Wednesday, December 30, 2009

French Roast, Salvaged Butter Bowls and The Pruning of a Magnolia

At this time of year I am doing something physically that many or most people do mentality and emotionally, I am taking inventory of my life. Without drowning you in the mire of financial manners, I am about to shrink a 1900 square foot house into about a 650 square foot apartment. As you can imagine, it is an enormous task. In doing so I am deciding, without a lot of melodrama, what parts of my past I can keep with me and what I must discard. I look through this house and see 21 years of love and work from the beautiful red lamps in the living room, to the gorgeous pictures on the wall that we picked out together so carefully, to each piece of furniture we chose and placed with love. I have to decide what I will take, what I will sell and what I will discard to the trash heap when the charities have had their fill.

I was in my kitchen this morning making the French Roast that gives me the strength to begin the day. I love my coffee and it loves me. When I pulled my coffee canister from the cabinet and the paper filter I must use, I thought about what is acceptable to me to begin my day. I buy really good coffee because it is the one indulgence that I allow myself. I can smoke a cheaper brand of smokes, eat store brand oatmeal and use whatever brand of sandwich bread that might be on sale. However, if Starbucks French Roast coffee were 20 bucks a pound, it will always be in my home. I will not deprive myself of that one thing.

As I stood in my kitchen awaiting the exlir of life to brew, I decided that I would unload and load the dishwasher because I had 15 minutes to spare. In my precaffiene stupor, I opened the wrong cabinet and was staring my "good things" in the face. My husband's paternal grandmothers china in "Platinum Ring," three really nice Ralph Lauren serving pieces I saved for and bought myself, assorted crystal and other finery that we generally save for important occasions. I looked at the things in my hands as I staggered to put the daily menagerie of mismatched things away and I began to think, "Lord God, I have to have a yard sale." I started to make a mental inventory of what I must take, my Kitchenaid Stand Mixer that Rich and my mother in law got up at 4am on Black Friday to make sure Santa delivered for Christmas of 2006, my beloved Cuisinart coffee maker that was exactly what I longed for Christmas of 2005, the stainless steel spice rack that was searched for like Waldo in a book long before they were in vogue. It is an inventory of memories of things bought for me or given to me, brand new or antique and things that I saved and coveted until I brought them home. It was then that it struck me, "What am I waiting for?"

How do we determine who eats off "the good china" and who gets the mismatched corelle? Does it have to be a holiday for our families to deserve our best? Why is it that someone's boss, your pastor or stranger who comes to talk about children or the community watch rates the good stuff and someone we love can eat their fruit loops out of a salvaged butter bowl and we think it's fantastic? If someone comes to my home and I break out a bottle of wine, the glasses must match and be beautiful, yet I can sit in the bathtub drinking it out of a mason jar? What makes me less than them? What makes the people we love less than a guest in our homes? Yet we would stand in the street and swear that there is no one more important in the world than our families and those we cohabitate with daily. We will however, stand in the house at 3am, yelling at the top of our lungs "I don't give a damn what you thought when you got your milk, but if you break that glass, I will break your arm!" and in the bright light of day never say we are sorry. But a stranger can drop the same glass on the ceramic tile floor shattering both and we pull out our best manners to inform them that everything is fine? We give our mismatched emotions, cast off remarks and salvaged time rather than the best we have to offer within us to the people we love the most? Just who is it that we are waiting to give our best to that is more important than them?

It was at that moment that I decided that I will take the best of everything from my home to the new apartment. I will use the china and the crystal. I built this collection with my heart and it is my heart I need to take with me. I will sip Diet Coke from rock crystal tumblers with platinum rings. If you come to my home, you will get your coffee out of the mug off the mug tree instead of something I got for free. Because no stranger is more important than the people that I love. I will make an effort to say "Please" and "Excuse me" to my familiars. My sainted grandmother used to say that good manners are more important with the people love than with strangers. Common human kindness and courtesy go further with your mate, your children, your in-laws and your friends than they ever will with strangers. The stranger will forget you in a moment, but the "Thank you's" and "I'm Sorry's" will echo in your family and friends hearts for a lifetime. "Love means never having to say I'm sorry?" I call bullshit. "I was wrong" should be easier to taste in my mouth when it is seasoned with love.

So as I inventory and pack up my life in the coming weeks, I will take my best of my things with me. I am also taking stock of what is the best of me. I will use them with joy and try to package them in humility that is befitting my station in life. I will give away the mismatched pieces and offhanded disregard that I show the people I love. In the end, I will come out a better person. I have no illusions, this is going to hurt and hurt bad all the way around. In the south we learn that to produce the famous Magnolia you must cut the branches back to the trunk for it to reach its most beautiful and majestic heights. To keep it from spreading and dying from the outside in, it must be pruned in winter for it to survive without horrible scars and disfigurement. In this wintery season of my life, it is best that the cuts be deep but sure so that I can reach toward the sky in the coming spring season. But, I will be better for them and I will be better to me. When the people from my old life look at me and think "How sad, she is so much less than she used to be" they will be wrong. When you come looking for me, I may be unrecognizable to the uneducated while these cold winds blow. But, I'll be the one in the bathtub with the expensive wineglass and the cheap wine. Come Spring, the Real Deal Steel Magnolia will bloom again.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Ahhh Christmas of 2009

Ahhhh Christmas of 2009, this year has been mostly a piece of shit that I have been whacked with time and time again. I have shed many tears and thrown many pieces of glass and pottery. But I will not rehash these tonight. Tonight I will look at the good things in my life and all that I am thankful for as of today. I will mention many people and they will be concealed from others but not from themselves.

First, my son is the light of my life. He is my heart, up walking about on legs. This year has been a bitch, not only for me but for him. My baby turned into a man before my eyes and I must say that I have done a good job. You raise your children the best you can but who they become is up to them in the end. Teach them to be good people, but you must lead by example. I have always held my head high and been humble in the face of adversity. I see these qualities in him. He is strong and quiet, slow to anger and quick to forgive. He puts others before himself, he supports his friends, he is loyal and loving to those of us lucky enough to be loved by him. He is quick to smile and always shines the brightest wherever he may be at the moment. The best thing that I can say about him is that he is man enough to cry. He has his father’s temper and my brother’s laughter. There is no one on this planet that will ever rival him for my affections.

Second, my Bestie in New York. God granted me a sister and she is precious to me. She gives me center when I am untethered and laughter when I am in tears. Throughout our relationship and the thousands upon thousands of emails, texts, and phone calls we have forged a friendship out of words. In February, she gave me strength. In May, she gave me sanctuary. But everyday she gives me her undying love and support. She believes in me when I don’t and she fights for me when I can’t. If there is a truer definition of sister than she, I am unaware of the dictionary.

Third, my friends that live around me. I can count you on one hand, but there is no more room than the space you fill in my heart. From making me get out of the house to helping me celebrate my birthday, you have filled me with good food, alcoholic beverages and laughter. From my dearest Pink pal who took me as his plus one to the “Rednecked Wedding from Hell” and made me laugh all night to my girlfriend here who has let me lay my head on her and not said a word when I could not speak to my very own piece of Candy that emails or texts me everyday just to say “hi” so that I know I am not forgotten. My very own Hotline that twirls when I am offended and offers to shed blood when the first tear falls. You hold me together when I am falling apart. Your kindness and generosity of sprit are things that hold me together everyday. You understand when I need to talk and you understand when I cannot.

Forth, my boys, and you know who you are. The hugs, kisses and “how are yous” are priceless to me. You let me in your lives and call me “Mama” not because you know that there is room in my heart for you but because you have made room for me. You carry heavy things, take out my trash, and allow me to love you. I am lucky to be able to call you mine. You always come to see me on the holidays and my birthday you all made a special effort to be with me. You let me feed you and fuss over you.

