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.

Friday, January 22, 2010

trying times

i’ve had some very trying days lately that i haven’t been able to think of how to write about. some of these days i wanted nothing more than to go to bed and sleep for the rest of my life.

my ex has been saying cruel things to both my daughter and myself to; i guess the best way to say it is keep us in our place. we know our place; it’s very far down in the sewer. i’ve watched his behavior now for over 25 years. i decided a long time ago that he is a closet misogynist and i haven’t changed my mind over the years. he despises women. he’s afraid of his mother and since his present wife is so very much like his mother, he’s afraid of her.

and that’s what’s happening to us now. when my daughter told her father she and her fiancée had set their wedding date, he told her “in no way can it interfere with (his stepdaughter’s name) wedding plans.” so i used my quilt money and my daughter and i planned for a very small wedding in the backyard of her fiancée’s grandmother’s house. but her future in-laws wanted it bigger and better and i had to sit down with then and admit to the fact that i had no money for something as grand as they wanted and that her father was not going to upset his wife by “throwing away money on a glorified party.” if playing chess can be used as a metaphor, i played him and the sum total of the funds he allowed his biological daughter was a gnat’s ass over $1000. but we made it a very nice wedding. i made a great many nice things for the happy couple that no one can get anywhere else. she and her husband were very happy with their little wedding.

right now my ex is angry about money again but he can’t take it out on the people who are spending it. he’s taking it out on my daughter and me because his stepdaughter is getting married in 2011 and his wife has already put the deposit down for a dress designer. not a dress, a designer FOR a dress. the dress hasn’t been designed yet. there will be a maid of honor and four other bridesmaids each with their own dress. he is being dragged to wedding expos and cake tastings, and meetings with caterers, and so on. i think it as karma.

the catalyst for this latest rain of verbal abuse is my fault though my Dragon would shake his head and think of that statement as a step back in my run to freedom. i probably should stop blaming myself for everything. twenty years of intense psychological abuse with the physical reinforcements of that kind of control makes the habits to survive it difficult to stop. what i did wrong was email that i needed a little bit of money for food as i had spent some of my allotted food money on a humidifier. i explained about the cough coming back a little bit and my fears of getting pneumonia again. my daughter and i agonized over it and in the end i made an executive decision with my allotted money and bought the damn thing. when he hadn’t responded after a week and food was getting frighteningly low, my daughter called him. it took him another two days to call her back. when he did he was screaming at her about everyone’s hand being in his money. he screamed at her about how much she’d cost him over the years and that no one needed to remind him of his obligations. he screamed, “your mother will get money for food when i say she can have it. she needs to learn to budget better.” my son-in-law took the cell and said, “excuse me. i was wondering if you were going to starve the mother of your children? would you like for her to call her son to ask him for the money for food?”

there was a moment of silence until he said, “i just transferred some money. it should be sufficient.”

they called me immediately and i admit i was weak with relief. he transferred $30, which was a windfall. we were all so excited. they came and got me and we went to Wal-Mart at 10 PM. i love Wal-Mart. it’s open when you’re open. food. i love food shopping sometimes. you get a little money and you can get food. it’s commerce. it’s awesome. i was able to get enough to last until my regular calendar time when i’m allowed to ask for my next installment. but i’m nervous about it because my rent goes up and it starts on the first. he knows it’s coming. he gave me permission but i’m anxious that he’ll forget and get mean. life is hard when he’s mean. there’s nothing i can do about him, or it. this is my life. maybe when the VA decides my claim there will be some wiggle room.

trying times.

my daughter is having a hard time right now because she’s watching her father jump through hoops for his stepdaughter’s wedding. she sees her father paying for her stepsister to have a big church wedding. he came tipsy to her wedding and didn’t feel a father-of-the-bride toast was necessary. i have been working with her, listening to her sorrows and anger, talking to her about how lucky she is to live so far away from her father, about how lucky we were to have had our Dragon, but it doesn’t ease the sting. that stuff can eat you up inside. i helping her try to sweep it aside. we’ve cried so much over losing him. she’d wanted him to walk her down the aisle. the very sad thing about her wedding was not only our Dragon not there but i had had to talk her father into walking her down the aisle. he’d said he wanted to do it and had negotiated for it in exchange for giving us some money, but when he arrived, he was angry about having to do it. he just wanted to sit down. he said it to me in front of the groom’s parents and they were shocked. he hates getting caught with his mask off so he had to do it. but he hurt her by walking her down the aisle and then spinning on his heel and walking off, not waiting for the priest to do the whole “who gives this bride away.” and now she’s watching her stepsister get the whole package. it’s hard for her to watch.

