Monday, September 8, 2014

Six Months Gone

Six months ago today. So much has happened and so little has changed.

Time has crawled and flown all at once. I have a good bit of inner work yet to do. I spend a lot of time in the quiet, remembering, sort of treading water. I've only just begun to turn my solitary thoughts to the future.

Six months ago I had some vague notions of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I'm not so sure now. Not at all sure. I won't be able to think clearly for some time to come. Not while there's this gigantic, 6'8" hole in my life.

Still, I refuse to rush around filling that hole with crap. I won't make any rash decisions or out-of-character "lifestyle changes." I won't be joining clubs or switching professions.  I may be in a dark wood wandering, but I recognize it as a temporary state. Last Friday night I was in the deepest, most frightening pit of despair I've encountered to date. The morning after, I threw myself into expanding my routine, really pushing things. I wasn't surprised that the world around me managed to straighten itself out just fine. That's how it goes - this swinging back and forth. The occasional need to outrun my sorrow and the occasional failure to do so.

There really is so little left to write about now. We accomplished what we set out to do, Asa and I, with writing this blog. We shared our journey through his illness, and his end, and my stuttering restart. I hope in some measure we did something good here. The blog will remain in cyberspace for some time to come, and I still get the sporadic comment - which I do read - so in that sense the blog is still active, but no new posts will be forthcoming. I have other writing I need to be doing now, other projects demanding my time and attention.

Thanks to all of you who shared this time with us; for your good wishes and support, your kindness and your interest. I'll say goodbye now from this platform, and hope we meet again on some other.

Oh - one last thing to share. A book I've been savoring for the last month or so. I remember seeing a copy of it on my mother's nightstand, nearly 60 years ago. This is one of my favorite quotes.

“Don't wish me happiness
I don't expect to be happy all the time...

It's gotten beyond that somehow.

Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor.
I will need them all.” 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Hour of the Wolf

From Wikipedia:
In an episode of the science fiction television show Babylon 5 entitled "The Hour of the Wolf", Commander Susan Ivanova says:
"Have you ever heard of the hour of the wolf? ... It's the time between 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning. You can't sleep, and all you can see is the troubles and the problems and the ways that your life should've gone but didn't. All you can hear is the sound of your own heart."
That's how it is. It's 3 AM and I think I might have slept for two hours, so if this doesn't make a lot of sense, you might understand.

I actually woke up an hour ago and realized I was hungry. I forgot to eat dinner. I don't know that I was thinking about anything in particular, or got involved in anything distracting - I just wasn't really thinking at all.

I gave up trying to sleep, found some tamales in the back of the fridge; warmed up and paired with a Guinness, I had a very unfashionably late supper.

I'm currently binge-watching episodes of Poirot. They're mindless and sedative and usually do the trick but the little Belgian failed me tonight.

Last entry was May 23. We didn't scatter Asa's ashes as planned - the weather would not cooperate. Time passed and I thought I might do it in July, when my daughter was here for a most welcome visit - but when we came right up to it, I realized I'm just not ready. And I may never be.

We used to close the store on the 4th of July, go to a movie in the morning and then have All American Diner food for lunch. We'd have a movie marathon in the afternoon - usually action hero stuff. This year I chose to open the store for a few hours, having nothing better to do and finding a weird peace in routine. Then his birthday was on the 6th of July. Very dear friends took me to an Irish pub for a meal and a pint and it helped, delaying and defusing the sorrow. My birthday was the 25th, and it wasn't as rough as I'd feared. They say anniversaries and holidays are especially hard the first year, but none of these occasions were as hard for me as the ambushes.