Lastly but certainly not least are my friends who live far away but touch my life and heart. When it’s raining the hardest, you find a way to make me smile. Emails, Twitters, texts, Facebook and MySpace provide me with many hours of comfort. I can always reach out to someone and that means I am never truly alone.

These are the people I am thankful for as I put no stock in things anymore. They are nice but provide cold comfort on a stormy night in this house alone. There are many things that I have lost but the people who are gone are what has brought me to my knees. You help me see everyday that even if it’s just for an hour I need to believe in me.

I love you all. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ambienese, Sister Bertha Betterthanyou, and a Straight Tact line.

I was having a casual conversation with a friend the other day that became rather serious without meaning to. Those are usually the best and when, in grief, you get the most done. We ended up discussing what life has been like since Richard passed away. We talked about financial and family issues. I told him it was like a nuclear explosion had scattered people to the four winds in my life. I made the remark, "It's like they think it's contagious." Jokingly he said "Maybe it is" in a desperate attempt to make me smile through my tears. He then advised that perhaps they were afraid that they would say something wrong and upset me without malice. He basically was trying to make it seem not so bad. That maybe they would come back when they got some distance on Richard's death. But, I am not the kind of person who believes in fair weather friends. If you're not here when it's really bad, don't darken my door when it's really good. If I have learned anything in the aftermath of this, it's to be humble in the face of adversity in other people's lives. I will do anything anyone needs when there is trouble. I'm the one who will help your oblivious daughter with her homework, press your son's shirt for the dance, load the dishwasher, or clean your commode when you're at the hospital with a family member or in bed with the flu. I remember and appreciate each kindness and will repay them in due time.

After our conversation, I mulled it over and accepted that people generally do what makes them comfortable in any given situation regardless of what needs to be done. Case in point are the dreaded "Church People." They would have you believe that everything they do is rooted in "good Christian behavior." The good book says that we are to take care of the orphans and widows. However, the people who adhere to this most tightly aren't the ones that are thumping their bibles and saying "Amen" while looking down at the sea of humanity that surrounds them daily. They are the friends around me that I consider family. They have the tattoos, the strange clothes, the piercings, and the alternative lifestyles that the "church people" wont associate with in public. However, they never fail to call, text or email when I need it most. They ask and actually care how my son and I are doing in this particular season in hell. They offer a sofa when I need to run away for a couple of days to escape my grief. They have a strong shoulder as well as a cold adult beverage and pharmaceutical relief when and if I need any or all of the above. They invite me out to events they enjoy, including pudding wrestling at a lesbian irish pub. They take me as their plus one to the "Redneck Ghetto Wedding from Hell" because they know it will make me laugh. They text me in the Ambienese language when they know I can't sleep and they have already taken a pill. You know who you are and I love you so.

However, today I got a strange phone call that turned my frown into an outright belly laugh. The person who called me had not been in contact since the day of Richard's funeral. She had to have done a little research because my phone number is now private and unless you ask my father in law the pastor, you won't get it from anyone but me. Nevertheless, Sister Bertha Betterthanyou rang my phone today. I call her that because she is so saved that she doesn't need a bath most days. So Sister Bertha first asked the Christian questions, "How are you?" "Are you in church?" "What are you doing for the holidays?" with the obligatory invitation to her place of worship for the Christmas Cantata. Then there was a loud screech as the conversation took a sharp left hand turn into weirdness.

She lowered her voice to almost a whisper as good folk do and said, "Are you seeing anyone?" I believe in that moment that my mandible disengaged and literally hit the floor in true cartoon fashion. She further inquired as to the state of my personal life and did I have any men in mind to "set my cap" toward. While my eyes were doing that Roger Rabbit kind of expulsion from my head, Sister Bertha went on to inform me that she was "sure that all the ladies of the church would have a tight grip on their men folk because I was back on the market." Had I been hit with a baseball bat across the shins by Oompa Loompas running from behind the refrigerator, I would not have been more stunned. It was at that point that I realized that I must have missed the chapter in the Widow's Handbook regarding this subject. She went on and on (never noticing that I was not responding because the entire world revolves around her) about since I was an attractive well-kept woman with such presence and had been such a good wife to Richard, that I surely could have my pick of any number of "Godly Men." It was at this point that I said to myself, "Holy Mother of God, these broads think I am going to slap on some ho-gear and head to the house of God to hunt me a man!" I burst out laughing at which point there was silence on the other end of the line. I then gathered myself and said in my sweetest tone, dripping sarcasm you can bet, "The ladies of the church can relax that death grip and let those men breathe because I am most assuredly am not back on the market." It was at that point that she offered me the services of her brother in law to escort me to any functions that I might want to attend. We shall call him Mr. Notso Wonderful. This fine specimen is of course twice divorced with 4 children by 3 different church ladies. (None of which are the 2 he married.) Mr. Wonderful has never, to my knowledge, held a job in the 15 years that I have been acquainted with him. She also bragged that he has been out of rehab for about three months and she believes the "Lord has delivered him from the demons of addiction this time." Unfortunately he had to have his entire nasal and sinus cavity reconstructed since he snorts anything white and powdery including any residual flour left on the top of his biscuits. I almost had to gnaw my tongue off to keep from saying "Oh, Be still my heart." In my best southern manners I thanked her for the offer as well as declining her bid to pass my phone number on to Mr. Wonderful. With that I wished her a happy holiday season and thanked her for her call. I somehow think that Mr. Notso Wonderful may ring my phone as early as tomorrow. ~Note to self, answer no unidentifiable numbers for the rest of my life.~

The more I thought about the ridiculousness of the situation, the funnier it became to me. How insecure must these "Godly women" be about their men?? When I started dating, my sainted Granny gave me some wisdom. I am what is known as a "full service female." I cook, clean, do laundry, iron, listen, cheer lead, and make a mans home his soft place to land. I can in fact, shave him, trim his sideburns and any related facial hair, as well as square up his neckline between haircuts. I will check his collar when he wears a tie and straighten his "tact line" as my Daddy calls it. There are various other techniques that I employ but this is neither the forum nor the discussion for that subject. But trust me, it's got nothing to do with church. She told me that if I did these things well, my man would look no further for anything if he truly loved me. This is how I have operated my entire life. I never worried about Richard cheating. The man actually called me one night from Atlanta to tell me that the girl who had asked him for $5 about an hour ago had just walked into the men's room to relieve herself standing up at a urinal beside him. Perhaps this is why I don't understand the insecurity of the females is this comedy of errors. I am not now, nor have I ever been insecure regarding a man. If you can take him, congratulations, he's yours!

For the record, I have no idea when I might actually be "back on the market." I have to learn to stand on my own before I can stand with someone else again. I admit that I do get lonely and wish for a strong set of arms to hold me. I also freely admit that I would like those arms to reach up and get the stuff off the high shelves that I can't reach. But trust me ladies, I don't want your man or your insecurities. I actually pity you because that must be a miserable way to live. When I'm ready, I want my man.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The melody of my life

All of my life, from the time my feet hit the floor in the mornings until I pillow my head at night, I hear music. My paternal Grandmother loved to tell the story that I was humming the theme songs to her "programs" (meaning television shows I suppose) from my crib, long before I ever uttered a single word. For that matter, I didn't actually talk very much until I went to kindergarten but I was forever singing they tell me. My father would be quick to interject here, "It wasn't that Sis couldn't talk, she just didn't have much to say to anybody." Because my brother was almost four years older than I, when he went to school, Mom turned on the radio to entertain me while she did her "outside chores." She performed in a little singing group with her sister and an older lady named Miss Bess (This lady was old when God himself was a boy, or as long as I ever knew her to say the least) that performed for church crowds of about 50 people. One afternoon, the ladies were rehearsing in our living room when Miss Bess discovered that I was singing with them whilst I sat in the floor between her feet. They got me to sing and off we went. I was wearing ruffled dresses and tiny black patent Mary Jane's about the age of three. Music has been an integral part of my life since I have had a memory.

