Saturday, June 25, 2016

Refugee

You don't have to live like a refugee, sang Tom Petty.

Well, okay. But what does a refugee live like?

I saw a segment on TV about some folks who want to create a new country for all of the world's displaced people.  One of the journalists asked something like, won't this just be a place full of traumatised individuals? Some, yes, said one of the proponents, but many folks just want a chance to get on with their lives.

Oi, I thought. That's how I'm starting to feel.

Grieving is like being a refugee. You become emotionally stateless, removed from the "normal" of your peers. As much as you may want to go back to that "reality," you can't.

But are you then cursed to wander like Job?

There is no going back, but there is the possibility of going forward. Even for refugees.

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Yesterday was the grade six grad for N. I was happy. I'm glad we've reached this milestone. I'm glad both of the kids are out of that school as of the end of this school year. It was a good school for them, but I'm ready to leave it behind. I'm ready to accept the possibility of the new.

See how this links to what I said above?

Today, I'm sad, though. This ending. So many ending. A reminder of all that's been lost.

The school asked for photos of the kids for a grad ceremony, and I sent along a photo of Kate and N from the first day of junior kindergarten. They included it in the slide show. I was glad, but I was sad. Kate should have been here, in the flesh, in totality.

Of course she was here in other ways. But, you know. It's not the same.

I've had a lethargic day. It's hard. I try to turn my head to new days to come. New things are going to happen, things that cannot be predicted in these moments of the here and now.

I have focused so much on living in the here and now, as Kate did through the cancer, but it's the future days that I look forward to, it must be said.

Some new land, somewhere.

*


Monday, June 6, 2016

5th June

You know how Facebook gives you those memories? I got a memory from four years ago, from just after Kate's death, and it was about how I took O to soccer. We rode our bikes. It was sooo normal. The early days after death, when the normal seems impossible, but it just is, and therefore it's comforting.

Later, the normal feels less comforting. Because you think and feel that the loss should mark the world permanently. Because you are marked permanently by the loss.

I get Facebook messages from grief related sites. Here are two recent ones:
They both talk about the longer term stages of grief ... and moving along (not on, never moving on; the past is always present).

I'm becoming more aware of these longer terms stages. I recognize just about everything in these two articles are simply true. Also, they say things that I haven't the energy to say. I'm tired of having to explain myself, even having to explain myself to myself. I'm mostly tired of the expectation that life will either "return" to normal, or "progress" to normal.

Normal, as in, something resembling living without loss.

My emotions are still evolving, but they are not evolving back to a pre-loss experience, or progressing in a way that will leave loss behind.

It is now the 5th June since Kate died. We've had four anniversaries of her death, but now five anniversaries of the first week of June. It's a psychological threshold, this fifth year, but I'm not sure why. Maybe because Kate and I didn't get to our fifth anniversary. We were married five years, nine months. We had five-and-a-half years together, full-stop. Soon enough she'll have been dead longer, but so what? I still talk to her every day.

This year I took a whole week off work, so I could get out of town the anniversary of her death. I wasn't sure if it was a good idea, but I think it was in the end. I rented a car and drove around visiting friends I never see. It was fun. I came back refreshed. It's something I hope to do more. Push forward into my new life, carrying all of the baggage of my past lives.

I feel Kate everywhere I go. I still argue with her. I still listen and learn from her.

Almost nine years married now. The garden, in celebration, is in full

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Final Countdown

The title is a reflection of the fact that my life is framed by bad 1980s music. It also means today is the anniversary of the final two weeks of Kate's life in 2012, though not exactly. By calendar, the anniversary was two days ago, but that's not how I count the final days. Because Kate died on a Wednesday, and it was the Wednesday two weeks before she died that we were at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre getting the results of the ultrasound of her liver, which were very, very poor. And we knew then that the end was imminent.

I woke up this morning at 6:30. Had breakfast, fed the cat, prepared to head out to the gym before work, and then I realized I felt terrible. I went back to bed, fell asleep, woke up at 1:00 pm.

Oh, right, I thought then, today's the anniversary of all of that.

I can't even describe it. Well, I could, but I'm not going to. I don't want to.

Later, I heard the chatter of the kids in the schoolyard across the street, and I remembered hearing them four years ago, going out to the balcony and seeing Owen and his friends, and he waved to me. He was telling his friends that he thought his mother was going to die, and he was right. When we confirmed it for him a couple of days later, he immediately left the house, rounded up his friends and brought them to our house to hear the words for themselves. He was 11.

I'm taking the week of Kate's death as vacation this year. The past three years I've gone to work. Just tried to work through it. Last year, I left mid-day and spent the next day off as well. This year, I'm just not even going to try. But today snuck up on me.

Yesterday I was reflecting: "I can't believe the events of my own life."

Acceptance is supposedly the final stage of grief. I cannot accept. I'm not there yet.

*


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Eggs still bad for you

Is it okay to eat foods high in cholesterol now?

These docs say no (pdf).

I would tend to agree. Or, at least, I would prefer to remain cautious.

I have been reading up lately on the relationship between diet and heart disease. I'd like to have more knowledge, in order to feel more confident about my food choices.

However, the more I read, as often happens, the more I become aware of disagreements in medical opinions.

Except everyone agrees that vegetables are good for you. So is exercise.

So is avoiding stress, having fun, and being around people.

