Saturday, December 25, 2010

The sparkles are back!

Christmas Eve day was very difficult ... little memories kept flooding in and the tears just would not stop. Puffy eyes, still coughing and stuffed up, no decorations, no gifts or Christmas smells in the house ... I was a mess physically and emotionally. And I had absolutely no desire to do a thing to change it.

And then I received a surprise phone call from a fellow MM caregiver who lost his wife on December 8.  There's a special bond among caregivers, but especially MM caregivers, I think. It's a tough cancer, one that can affect everyone so differently. I'm amazed at how close I feel to people I've never met, who live in other states and countries. Our one connection is that we proudly care for and love our spouses as they battle myeloma ... and now some of us join in our sorrow as we mourn the loves of our life. My conversation with Craig helped me feel better and I hope it helped him, too. He has said I served as a "beacon" for him as he followed our story on CaringBridge and now here on this blog. That's why I decided to continue to write; if just one person is helped by reading my story then it's worth it. And I find it helpful to learn that others are having the same feelings, challenges, sorrows - it reassures me that I'm not going crazy, that this is as 'normal' as things are going to be for awhile. Thank you, Craig. I appreciate your kindness in reaching out.  I'm not very good at doing that.

I had planned to go to a Christmas Eve service but my emotions were still too close to the surface, so I decided it was best to stay home. My two favorite Christmas movies are "White Christmas" and "Miracle on 34th Street" and I just hadn't felt up to watching them yet this year. But after the phone call, I thought I'd give it a try since AMC was carrying them back-to-back.  (I also love "Elf" but that one doesn't pull at the heartstrings as much and I was able to laugh my way through that one the other night.)  I enjoyed "White Christmas", a few tears along the way but I cried in most of those same parts before losing Vern. I got through part of "Miracle" and then became really sleepy so decided to try watching it in bed (silly of me since I always fall asleep). Before heading to bed, however, I reminded Jeremy there was a garbage bag that needed to be taken out to the trash. He headed out the door and came running back in ... "The sparkles are back!"

I ran to the front door and there they were ... covering the front steps, the front porch, sidewalk, driveway, street. I fell apart - but in a glorious, good way.  I was overwhelmed that someone remembered, that someone took the time to do such a special thing for me on Christmas Eve. I got up several times during the night and opened the front door to look at them and I tried to take some photos of them early this morning, but this is the only one that turned out. Isn't it spectacular? A poem was also left and it reduced me to tears once again.  I had been feeling so sad because it felt that no one remembered Vern, his name was never mentioned by others. Even when I visited my family, no one brought him up. This poem reassures me that he is, indeed, remembered. Merry Christmas ... I received such a wonderful gift.

We Remember
In the rising of the sun and its going down,
We remember  him.
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
We remember  him;
In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring,
We remember him;
In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
We remember him.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
We remember him;
When we are weary and in need of strength,
We remember him;
When we are lost and sick at heart,
We remember him;
When we have joys we yearn to share,
We remember him.
So long as we live, he too shall live,
For he is now a part of us, as we remember him.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What was lost, has been found

This hasn't been an easy week, but today seems to be starting off on a more positive note so I'm hopeful the fog has cleared for awhile. Still have a chest cold, but the cough seems to have improved a bit this morning ... I made it through the 3 month anniversary date ... the rain has finally left southern Nevada and the sun is shining ... and I haven't cried yet today.  All positive signs, I think.

I hadn't ventured outside the house since returning from vacation. I just couldn't keep the tears at bay and with all of the rain and gloomy weather I just huddled myself inside. But on Tuesday I had to force myself to open that front door.  Social Security needed a copy of the death certificate and I had a certified letter waiting for me at the post office. I put it off until the afternoon and finally kicked myself out the door. As luck would have it, I arrived at the Social Security office at 4:03 ... and they lock the doors at 4:00. Their hours are 8-5, but I guess they want to ensure their employees get to walk out the door at 5:00.  Nice, huh?  It was a bit frustrating, given it was pouring rain, but nothing I could do about it.  So I headed out to find the post office that held my special Christmas greeting from the IRS. (It wasn't at the little post office right around the corner from my house.)  The clouds were hanging very low and the drive along Horizon Ridge was just beautiful. Tried to take a photo, but I wasn't able to capture the beauty. The post office lot was packed, of course, and the line reached to the door. I knew it wouldn't get any better, so I just mustered up some patience and waited.  It only took about 10 minutes for me to reach a clerk ... who told me I was in the wrong line. Uhhhh ... there was only one line coming in through the door. No, there's a special little spot for picking up things. Who knew? So I headed over there to wait some more. While waiting, I couldn't help but hear the conversations going on around me. Some older folks were quite perturbed with a woman who had a whole pile of packages, cards, etc. taking up space at the "single service" line (no, I hadn't seen this line from my spot way in the back either). They were being rather hateful and when the woman finally finished they attacked her ... telling her how angry they were that she was in that line and took up so much time. The woman didn't say a word, just moved on with her walker, but the clerk spoke up and said she was handicapped and had a right to be in that line. That brought on "I'm handicapped, too" by the angry elders. I just couldn't help myself .... I turned to them and said "Merry Christmas" ... and then heard several others repeat my words. It did stop their complaining, but I seriously doubt they 'got it'. It's a shame when people are so caught up in themselves that they can't show any compassion for others who are having a tough time. Sometimes the folks having a tough time don't show they're suffering, but they sure would appreciate a kind word or just a smile or holding the door for them (I know I have lately). Those little things that we were taught to do when we were kids seem to have disappeared ... especially during the holiday rush. It's a shame.