Like most musical people, I hold a couple of songs in my head at any given time that are sort of the soundtrack for my daily life. (I am now going to need you to stop picturing that show in your head, I am not now nor have I ever been singing and dancing to Barry White in a unisex bathroom.) I have always found my joy, my solace, the words to express my pain, the unexplainable spark of my life, in the lyrics of songs. The prolific writes like Don Henley, Glen Frey, the late Dan Fogelberg, James Taylor, these are the people who have captured my feelings. The first album I ever owned was "Hotel California" from the Eagles and my brother bought it for me. It remains my favorite head and shoulders above the rest. I can tell you that I have never since been without a copy in my possession since he gave it to me. I've probably been through 20 copies and I will buy 20 more if I need them. It was Dan Fogelberg who bound up my broken heart and calmed my disbelief when my best friend Eric was killed in a car accident when I was 18. "In the nexus" gently told me that we all live and we all die. It's a natural part of life. James Taylor became the poet laureate of my life while I was in college. My brother would sing "In my mind I'm gone to Carolina..." when he called me to tell me he was on the way from Tennessee to visit me for the last 10 years of his life. These are the words that are tattooed on my souls skin to serve as guideposts to where I have been in my life.

A few nights ago I was listening to Whitney Houston's new CD. There are two songs on that album that spoke to me in a way I haven't heard in a long time. The first one is called "I look to you." There is a lyric that says "and when melodies are gone, in you I hear a song." It was like I had been hit with a hammer. I have not, to my knowledge, sang, even in the shower, since Richard's death. It broke my heart because I realized I have lost my song, my melody. When I looked inside myself, to listen to that part of me that always had given rise to my mornings and lulled me to sleep, it is silent. Not a whisper. Without a melody I am lost as surely as if I had wandered out into the desert in the pitch black of night. I turned off the music and began to cry. Not those beautiful tears in the movies, those mind wracking sobs that have your heart in your ears. I curled up in a fetal position where I thought that God would be merciful and let me find some peace in sleep. I was completely devastated to say the least. Even more so when I discovered there would be no rest for the weary or peace for me that night. As I lay in the dark, confused and alone, I decided to get up and try again. I put the CD back on and found a second song and a revelation. The title of the song is "I didn't know my own strength" but the line is "I was not built break" that spoke to me. It carried me back in time 7 years.

In the fall of 2002, I was having the worst 4 months of my life, at least up until that time. Rich had been very sick with the two failed pancreatic transplants. In the last week of October, I was taking him back to the wound specialist for the 20 inch incision open on his abdomen due to infection that I was charged with packing, wet to dry twice a day everyday. Then we had an appointment with the infectious disease guy who was handling the baseball bat antibiotics that I was having to administer three times per day through the pic line in his left arm due to him being immunosuppressed and surviving intestinal leakage into his abdominal cavity. I had spent my first night in an actual bed since July 23 when at 4am this particular morning, October 25, I heard a strange noise which was to be my alarm clock for this day in the minefield, the hot water heater in the kitchen burst sending 6 inches of water through the kitchen for me to clean up. At 9:25 that morning, while taking Rich to his doctors appointments. my cellphone rang. It was my brother telling me that my father had fallen victim to four strokes that morning. I suppose I should tell you that until this particular day in 2002, my father had never spent the night in the hospital, he wasn't even born in a hospital. To say that my nerves were frayed before the phone call is a gross understatement. I was in pieces after the call and Rich couldn't drive. My menfolk were worried about my emotional state. John had not allowed Richard to tell me that my father did not know anyone. Even when I walked into the hospital after a three hour drive that should have taken four, I had no idea of the severity of his condition. They flanked me like body guards when I rushed into the room to see my father and sat down on his bed. I didn't have a clue that he wasn't supposed to know me when I lay my hand on his forehead and said "Daddy." It was a true act of God that he opened his eyes and said "Well Sis, what are you doing here and where is the baby?" I was the first person he had recognized since the attack. There was a collective sigh in the room and Daddy said "What's wrong with yawl? If you thought this would break my babygirl, you don't know her at all. She's made out of stronger stuff than that." My family went home to rest, my husband went to his brother's home to rest and my in-laws left, but I stayed. I never left his side until he was out of danger and on his way to rehab. I handled Rich's wound and antibiotics in the hospital with the help of an excellent nursing staff providing me a sterile room twice a day. I had enough faith for all of us. They all depended on me and I handled it all. Little did I know that less than eight months I would bury my beloved brother from a suicide in my backyard. I certainly never thought I would be standing at my husbands headstone in a little less than seven years at 41 years of age. But I was truly not built to break.

So when daylight came. I turned off the television and retreated into my music. I cried while I went about my business, an absolute force of will to make myself move and get things done. Somewhere between the laundry and cleaning the bathtub, quietly at first, a lyric here and a chorus there, a whisper at most, I began to sing. I found familiar range and unflinching sureness of words on "Wasted Time" from Hotel California with Don Henley at the wheel. I found a song. I found a melody.

I grieve for Richard without a doubt, I grieve my security, I grieve what my life was supposed to have been and who I used to be. But I will not grieve my soul. I will not die here in this blackness. I am a real survivor. I make no excuses for who I am nor am I ashamed of what I have suffered in this life to forge the steel that is my back bone. I may be crawling with bleeding hands and bruised knees, but inch by inch, I'm moving forward. I may not be singing at this moment, I may not even be humming. But, it's in there. I can still hear it. I will not let this beat me. I will know the measure of my own strength.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Laughter, hard heads and a good pair of sunglasses

The last week or so has been a real learning experience for me. There have been some fantastic highs and some horrendous lows, but I am still here. I have chosen to see it all as a course I really didn't want to audit in college and these are my notes.

First, I'm learning to let go of things. All i can control is me and my actions. Sometimes it's not the problem but how one reacts to it that determines the amount of havoc it wreaks in your life. Just like they told us in science class, "Every action has an equal and an opposite reaction." For instance, the man from the Utility company knocked on my door last week to inform me that my meter was reading that I used 33,000 gallons of water in the month of October. He must have thought I was going to fly off the handle because when I opened the door he looked like he was expecting Satan and evidently his boots were really interesting since he was staring at them when he gave me the news. (My normal usage is about 4,ooo gallons. Just so we understand the magnitude of this issue, an in ground pool uses between 22,000 and 27,ooo. I do not now, nor have I ever had a pool. This means the water bill would be somewhere in the range of $130 rather than the normal $16.) The absurdity of the situation actually made me laugh. Because I laughed, he laughed. When we investigated, we discovered that one of my outside spigots had cracked and was leaking. The nice man wrote me a ticket about the leak and I called a friend who's husband is somewhat of a handyman. The replacement came from a home store and cost all of $6. My friends came over and replaced it in about 20 minutes. When I took the paperwork to the offices, we cut a nice deal for me to pay half the bill. They even spread it out over 4 months to make it even easier. Had Satan answered the door as expected, I wouldn't have known about the leak and I would have had to pay the entire bill. All I could control in this situation was my reaction to the issue. When I controlled me, the rest of it handled itself. Just like Granny always said "Don't write a check with your mouth that your ass can't cash."

Second, I am learning who I am and where I want to go in life. All I really need is the love of my son, a job I enjoy and to be happy. I am looking forward to a lot of things including probably going back to school. I want to use the things I know and what i have been through for a good purpose. I don't want it all to have been in vain. So I am looking into beginning my studies after the first of the year. As far as my son goes, the best thing I can do for him is to be a good example. He needs to see me rise from these ashes a better and stronger person. The other thing I have to do is let him make a mistake or two on his own. If I don't let him fall, he will never learn to get up. As hard as it will be for me to do, I have to let him grow up and be the man he is meant to be. He knows how much I love him, but I have to love him enough to let him go. It will be quite an adjustment for both of us but it will make us stronger. We have been through hell, shoulder to shoulder, and now we need to stand, each of us, alone. Being happy is another matter. All I can say is that I have really good people around me who want to see me happy. These people call, email, text or come over just when I need them most. Because I was blinded in my grief, I couldn't see what was going on around me at times. They pushed me to cut every bit of drama, stress and negativity away from me that I could find in my life. I was hard headed about clinging to some people that were bad for me and I had to see them for myself. But walking away from all of it was the best decision I could have ever made. I am a lucky girl to have real friends who love me. Granny used to tell me when I wasn't seeing what she wanted me to, or I wouldn't heed her warnings "A hard head makes for a soft ass."

