Archive for Family

Two years

Seems longer than that. Seems like the months and years leading up to that last one were a blur, a speck in time. A fight that kept us swinging and one that never let us believe that we would lose. We knew the statistics and they kept us honest, but we never thought we’d end up anywhere but on the good side of those numbers.

Those last few weeks are still with me in surprising detail. The last few days and hours will never leave me. Not ever.

Last night I was reading through her Facebook account and some of the posts people made on their own sites about Dawn, and a common theme was the relative surprise with which she left us. People just didn’t realize how far along she was and how bad her health had gotten. She didn’t want people to feel bad for her. She wanted them to heed her words and remember her fight and she wanted her strength to be her legacy. She wanted her happiness and attitude about her life to be what she left with you when she passed.

The fact is, what she never said, what she never allowed to get her down, was that she felt cheated by life. Some days she would gather all her strength just to get down the stairs to the couch to be there with her boys. She’d push aside what ailed her in favor of sharing any happiness she could with anyone. She worried more about others’ bad days than she did about her own. She did whatever it took to keep her friends happy, her family optimistic, and her business open.

None of this was a burden on her. It was just her way.

~~~~~~~~

I don’t look with sadness at the pictures that still decorate our house that show her smiling face. I don’t see a hospice bed in my living room anymore. I often think about the conversations we were lucky enough to have time for that made my new life so much easier to walk through. That being said, I will never forget how she breathed in those last few days.

I remember her smile. I remember asking her if she wanted everyone to leave that last weekend when all the cousins came over and she told me “I’d rather have them here than not here, no matter how I feel.” That statement alone changed my life. She couldn’t stay awake for more than an hour at a time, but her life was growing short and she wanted that time to be spent with those who mattered most to her.

There were probably times in the months that followed that people thought that the old me was lost forever. I struggled a lot in everything I did. I was suddenly a single father, I was suddenly a business owner, and I wanted nothing more than for everyone to leave me alone to find my way and anyone to come hold my hand and guide me through. At some point the tide turned and I took back my life and steered it in a direction I wanted it to go. I met a wonderful woman who has wonderful kids and I almost feel guilty for having this feeling a second time in my life. I’ve grown as a person, a father, a man. I’m still worried every second about my boys but they are doing well. We’ve found our way.

And we still miss her like crazy.

 

And so we write

My fingertips were bleeding. It had been a while since I pulled the weeds that like to peek through my patio bricks, and my temper with the boys was short, so I spent a couple hours with that task. Earlier in the day I faced the relentless reminders that Sundays are falling out of sorts with me again, and that worries me a bit. For a long time Sundays were the worst, but they got better and more tolerable, until recently when they started to go downhill again. I don’t know why that is, but I do know that the boys and I haven’t seen eye to eye in a few weeks, and maybe by Sunday afternoon we’ve had just about enough of each other. I don’t know.

They really are wonderful kids. They don’t fight or argue with each other, and the closest they get to complaining is the pouty faces when I tell them we have to run to the grocery store. I’m bothered by the thought that they are reluctant to challenge me because I may be unpleasant to be with sometimes, and that’s all on me. I forget that they are probably too young to be able to adequately process the reasons for my frustrations with them, and I worry that I’m asking too much of them. I don’t imagine there’s a good age for your mom to die, but even if there is, I can pretty much guarantee that it isn’t when you’re 7 and 9. I don’t want to make them grow up any faster than they should, but I still have no idea where the line is between being a kid and helping me get through every day. I know there is more asked of them than any of their friends, and that has nothing to do with taking out the trash.

I was reminded a few days ago that they have their own life and challenges they struggle with every day. Learning new things at school and growing physically and socially, while still keeping one foot behind for fun things like playing with pillow pets and video games and reading Garfield comics. I never really thought how their everyday is probably, in its own way, just as stressful as my everyday. I forget that their everyday has that tinge of losing their mom, whether they realize it or not. I forget that they’re still just 9 and 11.

