Learning a new way of life one bumpy day at a time

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Enjoying a good moment

I had a chance to go out of town today with a good friend to a swap meet. We are both automotive fanatics so it was great to see all kinds of books, parts, memorabilia and other assorted oddments. I had a quick visit with another friend who has recently lost his wife and he remarked to me that he had some good moments today, and for a while he felt like he did in the days before his wife got sick. He pondered whether this was a good thing – did it mean he was forgetting?
I remember moments like that in the beginning, when I would watch a show or do some chore around the house, then I would realize I hadn’t thought about my husband for two whole hours. While it felt like a huge weight had lifted off my shoulders, I do admit I also had some guilt.
Survivor’s guilt, they call it. I had lots of days of that, but fewer nowadays. I haven’t forgotten about him – his photography is on the walls, I drive his car, I sit at his antique writing desk. In these small ways I remember him every day. He isn’t on my mind every minute like he used to be, but I’m ok with that.
I am moving forward, and he is coming along with me each day. I’ve never liked the term ‘moving on’ – sounds like I’ve forgotten him. Moving forward means a positive direction in my healing.
When those moments come along when you can laugh with friends, or idle away a few hours reading or gardening, and your mind is clear, enjoy them. You haven’t forgotten your dear one. You’re remembering to celebrate your own life along with theirs.


Remnants of a Life

I was out in the back yard for a bit today, hanging some solar lights and tidying up.  It struck me how much of my surroundings seems like a museum now that my husband is gone.

The travel trailer, once used for so many wonderful family holidays, now sits on the pad, covered with a large tarp. The hot tub has been emptied, the heavy cover slightly askew so the air can get in and prevent mould.  The patio furniture and his Father’s Day chaise lounge are huddled up against the house under the arbor cover.

He is in every room. His favourite clothes in the spare room, his cameras in the den, his nightstand full of momentos sits by my bed, and even as I write this, I am sitting at the antique desk he used all through university.

I suppose in a way it is comforting to have the things we loved and enjoyed as a couple surround me, for I have become used to them being a part of my life, but it is also very sad because it reminds me of what once was and never will be again, and it’s a hard place to be in right now.

I read a very good book a few years ago that describes this transition period as “the waiting room”.  Not in the past, not in the future, but in a sort of limbo.  I don’t want to erase all memories of my husband.  We were best friends for almost 40 years, so that’s just not possible.  I’m finding it very hard to move forward though, when my daily routine revolves around having these constant reminders in my life.

There is so much more to losing a spouse than just not having them around anymore. The past becomes melancholy, the present is uncomfortable, and the future has been wiped clean.

What to do? I really don’t know.

In the meantime, I will continue to occupy the waiting room until a door opens and lets me step into a more comfortable place.


His someday didn’t come

Today would have been my husband’s 59th birthday.  When I was younger I would have thought that was ancient, but now I realize it is still quite young, and far too young to leave.

He had so many things he wanted to do.  He loved his photography and wanted to spend time travelling and taking photos of his beloved mountains from as many angles as he could.  There was golfing, road trips, volunteering, and a dozen other things he wanted to do, but like most of us, it was going to be ‘someday’ that he did all of this.

He loved his work, almost to a fault.  He was very good at what he did, and I sometimes wonder if he would have even retired since he thrived on the challenge of owning his own business and being the acting CFO of a technology company in addition to all of the volunteer work he did.

When both of my parents passed away within seven months of each other after a long and healthy life of travelling and enjoying each other’s company, I begged my husband to start slowing down and to take some time off so we could be together more before something happened to one of us.  This always fell on deaf ears, since his clients were number one in his life and he wanted to make sure we had enough for retirement.

How ironic.  I am now in forced retirement since I had to shut down our company, and while I am grateful for being able to live comfortably, I have no one to travel or share a cup of coffee with.  My son and I do things together, mostly involving car meets and shows, which I am most grateful for, but he also has his own life, so I spend a lot of time alone.

Travelling alone? Possible, but not interesting without someone to share the adventure. Going to movies, concerts and the like alone? Again possible, but watching all the other couples laughing and talking makes this even less desirable. Even watching people walk down the street together makes me cringe.

He used to joke and say he wanted to live to be 110 years old so he could see Expo 67 again. Sadly, he got exactly half of that.

On this day, I’ll remember my first and only love with sadness and a lot of regret as to what he, and we, missed out on together.

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Going out by myself and it’s ok

I went out to my monthly car meeting tonight, the one I used to go to with a friend who no longer attends, so I have had to learn to make it there by myself.  Driving at night really stresses me out, but since I live in a winter climate, half the year has dark evenings, and unless I want to stay home for six months, I don’t have much choice.

Last month’s drive to the meeting was quite rattling – missing a turnoff, being honked at, and generally fussing all the way, so tonight I planned a different route that had less traffic on it.  I missed the turnoff again, but I took a deep breath and got off at the next one, then made a U-turn in the next available break in traffic.

Because I had left early when there was still some light in the sky, I arrived at the meeting place long before anyone else. To pass the time, I drove over to the Tim Horton’s across the street and relaxed with a well-deserved cup of tea. My courage tonight paid off – I won a free donut in their roll-up-the-rim contest!  Nice treat for a difficult drive!

While I’m getting sort of used to driving alone, I would still love to have a friend to go with.  I miss the days when I would sit in the passenger seat while my husband drove and I could happily look out the window and take photos. Those were good days.

In the meantime, I will keep sweating and stressing my way through my drives.  Maybe someday I will be blessed once again and be able to sit back while someone else drives and I get to look through a viewfinder instead of a windshield.

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At the car wash

The lineups at the car washes have been quite long this past week, but this morning I decided to pick up a coffee and go anyway.  I listened to the radio and had a chance to do some people watching while the line crawled along.