Last week it came to my attention that the car might need some tending. Since I walk to work, it's not something I think about on a regular basis. I filled the gas tank in mid-January, and though I still had over a quarter tank I filled it again in mid-July, having driven less than 150 miles in that time. In all honesty it's been almost 20 years since I've had to deal with things automotive. The tires looked a bit low. I asked a friend for a second opinion and was given a tire gauge and some information and yes, I needed to put air in them. And should probably get them aligned. I found the folder with all the car's maintenance records and bless him, Asa had the tires aligned 4 years ago but had the foresight to purchase a "lifetime alignment package." So all I had to do was call Firestone and make an appointment. I picked up the phone and fell completely apart. This was HIS job. I just couldn't do it. I cried for almost an hour. I knew I still had to get some air in the tires, and some friends offered the loan of their compressor. I thought I should probably clean up the interior a bit before taking the car to their place and as I did, I found a small black canvas grocery sack. In it was a brand new, never used air compressor for tires, basketballs, and pool toys. I took it with me to my friends' place and had him show me how it works. I got this now. I still haven't made that call to Firestone. But I will.

It also occurred to me that the cats were due for their yearly wellness checks and booster shots. I called the vet and got them lined up and took Carmen in on Monday morning.

We walked in and our favorite receptionist was at the desk. I told her we'd have to change the name on the cats' files to mine, breaking the news about Asa.  And burst into tears in a crowded vet's office. Damn it all to seven hells, this was HIS job! She put us into an exam room pretty quickly, I pulled myself together, and everything went very smoothly after that. I did laundry and grocery shopping right after taking Carmen home, and I was done with all errands by noon. I made some lunch and went to bed. I was exhausted. I got up a few times, did a bit of lackluster housekeeping, falling asleep and jerking awake over and over until I went to bed for real.

I take Montag in next Monday. It should be a lot easier.

The upshot of this little recitation is this - you prepare yourself for the Known Triggers (birthdays and such), but there's no defense against the unexpected memory bombs. The ones from last week are still going off even now. Grief attacks suck. They are getting fewer and farther between, but I think they're making up for that in their intensity.

It's 4 AM now and I need to rest some. Gotta get ready for work in 7 hours.

(gratuitous picture of beautiful tulips for no reason whatsoever)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Status Report

Did you know there's such a thing as a grief attack? It's a sudden, overwhelming sense of sorrow that insists on you paying attention to it and it won't let go of you until you do. That's how I experience them, anyway. They may never stop altogether, but I've noticed they come fewer and farther between as time goes on. I read this great article about the first year of grief and I've found a lot of comfort and wisdom there.

I have at last unearthed all of our photographs and brought them home out of storage. I found the album from our vow renewal in 2002, with our hair dyed lilac for the occasion. 
The dye didn't take so well to Asa's beard, but the effort was made.

There's a huge envelope full of pictures from my son's wedding years ago - Asa took them with an old 35mm camera he found in a thrift store. Boxes of pictures of babies and sepia-toned obscure relations from the 20's and 30's that no one can identify. A folder with my dad's hand-tinted photographs of his Army days at Scoffield Barracks, taken just days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. A box full of my kids' school days memorabilia. Locks of their hair from their first haircuts wrapped in newsprint. I'm glad it's all here now. I feel better with it here.

His toothbrush still hangs in the bathroom. His slippers are still on his side of the bed. I rearranged all the furniture in the bedroom, though. When I finished doing it, I looked around the room and thought, it's my bedroom now. It's my apartment, now, too. Just mine. Then I had a good cry and then I made dinner.

Speaking of dinner - I'm rediscovering the kitchen. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy baking, in particular. Or making giant casseroles I can eat for days and days.
Chicken stew covered in dumplings made with chicken stock and sour cream.

I'm moving around more, getting out just a bit more, rebuilding my energy. I've been more engaged with the book shop these past few weeks - not just going through the motions. I've gone out book hunting on my own a few times now, and I'm making plans for a clearance sale next week. We used to have them from time to time, for one reason or another, and it just felt right to do one now. Make room for newer, fresher stock.