We sat down this evening and talked about taking a few steps back and regrouping. We discussed the things that were losing direction and tried to come up with ways to get the easy things back on track. We agreed to make some changes in hopes that we could make effective use of our time without leaving ourselves alone on an island, as it were.

Bear with me while I switch gears a bit to give some background to this.

I’ve recently found love and happiness with a wonderful woman who has three children of her own. She’s nearing the end of a rather difficult divorce, and she has absorbed a lot in hopes of protecting her children. “They never asked for this,” she’d say. “They don’t deserve this.” And no, they didn’t, and no, they don’t. She ran blocker all summer for her kids, and because of her nature, because she always looks and hopes for the best of everyone, she had to absorb a lot of abuse, for lack of a better word. Her optimism and joie de vivre are what attracted me to her initially, but it was her willingness to share her pain and weakness with me that made me fall in love with her and appreciate her that much more. She lives for her kids, but sometimes she needed to ball herself up in my arms and cry, and sometimes I think that’s what saved her and kept her at it. That and an occasional bout with brutal honesty I gave her. And now, I think, the sun is beginning to shine for her again.

I tell you this because I admire how much her life is about her children. She doesn’t get a lot of free time for herself, and when she gets some semblance of that, she’s wrestling the pile of laundry that buries her dining room table or building a pool in her back yard. She even became a runner, because even just sitting around for 40 minutes isn’t good enough. This is not a bad thing. I do not live my life like that with regard to my kids. If they are here and in the playroom, that’s always been good enough.

But it isn’t good enough. Sundays aren’t for laying on the couch and watching football all day. They visit their grandparents regularly but essentially, there is just me here for them. I’m running blocker for them every single day – not from a person recklessly finding their own way, but from me finding my own way, and life pushing them in all new directions. My time isn’t all mine, and the longer I ignore acceptance of that, the longer and more difficult my days will be with them.

And Sundays will never get better.

Choosing life, over life

I spent a lot of time today participating in a discussion about embryonic stem cells.

I spent a little time in my closet packing up Dawn’s clothes.

I won’t try to claim I’m an expert. I will freely admit that I probably portray a much greater knowledge of any subject than I really truly possess.

But I will gladly process 1000 unwanted embryos if it will keep one person and one person’s family from going through what Dawn went through, from what I went through.

Our son turned 11 today. He was nine when she died.

You’ll never convince me that embryonic stem cell research is a bad thing.

It took me 16 months to clean this closet.

Dear Dawn

Dear Dawn,

Another Mother’s Day without you is upon us, and even though I talk to you almost every day, I wanted you to know that Preston brought home a Mother’s Day craft for you. You’ll find it on your stand, but no peeking until Sunday. His and Matt’s teachers and schools have done a wonderful job with our boys during those hours when they can’t be in my care, and they’re growing to be intelligent, caring, loving boys who brighten every room they walk into. I still can’t get them to clean their playroom for anything, and now they leave socks in there every day. It’s maddening, really.

Since you’ve been away I’m sure you’ve seen the many changes we’ve gone through. It was a difficult year for me but I’ve met some wonderful people who have helped me through. I think you’d like every one of them, especially Marcia, even though she’s the kind of over-the-top person you always seemed to struggle relating to. But I’d bet she’d charm you into letting her in your corner, anyway. There’s always that one person. She makes me laugh when I’m down and she doesn’t let me tell her everything is fine. She comes over without asking and she comforts me when I need it but won’t ask for it. We are kindred spirits, Marcia and I, and one day we’ll be 80 and making jokes about the opposite sex and quietly knowing that this good that is our friendship came of the devastating loss of you and her husband. We sometimes talk about you and Len looking down on us, probably shaking your heads, but smiling because we found in each other a friendship that knows no bounds. We know that you are both happy for us.

I’m sure you’ve also seen my struggles as I try to find my way in this new life. I sometimes find myself feeling jealous of divorced couples because they can still see their former spouse, and their kids still have two parents with them as they grow. But I don’t dwell on that or let it get me down. The mothers have been tremendous in their support of me finding my way and absolutely love being with the boys, who have taken to spending the night at their houses. This probably surprises you, because you know how difficult it was to get them to leave the house at all, let alone overnight. They really enjoy being at grandma’s house, either one, and have a sleepover there almost every weekend.

