First Father’s Day

Seems like I can’t have a post about “lasts” without following that up with a post about “firsts”. Meeting at 18…falling in love…going to college together…figuring out the adult world….Jason and I shared a lot of “firsts” with each other. Some of them were very intentional. For example, neither one of us had flown in an airplane, seen the ocean, or been out of the country. We really wanted to do those things for the first time together…and we did…mostly. First airplane trip…he flew to Denver first for a work conference and then I met him a few days later…still counts…lol. The vast majority of those “firsts” were happy and made some of the greatest memories.

Then 26 months ago…another “first”…first time we heard the word “glioblastoma”…and suddenly the “firsts” aren’t marking happy events, but sad. First surgery…first seizure…first nosebleed that won’t stop…first fall…etc. And those sad “firsts” have continued for the past 10.5 months…except now I’m facing them without him.

Today was an especially hard first for the kids and I…First Father’s Day without Jason. The boys both had tennis matches this morning and Anna worked all day. I was feeling rough and emotional this morning so I stopped by Jason’s bench and calmed myself down a bit on the way to watch the boys play.

Jason would have thought watching tennis on Father’s Day morning the perfect way to start the day. The boys both won their matches so that was a bonus.

We had decided that we weren’t going to go out to dinner for Father’s Day, but make some of Jason’s favorite foods at home instead. We made ribs on the grill…cheesy potatoes…green bean casserole…and bread pudding. It all turned out great.

And then we topped the day off by playing Clue together. I teased Anna that she plays Clue just like Jason used to…takes forever to decide on her guesses and her game sheet looks like hieroglyphics…lol.

Today I’m trying to focus on gratitude that my kids had their Dad in their lives as long as they did. That they are all old enough to have many years of great memories of their Dad. His kids were always his biggest priority. He was always so proud of them and wanted them to be happy. Even when he couldn’t remember the day of the week he wanted to make sure he was at every tennis match…and he absolutely loved the times when his “Annie” was home from school. I know he’s smiling down at them now and so proud of them.

“Lasts”

My Facebook memories have been hitting me right in the feels this week with pictures of our family vacation to Ruttgers on Bay Lake from last year. Those memories have me thinking a lot about “firsts” and “lasts”…sometimes you know they are important while they are happening…sometimes not. Some are milestones that we mark…almost religiously…first and last day of school for example…that are more developmental. Some are more life-altering…some become the moments that we measure our lives by…the ones deeply etched in our memories.

The summer of 2020 after Jason had his first surgery and chemo and radiation we rented a cabin on a lake Up North with Jeremy and Cheryl. I remember feeling so clearly that it might be our last family vacation that I put all sorts of expectations on it and pressure on myself to make it “perfect”. And of course, it wasn’t perfect. It was rainy. The fish wouldn’t bite. The kids were all a little “extra”…understandably so…they were trying to get a handle on reality as much as I was. I had myself so wrapped up in the idea of “last” that one night Jason and I were in the shower and I literally had a break down…ugly crying so hard I coudn’t stop…hyperventilating…sitting naked in the shower with my head between my knees…on the verge of throwing up or passing out or both. And all I could say to Jason was “What if this is the last? I can’t do this by myself” over and over. And Jason did what he always was able to do…talked me down…held me…put me back together.

And that horrible experience stuck with me so much that I vowed not to do that with the “lasts” anymore. Not too hold on so tight to expectations. To just let events unfold organically. Even when I KNEW they would be the lasts….because I did know. Our last anniversary. His last birthday. Last Thanksgiving…Christmas…Easter. And then our last family vacation last year. It was at the place that we had enjoyed as a family for so many years…and it was perfection.

As I have been reminiscing about our last perfect family vacation I have been thinking about other things that make me smile day-to-day…and I tried to write a poem that is maybe a little more uplifting…I’m trying.

Good in Life

When so much of life doesn’t make sense
Trying to get through moment to moment

Reminding myself of the good left in life

The things that make me smile
Laugh
Feel peace for a second
Give hope for a future
Somehow
Without you.

Anna
Seth
Levi
Pieces of you
Pieces of me
Mingled together
Perfectly.

