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, February 26, 2010

when i lost him, i lost me.

don’t shake your head at me. please, first, just read what i have to say.

there are some who have nothing lives; lives that are only survived rather than truly lived and enjoyed. as a child i was deathly afraid of my parents. i wasn’t what they wanted and my personality was not confrontational or rebellious. also, i was too afraid. corporeal punishment was not a theory with my mother. she believed in it. i was not a bad child. i simply loved being outdoors searching for rocks, drawing what i saw, wading in the creek, patting the cows on their noses, cloud watching, star gazing. i was a geeky kid who loved riding my horse and found i could escape that way or through books. i wanted to be a child and to grow up in peace. instead i was molded and criticized and threatened and pounded into something i could never be. i was never her dough to be shaped. i was a human being and all that shaping hurt.

my first husband never loved me and i was too naïve to see through the lie until it was too late. marriage can be a trap and one partner can evolve into a POW. that person may have to wait for the right opportunity and become the collateral damage to keep children safe. appearances can be deceiving and some of the prettiest people are wearing mask upon mask upon mask to hide what really lives inside. i tried once and tragically failed to escape. the cost was untold, to this day. i know what it cost but i can never tell. cost untold explained.

and then i was allowed to have my Dragon.

i will never meet anyone like him again. there isn’t anyone like him. he is the last of a breed that the world will probably never need again. even when he was in his prime, there were not that many who did what he did and now, the way the world addresses war, everything is different. he’d tell me his stories and i’d be in awe. i could see in his eyes that sometimes he was in awe of the fate that kept him alive out there to come back.

there will never be anyone like him for me for a myriad of reasons not the least of which is the kind of person i am. if my own parents didn’t like me, my brother abandons me because of my conversion to Catholicism, and being quiet and polite didn’t make my mother-in-law like me any better than my husband, how can i believe there will be someone like my Dragon who will see me and care about me? Dragon is one of a kind and how he fell in love with me is beyond me but i have seen small miracles.

i’m not down on myself exactly. i have simply learned from history that i do not grow enough on people for them to want me as anything more than a supplier of goods, an armchair therapist, and/or a crutch to use for a while and then discard.

my Dragon stayed with me. he believed in me. we were two halves of a whole.

i know what is said to those who are grieving. “You will want to put them on a pedestal, but try to remember that they were not perfect. They had flaws and so did your marriage. If you glorify them, you will never get past their death to move on.”

i get where this is coming from and why it is put out there but what about the tiny few of us, me for instance, who already had their spouse on a pedestal? i already had my Dragon in a sacred place in my heart. our marriage was great. our lives were hard financially but our love was true and good and everything i’d read and heard love could be. our marriage was poetry. after living as i had in fear and pain, to be the Dragon’s wife was akin to believing God had suddenly remembered i was here and wanted me to have a gift. my children were gifts but worked so hard to protect them. in a way, i still do, just no longer in the physical sense. but mental abuse is just as tiring. just as exhausting.

my Dragon was a gift in that it seemed he was solely there for me. he loved me. he had flaws, sure, but i loved his flaws so to me, they were just part of being with him. i knew what he’d been through as a Marine and how it had changed him. i love him for all of it. he is the most incredible person i have ever met and yes; there is that pedestal that i will always make people walk around. i kept it dusted and taken care of while he lived and i will do it now that he is dead. in essence i haven’t changed at all.

people, you have to understand. he loved me and for someone like me you don’t know what an incredible thing that is. he valued my opinion. he thought i was smart. he loved my art. he loved my heart and my mind. he thought i was pretty. can you imagine that? me. he thought i was pretty, beautiful in fact. “My lovely bride.” my own mother didn’t think i was pretty until she had dressed me and tried to put make up on me. i thought i looked like a six- dollar whore and was one of those girls in the restroom at school, though i was rubbing it all off rather than putting it on. from that i got the nickname Fluke. i wasn’t into fashion and makeup and didn’t start reading Vogue and W until i got a job as a fashion illustrator and it didn't coerce me into wearing makeup. i still do not wear it.

my Dragon taught me about sex and making love. i had three children, one of whom had died, and i knew nothing about sex. i’m not going into it other than to laud my Dragon. for him, with him, because of him, i did it right. making love with him was exciting and i was allowed to instigate. he rejoiced when i gave him my trust. he was in a quiet rage at the scars under my clothes but he never scared me with it. he told me those scars were not my fault. he accepted what i looked like because he saw more than my shell. and we did it like, well, like rabbits. i was trying to make up for lost time and he was more than willing and quite happy to…. let's leave it that his appetite for me matched mine for him.

