how did i get here?

my husband, my beautiful Dragon, died suddenly at 12:03 AM on 9 February 2009. there was a cold, lovely full moon and 3 feet of snow on the ground. i "slept" for the following 10 months and "woke" to the physical and emotional pain and torments of deep grief. i "woke" to find i had moved the day of his funeral and that i am lost. i am looking for me while i figure out the abstract, unanswerable questions that follow behind any death. my art has evolved. his death changed that as well because i am forever changed and will forever bear the mark of losing the only man i can ever love.
there is alive and there is dead and there is a place in between. i am here wholly in my heart for my children, but i feel empty inside at this time. i miss him. i have not gotten very far in my grief journey. i make no apologies for this.
this is my place, my blog, where i write to tell the universe that i am still here.

Monday, August 31, 2009

going out verses being alone

what's up with the gull face? it's my face. it's a face that says i could be friends with someone. how can you turn down a pensively weary yet valiantly strong face like that?

for the third time since my husband died, since i moved here to be close to my daughter, i went out to dinner. i only go out at night to the widow's group once a month, and twice since February they have skipped a meeting so i've only been to four meetings.

the first meal out was at my daughter's future mother-in-law's house. the second was with one of the widow's from the group. last night my daughter and her fiancee picked me up to have dinner with her fiancee's father. (her fiancee's parents are divorced and his mom has been remarried for about 4 or 5 years.) it was okay. three times, though, i almost called her to cancel claiming some small ailment but the sole purpose for the appointment was for me to meet this man. my daughter wanted me to meet him before the wedding so that it was gotten out of the way. now i've met everyone in the inner circle of her fiancee's life.

it's not the meeting that was odd. it was the going out that bothered me. i honestly don't know what's coming over me. am i slipping into this hermetic lifestyle to easily? is this a secondary side of grief no one told me about? why am i getting nervous to be away from my little apartment?

i can go out during the day to run errands. no problem. i have my list and my budget in mind. my daughter picks me up and i go and i return. i'm always glad to return.

i love it when i'm with my daughter. she and i are very close. she sighs heavily and i already know what's on her mind. my voice sounds funny on the phone and she knows i've been crying. we are in the middle of our transition into more than mother and daughter. we are becoming adult friends. better than friends because i am her mother but less of me being the guide and teacher i was when she was young.

i also love being with my daughter because we talk about my husband. i did mention him last night a few times but for the most part, i listened. i can talk, discuss, debate but i can quite easily be talked over. i stop talking and then can't find the bother to continue even when i'm given permission. i don't have any stories anyone wants to hear.

who wants to hear, well, "when my first husband pulled my son off the riding lawnmower to chastise him about mowing across the grass in the wrong direction for the growth of the grass, i put myself in between and took the hit." who wants to listen to the time i hid the kids when he came home on a tear because i'd spent $55 more at the grocery store than he thought i should have. i grew to hate online banking because he checked every damn day. he'd be mad before he learned i'd been asked to bring food to school.

i've already been telling you of my Dragon and of the time i was allowed with him. i've mentioned our walks. i've told you of the time the storm was coming in and cut me off on the rocks while i was too busy photographing said storm to notice. how many times can i tell you that he means the world to me? how many times can i say his eyes danced, he always held my hand, every time we walked anywhere - the grocery store, the library, driving the car? how many more times can i continue to write of our love without it being tiredly redundant for you, and i'll be sitting here knowing that?

i didn't say too much last night. i smiled. i responded at the appropriate length required to look invested in the conversation to questions put to me. but i felt out of place. it was a feeling akin to those first few steps after a stumble where you didn't actually fall down, just almost. and those first few steps are taken with the heartbeat still a bit rapid. the breathy "i almost fell down" adrenalin rush still coursing through you. that's how i felt all night out, until i got home.

my puppies were dancing, happy to see me. my little apartment looked cozy. my plants were full and gently moving from the little fan. my sewing, colorful and quiet was waiting. my photos of my life from before were looking at me from the walls and bookshelves. and my Dragon shrine was sitting on the mantle. solace. comfortable. sanctuary.

i read of everyone else going out and meeting up with friends. chillinwithlemonade had her scrapbook party and the photo looks like a bunch of women having such a nice time sharing and bonding.

i watched a film with Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, and Joan Allen called "Bonneville" and the deep, long friendship of these women was enviable to me. i wish i could find a friend like that. i'm trying. but one that is very close to my age is also very busy with her much younger children. only one is even in elementary school. another one in my age bracket is a maybe. she's busy also but her children are grown like mine. i'm crossing my fingers.

i don't want to be a hermit. if that is my fate, i'd like to live by the ocean. since that isn't going to happen, i'd like to find a friend. someone who knows the brief ups and consistent downs of losing a husband. no offense to widowers but i'd like my friend to be female as i am.

i don't want to lose my voice. i lost it metaphorically during my first marriage. i was getting it back with joy and, i have to admit, a little bit of bravado, with my Dragon and because of him because he liked the sound of my voice and what i had to say. but now, i think i'm losing it again. i loved talking on the phone to Suddenwidow. she thought i was fun. thanks. =o)

i can be fun. i'm just caught in this sadness right now with no desire to pull away. i love him madly. he is so cute and would say wildly inappropriate things to make me laugh, so i want to be friends with someone who is stuck here as well. we could pull up our little dinghies along side each other and drift together for a while sharing stories, crying, laughing, imbibing in too many Shirley Temples and snacking on port wine cheese and crackers. then when it's all our of our systems, we will be fast friends. we'll push away a bit, reset our oars and draw where our strength and the current takes us. but we'll have each other to call out to. we'll be able to row back towards each other should the seas prove too rough for one or the other.

maybe one day i'll have a photo of me with my friend to post here so that everyone can see. i'm not only the Dragon's devoted widow. i am also some one's friend.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

my pendant and new ring ~ my response to the widow who emailed

this has been building in me for a couple of weeks, something that i feel i have to address. i read only a few blogs, faithfully, and leave comments when i feel i might be able to say something worthwhile, usually in the way of validation. i feel we write here in hopes of connecting with someone. i don't think we need life coaching. no one can and should direct our lives. we gain insights to others who feel, or have felt similar, to see that benchmark for where we are.

