It's Kris Fuller. I'm writing to continue the journey...after my blog CancerWifeNinja.
Just because Ben's battle with cancer is over doesn't mean mine is. My sweet husband, Ben passed away on July 16, 2020. I write about my life and experiences because I'm a writer and it helps me. I share because, well, I'm a sharer. And though it was one of the things Ben equally loved- and hated- about me, I doubt it will ever change. 'And Now' is my journey after I said goodbye to Ben.
It's also the phrase we used when we wanted to lead the other one to a conclusion by design. I would say 'let's go for wings' and Ben would mull it over, as we shopped in Home Depot. At the til, I would lead, 'And now....?' Ben would reply, 'I think we better go for wings.' (that's right.)
Or he would say, 'let's BBQ steak tonight' while I was painting and as I was cleaning up he would lean over and draw out, 'Andddd nowwww......?' and of course, I would reply, 'I think we better get some steaks on.' (that's right.)
Ben has passed away, too young, too soon, too sudden. And I am now left, wondering and navigating this question... 'Andddd nowwww....?'
July 16, 2020
Ben is Gone
Ben passed away around 4:30am with his mom (Carol), my sister (Lisa) and myself by his side. His last breath left a thin, rake of a man. I do not recognise him anymore, now that the warmth is gone. His beautiful blue eyes were gently closed by the last nurse and as he lies there I think about how much I hate those plaid pj pants that he's wearing. They are orange, thread bare and scruffy. I want the pants to go away. Stupid pants. Stupid dying. I can't wait to leave this room.
His pain is over, but mine has just begun.
July 16, 2020
Leaving in a Daze
When the nurse tells us we can take our time, his mom said, 'He's already gone, my Ben is okay, wheverever he is.'
And me? I am relieved that his mom is ready to go. Me too. I blurt, 'We don't want any of his things, just so you know.'
Lisa whispers, what about his wedding ring? And I snap, He took it off months ago because it was too big for his hands. She nods and I feel like a jerk.
I just meant...that ... I don't want him undressed... that those stupid pants can stay on him.. that I don't need that old grey T-shirt and he's not even wearing socks. He has so little with him...and of course, I want his ring... I just know it's at home...
In a haze, red-eyed and somber, we leave the hospital together. We walk slow and I don't know who is setting the pace. I want to run. The dim light of dawn is upon us as we exit.
Nobody speaks but after 10 steps, huge sobs thrust out of Carol's body and her knees buckle. Instinctively, I wrap my arms around her ribs and hold her up.
I'm in shock, dizzy from leaving Ben's side.
I'm broken-hearted walking away from him.
And now a wave of anger and worry flood over me. I can't look after mom right now. Please don't go down, I pray. I hope she keeps her feet and in the mix of emotions, I grit my teeth. I can't imagine how it is to lose a son but I don't want this job. A wave of guilt floods over me as I stand by Ben's mother. Lisa has joined Carol on her other side and we sooth her with what feels like...meaningless... words, 'It's not fair. We've got you, mom. He was too young.'
Mom says she can't drive anywhere. She is going to wait at the hospital in her car.
No way. I'll drive you, mom. I offer without thought, but I know she is in no shape.
I can do it, I say. I can drive you to my house.
Then we can see....
Lisa takes my keys and I go with mom.
I stuff myself into the tiny red mustang and she fusses about the water bottles, snacks and trinkets in the way of the drive shaft. It's fine, I say.
We leave the hospital.
I start stories about how wonderful Ben is, how sweet he is and as I ramble on, I realise I have no audience for it. No one to share with in this moment.
Mom is silently weeping, gazing out her window.
I exhale and stop talking.
We two women, in pain, together. But alone.
It's the longest 22 minutes of my life. I don't know what she needs. I don't know what I need. I focus on the road.
We both need- a safe ride home. That is all I can concentrate on right now.
We arrive at my house. Mom has caught her breath. I ask if she wants to come in. To sleep or sit or...?
She says she just wants to go home. She can do it now. She just wants to be home.
And I get it.
We hug and she drives off.
Lisa is in the driveway and we enter the house together.
I forgot how we left it. For a split second, my mind thinks I've been burgled....
I forgot that coffee tables were thrown aside for the paramedics.
I forgot that bedding was haphazardly around the living room as we navigated oxygen tanks and a wheeled-chair.
I forgot that his paperwork was strewn all over the coffee table.
I forgot that we packed overnight bags in a hurry and there's clothing everywhere.
I see it all from the threshold and sob again. My hands cover my face and Lisa rushes to hug me.
It can't be like this, I exclaim. Am I dismayed at the mess... or the memory? It doesn't matter. Lisa understands and without a word, we start putting my house back together again.
Texting to Cancel
I realise we have a whole slough of appointments today. We are supposed to meet with the OT, PT, GP. A hospital bed is being delivered today. The funeral director is doing a house call today. The floor to ceiling poles are arriving today. TODAY is Day One of planning our new future. Ben and I. It's like I'm just been smashed into a brick wall.
It's not even 6am, too early to call. But not too early to text. I text our PT. He's been kind, empathetic and understanding. And I have his cell number.
I text: Ben passed away last night. Can you please cancel all our appointments? I don't even know what they all are.
The house is tidy, the text is sent (I don't wait for a reply, but true to form, he handles it all. Not one knock on my door all day, and I am grateful).
I go find my bed. I'm physically and emotionally exhausted. I curl up with a pillow and cry.
Lisa sidles in behind me and wraps her arms around me.
For a moment it feels good. I haven't been held like this in a few weeks now- Ben's been too sore. We used to spoon on top of the bed all the time. Whenever I was sad or out of sorts...or just in the mood, I would just find him and say, 'Your wife needs a big spoon.' and he would stop whatever he was doing, met me on the covers and just hold me. 'How's my wife now?' he would ask. Better.
So, now, my stark realities hit all over again.
My big spoon is supposed to be 6'2, not 5'9, and certainly, there are not supposed to be boobs on my big spoon. It feels nice, but it's not him.
I cry in Lisa's arms until I fall asleep.
Coffee Sounds Like Love
It's noon when I wake up. Lisa's putzing around, doing dishes, doing laundry, just being around me, doing the busy work that we do.
She hears me stir and comes immediately to my side.
Hey, she says and I smile weakly.
Do you want coffee? and I nod.
Words are not with me yet. I am so grateful for my sister. I cannot imagine being alone right now. At all.
Coffee. I don't even know if I like it. Or want it. But it's so family to me. My heart pangs as I think of the family funerals I have been at. A whole crew of Olson's, making coffee, drinking coffee, talking about how Norweigans like it strong. Who makes it right, who makes it taste burnt. Is this urn for 40 cups enough? Black or maybe some cream or milk. No sugar.
Coffee sounds like love to me now... and Lisa has to be all 37 cousins and aunties. She is more than enough. It hurts so much, but I am not alone.
Front Deck Oasis
We take our coffee to the front deck. Lisa admires the deck and it feels wonderful to me. Even in the mix of darkness, having a coffee with Lisa on this front deck has a special hint of sparkle.
It was our oasis. The only spot in the house where everything is completely done. The front yard has beautiful stonework, woodwork, flowers and herbs. The trim is done, the fence is built. There are no projects here. The neighbours see a picturesque farmhouse with craftsmanship and love. And that is what Ben and I wanted. Especially Ben. Keep the mess in the back, have a front yard to be proud of. I feel that pride as I sit and sip with my sister.
Our deck chairs are oversized and comfy. This deck has a special feeling for me and I love this moment. This moment, when the world does not yet know. This moment when maybe coffee can make everything better. This moment when maybe it's just not true after all. This moment is just too quiet and too perfect....today.
I see tears trickle from Lisa's eyes and in seconds, I join in.
He was just the best! I'm so mad! It's not fair! I loved that stupid man so much! Lisa has rallied beside me, but now, it is her turn to rant. I fervently nod and agree with all her points. Fresh tears flood our eyes and we bawl into our coffees on the front deck together.
I phone Angela and update her. Ben is gone. I tell her the whole story of our last night. She knows some- I called her at 2am and told her then. She answered right away. She listened as I told her about our night at home, ER transport and Ben calling it. His death was not news, but still upsetting. She listened and cried with me.
I feel the weight of this news like another ripple inside me.
I'm moving in water, struggling to do simple things.
Feeling the weight of this. This heavy, awful weight.
Angela wants to be right here with me. Right now. I know you do. It's okay, I say. I will see you soon.
We talk a while longer, then I am too tired to talk and we say 'bye for now.'
One Phone Call
Just before we left the hospital, I had to tell them what funeral home we wanted to use. My brain reached for the information and with Lisa's help we remembered. Scraps of paper on the island, notes on my calendar. We will call them for Ben, but you need to call them later today for a meeting as well. My head swims. We didn't get to meet with James. I only talked with Ben a little about his memorial. I don't want to call. Ever.
But I have to. I just can't, though. I just cannot imagine talking on the phone right now. At least, not this call. Lisa calls the funeral home for me and makes us an appointment for the next day. Through my tears, I'm so grateful. Beyond grateful. What would I do without her?
When Lisa did laundry, she sorted some of Ben's things to the side and checked with me. Yea, I don't need to keep his scruffy underwear and socks. I will keep his clothes in the closet for later, though. That's harder. But there's a pragmatic side to me, and I would say I'm about a one on the pack-rat scale- not a saver at all. So I allow a few things to make their way. I remember the huge job of cleaning out moms' house. It was so much all at once. I don't want this for Ben. I want to do small, bite-sized pieces that don't make my heart too sad.
Lisa asks what I want to do. Just sit here, I reply but after 5 minutes, I renege my comment and say No, I can't just sit here. Can we do some tidying? She is on her feet in an instant. We start with some light tidying in the yard and she worries that it's too much, too soon. No, I tell her, it's not. Ben and I talked about his gardens and this yard a lot. We knew there was a lot to clean up. But he's such a saver, a 'just-in-caser', an 'I might need THIS screw'...every little cut-end, scrap of wire, piece of insulation, solo bolt, lone nail... has been haphazardly stored, randomly around the gardens and sheds in tubs, cans and containers.
I had discussed cleaning up for him, with him, while he was still here. I even brought small tubs of items for him to sort, but he just couldn't seem to let one thing go. It was an exercise in frustration, but I realised our hope was directly tied to all those bits and pieces. Those saved, recycled, broken items. Those were all things for Ben to use, to fix, to build with. In our future. So, we never cleaned up....because we wanted him here.
So, now I am ready for phase one. I have felt overwhelmed with our unfinished projects, yard chaos.
But I have also felt paralysed in doing anything about it. Slowly, today, I begin. I don't last long. Sheer fatigue kicks me down so hard.
After 10 minutes, I sit on the deck and watch. Good, Lisa says, I don't want you working. Just sit there. She walks items by me and I nod 'yes' to them all. Old lumber, used insulation, garbage. She piles it beside my deck and reassures me, 'You can still take a look and veto anything. Once we get a truck here, we can load it, but you are the boss.'
I smile a weak smile. I love being the boss. I love managing. Ben would always say to me, 'Stop managing me.' whenever I was getting too heavy handed with great ideas. I wish he was here now, for me to over-manage one more time.
Rubber Boots, Wine & Squash
Minda's coming over, Lisa says, I thought it would be okay.
Yes, definitely, I nod. Lisa knows what I need, what I will agree to. She's handling me and, for once, I am happy about it.
Minda and I have been friends for a long time and once when she was down and out, I wrote her a poem. Or maybe it was a rap? Or was it a poem that I rapped to her? In any case, the main points were about how we were like a Sunflower and a Squash in a garden. They grow really well side by side. The squash needs the shade, the sunflower benefits from the nutrients that the squash doesn't use. It was a delightful analogy and I likened them to the two of us. (I honestly don't know who's who anymore but we frequently sign off with 'sunflower' and 'squash' to one another.)
