Saturday, September 26, 2015

Treadaway Reunion

I made it through the first family reunion without Rudy today.  This reunion was for my dad's side of the family.  My grandmother, who I always called by her name, Ruth, adored these reunions.  Ruth had lots of brothers and sisters.  They loved the reunions, too, but they are all gone now.  I have wonderful memories of reunions when they were all alive.  They were all smart and lively and fun to be around.  Rudy loved those reunions, too.  He especially loved being around Ruth and her sister, Mary.  Rudy would tease them and flirt and they would become positively giddy around him.    Ruth's brothers were wonderful, too.  Rudy and I loved hearing the great stories of things they did long ago.

Sisters - Ruth, Verna, and Mary
Aren't the flapper shoes great?

Being at this reunion without Rudy was sad, but I was braced for it.  I knew he would be remembered.  I knew people would offer condolences.  Being braced helps tremendously.  It's the unexpected things that are hardest.

I enjoyed seeing the people who were there, but, I really missed the many who were not.  I don't know how heaven works, but if loved ones do get to hang around occasionally and see things that are happening here, I'll bet it was really crowded at the reunion today.  Ruth's brother Grady was probably the proudest one of all.  His great granddaughter just received her doctorate in Forensic Toxicology.   Her degrees came from GA Tech and UGA.  I'm proud to say, I share some of her genes.  :-D

My wonderful grandparents - Joe and Ruth

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Fall Sadness, Holidays, and a New Wardrobe

I'm loving the fall weather, but fall is bringing up some unpleasant memories.  These last 4+ months, I've worked hard to squash memories of Rudy being sick and instead, have tried to train my mind to switch to memories of happy times.  I'm having less success now and I suppose it's inevitable that the next few months will be pretty much a minefield.

I suppose I need to start reading lots of articles like this.

October is the month that Rudy first thought he had bronchitis.  He went to the doctor and had x-rays.  They found a tumor.  November was the grim diagnosis and the beginning of the merry-go-round of tests and chemo.  Every holiday has a memory of sickness.  Every holiday will also have a memory of happy times in past years.  Rudy loved the holidays.  Will I ever be able to love them again?  I'm so mad at myself for feeling this way.  I've been brilliant at controlling how I look at things and now I'm losing my control.  I'm absolutely dreading Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I swear, if it weren't for all my pet craziness, I'd leave town.  I want to run away.

Seriously, I do NOT want to ruin gatherings
for everyone by acting like this!
This little crying girl cracks me up.
See how I'm able to have fun even while being pitiful?

Also, in the fall are two family reunions.  Rudy loved those even more than holidays.  I don't know why, but I think I'll be able to handle those a little better than the holidays.  I keep wondering why and just have no idea.  They'll be sad, but I don't feel like I could have a meltdown.  Just the thought of Thanksgiving and Christmas makes me feel panicky.  There is a tiny little doubt in my head about these reunions.  What if I just think I'll be OK, but get there and lose it?  Darn it.  Where has my mind control gone?  I'm doing exactly the things I know not to do.

Another weird thing I'm having trouble with is my wardrobe.  So many of my fall clothes have memories attached to them.  How shallow is that?  I wore this sweater when Rudy was told he was going to die and there was nothing they could do.  I might as well toss that sweater if I can't get myself under control.  I wore that outfit to his first meeting at CTCA.  Every fall and winter thing I have is associated with chemo and doctor visits and scans and emergency room visits.

I've been buying new clothes like crazy.  You may think I've suddenly become a style maven, but there's a bit more to it than that.  I'm trying to make the buying process fun and I'm trying to find things I can love wearing, but it's not exactly a happy fashion transformation.  It's a necessary fashion transformation.  Last year's clothes make me cry.

I really believe that after I get through the rest of this year I might be able to turn a corner and focus on joy again.  I'd like to turn a corner before then.  I'd like to figure out how I can be present at holiday gatherings without ruining them for everyone else.  I can't believe it's only September and I'm worried about that.  That's stupid!  I don't like doing stupid things.  I need to snap out of it, right?