Third, I'm learning to not rip open my wounds and bleed for just anybody about anything. I'm growing a little tougher skin these days. I don't wear my heart on my sleeve and anyone who actually knows me knows this is true. Everybody talks about somebody, and I suppose if they're talking about me, they're giving someone else a rest. I just stick on a pair rockstar sunglasses and keep it moving. Like Granny always said "It's not what people call you, it's what you answer to."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How do you like your eggs?

Today I was making my grocery list and literally had to go to the kitchen to remember what I thought we might need. I glanced into the refrigerator and was making notes of the “he needs milk” style when I saw the egg carton and a scene from a movie played out in my mind. Julia Robert’s has a movie called “The Runaway Bride” that involves her running out of the church on 3 separate occasions. The story arc hits it’s high point when Richard Gere asks her “How do you like your eggs?” Through flashbacks we see that she eats her eggs however the man in her life eats his eggs. With one they’re scrambled, another they’re poached and a third they’re over easy. She transforms herself into the perfect mate for a man and looses herself. Thus, she runs away before saying the big “I do’s.” She literally leaves and finds out who she is by the end of the movie and they live happily ever after. Good movie, but I digress, this is not the point of this post.

I began to notice how many things I do “because Richard liked it that way” in my normal everyday life. Now after more than 20 years together, a certain amount of assimilation is to be expected. But, as I look back, it seems I was over taken by the damned Borg. As I made the list and wrote bacon, I automatically wrote sausage. Neither my son nor I eat sausage unless its Italian sausage in Lasagna. So I crossed it off the list. Neither my son nor myself eat canned vegetables, we are carnivores. God help me, the Jolly Green Giant is crying in the corner because I marked off those as well. I had Sunny D on the list because of Richard going into insulin shock. We hate it as well. Ciao. I had a particular brand of bathroom cleaner on the list that I have to work twice as hard to get the tubs clean because he hated the smell. My elbow says for me to buy something that could peel paint if it saves me work.

The biggest question of the day today was “Just who in the hell am I?“ So I began a study on myself of things I do or wear or eat or watch simply because “Richard liked it that way.” For example, I sleep on the left side of the bed because he was closer to the bathroom and it saved broken toes because he was a klutz. I have since moved to the middle. No top sheet on the bed because it made him cold. Guess what, they’re both on the bed and they’re black. He said dark sheets looked like you were sleeping in a whorehouse.

These are the results of my study so far. I sleep under my good comforter because I am responsible and won’t destroy it. When I make my bed I have more than 30 pillows that go on it, and I like it that way. I watch TV in my bedroom rather than the living room because it’s more comfortable. I watch what I want when I want because technology makes it easy to do these days. I wear a t-shirt that says “Heartless Bitch” in public and my rock star sunglasses indoors. I am not prone to holding my acid tongue if asked about either one in public. Young or old, if you have the nerve to ask, I have the nerve to answer. I have specific drawers for each kind of underwear and there are five separate drawers. My t-shirts are folded rather than rolled. I feel better in 5 inch heels than in tennis shoes. I take bubble baths rather than showers most of the time. I put bath oil in my bathtub without worrying that someone’s going to fall if I don’t clean it when I get out. If I fall, it's my fault. I sit on my bed rather than in the floor to put my lotion on and then get straight into the sheets without worrying about stains. I think that the right shade of red lipstick can turn that frown upside down and that every female on the planet has the right to find hers if it takes 500 tubes. I know that good make-up will hide a multitude of sins and less is not always more but if you can‘t put it on, leave it alone. I believe in the power of the little black dress, dark hose and platform shoes. I think that a woman in pearls settled, get the diamonds baby girl or at least look like you did. Three quarters of my wardrobe is black and has been for more than 15 years. No I don’t need color unless I say I want color. I am not really friendly with strange people and as a rule I generally do not like children under the age of 12 nor old people that act like they are privileged because they lived this long. Both types often tend to be needy and they usually smell in my opinion. This does not make me a horrible human being, just an honest one. I do not eat food that I do not like or cannot identify. If it's slimy, it's really not for me. No I don’t want to try it because I don’t like the way it looks or smells. I am a slave to good French roast coffee with a touch of sugar and I tend to like a strong, cold adult beverage. I do not drink sweet tea nor do I eat grits, and yes I am a true southerner. I do know what moonshine looks as well as tastes like. I prefer either text or email, I hate to talk on the phone for the most part. These are the things I can state with absolute certainty.

I find it amazing that I have to ask myself what I like or want. So many things that define me as an individual have been stripped away that I am in danger of loosing them forever. I have to find my way, my voice, my truth in this place. I know some things but not enough to say that I know myself well. Maybe I won’t fit where I used to fit because I am not who I used to be. But, it’s for me to find out rather than someone else to tell me.

And just for the record, I prefer my eggs over medium with some light brown toast please.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Church folk, Elephants and Hot Sauce

To say I am scattered these days would be a gross understatement, at this time I can say that dealing with issues is not a job, it’s an adventure. Things that would be annoyances in the normal world become the shock and awe of “Widow’s World.” Everything is magnified because there is no strong arms to wrap around yourself and a steady voice to say that everything will be okay.

First was that I was summoned to my father in laws church, which was Richard and my church, for “Homecoming” festivities. For those not familiar with the concept, it is the anniversary of the first Sunday service in a church after it is chartered. Lots of food, family, etc. Now, the reason I was summoned was that they were to honor my husband since he was a deacon and the two of
us are charter members of the church.

I did not sleep all of Saturday night, so I started the glam process early. Took my time, drank my coffee and smoked the dreaded cigarettes as I painted my face to look my absolute best. Because I had not set my foot on the property since the day of the funeral, I was actually psyching myself up in order to go to the church. In truth I would have rather been dragged to the backyard and have been beaten about the face and head until comatose. But, I put on my armor and strode into battle. I say battle because these are the most inconsistent, undependable and fake people in the entire planet. I politely declined their insistence's that I sing at the Christmas Cantata and return to weekly services. I smiled, took their hugs and squeezes, their pats and polite conversation about weight loss and my nasal piercing. Small talk for the small minded. I watched their whispers and tortured food I had no intention of eating. Then I was making my polite escape when I was cornered by someone who was supposedly Rich’s best friend. When he pressed me to return that “my Church Family” was concerned, I reminded him that I had heard from no one, including him since Wednesday after the funeral. That if concern was what they were showing. I had no need of it at this time. He said they thought I had “moved away from the Lord.” I simply replied “I have not moved away from the Lord. But the Church Family moved away from me.” At that point, rather than engage him in a debate of excuses, I politely said my goodbyes and came home. I was exhausted and was trying to sleep when the phone started ringing. Like Granny always said. “A hit dog will holler.” I declined to answer the phone as I am unconcerned with anything they have to say at this point in my life. Please understand this is not an indictment of the church in general or religion of any kind. This is an indictment of these particular people.