I watched everyone in the nearby grocery store and coffee shop lot come and go about their business.  Things I used to do with my husband and never gave a second thought to. Getting groceries, buying coffee, filling the car with gas – all the small things that seemed  so ordinary and mundane at the time, but now can bring me to tears.

Mostly couples were out today, smiling and conversing while they loaded the trunk with their purchases, holding a hot drink while the other fumbled for keys, chit chatting while waiting in the car wash line.  Such small things; things that most couples take for granted as just another everyday activity.  I used to be the same way.  I would get bored waiting in line and wished we were doing something far more exciting, but now I would love to have just one more chance at having a morning with my husband.

While I have become quite proficient at maintaining my cars, managing the house and my finances, and starting new ventures, I miss having someone to share it with.  Someone to sit with at the end of the day and say ‘guess what I did today’.  How wonderful it would be once again to feel the warm glow of intimate conversation and work towards a mutual goal.

I wonder if any of those people I saw today realized how special those moments were in just doing the ordinary tasks of life.  I hope they appreciate them before they are gone.

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Driving alone in the dark

Last night I attended a new car club, one I’ve only been a member of for a few months.  Normally I would have shied away from a group of strangers, but I was introduced to this group a few months ago so I thought I would take a chance.  They have turned out to be really nice people and I’ve even started to do a bit of writing for their newsletter.

Those of you who know me know that I am still relearning to drive, so having to go to this meeting in the dark, on busy roads, and up by the airport, can probably guess how I felt about tackling this.  The snow we had last week seems to have erased the lines on the road, so I had a rather nerve-wracking drive all the way there.  I couldn’t find my lanes, got honked at for almost missing a turn and cutting across two lanes to get there, and then I almost missed another one but made it into the right lane at the last second.

By the time I arrived at the meeting place, I had a headache and had to sit in the car for a few minutes to decompress.  It was worth it though, since I received a lot of compliments on my articles and enjoyed some coffee and fellowship.

The ride home was more relaxing since I chose some back roads instead of the busy ones.  It was a huge challenge for me to get there in the dark – just a short while ago I barely made it out of my neighbourhood.

I’m glad I made it and for taking another bold step into the unknown.  I will consult my map, however, and pick a less-travelled route next time!




The dreaded Christmas letter

I made it through the Christmas season without getting one of those Christmas letters stuffed inside a card, but I did get one in the mail yesterday.  You know the ones.  Little Johnny is in med school, Freddie is in the senate, and the happy parents are spending the winters on their private island in the Bahamas.

Personal achievements are wonderful, and my late husband and I certainly had our own goals and dreams – that’s what life is all about.  I wrote my share of small newsletters with a few photos of the family each year.

However, I was also cognizant of whom would receive my yearly updates.  If I knew someone had a loss, I wouldn’t send anything that would upset them by magnifying their pain, instead I would write a small personal handwritten note inside the card.  For someone who had just lost their spouse, a photo and detailed article about the wonderful retirement party in Belize would spiral them down into a further depression.  Why don’t people understand that?

When the infamous envelope arrived yesterday, I left it unopened on the kitchen counter.  Each time I walked by it, I felt a small pain in my soul, since I had knew what kind of letters this person always sent.  All the travels, blessings from God, etc. etc. made me feel like I wasn’t blessed – what did I do wrong to lose my spouse while this person had blessings?  Sounds bitter, but if you have lost your other half, you can get my drift.

I finally opened it this afternoon and gave a it a quick review, steeling myself for the inevitable sadness it would bring, but I was lucky, it wasn’t as emotionally wrenching as in the past.  After reading, I tore up the envelope and dropped the letter into the recycling bin.  Whew – I survived it.  Glad to have that over with for another year.



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Made it through another holiday

Christmas is finally over, thank goodness, but it was good this year, with lots of visiting with family, friends, and neighbours, as well as several gift exchange parties.  We also visited several light displays, and even though the Zoo and park were filled with couples and their children, it didn’t seem as melancholy this time for my son and myself.

As fun as it was, I am so glad it is done for another year.  The pressure starts to build right after Halloween – will we be by ourselves for Christmas – who will we visit – what should we do so we don’t feel the loss so much – etc, etc.

This year I just sent out a few cards, bought smaller gifts, and just let the season flow on it’s own each day.  We had a nice ham dinner for two on Christmas eve, then were invited over on Christmas day by loving friends for tea, for which I am so grateful.  I used to think Christmas day had to be spent with only family, but I am now seeing that it is to be spent with people we love.

The decorations are now put back in their boxes and the house looks rather plain, but there is a peace in my heart, knowing I survived another holiday without my husband, and did quite well. Now if I can just get through Valentine’s day…..


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An exciting day for my blog


I am very excited today to tell you that my blog has been included in the membership of the Mental Health Writers Guild! It is an honour to be included with other excellent writers who are sharing their experience and knowledge with the world in the hopes of offering support and improving lives.

I am grateful to be a part of this – many thanks to the people over at the guild.

The neighbours had a lovely open house the other night to celebrate the season, and I received a comforting gift that I didn’t expect.

I have felt like an oddball at functions over these past few years because I am a widow, and not an elderly one.  There always seems to be only couples there and I often feel awkward being alone.

I talked to some neighbours I have known for a long time, but also was able to meet with several I didn’t really know.  I wasn’t alone in my journey as I found out.  Two of them were widows as well, and even some of the happy couples I talked to had lost a spouse along the way but had remarried.

Sometimes it seems we are the only ones going through tough times, but as I have found out, many others walk the same path.  I found talking to others who truly understand the pain was of great comfort to me, for while friends can offer their sympathies and a ear to listen, unless one has experienced the loss of a spouse, they just don’t get it.

Sometimes we receive a gift when we least expect it.