Friday, June 30, 2006

Reflections of a 4th Past

July 4th weekend is upon us and believe it or not, this has been a tough one for me for the past three years.

I brought Chris to the hospital for the last time on Christmas Day. He exited this world on New Years Day. Neither of those two days conjure up the sadness that July 4th does.

In therapy the other day, I figured out the reason time has been so weird for me. I have a huge mental block that will not allow me to think back into the past. I thought my fear of back-calendaring was over but instead, my fear seems to have morphed from anxiety into an inability to think backwards, a lingering remnant of the fog, a mini-fog of sorts. This lingering effect is the reason I can’t remember exactly which July 4th I am about to describe.

The day was either two or three years ago. I honestly cannot pinpoint the year, without perusing a calendar. Chris had just wrapped up a five-day chemo treatment and was out cold for the next five days, July 4th falling in the middle of that period.

I remember being in our tiny dorm-like Brighton apartment, the blinds and curtains drawn so Chris could sleep. I sat on the couch in the living room, wishing we could take a walk, yearning for Chris to be well so we could enjoy the holiday Chris-and-Robin-style which would simply involve walking, getting caramel coffee coolattas and chit-chatting in the air-conditioned comfort of the Dunkin Donuts in Brookline’s Washington Square. I wanted that scenario more than I could stand. I still do.

Instead, I sat on the couch all weekend waiting as Chris emerged from the bedroom every two hours or so to use the bathroom. He did not even know I was there. He was very sick, very exhausted and knocked completely out of it by the anti-nausea drugs he was taking. God, how I missed him that weekend. But the chemo stole him away from me and away from himself.

The memory is not a nice one, but unfortunately that snippet is in my catalogue now. The 4th of July makes me sad, causes me to remember and to wish that cancer had not come calling, that our lives were not blown apart by the insidious disease.

Watching Keith Lockhart conduct The Pops has become a melancholy event for me. Fireworks possess a lonely quality. The Esplinade, on the 4th of July, is not a place I would like to take a walk. My joy is dimmed.

Still, despite my sadness and the gaping hole left in my soul, my coping skills have sharpened. I will not be sitting inside crying this weekend. I will be running, biking, doing my homework and surrounding myself with friends and loved ones.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I Have a Funny Feeling

Sitting at my desk, preparing to eat the salad I brought to work, I had a brief flash of a physical memory. I don’t know how else to describe it.

While drizzling 365 Organic Fat Free Balsamic Vinaigrette over my lunch -- in a period of one second -- I felt a warm, breezy, carefree day envelope me as Chris and I walked, holding hands, through the parking lot of WholeFoods Market on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles. That’s where I discovered this particular dressing. Just a trickle of the vinegar-based seasoning and I was instantly transported five years backwards in time. I remembered the way we were together; peaceful, quiet, lovely.

I met a man. You know him as “Barbeque Guy.”

I was in a bad mood all day Monday knowing I had a date with him that night. We met for coffee and a light bite and suddenly, I feel different. Familiar-different. We fit. I won’t go into detail about our conversation, likes, dislikes, similarities, differences and so forth because none of those things have anything to do with the way I felt being with him and the way I still feel now.

When I began dating Chris, I experienced an unforgettable feeling of comfort and for lack of a better (or already existing) word, “okay-ness.” Not only was I completely at ease with him, but I was struck with an instant comfort and fondness of everything about him, positive and negative. I recognized that same feeling prevailing in my time spent with Barbeque-Guy. I feel good. I feel okay. I feel like everything is going to be okay. We just fit.

At the end of our evening together, we hugged three times. We just could not separate. We would chit-chat, say good-bye, hug and then begin chit-chatting again and then hug and say good-bye etc. Three times.

He has e-mailed me almost every day this week. I know he likes me and I have piqued his curiosity. He told me so.

Now I will wait and see what happens.

I want to be with him. If you have ever been widowed and found yourself feeling the same way, you know the surprise and peace that feeling brings. I feel peaceful. Nervous and peaceful. I’m still trepidacious about stepping out of my Chris-safety-bubble, but I am not crying. I feel good.

…and I feel hopeful.