Then last night, when I had finally relaxed enough to lay down, vandals threw a concrete brick through my living room window. My son was gone to dinner with his girlfriend and I was alone. They left their food on the table and ran to me. There was no white knight to come and protect or save me. I had to deal with the police and everything else alone. The officer, a tiny, little, and perhaps the whitest dude I have ever seen actually ask me with a straight face, if I was “beefing with anyone in the neighborhood??’ I looked at him and laughed as I said “Little too much TV there officer? I have never had an issue with anyone in the entire neighborhood.” I am not ashamed to say I came out of my bedroom with my gun and was prepared to use it. The brick sounded like a shotgun blast and I was petrified. I went into business mode and handled, along with my son and his girlfriend, putting cardboard over the window. I put the business card with the police report number on the refrigerator and the gun upstairs in a calm, cool and collected manner. But when I laid back down, I cried myself to sleep holding onto a pillow instead of my late husband. I truly felt alone. He’s really not coming back to save me it seems.

I often go back to my Grandmother in situations like these. When all of my problems and the weight of the world is resting on my shoulders, I see her soft brown eyes and hear her say … “’Buni, do you know how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time baby, just one bite at a time.” She was the calmest and best of all souls I have ever known. She raised five children in the depression alone and no one went hungry because she took in laundry she did by hand for one dollar a day. She never owned a home or drove a car. But out of all the influences in my life, hers is the strongest within me. Her strength was a amazing and her grace was a thing of beauty. My father’s side of the family gave me roots driven deep into the bedrock of the south. My beloved Grandmother was my Mother’s side and she gave me wings. She taught me the meaning of the word Lady. In good times and in bad she held her piece of this world with dignity. She left this world January 18, 1986 after a hard struggle with Bone Cancer that was metastasized Breast Cancer. God was merciful and it only lasted 6 weeks actually. She was the first close death I ever experienced. Today, October 19 is her 100th birthday. I hope Granny, as I wander through this “Widow’s World” that I honor you. I am eating this elephant one bite at a time, but I’m just using a little hot sauce to do it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Nonsensical thinking of Insurance Companies and Drug Companies

When my husband first began experiencing the catastrophic complications related to Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes, I of course began to panic. The costs of the best care were astronomical. In those 11 years I saw statements (not bills) that were larger than mortgages on 5000 sq ft houses. Some things really stick out in my mind but only one was related to the insurance industry. There were lapses in things with the hospital, stupid human mistakes that I caught because I lived at the hospital when he was sick.

When Rich's kidney's failed, we had an excellent, older nephrologist who admitted him to the hospital as an Emergency. He read the policy closely and understood what it would take to make the system work. The emergency meant that we paid $100 and everything associated with the situation would be paid at 100%. That included Paratenial Dialysis which is the best but not, at that time, the standard of care in the industry. Hemodialysis was the standard but would have made it impossible for him to keep his job, which had the insurance. he knew how to guide us through the system and protect us, making the insurance company do what they were supposed to do.

We waited 25 months for a pancreatic transplant and received one in July of 2002. We lost it 8 days later and he nearly died from intestinal leakage into his abdominal cavity. Then in September of 2002 we received a second pancreatic transplant, we lost it the first week of October on Richard's birthday. It encapsulated and they told me we would know in 72 hours if he would live. He was a immunosuppressed man who went septic. The pancreatic transplant is the only medically known and accepted cure for diabetes, thus the only thing that would stop the train.

The cost of the pancreatic transplants was astronomical. The "cost of procurement of the organ" for the first pancreas was $33,000.00 and the second was $28,000. What a family gave at the most horrific time in their life out of the goodness of the heart, the health care industry charged this much just to get. I understand the doctors and the helicopters etc. But the price to get it was patently ridiculous. Between the dialysis, kidney transplant and pancreatic transplants, the costs was over 2 million dollars.

Richard's kidney surgeon was doing research at that time on "pancreatic isolitte cells" to cure diabetes. Its complicated, but involves cells and a biopsy needle. He was a perfect candidate and was so excited about the procedure. Then the right wing, the drug companies and the insurance companies started pressuring the government regarding stem cell research being inhumane. The news came down that the insurance company decided it was "experimental" and would not pay for the expense. Since it was a study, the procedure was free. He was already on anti rejection drugs for maintenance of the transplanted kidney. The cost of this program compared to the "standard of care" a brittle diabetic in end stage renal failure was minuscule. We will never know if it would have worked for Richard, and we will absolutely know they will not cure diabetes in his lifetime at this point.

All together, though all of the bills have not come in from the entirety of Richard's illness. At last count it was around 5 million dollars. His work changed their insurance 3 different times to keep him from "topping out" the lifetime maximum. The health care industry is filled with doctors, nurses and staff that spend their days trying to save lives. Between the malpractice insurance, health care insurance and drug companies, they set the "standard of care" in the United States. Now, I don't pretend to know the answer to all of the questions regarding health care reform. But there are a few things I know about a chronically ill human being. We were dependant on drugs to keep him alive that cost in the neighborhood of $4500 a month for almost 10 years, or $520,000. I know that his hemodialysis for the last 10 months of his life cost in the neighborhood of $180,000 just for the sessions. There were shots that they gave him on and off that cost $5000 a piece that are also used on chemo patients. Just for transport it cost well over $25,000 for ambulances and med-flights. What I don't know is where the money is going. I don't know why there hasn't been a baby born in my hometown in over 20 years because there are no OBGYN's there due to malpractice insurance premiums making it impossible. I don't understand why the hospital in my hometown has been driven out of business for the same reason and my father has to be flown in a helicopter when he has a stroke or a heart attack.

I don't think the current Health care reform package is going to fix this issue. I don't think that socialized medicine is the answer. I don't think that health care should be run by the government as they are the people who paid $1200 for a toilet seat. I think someone needs to get the insurance companies in check. I am a simple widow woman without the answer to these questions. But an open intelligent conversation needs to start and it needs to start now.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Happy Birthday KoolAid

This week is just sucking. Richard's birthday is Friday and I am filled with dread and foreboding. I really don't want to deal with it. Actually, I know what's wrong. I know that outside of this house and his parents, no one will remember it's his birthday. The man who touched so many lives is all but forgotten by the outside world. So today, I remember Richard and truly introduce you to him.

So, we were actually a simple kinda couple. For our 20th wedding anniversary last year, we both got off work early, and went to our favorite restaurant, The Waffle House for an early dinner. Yep, big plans. We were so young when we got married, I was 20 and he was 21, that everyone gave us less than a year. While we were at dinner we were laughing at them, "take that you bastards, we made it" kinda thing. We reflected over what we had been though and where we were in life over his BLT and my omelet. We shared a single waffle as we always did with sugar free syrup and lots of butter. We celebrated our anniversary and our birthdays with a waffle, just the two of us.

Now, just because we were a simple couple did not mean he did not show me his love in grandiose ways. Early that morning he had me 2 dozen white roses delivered to my office with the simple card that said "I love you Hunibuni, KoolAid." The people in the office were in awe of this simple and elegant arrangement. Lots of compliments as to their beauty and how unusual it was to see them alone in an arrangement. They were a symbol to him because our first anniversary he brought me a single, wilted, red rose he paid .50 for at the gas station because it was all he could afford. His arrangement for big number 20 was sight more than that and took my breath away. Very elegant and classy. The way he thought of me. It was a quiet yet decadent expression, which is the way he loved me. There was nothing too good for me in any facet of my life from my purse to my car. I was to have the best if it killed him. His love was like the best cup of coffee in the morning. Rich and warm but with a bitter edge if you don't give it a tad of sugar. ;-)

Richard was a quiet man of few words. He was a gorgeous man if I do say so myself, dark hair, goatee and sparkling money green eyes. He was quick with a smile and laughed from his very soul. He was a hard man. Everything had to make sense and be fair. He loved his son hard. All he ever wanted was to take care of us. He was a man of faith, a deacon in the church. He loved his truck (KoolAid), the Dallas Cowboys, West Virginia Mountaineers, The Tennessee Volunteers, motorcycles, guns, his mom and dad, his niece and nephews, and his work. He believed in the good in people and the strength of the human heart. If you didn't know him well you had no idea that he had been fighting for his life for well over 10 years. He never complained or said anything about his illness. He would fight to the death over my son or me and had a legendary temper. Richard was a man who could and did fix anything that was broken. He believed in the power of duct tape. The entire family kept things back for him to fix when we visited their homes. He loved Christmas. He had the heart of a lion and never gave up. But most of all, my beloved husband would do anything to make me laugh. I have a picture of him in his mom's kitchen last year for our nieces birthday party. He and I were alone and he put on little mermaid plastic tiara and smiled at me while I took a picture with my cellphone. It was that smile that was reserved just for me. It is one of the most precious things I own and it always lifts my heart even now.