i have been told to never say never. i have been instructed that i should be getting better. all this is sound advice that comes from people who know what works for them and is very well meant. i understand that at the beginning of grief, people say never say never because life happens and may gift them with a new love. lovely. such a wonderful second chance.

but my Dragon was my second chance.

i have been told that i am flat out wrong to grieve at all. not going to say who from, it came through as a private email. it was harsh, direct, and very self-serving of a life plan that works for this particular woman. she loved her husband. he got sick. he died. people need to move on quickly or they are only wallowing for their own benefit.

i felt a little sorry for her, that she felt such contempt for me. the catalyst for her vehemence was due to my "Dragon and the womanNshadows" missive of a couple of weeks back. she felt i had, in her words, "over calculated your affection for him. no one should mean that much." oddly her words didn't wound. i know what i had in him. still have.

i deleted the email without responding. all she knows of me is that i am womanNshadows. all she knows is that her words passed by me without comment. but then i thought i would and add the photo above.

i read the handful of people's writings here and i feel the hurt, frustration, and sadness that can overwhelm. i feel it deeply myself.

i spoke on the phone to Suddenwidow and told her a secret. besides the urn for my Dragon and myself, i purchased something else from that company, something i didn't know was available but wanted immediately when i saw it. as is obvious, my Dragon was cremated. i have his ashes waiting for mine to join his to be given to the sea. i also bought the tiny cobalt blue glass pendant and put barely a teaspoon of his ashes inside. i sealed the top and it is ready for me to wear when i go out if i so choose. i chose the one i did because he meant the moon and stars to me. i'm wearing it under my dress to my daughter's wedding. she knows. she approves. she wants it when i pass. he was her Dragon, too.

without going into detail, she needed him before i married him, called him, and he came. my Dragon became her Dragon by protecting her until i could get there. her father had stopped by and was angry. she was scared and needed help. she loves him and calls him "Dad."

i also bought myself an anniversary ring from a company called "wedding vow rings." i had his vows to me, the Shakespeare quote, engraved on it. instead of moving my wedding rings to my right hand, i am keeping them where he put them. and i've added the silver ring i bought for myself to wear on my right hand.

to the never say nevers? sorry. i'm not there. to the tough love people who think i'm wallowing because of the pendant? i'm working on the Memory Quilts for others, taking in their stories and using those as inspiration for the quilts i make them so that they are unique. i feel, i think maybe, i tell myself i am giving them back something tangible, soft comfort, and memories for the children who love their dads, moms, sisters, and brothers.

i'm living. i'm getting up each morning. i'm working. i simply still love my Dragon. if i say never, i know i will get mail and/or comments. i will be told i'm making a generalized statement far too soon. but i have to throw on the table this one thought. you don't know me, what my life was like before the Dragon, and what our lives were like together. you don't know what we have. there are people who don't ever remarry and are considered living their lives. if i am one of those, i am no less a functioning human being than those who are gifted with another love.

let me be. offer solace. tell me you understand the sadness that has come to my life. but please do not tell me everything you know i am doing wrong according to how you live your own life. i do not tell those who cry to suck it up. i do not expect others to grieve as i do. it is my life. no one else has to live it. but i do.

everyone's lives has so many variables that come into play. don't criticize when all you know are the words chosen to become public. in loving my Dragon and writing about him, it was never my intent to rile anyone. i do not reach out to others for advice, only commraderie, the knowledge that they know what i'm describing.

i hope all who grieve find peace. i hope all who find another love, have long lives together. i hope all who their lives with the love and memories of the one who died, find joy in those memories and the tears become fewer and further apart. i simply wish us all peace.

Monday, August 24, 2009

it came

i finally had enough money for my Dragon's urn.

we had talked about what he and i wanted a year before he died when he had to have his heart stint replaced. we were both going to be cremated and have our ashes combined and then given to the sea.

i've been saving and having a hard time with it, but i finally got the money. and i ordered his urn, our urn. it is silver and has seagulls etched in it. i put his dog tags and his little ceramic skunk that he and his Marine Corps fire team got and put on leather cords to wear. my Dragon said they picked the skunk because they always got the missions that really stunk.

so it's here. it came. my daughter came over after work and helped me. i've got it set up on my mantle with his flag, his medals, my pewter dragons, and............

hard dreaming, mortality, Split-Second Single Father, and Widower Howe

the first photo is because of something Split-Second Single Father wrote and my story of the photo I'll get to in a minute.

my sleeping habits have gone to H-E double L since my Dragon died. i am in physical pain from arthritis and from stress. i ache more now for reasons i will only tell you are this: he's gone and everything is magnified.

i have been working myself so very hard on the Memory Quilts and the sewing for my daughter's wedding. i told myself that on his birthday, back on August 5th, and on our wedding anniversary, back on August 11th, that i would take a break and work on my own Husband Quilt, try to get it finished for myself through both those days, but i didn't touch it. the top is done and i showed it to chillingwithlemonade when she stopped by for her pillow and grey sock dog but, well, i haven't finished it yet. it's become more wall art that a true wrap-around me quilt. i'll take all his t-shirts and make me one of those later on. but back to the reason for taking a break to write.

i was exhausted and took a short nap, a "snap" if you will, after eating lunch while working with Photoshop on my daughter's wedding program. (see, i can multi-task with the youngest of them.) now i've taken "snaps" before but this one is the first one where i woke myself up crying. i heard a sound and thought it was one of my Scotties but, it was me. crying. for the Dragon.

i was disoriented after i woke up but somehow through my dreams i'd figured out how to make my daughter's wedding gloves. on the aside, has anyone had to price lace wedding gloves yet? oh my stars above. they cost that much, all the stars above. (note to Split-Second Single Father - start saving.) i woke up with it all figured out - how to make them from my old wedding veil. "something old."