…and a little happy

…and filled with wonder

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Rage and More Grief

I got up today and Carol picked me up, dropped me off in Harvard Square and from there I ran to my gym in Medford (6 miles), lifted weights and then walked home.

I think I do it to keep my grief at bay. I have been crying a lot lately. In fact, I just stopped crying about five minutes ago. There’s nothing new, same old story, I miss Chris.

Yesterday, I was overcome with a fit of rage that I didn’t know how to get out of. I screamed, cried and brought my fist down on my own thigh before I realized that bringing it down on my couch only hurts me in one place. I was raging and I could not stop. These are the fits that make me want to smash my own head against a wall. I feel very silly saying that again and again and again, but that’s the way things still are for me.

I finally caught myself, took a deep breath and tried to talk myself down. I wanted to scream and spit poison venom at the person who provoked the eruption, but I love that person and I realized that I didn’t want to ruin anybody’s day. Nobody deserves my rage-induced wrath. Least of all me, but since I have no control over when moments like this strike, I can at least stop the rage dead in its tracks and keep it on my side of the fence.

I continued a low-grade rage all day today until I got to Carol’s and tossed back a shot of Bailey’s Irish Creme, followed by an enormous bowl of popcorn, popped with oil and buried in salt. My entire body went limp and I finally felt relaxed through a movie.

My tears came to claim me again before I even put the key into my car door. Whatever. I don’t even try to fight them anymore. I drove home in tears, lugged seven bags of groceries up the six flights of stairs to my tower, sat down and continued to fall apart.

I have another date tomorrow evening after work. It’s just coffee. I was set up with him by a friend who thought we would hit it off. We did and he asked me out. I think he’s scared, which is a good thing because so am I. I think we’ll have fun, though.

I’m afraid that I’ll fall in love again and then he’ll leave me. Fear of abandonment, much? And just when I was thinking I had my neuroses all figured out.

I’m tired. I studied for an an exam from 9:00am yesterday morning until this afternoon and then did homework in two other classes. Not much of a weekend, except that my stress level is considerably low now that I am all caught up with my schoolwork.

I need to pull myself together for tomorrow’s coffee date with Barbeque-Guy. I think it will be fun. We’ll learn more about each other, he’ll decide he really likes me, I already like him, we’ll get married and live happily ever after.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Should I Stay or Should I Go

Clay says that a year and a half is not a long time and that grief is a very slow process. I feel ashamed that I still cry during private moments, but at the same time, I feel comfort from my tears, even though they sometimes overwhelm me.

Tonight I told Clay that I am beginning to wonder how long I am supposed to keep coming to therapy. I keep talking about the same subjects over and over again and I am not really sure that talking to him is really helping me through my grief.

The truth is that I will miss him when I decide to stop my treatment. I needed him for a while. I had fun talking with him, joking about the very sad and horrifying trauma that occurred.

I probably ought to stop going. Saying good-bye to Clay is going to be sad for me because in a way, he replaced Chris for me for a while. He filled the void. I know I no longer need therapy but I am prolonging its end.

He suggested that I come next week and that we talk a bit more about how to handle things going forward. Tonight, it was hard to tell whether I felt great and no longer needed him or whether I was pumped up because I was planning to run the 5 miles home afterwards, which I did.

There are things I am going to need him for in my future. Maybe now is not the time to stop. Soon...but not just yet. I still need to get through beginning a new relationship and the possibility of falling in love with another man. That is going to cause me intense grief.

I hate everything that has happened and I miss Chris.

And I still want him back.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Love from Beyond

A little while ago, my coworker, also named Robin, told me she had a dream about me a couple of weeks ago. Her dream occurred right after I returned from my trip to Vermont.

I was in a house, hanging around with the folks from Vermont. The house appeared to be a sorority-type house, like a scene from college days. There was a bed in every room, but no other furniture and the beds had no frames, just mattresses on the floor.

I went upstairs and Robin followed me up. She found me sitting on a mattress with a blue comforter, crouched with my elbows resting on my knees and my face in my hands. Standing over me, surrounding me was a man she believed to be Chris. I couldn’t see him. He was trying to comfort me and tell me that he wants me to move on and be happy and that he is happy that I am dating again.