I continue to receive amazing gifts of the spirit from relative strangers. Last Monday I was loading my laundry into the car and one of my neighbors, a retired old cowboy type, walked up and introduced himself. He told me he was sorry to hear about my loss and pointed to his apartment. "You need anything," he said, "you just knock on our door - my wife and I would be proud to help." I don't think I've ever seen his wife. I thanked him, and he shook my hand with both of his. The next day, a new customer asked me out of the blue if she could hug me, after hearing about Asa's passing. Of course I said yes. She wept silently as she embraced me, then thanked me and left. Something every day. Every day I run into someone who hasn't heard and should be told, or who just heard and wants to share a special story. Some days I'm better at shielding myself than others. Some days I need more shielding than others.

I missed Asa something awful today. It was raining this afternoon, and I reached for the phone to call him and ask if he'd been outside - he loved sitting on the porch in the rain - I looked at his number on speed dial and the sudden truth of my loss overwhelmed me there for a while. Lots of deep breathing ensued.

Right now I know Asa - wherever he is, most likely zooming all over creation - is reveling in being an expanded consciousness, and is truly beyond all pain or limitations, and filled with pure joy. I'm easier in my mind these days, more at peace myself, knowing in my heart this is true.

I never did completely fly apart at the seams, though I came close a time or two and I'm not promising I won't yet. I never did get drunk with my best friends, though I can't say that won't happen in the future, either.

Life is getting just a little easier to take, every day.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Keeping Promises

In November of 1996, Asa and I were in the first heady weeks of our relationship. He wanted to introduce me to everyone he knew; we went to all sorts of interesting places - not least of which was The Muddy Wheel, where I met Fred Wilson and his wife, Kristen. It was an incredible experience - Fred was one of the most talented and generous artisans I've ever met, and Kristen's jewelry designs were an inspiration to me. In April the next year, we went for another visit so that Asa could share the news about our upcoming handfasting.  Fred waved his arm at a shelf of gorgeous pieces and told us to pick one as a wedding gift. We did, and thanked him profusely, but later that evening as we looked at it again, Asa said it reminded him of a funerary urn. I agreed. He said that whichever of us went first would have the honor of our ashes inhabiting this work of art. Again, I agreed.

As the years went by, I forgot that conversation. Now it all comes back, with our anniversary on Monday*, and the ash scattering happening soon after. This remembering has solved my dilemma - I will keep some of Asa's ashes in Fred's jar, along with some of Asa's favorite things.

I was going through his nightstand, and his many little memory boxes, looking for items I felt resonated most strongly to include in the jar; his Tour de Tucson medallions, pocket knife, comb. Runes, medicine bundle, worry stone, green man. As I was doing this, I found a poem I had written to him that he kept all these years, not with my other poems in his treasure book, but near him in his nightstand. I never knew.

For My Asa                  (dated 11/26/96)

What place of power was I standing in,
     unknown to me
What words came out of my soul
To form what charm of making . . .
     And does it matter?
What perfect circle cast,
What sacred flame lit
To fashion you so completely
From the mist of all my longing?
     And does it matter?
Where was I in the Dreaming Time
When I made these wishes
Now wearing your flesh and face?
What spirits bent close to my mumblings,
Leaning over that dark, coldest place
I thought my soul consigned to forever?
What skilled & knowing hands
Took each & every of my tears,
Collecting them sufficient to wash me clear?
     And does it matter?
In what time past, my times past,
Did I sleep & dream & have this bright spell
     Work itself out of my heart
     Like a golden splinter
And form itself into my shelter,
     My own true home?
          It doesn't matter, the how, the when,
          The why.
It is enough that I have found
My dearest healer --
     Creature of mist & hope,
     Of possibles & true magic.
     My own true heart,
     My own.
     My Asa.

During his final weeks, he asked me to promise to do several things. The ash scattering is one of the last promises. He asked me to promise to stay here in this apartment, for at least another year. I will.**

When we were handfasted, we promised to love and care for each other for a year and a day and longer if we both agreed. Which obviously we did. When we had been together for five years, we went up into the mountains to the home of some friends who had a sacred circle on their property. There we renewed our vows, but this time with the promise to love and care for each other forever.

And we will.

*We were handfasted on 5 May 1997, and legally married on 5 May 2009.

** "I need to know where I can find you," he said.