but in my disorientation i felt waves of panic. when i die, wait, what if i die very soon? before i get it all done? and then i thought, what if i can't find him? it was wave upon wave of panic and not the good waves of warm ocean water that can bring about bliss. these were frightening crashes over my fragile psyche and i cried so hard i gave myself a headache. stupid. so stupid to my rational mind and yet, when it comes to missing my Dragon, i'm emotional. all emotion. hence the second photo. i took it solely for this day's writing. as with the third photo.

my Dragon, had be been here, would have comforted me. he would have catered to my iced tea-aholicism and then finger-combed my hair. he would have sat with me and held my hand and talked to me. he always knew i suffered from an overly creative mind. a curse and a blessing. it helps me create things but it also takes me down very dark roads. "she's insane? she's an artist? ahhhh. therein lies the answer."

now for the first photo. this one is for all of us and the catalyst comes from Split-Sec. Single Father and also from criticism i've received for "not getting over it" as fast as some think i should. i should be "further along." well, since i cannot curse here, then i say "go away. i don't need you and here's the story of Widower Howe."

the Widower Howe lived in the town where i lived during the majority of my 20 years with my first husband. it is a rural little town in southern New Hampshire with lots of cows, horses, apple orchards, and a feed store. the center of town had the general store called the "Common Cracker," the library, the Feed Store, the church where 3 faiths alternated services every weekend, and then the fancy, rich people's houses. around the center of town no building is younger than 75 years old.

Widower Howe and his wife Esther were born in the same month in the same hospital in the neighboring larger city. they grew up 1/2 a mile apart and married when they were both 21, her father's request. she gave him 5 children, 3 boys and 2 girls and died in 1947 from a sudden and unknown heart condition. Widower Howe was understandably bereft. seventeen years of marriage and at the age of 38, he was alone to finish raising their children.

by that time, though he was a prosperous man having bought into the only feed store in town called, yes, you got it, The Feed Store. he owned it outright and was an expert on grasses, grains, and food for horses and cattle. you could get dog food and supplies there and on the side he had taught his sons carpentry and two of them went into business together starting with bird houses and eventually going into building homes for people. one of his sons was a United States Marine who was killed in Korea. his daughters married boys there in town and never lived far from him. basically he had all his children close and kept his Marine son's ashes on the mantle along with his flag and photograph all the time i knew of it. now his eldest daughter has carried on the tradition.

Widower Howe, for that's how he got to be called, never remarried. he never dated. he never tried. women tried, but his eyes were only on the horizon. that's what one of the old men who sat "cutting wood" on the porch of The Feed Store would say. ("i don't whittle, i cut wood with my pocket knife." though i did ask to buy a little bird he "cut." he gave it to me for simply noticing him in a kind way. sweet old man. - you can see why i loved this town.) "Widower Howe keeps his eyes on the horizon for that's where she is a'waitin'."

when he died in 2004, my Dragon and i went, along with the entire town, to Widower Howe's funeral. the pastor who spoke said, "Widower Howe is 95 years old and for each one of those years, he was a kind and gracious man who always took care of his family and friends. he extended credit when times were hard and he carried folks for longer than their own relatives would. Widower Howe never got over the untimely death of his beloved Esther, but we can all take comfort that he's joined her now. he was lonely for 57 years. Widower Howe is lonely no more."

i want to find my Dragon like i like to believe, along with everyone else, that Widower Howe found his Esther. i want to be back in his arms again. i want to rest and sleep safe with his great and strong wings surrounding me. i want his breath on my neck and his whispered words in my ear.

i want to quietly grieve for him and wait for him with the same courtesy that all of that tiny, rural town allowed Widower Howe to grieve and wait for his wife. we say very often that "no one gets it." they don't have to "get it." they just need to "leave it alone."

Saturday, August 22, 2009


i made the big gray dog on the left from a pair of socks from one of the widow's in the group.

the little red dog on the right I made from my husband's old cheap dollar store gloves.

both have buttons from the respective men's clothes.

my little dog has part of the broken strap from my Dragon's bivy bag from the Marine Corps. and one of his Purple Heart ribbons.

they are my trial runs.

big gray dog has gone to his home but for a short while, they sat together and shared stories. they were buddies.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

soul mates

i didn't cry today. not yet anyway. that's not progress. i was with my daughter and her future mother-in-law and we were out in public. wedding stuff. i did feel heaviness in my heart with each smile that i knew wasn't reflected in my eyes. it's getting closer to her wedding day. all the different human variables are moving into place. i will enjoy the day while i work to make sure everything follows my daughter's plans. i am the photographer so i will be moving about, being able to keep the camera in front of my face, hiding. i will be so busy that it will happen and i won't have time to face that he is not here. not until that night after it's over.

he is my soul mate. if i haven't said it or made it clear, let me say it now. he is my only mate. i do not see how, at this point in my life, where anyone can reclaim any part of me. i will be honest. i am 51. i am tired. i know the odds of finding a soul mate, a true partner that claims every part of you is rare. and now that i have him, i cannot believe i have to face the rest of my life without him. i never understood the full definition of a soul mate until i met him and i cannot believe i was allowed to have him come into my life. i've never been blessed with an honor that bold or profound. my children are gifts from God. my Dragon. i have no idea how or why i was allowed to be found by him.

and to see him die and work so hard to save him, to do CPR and call to him, to race to open the door for the EMT's and then be useless, not be allowed near him to whisper to him. gut-wrenching. did he ever open his eyes with awareness of this world and look for me? did he call for me and i wasn't allowed in there to respond to him? they took him into a room and i was left alone in another.

and then he was gone.

i've never been blessed with any honor as profound as having him in my life. the fact that i lost him reinforces the fact that i will never have an easy life. but i had him. for a little while, i had all i could ever want. we heard music only we two could hear. we had a short-hand way of communicating. side glances. secret smiles. no one knew what we heard, maybe only a faint echo played as we walked by, but i think people were aware that we were an inseparable pair. the music was ours and belonged only to us. now all i have are memories and dreams. it's not that i want it again. no one can take even a small place in my heart. it's that i once held all i could ever want and then had to watch it slip away. i want to be with him again. i miss him. the loneliness i feel cannot be fixed with someone else. it can only be erased by him.