it’s hard for me to watch. i protected her all her life, redirecting his rages onto me. but being enough of a total, ironclad, egomaniacal *itch to stand over him and command him, i do not have that in my character or personality.

these days we feel alone in the world without our Dragon. my daughter’s husband is very good to her but he’s never dealt with a sociopath. it will take time for him to learn the game. our Dragon came to us already knowing the darkest side of human nature. he came to us with all the knowledge and power to handle someone like my ex-husband. but my daughter’s husband loves her and did a great job when he took over the phone call.

very trying times.

one of the widows from the group called out of the blue and asked if i wanted to go to the movies. i wanted to get out of the apartment so i blindly went like a lemming over a cliff. i know you’re all shaking your heads. it’s like watching a horror movie. dumb blonde opens door. “don’t go in there!” but i was lonely and i love movies.

i dressed in my nice jeans and a nice shirt. she came and we left and the first shoe dropped. instead of the movies she thought it better if we take a walk. “you sit inside and sew all day. you’ll get fat. you need to get out. maybe your frame of mind will improve with fresh air.” she hadn’t been around to know my frame of mind, but whatever. i told her that whatever she wanted was fine but that i wasn’t dressed for a walk. i said if she would take me back, i would gladly change.

“i don’t have that kind of time.”

the trail was muddy. i don’t mind muddy but i only have one pair of “nice” jeans. i didn’t have water or juice with me in a backpack with me. all i had was my nice purse. since i can eat only small meals to make the food last longer i get hungry and “low.” a pouch of Capri Sun was something i could have grabbed.

then the other shoe dropped. she asked me how i was doing and i got teary. i’ve been crying more lately. i wasn’t strong enough to hide it from her which is what i typically do with people i am wary of. she said she understood but had hoped i would be doing better since the holidays were over. i was “ahead” of her, she told me. she said she’d been reading about grief and believed that my cutting my hair and keeping it shorter meant i was punishing myself because my husband had died and i had not. i told her i had thought the shorter hair was nice. she said it wasn’t. she told me that i wasn’t grieving anymore but was clinically depressed and that i should get help. “you’re crying for yourself now. it’s not about him anymore. it’s been 11 months already. by now you're just making this about you.”

she moved into talking about her own grief. she said that her neighbor from across the street called her every day and brought her casseroles two and three times a week so she didn’t have to cook. they go together to the grocery store and out to lunch. they walk together and have gone to movies together. she told me that this was an example of a very good friend. she said that i was not a good friend because i didn’t call her everyday to check on her. she was angry with me because, at 11 months, i should be a better friend to her since i was a whole month ahead. she explained that being behind me in grief by one month meant that she was closer to the death of her husband. she was still grieving very deeply and having a hard time facing each day. i told her i was sorry it was hard for her but she interrupted by saying that the only way i could repair the damage was to start being kinder to her and being aware of her needs.

i tried not to laugh. maybe it’s odd that laughter was my first instinct but i sometimes wonder why people speak but are unable to hear it come out of their mouths. i held my tongue because i was afraid that once i got started, she would leave me there with no way to get back. probably not but it’s what i’m used to. i don’t toy with any strategy that keeps me safe. i simply ride the wave until i am close enough to start swimming.

and then i fell. my right heel slid in the wet mud far out in front and i went down into the splits. my left knee smacked down on an exposed tree root and pain shot up into my hip. she laughed at me and then sighed. she f***ing sighed at me; like i was a child she had given up on.