You’ve also noticed that this has allowed me the opportunity to work on my social life every weekend. I’m sure you’ve been witness to the ups and downs of that.

You’ve surely watched me try and fill a romantic void in my life. I spun my wheels a lot on that, and am still finding my way, but I feel your guidance in that regard. Before you left we spoke of me finding happiness in any way I can and how you trusted me in that regard. I’ve searched for companionship in both short-term and long-term respects, and I’ve learned a lot on my way. I feel you’ve guided me all along, directing me away from what wasn’t going to work for whatever reason, respecting my needs in the moment, and channeling me to who is right for me. You’ve given me more latitude than I expected, and I feel your influence in my search. I want you to know that I’m doing well right now, in whatever relationship status you may see me in at this moment. I’m content with myself and what comes to me, and I’m confident I won’t be taken advantage of. You’ve seen my heart harden, and you’ve seen people soften those new dark spots. Nobody has ever tried to replace you, nor have they tried to change me. I think you’re happy with where I am. I am finally happy where I am, too.

This is a small look into what I run through my mind every day. The business is going well, the parents haven’t driven me nuts just yet, and I think we are finally on the right path. We still miss you every day and still love you as much as ever, but we’re getting through. You’ll always be in our hearts and nothing or nobody will ever change that. I have good people around me, people who love and respect me and allow me to stay with you.  I will always be with you.

With all my love,

Mike

One year

Tomorrow is a year since Dawn lost her battle with melanoma, leaving behind me and two wonderful boys, a business, friends who miss her every day, and a family that would give anything to have her back. She was just 39 years old.

From the day of her diagnosis, she preached the use of sunscreen and checking your skin. She implored strangers to stay away from the tanning bed, but they rarely listened. It couldn’t happen to them, they’d tell you. It couldn’t happen to us, either, but it did. It didn’t faze them. She told so many people that I’d be willing to bet that at least one of them has since been diagnosed with some form of skin cancer, and maybe they’re remembering that woman who told them to stay away from tanning beds. Maybe they’re telling a stranger now. I sure hope so.

I’ve told Dawn’s story several times here, and I invite you to go back and find some of the posts about her struggle. She really was an amazing woman in the most difficult time of her life, never once giving up on her fight; never once thinking she was going to lose. She smiled every day and she took in visitors whenever they wanted to see her, and she never wanted them to leave. “Even if I fall asleep,” she’d say, “I’d rather have them here than anywhere else.”

The thing I miss most is her touch. The way she’d run her fingers through my hair as I laid on her lap after a tough day. She would almost always fall asleep if I asked this of her in bed, and that became a running joke. She also picked on me incessantly, with that shit-eating grin accompanying her ribbing of me. If I did something stupid, she’d give me that deadpan “really?” look. But it’s her touch I miss most. Her hugs. She’d hold me when things were rough, and for the last 18 months, things were rough for me, too. She didn’t let me hide behind being the strong one or the caregiver. She knew this disease was almost as much mine as it was hers. Thing is, she’s done with it now. I’m still suffering from what melanoma takes away.

I’ve cried oceans of tears in the past year, and in many ways I’m worse now than I was then. A year ago the future held that she wouldn’t be here, and I’d be responsible for everything with the kids, the house, and everything else. I was aware of probably 10% of what that meant, and besides the tangible things like keeping our lives going, there was a storm waiting for me in the form of social interaction. I was going to fall in love again, and I wasn’t going to be able to stop that from happening.

I’ve found comfort in the huge number of new friends I’ve made over the past year, who help me along my way when my best friends, the ones who have always been here, can’t be there. We all have lives, but I’ve rarely felt nobody was there. I’m incredibly lucky for that. I’ve gotten too close with a few in that time, but that’s been part of my growth as a widower as well. I have regrets and wish I’d done things differently, but who wouldn’t? This new life of mine has been full of mistakes, but I move on and try and go to sleep at night and hope I wake up the next day, and I do it all over again. I’m often lost and lonely and miserable, but the clock keeps ticking. Someday I won’t hear that ticking and I’ll be back in a good place. I’ll keep trying different paths until the right one comes along.