She arrives with donuts, pizza, and rubber boots tucked under her arms.
"Who's boots are those? Are those my boots? Are you giving me boots?" I am slightly delirious from lack of sleep, and of course, bad news. And I cannot fathom how boots are an acceptable item in lieu of a death.
"Yours?" Minda laughs gently. "No, those are my boots."
"Why would you bring boots?" I notice that they are not even clean. I'm so confused, "Are you doing yardwork?"
What a weird day to help in my yard, I think to myself.
"I put the wine in them," she answers.
"What? Really? Why?" I demand. I'm irritated about these boots.
I just don't understand but with Minda's patience, it soon becomes comical.
Lisa helps, 'I think the boots are just wine holders.'
"Wine holders?" I bellow, "Who puts wine into boots? Are you sure they aren't my boots?"
The girls laugh and Minda pulls out a bottle. Finally, I see. The boots are literally wine holders. I'm grumpy that I didn't get it.
"Would you like a glass?" she asks.
"Yes," I purse my lips, "and yes to pizza!"
I realise I'm starving and devour a slice in seconds.
We stack ourselves up on the couches and eat pizza, donuts and wine together. Is it still really the same day?
Chips and Dip
Vince appears around the same time. Lisa's husband. He's been like a brother to me since Day 2. Day 1, I wasn't sure but he quickly won me over. (That is a true comment... as Lisa and I met Vince at the same time on a houseboating holiday. I was suspicious of the guy hitting on my sister and annoyed that he was ruining our girls trip!)
His first stop is a huge bear hug for me and I welcome it. I shake with newfound rage in his arms. Lisa hugs me too and I'm in the centre of a loving group hug. Full of tears, anger and love all at the same time.
When we finally let go, he asks if I need anything.
This day makes no sense, so of course I answer, chips and dip.
Minda chuckles but I am adamant. I want chips and dip.
Vince doesn't hesitate, he zips to the store. A job that can be accomplished! Yes, on it. My chips and dip are delivered to me in under 10 minutes. I pour more wine and chomp away.
Vince also worries that I am doing too much too soon. I tell him I want to just clean up a little. And I want to finish our house.
Vince is at my services and I ask him to finish our front panel on the hot tub. It's where the doors are - for access to the motor and chemicals. I don't know what the plan is... right now there is just two holes. And a pile of wood ready to go. Ben finished the other three sides, but not the front. Carefully, he inspects the job. He's happy to do it and I'm grateful. It's a job that requires a craftsman. It requires love and care.
I'm more of a demolition girl, so this job overwhelms me. He plans to take the wood home. Hinges okay? he asks and I reply yes, perfect.
Chinese Food & Inappropriate Jokes
At supper, another friend arrives with Chinese food. We visit, eat and chat. This shared day has helped me so much. The bustling of friends and the feeling of love. I haven't lifted a finger once and though numb, I'm well fed. And loved.
Looking around my small house, it's so crowded. The living room has a day bed, electric bed, couch, and heaps of blankets. We joke about it being the perfect set up for a quaint little brothel. Orgies in all the beds. My newfound income, right here in my own home. I laugh and cry at the same time.
In the early evening, the friends have hugged me goodbye. Vince is about to return to their kids, and leave Lisa in my company. I can't stop crying for their show of love. Of course, I'm not going to leave you, Lisa says. I'll stay as long as you want.
My eyes light right up and I quip, "See you in 5 years, Vince!" They chuckle at my silly joke and she walks him to his truck to say goodbye.
I start texting my family. Beth, Auntie Ruth, Auntie Gloria, Erin, Susan, Stacy.... and then I don't stop... I message all the Olsons I can think of. Phone calls bounce back immediately but I can't answer. I see them, and feel the love. Texts flood back and a fresh wave of hurt crashes over me.
I text my closest friends, too. I want to share, but just a little. My blog has paused... as of Tuesday... but I need my inner circle to know.
It's late when Lisa and I go to bed. We share the queen and sleep comes slowly.
My heart hurts and my mind replays the day over and over and over again.
I start out of bed and for a moment, I panic. We missed the early alarm for meds!
And in that same instance... oh, no... no,no,no. There's no meds to give....
Lisa was up early and comes into the bedroom when she hears me rustling... only to see tears trickling down my cheeks. She hugs me and I sob. My chest hurts and my head is throbbing. He can't be gone.
We bustle around all morning, how is there so much laundry? How did the fridge get so wild? The yard is still a beast, too. So much to do.
Vince arrives around noon. I didn't know he was returning today, but I'm glad to see him. Lisa and I are getting ready to go meet the funeral director and we fire a list of jobs at Vince before we head out.
I'm not looking forward to this meeting. It's stiff and uncomfortable. It goes on too long. At one point she tries to lighten the mood but ends up making a horrible joke about losing weight during grief. Uh, that's not my M.O... I say. Food has been a huge comfort to me this year. I've put on the COVID-15, the Cancer-15 and it's actually going to be a struggle to get back on a healthy track. I'm irritated by her comments.
We ask for advice about in-laws. This is my first funeral with ... a wife and a mom. When my cousin died, he was 17 and his parents were in charge. When my mom died, she had no spouse so us kids were in charge. When my uncles died, their wives handled things. And now, with Ben... I know his mom just wants things at her farm, but I don't think that's for us....for Ben...or me. Funeral lady's only suggestion is to have a talk together. Thanks, tips.
It still leaves me unsettled: who's the captain? But I know there are no answers for me here.
I select an urn that's covered in sunflowers. That's the only part that feels good to me. As soon as I see it, I know it's the one. He was planting sunflowers for FullerGreens. He wanted to wrap each order with a pretty sunflower, just that extra touch. And we love growing them along our fence line. They are his flower.
We leave with a folder of information about grief, banking, legal... next steps for what to do. I must email the obituary and final decisions before Monday at noon. I hate this folder, and I hate these jobs. Lisa and I grab a snack before we head home.
Phoning Ben's Mom
My head spins as we eat and I tell Lisa, I need to phone Ben's mom. But that meeting was just too much. I can't talk anymore. So, Lisa does it for me. She calls Carol and let her know we made arrangements - he's being cremated and Kris will be holding a memorial next weekend. She need a little time to sort out the details, though. Can we call you back soon?
She offers her farm. Come out here and let his ashes rest on my land, she suggests. It would just be perfect. Lisa tells her we don't know yet, but I think Kris wants it all in Enderby. We will call you soon.
When I hear it, my heart pangs. I predicted this but I just don't know how to navigate it. I don't want to let her down... but I want him in my home, our home, our town. With me!
I'm exhausted and worried. I just don't know what to do.
When we arrive home, I am thrilled with my living room. I had asked Vince to adjust it. Just fix it. Handle the excess furniture...somehow... and he did it perfectly. The area rug from my bedroom was back. (Ben and I had moved it out of the living room in case of spills, vomit, tripping...we just wanted the living room to be easy, smooth access.) The electric bed was packed up and my house looked normal. No longer over-crowded and congested.
I sit on the couch and admire the room. A small weight is lifted from my shoulders as I sit in the clean, organised living room.
Lisa and Vince continue tidying, and garden care. Watering, weeding, tending to our greens. I sit on the couch and thumb through Ben's journals. It feels illegal, but I can't resist them. Mostly, they are records of his daily events. Eating, meds, energy, pain. My heart wrenches as I flip through the last month. Pain: 7,7,8,7,8.... so much pain. And not a word about it. Why didn't he tell me? Why didn't I know? My poor guy was suffering so much.
I keep flipping and I find a new page. It's got the funeral directors information in the top corner and he's titled it 'My Wishes'. There are three bullet points on this entry:
I laugh and cry and run to share with Lisa. Listen, I say. And I tell her what he wrote.
We laugh about it together. So precise and short. Just like Ben. In preparing for the meeting with the funeral home, Ben and I had talked a little. I knew he wanted cremation and nothing religious. He asked what I wanted and I said it would be great if Lisa could speak... I don't think I will be able to. And in true Ben form, he summed up what would have taken me pages... in.. three neat points.
No time for shenanigans or dramatic extras. Just simple and to the point for my Ben.
Ben's sister Carrie is already in town. She came as soon as she heard. I'm so glad she was here two months ago to spend time with her brother. She arrives with Amanda for a visit. I love these sisters and am grateful they just show up. It's perfect. We visit and plan for them to come sleepover on Sunday- to give Lisa a break and to spend more time with me. They offer their hands, they want to work in Ben's garden and do whatever I need.
The sisters leave and Vince is close behind. He takes a load of garbage away and Lisa and I settle in for the night. She rubs my feet and paints my toenails. It's really nice. And not something we usually do. I just can't get the pain out of my head. My temples hurt, my eyes hurt. I cannot believe how tired I feel. I lie on the couch like a zombie- my eyes staring at the ceiling as my sister treats my feet.
Busy Bees and Plants for Entertainment
Lisa and I continue to chip away in the morning, unleashing our inner Marie Kondo. Tidy, tidy, tidy. Every corner feels new, unknown, messy. I'm surprised by so many piles, boxes, projects, unknowns. How is it possible that we spend the last 3 years together at home, and things feel foreign to me. So many tools, plant items, notebooks, lists, seeds, wires, and more.
But no knick-knacks. Never knick-knacks. We were both highly opposed to them- and for that reason - we keep zero shelves in our house. No mantle, no floating shelves, no book shelves. Our walls are covered with art and photos but no shelves, no items without a purpose.
Every one of Ben's items is for a purpose. Bits of plumbing here- for future irrigation and watering plans; bits of wire there- to fix an old drill, pieces of wood for greenhouses, deck fixes and other small projects. His presence is everywhere on this property. There's not one corner that hasn't been engineered or designed by Ben. I breathe in, with pride and of course, more tears begin to fall...just looking at what this man has built for us ... me.
And speaking of purpose, literally everything had to have a purpose in our yard. It was such a battle to get this man to grow flowers. His reason? They serve no purpose. He would say, 'What do you want to grow flowers for? Entertainment? We can't eat them.' (and he would only acquiesce with a few yellow marigolds- whose purpose was to draw in bumble bees for pollination). Over the years, (five short years at this house), I would slowly win the battle for 'one flower a year', and only if it didn't 'need attention'. These plants for entertainment....sigh...
On our first anniversary, I bought him a red flowering plant- I think it was a red columbine. It's so pretty and made me smile.. but the reason I bought it was the serious write up on the tag.. This plant is known to deter bears. What a job! Deter bears? Yes, please. Now, there is a plant that will work in our yard. This plant has a purpose so tally-ho red flowers.
I called it our 'love plant' and reminded Ben how hard it worked, earning its keep- holding bears at bay. Every spring it boasted green leaves and every fall those hard-working red flowers would appear. Ben scoffed at it's 'description' and rolled his eyes at the 'supposed job'. But we never had a bear in our front yard once (as I liked to point out) and he tended to it without a word, and eventually started calling it our 'love plant' too.
I walk to the front yard and see the Love Plant - it is slow to bloom this year. It makes me sad to see the plant struggle and it dawns on me... it's my fault. It hasn't been watered and tended to. The silent attention Ben gave it is now so obvious. It grew because of him, this stupid plant that he didn't want. It flourished and boasted huge red flowers every year because of him. And now, this season, I have neglected it. It's pushing out green buds ...but it's late, it's dry and not where it usually is this time of year. My shoulder slump and I go in the house. I'm too tired to water it now.
Our friend Dana stops by with her 2 year old... and 2 month old. It's delightful, they are so sweet, but I'm also super nervous. This place is a war-zone. We have hauled out tools, boxes, jars, machinery. There's no clear path and not one safe area. It's a mix of worry and joy for me. I get over my worries (sort of, okay, just kidding, not at all... I follow that 2 year old around like a shadow and worry every step he takes will result in injury).