I have carried Vern's wallet in my purse for quite awhile. I kept it with me so I'd have the ID and insurance/medicare cards available for doctor or hospital visits, but after he passed I kept it because it made me feel better to have it there - and to see his smiling face on his drivers license (which showed through the outside). But when I was getting things ready for our vacation I thought it probably was safer not to carry it, so I put it away.  And now I can't find it. I have looked in all of my normal hiding spots, and it's not there.  I've prayed, I've cried, I've beat myself up for being so stupid ... but I can't find it. I remember thinking about what to do with it the morning we were to leave, but the memory stops right there. ....... 10 minute lapse .... While typing this, a thought popped into my head, so I retrieved my wallet and looked through all of the compartments. Vern's license was there!!!!  (along with a $100 bill - wow!)  Well, now I can't say I've had no tears today. Such a relief. Still don't know where the wallet is, but I don't care about that - it was his drivers license that I needed. Yes, today is going to be a good day.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Perhaps it's because I'm sick or because we've had a string of cloudy, rainy days here in the desert since I returned ... or maybe this happens to others around the 3 month mark or because it's the holidays ... but I'm feeling rather melancholy. And I've decided I need to change how I write here. I started out wanting this blog to provide a pathway for those caregivers who will follow me, to help them know that what they are feeling is normal or to provide some resources I've found helpful. But just as I did with Vern's CaringBridge site, I've been holding back, not sharing my true feelings for fear of scaring people off, offending them or providing too much information.  I will tell you; this is hard stuff  - very hard - and it's not going to be helpful if I'm not honest about what I'm experiencing.

So when I ended my last post with saying I'm doing ok, that wasn't entirely true. I'm struggling. That doesn't mean that I'm in tears 24/7 and can't function, but it also doesn't mean that everything is back to normal (whatever that is). I can laugh and smile at some things and enjoy parts of the holiday season ... but in a split second a grief burst will arrive. I can't predict when it will happen or what will trigger it. I mourn the loss of my lifemate, the person I have been linked to for 41 years, who knew my every thought and with whom I shared every concern. I mourn what our life would have been in the years to come. That he left before seeing Jer get his life on track and with no grandchildren to live on after us. I'm tired of having to do all of the "necessary" things (most of which I put off) and worry that I'll make some serious mistakes. During our 4 year cancer journey I've not handled everything well. My focus was on caring for Vern, so I let things pile up, failed to file income taxes, been late paying bills which I'm sure has impacted our credit rating. Now I have to put all of those things right. Where do I start? Do I let everyone know that Vern has passed? I don't think I'm ready to do that. If his name is taken off accounts, will I be able to qualify to keep them in my name? I talked to Social Security on the phone today and became frantic when I couldn't immediately recall Vern's SS #. I have always been able to spout it out whenever asked. Why did it disappear from my memory bank so quickly? I find I'm much more forgetful these days. I'll put something away and then not be able to find it and have absolutely no memory of where I placed it.  I'm not behaving like "me" and yet I don't even know who "me" is these days. Half of me is gone. I'm envious of those who still have their spouses and get so frustrated (no, I get angry) when they complain of little things that just aren't important. Don't they know? They still have their spouse with them each day ... I don't.

I've debated about whether to continue to post my blog links to my Facebook page. I have mixed feelings about it. Should FB just be happy and funny and light postings? I do have a lot of FB widow friends. I guess those that are walking this road with me or care about how I'm doing will appreciate the link, and those that don't will ignore it - just like they ignore everything else. 

Oh dear, that last statement sounded harsh, didn't it? In the past I would have deleted it, but I guess since I'm feeling it, I'll leave it right there in all its honesty.  Tomorrow will surely be a better day.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Getting through the holidays

I decided I needed to take time off work so I wouldn't have to be there for the holiday lunches and parties. Everyone else is in full celebration mode and I'm not. I miss Vern and our life together and I'm trying to figure out who I am now that I'm alone. The holiday season is all about families and togetherness and making memories. I'd like it all to just be over, but then that will just take me closer to Vern's birthday and another celebration I must figure out how to get through. So I headed out of town with Jeremy to the Florida Keys - a place Vern & I had never visited. It was a nice time for Jer and I, and we toasted Vern and talked of how much he would have enjoyed that beautiful place. There were some tears, but I wasn't overwhelmed with sadness. I enjoyed taking some tours on my own and felt I was making some progress with my new 'aloneness'. We also got to see my oldest brother while in Florida and Jer met cousins he's never seen. Before heading back to Las Vegas, we made a quick stop in Michigan to see the rest of my family. It was nice to see everyone, but I felt I had to behave like I do at work ... put on a 'happy face', pretend all is well, be strong, don't cry, don't make anyone feel uncomfortable. No one mentions Vern's name, even though I brought him up a few times, but I've read this is very normal behavior. I was ready to get back home, and I greeted Vern when I walked in the house. It feels good to be back here with him.

I don't return to work until Dec. 27 so I'll need to figure out how to get through next week. I'm not decorating ... Jer is fine with not having a tree this year and since I have no grandchildren, no one else will miss it. There are just too many memories with putting up the tree and the special ornaments we've collected during the past 41 years. I have some projects to get started, so I'm hoping I'll accomplish some things and be distracted enough to get past the holidays.

I'm still reading some recommended grief books, which I'm finding quite helpful, and I enjoy the support of the weekly online bereavement chat group. I still have my 'grief bursts' - which I know are normal and natural - and I sometimes feel just overwhelmed with sadness when hearing about new cancer diagnoses or deaths of friends and co-workers.  But, overall, I think I'm doing ok ... one step at a time.