he loved me. i was important just because i was breathing. i had been born and for the first time, that was a good thing.

he protected me and i’ll never have that again. not in this life.

i read in one book that, “one day, he will become a wonderful memory of a wonderful time in your life.”

he is a memory now and putting a label on him – “good memory” – and being set upon the path of relegating him to my past as a “wonderful time” in my life demeans what he meant to me and what he gave me. my life, my whole situation was out of the ordinary and what he did for me, how much he loved me, can’t be put in a box. what is it about death that makes people want to label it, put it in a box, and put it away on a shelf in the closet so they can “get on with their lives?” why do people expect that as the Golden Rule of Grief? there should be no rules or expectations that are supposed to be applied universally. i am getting on with my life but that includes thinking about, continuing to love, and missing my husband.

and for probably the first time in my entire life, and you’d have to really be privy to some delicate knowledge, i will not apologize for loving him and missing him. in honor of my Dragon and all the kickass things he did, i am not going to apologize for keeping my torch for him lit.

i have failed at so many things in my life, daughter, sister, first wife, friend, and at the widow’s group. each failure hurt deeply but i have the knowledge that i did not fail in loving my Dragon. i love him so very much. i miss him deeply. he talked to me and i got to talk to him. we valued each other. i was seen. no one saw me like that. i have never registered for long on anyone's screen. now that he’s gone, i am gone. i am the same person but without an advocate. i do not have him beside me gazing at me lovingly. i am not noticed in stores. “Excuse me” doesn’t draw a single bit of attention to me. i am back under the control of the “Umbrella Corporation,” as it were. i plead. i receive. i work. i market myself. i wait for commissions.

pass that bit of information around, please.

see that face? see how serious i am? see that anxious expression? i can do so much more than the Memory Quilts. go to the photo gallery. i can do very pretty things.

i need the VA to hurry. i need more work. i need to escape this “Raccoon City-esque” life i’m back in with He Who Shall Not Be Named.

i want my Dragon. oh, God, miss him.

he protected me. i can’t get that back. for years i protected my children. i deflected rage onto myself while trying to find someone who believed in my theory of masks and men who look like choirboys but are not.

one of the widows from the group called me on February 9th. i had not heard from her since before Thanksgiving. i picked up only because she had called from a different number or i would have ignored her call. she has told me i am her last resort, back up buddy. she wanted me to talk to her because all her friends were busy and she was suddenly missing her husband. he’s been gone now for over three years and “you just don’t know what it’s like for them to be gone so long. the third year is worse than all the others.” she wondered why i wasn’t talking enough to her and i told her, “today is the first year anniversary of my husband’s death and i have been crying all day.”

her reply? “That’s nothing. Try three years. I’m really down and ……..”

yes, you have deduced correctly. i hung up on her and added that number under her name to ignore.

“The death of a husband gives the new widow a chance to fulfill her dreams in a new life, free, happy with the memories of her husband but ready for her new life that is being born.”

i started laughing when i read this. who knows what this woman’s marriage was like for her husband’s death to warrant this bit of insight. if it had been my first husband, i have to admit i could have gone along with it but i would never had said it out loud. i cannot disparage someone who would not be able to defend himself. the level and type of grief depends upon the relationship. my relationship with my Dragon was different so my message is different.

i am who i am. i lived and tried to fulfill my dreams, reach for love, and leave a legacy of some kind however small. if i am not who i started out to be, i cannot go back to that girl. i don’t want to. she didn’t know the Dragon. she never knew love.

i have had a nothing life that i have only survived. my legacy is my children and my art.

if anyone looks at the signature on my work, it is not my name. it is explained on my website. if they forget me, then that signature will end up being a mystery. but not to the eternal energy that will outlast us all.

i love my husband. i am not “getting over” his loss quickly. when i have the money, i am going to buy myself a widow’s ring from a website i found. thirty-eight dollars. it’s not much but to me that’s about four or five meals. but i will get it. i want it. for some reason to me it feels like a statement. in my head i hear, “back the f*ck off, you f*ckers. i love my husband and i am grieving for him. he saved me. he loved me. so f*ck off.” yes, i have a breaking point. i can get mad. however, what i'll say is, "yes, i am a widow." that's all they get.