Linc
Emmett
Crazy antics
Kisses on my face
Force me to face
Morning.

Birds in the backyard
Coffee
In hand
A pair of cardinals
Feed each other
Breakfast.

Family
Yours
Mine
Check on me
Don’t let me
Hide.

Friends
Acceptance
Make me laugh
But also
Let me
Cry.

Purple flowers
Blossom
Bring simple beauty
Color
To a gray
Life.

Perfect words
A lyric
A poem
Encapsulate emotion
Build
Community

Ease the unrelenting loneliness

Underneath it all is so much sadness
But, Babe, I’m trying.

Moment by moment.

 

The Spaces

I know I haven’t been writing much. Life is kicking my butt and I’ve been busy constantly taking care of “stuff”. I did manage to cross two things off my list. First and foremost, I fixed my own dishwasher!! Yes…I had some suggestions of what to do from my boss, but I fixed the damn thing! Luckily, the only tools I needed were a screwdriver and a shopvac. Super gross moment when I stuck the hose in the gross dishwasher water and accidentally “blew” it instead of “sucked” it all over myself….who knew the shopvac could even do that?? Second, Seth’s car is all fixed from the hail damage…and now mine is having it’s turn so we are still down a car…but progress is being made.

Other things that happened this week. I got estimates for two types of siding for my house…so now I’m trying to decide which one to go with….ugh…I hate making those types of decisions. The insurance adjuster was out looking at my house. He took a lot of pictures, so hopefully that’s a good sign. I paid the downpayment on my fence, so now I have to get the fence line cleared before Aug 1. Yikes! I also had a weird bug that seemed to really only involve a fever. Woke up Wed morning at 1am with a fever of 101. Fevers make my body and mind do weird things and I hate them. But luckily tylenol and ibuprofen did the trick and now I’m fine. And last, but not least, Levi got All Conference for Tennis. There wasn’t a ceremony…he was just modeling his new dress clothes…lol

Today was kind of a quiet and lonely day. Went to breakfast with the kids this morning and then Anna and I went to Barnes and Noble. I picked up a couple fantasy books and a couple poetry books. Really wanted to find a good fiction book I could lose myself in today, but it hasn’t really worked. Mostly I’ve had this poem writing itself in my head all day. Maybe now that it’s out I can read…ha!

The Spaces

It’s in the spaces
That I miss you.
The space to my left
Where you would walk each evening
My hand in your elbow
Pups along at our sides
Tongues hanging out
Happy to be alive.

It’s in the spaces
That I miss you.
Beside me in the car
Your hand on my thigh
Mine tracing your thumbnail
That weird flat spot
Didn’t matter where we were going
You and me on a drive.

It’s in the spaces
That I miss you.
The smell of tennis balls
The “pop” of a forehand
A fistpump
Look to the sideline
I give a grin
Happy to be your biggest fan.

It’s in the spaces
That I miss you.
Sitting together
Cuddled on the couch
Wine in hand
Long day unwinding
Perfection
At peace with my man.

It’s in the spaces
That I miss you.
Together watching our kids
The games and the matches
Band concerts
Marching band shows
Graduations
Proudest of parents.
It’s in the spaces
That I miss you.
Ree and Jas
Out with friends
Dinner and drinks
The smiles and laughs
Carefree and happy
Cherished moments.

It’s in the spaces
That I miss you.
In that drowsy time
Between asleep
And awake
Spooned into your body
Complete contentment
No one else exists.

It’s in the spaces
That I miss you.
Where only you belong
Now I struggle
To make sense of life
Where your light
Was bright
Now darkness.

10 Months

This week has been ROUGH. I told my therapist yesterday that I’ve had this line from a children’s book running through my head. I read it to my kids a million times, but I can’t remember the title….but the line is “sometimes I want to curl up in a ball so no one can see me because I’m so small”.

