- Somebody Keep an Eye on the Widow
- Seattle Self Service Cremation
- The Great Rain Barrel Disaster
- Smile When You Hand Over the Death Certificate
- Things People Say
- Stages of Grief
- I Didn’t See the 2x4 Coming
- Rage: Who to be Mad At?
- Guilt: Me
- Acceptance, reluctantly
- “But That’s Different”
- If It Had Been Me
- I Am Not Dead Too (a credit bureau thinks I’m dead)
- The Lay Off
- Getting the Notice
- For what?
- Venn Diagram (of me, before/after)
- Grief Walking
- How My Dog Saved my Life
- Tough Love (my sons practice it on me)
- The Little Things Which are All the Things
- How Do I Miss Thee? (I can’t count that high)
- Who Will Kill the Spiders?
- Who Died and Left Me in Charge?
- Gardening while Grieving
- Archaeological Discoveries (digging up the wine corks)
- There is No Joyous Place (sorry, yoga teacher)
- I Don’t Care What You Say, said my Mother
- Mother Superior (role model widows....which one will I follow?)
- Just What IS a Widow, Anyway?
- Vow of Silence (Seems like I’m unwillingly observing it on two levels)
- I Can Talk to the Animals (and walls, and weeds, and my car)
- Say His Name
- Not “he would want you to....”
- Not “he wouldn’t want you to...”
- Just tell me a story
- The 5th Season (lasts 365 days a year)
- Flash Mob Memories
- The “Act As If” Program
- She Looks Okay Now (whew, we’re all off the hook!)
- Moving forward diagonally
- Piece by Piece (stitching together tiny scraps of happiness, wherever found, no matter how small)
Monday, April 1, 2013
Here are some prospective blog posts:
Friday, March 22, 2013
What do you do when you just can’t sleep? It’s Sunday morning. PJ, Dorothy, and Annie will come later to watch the Super Bowl. There’s no cooking because Michael has planned it all. Everything tasty, but nothing excessively caloric. Nothing creative for me to do. I am unneeded, except to vacuum and dust. Who is this me who hardly sleeps, can’t concentrate, and isn’t needed? I’ve been awake since 4:30, random thoughts trickling in like gentle waves before a tsunami, lapping at my mind and eroding the chance of sleep. The WELPA test at school. Does the dog have an ear infection? Taxes. Then the worst: The hospital......no, I can’t think about that and I shove it away. I try to drift off but an hour later, I’m not drifting anywhere but toward the rocky shore of full waking. If I lie in bed, then I might get pulled back to the hospital and I can’t face that again. Not now.
The only solution is to get up at once. After flipping on the coffee maker and feeding the pets, I fetch the paper. Reading the Sunday paper was once a pleasure. Without Mark next to me, commenting on what Leonard Pitts had to say, asking if I wanted toast, and gently chiding me for mangling the front section before he had his turn at it, the big fat newspaper has lost its appeal. Still, I’m a creature of habit. (“I don’t know anybody more predictable than you”, he often said.) What news? Boeing is a mess and I think of Mark saying that outsourcing would bite them. Maybe it has. I look over at his chair as if to say, “You were right.” That poor kid in Alabama is still held hostage by the crazy guy. Here’s something good: the skeleton of Richard III was discovered under a parking lot in England! Finally, my kind of news. The article is too short. Note to self: Google Richard III.
6:15 a.m. and I decide that I need to run a 5K. Like immediately. I can’t be still; I’m a lioness looking for her lost mate. This pacing must be tamed because it reminds me of another time. Maybe if I exhaust myself, I will sleep tonight and I won’t think certain thoughts.
I throw together some low fat blueberry pancakes, slice a banana over them, spoon a dollop of yogurt atop, and I’m good to get ready for the big event. Event, you are wondering? Yes, I need something more than this feline restlessness to motivate and amuse me. So I create my own personal event.
|Go, Mom, Go!|
|The Land Orca's opinion|
of the CB5KFR.
I get into my Halloweenish jogging gear: black compression capris, running lingerie, and the orange jersey from last year’s Get Your Rear in Gear. I see the headline in an upcoming issue of Runner’s World: A widow’s quest for fitness, fashion and a good night’s sleep! But what is she running from? A good question, but I push it away, even though I know the answer. I hope that the blister on my left foot won’t fully bloom. Yesterday’s dog walk on lumpy sidewalks must have planted the seed.
After posing for a pre-race photo in the Pink Bathroom, I grab my water, cell phone,and fully charged Ipod. I need running music like a galley slave needs rowing rhythm, drummed out by a huge, sweaty, bald guy with sharpened teeth. One downside: who
|The entire field fits in|
the Pink Bathroom.
