Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Grief Box

Sometimes I feel like the lack of emotion I show publicly is puzzling to others.  To tell the truth, I didn't understand it myself at first.   It's probably not so surprising to other widows.   I think I've come up with a way to explain it.  I call it The Grief Box.

All of my grief and touching memories and meaningful emotions associated with Rudy are kept in The Grief Box.  The box is something I carry with me everywhere I go. 

When I go out, I guard that box carefully. It's like Pandora's Box.  I don't want it opened when I'm out and vulnerable. The box can be accessed from all sides and it's not all that strong.  Sometimes I'm guarding one side of the box and something sneaks up and pulls a memory out from the other side.  Every time the box is compromised, the pain is raw.  It takes time to recover from a surprise leak.  

As time goes on, I'm getting better at guarding the box.  The box is thicker and tougher and harder to puncture by surprise, but it's not at all invincible.  If I know something is coming up, I can brace for it.  When I'm braced, The Grief Box is difficult to sneak open.  On the other hand, when I'm home and by myself, the box is fairly unprotected.  Memories and emotions spring forth rather freely.  I don't push those back so much.  I am able to feel what I feel without need for explanation and without making anyone else sad or uncomfortable.  All my friends and family would be more than happy to be a shoulder for me to cry on, but I do better sorting through these emotions on my own. 

Widows whose husbands die suddenly and unexpectedly are usually much more emotionally demonstrative (or they are in a complete state of shock).  They haven't had time to build their grief box. 

Widows whose husbands die after a long illness usually appear to be holding up well.  

For me, I began building my grief box the day the doctor said "Stage IV,  Not Curable".  That was pretty much the worst day of my life.  It was even harder than the day Rudy died because I didn't expect that diagnosis.  I had no protection. I felt like I turned to stone, but looking back, I'm sure I was in shock. By the time he died, I was a tougher, different person.  I had even reached the point where I was thankful for Rudy's release from suffering.  

I've been a widow for nearly six months now, but in some ways I think I've been widowed for a year.  The day of that diagnosis is the day I started losing him.  That was the day I began building my Grief Box.

Those of us who carry around a grief box are not able to be free and easy emotionally.  I have no idea how long it will take me to feel free and easy again.  I sometimes wonder if I ever will. Will I have to guard my grief box always?  I do talk about Rudy often and I hope one day memories of him will only bring smiles.  For now, I'm just one of those widows who is holding up well...  I'm holding up a Grief Box.  

I should end there.  That last bit would make a good ending.  Still, I feel compelled to let the people I love know that I really am doing well.  I'm functioning and figuring out how to get on.  I'm getting out there and finding ways to have fun. I am constantly looking for good things.  I find it's true, when you look for good, you will find it. Hiking is my newest thing.  I most enjoy being around friends I see often.  With them, I don't feel like the elephant in the room that everyone has to be careful around.  In other words, nobody needs to worry about me.  But, I want to make it perfectly clear... widows you meet who are holding up well are dealing with lots of pain whether you see it or not.

 This post was written after hearing a comment about how another widow was "holding up well" and I thought to myself that only another widow understands what it means to be holding up well.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Uncle Clyne

The 1965 Ford truck often mentioned in this blog originally belonged to Rudy's uncle, Clyne Veal.  Clyne recently turned 95.  He's an amazing man.  He's also a WWII vet with some very remarkable war experiences.

Clyne Veal served in the Navy during World War II aboard the USS Clemmons, a destroyer which was converted to a high-speed minesweeper deployed to the waters off the coast of Okinawa.

He has been interviewed several times and there's a great article AND VIDEO at the Gainesville Times site.

Since online posts have a way of eventually disappearing and this one is already 5 years old, I am copying the article here.  Hopefully, those in the family who are archiving important family information will copy it as well.  Also - Does anyone know how to copy the video???  It's priceless.

Hall Man Escaped from Sinking Ship
By Jeff Gill
POSTED: August 15, 2010

Clyne Veal and his wife of 61 years, Lorene, recall Veal's days in the Navy during World War II from their Gwinnett County home.

BUFORD — Clyne Veal survived months in the Atlantic Theater aboard the Navy destroyer USS Emmons, including the D-Day invasion at Normandy.

After the Germans were defeated and nearly two weeks after being sent to the Pacific to fight the Japanese, Veal was caught in a desperate sea struggle and didn't think he was going to make it home.

Clyne Veal served on the USS Emmons, a Gleaves-class destroyer, named for Rear Adm. George F. Emmons.