Both Lisa and Dana tell me, 'He's fine. He's fine.' but I'm not convinced. Their visit has cheered me up, but I'm glad that it's a short one. I'm exhausted when they leave and I lie down again.
Hands in Service
Cousin Beth called to tell me they will be on the island on the day of the funeral but they really want to stop and see me. Is that okay?
Yes, of course, my heart smiles and I answer with joy.
And, she continues, we want to offer our hands in service. If you have any jobs for Dean and I, we would love to help out.
My eyes well with tears and I tell her yes, please. I have lots of little jobs. I don't know what will need to be done, but their hands would be so welcome.
Dean's pretty good at... building and... stuff... so don't hesitate. We want to help.
Okay, I say. Got it. And I know what you mean... Ben's pretty good at building and stuff too... I mean, he was... and I cry because I can't stop using present tense. I can't stop saying 'he is' and 'us' and 'we'. I want to finish 'our' house and 'we' really want the trim to be done a certain way.
It's true.. it was 'our' dreams... it was 'we' and it was 'us' but... the gravity of thinking of it being 'me' and 'I' ... well, it just hurts me all over again.
Nieces and Nephews
Lisa hasn't left my side for 3 nights and I touch base with her. She was on the phone with her kids while I chatted with Beth.
"How are you?" I ask.
She misses her kids, misses Vince, misses her home. But she's more concerned about me. She's trying to plan a time for her and Vince to tell the kids together and I'm shocked. It didn't occur to me....they don't know yet. They haven't been here. Vince comes every day, but every night he goes home for supper and tucks them in with love...but without Lisa, without their mom. Of course she wants to be there for the news, the heart aches, the questions.
"You can go tonight," I say.
"Are you sure?" she asks tentatively. My silence fills the room, I bite my lip and start to tremble.
She wraps her arm around me and comforts me: "No, no. Not tonight. I will be with them soon."
"I'm so sorry," I wail. "I... just.. I just... I'm not.. ready.. to .. be alone. .. yet."
And as I say it out loud, I realise... it's coming. My time to .... be ...alone. It's coming and I can't stop it. I can't stop these stupid tears, either.
I turn and sob into Lisa's shoulder one more time.
She stays another night. Vince heads home and they both reassure me, it will be okay.
Babies & Friends
Sunday. How is it Sunday? I've set the memorial for Sunday July 26. I text my sisters and brothers and 4 friends. That's it.. in these times. The reality of COVID is still a worry. Small gatherings are best and it hurts me so much to keep it small. I know it's for the best, but it's weird, and hard.
Friends of mine stop by to visit. Tina and Kelly. Kelly brings her sweet one year old and it's perfect. She's less busy than a 2 year old boy and cuddles her mama. She makes us all smile with her cuteness and antics. We visit and it's a nice change of pace. No Marie Kondo today.
Shortly after Tina and Kelly leave, Ben's sisters arrive. Lisa visits with us and after a while, she's ready to go home. These girls have got me now and Lisa's family is calling her. Amanda promises to take good care of me. She says I need to get into some water..the lake, the river.. something to refresh me. Water always brings her peace and she's ready to take me to the river....literally.
Reluctantly, I agree. We drive to Canoe and it's the best thing ever. It's the first moment that I've left our house, and a breath of relief washes over me as we head to the beach. I'm okay, I think to myself. I'll be back soon.
We dip into the lake and the coolness of the water heals me a little. My head feels release as cool water surrounds me. I float in the beauty of the Shuswap. Families surround us, laughing, splashing, playing. We float and laze on the grass. Some chit chat, some silence. For a small moment, I am free.
Take Away and Stay!
We order Chinese and I decide I want to eat at home. I'm ready to go back. It surprises me- this yearning to be home. But it's fierce and it's all I want. The girls understand, we take our food to go and head home.
Once home, we chat about their amazing brother. I hear stories of drunken Ben (what!? never!) in his late teens- pushing his sister in a shopping cart down the streets after a bar night out. We talk about their lives growing up and how he was as a brother. How Amanda and him were just getting to know one another- here in adulthood- ten years apart and finally connecting. He promised her that one day he would go to Shambala with her... and now I've picked up the torch... and made the same foolish promise. Ha,ha. It's hard to say 'no' to her. She makes it sound so amazing and fun and wild. I secretly smile to myself... if bedtime isn't at 9pm, then me and Ben are out.
At some point, Amanda calls her daughter. It's late- after 9pm and when she says, 'we might leave soon'... I burst into tears. She sees my pain and quickly changes her comment, 'Or actually, it looks like Auntie Carrie and I might just see you tomorrow.' She says good night to Isabelle and I'm relieved.
Thank you so much. I just realised, I don't want you to go. I just... I like...
It's okay, she says, I want to stay too. I don't want to go, either.
Carrie chimes in and agrees, 'Yea, we're staying.'
We stay up talking, crying, laughing... until midnight. I talk about the memorial and my struggle with decision making. The girls tell me firmly, 'Kris, you ARE the captain of this ship.... we are here for you. You decide.' And it brings me the peace... and permission... that I crave.
Eventually, finally, exhausted, we find beds and try to sleep.
I wake in a panic. I didn't send his obituary yet! I log in, it's 9am and still early. I'm surprised that my gmail knows the address and I do a quick review of my 'sent' folder. I sent his obituary at 12:32 am. Quickly, I re-read it. It looks good. I wrote it before the sisters came and they read it, and nodded approval. Good for me! Operating in the wee hours of the morning.
I also ordered 5 of the sunflower urns- the smaller version. I have planned one for each sibling and for his mom (and me). They can release Ben's ashes at the river with me.. or they can take him home and plant him in their gardens..whatever they choose. I'm so happy with this decision, I feel peace. And they are so touched to be included this way. It's a small miracle and I'm grateful for these sisters, on this night. The night before my decision... they were the perfect team.
We continue the organising and cleaning of the yard, just hanging out and being together. They feel Ben here, and I'm in no hurry for them to go.
I call mom and tell her of my plans, and the 5 urns. She is quite touched and happy about getting one for her own. I tell her about the memorial on Sunday and BBQ to follow. I ask if she wants to speak... and she doesn't know.
That's okay, I say. You can let me know later. Or decide that day. There's room for you no matter what.
She asks how I am, shares her heart and worries for me. She's looking after me. It feels nice, but weird. She just lost her son! Our talk is good and we promise to see each other soon.
Tacos' and Solo
Beth and Dean arrive in time for supper. They offered to pick up take away for me, and whoever is around.
"Oh, please, can we have tacos?" I text, "I'm so tired of take-away. I need vegetables...I need home food..."
The answer is of course, yes. They get it. Ben's sisters have left, my sister's family is on the way and a taco feast is in our future.
"Is auntie making normal tacos or something weird?" An important question from Lucas.
Tell him it's fine, it's a Taco package from the store, not my own mix.
I smile, thinking of Ben in this moment. I hate using recipes. I love mixing, tasting, exploring with food. It's what makes me a terrible baker (I hate measuring!) and a great cook. But all too often, Ben and I would eat a meal and he would comment, 'Oh, this is amazing. Save THIS recipe and always make it like this.' or he would say, 'Make the chili how you made it on March 14th.' and I would scoff and sputter in reply. I have no idea how I made that or what was in that chili... it's always basically the same... but.. you know... each time, I just taste to see. He was often shocked that I didn't use recipes, save recipes or rely on tried and true formulas. He would never venture out like that. But he always loved my cooking- he was adventurous and game for anything new, cultural or different (despite the fact that I could never make the same thing twice).
I realise I am smiling as I cook the beef and am surprised by how happy it makes me! But of course, it makes sense. I haven't done a single thing for anyone in the last four days, not even myself. Cooking (even one small thing) for family brings me so much joy.
I realise this is the first moment that I've been totally alone at our my house. The beef simmers and I wander, looking, remembering, wishing. There's so much to do... and I just want Ben to do it with me. I'm grateful for the family helping hands, but it's not him. I turn the beef to low, smile at my recipe-resistance and slump on the couch.
The taco dinner is perfect. I take Dean on a tour of the house and highlight way too many projects. Part of it is the pride I feel- showing off our home, showing off Ben's work (and yes, not going to lie, pointing out the things I have done.. with or without a certificate). He's interested, and aware of the difficulty of all of the work, jobs, corners, creations.. he just gets how much work has gone into it all and I'm grateful for his attention to our sweet house.
I highlight a corner near the bathtub and two door frames that have complications. Those projects are what I'd like Dean to think about. I don't even have a starting idea. He takes it in and says he will mull it over. (He also tells me straight up, these 3 jobs are what I can realistically get done in one day... not the other fourteen.) Got it. I'm over zealous, for sure. It's not that I want you to do all seventeen jobs, it's just that I wanted you to see the scope.. and then pick something. (I am grateful, but don't want to force him into a job he hates.)
Eventually, they all pack up and I'm left alone for my first night.
Yes, yes, I'm okay. I can do it. It's one night and I will see you all in the morning.
Night Alone with Mia
Once they leave I look for Mia. She's not around so I head to bed. I leave my room door open and lie awake. I listen. For what? I tell myself I'm listening for Mia, but I'm not sure that's true.
Eventually I hear the cat door. It's 2am. I bolt up, head her off at the pass and force her into my arms. We cuddle on the couch, and I cry with Mad Ears clinched unceremoniously in my arms.
They say our loved ones visit us, touch our hearts, brush up against us in moments that we don't expect.
The first morning home, I saw a huge yellow butterfly in the garden. It landed on the loveage- that's a plant that is for seasoning soups (sort of like a really strong celery). Ben introduced it to me. This year, our loveage is over 8 feet tall. Don't cut that down, he cautioned me. That is the strongest, tallest, best loveage I have ever seen. I want it to seed and use it in the seed library, what a specimen!
That beautiful butterfly swirled right in front of my face.
Then it went to the tip-top of the loveage and perched quietly there. That was my moment. I felt it was him, saying he's okay. Telling me he's still with me. And reminding me about the loveage seeds, too, of course.
As I wait for the cavalry, I see the butterfly again. He's absolutely huge, and so gorgeous. He lifts my spirits, and brings tears to my eyes at the same time.
Beth and Dean arrive at 10am, and we begin work. Beth joins me in staining trim and Dean begins his projects. It's perfect, he says. I like to work alone, get in the zone. He tells me he will ask if he needs anything.
It's hot out so we stain in the shade. Beth's company is perfect. I chatter on about the past few weeks, the weight of it all, the stuff of my reality. She listens and loves me through it. I'm sure a few boards will be tear-stained but it won't matter. There's something very therapeutic for me in finishing our house. In my heart, I feel like Ben will see it. I wish I could share these final projects with him, though. See that grin, hi-five my husband, and of course... receive my next batch of certificates.
Lisa joins us at some point and we finish the staining. Well, Lisa tends to the garden. She arrived and asked, 'What jobs do you have?'
"Staining," I say.
She hesitates then says, "What else?"
"Staining," I repeat.
"What about weeding?" she leads with a hopeful lilt.
I smile, "I get the feeling you do not want to stain..."
"I hate it! I will do anything... but that... unless you really, really need it... " (dramatic emphasis on really, really)
"No, it's fine. The garden needs work too. Beth and I can handle it."
We girls work outside for the afternoon, then eventually head to the river for a cool dip. It's perfect. The river that is one block from my house has been a highlight for me every day since Ben passed. Why haven't I gone to it more... before?
When we finish work for the evening, Dean tells me, "You know, today was really great. I loved working with Ben's tools and it was one of those days where everything worked on the first cut, the first line, the first measurement. Those days are the best when working. I just wanted to let you know how great it was."