After a good weekend with my parents…we got my garage cleaned out…yeah! My week went downhill pretty quickly. Woke up Tuesday morning to my downspout hanging off the side of my house and my gutter dented. No idea how that happened. One more thing to take care of. Then my “service engine soon” light came on in my car. I’m sure it just needs an oil change. One more thing to take care of. Wednesday morning my dishwasher stopped draining. One more thing to take care of. Yesterday we dropped Seth’s car off to get the hail damage fixed so we’re down a car for awhile. One more thing to sort out. I cannot handle anymore “one more things”!!!

Wednesday the landscaper came out to meet with me and we walked around the yard and talked about what I’m looking for. I knew that I really needed to work with someone on this project who I can feel a connection with because it is very important to me that it is done right. I told him before we even walked around the house that my husband passed away in August after battling brain cancer for 15 months and that I need my backyard to be a place where I don’t feel stress. A place where the kids and I can hang out…the dogs can play…a special place for me. Thankfully, he completely got where I was coming from. So much so that when I told him Jason bought me the gazebo and that it was my peaceful place for the past 4 years he suggested using parts off it somewhere in the landscape design. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with!

And so it’s been a week of high stress and very high anxiety. Mornings where I’ve woken up…but not wanted to…dragged myself out of bed…somehow got to work…and then had to sit in the parking lot and breathe my way out of a panic attack….get my “work mask” as firmly in place as I can…and then fight my way through one more day…and one more day…and one more day. And when I say “fight” I am not using that word lightly…because I DON’T WANT TO.

So 10 months. I just want to stop going forward. I feel like time is just taking me away from Jason. I know that’s not true in my head….but my heart doesn’t care what makes sense.

I miss my husband so bad. I told my therapist yesterday that I miss the feeling of being so completely and perfectly loved. “Soulmates” is such a cheesy word…but we were that for each other. Two imperfect people that perfectly fit together.

The Knowing

No feeling in the world can beat
Feeling completely loved.

When another soul looks at yours
And sees all the broken messy bits.

The insecurities
The failures
The hurts

And doesn’t accept you despite them
But because of them

Because they are what make you.

And in that person you find your home

Your refuge
Your safety
Your peace

Your souls will form a bond
Unbreakable by time, distance, death

Your hearts will beat together
The rhythm of your love

Your bodies will search for each other
Like polar ends on a magnet

And that’s when you know.

Memorial Weekend

It has been a busy, busy week. Levi wrapped up his tennis season playing singles in Individual Sections on Tuesday and Thursday. He won both of his matches on Tuesday and then lost against the #1 kid in the State on Thursday. I think that loss only showed him the things that he needs to keep working on and added fuel to his fire. We were both really sad that he couldn’t share this tennis moment with his Dad, but he does have a lot of support and had a phenomenal group of guys there cheering him on. These guys have been steadfast in supporting my family these past two years. They put up with me daily…and make sure my boys are okay and get plenty of opportunities for good tennis.

My parents also came on Thursday just in time to watch Levi’s match and are with us this weekend. It has been great having them here. They helped me get my garage cleaned out so I can actually park the cars in there again. Yeah!! I’ve been dealing with the insurance company for hail damage to my cars and roof from a storm about three weeks ago and really don’t want to go through all that hassle again! We also took a walk to Jason’s bench, went to a garden center, and my sister and her family came over for pizza last night. It’s been a good weekend.

This week I have a landscaper and a fence company coming to give me estimates and ideas for my yard. Right now when I look out at my yard all I feel is stress because I see all the work that needs to be done. I want my yard to be more of a sanctuary for my family. Where we can just hang out together…eat outside…have fires…let the dogs run around. I also have a dream of having a “me spot”…a place where I can drink my morning coffee…or a glass of wine in the evening…write…maybe some sort of water fountain…hammock…pergola maybe. We’ll see. Jason gave me my gazebo to be that place for me before, but now that the gazebo is worn out I need a more permanent place. It’s also something I can feel a little excited about, which honestly, is a feeling I don’t feel much anymore. I either absolutely don’t want to do things, or I tolerate things….and those things usually only with a few drinks. So a project that makes me feel excited and gives me something to look forward to feels really good right now.