The Emmons, converted to a high-speed minesweeper, had gone from patrolling for submarines in the Arctic Circle to clearing dangerous explosives from the waters off the coast of Okinawa. Her mission: Pave the way for assault ships as part of a looming U.S. invasion.

"Them boys didn't want their channels swept," Veal said of the Japanese military, "and they sicced the kamikaze planes on us."

There were 11 suicide planes in all.

"The boys shot down six of them and five of them hit us," Veal said, speaking at his home near the Hall-Gwinnett County line last week. "That was one time I thought I was going to die."

At one point during the attack, the ship's captain "came floating down by the side of the ship," he recalled. "I reached over and grabbed him by the hands ... then turned him around and got hold of his life jacket and pulled him up on the ship and propped him up against a bulkhead."

Assigned to fire and rescue, Veal went to the other side of the ship to tend to a crew member whose legs had been shot off.

"We started back to the first aid station with him and he died on the way (to it)," he said.

The ship eventually sunk and Veal was the next to last crew member to leave it.

"As far as I know ... we got this small ship that was operating with us to come alongside and we put what wounded guys we had left on there that hadn't been put on a lifeboat," he said.

The ship had about 260 people aboard, with about 60 killed or declared missing in action and another 75 wounded.

Veal escaped unscathed, but the memories lingered for awhile.

"It doesn't bother me," he said. "I had one nightmare about (it) after I got back — I woke up fighting the battle — but I don't ever worry about."

After the attack on April 6, 1945, he was shipped back to the U.S. and was stationed for a while at an air base in California. He was discharged on Dec. 3, 1945.

The war had been over since the Japanese surrendered on Aug. 15.

Veal has no particular memories of that day.

"I believe I was on an old tanker coming back home," he said. "...It was nice to know we didn't have to fight anymore."

Clyne Veal's Navy portrait.

Veal, a Forsyth County native who grew up in Hall County, settled in the 1950s off what is now known as Sandy Hill Road, which is off Bogan Road, just south of the Hall line. Rural then, the land surrounding his home - built in 1963 - is dotted by subdivisions.

Through the years, he has farmed, tending to cattle and chickens. He worked for a time with General Motors and retired after 18 years with Georgia-Pacific.

He and his wife, Lorene, have been married 61 years.

Ten years ago, the Japanese Coast Guard discovered the USS Emmons buried at sea. Veal has a copy of a book about the ship's history and a framed black-and-white photo of the ship when it was a destroyer.

Now nearly 90 and reflecting on the 65 years since the war ended, he said, "I tell you one thing - I believe I'm awful lucky to still be around talking about it."

Friday, October 9, 2015

Memory of Joy

I was reading on one of my favorite widow blogs today and her post absolutely nailed the source of my grief.  She said the memory of joy was the most painful.  That's it!  That's what turns on my faucet of tears every time - a memory of something wonderful.

Today, I was thinking about how Rudy always said I was easy to please.  He would get me something small on a whim and it tickled him at how thrilled I would be.  A million little things he gave me over the years popped into my head.  Just the thought of them still makes me happy... and so, so sad.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Five Months - My Reflections

As of 9:15 this morning, Rudy will have been gone 5 months.  I just read over what I wrote after four months and it seems to describe about the way I'm feeling now.  I still miss him like crazy.  I still think I hear him coming in from work.  I still imagine what he'd have to say about everything.  I still can't believe he's gone.

Not much has changed except my need to write publicly about how I'm feeling.

When I write on this blog, I am mostly thinking about whether what I'm saying might be helpful to other widows.  Then, I think about whether what I'm saying might make my friends and family worry about me.  Then I wonder if what I'm writing truly reflects how I'm feeling after all the editing.

I have switched over to journaling more for myself.  It's easier.  I don't have to think so much as I write.  I just put down my feelings and get it out of my system.  Then I get back to reality.

This is how I think of Rudy.
He was hilarious and laughed a lot.  That's what made me fall for him.

I like this photo a lot, despite the poor focus and color.  That expression is how he looked just as something funny was occurring to him.    He could say something halfway insulting in a way that made you  know you were loved and enjoy being zinged. He only did this with people he was close to. I heard a quote recently about somebody famous and of course, I can't remember who.  It said this person could tell you to go to hell in a way that made you look forward to the trip. For Rudy, that would be changed to he could insult you in a way that made you proud to be so enjoyably flawed.