What gets me out of bed every morning is a promise I made to Dawn in her last days. I was keeping the house so we could stay close to friends, I was going to continue pushing the boys to be the best men they could be, I was going to take over the business and keep it on the path she wanted all along. But mostly, I was going to live with no regrets over her leaving. We left nothing unsaid. We were lucky enough to have time to make our peace with our lives and our marriage, and this disease. She blessed my future in any way that made me happy, and I don’t know that I would even be here without that gift.

I’m still feeling my way through the dark with almost every aspect of my life. I have a wonderful therapist who doesn’t speak ill of my mistakes, but rather, she takes me where I am and guides me along the way to peace and happiness. I have friends who let me hide in hotels with my tears, understanding that I just can’t be with them that night. I live in a town that knows my story, and while I’ve spoken ill of that curse, as it were, I’m touched by the closeness of the community as they come together for one of their own.

Mostly, though, it’s all of you who shepherd me through. There are too many to name, for I’d surely forget a few who deserve to be named as much as anyone else. But there’s always someone around the corner holding a light for me, and they do as Dawn did – pick me up when I need to be picked up, or sit down in the dumps with me until I’m ready to climb back up. My boys and I cannot even remotely express the amount of gratitude we have for all of you, but we send an unending supply of virtual hugs and kisses to each and every one of you, for you have kept us breathing.

As time goes on, I’m sure the pain will be replaced bit by bit with loving memories. There’s not enough room in my head or my heart for all of it yet, but I’m making room. I’ve still got a lot to tackle in this, but every day is a new opportunity. I’ll surely phone some of those days in, and maybe even stay in bed all day, but they keep coming and I keep trying to make them work for me. I can’t touch her, or feel her, or talk with her, or kiss her, but she’s here. She’s happy with my progress, I can just feel it. I’ve questioned my direction a couple times but I’ve made adjustments. Perhaps that was just her turning my shoulders in a different direction.

I love Dawn very much, even to this day, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t appreciate and accept that of me. I look at her smile every day and marvel at how she was able to wear it in those times. She truly is my hero, and is easily the most courageous, strongest, bravest person I’ll ever know. I just wish she was here so I could tell her that.

I love you, baby.

 

Progression

The boys and I had a great vacation. We needed the time away even more than I thought, and I think we have been able to sufficiently reboot from this long, cold winter. The weather was perfect, the pools were heated and open late, and we saw some baseball. All in all I couldn’t have asked for more, and I’m feeling good going forward, at least for the near future.

I’m learning that it takes more than just one or two trips like this to keep myself going. A trip like this will hopefully get me through the spring, when I’m sure I’ll need some other escape from life to keep going. I guess the hope is that the time between these shakeups stretches longer each time, until some day I realize I don’t need them for anything more than leisure.

Leading up to this trip, the proverbial phrase “it’s always darkest before the dawn” rang loudly. There were several important things in my life that were crashing down on me all at once, and I fell into a pretty deep depression over it all. I felt completely out of control and hopeless. I felt, again, that the things I held so dear to me had no desire to walk with me anymore, and it was nobody’s fault but mine, and again, nothing was changing it, and nothing was stopping me from trying to change it.

On our way to Florida, we stopped and saw a couple friends – one of which I hadn’t seen in 24 years, and another that I’d never actually met in person. Me and the boys sat and talked and laughed with them and had a good time and didn’t talk once about what I had been through. This gave me a sense of relief about my plight that I had yet to experience, and it felt good, and it jump-started my vacation from the cold and the snow, and mostly, my life. At one point on the way I texted a friend and said “you know, I haven’t spent a moment thinking of the bad things in my life.” This wasn’t how it had been before, and this wasn’t what I thought would happen. It was just me, my boys, the traffic, and music.

