Eighteen

I’m meeting Kim’s mom and Kim’s aunt Mary Kay for breakfast this morning to celebrate Elena’s eighteenth birthday.

It almost didn’t happen.

We had snow forecast and it didn’t make sense for Geri to drive over here after she goes to mass. She invited me to meet her at Bob Evans for lunch. I said no thank you, that I’d go to Big Al’s by myself.

There’s nothing wrong with Bob Evans.

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating Elena’s birthday by going to breakfast by myself.

There’s nothing wrong with it snowing on Elena’s birthday.

All three take me back to the day she was born.

Kim and I dropped Maggie and Tara, our black lab, at Kim’s parents house around ten on the night of March 2, 1999. We visited a while and then headed to the hospital.

Kim had gone in earlier but they sent her home telling her that if she checked in after midnight she wouldn’t waste one of the days covered by insurance.

So we checked Kim into the hospital at midnight and were taken to a room. Kim was made as comfortable as they could make her and I was given a pillow and a blanket for the reclining chair next to her bed.

They told us it would be a while.

We quietly talked and napped now and then. We must have napped because I remember the nurse coming in the room the next morning and us both blinking at the light and looking at each other.

I loved looking at Kim first thing in the morning.

I loved looking at Kim just about any time – but there was something fresh and unguarded about her first thing in the morning.

Nine months pregnant, uncomfortable as can be, she smiled at me and said, “Morning, honey. Did you sleep at all?”

“A little,” I said. “You?”

“A little.”

To me, that’s a marriage. It’s not filled with momentous pithy quotes. It’s filled with little conversations like that.

The nurse checked on her. “It’s going to be a while,” she said.

Someone brought in a breakfast tray for Kim. She sat up and ate it.

The nurse stopped back in and asked if I wanted them to bring me coffee. I glanced at Kim. She shook her head slightly back and forth.

“No thank you,” I told the nurse.

The nurse looked at me, “you should go get breakfast, walk around. She’s going to need you later. Not now.”

I looked at Kim. She nodded. “You go, I’ll be ok. You’ll feel better if you go.”

So I drove over to Bob Evans and had breakfast alone. It was only snowing a little then. I finished and went across the street and bought Mille Borne. Kim had always wanted to play that. I took it back to the hospital and we played for a while until she was tired. She napped.

Elena wasn’t born until after ten that night.

Some test showed that there was a risk if Kim delivered naturally so she would need a C-section. She was so disappointed but realized it didn’t matter. Soon she would hold her baby and none of it would matter.

They asked if I wanted to be in the operating too.

Of course.

Well maybe not of course. I was prepared for a natural birth but hadn’t really thought about being there for an operation. But, I told them, my wife and new born baby were going to be in that operating room – of course I wanted to be there.

I can’t believe they’re both gone. I remember that night so well.

They wheeled Kim out to the operating room and gave me clothes to change into so that I could be in the operating room too.

They brought me in as they were intubating Kim. The next time I would see Kim intubated was as she lay dying six months ago.

It’s like everything is somehow coupled together in my head.

They gave Kim general anesthesia which meant they had to work fast. They didn’t want the drug to get to the baby. I watched as they cut Kim wide so they could deliver the baby quickly.

Kim would feel that cut for the rest of her life. She said her stomach never felt exactly right. She never felt that the muscles completely healed.

I remember my focus shifting from Kim to our baby as soon as Elena was born.

One set of doctors checked on Elena while another set put Kim back together.

“How is she?” I asked – meaning Elena.

They told me everything looked great.

“Do you want to hold her?” one nurse asked.

Of course.

I wanted to hold her then and more than anything I want to hold her today. I want to say, “Happy Birthday baby – how does it feel to be eighteen?”

A couple hours later, Elena was in the nursery at the hospital and Kim was coming out of recovery. Kim blinked the anesthesia from her head and looked over at me.

“She’s beautiful,” I said.

Kim asked to hold her baby. The nurse said “no”, that Kim was too tired, she’d see her later.

“No,” I said, “she’d like to hold her baby now.”

The nurse made a call and someone brought Elena in and handed her to Kim.

Kim in a hospital gown with post-op hair that would have made her cringe holding our baby. As beautiful as anything I’ve ever seen.

I hate talking about Elena and Kim in the past tense.

You know what I’d like more than anything today? Even more than the more-than-anything I just said?

More than anything I’d love to see Kim give Elena a big hug today and say, “Happy Birthday baby – how does it feel to be eighteen?”