I didn't realize how many people knew, respected and loved my husband until he died. There were over 600 people who came through the funeral home the night of his wake. He worked at the same job for 16 years. He ran 4 divisions for them and I received flowers at my home from their headquarters in Germany. The day of his funeral, his divisions and the offices went black. Even the President of the North American Division of his company came. Business owners that he used as vendors here in Charlotte came to pay their respects to him and to me. All of them could only say what a good man he was and how much they had heard about my son and me. How much he loved us and that we were all he ever talked about besides business. My old boss closed the doors to his company and the entire staff was at my husband's funeral. In his 20 years in business he had never shut his doors on a Monday, or any day for that matter. He had 19 standing sprays, 24 basket arrangements and they brought me 14 house plants. I was in awe of my husband.

There were 3 pastors who spoke the at his funeral. I asked them to preach Rich's life and not his death. The first was his friend from high school who told of his young life and their exploits. They were always racing home after work at night and his last comment was that Richard had beat him home again. The second was his best friend and deacon from the church who spoke about Richard being beside him when he came to know the Lord. He spoke of his quiet strength and his unfailing faith. The last was his stepfather who spoke of his great love for his family. How he and I had stood together through thick and thin. He told them that the music I had played at his service were his favorites of the songs that I sang in church. He spoke of Richard's love of his son and his pride in being his father. His last quote was something that Rich had said to him not a week before his death from a picture he bought me. It says "He who kneels before God can stand before anyone." The entire service took less than 45 minutes but it was beautiful. All I can hope is that I carried myself with the grace and dignity that he deserved.

Today I ordered flowers for his birthday on Friday. I ordered what I have been ordering since I ordered the spray for his casket. Solid white arrangements with calla lillies, madonna lillies and white roses. They are my tribute to our love and laughter and life together. They remember the decadence and the purity of his love. I will take them to him myself, just as he delivered most of my flowers himself. His monument is simple black granite that has his name, 1966-2009 and at the bottom it reads "Beloved husband and father." The best thing anyone could ever say about him.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Graceful in them damned Stripper Shoes

Here I am, now what do I do? Family issues. Legal issues. Personal issues. And it's all ugly as hell. First, the whole fam-damn-ily.

My son got in a spot of trouble, if you count a high speed police chase at 140 mph, a spot. This is the first real emergency that I have had to handle on my own. I can say this is the first real trouble he's ever been in, but it scared the crap out of me. And I know you're sitting back saying, "Well. if that were my son.... " And I will say exactly what I've been saying to everyone else, "Well, doll face, he ain't yours. When your son walks downstairs and finds his father in cardiac arrest in the living room floor and he's all alone doing CPR when the paramedics arrive, tell me what you would do." Do not presume to know what you would do in any given situation until you step into my 5 inch platforms.

I had to keep the cool head which made life a tad difficult for me. They had to get him out of a police car so that I could speak to him and tell him to say nothing as I was contacting our attorney. His nose was bleeding, he was dirty and Jesus Christ on the Cross, he was barefoot. The police officers roughed my son up and I didn't turn into a spider monkey on espresso. I asked what happens next and Officer Testosterone Jackass the Third (that's my story as to his name and I'm sticking to it) started yelling at me that they were gonna do this, this and this like I was the criminal. I looked at him and said "I didn't ask for a smart ass answer." at which time my friend laid his hand on my shoulder to remind me to compose myself. A second officer, named Sergent I-Understand-You're-Upset told me how long it would take to process him and where he would be for me to go see him. I looked at Officer Jackass and said "See how easy that was??? People like you are what causes police officers to be despised." I then turned to Sergent Upset and thanked him kindly for all of his assistance. Bravo to 'Buni for not going to jail with my son. I handled everything including the bail without asking anyone for anything. I had a lot of support out of 3 dear friends. You know who you are and I love you. Mwahs. You make me graceful in these Stripper shoes.

Then, if the episode had not upset me enough, my husband's step father, the pastor, came by the house. I was asleep and my son called back to ask what I wanted to eat and told me he had been here so I called him. I guessed that he was going to try to read me the riot act, but I called and asked him what was up. I held my tongue and answered his questions. Evidently my son ended up in the newspaper, picture and all. Then he decided that he was going to tell my son what a disappointment he would be to his father and the gloves came off. I peeled him like a grape. He lives practically in my backyard and hasn't even called his grandson to say "Hey how 'ya doin?" since March. I told him what a lowly piece of crap he and all of the men in that side of the family are and that the only one who treats us like family is my husband's biological father. Then he decided to tell me I am the one who caused all this. Again, when you can walk in these 5 inch platforms preacher man, come getcha some of this. I handle my conversations with God in my own way. I haven't moved away from the Lawd, I've simply moved away from you and yours. So unless you can pray quietly in the damned corner, stay outta my way. Standing here arguing with you is making my feet hurt so I got some walking to do.

My mother in law calls the next day and says she found her husband crying in the kitchen when she got home. I actually said "Good, welcome him to my world." Evidently my filter is gone or I have finally chewed through the leash that Richard kept me on for almost 22 years. I'm not sure which but the anger tasted good for once. She actually got in line and is behaving admirably. I love this lady but I swear to God that my hip boots have worn out and I don't care for BS on my Stripper shoes.

Legal issues??? Yeah I know all about 'em. I got a good lawyer and he's gonna cost a pretty penny. But I think that eventually it will all be okay. He's a good old country boy that will do whatever is necessary to help my son. He's also handling some estate stuff for me, but more about that later.

Personal issues??? I have begun sorting Richard's things as he is haunting my house. I have been sequestered in my bedroom going through drawers, closets and desks. I've found many things that have made me cry, made me laugh and made me scratch my head. I am looking for my independence among the ruins of my life. The rosy pictures that once ran through my head are now being replaced with the realities of my life. My husband and I loved each other passionately. Ladies and gentlemen, that does not make for an easy marriage. It means everything runs hot. We loved hard and we fought hard. We screamed "I love you" more often than it came with a tender kiss. But that is commitment. That is a real marriage that we fought and screamed and let blood over for almost 21 years. To love with your whole heart you must be willing to leave everything on the floor everyday. When there is a chronic illness, you've got to take it all or leave it. That's what the vows mean. In sickness and in health, in rich and in poor, blah, blah, blah. Richard was my best friend, he was my husband, he was my partner in crime, and the love of my life. He was my true north and now he is gone. So while I was in closet I began to look at my extensive shoe collection. Ain't no shame in my game, I am hated by some of the girls with big feet cause if it's on display, I can buy it. I am famous for my shoes. So through my tears, I see a lightbulb go off. So as I'm dragging a chair into the closet, I remembered, he loved my love of shoes. He said that when I had on my "big shoes" I was at my most graceful, beautiful and fearsome. To go to his wake I wore a charcoal pnstripe suit with a royal blue turtleneck and some 6 inch platforms that made me over 6 feet tall. For his funeral, I wore a fierce, black suit, some rock star sunglasses and a sick pair of 5 inch platform pumps. He loved me dressed to kill. That was the last time I turned it out and it's been 7 months. That is who he called "his Hunibuni." He named me off the chick in the movie "Pulp Fiction" who is so down to ride with her man that she has the gun in the cafe robbery. Rich always said I'd never be able to bail him out of jail because I'd be sitting beside him. Hell yeah, that's me.