Those are the things to focus on!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

She Feels Like Jaime Sommers

In 2006, after she got her own place, Kate wrote a series of short stories. What follows is a fragment, an unfinished piece. One can only wonder where she would have taken it.

*

She feels like Jaime Sommers, going to battle with the fembots. She knows she will prevail eventually, but is scared of them none-the-less, in their perfectly coiffured hair, lacquered lips and clingy, sensuous clothing. She knows underneath their lovely hair and skin, they have a voice box and speakers, and lots of red and blue buttons.

They are the women around the cooler really, but she prefers the fembot moniker. She feels some days she might be able to actually hear their dulcet whispers if she strains, imagining that her inner ear has been surgically enhanced by mechanics, bionics. She wants, no, needs to hear. She needs to know. What is it that makes them dislike he so? Her strange differences? Her longer than normal nose? Her love of 1970s TV? Her addictions to Reese’s pieces, and green corduroy? How does this make her so different, really, than others who prefer Dolce and Gabanna, or Prada?

Just like Jamie Somers, who really only had Steve Austin to keep her company and of course, Oscar Goldman. And the doctor guy, Rudy Wells, but she has always speculated about his character’s motivations. Steve Austin had his issues with it too – As she has read online:

During her time of most intense involvement with the OSI, her relationship with Rudy Wells was also notably different than Steve's. Whereas Steve was occasionally distrustful of Rudy, and sometimes shown as impatient with, or even hostile to Rudy's medical tests, Jaime viewed him as a helpful ally from the moment of her resurrection. She was frequently in and around Rudy's lab, and generally more enthusiastic about the research obligations of being a virtually unique specimen.


Friday, March 25, 2016

Uzi

About a month before she died, Kate wrote to a friend of mine: "Mike is an angel, but with a big fucking Uzi in his back pocket just for me."

Still true.

(Is that an Uzi in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?)

Standing in the shower this morning I was thinking about being in the hospital with Kate after her mastectomy. Why am I thinking about this? I asked myself. What triggers these kinds of thoughts is usually the calendar. And, yes, it is five years ago this month, this week, possibly even this day, that we were at PMH and Kate was asking me, "I wonder where my breast is now?" I know, I said. It's in the lab (because it was; sent for genetic testing, something Kate had agreed to previously, to have her details recorded as part of some massive breast cancer study). It continues to exist, as a statistic.

The calendar is full of these triggers. Yes, I feel sad, but these moments tend now to make me more reflective than paralyzed. They are significantly distracting, though. I was trying to read a magazine article this morning, but I just couldn't.

I went home from the hospital that day and found in our mailbox a package from Kate's employer related to her long-term disability benefits along with her record of employment. They'd effective laid her off and instructed her to apply for assistance to the insurance company. The accompanying letter recommended making the application to the insurance company three months before her employment officially ended, but it had already ended (which is why they sent the record of employment). In other words, they recommended she apply for assistance roughly four months before they sent the letter; however, they forgot to attach the time machine.

I exploded.

I pulled out the Uzi.

Over the coming days I tried to work with HR to get this insanity addressed, but they didn't address it, so I wrote to the woman at the head of the organization, and she wrote back thanking me and directly senior management to address all of our concerns until we were satisfied. And in the end, it worked out. And the senior management thanked me for pointing out a flaw in their process, even inviting me to give advice on fixing their approach, so that others wouldn't need to go through what we had to go through. Fighting for sanity at a moment of extreme vulnerability.

This is what I was reflecting on in the shower. All that happened. Yes, it did.

I have note on my bathroom mirror. It says, "Take off your armor." I needed to remind myself to stop fighting. Don't live in fear of the next fuck up, just feel confident that whatever happens you can improvise and address it.

You attract more bees with honey, Kate would say. It was a reminder to herself, a fighter, too. A bruised warrior, I mean. She was scrappy, but she didn't always like that about herself. She wished for everyone peace and harmony.

I wish that, too, but sometimes you need hard edges and clarifying straight lines, so that peace does not become accommodation to injustice.

Some reflections on an icy Good Friday.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Later this year (September) it will be six years since Kate was diagnosed with cancer, and since then I've gone through a SERIES of hard, nay, RADICAL, transitions more difficult even than my teenage years.

That may well be a book proposal. Publishers, take note, I will not accept less than six figures. 

Changes? Like what?

How many times can you have the floor pulled out from you and still land on your feet?

First, cancer. Life with cancer. Of course, I was not the one who had the cancer, but cancer moves in and everyone lives "with" it. And cancer crashes with friends: fear, anxiety, dysfunction. And all the transitions along with it: pre-diagnosis, diagnosis, pre-treatment, chemo cycle, surgery, radiation, side effects, so-called remission, metasteses, what passes for palliative care.

Did I mention "pain management"? Know the term "chemo fog"?

Then, yes, death.

Then grief.

Then family reorganization. (Or did that come first? It happened awfully fast.)

Then grief. Then grief. Then grief. Then grief. Then grief. Then grief. Then grief. Then grief.

Anger. Anger. Anger. Anger. Anger. Anger. Anger. Anger.

Then get fat. Decide this can't go on. Drink less. East less. Lose some weight.

Heart surgery.

Decide this REALLY can't go on. New meds. New diet. New exercise plan.

Recalibrate life.

Again.

Lose more weight. Join gym. Seek better understanding of "good diet."

And lately, what is this? Something resembling a stable foundation for "the new order"???

Maybe. Only time will tell.

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