, I would live and enjoy my life.

My most favorite sunset isn’t a particular one. It is a composite of all of the sunsets that I ever dreamed and of those that I have experienced with my husband. The setting is one in which my husband and I are newly married. Life is good. I am in love and content for the first time in my entire adult life…

I come home from the office in the afternoon, change my clothes so we can take a ride on the motorcycle. (It doesn’t take long for me to go from business woman to biker broad). When my husband walks through the door, I meet him dressed in my leather jacket and chaps. I tell him that I need a ride. I never need to beg him to fire up the Harley….. In an amazingly short amount of time, we are in the wind. There is nothing that compares to a ride on the back of “Black Betty”.

As she rumbles to a start, my husband asks me if I want to learn how to ride and each time, I say, “No”. Finally, he asks me why and I tell him that, in my “queen” seat,  I have the best of all possible worlds. I can leave the cares of the traffic and road to his capable hands.

As the lines on the road quickly whisk by,  I can lean back and feel the wind in my hair, listen to the throaty bass tones of the exhaust and surrender myself to all that surrounds us in the relm of atmosphere. For me, riding on “Betty” is next to personal flight. I am free to escape to “La La Land”. Free to leave the cobwebs that the day collects behind me….those worries and cares are lost, gone, blown away by the wind.wonderous.jpg

As we leave the house, he asks me where I want to go. As usual, I say, ” Just put it in the wind and head west…” For the next few hours of the day, we are free to let the road take us where it will.  It is in the direction of comfort, contentment and peace of mind.

As we head west, he finds a gravel road that leads to the top of one of the hills in the National Forest. Usually, he finds a vista that faces west. When he finds the perfect spot,  he decides that this will be the place to say, “Good bye to the day”.  As we set on the provided bench, he holds my hand. We talk softly as we anticipate the approaching moment of magic.

Here, we speak of our future, our dreams and recount our great fortune of finding the love that we thought once was lost to us. In the softening rays of light, he kisses me and we no longer need to speak. We set quietly accepting our moment in the sun. This is my most favorite scene of setting sun…the one sunset that I wish to capture, to hold and to hope that time will hold still. Just one more ride, one more sunset, one more dream….

gloaming-in-purple.jpgReflecting back over time, it would seem that, for me, life is an array of sunsets; always an ending and a beginning. I dreamed that he and I had more sunsets to watch as we sat in the final rays of our days.

But, I know that his final sunset is approaching. And when that ending of days comes, I will set, hold his hand, kiss his lips and tell him how much I enjoyed each moment, each sunset that we shared. I will watch his final sunset and be in awe of its beauty…because

It is what I do…I relish sunsets….af9c03e371.jpg

Shadows of a Relationship

I seem to be observing how relationships bear the strain of this terminal state.  I watch as my husband’s children (blood and step) seem to be dealing with the final stages of this disease.

The oldest daughter just can’t seem to get enough of her father. She emails daily and she desires to hear her father’s voice. She is experiencing the grief and loss and she suffers so much from the thoughts of loosing her father to this cancer.

His oldest son also suffers, but he is avoiding his father. He puts his 1 1/2 year old daughter on the phone and lets her babble away. He is having a hard time talking to his dad about anything, even the weather. That is understandable. He isn’t avoiding his father because there is a problem between them, he is avoiding so that he isn’t reminded of how sick his father is.

The youngest daughter has been absent from my husband life until a week before Christmas. She wrote last in the fall of 2005, but he didn’t receive the letter until February of 2006. My husband replied to that letter and he informed her that he had cancer. Almost two years later, we receive a letter with picture of three little girls, my husband’s granddaughters. He has never seen these children. He was never informed of their coming. He was not informed of his daughter’s marriage until almost a year after the event.

The first letter was full of venom and hate coupled with self pity and revenge for things that my husband was not involved in. This last letter was totally different. It was a “perfect” picture with statements that were a little on the questionable side of things. In this letter, she wanted to let the past go and mend their relationship.

Even though this letter answered a prayer of his, he was reluctant to enter back into any kind of relationship with this daughter. He was afraid of the  pain that he knew he might have to bear should he allow her back into his daily life.

In her letter, a phone number and address was given. The first information in four years as to her wherabouts. My husband called his daughter to tell her that he had received her letter and just to talk to her. He said that it was like pulling teeth to get her to say anything to him. She didn’t sound excited or happy to hear his voice.

When he thought more about contacting his daughter, he became apprehensive. He remembered all of the painful things that were done to him. He knew that she was influenced by her mother.(who is mentally ill) but there was one incident that he just could not get past.

 His daughter and her boyfriend tried to run my husband and I over with a pick up truck while we were riding the motorcycle. My husband said that he still sees her mocking face in the window of the truck as they drove off.

He is afraid. Afraid that he doesn’t have the emotional stamina to deal with her unpredictible behavior. He is afraid his heart will be broken. He doesn’t want to love his granddaughers only to have to watch his daughter take them away when she becomes upset with something said of done. He is afraid that there will be harassment like we endured in the past…too many painful and difficult memories. He is afraid that his heart will be hurt more and he doesn’t have capacity for any more pain.

He knows that he still love this child, but he doesn’t trust this child. He doesn’t trust her to not bring chaos to our lives. He doesn’t trust her motivations or her unspoken agendas.

He speculated that her motivation for writing now was because she wanted to be included in any inheritance. I smiled a sick smile at the thought of an inheritance. We lost everything years ago. But, that would not be out of character for her to try to come back to the fold thinking that there may be something material to gain….

He doesn’t want to risk loosing the relationships he has with his other children. The pains of the past have alienated her from her half brother and sister and her stepbrother and sister in law…too much to risk to have everything blow up in his face.

He wrestled with the dilemma and debated with himself as to what to do. With a heavy heart, he wrote her a letter and told her that he was happy to hear that her life has settled down and that she is a mother. The little girls are lovely. He said that he loves her and always will, but he has nothing to offer her and he doesn’t have much time left on this earth. He wrote that he feels that it is safer for everyone to love her from a distance. He asked her to try and remember all of the good times that were had when she was younger. He wrote that he would rather her remember him as he looked when they last saw each other in the courtroom two and half years ago than how he looks now.

When he was finished writing the letter, he handed it to me and asked what I thought. I thought to myself how all of the current day “experts” on family and divorce would disagree with what he was doing. I thought how he was playing into the lies that her mother said about him. Things like he never loved her and that she was just a burden because of the support money. It would give credance to all of the lies her mother has always told her. But all of that doesn’t matter now. Time is running out. She waited too long to mend something that was so broken. He has nothing more to give.

In life, there are seasons and there are windows of time. If they pass, they are never regained. This window is closed. This life is ending. The season is mid winter and there is no promise of spring…I  feel pity for the child because so much was given and sacrificed to be able to stay in her life. With the sacrifice, was wounds and the wounds are too deep to mend. Not now, not in mid winter.

Dan Fogelberg’s song rings in my ears, so I decided to post it here. My husband and the artist share many things including their first names, so when the last scene of the video appears, it is hard for me…The song speaks to the heart of the matter. We will always see her as the face of a child.