So here is what I have done. I took off my flip flops and pulled on a pair of 5 inch black patent Mary Jane's. Bad as hell. Because now, I gotta be down to ride for me and my son. I'm finding my grace, my beauty and the steel that I've lost outta my backbone. They're right here among the rubble. I have to remember somewhere that I am a bad bitch. But you know what, it's all in them shoes girls. It's all in them shoes. ;-)

Saturday, September 5, 2009


After the helicopter took off, I hugged my son and headed toward the hospital. I stopped and got fuel for both the car and myself (in the form of 3 packs of smokes) and called my son. We had to have a horrid discussion between ourselves before we confronted what lay ahead. The human brain has around 6 minutes before atrophy or brain damage begins. As close as the doctors could estimate, between the three codes, Richard had been down between 30-40 minutes. Under any circumstances, our lives had changed in the blink of an eye. I had no formal diagnosis but my spirit told me that he was gone.

After finishing with my conversation with him, I called my Bestie. She is however in Brooklyn, NY so she couldn't come to me. She could calm me and make me sane enough to drive. Now, I have driven to this hospital well over 100 times. Seriously. Crawling, crippled or crazy, I can find this place. However, on this particular day, I got lost. Like I said before, God made me head blind. I turned at the wrong blue "H" and went to the wrong hospital. Every street I took was under construction and blocked. It did provide me the necessary distraction to make me kick into business mode.

When I made it to the hospital, I parked on the roof of the parking garage. I always do this as it is much easier to find my vehicle when I have to leave. Normally it's like 11 days later so basically it's habit. My mother in law had already made it to the hospital and was outside the room. She said they were trying to make her sign some papers for a procedure and she told them she couldn't that I would take care of it. I advised I would be there momentarily and that nothing was to be done until I arrived. The room number was 7717. I raced thru the hospital and made it to her, her husband and my husbands youngest brother who had come from 2 hours away. When I arrived they went downstairs to get coffee while I waited. They were putting a blood pressure monitor in Richard femoral artery. I made a couple of calls, where is my son, my best friend here, my parents, etc. Basically just burning time. When I had enough I went into the room and they promptly threw me out. Less than 10 minutes later, although it felt like 10 hours, the doctor and a nurse came out. They asked where my family was and did I want to wait for them. I said "No." They offered me a chair. I refused. "Just tell me" I said. His exact words were these... "He has no gag reflex, no cough reflex and his eyes are not responding to stimulus. We have him on two kinds of life support. He cannot breathe alone and a drug called Dopamine is causing his heart to beat as well as show some blood pressure. Mrs. Blankenship, I'm sorry but he is brain dead."

Evidently, I passed out. Knowing something in ones head and knowing it in your heart is another matter. I became heart blind at that moment. I was in the business of making this as easy for Richard, my son and his family as humanly possible. When they revived me, I was in the chair they had offered. I was screaming and crying uncontrollably. He started laying out the options when I had composed himself. I could, if I wanted, end it right there. I told him he had family on the road coming from the entire southeast. I asked if they (the family that went downstairs) knew. He said that they "couldn't grasp the information." At that moment I made a fateful decision that I still reap the rewards for everyday. I told him that he and all of the staff was to speak to no one regarding Richard's condition but me. Anything that I wanted shared I would tell them but that this was my husband. There was to be no debate as I would not entertain it. I would have this handled with dignity and that if anyone became hysterical they were to be escorted from my presence.

This may sound harsh. I had a durable power of attorney for my husband. He had trusted me with his life for well over 10 years and had never revoked my privilege. I had made life and death decisions many times and he knew I would always do what was best. Had I not made this determination, there would have been doubt and distention among the ranks of his family. They trusted me as well so my word became law. My son and I would make all of the decisions together and I would bear the brunt of anyone's anger.

We determined that we would wait for the last brain activity tests until 9am the next morning and at that point life support would be disconnected. This would allow his family to say goodbye and to adjust to the situation. I realized then that I would never have the opportunity to do these things as I already knew too much. I went into see my Richard. He was so small and still in that huge bed. I took his hand and the nurse brought me his wedding ring. I put it on my left thumb where it remains to this day. I've never had it off. I felt my tears running down my face as I spoke to him. I told him that it was okay. We will be okay. I love you and I understand. I will make this stop. I cried rivers as I spoke the things that wives say to husbands. I would handle this with dignity and the strength he loved me for. I will take care of this for you my love.

Then the door opened and his mother walked in with the others. I politely asked if they could give us a minute and they left the room. I told Richard I would be strong for him and for them. I steeled myself to tell the worst news of a lifetime and walked into the hall. As I closed the door, my son rounded the corner and I called him to me. I hugged him and took him into the room with his father. When he looked at Richard in the bed he looked at me. Tears filled his beautiful chocolate brown eyes as he said "He's gone Mama?" and I sobbed "Yes baby, he is." I don't think I have ever uttered as hateful a phrase in my life. My heart shattered and the boy I raised turned into the man that is my son before my eyes. He held me and let me cry with him.

We talked about the discussions and decisions I had with the doctors and he agreed with me. Nothing is irrevocable I told him. I can change anything. He said "No mama. It's what must happen. I love you and we will do this together." We stepped out into the hall and I delivered the worst thing one can ever say to another mother. She didn't want to believe it. She didn't understand it. His youngest brother ran from the hall. His oldest brother met him coming out and he told him as well. My son held on to me as the winds of change swirled thru our life and no one but us could feel them.

Monday, August 24, 2009

These days, I spend alot of time alone. Therefore, I spend alot of time in my head going over the events of Thursday, Febuary 19 and Friday, Febuary 20 of this year. This was the 24 hour period when my life was forever changed. So I am thinking that if I write what I remember here, maybe the thinking and the analysing may stop (at least for a minute so I can organize my thoughts and feelings.)

Thursday morning was normal, except I was running late for work and was rocking the wrath of god look we all have when we jump straight out of bed and run out the door within 15 minutes. My husband wasn't feeling well so he stayed home from work. My hten 19 year old son was in the shower and I called him back to tell him to stay at home with his Dad that day. I told him to trust his judgement rather than his Dads and to call 911 if he needed them. I was uneasy to say the least but never did I think I would never hear my husband say "Babe" again or see his eyes smiling when he walked into the door. Trips to the hospital was what we did rather than a vacation. Going to the emergency room was as normal in our house as going to the movies. A brittle diabetic, my husband had been in renal failure for 11 years. Our first transplanted kidney was done on June 1, 1999. It stopped functioning on Good Friday in April of 2008. We had begun hemodialysis that Monday. We had also been through 2 unsuccessful pancreatic transplants, diabetic retinopathy and various car accidents, motorcycle accidents and a blood clotting issue. We were seasoned in the art of fighting for Richards life. I was good at it. I was his advocate and his taskmaster. I did not beg and plead for his life as a normal wife, I stood up, squared my shoulders and sounded my voice loud. I declared that he would live or I would know the reason why. I jerked him up by his hospital gown and said "You've had one day to mourn, today we put our feet on the ground and our fists in the air. Today we fight. You will not leave me and your son here alone. He needs his father and I need my husband." A sheer and unforgiving force of nature is how my husbands doctor's described me. I have called them at 3am if I wanted an MRI or a CAT scan. His medical file has written on the outside in wide red Sharpie "Wife is Aggressive." So I did what I normally do, I went to work.