to continue to use the ocean and water metaphors and analogies, i'm still moving through heavy, dark waters. the skies are sullen and it's almost dusk. i'm tired and feel like, for now, at least until the wedding is over, that i've put my oars down and i'm letting myself drift. i know that means i'm not following any real direction. i'm being taken whichever way the wind and current takes me. i'm lost in grief but i think it's alright to allow yourself to be lost.

one does not have to accomplish something on the "grief journey" every day. i think some of us don't have a destination. after a soul mate dies, i think a destination gets set aside for quite some time. it has for me. i just want to get through each lonely moment as it hits me, however hard or soft it hits me. it really is just living one day at a time. looking too far into a future without him is not something i can do, not something i believe i will ever do.

he is my soul mate. to be without him is entirely too painful and the only way to heal would be to be with him again. and right now, that is not available to me.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

you are what you leave behind

my husband died. it's the first thing i think of when i feel the need to convey thoughts out to anyone. i feel the need to get that out there so as to explain why i'm sitting in front of the computer and typing anything to anyone.

i was never this lonely, to be drawn to sit at a computer. my life didn't revolve around a computer beyond checking email, balancing my accounts with the bank, and visiting my children's Facebook or Myspace sites to see the new folder of photos they set up for me. i don't mind computers but they were never the focus of my life. i don't believe in artificial intelligence. when a computer binges then goes to the bathroom to throw up because it thinks it's too fat, then i'll believe in artificial intelligence. why would i sit on a computer searching for people to talk to when i had everyone i ever needed? no one but my children and my husband cared about what i thought or was thinking or feeling. but my husband died and i am alone. my children have their busy adult lives and they don't need me like they used to. they are raised. they're done. the advice i have given out lately is that it's okay that the chicken cooked a little bit when they used the microwave to thaw it and if you haven't, at some point, thought about picking up your handy copy of "War and Peace" and beating someone over the head with it there's been no real relationship.

i am existing each day and wondering where do i go from here? my home is not a house where i can paint the walls or go outside to a little yard to garden. i don't need to fuss over hydrangeas that are sitting in a row by a beautiful little fence. i don't have a gate to open to walk a path to ocean's edge.

most of all i fully realize i don't have him to talk to. he's not here to come sit beside me and coax me out from behind my book, or up from my sewing to go walk with him, do something with him, not even to go to the grocery store to pick out something for supper. i see his shoes in the closet and i know he won't be using them anymore but to give them away or toss them would be akin to an act of treason. it's cruel and it's so simple. the more i try to hold onto him, the less i have to hold onto. he's gone. all i have are my memories and i'm told that he will someday become a sweet moment of sadness that passes by as i go on about my day. i take what other's, who have had their spouse die, tell me and try to see if it can be applied to my own life. then i think, maybe i'm not there yet. i keep filling in the cracks that open up because of this grief and as soon as i address one, the next one is starting to open.

the facilitator of the group asked, what have i learned and what would i say to someone else.

as of now i've learned that i can be in debilitating pain, cry an ocean of tears, barely be able to catch my breath, dream of a dragon of a man who was one in one hundred million, and still be called alive.

what i would say to someone else is you are what you leave behind. everything you do and everything you say, however small, has ripples that affect the world in a lasting way. toss a pebble in a small pond and the ripples glance off a twig, submerging it for the length of time it takes to blink, and possibly a dragonfly dies.

i wonder if it had been me that had died would he sit and remember all the times throughout each day that i said "i love you" and if he would become quiet and introspective. i wonder if he would flash on one of the countless of times i sat beside him, looked at him, and would reach up my fingers to touch his mustache and stroke his beard and say, "you're so pretty" in a hushed, meaningful whisper that held my reverence for him. i wonder if he would become remote and unreachable in his grief over the death of his woman that he rescued from the shadows.

he gave me belief in love. he gave me his medals and his stories. he gave me his undivided attention. he gave me his hand to hold and his heart to keep safe. i was going to die in his arms just as he died in mine but we were going to be so old that it would be expected, even desired. but by God, we were going to be together. whoever went first, the other would not be long behind. but now? this situation now? what do i do now? what do i live for now?

my children are worth living for but i don't matter in the way i did when i was their whole world. that's the way it's supposed to be. i did my job with them. i raised them, guided them, taught them, protected them, and now i've set them free.

and my husband, i lived for him, for his smiles, his love, and now i still live for him only death took him but it won't let me go. it's not like holding onto a kite or a child. kite strings break and children grow up. but the death of my husband, my Dragon, my life? how do i let go of that and if i try, it doesn't let me go. he is here and so alive in my heart, the love i feel for him, so alive with no where to go. i can't reach over and touch his face. i can't see him blush with my adoration that he secretly thrived on.

i've buried my parents, my grandparents, my stepmother, and a baby. you never really know what death will make you do or feel. how do you define it that you can set up a curriculum for bereavement classes? how to you try to reach past all the pain and fit the pieces of a solitary life together when it seems they are way too broken to bother? is this the result of the half-year milestone, his birthday, and our wedding anniversary all rolled into one horrible conflagration of anguish today, yesterday, the day before, the week before, and possibly tomorrow?

where do i go from here? i have no extended family. i have no friends. i work at home alone, and i like it. i can't face having to rise and dress and go out into the world knowing i don't have a Dragon at my back. i love being the artist. but it's all that i am. all i am now is the mother of two wonderful children whom i was blessed to have been given. all i am now is the maker of the quilts, the designer, the artist, an unknown woman in the shadows who frequently puts her head in her hands and sobs. all i am is the Dragon's widow.

all i wanted to be was his wife.

we are what we leave behind. i truly believe that. some have huge wakes and plaque dedications, people gathered to support the family - siblings, parents, wife, husband, children of the deceased - all milling around, all calling and remembering the important days you have to face alone. i have my two children who gifted me with the two bracelets with our wedding date engraved and brief, heartfelt sentiments dedicated to a love that impressed them and left them with the benchmark they want their own loves to be.