The thing about Robin’s dream is that she had no idea that the folks I was visiting in Vermont were Chris’ college buddies, yet the setting in her dream had a college feel to it. She also did not know that from the time I met Chris up until we moved in together, his bed never had a frame. The mattress was always on the floor.

Robin went on to tell me that she feels a connection to me and an understanding for everything I have been through. She did not presume to tell me that she knows how I feel, only that she feels very deeply about the experience I have had. She then thanked me for sharing with her what I have shared, saying that she knows it must be hard to talk about.

I remember reading once that spirits have a hard time penetrating grief, so often times they will go to other people in the grief-stricken person’s life to get messages through.

I believe Chris was comforting me in Robin’s dream, asking her to let me know he is helping me and that he really does want me to be happy.

I am certainly happy right now.

I love you, Creej. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


I’m having trouble coping, again.

Summer is here. The changing seasons have a way with burying me under a heap of rubble, the rubble that used to be my beautiful life with Chris.

I have developed a pattern over the past few days of struggling to get out of bed, arriving at work late, going home and staying up until I’m falling over and then heading into my bedroom where I crawl into bed, try to sleep but end up curled up in a ball in my bed, screaming in pain from the gaping hole in my soul. Times like this really suck.

In between my grief episodes, I really do well. I love my job, I love to be with my friends, I’m creative, I laugh almost incessantly. Then, on my walk home from the train station, sadness begins to seep in and I can’t believe he’s gone. Even now, after all this time, I can’t believe it.

You may have seen the comments left by Trevor over the past week. At first, I didn’t know it was him. Chris and I were friendly with him and his wife when we lived in Los Angeles. We had dinner together, Nicole and I ran sometimes, Chris and Trevor talked about screenplays they wanted to write and we just had fun. The two of them are one of the few things I enjoyed about L.A.

Trevor just found out that Chris died. He didn’t know. I feel horrible for him because his grief is just beginning. I think, in some ways, that my grief has been renewed with his. I can’t imagine how he feels. Not really. I know loss, but not Trevor’s loss. I do know that finding out that he just found out about Chris has made me feel, in some way, as though I just found out that Chris died. Maybe that’s why I can’t seem to stop crying at night. The tears have been gut-wrenching. Last night, I had no choice but to take an Ativan so I could try to get some sleep.

I hope I don’t always feel this defeated. I miss Chris now, more than ever.

I am not even coming close to conveying how I have felt these past few days. My emotions are locked up so tight that aside from my midnight howlings, I can barely find them.

This month has marked the year and a half anniversary of Chris’ death. I hate, hate, HATE saying that.

I get really angry sometimes because we both fought so hard, he to take care of himself and beat the cancer and me to take care of myself so I could take care of him. Neither of us really thought we would lose.

But we did.

Yesterday, I picked up my dry cleaning from Fishman, a little old eighty or ninety-some-odd Polish man who owns his own tailor shop just outside of Malden Square. He talks to me when I go into his store.

Yesterday, he brought out his old WWII uniform and showed it to me, which was really quite amazing. He then talked to me about how he and his wife were liberated from Nazi Germany and he moved here and has lived in Malden ever since.

In his shop there’s a small plaque that reads something to the effect of “I am the boss here. My wife says so.” Something about that little sign, held up with scotch tape, filled me with loneliness. I knew she was dead before he even told me. I just had a feeling.

Fishman had to take a test when he arrived in the states to prove that he could be a tailor. In those days, the test consisted of a corporate banker coming into the shop and ordering him to make a suit for him. That was the test. Make a suit. Fishman did it and earned his license here in the United States. He showed it to me. It’s written half in German and half in English.

Something about him reminded me of Chris if Chris got to be an old man. I know Chris would have loved this guy and his little independent tailoring and dry-cleaning business.

I walked home with my dry cleaning, choking back the start of my tears. I thought about the concentration camps and what this man had experienced and witnessed. He saw his wife get shot in the neck by the Nazis. She lived through it, but she is no longer alive today. She died eleven years ago.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m every going to stop crying. Is this just my life, now? I cry less now than I did in the beginning, but I still cry. I’m still overcome with disbelief followed by loneliness and I don’t know if that will ever change.