i still love him and i believe he still loves me. death does not end a relationship but transforms it into something on another level. i’m living in two worlds. i’m alive here and working, making quilts, asking for more. but i am looking at the sky, at the sun and stars and at the moon. he’s up there. he’s waiting for me.

i am not who i was meant to be because he died. i am a reflection of what i could have been. he saw me and i was part of the world. now i am a ghost because i am not seen as a person. i am talked down to or not spoken to at all. my few friends are virtual. my life is in a small apartment. i live mostly in my head with fantasies of an island, of my Dragon, and of the moon.

16 July 1969 ~ NASA
North Pole moon ~ unknown

when i lost him, i lost me. i’m like a kite whose string has been let go. my Dragon died and the string was dropped. i’m on my own journey and i don’t know what i’ll see but i know i’ll never be seen again like i was by him.

he saw me. he was mine. i lived a whole lifetime of love in just eight years. i am his widow. i’ll never be the same.


Dan, in real time. said...

I love when you write with such honesty and strength. You need to keep on telling others until they stop questioning you. I wish you had experienced life in a better way during the earlier part of life. Being it was what it was, then having the Dragon come to you was indeed a miracle, and a dream come true. I was single most of my adult life. I never expected to find love, especially when my kids were having so many problems. Meeting Michael also felt like a miracle. I keep telling my therapist, "why do people think I am anywhere ready to move on. And what am I supposed to move on to?" When you love someone, you love them. I agree, it never becomes part of the past. It is always with you, so in that way you cherish it, yet also feel lonely because you are forced to experience it differently.

I look forward to meeting you in August. I hope the short weekend will be an opportunity to stand with people who have come to care about you, and you have benefitted from you caring words.

Keep loving him. He still loves you.

Suddenwidow said...

I am sorry you've had such a rough time, before and after your Dragon. I found myself agreeing with so many things you said and I think that so many of us feel the same about our husbands and our relationships. I feel that I will never meet anyone as wonderful for me as my husband was and I am positive that I will never be loved again like he loved me. I still and always will love him and I still feel his love for me. There is no "getting over" him. Though we all have different stories, and you've had some very rough times, I think we have more in common than we may realize. And that is why I'm so looking forward to August, so you can experience the amazing feelings that are created when you're able to get together with people who understand, people who get it and people who care about you. I pray you, and all of us, find that weekend soothing for the soul. I wish it was this weekend, but we're just going to have to keep reading and writing and make it to August. May peace find you this weekend.

judemiller1 said...

I cannot tell you how happy I am that you are attending the conference in August and you will get to meet Dan and SuddenWidow--they are going to love you up so much--I can almost see the three of you and others, standing together and such love in that group. I hope such love. How I would love to be there just to observe, but it is not a place for in your writings I will never fully understand because I haven't been there...yet. BUT your writings still make me think everyday and when my turn comes, I will understand my feelings a bit better from reading your posts. The full moon will be here in a couple of days. I will look up and think of you and of your Dragon--such a man I have never met!

womanNshadows said...

Dan, my becoming my Dragon's wife is indeed a miracle and one that i will rejoice in for the rest of this life. he is an extraordinary man and that he loved (loves) me is what i hold close when i become especially sad. i look forward to meeting you, everyone, in August.

Suddenwidow, my life before my Dragon wasn't pleasant but i've heard much worse stories. but it just shows that right in the middle of Purgatory can come a miracle. because of my Dragon, i had become so much more, and got to become part of something wonderful ~ a marriage of true minds. i can hardly wait to stand beside you in August.

Jude, i am blessed to be able to go due to two very special fairy godmothers. you have expressed going before and i sometimes wonder if there are some in the world who might consider going just to witness the celebration of love beyond death, to get a better understanding of what it means to mourn but also to make something good from the pain. thank you for gazing at the moon "with" me. it will be full tomorrow night, the 28th.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

I'm invisible, but I'm still listening.
I suppose I'm jealous that you and he did have such a perfect union. I wonder if my own marriage's weaknesses made it easier, relatively, for me, and whether you won't adopt this idea of "never been better" that I have.

Whatever happens, I know you'll have better days than these.

Hugs, even when I'm in hiding,



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