Bluejays and Foxes

Today was a pretty good day again. The kids and I enjoyed our breakfast together this morning. We went to a different restaurant this week than we usually do. It was a good to change it up a little bit. My Caramel Irish Coffee was delicious…Baileys and butterscotch schnapps in my coffee? Yes please.

When we got home Anna and Levi put their stubborn personalities to good use and shimmied and shoved and got the lawn mower out of the garage. It was trapped in the back behind all the furniture that got put in there this winter when I redid the basement and living room. I have a company coming to take a bunch of the junk on Saturday morning, but the lawn couldn’t wait until then!

Then Anna went to work and Seth went to play tennis, but Levi spent most of the day with me. We filled up the birdfeeders and got the lawn mowed and weed whacked. He and I also talked quite a bit about what we would like to do with our yard and contacted a couple landscape companies to come give us estimates….as well as a fencing company. We’ll see what we can do this summer to turn our backyard into a peaceful sanctuary that we feel like we can hang out in.

Levi and I also both had tennis lessons this afternoon. It always feels good to take some aggression out by smacking some balls around…especially now that my game is feeling a lot better than it used to. If you would like your game to also feel better, I know a guy…lol. Levi is playing the best tennis of his life right now and just getting better. It’s really fun to watch his improvement. He is playing singles in Individual Sections this week…should be some good tennis!

Lately I’ve been thinking about blue jays and foxes. Jason and I always enjoy watching the birds in our backyard. We have always had birdfeeders out…the squirrel-proof kind of course! Every once in awhile we would try a different kind of food or different kind of feeder…just to see what we would attract. Well, one of the feeders that Jason wanted to try is a peanut feeder. It basically looks like a slinky connected in a circle that you fill with peanuts in the shell. Well, it does attract birds…blue jays. Now in the hierarchy of birds, blue jays are not really near the top. They are kind of noisy and obnoxious. They often just come and take peanut after peanut and then stash them somewhere. They can empty that peanut feeder in an afternoon. Some people would just give up and take the feeder down, not Jason. He loved watching those darn blue jays. He didn’t care that they weren’t “cool birds”. So I keep filling that feeder up for him and thinking of him every time I see those blue jays.

I don’t know if I ever mentioned it before, but the morning Jason passed away there was a red fox that went strolling across our backyard. Not completely unusual. We get the gamut of wild life here…deer, raccoons, fox, opossum, coyote, turkeys, etc. But this one kind of paused and turned and looked at me where I was watching it through the patio door…and it’s eyes looked so sad. I’ve been watching for another fox ever since and hadn’t seen one until last weekend when I was driving to Wabasha. I was right outside of Lake City and suddenly there were three of them playing on the trail between the lake and the road. And now I’ve been dreaming about foxes and can’t get them out of my head.

Anna’s Home!

Yesterday was a good day. It started out a little rough. I had therapy in the morning. My week had me feeling pretty battered and exhausted. Anxiety was huge for me last week and I had a few things I just needed to talk out. Looking back I think that I have always had a fair amount of anxiety, but Jason was always there to talk things through with me so my brain could let go. Now, my brain can’t let go and all my worries just spin and spin and spin. It is paralyzing and exhausting.

Midmorning I left to go to Eau Claire to help Anna move back home. Jeremy came with me, which I really enjoyed. It was nice chatting with him in the car…reminiscing about our college years…talking about Jason…talking about the kids…tennis…life. We stopped at one of our favorite spots for lunch…Mancinos…bonus!

After we got the cars unpacked at home, Anna and I headed out to go buy plants for my pots outside. We decided to do all purple flowers for Jason. She spent the rest of the evening getting everything potted for me. She is my plant-loving girl for sure. I now not only have color outside, but every spare surface inside has a plant on it. I don’t know how she fits them all in her dorm room. The flowers outside make me smile, but I don’t think I even would have done them without her.

Then, out of the blue last night Seth tells me he got a job coaching tennis this summer. I don’t know why I doubt that kid and worry about him so much because he always pulls through and does things in his own time. I told him when he moved back home that I wasn’t going to nag him about working…that I knew he needed his time and space to grieve his Dad….but I really wanted him to just finish his semester of classes. Well, he not only finished his classes, but he decided to get a job as well. He and I went out for lunch together and I really think he is doing just fine.