For some crazy reason, I'm proud of Ben's tools. Like they had anything to do with it... but it warmed my heart to hear Dean mention them. And I'm so glad his work day was smooth, and stress free.
Alenna & Preston & the Weiners
Alenna and Preston bring us dinner. They feed my family, too. BBQ chicken. And their little weiner dogs bring me so many smiles. Sullivan and Meehla. They love sniffing around my yard. We know there's a cat here somewhere!
They feed us, stay for a short visit and go. Lisa leaves and the Jarretts stay to visit. We recap the day, talk about the house, talk about Ben. I wish my extended family had gotten the chance to know him more. We had just decided to do a 'fall tour' in Alberta and make it our annual thing. Every fall, a trip to visit siblings and cousins... and now... we can't.
I feel so robbed of our future! I am so mad that he's gone and we can't do the fall tour together. They let me be mad and cry all over again. Eventually they head out and I tuck in for a night alone.
Amanda tells me she's interested in the jetta....and I am thrilled. You know what I am not looking forward to? Selling Ben's car. He thought it was such a gem. 500,000km, diesel, a Jetta! And I was not keen on ...well, both the car, and the selling of it. Listing, showing, questions... ugh.
So, when his sister tells me she really wants it, I don't hesitate. It's yours! I say. She says they will get it later this week and I feel so much relief. I told her, Ben thought it was priceless, but I think it's junk. She was on Ben's side on this one. My heart is happy to know that his Jetta will continue to be loved at their farm. Silly car.
Social Sharing and Forcing Myself to Work
I've been hesitant to share. I've been ... I don't know. Not scared, but just.. uncertain. I just wasn't ready... until now.
So, today I share the news. I start in the Fuller Cancer Support group, not my own page. I know it's a smaller outreach and a group- designed by me- full of supporters and cheerleaders and love. I also share with my 10,000 friends.
Tears don't stop as I type and share. Barely moments after I hit POST, I am flooded with hugs, love, messages and more. I don't reply. I just can't. I cry at my keyboard and read as each comment comes in to comfort me.
Eventually, I draw myself away from my computer and force myself into the yard. My in-laws are coming today with their trailer and I want to be ready for them. I feel so alone as I haul sheets of glass, barrels, wood, and more from one corner of my yard to the next. Each time I feel like I want to take a break, I push forward. For some reason, this work day matters to me and I don't allow myself to stop. By 2:30, I am surprised they haven't arrived yet and I sit and cry. I am exhausted, weary and just plain sick about our yard, the work, the tools... and him... being gone.
Deal of the Day
The family arrives with A&W for me around 4pm. The sugary rootbeer boosts me and I need it. I'm on my second wind.. or maybe it's my forty-second wind...I really don't know what day it is.
I'm weary, but ready to fill the trailer. I don't want to let them down. Was the trailer needed? Was it worth it? I'm determined to make sure.
In the three hours of hauling and loading that follow, I am beyond tired and ever fibre of my body aches. I am glad for Carrie's farm-girl strength as I feel my own powers for lifting are limited now. So much of Ben's machinery is heavy. He valued the older models, the ones of true, heavy metal. Old motors, built to last. He serviced them all and it was no easy feat. And I loved it so much when he needed my help ...moving a table saw, lifting the concrete mixer, adjusting the planer. One of my favourite compliments from Ben was that I was strong.
My other favourite compliment from Ben is that I was so smart. The smartest girl he knows. I can hear him say it. I hold onto those phrases, his voice in my ears and that crinkle in the corner of his eyes as he smiled at me...and my heart soaring with pride. Ben was never glad-handed when it came to words of love, romance or beauty. But me being strong and smart? Those were noteworthy items for him.
We continue to load, load, load. At one point, Eric worries for me.... are we taking too much? No. Are you sure? Yes, absolutely.
Ben and I had discussed this all. We want to give stuff to family first... anything that I don't want.. if it helps them out, we want them to have it.
Eric hesitates over a chain saw and I quip, "Oh, well, you're in luck, today is "Buy a Jetta, get a Chainsaw" day... so, you have to take it...". He smiles at me and loads the chainsaw. He takes a moment to hug me and tells me if I ever need anything... anything at all, he's here for me.
Around 7pm Amanda, Carrie and Eric are ready to go. The trailer is full. And so is the truck. They will drop off garbage and sort through tools and whatever else is in there before they finalise anything. It's going to their back 40 acres, and won't be addressed for a while. You have time, they tell me. I doubt I will need it, but it's very kind of them to say so.
At the same time, my sister, Angela arrives from Alberta. Her 12 hour drive.. .with 4 boys... is over and her mission to be by my side is accomplished. Lisa and Vince have coordinated a reunion at this time... and a master plan. After a quick visit, the Wrights load up the nephews and let Angela stay with me. Just the two of us.
I'm so incredibly exhausted when they finally go, I can barely keep my eyes open. This work day was physically draining, too long and too much. I'm so grateful to have my sister with me, though. We visit on couches and talk about Ben all night long. (so, yea, that's around 930pm... just to clarify the meaning of 'all night long' for the land of Kris).
Two Steps Back
Angela is fresh-faced, energetic and ready to get busy. Her hands are at my service, too. We have a slow morning (I don't feel well) then continue the work of trim and baseboards- measuring, cutting, nailing. It's nostalgic for me. We renovated our own house together in Camrose. Before we were both married, we lived in a house together. It was our first house and we bought it together. It was a fixer-upper and we loved working on it in the evenings. After work, we would sand and clean and paint until midnight.
So, now, side by side we are back at it. I love working with her. It's so exhilarating! The only trouble is... my tummy. For some reason, it's upset today. I can hardly leave the bathroom. I'm not sure if it's only diarrhea... vomit threatens to make an appearance too. I am flush and, well, just not entirely well. The pain and weight of everything has manifested in me...physically.. and I feel worn down.
I'm so irritated and disappointed..I could not wait to work with Angela! And she's kid-free...for me!
We manage to get a small corner of the house done. It's very satisfying to see. It looks stunning. But I wish it was more. I feel as though I let her down.
Eventually, I have to stop entirely. She understands, of course...but that is not how I wanted this day to go at all. Together, we are an unstoppable team of work horses... but today... the main horse is out of service. Over time, I feel better and we head to Lisa's for supper and to have a big family reunion.
I pull myself together and we head in. I even think I might stay the night. I don't want to be left out of anything! My beautiful family.
It turns out that I don't want to stay the night.
All I want to do is go home.
I don't realise until 11pm, but at bedtime, I just need to go home.
As I'm pulling out of the driveway, Angela runs out, I'm coming!
My heart smiles as she joins me.
Amanda has invited us to her farm- a few times- she's offered a getaway for me, any time I like. So, today, we head out to her beautiful acreage.
9 puppies, 8 kids, 30 chickens.. it's a great break from... everything ...and just being at my house. Carrie and Eric are there, too and we hang out in the yard, tour the gardens and greenhouses. After an hour or so, my sisters and I pack up our family and head out.
We stop at a lake front picnic table for lunch. It's right beside the first house Ben and I lived in. I like driving down this road and seeing it. We settle in for sandwiches and notice the wind is picking up. The lake is choppy and the sky looks angry. We eat fast and just barely beat a massive thunderstorm!
Our timing is perfect. I love the storm. The break in the sky, the thunder, the crush of rain. I have always loved storms and this one seems sent for me.
We load the cars and realise we are all exhausted today. Angela comes to my house, Lisa heads home. Kids pick their destination- they are thrilled to choose and go where they want. We part ways, and will touch base later. We are too tired to make any other decisions.
How Could I Forget?
We relax at my house, are content to sit and do nothing. I close my eyes and rest.
My phone rings at 3:30pm and it derails me... instantly I'm in a panic, out of breath, shaking. It's the funeral home. Am I coming to collect Ben's ashes? They close at 4 and are not open on the weekend....
OMG yes, yes. I'm so sorry! I am so sorry. I'm coming, don't close. Please don't close.
I know I won't make it in time.
I call Lisa, in a panic. She isn't expecting my outburst and my crying turns to screaming as I blindly yell, 'I forgot! I JUST FORGOT! How could I forget! They are closing now! YOU HAVE TO GO NOW!' She's yelling at me, too. To stop yelling at her. AND she's mad they didn't call HER. "I gave them my number!" she's mad, "WHY DID THEY CALL YOU?!?!" It's a nightmare. We hang up on each other and I can't catch my breath.
She calls me back in moments, she's already in her car. She's on the way, she will make it. We apologise but I can't stop sobbing.
How could I forget?
It's Erik's 6th birthday and I love it. Life goes on, and this is how: with birthdays and bubbles and cake and kids. In a way, I love it even more... because at my mom's memorial, we held Lucas's birthday the day before the memorial in Alberta. He was so excited (as kids are!) and Erik is no different. Yes, kids, yes! We can celebrate your birthday today... and be sad tomorrow.
This is the stuff my family is so good at. Feeling all the feelings, doing all the things.... even when the timing seems weird. We feel grief, but we don't live in it ... the mix of joy is there.. the regular things in life are there... kids have birthdays, meals need cooking, cats need cuddles. And so, on we go.
Today is Ben's memorial. We tidy the yard and place photos of Ben all over the deck. My brother created posters with collages and math/nerd jokes or sayings. The stuff Ben loves. I hang 5 of his favourite shirts (including the 0+0+0+0+0=0 algebra problem) from the deck. Tables and chairs have already been spaced out for social distancing and comfort. Chalk, bubbles and a tent for the kids are set to go. The fridge is stuffed with food, and more on the way.
Family and friends arrive at 3pm. We head to the River together. I set up an easel with a 2x3 foot poster of Ben and the program. It reads:
Words from Kris
Tributes from Sisters
A Gardening Poem (the silly bit)
Goodbye to Ben (the sad bit)
BBQ for Ben (the joyful bit)
The words from Lisa, Amanda and Ben's mom are perfect.
The gardening poem is:
Roses are Red
Violets are Blue
Sunflowers are Yellow
I bet you thought this was going to be a romantic poem, but no, these are just gardening facts.
I was able to read it. It was perfect, so Ben. I loved romance and really pushed him for it... and this poem (though I doubt he every read it to me) summarised us beautifully. (We did see this as a meme and occasionally send it back and forth to one another...if that counts!).
We stand together by the river bank, under a large tree. The music speaker doesn't work but it doesn't matter. We cry and honour Ben together. When the time comes, we release his ashes onto the river. I have bags of cut wildflowers ready as well- the kids collected them just before the ceremony. Kids and family toss flowers, petals and leaves into the water. It's so beautiful and perfect. We take our time returning to the house.
Checklist for Friends
I created a checklist for my friends to follow - I am relying on you to handle our feast, I tell them.
1. Pour Wine
2. Toast Ben
3. Start the prawns
4. Vegetables & cheese plate out
5. Drink Wine
6. Chest Pump (Minda to lead)
7. Review steps- did you miss any? Revisit Step 6.
In true Kris fashion, I have also include boxes to check off (and instructions on How To Use this Checklist). It's silly but they take it to heart, rush to me when items are complete, indulge me in my checklists and let humour weave into the sadness. Their antics delight me as I meander around my yard, visiting, crying, sitting. I feel as though I'm in a daze and my heart is bursting with my friends love. Doing it Kris style, lifting me up, no questions asked.
Family, Food and Comfort, Crying
I was going to BBQ hamburgers ...but decided to do steak, prawn and a huge spread. One of Ben (and mine!) favourite summer pastimes was cooking- especially BBQ - hosting and making great food. And he loved steak with corn of the cob, garlic toast, baked potatoes.. the whole works. So, I go forward with the big menu....my friends are handling it beautifully. (Craig has even travelled with his own meat thermometer for the BBQ... which is also why there is a note on the friend checklist that says 'Keep your meat thermometer to yourself.'...more silliness, and bordering inappropriate).
