Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Love Story - Losing the Dog Daddy

Note:  I originally wrote this to share as a Valentine's Day blog post, however my eyes had a different idea.  I've been diagnosed with Chronic Dry Eye and have had to limit my online time to only a couple of 15-20 minute sessions per day.  Just couldn't get this edited in time for Valentine's Day.  But not only are my eyes slowly, but surely, improving...   today is Gary's birthday.  Happy birthday, babe.  

Once upon a time...    

No, that's not a good beginning.  

It wasn't a fairy tale.  It wasn't love at first sight. And as I once told a friend, it was not some big storybook romance.

But it was a love story and it began in Kansas City.

In the beginning...

I was the director of a halfway house for women coming out of prison and had reason to meet with the probation officer of one of my charges.  

That, of course, was Gary.  

He was freshly divorced; I was married.  None of which mattered because it was very much a business meeting.  Later we both discovered that we'd felt a strange sense of already knowing each other, but at the time we were both strictly business.  Regardless, due to mutual friends and our jobs, over the next year or so, we continually ran into one another and eventually became friends.

When I became divorced, he asked me out.

First date was, shall we say, a surprise for both of us.  He'd planned what most would say was a nice date:  a riverboat dinner cruise on the Missouri River.  Too bad he didn't know they were serving steak and I was a vegetarian.  Too bad he didn't know how terrified I was being in what really was a barge on the water.   And too bad neither of us knew that Mother Nature would stir up one heck of a lightning and thunder show while were were out there.

Second date was another surprise for both of us.  Unbeknownst to me, Gary had gotten tickets for the circus.  Little did he know that I was vehemently opposed to circuses.  Animal cruelty in my book. I was ready to leave as soon as I realized where we were going.

Poor guy. Here he was, trying to do something more creative than the traditional dinner and a movie, but so far striking out big time.

Third try was the charm.  Gary picked me up and drove straight to the Plaza. French bakery first for a baguette and some pain au chocolat. Next the cheese shop for cheese and wine. Then we headed for the Burr Oaks Woods Nature Center for some hiking and a picnic.  He'd brought along a quilt, some pears and grapes. 

It was an absolutely perfect date that led to 37 years of marriage richly filled with some amazing adventures.

And in the end...
Gary was hospitalized on a Thursday.  On Saturday we were talking about him being released the next day.  I headed home that night full of relief and to clean and get ready for his return.

However, when I arrived at the hospital on Sunday, he didn't know me.

The nurse with him explained that he was very worried about his wife.  He'd been trying to call her and had the nurse call, too.  Gary told the me and the nurse that his wife would be wondering where he was.  He told us how sweet his wife was.  

And no. When I told him who I was, he still didn't know me, though he remembered that the next day would be Rudy's birthday.

On Monday Gary's son arrived from Colorado.  He didn't know Andy either. 

I'd been at the hospital for the better part of a week at that point and decided to take advantage of Gary's son being there so I could go home and try to get some much needed rest.

Before I left on that Monday evening I told Gary that I loved him.  

The expression on his face was like a sunrise - full of joy - as he said: You do?  

And I told him:  So, so much.  I love you very much.  

He was grinning when he said: I love you, too.

Those were the last words we spoke to each other. 

Gary slipped into a coma that night.  He never awakened and passed away on Thursday, October 13.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

My Flying Squirrel Rosie Says - Wordless Wednesday

Rudy knows what's coming:  Rosie.  He fumbles the catch knowing his sister is on her way and she's going to claim the Flying Squirrel as her own.

 Yup! There she is.  "Mine!" says Rosie.

Rudy gives it up (he always does), 
but decides a little tandem retrieving is in order.

Rosie guards her treasure.

A little sniff never hurts while you're 
waiting on your brother to come try and get it.

She successfully called dibs on the Flying Squirrel, 
but now watches Rudy and hopes he'll come play with her again.  
Silly girl.  Rudy is all done with arguing with the girl!

Sort like the cheese stands alone!

Monday, February 20, 2017

How Are You is a Loaded Question - Losing the Dog Daddy

How are you? It seems like such a simple question. 

Do you want the common courtesy response?

Or do you want the truth?

I was brought up to be a good girl, mind my manners, and not spend time wondering how genuine the inquiry might be or talking about myself.  So, my answer would be: fine. Or some polite version of "fine."  

The truth is a wholly different story.  And the truth is that I'm never sure how to answer.

It's hard to know what to say when someone dies. We all want to say the "right" thing to the survivor.  Like me, you may have read articles advising what to say and what not to say.  And yes, there are lists of things that have been said that cause an eye roll (or stomach roll). 

I've known other women who have lost their husbands and as I look back I'm relieved that I pretty much said "good" things and did good things.  

Yet I had no idea.  No idea.  They say there are some things in life that you must experience in order to understand.  The death of a spouse is definitely one of those things.

I'm numb and lost in a "widow's fog."  Really, that's a thing and they say it could go on 1-3 years or longer. I was relieved to learn that there was a name for it and that it was not early onset dementia.

When I'm not numb I feel as if I've fallen into a pit of fire with flames wrecking havoc on my body and mind.  

The world as I have known it for 40 years is gone. My hopes, dreams and plans for the future are gone.  Those were created and intended for the very specific duo of Gary and Sue. Now I'm alone.

Every single thing reminds me of my husband.  Might be a memory from the past or might be some basic everyday kind of thing.  Might be a happy memory and might not.  Regardless, everything reminds me of my loss. Every single fricking thing.

I'm crying. A lot.  I'm forgetful, exhausted and I can't sleep.  I can't seem to make decisions or focus on anything.  I'm a swirling mass of confusion, chaos, and pain. 

Back to the question.

It's a dilemma. Because if I am too truthful, you may not ask again. My truth could make you so uncomfortable that you avoid me.  I don't want that. 

Please don't be offended or take it personally if I tell you that I don't want to go to lunch or I just can't talk on the phone.  Sometimes it is just too hard to talk about Gary's death and too hard to try to "be normal."

Please keep asking.

How am I?   I'm not okay, but I'm working on it.

I will be okay.  Just not today.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Getting By With a Little Help From My Friends | Losing the Dog Daddy

Thank you.

Thank you for the cards, calls, and messages.

Thank you for your prayers, positive energy and good thoughts.

Thank you for the memorial contributions to Stray Rescue of St Louis, Dogwood Animal Shelter, Wayside Waifs, and Richmond (VA) SPCA in memory of Gary. 

Thank you for the gifts for Rudy, Rosie, Skeeter and me.

Thank you for your loving, thoughtful, fun and funny posts to my Facebook timeline.

Just some of the beautiful cards, letters and donation notifications.
Special thanks:
To my friend who, when I told her Gary died, her first response was "How are you doing?" After a pause while I tried to think what to say, she said "no, no. I mean are you okay financially? Be honest. I'll write you a check."

To my friend who, as soon as she found out that Gary died and I was alone, dropped everything and drove 6 hours to be with me.

To my friends who made the amazing commitment to take my dogs and cat if anything should happen to me now that Gary is not here.

To Gary's son who took care of some chores for me before returning to Colorado and has stayed in touch to offer support.

To my friend who has insisted on a daily check in from me - just to make sure I'm okay.

To my friends who invited me for Thanksgiving and Christmas so I would not be alone.

To my friends who continue to check in with me via Facebook, email and phone.

To my friends who generously and repeatedly ask me: what can I do? 

I'm very sorry it has taken me so long to express my gratitude.  Please don't take it as a sign that I don't appreciate you.   

Thank you. I am truly blessed to call you my friends.