As I stood on the beach the day before we left, watching the boys fight the waves of the Gulf of Mexico, a thought crossed my mind. It was just the three of us. Nobody else was there. Nobody was acting kind to me. It was just us, and no matter what happens, it’s going to be just us, and I cried happy tears. It’s all I need, and everything else will work out. I can’t go wrong with that in mind.

I can’t change things in my life if they’re going to change, no matter how hard I try. I just need to appreciate what I have and build on that. Sure, there are things and people who make me happy, but sometimes they’re going to move on. That’s nothing on them, it’s just the way life goes.

No matter what life throws at me, there will always be the three of us. The rest is just gravy.

132 days

That’s how long it’s been.  I know this because I turned Dawn’s phone on tonight to clean up the junk email and update the apps.  I still keep the phone active and up-to-date.  I don’t know any other way.  While doing this I scrolled through her Twitter app and found so many wonderful thoughts and messages from the day she passed, 132 days ago today.

I’ve been having a hard time lately.  It’s been difficult ever since she passed, but the last couple of weeks have been especially difficult.  I don’t know if it’s because of changes in my life that are, oddly, bringing me happiness, or if it’s just time for the latest wave of grief to pass through.  I contacted a counseling center today and am waiting for them to call me back with a schedule, because I have to start getting therapy.  I met with a grief counselor once but I feel I need more than what she could provide.  I think it will help.

My heart hurts tonight.  My chest is tight with sorrow.  132 days ago I watched her breathing weaken as her life was reduced to minutes and seconds.  Now, as I try to establish myself as a business owner, as a father, as someone people want to spend time with, I still feel like I’m that guy whose wife died of cancer.  Perhaps I always will be that.  In a way, it makes me happy, because those people will think of Dawn, and I’ll remember how many lives she touched.  I hope she inspired you and made your life better.  I know she did for me.  God, I miss her, especially tonight.

41

Overall, I had a good day.  There were ups and downs, tears and laughs, but overall it was a good day.  A good friend had the gumption to provide me with an overnight decoration party, hanging streamers on the front of my house and a blow-up birthday cake on my deck, so that was a pretty nice thing to wake up to.  Later I had an excellent lunch that leaves me still full, five hours later, but mostly because of the EPIC dessert I was treated to, in the form of (literally) about three gallons of ice cream, topped and loaded with all sorts of yumminess.  I have better friends than you, and there’s no arguing that point.

Since Dawn passed, I’ve gotten more support than I ever could’ve imagined, and also have gotten closer to many more people than I ever could’ve imagined.  Sometimes it’s a little weird to talk about the friends I’ve made online with people who aren’t online so much, but that’s where my life has taken me, and I’m grateful for that.  This was reflected today in the innumerable birthday wishes I received on Twitter and Facebook and via text message, and I honestly can’t thank each of you individually.  I hope you know I appreciate every single one and I’m honestly still working my way through reading them all.  It’s been a good day, but an emotional day, and there’s only so much I can do in one sitting.  I know you all understand.

I would, however, like to thank some of you specifically, and if you aren’t recognized here, please don’t see it as a slight in any way.  I love you all very much.  Know that.

Leah, Kim and Marcia – I don’t know how I’d get through all this and be able to survive in this shitty club without you.  I really don’t know.  You’ve made me comfortable in my grief and my mourning, and for that I cannot ever repay you.  I am always always always here for you, and I hope that each day we have in our new lives is better than the day before but not as good as the days to come.  You are what everyone should strive to be.  I hope I can continue with the grace and confidence you exude every single day.

Kimberly – You’ve found ways to keep me grounded and you’ve looked out for me every step of the way without clipping my wings.  You were Dawn’s best friend and I’m happy you’re mine now.  I still struggle a bit with sharing, but know that it’s because of me, not you.  I’m getting better.  Thank you for coming over Friday and sharing some paper towel.  Kleenex is at the top of the grocery list.

K – you know who you are.  I’ve shared with you what you’ve meant to me this past few weeks.  Happiness.

Avitable – You made me a pic!  I’m in the big time now.  I always have a cigar here.