My brother asked about taking photos on this day. Not at the river, I say, but yes, take a ton at the house. He's snapping and clicking around and I am thankful as I know I will love them later.
Slowly, some of the friends and family trickle away. I thought it would be hard to see people leave, but it's actually not. I feel loved, but I am so tired. Everyone enjoyed appies and visiting, lots of hugs for me ...despite the social distancing...which I welcomed.
The separate corners of the yard were set up... and used by some. It IS strange for me to see the different comfort levels with COVID on THIS day. I wish we could turn it off, or take a break... for today, just for today.
But we can't, so people make themselves comfortable with the open space, and leaving early.
By the time we eat, half have left but I'm so tired now, it's just fine. The food is delicious and I love watching the kids play in our yard. By 8pm, everyone has left except my sisters. Angela and Vince pack up all the kids and leave Lisa to spend the night. Once again, I'm grateful to have her. And relieved to not be alone.
I Can't Do It
Lisa and I head in around 11am and spend the day at her house. It's nice there. Kids have a pool and space, the deck is breezy and everyone is extra kind to me. Bringing me ice-tea, brushing my hair, showing me tricks on the trampoline, painting rocks for my gardens.
I try to help in the house, but the girls insist, no,no, sit down. And I am thankful. It's hard to sit, and to simply not help out...but I am so beat.
We make arrangements for me to sleep with Angela. (Lizzie and Dominic will be on the floor, too, but that doesn't matter). I think a sleepover will be fun. Until... it's 11pm...
At 11pm, I have a huge yearning to be home. It's overwhelming. I tell them I'm sorry, but I'm leaving, and they understand. I just want to be home, I say.
As I pull out of the driveway, Angela comes running with her toothbrush. Wait for me! she calls. Lisa and her decided in an instant and I'm grateful for their split-second decision making.
When we get home, I feel relief. Angela tucks me in and we go to bed.
I hope Mia comes to my feet tonight.
July 31 - Aug 2
Family keeps me busy. The Wrights and Boelmans tag team me daily. Lizzie sleeps over on Wednesday. We float the river every other day. They feed me, hang around, talk about Ben and dry my tears.
I never know when to expect them. Will it be in conversation? When I see something that sparks a memory? A feeling that waves over me? I don't know... and that unexpected element exhausts me almost as much as the emotion itself.
Every day I feel so tired, so groggy. I feel like I am carrying stones, actual stones on my shoulders and on my head. I feel crushed with the weight of it all. How can he be gone? I am so angry and sad and mad about it. I hate that phrase, time heals... why is time necessary? I just want to push a button and pass this pain.
I schedule time for official business. Lawyer, banker, Ben's wallet, the house, the debts. It hurts my heart and I hate that I cry after they each answer the phone.
I don't want Jennifer at the call centre to be my person! I just wish I could hold the tears at bay as I navigate these closures and changes. (Well, actually, I wish there was a magic wand to take care of it all. One 'swoosh' and done.)
But... there isn't.
So... I soldier on... forcing bravery through tears.
My Year and My Moves
I'm trying to figure out the best way to re-organise my finances and it hurts my head. I want Ben here. I want our 2020 back. I want FullerGreens to launch and I want to be drinking wine beside him in the garden, figuring out my next moves.
And now my moves are ...my own... and I don't want to do them at all.
And I'm so hurt and mad all over again. THIS year was our big year, the year to launch his business ...and the year for me to discover and define my 'next moves'. He was going to earn our family income and allow me time to ... just be. To plan and dream.
Because together, we valued our time at home, working for ourselves, working together, helping others. All we wanted was to lower our bills, live stress free and be together. We used to just stop in the middle of the day and say to one another, "We're so lucky." ...and we were. We were so close to being self-sustainable and living for joy... not living for work... so close...
And this was supposed to be my year. My year to breathe. And now... it feels like I can do anything but breathe.
Ryan & Robynn
My brother and his wife, Melissa stay over on Tuesday night. They have their trailer and their dogs. My dog-nephews. Tucker and Finn. We float the river and barely make it out alive. (Okay, not true, but my brother was very scratched by excited pups and we spent a fair bit of time in the reeds and brambles!)
Robynn spends Wednesday night with me, and so does Lizzie. Lizzie has promised to stay every Wednesday in August for an auntie-niece sleepover. We three play bocce and watch a movie.
I'm alone today and I don't make a fuss. I get messages to 'eat cake for Ben' and lots of love from his family and mine. I'm not telling anyone that I am alone today. I just want to be alone. It's been a while, and the exhaustion of so much support has once again caught up with me.
I do have one special appointment. At 3pm, I go to a wedding rehearsal- there's a couple I am going to marry on Saturday. They live 6km from my house. I brace myself for it, thinking of love and joy and good times with Ben. I spend an hour with the couple to be wed and it's so wonderful. The bride knows me, has been a supporter of all my businesses and knows my story and about Ben. She hugs me and is grateful I am there. Her sweet groom (who I have only met a few times) surprises me with a heartfelt embrace, too. He asks if I'm okay and thanks me for coming. They are the kindest couple and I'm glad I kept their booking.
We walk around the farmyard and plan the ceremony. I boss people around on their farm and feel great about the set up. I do love managing the scene and putting everyone at ease with where they go, what they do, answering questions and making it all work smoothly.
I go home, sit with Mia on the deck and pour a glass of wine. It went so well, but it was exhausting. Usually I would draft everything for the wedding immediately after our rehearsal but I just can't. I scratch some notes down and go to bed early.
August 8 is the day of the wedding. August 7th didn't even make it to my calendar. Did the whole world skip it? Or just me? I just don't know what happened to the 7th.
But the 8th is here and I have a wedding to do. Can I do it? I know I can. It will be hard, but I can. I won't let them down.
The wedding day is beautiful. It's a small gathering of friends and family. Lots of distancing and space. It sprinkles a little rain when I arrive but by the time we welcome the bride, it's 22 degrees and perfect.
The vows and 'I do's' shake me to my core. I am so delighted with their joy, but have to work to keep it together. Each promise they recite strikes my heart like lightening and I hear Ben's voice echoing them in my mind. It's such a beautiful ceremony and I even manage to make a few light jokes, throw in some compliments and keep it upbeat, loving and personal. Once they are wed, the bride asks if I will stay and socialise.
She had welcomed me before and in different circumstances, I would have.
No, I tell her. No, I'm really tired. But, congratulations once again! I hug her and the groom, smile my best smile as I pack up my speaker, notes and pens. I wave as I drive away and hold my breath. As soon as I leave the driveway, I exhale and tears stream down my face. They are unstoppable. For 6km. When I arrive home it takes everything I have to unload my car and I haven't stopped crying.
It's only 5pm but I lock myself in my house, throw myself on my bed and sob for hours.
Today, I lied to a woman. I didn't mean to. We chatted in a coffee shop lineup and somehow the conversations of lattes and chai moved to romance and she commented on how extremely romantic her husband is, always buying her favourite iced mocha, thoughtful treats, always thinking of her. "Oh, not mine," I said. "He's all business. He's too practical for romance! But he does love coffee so sometimes he squeezes one in for me too."
And before I knew it, we were chuckling about husbands. Two wives, just kabutzing in Starbucks, total strangers, no big deal.
I cried when I got to my car. I don't know why I did it. This little lie... why???
I should have changed the subject. Talked about green tea, instead of romance. Or simply applauded her husband for his merits. Why did I have to add my two cents about Ben... like he was still here... like I'm still... a wife too.
I twist my wedding ring and close my eyes. Stupid coffee. Stupid wives buying coffee. Stupid crying in my car.
I Hate WhiteSnake
Here I Go... Again...on my own...
...travelling down.... the only road...
That's all they get. I turn the radio off.
I hate Whitesnake now.
That is all.
I promised myself I would complete the official things THIS week. I have not succeeded. I looked up a few cards, mobile bill, bank info... but didn't get to the branches. Didn't get things mailed off. Did step one, but not the rest.
Why is it so hard to cancel these things? I know I need to do it... but it's the weight of it all.. makes simple things seem hard.
I did meet with the lawyer. Our house is mine alone. I don't like that very much... at all.
I did connect with a debt specialist as well to organise my new solo future... and figure out the looming bills. I don't like that very much either. But solutions are at hand, and I feel looked after. It just all sucks that the jobs...during grief! ... have to be done.
I wish there was a Staples EASY button for this.... but there isn't.
I also really wanted to do another section of trim. Get back to my 'bite-sized-pieces' and small steps... but I did zero.
I feel like such a failure on top of it all. I am trying to reframe it.. in my mind.. to give myself grace and allow another week to sail by. It's hard... but now that this week is over, what does it serve to me beat myself up? So, now.. this NEW next week... I will complete the burdensome paperwork and tasks.
Maybe I will make myself a little checklist. Maybe.
My dad was visiting Vernon and I went to see him. I just wanted to tell him that I love him. Losing Ben hurts so much and life is so short.
The engagement ring that Ben picked out sparkles on my hand and brings tears to my eyes. My heart overflows with emotion when I see it.
I love it so much. I love that he picked out on his own... and it's perfect. I love that the wedding band is soldered together on the one side... rows of delicate diamonds. And on our first anniversary, he bought me the matching band for the other side. I could not have selected a better ring, better fit, prettier setting... he did perfect.
His proposal was such an incredible surprise, too. We went up to Silverstar to snowshoe (I love it and he started to love it, too. My first Christmas present to him was his own set of snowshoes.) On the way, I excitedly asked him to stop at the dollar store. I said, 'Let's take snowy, Christmasy photo's together so I can make a collage or decorations with our photos'. My mission was to quickly buy reindeer antlers, elf hats, and sparkly bobbles to adorn us.
He was incredibly enthusiastic about it all. I was a little surprised, but also OVERJOYED! What fun!
On the hike, I kept dressing us up, changing our hats, taking selfies and photos, the time of my life. He was such a great sport! Loving every moment. And, then, we reached the summit of our little hike and there, on the snowy mountaintop, he got down on one knee and pulled out this delicate ring. "You know I love you very much..." that's how he started. I can hear those words burned into my ears and heart, even now.
I honestly could not believe it. When we talked about getting serious, he had said he didn't really know if he cared too much about marriage, about a silly piece of paper. I told him it was something that I hoped for, something that I had not really considered *not* doing... and that .. because of him, I was now thinking about it. Did it matter? Well, I never had to find out... because he did the switch-er-oo for us... It turns out he did want marriage, and me.
The photos from that day are the absolute best. Joyful, playful, loving. My heart is so happy whenever I see them. Of course, LATER, he told me why ... he was so compliant. He knew I was in a great mood and he didn't want to burst that bubble so he said YES to absolutely everything for me that day. He wore every hat, did every pose, took selfies and was just plain silly. I love that I brought that out in him.
It's been one month since Ben passed away. I floated on the river (yet again... it's been my retreat.. my mini-escape) with cousin Erin and her girls. They did a little gardening, as usual. Just a little, but it made my heart smile. And their love. The one small 'perk' of COVID is these spaced -apart visits.
Love keeps pouring in. And today, I'm extra glad. I can't believe he's been gone a month.
Lakes and Boats
Alenna invites me over for a visit, walk, float, boat ride, anything. Well, I might have invited myself.. but she's home and I am welcome. I just want to pout in a new location. Be tired somewhere else. I sit on her deck and she makes me a turkey sandwich. I tease her and thank her at the same time. It's our new thing- her making me sandwiches when I arrive.... and I love it.
Preston is home and asks me how I am, and fresh tears slip out as I try to say that I am okay today. It doesn't line up. Surely I am not still upset about garbage day? He says "I'll get the boat, we can have supper on the lake".