Here's something that occurs to me, showing that karma's a bitch.  I can remember seeing widows throughout my life who suddenly spruced themselves up and/or suddenly began redecorating or moving to a new home or going on trips or doing happy things.  All sorts of things occurred to me - they must not have loved their husbands all that much, they must have inherited a bunch of money, they must be thinking about getting another man... the judgmental list goes on. (I will say that I was more judgmental about it when I was young and had gotten a bit more understanding in the last few years.  Still I racked up a good bit of widow-judgment karma in my twenties, thirties, and forties.) Well, here I am, right smack in the middle of the things I judged.  I get it now.  I understand ALL the reasons now.  Lesson learned.  Don't judge me. I personally care very little if you do, but for your own sake, just remember... karma's a bitch.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Monday, September 7, 2015

Four Months - My Reflections

I've been doing a lot of reflecting the last few days.   I've been thinking about two things - how much I miss Rudy and what the heck am I supposed to do without him.

I believe in Heaven.  I believe Rudy is there and that he's happy.  I believe he is often with me and others he loves.  There's still a connection. I believe at the end of my life, I'll join him on the other side.

I think there's a possibility that before we are born we may get to choose a few things about our life in order to put ourselves in situations where we will do what we're supposed to do and learn what we're supposed to learn.  I can even imagine Rudy being given a choice - he could have chosen a longer, safer, more sedate life.  Instead, he chose a slightly shorter life lived doing exactly as he pleased, saying exactly what he wanted to say and having a heck of a time all along the way.  That sounds like a pretty great way to live, actually.  It can ruffle feathers, but it certainly simplifies things more than beating around the bush or avoiding talking about things.  He had great health with hardly any trouble at all up until 7 months before he died.  I can see him choosing that, too.  So, he had a good life.  62 years isn't long enough, but it's more than many get.

1978 - this was my first trip to his family's yearly reunion.
It was the summer before we were married.

If I truly believe Rudy is happy in Heaven and that Rudy had a good life on earth, then it follows that much of my grief is because I'm feeling awfully sorry for myself.  That's true.  What do I do without him?  When I pictured my future, I pictured it with him.  We would grow old together.  We might even "check out" together in a car crash. He was a very talented driver and had incredible reflexes, but he went way too fast for me.  I could even picture us going through the "after-death tunnel" together. As we would be pulled towards the bright light,  I would be fussing at him all the way, saying, "I TOLD YOU your driving was going to kill us!"

It ALSO follows that I am still here because my journey is not over.  The question is, what is my journey?  I have been reading lots of online sites for widows.  The posts are often inspiring and the comments by other widows are often enlightening and/or thought-provoking.  If I thought about it long enough, I could probably come up with 5 or 6 highly generalized categories for how  widows deal with their grief.  One category would be for widows who desperately want to find another person to love.  I don't begrudge them, but I'm definitely not in that category. I've never been the type of person to get bored alone. I can have just as much fun by myself as with someone.  Another category would be for widows who pretty much give up.  Just today I read a great post inspiring widows to stop picturing themselves as one day old and alone (I have to admit that scenario scares the heck out of me) and start visualizing themselves living a full and happy life.  Then I read the comments and there were MANY from widows who said they were too old to start a new life.  The surprising part?  They were in their 50's or 60's.  Not a single one of those comments were from ladies over 65.  If those widows were in front of me, I'd be tempted to shake them til their teeth rattled.  So clearly, that's not my category.

So what widow category is mine?  I'm pretty sure I'm in the category of widows who despite being devastated, pick themselves up and figure out how to spend whatever time is left on earth being a good person, living fully, and seeking joy.  I have no idea how that's going to look.  I can't imagine what the future may bring.  I can't imagine the path I might take, but you can bet I'm going to keep moving.  I'm going to stay connected to family and friends and life.  I'm going to make new friends along the way.  I'm going to be open to possibilities... new hobbies, new things to learn, maybe I'll even live on a lake or on the coast one day.  When my ride is over and Rudy meets me on the other side, he'll be grinning and he'll say, "Well done".

That all sounds very brave, doesn't it?  Here's a little widow truth...  I won't be able to go out bravely into the world with that attitude every day.  Today, for instance, I'm overwhelmed with memories of Rudy. It's been exactly four months since he died (May 7th at 9:15 am).  I'm going to stick around the house and give in to the grief.   I really miss him. And no, I don't want to be rescued.  I've had offers to go out today.  I just want need to stay home and be free to feel sad.

This is the May 7th heading in the Simple Abundance journal by Sarah Ban Breathnach. The title is amazing, but so is the quote.  The last day or two before Rudy died, he kept trying to get up, saying "THEY told me I could go home."  I thought he was confused.  He wasn't.  I didn't ask the right question.  I didn't ask who THEY were.  I'll always regret that.