he left me with so much love to still give him. i'll die and my passing won't be noted by anyone but my two children. i have left no mark on the world. my quilts, yes, but my desired presence in a room, no. only he and my two children cared. we lead our lives and when they end we leave behind a bit of ourselves. possibly money. a few quilts maybe. so many medals that people are surprised - a Navy Cross, 3 Silver Stars, 2 Bronze Stars, and 6 Purple Hearts and that's the first row - i told you my Dragon was a hero. a kind word and deed remembered - specifically from chillinwithlemonade who stopped by one evening with take-out Mexican food and an alcohol-free Margarita on a night that i wouldn't have eaten otherwise. my girl, you your kindness was seen and noted and will be remembered always. (if i knew how to make a link to your site i would do so for you but i am not that savvy.)

sometimes we leave an empty space. if after i have gone, anyone notes my absence, know that i have gone in search of my Dragon. if anyone can truly wait for someone to catch up, it is him.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

there is no one to call

this photo is so much the usual for me and my Dragon. him further out, daring more that i ever would. me, the shadow, always taking his photo, always watching him, hanging back, in complete and total awe of his fearlessness and grace.

i'm having a bad day and there's no one to telephone. i've lost the phone number of one of the women here who gave it to me and i would hesitate to call since it would be so unexpected, so out of the blue.

i've called my daughter twice at work and cannot again. i can't do that to her and to her while at work. she can't come over to be with me and falling apart like this, i don't want her to hear when she can't do anything about it. she would feel trapped at work and worry about her mom. so, let's see, i'm not falling apart so much that i can't think outside my grief to her.

i'm going to be paid for some sewing i've done and i'm going to use a part of those funds for a beautiful urn i saw. i want him out of the black box the funeral home put him in and now i can afford to get him something nicer, something beautiful. maybe that's why i'm crying so hard this afternoon.

i'm also very tired. i've been working frantically to get a lot of sewing things done and out of the way. i now only have one more thing to finish before my daughter's wedding. but i now know who is coming with my ex-husband to my daughter's wedding - his current wife and his mother, my ex-mother-in-law. it was my daughter who told me. her own stomach is tied up in knots. but i told her and now i'm telling myself, "maybe she's mellowed."

Lord, i hope so otherwise, well, my daughter will be busy with being the bride and i'll be busy keeping everything running smoothly and being the photographer. i won't have time to get cornered by them. okay, so that's off the table.

but i miss him. our wedding anniversary was yesterday and last night was unexpectedly hard. i knew it would be. but it was a bit worse. my solitary existence was accentuated after it got dark and i closed the blinds. lonely. only television shows with laugh tracks to keep some sound in the apartment. and then shutting off the television after i put needle and thread down for the night. silence. no heavy tread locking the door. no wide shoulders preceding me down the short hallway. no give in the mattress other than my own weight. no snoring. no warmth. he is not here anymore.

this will be my life from now on, whatever it brings, i will be alone. i need to find a friend, someone who understands and on whom i can call for human contact. someone who's life is more like my own, with children grown and time on her hands so to speak. someone who knows what suffering is but wants to survive it just as much as i do. a friend. i simply wish i could find a friend like i hear about from the blogs here and in the widow's group i go to.

until then, i will dream of my life from before and work to create something good in this shredded life that i have now. right now i can only think of him. it hasn't been that long since i was with him and he smiled and held me. so i think only of him and if only for him, then i have a reason to make the best of things. for my children who's lives are only getting richer and happier, i will pick myself up and never let them see how bad bad can get with me. a smile for the wedding. a bright voice on the phone. i'll do this for them, for my Dragon. maybe someday it will be for myself.

but right now, i just want to get through this afternoon.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

my wedding anniversary

"once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale." ~ anonymous

it's August 11th, my love. our anniversary. we always started it in each others arms so today is already a harsh jolt. i am alone.

i'd sit and watch you make breakfast for me. no breakfast in bed for then i wouldn't be able to watch you cook. we would talk or plan what we wanted to do with our day. i'd watch you, clean up a bit after you to help, but for the most part you wanted to wait on me. i got my own breakfast this morning, as i do every morning since you died.

on our anniversary we'd plan a long walk, whether through the woods, down on the beach, or across the rocks and cliffs high above the ocean, we walked. you'd find rocks, leaves, wildflowers, shells and sometimes the miracle sand dollar that is so difficult to find. we won't find anything together today. i'm not going anywhere today.

supper would be a repeat of breakfast. tonight, i can't think that far. i don't know what i'll do here alone tonight.

and after supper we always sat together and remembered our wedding vows. we'd get our saved little papers and read them again to each other. my vows were for the promise of my hand, my heart, and my thoughts, my whole life. i also promised you one more thing.

"all these things are mortal so i promise you one more thing. i promise to give my soul to you so that you are not alone. never alone."

you told me you were never good with words but, my dear, you were so very often better than i ever could hope to be. my writing is flowery, lyrical. yours is to the point and oh, so heartfelt. your vows to me were: "i love you. i want you. you are my whole world. i thought of you as mine the moment i saw you and held my breath until i saw myself in your eyes. i'll never leave you. i'll always be with you because i'll always want to be with you. you are the woman of my dreams, the one i've been waiting for. and now, i may call you what i've wanted to call you since the day we were introduced and have longed to say. wife."

you would gift me with a story from your secret past, speaking to the danger and adrenalin rush. you would see how in awe i am of you and shake your head and laugh. i'd tell you no spy novel could be better written than the story of your life. john le Carre would be envious of what you've seen and know.

then it would be my turn. i'd give you a book i'd written. a small thing, always a short story. the continuing tale of the Dragon and the womanNshadows, of their love and how a fairy tale could not speak to such a marriage. of how Shakespeare could only come close to describing the depth of our love.

i have kept them all. i haven't been able to read them and i doubt it would be good for me to do so today. it would be akin to a howitzer to the heart. but i took a photo of a few of them to post with my note to you. i couldn't let our anniversary go by without a bit of a story about us. it's too deeply ingrained. you deserve to have your memory honored, the story of our love and marriage told over and over. you deserve only the best because you are the best.