So…good day yesterday…good time with Seth today…and then this afternoon was horrible. Sad…lonely…panicky…couldn’t focus…anxious. Then I got frustrated with myself because I have so many things I could do and I just couldn’t. My emotions just got the better of me and I literally felt paralyzed. I went outside and watered the plants and that felt like a huge accomplishment.

Tomorrow morning the kids and I are going out for breakfast. We really value our breakfast tradition. Usually we go on Saturday morning, but Anna and I both worked this morning, so Sunday morning it is!

Crazy Widow Ramblings

And everything in my mind is screaming
Retreat! Retreat!

And my soul is pleading
Mercy! Mercy!

And my heart, my poor heart
Bleeding, Bleeding

I add another brick to the wall
Protect, Protect

But the foundation crumbles
Down, Down

And the words keep battering
Bam! Bam!

And the eyes, everywhere the eyes
Watching, Watching

And the fingers pointing all around
Judging, Judging

And the constant buzz of whispers
Criticizing, Criticizing

Or is it all in my messed-up mind?
Paranoid, Paranoid

And caring has ceased
Forgotten, Forgotten

But I cannot forget the love that still burns
Forever, Forever

And I feel so all alone
Lonely, Lonely

My love is not here
Gone, Gone

Only alive in my mind
Memory, Memory

Unexpected Triggers

Today was Levi’s last match of the season with Eastview. He still has Individual Sections next week…so more tennis for him to play…but his team is done. They played Benhilde-St. Margaret. He played a great match and won at 3 singles, but his team ended up losing 3-4. They had a really good season…although the weather could’ve been better at the beginning of the season especially!

Jeremy came to watch today. He walked into the spectator area with a woman that looked very familiar to me, but I couldn’t place her until he said…”Did you recognize who I walked over with? Jason’s partner…” And then the light went on. Sarah that Jason had played mixed doubles with at the last National’s Tournament that he played in November 2019. She was the Mom of one of the players on the Benhilde-St Margaret team. I didn’t know her as well as some of his other partners, but the fact that she was there nagged at my brain and my emotions the whole match.

When the match was over I went up to her and introduced myself. She already knew who I was and gave me a big hug and asked how we were doing. I got teary-eyed and had to put a huge effort into holding back sobs. Unusual for me. I don’t know if it was seeing her unexpectantly…or memories that came up…a combination…but damn that was hard on me. I told her we were hanging in there…still doing a lot of tennis. She commented on how well Levi played and I said “He’s a lot like his Dad and if there is one thing I know Jason would approve of it’s tennis. So here we are”. And then I said my goodbyes and got out of there before I turned into a mess on the court.

Unexpected triggers are hard. It’s like my legs get swept out from under me and I just can’t find my footing or my breath for a bit. Most of my days I have my guard up and I’m better prepared…like when I’m at work…most of the time my emotions are battened down tight. Today…watching my kid play…not so much.

And it’s a Wednesday…I don’t count the weeks anymore….but every single Wednesday I think “Jason died on Wednesday”.

Jason and Sarah at the National Tennis Campus in Orlando Nov 2019

Most Improved Player

Last week in therapy we talked a lot about how humans have the ability to feel multiple emotions at a time…sometimes very strong emotions…sometimes emotions that are complete opposites of each other. She was asking me to rate on a scale of 0-10 how often I have felt certain emotions or how strong certain emotions have been in the past week….happy, hopeful, hopeless, sad, anxious, irritated, lonely, etc.

So often the times when I would say I am feeling the happiest…I am also feeling so incredibly sad. Today is one of those days. Levi wrapped up the regular season for tennis and brought home the award for Most Improved Player. I am so happy for him and so proud of him. He worked incredibly hard all year…private lessons, drills, matchplay, etc. He never hung his racquet up or took a break…just kept grinding. He just loves the game so much and wants to play the best that he can, not only for himself, but for his team. And while I am so happy….I am so sad because his Dad isn’t here to share this moment. And it’s moments like these where I feel like praise from his Dad would mean so much more than praise from me.