This one may be hard to follow. It is a mishmash of what my brain has been doing so far this summer. Get ready with your coffee, beer, wine, whiskey, weed…whatever…and have a seat.
Summers are so fucking hard. They used to be the best! I loved summers. Now summers are full of birthdays and “anniversaries” (I should come up with a new word because “anniversary” implies something good….something lasting and special. People don’t say “Sad Anniversary”. Have you ever heard that? I’ve only heard “Happy anniversary” or “Congratulations on your anniversary”. None of these really apply, do they? For the purposes of this blog–I’m going to create a new word…hmm…suckyversary? Badiversary? Sadversary? Fuckedupversary? Oh–I like that one. Fuckedupversary. New word. Created by Kristen.)
Okay-back to business. First and foremost, I want all my readers to know that I never, ever think “poor me”. Do I get sad? Yes. Do I get angry? Yes. Have I thought “Oh sweet Pete, I will never escape this for the rest of my life?” Yes. But I refuse to have a “poor me” attitude. I do not want my kids to think that either. I do think “Poor Jake” (pretty much always). But no matter what I say in my blogs, I never think “Poor me”. I try to keep in mind–number one–things could always be worse…much worse. Number two–Shit happens in life. I can choose to wallow in whatever comes my way, or I can choose to get out of bed every day and keep living–with a positive outlook. I can’t control everything the universe might throw at us. But as long as I have hope…I have enough. I do have hope. I have dreams, I have goals. I want my children to grow up and learn from watching me…..learn that bad things can happen, and some people have more than others, but this is it. We power through and remember bad things could be worse and more people have less than we do. Some people might take this the wrong way, but we are lucky. I believe that. So anyway-that’s all about a “disclaimer” I wanted to make about what I write. I might write about sadness, anger, guilt, shame, grief, etc.–but that never equates to “oh, poor me”. I’m just talking about my feelings and how we get through life without Jake. At least that’s where I’m at today. That’s good enough for me!
One of Jake’s best buddies, carried some of Jake’s ashes to the highest point in North America-the summit of Mt. McKinley. I feel very fortunate that he had his fellow climber take a video as he spread Jake’s ashes. For me, the video is intense and brings on goosebumps and tears. But, when I watch it, I also experience a feeling of relief and maybe even happiness? I watch it and know with everything in me that it was perfect for Jake. At this point in time, there is no place else Jake would prefer to have his ashes spread. If he were alive, he would want to be up there with his buddy. That’s the kind of stuff that Jake loved and dreamed about. It was perfect.
I have watched my 8-year-old son grow progressively more angry and destructive over the past two years. He says things to me like “Why don’t you just run me over with the car?” and “I hate this life”. He thinks he is angry about something so minute, like a pizza crust, but I know his anger comes from a much deeper place. For Fathers’ Day this year, his classroom project was “Five Things My Father Taught Me”. This is what he wrote.
To anyone outside of our family, this may seem like a perfectly lovely project and what a wonderful job completed by my son. However, I look at these pages and it tears my heart to shreds. It tears me up because Jake did not teach my 8-year-old these things–at least not all of them. The very first page–the one about math-yes, Jake did teach him math at a very young age. But, that’s all my son could remember about what daddy taught him. Because the rest of the pages…do not apply to Jake. By no means am I disparaging Jake. Jake was an incredible and wonderful dad. But, I know my son did not learn these things from him. My son struggled so hard with this project that he ended up copying a friend’s work. There is no way his teacher or anyone else could have known this. But I knew it as soon as I saw it. I picture him sitting at school trying to complete this project and not being able to come up with anything besides math. No wonder he is angry. He doesn’t recognize on a conscious level what experiences like this do to him on the inside–to his heart and soul. His entire existence was changed in the instant I told my babies that their daddy died, but he doesn’t think like that. He just thinks he is pissed about an uneaten pizza crust–so pissed–that his body is shaking and he is ripping up grass and throwing around giant surfboards. Well, guess what? There are times I hurt so badly, I miss Jake so much–that I actually want to destroy things. I want to lie on the grass and start clawing at the earth. I want to punch walls and throw things. So, I get it. I just want to pluck that hurt and anger right out of him and I’ll take it all on myself. I wish that I could do that.
This summer, I had the chance to visit with people I haven’t seen since last summer, which happened to be” The first summer” in the AFTER. This year, (the second summer in the AFTER), I heard from quite a few people who mentioned that I seem so different from last year. They were happy to see me smile, interact, and engage. These people love me and they also recognize that this doesn’t mean I’ve “graduated” from my grief. It just means that when they last saw me, I was withdrawn, sullen, and had a very flat affect. I know that last summer I was still stuck–stuck in a fog filled with disbelief and wishes that I could go back in time. I honestly couldn’t relate to anybody. Couldn’t focus. Couldn’t attend or engage. I will never stop grieving for Jake. But, people noticed a difference. I’m still ditzy and forgetful. What was important is that the changes people noticed were positive! They saw positive changes…in me. Smiling=positive. Interacting=positive. Engaging=positive. I will gladly embrace the differences that people observed. That is the direction I am working towards.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about my mother and her circle of friends. Her best friend (let’s call her “Elle”) passed away several years ago. During “Elle’s” long illness, my mother was frequently flying back and forth from Seattle to New Jersey to take of her dear friend. When I was growing up, “Elle” was like family to me. I remember my mother in the kitchen, chatting away on a phone that still had a cord(!), to “Elle” for hours on end. They showed up at each other’s homes without calling first. They had a very special friendship. I found myself feeling down when I was thinking about my mother and “Elle”, because I don’t have an “Elle”. I have so many friends and I love them and they love me. But it’s not the same as it was with my mother and her friend. Then I realized–Jake was my “Elle”. He was that comfort and closeness and special person. When he was sick, I took care of him. When I was sick, he took care of me. Sad, happy, silly, angry, funny or otherwise–Jake was the very first person I called. (There are actually still times when things happen and my immediate thought is to call Jake and tell him.) I had my “Elle”. I lost him. I just want everybody to appreciate your “Elle”s.
The dreams. Lately, I’ve had an abundance of dreams about people who have passed away. In my dreams they are very much alive but there is also some pervasive thought throughout the dream that says “Wait a minute–this can’t be. You’re not alive anymore.” When Jake and I first started dating, he had a motorcycle. It was yellow. He sold it not long after I met him. That motorcycle has been in the background of my dreams. Every night my two littlest ones sneak into bed with me at some point. Last night I dreamed that Jake was standing at the foot of the bed-watching over my little girl. For almost two years now, I have believed in nothing. Death is the end. There is no “heaven” or “other plane of existence”. I have wanted to believe in something else. I have wanted to believe so, so badly. But the more I learned, the less I believed. I recently had a conversation with a childhood friend (she happens to be “Elle’s” daughter), and she believes. She has faith. She told me about her thoughts and beliefs in a way that wasn’t preachy or condescending, and so I listened respectfully, but skeptically. This amazing girl (well, she is a woman now–but she’ll always be the girl around the corner to me!)–without even trying–has me wanting to believe in something again.
I’ve been thinking about a lot of people. Most people I know have been through some really rough times. Some people are still going through them. The people who inspire me, the people I admire, the people I enjoy being with are the people who are going through shit I can’t begin to relate to, but remain positive, even while they are hurting, grieving, suffering, etc. Everyday, I work hard to “be like them”. I don’t know if you folks all know who you are (there are a lot of you!), but you guys are my personal heroes.