that you died did not mean you broke your promise to never leave me. my love for you is such that even the deep and abiding grief i feel could not tarnish it with anger towards you. you didn't want to go. you were taken from me.

i love you, Dragon. i miss you so terribly that the physical ache threatens to bring me to my knees with my head in the dirt. i may stop moving forward with any noticeable speed, but i'll never stop loving you, thinking only of you, or waiting for you. i may have been your world but you were my whole life.

happy anniversary, my Dragon. i'm alone and longing for you. loving you. unfaltering.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Floss and Beaded Gypsies

it was my husband's birthday this past Wednesday. i didn't know what to expect. i didn't fall asleep until 3 AM and my little dogs have little bladders so i was up at 7:30 AM. first thing i did was get hit by a wave of pressure on my throat. my chest started heaving and the tears came flowing, exactly like they had done when the ER doctor and nurse took me in to see him after he was pronounced dead. i lay there for i don't know how long. eventually my little Scotties dancing and licking my face forced me to get up. they had to go out. they day had to start. both my children called me several times that day. my son who lives in Florida especially felt far away from me. his voice broke on the phone when he knew i'd been crying. "mom. i wish i could be there with you. i miss him so much. i sometimes don't know what to say. i love you, mom. i'll be up for a visit soon."

i bent my head and worked all day on quilting the current Memory Quilt that's in the frame. i went back and forth between it and the embroidery work for my daughter's wedding. but i ran out of floss. i switched back to the Memory Quilt and worked until after midnight.

then it was Thursday, my daughter's day off. we went to a discount fabric store that sells embroidery floss 3 skeins for $1. i bought 48 skeins - getting all the colors that i had in my head for the design i needed. if you click on the photo you too can delve into my tiny wonderful world of floss. i got back home and my daughter had to return to her home. i was alone again so i bent my head, as i do every day, and worked.

today my daughter stopped by before she went to work. she had been cleaning out a drawer that had her old jewelry box in it. she opened the box i had gotten her as a young girl and the little ballerina in the pink tulle tutu twirled on her little gold spring. and lying on the pink felt inside was the beaded gypsy earrings and bracelet that my Marine had made for her when she was still in high school. she gave me the earrings and wants me to keep the bracelet with her wedding things. she's going to wear the bracelet when she changes into her going away clothes.
i cried when i saw it. another punch to my stomach. so much love and thought went into his beading these little things for her. he knew her so much better than her own father. my Marine is Native American and Russian heritage and he had attended powwows where he danced. [he had always said he was just an Indian but i am trying to be correct as not to offend anyone who may stop by to read this.] he knew my daughter was a free spirit, artistic, emotional-heart on her sleeve kind of girl. he knew i had called her my wild gypsy baby when she was an infant and toddler. he found the pattern somewhere and beaded it for her 18th birthday. that photo also enlarges with a click.

and now we have it again. her finding it was a lovely surprise. we both cried as we looked at it and touched it. he's here in so many ways and yet he's gone from me and all these lovely memories come up and slam into me. but i wouldn't trade the tears and pain for not having had him in my life. he gave me everything. he gave me hope and gentleness. he gave me laughter and love. i could go to him at anytime and say, "i love you so much. i just need you to hold me for a minute," and he would smile. it always reached his eyes. he would open his arms and i would sit in his lap or he would come lay with me on the sofa or bed and we would just hold each other and talk quietly about the most important thing in our universe. not money. not our what the future will bring. we talked about how much we loved each other.

next Tuesday, August 11th, is our wedding anniversary. if his birthday hit me like a seizure i am not going to try to imagine what i will awaken to on Tuesday. i'm just going to bend my head down and quilt, and sew, and embroidery. i'm just going to dream of him whether asleep or awake and i'm going to keep going.

i told someone that i will be grieving for him for the rest of my life. i will get past this painful gut-wrenching part eventually. i will keep working. i will do things. i will laugh. but there will always be a part of me that is with him in a very profound way. i've been through too much with the first marriage to have to tell someone else what happened and why i have so little self esteem and too much happened that i could not not tell. there are too many very obvious scars. and my marriage to my Marine was too deep, too wonderful to be repeated. he was too much of everything that is good and decent and loving to ever replace. no one that moves into my field of vision could even slightly dim the vivid memory of his smile, his touch, and his voice in my head and heart. i adore him. i miss him.

so, the floss and the beaded gypsies came at a good time. i've come up for air between his birthday and our anniversary. i'm going to wear the beaded gypsies all day Tuesday. and if you're reading this and all set to worry about me, don't. Tuesday is my daughter's day off and after she goes home and i am alone, i have my Marine living in my heart. i'll never leave him.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Dragon and the womanNshadows

for My Dragon upon the occasion of his birthday, August 5, and for our wedding anniversary. i will only be able to relate our beginning this once because, for now, the ending is what haunts me most of all.

He was as beautiful as he was fierce. The Dragon’s soft hair had gone completely white, a bit prematurely as far as he was concerned, and all the accumulated years of distant battles were reflected in his brown eyes. His body was still powerful with muscles acquired from the gear he had carried over thousands of miles of jungles, deserts, and mountains, in crushing heat and burning cold. But his body also ached, so much at times that an audible groan would escape from between his lips. His eyes would go blank and his lids close against the torment. He never revealed to anyone how often his body reminded him of the abuse it had taken during those years spent as a warrior because he never let anyone close enough. He had become a dragon; presenting a tough exterior to the world he faced each day. He smiled benignly, but his smile had teeth.

People depended on the Dragon, asked him to do things, but no one wanted to get close, not for long. There was something about him. Women sensed the wildness that had been a part of his life and that now surrounded him with an indefinable aura. Men could feel his underlying authority and confidence. Many would make his acquaintance, for knowing him was a good thing, they did not become his friend. They would always end up being in the unenviable position of realizing they did not know all that the Dragon knew. Car engines, construction, plumbing, rock climbing, scuba diving, parachuting, mountain climbing, eating off the trail, rifles, guns, knives, the Dragon was handy to have around but he was not good for their egos. And eventually they all wondered how the Dragon had acquired so much knowledge about so many things, and what he had done with that knowledge that had left so many scars on his hands and body.