By day, I have a lot of fun. My life is rich with love and experience. It is also rich with sadness and longing.

I’m very tired.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A Peep-Hole of Clarity

I think I’m going to bring my 24x36 collage of pictures of Chris to my next therapy session. Now that I drive there every week, instead of taking the train, I can load my framed collection of favorite photos of him and some of the two of us into my car and go.

To date, I have never hung this shrine of my husband on my wall. Instead, my Chris-museum has remained propped up against my wall directly below some empty space I would like to deem his. Clay and I have talked about the possible reasons for my hesitation. So far, all we have come up with is the thought that hanging up the photos, in some way, would be an admission on my part that he has become a part of my past and no longer resides in my present. Despite my understanding of this theory, I am still unable to unfreeze the powers within myself to bang a nail in the wall and call it “done.”

I have to admit that the hundreds of times I have arrived home after a day of work or an evening of fun and collapsed to the floor before my collage, screaming inside and out for some justice, have been much easier to do with the pictures on the floor. Once I hang them up, I will need to stand on my own two feet again. Falling to the floor in a heap of despair (at least in front of my pictures) will be yet another part of my past. At the present moment I need those pictures to remain in place, right where they are.

Grief holds many mysteries. My trip thus far has been interesting, to say the least. I know my own mind better than ever and still my psyche is dense with mystery. I never know what I am going to think next, which aspect of grief is going to take hold of and whip my emotions into a frenzy, or how many days each week I will feel periodic happiness, content in my knowledge that Chris is no longer suffering and that the intensity of my nightmare is ending, ever-so-slowly, but diminishing, no-less.

I am waking up to a new day, ever-present the threat of ambush powerful enough to whack me into last Tuesday, last March, last year or 1999, the year Chris invited me out for that powerful and pivotal cup of coffee. The cup of coffee which began with the sweetness of cream and sugar and ended with the raw bitterness of vinegar and acid.

Pain washes over me when I realize that the Chris and Robin chapter of my life has come to a close, replaced with a chapter called Cope. I wonder what the next chapter will be and how I will find the courage to read on. I suppose that one good thing about a book is that the chapters are always there. I can open to the pages and read the chapters I loved as often as I like.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Date-guy 2 and What Followed

Seeing him for the first time was a surprise. His picture in no way depicted his actual physique and although many women would have been delighted, muscle-bound steroid types have never been my visual cup of tea.

I decided to focus on the man and not the body. And then I decided that this date would be our first and last.

He is nice. He just isn’t for me.

Going home has become a bit of a dreadful occurrence for me these days, especially after a date. I did not go straight home. I went to Carol’s for a date debriefing. We talked for a while until she got tired and needed to sleep at which point we said good bye to each other and I reluctantly drove home.

I changed and climbed into bed where I lay, my eyes wide open and my brain empty. Then I allowed my brain to take me to a place where I could be happy.

I rolled onto my side and placed my hand on the pillow next to me, imagining that Chris lay beside me, my hand on his back. I told myself it was real and he was there and I tried to remember how having him next to me felt. Warm. Safe. Right. Having Creej next to me felt right. As long as he was in my bed with me, and I could feel the heat from his body warming the space between us, I knew I would always feel safe. Last night Chris and I shared my bed once again, if only in my mind.

I cried desolate tears and lay there, my hand on “his back” feeling sad and defeated and pushing the reality, that my hand rested on a mere pillow, out of my consciousness.

At 1:00AM, I still lay awake with no obvious feelings of sleepiness. I decided to swallow half of an Ativan, since I was awakening at 5:30AM to take care of my bills and balance my checkbook before getting ready for work. My life has a way of becoming completely disorganized when I am actively grieving. I needed to pull it all together.

As a result of my lack of a good night’s sleep, I was feeling groggy today. I came home, changed, ran 6 miles, ate, wrote this entry and now I am going to try to relax, relieved that I get to have therapy after work tomorrow. I need it and the lord knows that I have earned it this week.

Friday, June 9, 2006

Date #2 with Date-Guy1 and Date#1 with Date-Guy2

"I love you. I love you, I love you. I love you so much. I love you I love you I love you."

