Friday, July 19, 2013

Anniversaries and the Emotional Free-For-All

I don't know what it is about anniversaries, but I live like I don't any other time of the year.

For at least the week before, I excuse every weird thought or action I wouldn't tolerate in myself any other time of the year.  I act weird, pay my bills late a couple of days late, probably drink too much wine, and assume that the rest of the world (especially my creditors) will somehow know that it's anniversary time again, so I'm somehow exempt from being normal.

The weird thing is that what I equate it to is how I used to act around my birthday.

I mean, it's not exactly celebratory, the anniversary of my husband's death, but it's when I try to plan fun things to distract myself and generally go off the rails for a few days (as much as I can - I'm pretty boring on a regular day, so "off the rails" isn't much to brag about).  I'm thinking that if anyone else paid attention to what I was doing, they would think that something great had happened.  Instead of something mind-boggling awful.

A death anniversary could have us going one of two ways - either it terrifies and overwhelms us or it makes us feel like life is short so we might as well enjoy what we can.  For me it's like an emotional free-for-all and I never know which way it's going to go until the date approaches. Last year it was overwhelming and scary.

But for some reason this year, it's almost a beautiful experience.  I know that sounds weird, but it's the best way I can explain it.

I'm sitting on my back porch with the most heavenly breeze, sipping a beer, and watching the hummingbirds dart around the feeders my mom bought for my kids last week.  They look so busy, so manic, which is amazing to watch and makes me appreciate the calm I feel.  The calm I've been hoping for in years past that has somehow illuded me. 

This is my yearly "hump day" - the day between the anniversary of his death and my wedding anniversary, which is tomorrow.  Seventeen years ago today, I was exhausted from my bachelorette party and looking forward to becoming a wife.

Life is weird.

I can't help but feel gratitude today (which in some ways is even weirder).  Grateful for all that life has given me, even in the wake of all that it's taken away.  Grateful for a minute of peace to just read my book (Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg - not heavy, but perfect for my mood).  Grateful for the people in my life that - again, weird as it sounds - death provided and showed me how to appreciate.

And most of all...grateful that I was smart enough to say "I do" to a great man almost seventeen years ago when my skin was better and squeezing myself into a wedding dress wasn't the task it would be now.


Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Monday, July 15, 2013

My 6th Anniversary - To Y'all It's Just Another Day of Bridge

I stole my title from The Help.  It's when Abilene is describing what it's like to go through the anniversary her son's death.  And even though I love just about every line from that movie, that's the one that really speaks to me.

This week, I will mark not only the 6th anniversary of my husband's death, but also my 17th wedding anniversary.  Those dates shouldn't be on your calendar.  And they're actually not marked on mine.  I don't need reminding.

I just know.

For those people who know what it's like to lose someone you never thought you would live without, you know that it's not a date.  It's a presence.  It's a living, breathing thing in your life that you learn to live with.  It's the roommate you never wanted.  It takes up a lot of space.  And it gives you nothing in return for all its taken.

It floats in and out as if it has some key you don't remember giving.


I've been writing this blog for a while.  I swore to myself that I would always be honest...and that's why I keep writing.  It's what I would have wanted to read.  I'm not flattering myself on my writing skills....I just wanted to write about this journey, this crazy path I am on.  No matter where I go in life, I will still be here.

When I started this, I wanted to know how someone coped from the beginning - if anyone else out there was as crazy as I was.  If anyone out there was as hopeful as I was.  And if they were somehow digging their way to the surface after being buried under grief...I wanted to know how they did it.  I don't think I've done it gracefully, but I'm here.  Six years later, I'm here.  

And I'm damn proud of myself.

I had a dream about my husband this week.  He looked good.  No.  Not good.  He looked great.  If he had appeared to me in real life, I would have hit on him...and I'm a nice southern girl who doesn't do that kind of thing.  He looked radiant, but he was wearing a shirt I don't remember.  It was pink (but all I could think of during the dream was Ross in an episode of Friends saying, "It's salmon!").