Full of carbs, geared up, and mentally ready to win and claim whatever prize there is, I step out onto the course. It’s cold and I need my blue jogging jacket, but at least there isn’t a headwind yet. The dog whines as I close the door on her. The cats burst through the kitchen/garage door cat flap and swirl around. “No, I’m not feeding you! Begone, foul beasts!” I say to them. Ooops, talking to cats again. Nobody cheers, but I am not dismayed. Isn’t there something about runners being solitary, lonely creatures?
The runner’s high: Is it real? If so, that’s what I’m looking for. No thought of mileage, pace, sweat, or effort, just moving along “in the zone”. Whatever that may be. Maybe there is a grief-free zone with no danger of emotional melt down. It is possible to sob on the treadmill. Once during a cool down, it sunk in that I had been looking at “Mark W Baxter”. One of his old Boeing nameplates hangs on the garage wall where I can see it. How often did I think, as I looked at it in those days of grace while he yet lived, that each step I took would add minutes to his dwindling life? A grief counselor might call it the “bargaining” phase. Not long ago, I was sweating and breathing hard. I gasped aloud to him, “I’m doing it for me now. Like you wanted me to do.” Then I wept until the tears mingled with the sweat that trickled down the sides of my face. I almost heard him say, “You dainty thing, you never sweat! Ladies just get dewy, right?” and my reply, “Who says I’m a lady?”
|Fun times turned upside down|
|White Maneki Neko|
for happiness. We
I get my focus back on the run. One mile to go! I feel good: warm, regular breathing, heart rate elevated, but comfortable. I can go for a long time. Brain is calm and almost on cruise control. The iPod tempo is fast and I’m sure to finish in the top one. The sponsors have given up and are probably asleep. I’ve been lulled by the galley slave music to think only of moving the legs but now I hear Adele’s beautifully powerful voice,
“Where you go I go, what you see I see.
I know I’d never be me,
without the security
of your loving arms,
keeping me from harm.
Put your hand in my hand,
and together we’ll stand.
Let the sky fall, when it crumbles,
we will stand tall and face it all together.”
The sky had been falling for years and we did stand hand in hand. It crumbled on October 9th, 2011. Adele has broken my sense of peace and calm. I hear voices behind me, voices that I have struggled to outpace for 16 months.
My name is Whitney. I’ll be taking care of you until 5 tonight. Let’s see if we can make a dent in that nausea. What’s your pain level on a scale of 10? 8? Mrs. Baxter, when was the last time you ate? You need to eat.
It’s the hospital memories, audio version, catching up to me. I must outrun them; I can’t let them come alongside and swallow me up. Not now. I bump up the speed to over 5 mph so I have to focus on breathing and moving, but I can’t keep that up for long. I have to drop back into the 4‘s. The others are multiplying, gaining on me. Gigi the oncology nurse practitioner is there now. So is the young tech who does vitals and is obviously keeping an eye on the soon to be widow who may be a possible cause for concern to the staff. Will she fall apart, go crazy? Later, Dr. Smith joins the crowd. Even the guy running the floor cleaner that Mark called a hospital Zamboni, he’s there making that intrusive racket.
Hear that? He might have aspirated. Oh, I don’t like this. Let’s do an EKG, we don’t need to call Dr. Smith for that. I can order it. Is she sleeping? Gina, we think he may have had a heart attack. Do you have the Advance Directive with you? Good, thanks. OK, let’s get a naso-gastric tube in. That should give him some comfort. Ma’am, you should eat. Here, an English muffin, eat it for me. Just half? Please try. I won’t kid you; he’s critically ill; you should call the family. Do you want me to tell him? I can be blunt. No, I’ll tell him (that other me, the wife on the cusp of widowhood, is catching up now and Mark is there too). I want to go home....you are going home, but I can’t come with you yet. You can go home, it’s okay, I promise to be okay, I’ll find a way to be happy until we can be together again. I didn’t get to care for him long, but he seems like a very private man. I think he needs you to leave. You’ve said all you can say. He can’t go until you leave. It’s okay for you to go now. She is talking to me like I am talking to Mark: it’s okay to go. My life is ending too. We’ll come and get you, after.
Sweat and tears mingle again. You’d think that the despair and anguish of my time on Planet Cancer would have wrung all the moisture out of my body. It should be a desert now, but apparently bodies have unlimited supplies of tears. Grief is green; it can and does renew itself. It’s all I can do to finish the 5K, but I do, plus another half mile. The voices fade away, waiting for another time. Why can’t I get them behind me for good? Will I never outrun them? Do I have to endure the tsunami time and time again?