I don’t ever want to forget what it felt like to love that much. My love for Chris was that strong. It will always be that strong. I don’t love anybody else that much. Just Chris. Always Chris.

I should probably stop calling date-guy “date-guy” and give him a name. I don’t want to yet, though. If I give him a name, I’ll have to admit that he has a presense in my life and I’m not ready to do that, yet.

I don’t love him. I won’t love him. I don’t think he’s the one, anyway, or the “two” as it were. Chris was the one. He will always be the one. .

We had a nice time. It was nice to be out with a man, again. I can’t help but compare my life now to my life then. Tonight I was in Peabody having dinner at Vinny T’s. Chris and I would never have had dinner at Vinny T’s and we certainly wouldn’t have driven to a suburb to dine in a restaurant. We would have walked to Davis Square or Teele Square to eat dinner and then walked home.

I keep keeping date-guy at bay. I’m not sure that I like him in a romantic way. He’s a nice guy, though, and we like the same things. Liking the same things doesn’t always make for romance, though.

I knew I was going to explode the moment I put the key in the door and I began to on my way up the stairs. I stood in the dark, at my butcher block, my hands on it’s surface, crying, wishing Chris was still alive to share my life with. I’m heartsick.

Because I never turned the lights on, I could imagine that Chris was in bed, where he always was when I came home late. I tried to see him there. I rubbed my pillow, trying to remember what rubbing his back felt like. I couldn’t do it. Not completely. I have a sense of what it felt like to love him but not a solid memory. I don’t really remember what it felt like to love Chris before we ever went to Los Angeles. I don’t think I loved him as deeply before he got sick as I did afterwards. I wanted him to get well so I could keep loving him and so we could grow into that great love together, thankful for his recovery. That’s the way it should have happened.

I have a wicked headache. I’m tired. I’m proud of myself for rating a second date with a guy.

I have a date with another guy Tuesday night. I guess I’ll call him date-guy2. That’s it, though. I’m not dating anybody else. If nothing develops with either of these guys, I’m hanging up my prospects and focusing on school for a while.

This is difficult, but I have proved to myself that I can do it. Now I’m going to prove to myself that I can get up and run six miles.

Thursday, June 8, 2006


There is such a difference between the way I felt when I knew I was going to be meeting up with Chris for dinner and the way I feel right now, knowing that I’m going to be meeting up with date-guy for dinner and the DaVinci Code tomorrow evening.

I’m curious. That’s why I’m going. Curiosity. Nothing more.

He’s not my Creej. That’s who I really want to be going out with for the rest of my life, but I don’t get to do that.

I hate so many things right now, yet in the midst of the hate, I know I’d rather be out with date-guy tomorrow evening than anywhere else. That has to count for something.

Maybe it won’t work between us. Maybe I’m not a match for him. Maybe he’s not a match for me.

I hate the instability of my widowhood. I can complain about my plight, about the fact that I don’t know if I’ll ever have a stable love life again, but the truth is that nothing is stable, not even life. People meet, fall in love, break up...and people die.

I’m not even sure I want to be dating right now, but I’m glad I have started. This way, if I decide that it’s not the right time, at least I know I tried, that I was open. I just feel as though I am in for a couple years of intense growth. I’m not sure I can do that with another person in my life.

But for now, it’s dinner, DaVinci and date-guy.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

0 to 100 in 60

After I wrote my last post, I picked myself up, got dressed and ran 5 miles. I feel great.


Done Being Dead

Sometimes I wonder if I am ever going to get through the grief. I can go to work and laugh all day long and then come home and cry for an hour straight. I can also go a week without so much as a single tear trailing down my cheek and then come the new week, I can cry for an hour or two every single night.

I really wanted to run tonight. I still do. I can’t do it, though, due to the womanly state I am in. I mean, I could do it if I put my mind to it, but my tummy hurts. Still, I could take some Advil and be on my way. I had planned to run since yesterday. I’m not going to push myself tonight, though. I’m just going to stay home and relax and go to bed early, I think.

I cried for over an hour this evening. I just collapsed into a heap. According to the accounts of other widows/widowers, this is normal behavior a year and a half out. It would actually be normal behavior at the two-year mark. I put a lot of pressure on myself to cut-it-the-fuck-out.