i struggled to get up and she saw my expression. i think my silence and my dark expression finally got to her. she asked if i was okay. all i said was, “i want to go home.” look at that statement. "i want to go home." it's the first time i've called the apartment home.

i was silent the whole way while she chatted as if nothing was wrong. in hindsight i think she was nervous. i don’t care anymore. she cried about the loss of her husband. she told me she’d wait for me to call her because she knew now that i understood her better. she pulled into my parking lot and i got out. she wanted to come up to say “hi” to my dogs, but i said, “no.” she tried to hug me but i turned away and went up the stairs to my apartment.

i have her number on my telephone contact list. i won’t be answering when her name appears no matter how lonely i’m feeling. that was her last chance.

really trying days sometimes.

occasionally i feel very alone but not as often anymore. mMy daughter calls two, sometimes three times a day to check on me. she wishes i could find a friend close by, preferably another widow, and one who understands better than “that woman.” that's how my daughter refers to the other widow. i tell her, “maybe someday.”

i think of my Dragon all the time. i’d like to talk to someone alive, someone present here in front of me, about him. in spite of it all, of “that woman” and my failure at the widow’s group, i think I’ve handled life okay. i haven’t done anything reprehensible. i don’t think i’m clinically depressed. if i were, i think i wouldn’t have given “that woman” a third chance. i wouldn’t be sharp enough to stand guard against the ex or help my daughter deal with her pain about losing our Dragon and her issues with her father. i also wouldn’t work as hard or as long as i do on the quilts. if i were depressed, i don't think i could adopt others' pain so i can make more meaningful quilts.

my Dragon died and i was alone for 20 hours before my children could arrive. i got moved into this apartment and i’m alone all the time until my daughter has a day off. i’ve created a job i can do here in the apartment so i can stay safely out of arm’s reach from people like “that woman.” i do get my allotted funds in time, sometimes it’s in the nick of time but there are so many people who go past the “nick of time” that i consider myself very lucky. he does scare me about it but i tell myself that it’s his way on controlling me. it’s nothing new. i had just thought i was free of it. and i was, while my Dragon reigned. i may be hungry for some days but i will never starve. i do have the apartment and it is my sanctuary, stained glass and all. and my sanctuary has a Dragon that lives there with me, after a fashion.

our walks can be a metaphor for our life then and one that o can use for this life now. he always broke trail for me during our winter walks. i walked behind him watching him. he was strong. his shoulders were so broad. his legs were powerful and broke trail with an ease in his stride that always had me in awe. he’d turn around often to check on me. he carried a flask of hot chocolate for me. i always asked if he was doing okay and he’d smile at me. he was always fine. the cold did not bother him. he’d been out in it before. he’d been out in everything before. he knew his limitations and they far exceeded my own, but he loved that i worried about him.

Ii’s almost been a year. i know i need to find that place inside me where i can “see” him in front of me again rather than wherever i ask God he is when i’m sobbing. i need to find my hidden inner reserves. i’m swimming alone again and having to deal with my ex and his idiosyncrasies. it’s very disheartening to have to do this again after the break of being my Dragon’s wife. he protected my children and me from so much of it. now it’s all back. my ex gloats every once in a while but often enough that i hurt from it and don’t have time to heal. i'm just tired is all. i'm only 52 but it's not the years, it's the mileage. my ex is angry that his wife right now but she's a badass and so much like his mother that it's, well, we need a couch and sweaters with suede elbow patches. i could never be like that.

my Dragon was very strong inside and had a will of iron. he was determined to always survive. i have that in me because i had to survive to be there to protect my children. now that my children are grown and my Dragon has died i am, well i’ll say it again. i’m tired. but i need to keep going simply because it’s not over for me yet. for some reason i’m still here. sort of like Papillion: "i'm still here, you ba*tards."

i am going to endure whatever happens like i did before i met my Dragon, but now i have the memory of knowing that once someone like him loved me. i tell myself that i’m living in a fairy tale. for me life is easier to deal with as a story than as reality though i am very aware of the reality i face.

i’m a woman who lived in the shadows. i met a Dragon and he took me places i’d never been, and showed me a love i never thought i would have. then he died. like the times he broke trail, he’s gone further up ahead. he’s just around a bend and one day i’ll catch up, and i want him to be proud of me.