It was in the Dragon’s nature to be honest, efficient, and direct. His expectations of others were no less than what he expected of himself, and he was oft times disappointed by the greed he saw, the self-entitlement others exhibited, and a deplorable lack of honor that bothered him. This disappointment encouraged his reclusive nature. He felt he had no right to truly judge since during his career as a warrior he had done many terrible things sanctioned though they were. So like most dragons who had spent their lives protecting the treasures of the kingdom, he retired and accepted a life that might surely be spent alone.

The Dragon was forty-nine winters old now. During this last lonely year, he had grown to accept the solitary existence he had carved out for himself. He had tried once, much early on, to have a family, but the dream had become tarnished when his wife realized that when he said he wasn’t ready to give up being a warrior, he had meant it. He explained that his country still needed him but she called him a “monster” and threw him out. She had divorced him and left him with a soul in agony over the medals that now meant nothing to him but a body count.

Watching the years pass, his eyes missed nothing. He became quieter and more introspective believing that there would be no one for him to call his own. There would be no woman who would see beyond the scars to the true heart that beat inside. There would be no gentleness in his life, no small treasure of a woman to protect and love and cherish as a man was meant to do. He bowed his head and accepted that he was the monster so many had called him, and he turned away from the thought of love. But he never forgot it.

She had been born for the light. Her mind held dreams that she had once believed would be realized. She imagined designs and colors complex and rich. She envisioned using textures in fabrics, stained glass, and oils to create her visions. Her mind held words to express her philosophies and thoughts. And her eyes missed nothing. She would find the amber veins in a single petal that had fallen to the ground to die alone, separated from its stem. She might be the only one to watch a small cloud break apart from the larger collective only to fade into oblivion. And as for people, she would notice the flash of intense pain in the eyes of someone whose mask of bravado had slipped for the briefest of moments. She saw it all and felt empathy. Images, possibilities, the complex nuances in people fascinated her. She had been born an optimist, believing the whole world was waiting for her to discover it. Unfortunately for her, though, she believed in magic. She also believed in love.

Reality was a rude awakening. She was not the daughter her mother had hoped for. She was too studious. She was not the son her father had wanted. His sadness was etched on his face when he would look at his daughter and wish for a son. She was a disappointment to her parents and there was nowhere for her to go except wait to grow up and carry the knowledge of this failure in her heart.

She continued dreaming but now, she knew, that not all dreams came true. She stayed close to the shadows because she felt safer there as an observer. Her world was books, writing, painting, and stained glass, all of them silent, solitary pursuits. She stopped pointing out the things she observed. She stopped being surprised by anything anyone said or did. She stopped believing in magic.

But she continued to hold onto the idea of love.

At twenty, she had thought she was away. College. A job. But life was put on hold to return to the mother who did not approve of her. The young woman quit life to stay with her mother, waiting through six months of living in a hospital to be with her as she died. Through the long days and longer nights, she watched the light dime, hope fade, and sorrow shroud the tiny room. One day, it was over suddenly, quietly. One breath, then a long pause. One more shuddering breath, but the next one never came. Her mother never awakened to take it all back. Her mother never uttered four small words that would have healed the young woman. “I’m proud of you.”

Resigned, accepting that she would always have this unresolved, the young woman got caught up in the words of a man with dark eyes who said he loved her. He told her she was exactly what he was looking for. He offered her marriage. But after a very short time, she found that the only thing that lived behind his dark eyes was an abyss. In her innocence she had failed to see the avarice and ego that lurked there. She bore him two children and kept them safe from him while he kept his money safe, cutting her off from any escape. By the time her children were old enough to see with their own eyes, and understand from growing into young adulthood, they pushed for their mother to leave their father. The Three Musketeers tried to make it on their own, leaving behind a kingdom ruled by a man who believed that love was made of green paper.

By now she had lived her whole life as a disappointment to those who should have loved her. She knew the image in the mirror. She knew the one reflected on her soul. Knowing no average man would take on a woman with her baggage, she kept her eyes on her children, making sure they walked ahead of her. She protected their backs and gave men with dark eyes a wide berth.

A mutual friend introduced the Dragon to the womanNshadows. For him it was like having caught lightning in a bottle. He was attracted by the quiet sadness he saw in her green eyes. The honor that was part of his nature wanted to see her happy, to protect her so she could breathe. He liked the way the sun touched her white blonde hair and he knew her dimples could be deeper if she smiled more, laughed harder. The man in him wanted to be the one who gave her back the gift of joy. He could see it was deep inside her, lightness and whimsy. He knew people. He had not lived as long as he had by being obtuse about human behavior and character. He could tell she was a free spirit that had suffered something harsh enough to make her cling to the shadows she seemed to feel so safe living in.

He felt a stirring in his heart for the first time in a long while. He knew he would have to proceed cautiously. The warrior in him reminded himself that a woman from the shadows might not want a man who was capable of and responsible for so much violence in his past. But the dragon in him had clung to the idea of love and wanted to try for it, just once more. Maybe the free spirit inside her, the Dragon told himself, could be awakened so that she would see, not his scars, but his heart.

The honorable man that he was politely asked to take her to dinner one evening.

The woman unused to courting smiled as she quietly declined.

The warrior that he was, the one with the aura of worldliness and excitement that had always been attractive to women, was a little surprised.

The observer that she was saw the flicker of surprise that the warrior had thought was hidden. She quickly explained. “I don’t mean to hurt your feelings. It’s just that if I ever thought about going out with someone again, I want a certain kind of someone.”

He looked into sad green eyes. “What are you looking for in a man?”

She looked into questioning brown eyes and said softly. “I want him to be a dragon.”

He smiled, all the way down to his soul.

A dance began, a waltz between two people, one, a man who had turned his back on everyone and everything, and the other, a woman who had clung to the shadows in hopes that she wouldn’t be seen. But the man understood the stirrings of something permanent and earthy and the feelings of something profoundly eternal, and he turned to face the woman. She saw something in his eyes and it wasn’t darkness. It was strength and freedom, and something else. She thought she heard the rustle of wings. So the woman came to the edge of the shadows and allowed herself to be seen.