He looked so happy.  And we were doing stuff with the kids but, like all of the dreams I have about him, I knew he was dead.

"How long do we have?" I kept asking him over and over.

"I don't know," he told me.  "Just keep going."

My youngest daughter woke me up with a hard jab.

"I had a bad dream," she said.

"Just get in," I told her, gesturing to the other side of the bed and trying to stay as asleep as I could.

But he was gone.

I haven't had many dreams about him, but when I do they always leave me feeling a little lost the next day.  I always know that he was there, that he was with me, but the time always feels too short.  I have never woken up feeling like there is some sort of conclusion or that I got the message he was trying to say.

But I hear him.  

I go to sleep hoping that I'll see him...if just for a minute.

And I carry him with me always.


I love you, B.  And I truly believe that you live through me.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Falling Down Around Me

Where to begin?

This last month has been...expensive.

Within the span of just a few days, I had a leak in my basement (my office to be exact) courtesy of my sprinkler system, my dishwasher backed-up and ruined my hardwood floors, and my kitchen faucet broke - not just broke, but shot up into the air creating a geyser in my kitchen.  Seriously...if I had been standing just a few inches closer to what I was cleaning, you would be reading a blog about a woman with no nose, thanks to the trajectory of a heavy, goose-neck fixture. Then my daughter told me that she saw two bees coming out of a heating vent in our living room, causing me to wonder if the Apocalypse was actually starting in my little house in the 'burbs.

Yes.  I had a complete breakdown in the middle of all of that.  And things have calmed down since then, so there is no reason to start preparing for the end of the world.

Turns out that the bees had taken up residence in my house because the kids kept leaving the backdoor open.  The kitchen faucet has been fixed (after a week of waiting for a plumber who never showed up).  The rest will get taken care of at some point, but as we all know, when you start on one project it has a tendency to domino until one broken toilet paper holder has caused you to repaint your entire house.  So I'm taking the rest one step at a time.

What really irritates me about the whole thing is how determined I was to make this summer a good one.  Last year, building up to the 5th anniversary of my husband's death, my mind and my body seemed to just fall apart and the result was the worst summer I can remember (other than the one when he actually died, of course).

So when June rolled around this year, I knew that things had the potential to be difficult.  But I was determined not to let it completely take over my summer.  I told myself from the beginning that I would forgive myself little breakdowns here and there if that's what it took to make it through.  But I also made a conscious decision not to let the past ruin my summer with the kids, as I felt it had last year.

Unfortunately, Fate had other plans.

I really think that, when our cluster of dates comes around, we should get a pass on bad things happening.  There should be someone or something out there powerful enough to write a note that says, "Please excuse Catherine from any home, auto, or health issues during the months of June and July.  In August you can hit her with the whole she-bang, but until then, please do not disturb her."

Otherwise, it's quite possible that I could end up wailing to my parents at 3:00 in the morning (after they have helped me move all of the furniture in my basement and pulled up all of my carpet) about how life isn't fair, I want my husband back, and I'm ready to set fire to my house.

Yes, that did actually happen.

For a split second yesterday, I allowed myself to be a little more up-beat and thought to myself, "Surely the worst must be over."  And as that thought crossed my mind, I just about knocked myself unconscious on my soap holder in the shower while I was shaving my legs.  So, I've decided that it's okay to be cautiously optimistic.  But I still need to watch my back.

So, I have a new plan for next year.  I'm going to plan a breakdown for the beginning of June...maybe before the kids get out of school so it won't get in the way of our summer. Whatever those forces are will see it and say, "Okay.  She's a mess.  Let's move on to that woman in Nebraska who told herself this morning that she can take care of that entire farm by herself.  We can screw her up good."

Bad things will skip me next year because I will have reassured them earlier in the summer that I am still a disaster, so they don't need to do anything to actually make me one.  Then I will be able to spend the rest of the summer by the pool, reading trashy novels, and drinking smoothies.

Think it will work?

Me neither.