i know people believe i should be doing all this for myself, and that i should be proud of myself for myself. i know that grief can be explained in a metaphor of rowing through a tempest or of swimming in a fog-shrouded ocean, or waking up from the pain of a horrible burn. it’s been all that for me.

but my life has been one of surviving what my loved ones punished me with. i survived childhood. i survived my ex. suddenly out of the blue, i was allowed to have a Dragon come into my life and love me. he was trying to show me that i was born for more than abuse. it’s hard to finally get that safe place in someone’s arms and then watch it be taken back.

through all these trying times, whatever i’m faced with, i need to remember that once upon a time a Dragon fierce and beautiful valued me, loved me beyond reason, and smiled for me. if he can live through all that he lived through during his life as a Marine, i can live through this with the same honor and dignity he had. i'm his Beach Bunny and everyone knows bunnies need a carrot. my Dragon is my carrot.

i’ll keep trying to raise the dead, me. i’ll try to rise back up the me i was meant to be. it won’t be the me i started out to be but it will be the me that my Dragon knew i had in me. in the end, he'll know it's me.


AndreaRenee said...

I'm so sorry for all that you are enduring.
I love the last paragraph - it tells me you're growing stronger every day and drawing on that strength to find your way. Your Dragon is with you every step. ((((HUGS)))) and love to you.

Widow in the Middle said...

It would have been a thoughtful gesture if That Woman had given you one of those numerous casseroles she has been lucky enough to receive. But good for you for standing up to her in the end and holding your ground by not saying goodbye with a hug. That is a real big deal - to not be bulldozed by someone who has been unkind. Every time I hear about this lady, I think to myself, "Who is this woman?" It is awful that your walk with her ended up with you falling - I am so sorry about that for you. You don't need any more physical issues to have to nurse and worry about.

It just breaks my heart to know you have been going through a rough patch. Life has not been fair to you and it is hard for me to comprehend a world where someone deep in grief has to endure the antics of a cruel and beastly ex-husband on top of everything else. Your poor daughter - I wasn't aware of some of those details from the wedding. What a nightmare. But as you said, you were able to create a lovely wedding for your daughter in spite of the difficult circumstances and in the end, that is what will win out and matter.

We could meet together at a Walmart with $30.00 each and have an amazing time - we wouldn't even need to go to a movie, nor would we need any wine! Come to think about it, we would probably still have a great time with just $30.00 between us! I am so with you in understanding where you are coming from on this issue.

I agree with AndreaRenee that your spirit sounds stronger, especially in the final paragraph. I hope posting this gave you some relief and clarity. Your Dragon is very proud of you, as am I. Take care and know that we are all here on your side rooting for you every baby step of the way and that we love you for the woman you are and are still becoming.

judemiller1 said...

I can truly relate when it comes to your ex as mine was the same and...I hate to admit, I was scared of him. He went out and bought his step-sons very expensive skis and all the apparel and apparatus to go with them, but could not EVER help his own college aged daughter and as for her wedding? He gave her nothing!

As for "that woman"--you certainly don't need her in your life. I have never met anyone like that and I wouldn't know how to handle your situation with her. I just can't believe that someone would act like that. WTF!!??

I see you growing stronger too.

Boo said...

You are growing stronger, my friend. And I have to tell you that YOUR Voldemort has NO magic ... keep that front of mind ok?

It made my day also that Jude said, "WTF"! It shows to me just how much she cares about you as we all do :-)

Thank you also for your beautiful message to my post about Brian leaving the country - I could almost taste the cup of tea ((((HUGS))))

Your Dragon is SO proud of you right now. A wise woman told me that a strong man needs a strong woman ... and you are xxxx

Suddenwidow said...

I'm sorry times are trying for you these days but I agree with everyone that even though things are so tough, your tone is stronger than it has been. So while you are surviving what you shouldn't have to be facing, you are gathering strength from your Dragon. That force is building and we can all feel it building in your words. Take care of yourself and remember how amazing you are.
Love Debbie

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