The Dragon enticed womanNshadows to come out from her self-imposed exile from life to see the world through his eyes. He showed her that she had worth and a love of living that needed to be released. He saw her, as she was, including her scars and he taught her to accept that he thought she was beautiful. He coaxed her to come close enough for him to envelop her in his great wings so that he could protect her and she could hear his mesmerizing words of love. He gave her back magic. He gave her his heart.

In turn, womanNshadows soothed the Dragon’s spirit and encouraged him to reveal his secrets. She listened lovingly to each one while holding his hands and after each of his stories; she would lift his hands to her lips and kiss each scar that marred his flesh. She eased his mind and calmed his spirit. She accepted his heart into her safe keeping and gave him hers. She scoffed at the stupid word “monster” which released him from ownership of it. She brought him laughter and gifted him with the name he had always known was his, but no one had ever seen in him much less accepted him for.

She called him, “My Dragon.”

It will soon be the wedding anniversary for the Dragon and the womanNshadows, an anniversary that will be remembered by one alone. womanNshadows will pass the day looking up at a sky where dragons no longer fly and she will close herself off that night and hold the darkness at bay with the memories of a love that will never die.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

the rhythm and poetry of grief

i've settled into a very melancholy existence of late. Thursday my daughter and i went to the local mall to a store called Things Remembered to order two beautiful flutes to be engraved for her wedding. we had parked outside a large department store and as we walked back to the car, she wanted to stop to visit the restroom. it was in the men's department. she went in and i stood amongst jeans and shirts, ties and belts and i cried because i'll never have to buy him anything ever again. i don't have to wash his clothes anymore. nothing of his crosses my daily life that i don't deliberately go get to look at, to touch.

i tested the waters last night. i'd read several grief books in the beginning and all of them had said to go back after 4 to 6 months to re-read what you've written down to see your progress. i did and saw only the switch from deep shock to deep grief, but a week after the 6 month milestone, i'm settling in. i think 6 months after the death of a loved one is too soon to see any real progress but everyone has their own time table. everyone is different. every marriage is unique. every relationship has it's own particular rhythm.

this brings me to the second test. all the authors in those books said that the bereaved tend to glorify their deceased loved ones seemingly forgetting their imperfections. i re-read all my writing with that in mind and there is nothing that i've written about him that i glorified. but i don't want anyone who stumbles across my writings to think that i have. i know exactly who and what my husband was. he was perfectly flawed.

beauty is in the eye of the beholder and what i beheld was nothing more than an extraordinary man. every word i've quoted of his, he spoke. every action he performed that i wrote about, he executed. i wish to give you a brief sketch of the man who loved me.

he was only 1/2 inch taller than i was. his muscles were not toned in a gym lifting weights, but rock hard from years spent as a United States Marine. he'd been called a killer in my presence and i would see his eyes go blank trying to dull the impact of that one word. killer. everything he did was sanctioned by the United States government. he is no killer. he was a soul in torment that protected himself with the distance of hollow laughter and few words. he was an enigma to those who thought they knew him but he allowed me inside his heart. he told me everything and cleansed his mind. i took it all and gave him back respect, awe, and love.

his eyes were warm brown with white squint lines from laughter, the sun, and looking down a scope. his hands were large and hard and criss-crossed with scars. his whole body was a timeline of his career, scars everywhere. he had the lasting marks of 3 bullet holes, 4 stab wounds, and long striations left over from Vietnam when he was walking point and fell into a trap and punji sticks pierced his armpits and popped out through his back. GQ would not want him, but i did. i didn't care about his scars. they caused him pain and i rubbed vitamin E oil on each one to help ease the underlying muscle pain.

the meds he took for arthritis upset his stomach so he belched after Mexican Food. it also put on a few extra pounds that he tried so hard to lose. i didn't care. two months before he died, his doctor had told him he was doing fine, the little bit of extra weight wasn't an issue since it was from the meds, and that his heart was fine. that haunts me to his day and always will.

his laugh was deep and loud and the sound embarrassed some but never me. i knew how little he'd honestly laughed so i deliberately set out to make him laugh several times a day, and yes, in public. his humor never bothered me. his public displays of affection - holding my hand, touching my butt, and whispered teasing innuendos in my ear brought me only joy. it was something i'd never had.

he wasn't a knight in shining armor. he could be cranky when in physical pain. he could be obstinate. but he was never cruel and always sat back with a knowing smile on his face when i would stand up for myself. he loved that he had set me free to do that, that i felt safe with him to argue with him. he never betrayed that trust. he chewed tobacco sometimes and i hated that so i when he put some in, i'd wait about 20 minutes then tell him to go spit it out and brush his teeth because i wanted to make out.

in summary, he was a diamond in the rough, my Dragon who loved me, who told me that i had set him free from his belief that he was a monster, and that i was his whole world. he was well read and capable of very intelligent conversations. he was verbal and spiritual and, with me, could be emotional. i wrote poems to him while he was alive and now more so since his death. he loved them all. he loved my writing and encouraged it every day.

we had a beautiful marriage amidst a terrible life of abject poverty because he was helping me clear the debt left behind by my ex plus we paid for so much while my two children went through college. but my Dragon always kept a roof over my head and we had enough to eat. he never let me fall. when i cried, he'd hold me and tell me he was there with me, and that we were going through it together. we had wonderful days of climbing rocks by the ocean and a great many peaceful walks along a long stretch of beach. he gave me shells and sand dollars and driftwood.

he gave me all of himself and more love than i'd ever known. i gave him awe and adoration and truth and all the love i was capable of. i still do. i saw him as he was. that he was everything i'd ever wanted is only truth. he saved me and i saved him. we were meant to be.

i went up to the throne of love
the king stooped down to me
he put a kiss on my lifted face
then they took him away from me.

i have traveled the whole world o'er
and i could have love if i would
but nevermore shall a beggar stand
in the place where the king has stood.