I nod, a decision has been made for me and it's nice. Because NOW... everything is up to me, just me, me alone... and it's nice to have directions in this moment. We enjoy the pontoon in the Okanagan heat and it's just what I need. A get-away that isn't too far from home...with Alenna, Preston and their two wiener dogs. We stop in the middle and jump into the lake. It's refreshing.
The water relieves me of some tension... it always does. The pub on the lake is closed so when we dock, we BBQ instead and I spend the night in the guest room.
Blue Hair Niece
It's Wednesday and I am anxious to get home. The night was really great, but that call... that call for home...it still gets me... I enjoyed the night and the guest room, but I'm missing my home so much. After breakfast, I head out.
I stop by Lisa's because it's Wednesday and Lizzie is sleeping over again.
She wants blue hair... and I'm thinking about it too. I have always wanted to try blue hair. I even bought clips of blue to put in as a temporary fix last year... but now, the option is here again. I'm mulling it over and by the time we get around to it, I'm too tired. We prepped our hair but that is it. I'm left with bleach blonde (okay, it's orange) under my hair. (I was planning on a blue layer at the back).
So, now it's orange. Half a job. It still makes me smile. I love that Lizzie is keen to come over.
We play games, watch a movie and RuPauls Drag Race. (Now those are some ladies who know how to get blue hair!). We eat ice-cream and cuddle Mia. We swim in the river, transplant basil (I know, it's late, but we did it!) and then she massaged my feet. It was a pretty perfect night.
Boo. I didn't get Ben's visa cancelled (or paid) in time and interest charges were just applied. It's only $4.22 but it pains me that I left it. TODAY I paid the bill (with an extra $5...just in case...) and mailed away the cancellation letter.
I also cancelled a few other cards and things in his wallet. Finally. I don't feel the relief that I expected. No weight has been lifted.
I finally got it done, but I still feel heavy, and I'm mad that I don't feel a sense of accomplishment. Nothing at all. No certificates today.
Driveway, Hallway, Car Tears
I met two friends as I dropped off Lizzie- and we cried in the street in front of their house. It's the first time I've seen those two since Ben died. It's hard. Waves of new-ness hit me all over again as I share small snippets of ... how it is... 'It's just not real, it's not fair. I can't believe it.' They nod, hug me, agree and tell me they wanted to come and take out my garbage so badly. They hate it all for me and I am crying in the driveway... over garbage, Ben, the whole thing all over again.
I get it together and go to the Notary to sign papers... we only just added me... and now I'm back to do another title change: remove Ben. I am fine in the office, I sign and go. As soon as the door shuts behind me, I choke in sobs and my knees buckle. I grab the railing and silently muffle my sobs as tears fall down my face. Removing him from title ... feels like just ... removing him... and I don't want anything to do with that. I wipe my eyes on my T-shirt and skittle down the stairs, rush to my car as fast as I can. I hate that I'm in the hallway alone. I don't want anyone to see me.
As soon as I'm in the car, my chest heaves uncontrollably. The tears unleash on me. I hate crying in my car in the city, but I can't seem to stop. Eventually, I can...I dry my eyes again, drive home and try to be productive. One small step at a time. I know I need to just keep going. It's just very, very hard.
I've been to my sisters the last 2 days in a row for a visit. But I'm often short, grumpy, snarky and frustrated. Even with simple things: decisions about water or juice, deciding to stay or go, making plans for what we could do, barking about her kids... I feel irritated with myself.. I'm not talking nice and I don't know how to fix it. My frustration is not with anything in particular... but it's coming out...
I feel like all I want to do is be with my sister, but every time I arrive, I just want to be alone. I can't make heads or tails of it and it exhausts me too. More layers, more difficulties. I'm so annoyed with myself.
More support passing through. Susan, Laurie and Auntie Gloria stopped by to visit me. I was so proud to show them all the corners of our house, yard, life here. They loved it all, of course. The buildings, work, gardens. They kept commenting on how wonderful the garden smell was: dill, tomatoes, freshness. We kept our distance and visited on the deck and it was just perfect.
Mia comes in at midnight, meowing her broken meow. Instinctively, I don't trust her and I turn on my nightlight in a flash. She's brought a gift- a mouse- into my room. She huddles with it on the throw rug and I'm annoyed that I have to get up and discard it.
To my dismay, it's still alive! It scurries under my bed and Mia lounges on the carpet, stretching, boasting. 'You're welcome' she cat-grins at me...
Adrenaline and panic fill me up as I close my bedroom door and begin throwing everything on the bed. I yell at Mia. Mostly her name, with a little 'get the mouse! get the mouse!' in a hysterical, hissing voice. I shove Mia under the bed, but she wants nothing to do with it. She returns to the rug to relax.
Meanwhile, I am frantically pulling my cast iron bed frame out from the wall. I throw my night stand on the bed. My furniture is heavy and I'm sweating as I continue to hiss at the cat. It's the leaning tower of Pisa and I pray that the mouse hasn't made a scurry upwards. Nothing hangs over the bed and the legs are smooth metal- perhaps tricky to climb?
Finally I create a space by the wall for me to stand in and I see the creature. It's wet from cat-saliva and frozen in place. I grab Mia - who has been meowing at the door let me out for while- and shove her face into it. "Pick it up!" I screech. But she refuses.
I find a cardboard box and scoop the little thing in, I open my patio door and fling the entire carton (mouse inside) out into the yard. I pick up Mia and she is all purrs and cuddles now... but too late, Mrs.... you're going outside. I toss her out.
It's after one and I get my bleach spray, rags and mop. I am so tired but disgusted by this mouse. I crawl under the bed and wipe everything down. I toss the carpet outside for the evening and move items from my bed to the couch- I want nothing on the floor tonight.
I lock the cat door with flare and go to bed seething.
At 3am, I am still awake and feel bad for locking the cat door. I renege my decision and open it. BUT I lock my bedroom door so Mia is at least barred from my room.
At 5am, I hear the cat door swing open, followed by soft, sweet meows at my bedroom door. I sigh, get up and let her in. She hops up onto the bed and I cuddle back into my covers. She bumpers her body up against my calves and lays her head on my feet. She purrs and I forgive her for the mouse. Stupid mouse.
The Olsons met us on Saturday night and we had dinner at the Wrights. Lisa cooks a roast and we eat her garden spoils too: beets, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, cucumbers.
I brought carrots from our garden. I feel like they are not Ben's carrots. And as I pick them, I notice how small they are. Another under-watered item in our Less-Than-Fuller-Greens. Things that I harvest are all small and disappointing this year. The garden suffers with me... in his absence. I know, garlic, I know. It wasn't supposed to be like this...everything is small and sad.
It's hard not to dwell on the garden, but nothing can be done about it now.
The supper at Lisa's is wonderful - and connecting with family. There is laughter and stories, but once again I cry over how little my family actually knew Ben. They didn't get to know him much at all. There was just not enough visits, not enough time, not enough Ben.
Ice Cream & Wasps
Alenna and Preston text: want to go to the Shuswap Falls?
I've never been and I don't have plans for my Sunday so I answer yes. We drive up, but access is no longer available so we go for ice cream at Mable Lake instead. I choose tiger ice cream and it feels like a 'kids' treat. I can't remember the last time I chose such a whimsical flavour. I am grateful for friends who fill my day.
At home, Preston commented on my yard. "A lot's been done, you've been busy", he says.
I appreciate his comment. Lately it feels like nothing is getting done...to me...but he hasn't been here in a while so he can see it differently than I do.
He took a board and got rid of six or seven wasp nests that were being started in my shed and deck ceiling. Crush! Scrape! Voila! For that, I am truly grateful! I hate them so much, but have a great fear of them.
I don't want them building around me, but what do I do about it when I'm so scared? Number 1, I miss Ben for his bravery and constant vigil on the War Against Wasps; Number 2, I walk gingerly around them and try to employ a Do Not Disturb tactic... in hopes that they will return the favour. So, today, I breathe easy as my yard is wasp free. At least for now.
As I step out of the shower I notice his cologne on the shelf. It's half empty and the parallel to him dying ...with half his life left to live... kicks me in the stomach. I pick it up, close my eyes and smell it, but it's not the same. It needs to be mixed with his body for that smell. That smell that I love. Joop and Ben. Tears fall down my face as I put the bottle back on the shelf.
I don't know what to do with this bottle. So many things were easy to let go of: clothing, shaving stuff, small projects, certain tools. But for some reason, I can't seem to navigate this one. I just want to smell him again, cuddle into his chest and breath deep. It physically hurts me... my ribs feel sore in an instant and my chest is a rock as I realise... once again.. that I can't. I put the bottle back on the shelf.
It only takes two days for this house to be a huge mess. Dishes are everywhere, my room is a disaster and the floors are filthy. The only job that is consistently done is feeding Mia...and this time of year she probably doesn't even need it!
My lack of action and exhaustion upsets me. It's discouraging and I hate it. I hate that it takes so much for me to find motivation for simple things.
I still want to finish the trim in our house. How can I do that if I can't even keep my dishes done. I'm frustrated with myself and at the same time, reminding myself.. it's only been a month... but it's not easy. To take it easy on myself. To motivate myself. To figure out what my purpose is.. right now.. and in the future. I feel so lost. Sometimes I just don't know where to start. Both in the house.. and in my mind.
I feed the cat and sit on the couch. I should make a list. But I don't. It's just too much. Sometimes I wonder how I will ever get things done again?
Garbage Day Success
Did it. Boom.
Things I love in late August:
*floating on the river
*garden food with supper
*visits on Lisa's deck
Things I don't love since Ben is gone:
*my tomatoes are small and disappointing- not the huge beasts that Ben grew. He tended to the garden so much and I just ignore it. I hate picking small, sad produce because it makes me cry at my neglect and miss his love.
*making sauce- he was the best sous chef. He would happily chop tomatoes or onions, he would peel garlic with that cute grin on his face and no complaints. We just loved cooking together and felt a mutual pride for what we were growing, canning, creating. We started charting (yes, a checklist) how much of each we used- so the next year we could plan for the right amount. We were working on a pantry that would be labelled by month and we would put the jars of what we needed in each month shelf. And he was cross-referencing our canning needs with his next year vegetable plots... it was chart and planning heaven.
*floating without him- our family always clips the floaties together with ropes so we can float as one big unit. But not Ben. He would launch and be 20 feet away from the kids, snacks and chaos... but I loved it when he joined us.
*garden food is now up to me- in the past, Ben would bring in a basket of whatever was ready, whatever was best and I would be pleasantly surprised and thrilled to use it up. Now, it's all up to me and I don't feel inspired by it like I did when he was with me.
*I still love visits on Lisa's deck, but I feel the physical distance- the drive from Enderby to Coldstream- even more now. I am thinking about what to do with this house, and my life... but it's not easy.
The Dark and the Night
Impromptu Ninja Widows
There is another young widow and we have become friends online. We were chatting on Facebook and randomly Ninja2 asked me if I wanted to come over for a swim. I said, 'And maybe supper?' and in a flash the decision was made.
We had chatted about meeting up, but so far, for me, it was just too soon. Too scary. What if it was too hard? What if this woman and her grief was too much for me to be in...as well. But tonight, we both threw caution to the wind and we met. She said, 'C'mon. I read the blog, it's only 22 minutes' and I left in 5 minutes before I lost my nerve.
It was really great, instantly. There was no small talk or pretences. It was a hello, hop in the pool and chat about the men we loved, and lost.
We both teared up (as usual) at unexpected times but... we both just got it. We talked about how people who have lost a sister, mother, father... just don't understand. Loss is very hard, of course, but there is something different about losing your spouse. Your husband. The man you love. The man you are intimate with. The one you set the table for everyday. Daily kisses. Daily scuffles. Small fights. Inside jokes. The man you miss so much your heart aches and your head spins. We just got it.