Mersadeez – Trust yourself.  You’re gonna do great things.  You just have to believe it.

Todd – Some day I’ll get to the PNW and share a beer.  It’ll be a chip in the block of gratitude I owe you.  Thank you.

The OTBL – You folks are my sound board.  I had a hard time feeling like I fit in, but you are the brothers (and brother’s wife) I never had.

T – I can’t even start with you.  You understand.  You belong at the top of this list.

Liv – Promise you’ll always be honest.  You can’t push me away.  I hope you believe that.

Joey – There’s always been something, for many many years.  You’re in my thoughts quite often.  I’ve never told you that.  I want you to know that.

Shelly, Meg, Beth, Matt, et al – Every beer in every driveway is a great one.  You all have been awesome for me.  I can never repay you all.  I love you all very much.

Renae – You and your family are in my thoughts every single day.  I hope you find the peace and enjoyment you deserve.

Katie Mac – I’m bringing like 12 cameras to your wedding.  :)

Tasha – I love making you laugh.

Shine – Man, oh man, I don’t know where to start.  I know you hurt as much as anyone.  I wish I could help you along that path of recovery.  If I find a way, I’ll share with you first.

Norm – you still owe me for Bonnie Bernstein

Shannon – you’re welcome to continue to give me shit

S – We’re both very broken, and we both know that.  That’s the first step back.  Don’t ever leave me, and please know that when I push you, I push you because I love you.  I’m so happy you came back in my life.

Dominick – A manly hug and cheers to you.  I know I’m always welcome in your family, and that means the most to me.

Karen – I know I haven’t reached out much but I know you’re always there.  Someday I’ll get down in your neck of the woods, I promise it.

And to my family – It’s been four months of pain, and years of shattered hope before that.  Please find strength in that pain.  Please don’t pass blame.  We forgive and we move on, but we never forget.  Find your sanctuary, whatever it may be.  We all need help and we need to accept that we may not have the strength to help each other.  Just stay strong.  Dawn wouldn’t accept anything less.  I love you all.

41

On Dignity

If you didn’t know Dawn, you probably thought she was, at best, overly optimistic about her condition, and at worst, completely oblivious to it.  The fact is, however, that she was more aware of her fate than any of us and she knew it was just how it was going to be for her.

The Melanoma Research Foundation will give you all the statistics you need about this disease.  The following is all statistically speaking.

How many people do you follow on Twitter?  I follow just over 1500.  MRF tells me that of these 1500 people, 30 of them will develop melanoma.  They won’t be alone, because eight minutes later, someone else will be diagnosed, and every eight minutes after that.  Every hour, someone dies of melanoma.  Another 270 of the people I follow will develop some other form of skin cancer in their lifetime.

Going back to those 30 who develop melanoma, pretty much all of them will survive at least five years if the melanoma is discovered and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes.  An annual visit with a dermatologist is the most effective way to stay on top of this.  If the melanoma spreads to the lymph nodes, 10 of those 30 won’t survive five years.  If it spreads beyond the lymph nodes, 25 of those 30 won’t survive five years.

This is the reality we lived with for almost four years.  Dawn watched a mole and the second she noticed a change, she was in the dermatologist’s office.  Was she too late?  Fact is, probably.  Could she have done anything sooner about that one mole?  Fact is, probably not.

Fast-forward to her last hospital visit.  The tumor in her abdomen was bleeding, and it was attached to the bowel, and we knew in the back of our minds that this might be it.  Our oncologist delivered the news that confirmed our worst fears.  From that point forward, the hospital didn’t focus on Dawn eating, or really anything else that would keep her from going home.  It was obvious they knew, too.

She was home about two weeks when she passed, and she did so with no worries about dignity or accommodation.  She had her boys around her and she ended her life how she wanted to within the confines of her physical ability.

She wasn’t oblivious to her diagnosis.  She wasn’t ignorant of her fate.  She wasn’t happy her life was ending.  But she wasn’t going to let that beat her.  I said she didn’t worry about dignity.  She didn’t have to.  It just came naturally for her.

