In the previous post I mentioned some things about going out in public that are hard. In this post I share some things that are hard when I am home or driving alone. Some of them make sense when I reflect on them, others surprised me. Here is the list.
Music was a big deal at our house. At our house in San Jose we had a Sony component system with great speakers. The system was also wired into the bedrooms. When our kids were young we sometimes used the stereo as the alarm clock to wake them up. Just ask Chris. He can tell you exactly what we played to get him up on Sunday mornings. In our Gilroy house we changed to wireless speakers so you can broadcast to any selected speakers from your electronic devices.
Much of the music that we listened to together at home and on road trips brings back memories of specific places or events associated with particular songs. Some days I want those memories because I don't want to forget her. Other days the music is just too much as it causes a longing to go back and relive those experiences again. Of course, I can't go back to the past. But it makes me want to hug Carol and the kids again. So, I usually turn off the music on those days.
I mentioned in the previous post about the difficulty of the worship time at church. Sometimes listening to worship songs at home brings me closer to God and in turn, brings me closer to Carol. Where God is, is where Carol is. I know, sounds crazy. Which brings me to the time that is often the most difficult…morning devotions. That time when I am supposed to be having a conversation with God…talking and listening. That time gets all muddled because of my emotions. I know I am talking with the One who is God. I am not. Yet at the same time I have not yet worked through the fact that He walked with Carol and chose not to heal her in the way that we wanted, so she would be with us. I have yet to come to terms with that emotionally. Intellectually I understand it, but not yet in my heart.
--Cleaning my glasses--
I am a creature of habit. I have the same morning routine when I get up and there is a going to bed routine and one for taking care of the cats and so on. During Carol's last year there were many small tasks that got incorporated into my habits…like cleaning her glasses. In my morning routine after cleaning my glasses I would normally clean hers. After her passing my mind just starts down the path of now go get her glasses…then it hits hard…she and her glasses are not here. The reminders of the finality of her death comes to me at these habitual times when I would normally see her or be doing something for her. Those habits and recognitions do fade as time goes on…but they are often jarring and surprising.
--Sitting in our living room--
I do make it a practice to sit in our living room. Initially after her death it was difficult. I would look around and admire all the pictures, knick knacks or foo-foo as we called it, and the whole ambience of the room and my mind would go into arguing with itself. See, Carol is real. You can see the decorations and things she has done. No, she is gone. She is not here. Yes she is, see the room. And back and forth it would go. This too fades, but never goes completely away.
--Driving highway 101 and 85--
We drove highways 101 and 85 two or three times a week to the San Jose Kaiser hospital for tests and chemo treatments for more than a year. It was so familiar. It is no surprise that driving those highways now and seeing the rolling hills or the hospital in the distance brings back memories of those trips and the good and bad days.
Some months after Carol's passing I returned to the Gilroy Kaiser facility for a physical. Driving down Arroyo Circle, parking, walking into the facility and the smell of the waiting room brought back memories of the weekly blood tests Carol had done every Monday for a year. The associations do fade, but take time.
Married people build their lives around each other. So when a partner is no longer present it is hard to do things that you used to do for the other. Why am I cleaning the patio? She isn't here to enjoy it. Sometimes even getting up and starting the day is hard. Why? She is not here. I want to clean for us, not just me. Your motivation suffers when half of you is gone. Yet you have to keep busy and maintaining the old routines is a way of keeping busy. After the patio is cleaned and I sit down to enjoy how it looks on a warm summers evening…boy do I wish she was here.
I have started cleaning out her desk and closet containing folders of clippings, handwritten notes, receipts for decorating. There are folders for design ideas, bedrooms, family rooms, George's room, painting, doors, kitchens, garage and laundry, lighting, and yard ideas. There are handwritten notes such as, "use antique spoons for curtain tie backs." She was the consummate decorator. Throwing it away is like throwing her away.
And then there is cleaning out her billfold. Closing all her department store and credit cards took a full day on the computer and phone. Interestingly not one required any reason or proof for closing the account. But there is something that seems not respectful in cutting up her credit cards and emptying her billfold. Do I have the right to do this? These are her things.
--My first road trip--
We know Carol loved road trips. They were indeed fun. Road trips were an important way of keeping in touch with you. Six months after Carol passed away I took my first road trip by myself. I drove to Cheyenne to visit my mother and family. Of course, it is different now that I am by myself. As you would suspect it is more lonely. I eat alone in restaurants, book motel rooms for just myself and have no one to talk to about the scenery.
Back in the 1980's I went on many business trips alone. On business trips you mainly see airports, hotels and the classroom where I was teaching. I didn't get lonely because they usually didn't last more than a week, there was a host that took me to the local sites and I knew I would soon return to the comforts of Carol and home. Once in a great while there would be real lonely times, like when at a place that was beautiful and the only proper way to share it is to say, "Isn't that beautiful" because even a photo doesn't do it justice. One such time my flight home was canceled when in Milan, Italy. The airline put me up in a hotel on the lake front in Como, Italy. It is a popular tourist attraction that is picture perfect….just google it and you will see. I stood on the edge of the lake wishing Carol was there to share it with me. Those times were rare. Back in the '80s I knew I would be going back home, Carol would be there and I could at least tell her about it even though we couldn't share the moment.
Now when on a road trip those times of wanting to share are different, they have more angst in them, first because she is not there to share it and second, I know that when I return home she will not be there to listen to me try to tell her how beautiful it was. Hmmmm…. God made this world to share with one another. It is how it works.
Well, thanks for listening. In the next post I will share something very different titled, Always Behind.
Until then, grace to you ….. George