I had begun crying in the car and continued at my desk. I was on the phone and working thru the tears at 8 am. I was doing my best to do my job while I watched the clock for 915 when I could go to break and call my son. When the clock hit the right time I jumped to my feet and ran to the elevator since I had no signal inside. Down 4 floors and straight out the door, his phone was ringing when I stepped into the frigid air. He checked his Dad and said he wasn't responding and I told him to call 911 and said I was on my way. I hit the door in a dead run. Back to my desk to grab my purse and tell my manager there was an emergency and I had to go. Back down the elevator and I called my son again. He said 911 was in their way and I told him to call me as soon as they got to him so I could give them his medical history. Looking at it now, I should have heard it in his voice, but God made me headblind because I was 36 miles from home. When I hit the interstate I was flying and the phone rang. I rattled off his medical history and told her we preferred a specific hospital to which she responded "In these situations we go to the closest ER." In 11 minutes I had traveled 36 miles and I met the ambulance coming out of the subdivision. I called my son and told him I had the ambulance. He told me then "Mama, he doesn't have a heart beat and he's not breathing."

When I got to the hospital they put me in a little room with a strange little man who was a patient representative. He was making stupid small talk when the doctor came into the room and sat down. He informed me that they had gotten his heartbeat back in the ambulance and then he coded again. They got his heart started again and all I could say was "Take me to Richard." The little man was mumbling again about "it doesn't look like it does on TV" and he tried to put his arm around me. Truth be told the rest of whatever he was prattling on about was drowned out by the beating of my heart in my ears as we rushed to the Trauma room.

And then the curtains parted and there lay Richard. He was helpless and lifeless. His spirit did not greet me when I arrived. The silence was deafening. It felt as though my heart had been removed from my chest. The world made a hard stop when I took his hand in mine. My spirit was screaming, searching, pleading for his to answer, but I couldn't make a sound.

My son arrived and the little man was back asking me what to do as I ran to the waiting room leaving him talking to himself in that strange hushed voice. I sent him to his father and stepped outside to call my husband's mother. I don't know how long it took them to get there or how I got back inside the hospital. About 5 minutes after she arrived Richard coded again and my world went pear shaped. They sent everyone out and they ran for the waiting room. I stood at the door and prayed. I don't remember what I asked for, how long it took or even the act. I was evidently swaying when the doctor stepped out of the room because he sat me in a chair. Then I was back at Richard's side. I remember how cold his hand was in mine. I reached down and opened his eye. Those beautiful, laughing green eyes were silent and his pupils were fixed and dialated. The family returned but I wasn't listening.

Then the doctor told me that they were going to fly him to another hospital within the next 10 minutes. I waited as they made him ready to fly. I made sure I kissed him last. I told him how much I loved him. And then they flew away.

Enough for now.....

Monday, August 17, 2009

Is that really me?

Today has been a strange day. I find that the things that drag me into the hole in my soul are often small and meaningless to other people.
Early this morning, like at 4am when I couldn't sleep, I was cruising through the movie channels thinking I could find something so stupid it would literally bore me to sleep. So I settled on "Footloose." Could there be anything more inane and mind numbing. It was just at the part where Lori Singer falls to her knees in church and begs John Lithgow (her preacher father) for forgiveness and spits the "I"m not even a virgin!!" line at him. I did really well, almost dozing off until the last, obligatory prom scene when they were playing the title song and Kevin Bacon was shaking his money maker. It was at that point I flashed back to 1988 when Richard and I had the sunroof out of the RX-7 with my hair blowing in the wind. We were singing the "Footloose" soundtrack at the top of our lungs, laughing and smiling on Interstate 81 in Virginia. When I refocused my eyes they were filled with tears and I was swallowed again. Lost in yesterday because today is far to painful to remember. They aren't the soul wrenching sobs of the beginning but the slow steady heartbroken ones that come when least expected. So, I cried myself to sleep hoping to find solace in my dreams.
I awoke to the show on BBC America about the people taking their junk from the attic to the auction so that they may pay for something they cannot afford if they keep their treasures that are collecting dust. All really touching but I was in a hurry as I had to get ready for a job interview so sentiment was not paramount in my mind. I simply hit the high spots and ran for the door with a disposable cup of french roast coffee in my hand. As I drove to the interview consuming the chemicals, (caffeine and nicotine) that make me fit for human consumption these days, my mind was lost. Going over the correct things to say and what they would expect of me. Nerves jangling and checking my lipstick I pulled into the parking lot and put on my best work persona to have my best foot forward.
The interview went spectacular and I am a rockstar. They have already called and I feel good about the second interview. But, as I drove home, with the half hot coffee (as I do live on the sun it seems but at least the heat keeps the coffee hot) again my mind began to wander. How do I do this I thought? I turn my work persona on like she has a switch. My husband always said that my suits are like armor and I hide behind her mask. She is very career oriented and drives a hard bargain. Calm and collected, she never shows her emotions and argues with cold logic. Shes a stonecold bitch. But she is the rockstar that is gregarious and always has a good word. She inspires loyalty and leads by example. A perfectionist that expects no quarter and gives none. People like her. Hell, I like her.
What was quizzing my mind was is she really me? And how did I get so disjointed from myself that I can't see what everyone else sees? I have three close and dear friends that tell me they marvel at my strength. They see my heart and they love me anyway. How do I make the face I see in the mirror match the one that I show to the world? All I see is my weakness in my grief and my failure to stand up straight. My closest friend tells me that I will come out of this and that I will be whom I was again. But my life is forever changed and so am I.
My husband's illness was long and torturess. We fought agianst the dying of the light for over 13 years. Side by side and shoulder to shoulder, we made it work. We laughed and cried together. I would never say our marriage was perfect, but I would say that through all of the stress and strain we made it through together. And now he's gone. I wish were angry so that I could organize my thoughts and dismiss the tears. I wish many things. But like my sainted, wise grandmother used to say, "You might as well wish in one hand and shit in the other. See which one fills up first."
Well Granny, at this point, I've a hand full of shit.

Friday, August 14, 2009

trying to find my feet

I have no idea who might read this or what they make think, but this is a fresh start for me. I would suppose in this entry I should tell you a little bit about myself. I just turned 42 on July 31. I live in the suburbs of Charlotte, NC and I have been here 15 years last week. I am originally from North East Tennessee. I have a 20 year old son and have been married 21 years. Or, I suppose I should say I was married. On Febuary 20, 2009 my husband Richard died. This is why I am trying to find my feet. I am lost. It is my hope that blogging will give me an outlet to the world as I work through my grief and find my independence in this foreign land.
Please do not think this is to always be sad with me crying and whining about my loss and my life. I tend to look at the lighter side of things in a strange and practical way. There are funny things that happen to me every day and hopefully I will put them here. I am very open to suggestions and questions as well so if you read it, let it rip.
At this point I am trying to find my feet financially. I am a typical southern girl who moved straight from my fathers house to my husbands. There are alot of things I have never done and I am unaware of how these things work from time to time. Now to my credit I have an IQ of 138. I am not stupid by any means and I have good common sense. I am the person that everyone asks every question. If anyone knows anything about this, 'buni will. But, I'll be damned if I can crack the code on being a widow at my age.
I have discovered that I cannot go to the local gas station/truckstop alone. Not because I am afraid, but because the filter in my head that used to keep me from saying things I shouldn't has disappeared. The first of a few incidents happened on a Sunday morning after a rough Saturday night. I was hung over and out of smokes when I woke at 11 am with a blinding headache. I jumped in my flip flops with my tshirt and sweats, hair in a birdsnest that had began Saturday in a chic ponytail, and huge rockstar sunglasses (used to hide Saturdays makeup that had turned into Sundays crackwhore) and hurried to my car. I was desperately in need of nicotine and caffine. I am not fit for human consumption until both substances are present in my bloodstream. Thats the set up. Now, I had just exited my car, which I had to park on the outskirts of the parking lot due to some unexplained Sunday morning festivities at the Wilco. I had literally stepped out of my flip flop and was bent over putting it back when I was approached by a strange man. He said to me, "Excuse me miss, have you ever had Anal Sex??" Needless to say, I was absolutely gobsmacked. I replied, "Not this morning ....... No" to which he replied "Well I know it suprises people but I am only 43 years old." My non existant filter did not stop me from saying "Well damn, I look good!!" I then got back in my car and went straight home shaking my head. No smokes and No coffee.