We talked for hours. We rolled our eyes at excessive amounts of tools, projects we were proud of, projects that were the bain of our existence. We both had super-handy-fix-it guys and now? Well, now... we both have to do it all. Clean the house, fix the things, make the food. Alone.
We squandered our cooking time away and in the end decided to order in. We ate and swam again (she keeps her pool at 86... perfect). We drank too much and cried together until it was finally time to put ourselves to bed.
It still sucks that Ninja2 is my new friend ... because we both became young widows in 2020. And I don't really know how to end this blog.. cos, yea, it still sucks so much. I don't want to have a widow-friend... because I don't want her husband to be gone either.
Breaking Down Paperwork and Official
In the process of legal things, mistakes have been made and I hate it. It makes me so mad.
I put his pension cheque into our joint account (via mobile deposit) and waited for it to clear. It never did. I called and the online bank told me they cannot clear it.. as it was not made to 'Ben Fuller' (or me) but rather to the 'Estate of Ben Fuller' which is, of course, different ... so now... well, it's just a hassle. It's $2500 and it's frozen in red tape. They won't clear it, I can't re-cash it and the government phone calling begins. I am not looking forward to this.
Ninja2 was telling me about her widow pension and it made me think, "Do I get that?" so I looked it up online at the Government of Canada website. Yes, I do qualify BUT I have to apply. Nobody told me. IF we didn't happen to chat, it would have been gone.. as you only have a limited amount of time to apply for these things. Her funeral home did it automatically. Mine did not.
I've had to re-mortgage the house. I did not realise that the legal work for the mortgage would include taking Ben off title, so I went to the Maffia-Notary once again. I paid for his services to get the job done. BUT it would have saved me quite a lot to know that it was a redundant step. Who is supposed to tell me these things???!
I have checklists, but these are misguided errors.
Things that aren't included in a checklist.
Things that infurrurriate (I CANNOT even spell that word right now...but I like it with all those mad rrrr's).
Out of Steam
I'm out of steam.
I have been home, not answering calls, not cleaning up, not showering.
I just feel the low-down, overwhelmed feeling again.
I feel alone in Enderby, and yet I don't have the energy to go somewhere.
Lisa called at noon and I just cried into the phone.
She came out to see me at 4pm, brought me supper and stayed for a couple hours to do yardwork.
I kept bursting into tears throughout the visit. The emotions in me were just too much.
I'm grateful for her visit because today.. it just all felt... really, really heavy again.
Alenna and Preston surprised me with coffee and breakfast. My sister has reached out to some close friends (to my happy surprise) and they are coming once again to lift me up...I'm not entirely sure what to expect next but today's visit was beautiful.
The isolation of living alone coupled with the 'off the track' living in Enderby is hard for me to bear... at least right now.. and this is new, and another thing I hate.
We ate breakfast and I wasn't sure what their visit would lead to, but just having them there was enough.
My patio door handle fell off in my hands (for the third time this week) so Preston - thankfully- said he would fix it. And that was it. That lead to 4 hours of sorting tools. He went through 9 tubs with me, taking pictures, telling me what things actually were and helping me price them out. We set up the covered deck for an easy sale and viewing. I posted the first of many tools online tonight and am planning a garage sale (I think!).
Alenna turned my south shed upside down. Cleaned, swept, finally done! She laboured as we sorted tools and did an amazing job. We had at drink in the shade around 4pm and talked about my plans, my ideas. And of course, their two weiner dogs had the time of their life, running through my un-mowed grass, sniffing around for Mrs. Mia and getting all kinds of pets and love from me.
Time Flying By
Where has 2 more weeks gone? I can't believe it is the middle of September.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon with Ben's family. My family. It was Zak's birthday. I just realised right now I didn't even bring a card. But I did bring my paddle boards which were well used.
Carol and I chatted and she said 'We were so lucky to have him.' It changed my perspective. For the first time, I felt that- gratitude. Lucky to have him. I have only felt huge gaping holes of loss and sadness. I've been missing him so much. I haven't been able to reflect back on our love, our life, our time together with any joy...because the pain is too huge.
For a small moment, I felt my heart lift and my spirit was calm. I do feel so lucky to have had him. I admired and loved so many things about him.
I also went with a realtor to look at a property in Vernon. It will be time for me to move soon. To find my path. And with that comes the independence and finding joy ...for me...in a place that makes sense for me. And Mia, of course. I do worry about that little beast!
Crying in Calgary
I wanted to visit my sister Angela in Westlock. (Lisa had asked me to join her on a trip east at the end of August but I was not ready. For some reason, being close to this house, being near my protective cave- is very important to me. I've realised it's the privacy, the hiding away, that I like. The choice to NOT see anyone and to be quiet and safe in my own space). So, a month later, I decided to go.
I talked to Angela's husband on Tuesday and told him I was coming.
On Thursday I said I didn't know anymore.
On Friday at 9 am I said, 'I'm for sure not coming.'
On Friday at 12pm I got in my car... I decided to go after all.
I stopped at Revelstoke for lunch with cousin Erin. I almost went home. Only an hour away. Chicken wraps and tears for lunch. I decided to keep going.
I called Angela once I passed Golden. I told her I was on the way to her house and she was delighted.
In Calgary, I felt uncertain once again. I got gas, a snack and sat and cried in my car.
Eventually, I drove on and made it to Westlock. It was a truly great weekend with my sister and her sweet family. Those 4 little boys are so wonderful. I stayed 2 nights and then felt anxious for home.
Weed Wacker Tears
I've been chipping away at the house. I cannot believe how much there really is left to do. It fills my days ... even if I do something for 30 minutes.. that seems to be a full day. Being home lets me have time to cry.. basically whenever it strikes. And it still strikes frequently. And surprisingly. You think you know when you are upset, when tears will come. Losing Ben has changed everything. Who knew weed-wacking was a tear jerker? Well, it is. Or it was this time. I could hear his voice, telling me not to cut corners, showing me how to re-wind the cable if I ran out or got stuck. So, I'm crying while weed-wacking... and now I can hear him with a safety talk, too. He was always so careful, so safe. AT least I have a tidy yard now, so I can enjoy how nice it looks all freshly mowed. Finding the blessings, the joy in these small things is easy... but they still don't soften the fact that he is gone.
Impromptu Beth visit
Beth has carved out time to see me. And I am thrilled. I'm wasn't sure what we would do, but I am so glad for her company. She slept in my room and I took the day bed in the living room. I've been told that Mia eats her food like a teenager chomping on cereal at all hours of the night and don't want her to ruin anyone's sleep but mine! (It's true, buy the way, she's an obnoxious eater...lol).
We thought we would paint or work in the shed, but it was overcast and I wasn't in the mood for any work. Plus, I feel like the time for 'helping hands' is done. I don't feel that anyone owes me anything. The help has been so wonderful... but now I just want to enjoy the company, and the love. We went to Gray Monk for lunch and it felt really nice to be out, doing something decadent.
I'm still overwhelmed with all that I have to accomplish, but I remind myself that every homeowner has jobs, everyone has their own home, everyone has a lot to do. So, in that, I am not unique. I just cry more during the jobs.
Feels like a REAL vacation
Beth is here another night and we decide to treat ourselves to another day of touring the Okanagan. My house is a shambles, piles everywhere, jobs undone, messes... but it's nothing new. And, I realise, it's nothing that would be solved in one day. It's not easy to take the day trip.... why is that? I don't know. I hate how I struggle all the time. So, I breath deep and allow myself to feel the joy... of an outing.
My sister, Lisa, has found friends for her kids after school and is coming, too. I am just thrilled. That is a rarity- especially in these times. Wanting to keep your chickadees closer and safer with COVID in our midst. I am so glad to have her join us. Like over the moon GLAD.. I could not ask for more.
Our day turns into a beautiful long one. We sample wine at 5 wineries and enjoy a lunch at Mt. Boucherie in West Kelowna. It's perfect. After the 3rd tasting, I am along for the ride and company. I have offered to drive and am fine to stop sampling.. I mean they are small and the girls are fine too but it's unusal for me. I would say it's not my normal decision- usually I would want to be the good time-Friday-girl, the one who keeps trying, sampling, giddy. But, these days, I don't know myself. I just want to take it easy. I want to enjoy the company but I'm happy to be the quieter one... maybe not quieter, but it just feels weird.
I'm having fun, but it's not as easy as it ...could be... should be... I don't know. And I hate not knowing.
The day is really wonderful. My mind is off my heartache and with my girls. It's a crisp autumn day, the sun peaks through the clouds and tries to give us some shine. Our last stop is the best. 50th Parallel- we didn't think we would have time, but we risked it. Our taster was a wordsmith who confirmed our debate over the word 'harbinger' and brought delight into our sampling (not like the young man who's name was 'Success'...at a winery who's name shall not be named! #terrible #bears).
I offered to drive around and pick up all of Lisa's kids once we got back to Vernon and deliver them all home. It was after 8pm by the time Beth and I got back to Enderby. We had one last cup of tea on the daybed and she left Friday morning.
Beth is up early, we have coffee and she hits the road. The visit has been great, but also I find everything so exhausting.
I wrap Mia like a burrito and watch movies all day.
My body hurts by the time it's bedtime and I move from the couch to my bed slowly.
Why does it hurt my heart so much, still, after such a wonderful visit? I just want the pain to subside.
It's one of my best friends birthdays. They are having a *small* dance party in their garage. I love dancing, but I'm worried. I'm tearful. I'm not my best self. I'm not.. 'party ready'... not like the old Kris would be. I think about how Ben died... just shy of his 44th birthday. He told me that he once read that "men die around their birth-date" and I told him not to say that anymore...like saying it would be true. I wanted one more birthday with him.
So, this party... I think about how unfair it is that he didn't get any more parties. That I would have been at with him. I'm not sure if I will be any fun...and I like to be fun. I like to have fun...and I don't know what it will be like. It's already a small gathering.. since we are all still COVID careful... but still...
I just don't know. But I have decided to go. She's a very important friend. One of the best.
I went, it was dinner first and it was 12 of us in a restaurant at different tables. I had a glass of wine with dinner but that was it. I wanted to be free ... to leave... if I felt like it... or.. I don't know... I feel like I always.. just don't know...
I felt like it was fun, but there was brave smiling too. There were 3 people that I didn't know after, at her house. I avoided them. I know why, too. I was afraid of the small talk. I didn't want to do it. I just wanted to be invisible. So I danced and kept to myself. I had fun, but it was very different than... the old me. Don't get me wrong, the old me had a few great moves in the garage... but it just wasn't quite the same.
At 11:30, I drove myself home and slept with Mrs. Mia. I text my friend: "I'm home"...because now... well, now there isn't somebody here. 'Text me once you're home', she said and it was a bittersweet message. We would often say that to one another, but now, I felt the impact of her care.
Strength or Hiding
Sunday, I watched movies all day and cried. The aftermath. It just sucks. My own birthday is in 3 weeks and I just don't want to do it. Not any part of it. Because it's not fair... that I get a birthday ...when he didn't.
Monday is exhausting too. I get no jobs done. And I'm hard on myself for it. My novel - final draft- arrived this weekend and I haven't even looked, haven't started reading. I just can't and I'm mad that it's that hard... My house is messy, beyond messy. It's the messy where plates with dry ketchup sit piled on the counter and salt hit the floor ...someday ago...but I can't be bothered to sweep it up to it slowly trails around with my feet whenever I pass through it.
If someone came over, I would be mortified. One of the things that I realise is ...by having someone over, I am forced to clean, to return to the world and be active in my own hygiene and cleaning. So, what do I do when I have nobody coming over? I realise how fast things pile up. I realise how slippery the slope is, truly is, for a downward spiral. I realise how many things I neglect and how hard it all feels.