Wiping the tears and sweat from my face, I step down from the treadmill, switch off the fan, and return to my reality of surviving the despair of the last seven years. I win the CB5KFR, sweeping all age categories, and shattering records. Maybe one day I will win the contest against grief and sorrow and become me again.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Sometimes insight comes from unexpected sources. Or maybe it's "out of the mouths of babes...." I was teaching 7 ESL first graders late in the school day. We were tired, maybe a little silly but they were working hard on learning words for parts of houses. I pointed to a picture of a door. "What's this?" I asked.
Darwin answered, "A door."
"Yes, good," I said, "that's a door. And what do we do with doors?"
Many answers poured forth: we go out, we go in, we close them and open them. All good. I pointed to the classroom door and said, "Is that door open or closed?"
"Closed!", they exclaimed, as if I were so silly that I didn't know a closed door from an open one.
Then Kevin spoke up in his solemn voice. "I have to say something," he declared. He thought for a long moment and then said, "First you can not close a door unless you open it."
He was talking about literal doors. That's not what I heard. To me it was the second chapter of my personal ring saga. For me to be able to close the door on my past life, I had to be willing to open it up, to take a chance on the pain of taking off those rings that symbolized Mark's and my love and our commitment to each other. I have to recognize that that door is now closed but I can open another one. Early I wrote about being a "liminal person", standing on the threshold of who knows what. Maybe someday I'll have the courage to step through that door.
Monday, January 14, 2013
I took them off, my rings. My left hand is bare and empty. No gold, no silver with diamonds winking up at me or glittering in the sun. My ring finger feels oddly light and maybe a little lonely. There is a faint indentation where the rings nestled for almost 35 years.
I've been taking them off in stages since last October 9th. From that dreadful day in 2011 until the one year mark, I wore my original rings and on the next door finger, I wore his ring too. At the one year date, I replaced my rings with the small 25th anniversary ring he gave me. I put his ring away. And in my heart I was telling myself, "You are not married any more. You are alone. You are a widow."
The other day, a friend noticed that I was still wearing my wedding rings. It made me immensely sad and tearful but it was also a sign to me that it is time to take them off. Taking them off means I am not married to Mark because he is not here and is not coming back. It means I'm single, I am not married and I accept that.
What do you think when you hear the word "Pandora" these days? Do you think of the planet in the movie Avatar? Or the Internet site that allow you to create your own radio station? I have one of those. It's called Suptertramp Radio. It does play Supertramp songs now and then but I have to carefully tend it so that it doesn't go too heavy on Indian music or bluegrass. It's sometimes melancholy but then, that is a reflection of me right now, I suppose. If I just let it go without weeding, then all sorts of awful music would probably result.
Mark received the cancer diagnosis on June 6th, 2006 at 1:00 in the afternoon. It was a Pandora's box that had been opened for us by Dr. Biggers, not by us. All sorts of evils and horrors flew forth from that box and swirled around for 5 years and four months until Death came, the final evil. Or was it the savior, the release for him and for me too? I don't know yet.
Many of the ills of our personal Pandora's box were also the results of crucial medications and procedures. They performed as promised until the cancer overwhelmed all defenses and swarmed in to complete the siege on October 9th.. They prolonged his life while making parts of it miserable. We were chained to the twice monthly chemotherapy sessions. Twice he had to carry the "chemo purse" around with him so he could receive continuous spurts of expensive, toxic drugs that poisoned the cancer cells but damaged other parts of his body. The skin of his feet and hands were ravaged by Xeloda; his internal organs hurt by two rounds of powerful radiation, which also burned his skin. He endured "chemo brain" where he sometimes forgot things (not so much), he suffered nausea from various infusions (5FU, Erbitux, Avastin), high blood pressure. He had the life saving indignity of a colostomy which meant cleaning, changing, potential embarrassment. Two surgeries attempted to remove the monster but had to be abandoned. Twice he had to have a "port" installed in his upper chest to make his infusion sessions more bearable. Our drawers were filled with large amber bottles of large pills of extreme pain killers that took the edge off for him. As for me, I had to stand by and watch and wait.
Was there hope at the bottom of our Pandora's Box? After the November surgery of 2006, we thought no, it's gone. One more year and he would be gone. But Dr. Smith, the medical oncologist took the lead and kept Mark going for another 5 years. He was our personal deliverer of hope when in December of the year of disaster, he told Mark that he wasn't (then) terminally ill and that there was hope of a prolonged life. And that was what we got.
And now, 15 months after his death, sometimes I do have hope that I will find happiness and if not that, then maybe contentment and gratitude for all that I had and do have.
Monday, January 7, 2013
I had a dream last night or early this morning. My wedding ring was lying on the cement, in a grubby corner of some outdoor public space; like a train station or the light rail station in Tukwila. It was raining and I was in a hurry. My rings had come apart. After our wedding, I had them soldered together but in the dream, the were separated into the engagement and wedding bands. They were also very small, shrinking. This dream made me very sad and tearful which is not a good way to greet the day.