It’s very difficult to miss my husband and best friend on a daily basis. What I know is that somewhere deep within my mind, there is a part of me that is still waiting for him to come home, to call, to e-mail and say, “I’m done being dead, Shneed! I’ll be home on Friday!”

My heart lept even as I typed that. Oh, what I would give to have that happen. I wish it could happen.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

A Guiding Spirit?

The other night, I had a series of what I have come to call “stress dreams.” The entire night, I tossed and turned, dreaming that I was trying to get somewhere, trying to keep away from someone and trying to bicycle through crowds of people without success. I awoke with a headache in an inescapable state of grogginess.

In one of my dreams, I entered a room to see my friend, a rather portly African American man in his fifties. Next to him, sat another man, a Caucasian, also rather portly. I remember thinking that they were mirror images of each other, one white and one black. The dream hardly seemed important enough to convey to anybody.

Just now, I was reading on and I don’t know exactly what jogged my memory, but suddenly I remembered something.

This morning, I attended a service at the Unitarian church in my neighborhood. A friend of mine is a member and asked me if I would like to check it out. I have been searching for a long time for an outlet for my faith and decided to go with her.

I wanted to back out this morning. I was so tired and not at all in the mood to shower and blow my hair dry. I eluded to that when my friend called and instead of releasing me into my own life, she instructed me to get my ass in the shower right now. So I did.

After the service, a man walked by me and said, “We have to stop meeting this way." I chuckled and after he passed I thought to myself, “I’ve never even seen him before.” Wrong.

I think he was the man in last night’s dream.

I don’t know what it means. For now, I’m going to continue attending services. I think I’m supposed to.


Friday, June 2, 2006


So, I have taken to crying myself to sleep this week. I power up the air conditioner, get into bed, pull the covers around me and on my way into the great slumber, images of Chris and his struggle invade my thoughts causing and eruption of gut-wrenching tears of defeat.

I have become aware and accustomed to this sort of pattern. This behavior usually follows each time I “push the envelope” and face a fear.

Traveling to Vermont has been a fear of mine for the past year and a half. I drove the drive that Chris drove. I lived the weekend he would have lived, laughing with the friends he had laughed with hundreds of times. I popped myself into the hole he left and it did not feel right. I felt like I was living his life with his friends, betraying him by going to Vermont in the first place after he clearly expressed his desire to keep Vermont and the Vermonters to himself. I really did understand that and I accommodated his wish and I know he appreciated the respect and grew to trust that it would always be there. It always would have been. I would never have broken my word to him.

But I need those guys in my life. I love that they loved him. He loved them, too. We are connected to each other through Chris and I’m glad for that. A bond formed through our ordeal and I am grateful to be included in their world. I still fall short of being able to call them “my” friends, though. They’re Chris’ friends. They always will be and I can’t step into his mold. I won’t step into his mold. Nobody ever can.

Yesterday, I looked up photos of desmoplastic small round cell tumors online and found a picture of an operation in progress. the doctors had just removed 80% of one from a young boy and the large mass was sitting in a tray on the operating room table. All in all, the offensive mound, hardly a deadly sight, did not look much different from any of the red meats that might be seen in the supermarket meat department case. I stared at that tumor for a couple of minutes and thought, “So that’s the piece of shit that killed my Chris.” Cancer is an evil, evil disease, the tumor belonging to everybody who loves the victim. Somebody has to host the tumor, but its tentacles stretch to attach to the hearts and souls of the victim’s loved ones, inflicting death within the host and the pain of death within everybody in its vicinity. The damage does not end there, though, because even the people who love the people who are affected by the victim’s pain are affected in a demonic ripple effect.

Pain is the name of the game. The pieces are struggle, terror and heartbreak and if the players live long enough to “buy the farm” they have fulfilled their contract with life.

I plan to buy the farm, do some remodeling and invite everybody in to share it with me and when I finally arrive before the white light, I know Chris and I will be smiling at each other the way old friends do and we will thank each other for the life experience and the lessons we learned. Then we will join hands and walk in together, enveloped in the love I am sure we have felt throughout many ages.

There we will rest for a while before our next lives.