And even in the midst of this hardship, I still put my highlight reel on social media. I am painting my deck outside. I post pictures showing my happy progress... because I don't want to post pictures of me crying... or my kitchen staring into space. What's the point in that? Drawing pity? It doesn't feel good. As much as I want to share my journey, some of it...is... un-shareable. It's just not possible. And what good would it do?
So, the deck. I got it started on the 21st. It's most likely a 2 day job (due to dry time) but it's taking me over a week due to energy, motivation, sadness... everything. I want to find joy, happiness, things to celebrate so I am posting those things. I know it can be a bit skewed... the perception of how I am doing.... but I truly don't want pity. That feels gross... and I think most people would want to show compassion (not pity) but it's such a fine line. It's so hard to take on either.
It's easier to show strength. Or hide out. So I do a combination of both.
Too Many Tears
It's just too much for me to stay home in this squalor. I can't clean ...but I can't stay here. How is it only 3 days since Beth left? I drive to Armstrong and drop stuff off at a friends. But then...I don't know where I am going. I don't want to go home. I pull over and scroll my phone contacts. I am pretty sure there is nobody who just wants to hear me cry.
I park on the side of the road, play a few songs in my car and take deep breaths. I can do it.
But I just don't want to. I don't want to do it! I don't want to cry anymore and miss him like this. I want to be Ben's wife. I want him here. I want the strength back in my body. The love back in my heart. I want the heartache to end.
I call Alenna. She is not home, but will be soon. I drive over and sit on her deck. It's 40 minutes but I don't know what else to do. I cry to her and Preston. I don't really have words and they are so kind. I hate that too. Not the kindness, but the tears and no words. I just hate it all.
They invite me for dinner but I just...feel like leaving.
I return home and watch more mindless TV.
I'm lost today but I don't want to tell the rest of the world.
I ordered custom gifts a while ago for my sisters and they arrived today! I met with the artisan and picked them up. They are so perfect and I can't wait to give them. I want them to be Christmas gifts, but who knows if I can wait that long....
Also,I am thinking about getting another cat. A friend for Mia and more fur to love. I will wait a while, think about it, and of course, talk it over with Mia.
How is it October? I cannot believe how time flies. I feel the crispness in the air and feel Mia's fur thicken for fall. Waves of new sadness hit me as I think about my first fire...without Ben. We just loved curling up by the wood stove on our deck. Me, chattering away and trying to take on the role as 'Lead Fire Poker' and him, quietly drinking coffee, actually keeping the fire going... and hogging Mia. Those were our family moments and I miss them.
Pruning Grape Vines
My friend Minda has offered her expert services at pruning grape vines. I've never done it. Not once in five years, and it surprises me. I love demolishing, hacking and pruning (though I was often accused by Ben of being too heavy handed with the clippers). I like activities that I can see results immediately and feel satisfaction in- none of this 'waiting for seeds to sprout' nonsense.
We have 3 huge vines in our yard- amazing producers and each over 12 feet tall. The vines keep me in fistfuls of fresh deliciousness. Every time I walk by, I absentmindedly grab 3-4 grapes, purple or green- my choice.
But now, it's time for the beastly job of pruning them.
Minda starts low and I don't join in until it's time for a ladder. (I'm incredibly busy and important for at least 30 minutes while my friend begins works.) When I finally join her, I'm surprised to find a large number of zap straps within the vines- evidence of Ben's care and attention. I smile. Then I'm surprised that I was surprised. Of course he did. Taming the grapes. Training them to go where he wanted, ensuring even coverage on the lattice and distribution for fruit and weight.
Minda asks what kind of pruner I am. Aggressive, I reply. And so, we attack with fervor.
My second run up the ladder, I pull too hard and break a section of the lattice. Immediately I think, 'How can I hide this?' but then I realise... there's no one to hide it from. In related news, there's no one to fix it...but me. I know I need to do it now or spring will come and the weight of fresh vines will pull the rest of this lattice off. I find the screw gun, re-climb and adhere it back together. Too aggressive. I smirk as I think of how he used to watch me fly and whizz around just willing me to slow down, take my time and make it count...
When we are done, the naked vines look sad and lonely. The fruit is harvested and the greenery is sparse. Has my aggression done them in? Minda assures me they will be fine in the spring.
And I know it's the perfect time for me to make that parallel about myself- how I will be fine in the spring.. just like the grapes... but I just can't.
I know that I will be fine, but I'm not sure about these severed, aggressively pruned grapevines... (Okay, I know they will be fine.. Minda knows, her help was amazing.)
I have come to realise there isn't a photo of the 3 of us.
The only ones with Ben and Mia are ones I took on the sly.
I wish I had one with all 3 of us together.
Millions of Moments
It's so hard missing Ben. I wish he was here for all the little things. The daily things. All the little moments that fill my day. I got new glasses today. I moved my RRSP to a new bank. I had caesar salad for lunch- is my breath garlicy? I'll catch up on laundry tomorrow. Do you want to go for a walk? You don't realise how many moments add up in a day. How many moments I miss him.
It's constant. That's why I live in the mix of joy and sorrow.
I have a wonderful, beautiful life surrounded by loving friends and family. I have a house and the best cat in the world. Or probably the second best cat as I am sure there is room for some improvement. I am grateful every day for these simple (yet big) things. It's in between that creates so much exhaustion. It's the yo-yo of up and down - those wonderful little things followed by the cold realities: you aren't here to admire my new glasses. You aren't here to talk about bank rates. You aren't here to check my breath or help with the laundry and I don't want to take the walk alone.
Thankful and Tearful
I don't want holidays to come. I don't want to do them alone. I look forward at the 'stuff of life' to come and I'm not really that interested. I wish I didn't have to do a first Thanksgiving, first birthday, first Christmas without my Ben. It's so hard.
I performed a wedding this weekend and it was beautiful. I am always so touched with vows and seeing the love in the couples eyes. That is my favourite part, the emotional moments. I miss them. There just wasn't enough for us.
Tina spent the night and we cooked a nice dinner and sat at the fire outside. It was just perfect. I am thankful this time of year, as always. I'm just tearful too.
We had Sunday dinner at Lisa's. Ham and scalloped potatoes. Pumpkin pie (of course). It was very small- just us. Last year we did a huge gathering and crokinole tournament in true sister-style. But this year, it was just us. I was grateful. I did not want to be around anyone, really.
We said what we were thankful for - one at a time- around the table, a family tradition. As it drew closer to my turn, I could feel the tears welling up. The lump in my throat. I don't even remember what I said I was thankful for... just that I said I missed Ben.
I have started painting again. I wanted to do that in 2020, and finally in October... I can. I'm painting gardens for Ben.
Today was my birthday. It was an odd mix. I didn't want to pre-plan anything. I did book a last minute brunch, and my sister with her kids came out for supper. A few years back, Ben gave me an amazing birthday card with a sweet, loving poem inside. One of those cards that reads like a mini-book. It warmed my heart and made my heart leap inside my chest.. that's how good his Hallmark choice was. I gushed about it over and over. I re-read it for months...well, even years.
At my next birthday, I expectantly waited for another card with these glorious romantic words of love. No card came. He said, 'Well, just read that one I gave you last year. Same.' Oh, Ben. Well, I'm reading it now. And I can hear you say... 'same'.
I realised that was going to be it... and I asked him to read it to me. No dice. So, I read it to myself. Over and over again... it's on my desk. It's blue and has a heart sparkle with the title 'I Love the Love We Share' on the front. The card IS getting thread bare with how much I have handled it now.
Regrets and Cancellations
After Lisa left, I drank more wine. I miss Ben and I miss all the things of a partner. I miss his touch, smile and our intimacy. I'm sad and feeling the pity party set in. I boldly scroll online apps for 'flirty chats'... decide against it and go to bed.
At least, I think I do.
In the morning, I have a headache. And 4 charges on my mastercard. Apparently I signed up for not one, not, two, not three.. but FOUR apps for 'flirting', 'widows finding love again' and stuff like that. And I may or may not have a new online boyfriend from the Yukon.
It's all too much. I'm embarrassed and feel guilty. I know I'm not really ready or looking for anyone... I'm just lonely. And lonely for Ben in particular. So, even with a stranger chat full of kindness and gentle flirting, I'm out. I delete the apps but worry about my profiles. The good news is I didn't manage to get any photos up AND I didn't use my real name (so if you know anyone who was chatting with 'Mia123' well, you're in on my secret now.)
The easiest thing to do is cancel my credit card. So, I lie and tell them I lost it. All of my auto-payments will be deleted. I'm not looking forward to re-signing up with Amazon and Telus but it's better than navigating the other alternative.
I have dinner plans with my sisters and friends tonight. I know there is humour in this event, I need to embrace that. Like I usually do. Wink.
The Big Fall
I'm sore, and tired today. I feel a hot tub will course correct me for the day so I put on my suit.
Usually I sit on the edge and pivot around. I'm a one-toe at a time, big-baby with heat so it's slow going for me. I could never go in the hot tub first or Ben and I would miss one another. He's a hot-lava lover and could sit in the heat for hours, but not me.
For some reason, I try a new entry (huge mistake). I long-step over the edge and in a lightening-fast moment, I've done an awkward split and the slippery edge of the hot tub has - WHOOSH- guided me unceremoniously in. Fully submerged, face down in the centre. I don't know where my legs are, just that the left one hurts and I'm burning!
I shoot up, bewildered, gasping and on fire. Scalded and surprised, I get my bearings.
So, I think, this is 44.
(Edit: I am just fine!)
Five Hour Dinner
Wow. I had fun. So much fun. Unexpected and fabulous.
My sisters Lisa and Amanda..and my BFFs Alenna and Alana took me to Predator Ridge for dinner. We booked at 5:30pm table (good, good, I like the early booking. It makes me hopeful for the 8pm bedtime).
We have started and cocktails. Then wine and dinner. We talk and laugh. Life feels normal and even, delightful. We joke with our server- Stephen- who was amazing. He joked back, was attentive and even topped my wine up for a birthday treat.
Suddenly it's 9:15pm. Who am I? This late hour!
Dessert, yes please. And could I talk you into a port? Why not!
10pm. My inner rock-star is beaming. Before I knew it, hours had passed. And it was truly a wonderful night. Honestly, the time for my mind to let go... just a little. Breath. Relax. Live.
And laugh. It felt good to laugh.
All Kinds of Awkward
I stammered and stuttered today. I had to interact with.... a man. He was about my age. Handsome and kind. So, naturally it was awful for me.
I felt flustered and awkward. I felt like I was doing something illegal. Did I smile too much? Did I flirt? Oh, god, no, I doubt it. I don't think I have that smoothness about me... any more... and then all I could think of was saying, Hey, you know about Ben, right? He was only asking a question in a shop. He is most likely married or something but I felt myself go hot pink in navigating a simple conversation. Did he even notice my wedding ring? Maybe he's being illegal! Shame! (and the drama unfolds in my head...)
I don't really have male friends. The men in my life are all family, or partners- of family and good friends. So, yes, they are my friends too ... but we are always interacting WITH the couple. And I feel like ...all I ever talked to was Ben, or with Ben or something... BEN! So, this was a new and un-fun experience. I get home and I'm embarrassed with- what did I even say? I know I tried to make a joke about something... why couldn't I just be normal?
I can't stop thinking about how uncomfortable and unnatural I was. I don't want to be alone for the rest of my life. I have so many tears about that. But I just want it to be BEN. Of course, it can't be.. and I know, I know. It's too early. It's three months and I'm still on the floor many days. It just can't be terrible talks in Home Depot in my future, though... ugh. Maybe I do want to be alone.
In any case, my confidence is shook. I feel a fool. And I'm just unsure of ...all of me... all over again. From one, small, insignificant moment.
The Handsome Man
I can't stop thinking about the handsome man.
My questions and doubts.
My future. My hopes.
It's all upon me today. Constantly.