Day by day

It’ll be four weeks tomorrow since Dawn passed.  The night before, I couldn’t keep my eyes open despite my fear that she would go while I was asleep.  Her breathing was getting shallow, she was virtually unresponsive, she couldn’t talk.  I tried my best to stay awake, but I just couldn’t.  I napped for about an hour at a time, waking up regularly with just about any noise that wasn’t common to the oxygen machine.  The oxygen machine became our white noise for the last two weeks in place of the box fan(s) we used for pretty much the entire 20+ years we shared a bed.

That night, when the boys went to bed, I made it a point that they kiss mom goodnight, and thankfully she was awake enough to do so.

The morning she died, she stopped asking to go to the bathroom every hour despite having a catheter.  Her breathing was getting worse, which I didn’t expect, but which didn’t surprise me.  There was no doubting her time was getting very short, and I did my best to stay by her side holding her hand the entire time.  My mother and her mother came over because we planned on having an Easter egg hunt for the boys, since Easter came and went without that tradition happening.  They both took their time with her then continued on to prepare the hunt.  I sat by her side and held her hand.  Eventually I leaned in and whispered in her ear that I loved her and would always love her, and I assured her that she could let go.  With every breath she took, I somehow hoped it would be her last, but every time her chest went flat, I hoped it would rise again.

It was no more than a couple minutes after I whispered in her ear that she took her last breath, as I held her hand and kissed her.  We were alone in the room.  I am incredibly thankful for that.

The boys and I said goodbye to her then, not realizing we’d be saying goodbye to her many times after that.  I still say goodbye to her pretty much every day, in hopes that one day I’ll get that she’s gone forever.

A Twitter friend, @califmom, lost her husband about three years ago to cancer.  They were the same age that Dawn and I are now and I can’t thank her enough for her advice.  One thing she told me was to get familiar with my shower floor and car, because that was where she spent most of her tear-filled times.  My shower floor is the fucking recliner that I can neither move nor avoid sitting in; the one that now resides where Dawn’s bed was in the family room the last couple weeks.  My car is, well, my car, where I drive home to an empty house every single day.  This realization reared its ugly head just recently after going to dinner with some friends.  I always drive home to an empty house.  Even if people are there, the house is just empty.

My subconscious has kept me from calling counseling services.  It’s kept me from selling her car.  It’s kept me from doing just about anything related to Dawn or her death.  Her jacket still rests on the floor next to my desk where we left it when we got home from the hospital.  It’s paralyzing.

This weekend I went to a birthday party for a friend’s son.  This was the first party, per se, that the boys and I went to since she died.  These were my neighbors, and we’ve been great friends with them for more than 10 years.  I can walk in their house any time of the day or night and raid their refrigerator, but I felt awkward this weekend.

Everything is just a little awkward.  Watching Jeopardy isn’t fun anymore.  Scrolling through the DVR is weird.  Doing anything and everything with the boys is strange now.  The worst time of day for me and the boys is nighttime, or more specifically, bedtime.  At bedtime we can’t do anything but try and sleep.  It’s time to stop reading, or playing with legos, or watching TV, and just try and sleep.  That’s when we think about Dawn and struggle with sleep.  Thankfully, the boys have gotten better about it and get to sleep okay now, but I haven’t seen the early side of midnight in a month.  I sleep well once I’m asleep, so there’s that, but getting there is becoming more and more difficult.

Every day we get a little bit better, but every day also brings a different challenge or realization about my future.  Widowed at 40 was never something I could’ve ever imagined, but here I am.  I’m sad and upset that Dawn is gone and I miss her like crazy, and much of that is because I know how much she loved living her life.  The business was very stressful but she loved so many things, the most of which were her children, and now she’s not here to see her son go to middle school, or to actually choose to wear jeans every day.  She loved those boys in jeans.  It’s just not fair to her.  She was too good a person for this.

Ultimately, that’s always what I cry about.  I hate all this, mostly, for her sake.  It’s just not fair.