 

Published in: on March 3, 2017 at 8:12 am  Comments (1)  

Balance

One of Kim’s friends told a great story about Kim at her funeral.

Kim was cleaning the house and the kids were home and bored and in the way.

The house needed to be cleaned. She had to do it.

And then it occurred to her.

She didn’t have to.

She turned of the vacuum cleaner, turned to the kids and said, “it’s a beautiful day, let’s go to the pool.”

She decided not to waste those precious moments and opportunities. She took the kids swimming. Laundry can be done after they’re in bed. Floors can gather a little dust.

There are some things that have to be done – they just have to. But mostly, we’ve convinced ourselves they have to.

If we don’t do it, who will?

In some cases, no one. They won’t get done.

In some cases, we’re doing it because we’ve convinced ourselves we’re the only one who can or will.

When Kim worked her first job she used to bring paperwork home with her every night. She was home but she hadn’t really left work.

She put in hours every night finishing paper work that had to get done.

“Do it at work,” I said.

“I don’t have time,” she answered.

I convinced her that if she did it at home and it just magically got done, her bosses would assume everything was ok and it would continue like this forever. If, instead, she did it at work, her bosses would understand that this was part of work and that if it was important then something else would have to give.

If not everything can be done during the day then they would have to decide whether they needed to bring in another therapist or revise how the work was done.

But this isn’t about Kim.

It’s about you.

How much are you doing because it just has to get done?

Maggie and I met someone last week in London who has an hour commute each way to work. That’s not so unusual there. He leaves around eight in the morning and his wife picks him up at the train station at ten at night to bring him back home.

He has to. He won’t get everything done if he doesn’t.

He’s doing it just for now.

I asked him if his managers will come to expect this of him and that if he cuts back from a twelve hour work day to even ten will it look as if he’s underperforming.

He said, this could be a problem.

I urged him to change now. He’s a wonderful man who is running a great team building products people love and depend on. He makes sure the people he manages leave at a reasonable hour because he knows how important that is.

He needs to treat himself with the same kindness that he shows other people.

Of course, that’s true for all of us. But I digress.

It’s not that I don’t work a lot and work a long day. I’m just lucky enough to be able to break it up with time with friends or time at the gym or an afternoon working at a coffee shop.

Lucky? Sure. Lucky that I was able to make it work, but it was a conscious decision.

A month ago Maggie and I were in Paris where the attitude towards work is very different. It’s not that people don’t work hard and accomplish a great deal. But most of the people we encountered work a reasonable day. It’s illegal for them to handle work emails after work or on weekends. They take a lot of vacations and there seem to be a lot of official days off.

Of course I’m overgeneralizing about the people in these two cities, but Londoners and Parisians don’t understand each other’s attitude towards work.

In France the life-work balance is very important.

We lose that perspective in the US. Work isn’t what you do here, work is who you are.

We ask, “what do you do for a living?” before we ask, “what music do you like?”

I was texting with someone this morning who is too busy. She has a long commute to work, she works so much that she ends up coming home and going to bed.

That’s not good.

I know she feels she has to. They’re depending on her at work.

But what if she put in a reasonable day,  worked really hard while she was there, and then left at a reasonable hour?

If that’s not enough for them then nothing will be enough for them.

She needs to be as kind to herself as she is to others or else it impacts the energy and time she has left to give to herself and the things that might matter to her.

She tells me I don’t understand. I’m lucky that my work is flexible.

Yes, I’m lucky. But it also required a decision. I had to leave the field I loved the best. I had to stop doing the work I loved the most. I had to not take a job offer because it would have meant moving my kids away from their grandparents and Kim away from the world she loved most.

She said she would go. She meant it. And if it had just been the two of us the equation might have been different but I love that our daughters could be with their grandparents.

Before she died, Kim was encouraging me to reconsider. She had me interview for a job where I would have had to live most of the time in California. The constraints were different.

I interviewed. The job wasn’t right for me. I wasn’t right for the job.

One of the things they asked me was if I could change from this world of being a consultant and contractor to being an employee.

I don’t know.

I may have missed the flexibility.

There’s the cliche that no one lies sick and dying thinking, if only I’d worked more.

Elena and Kim didn’t have time for this reflection.

Elena was too young and went to quickly. Kim’s accident left her immediately unable to have such reflections in the three days she lay in the hospital bed.

I had very little regrets about the times we spent together.

We spent a lot of time together. We did wonderful things.

What amazes me are the people who have lost someone and still don’t realize how short life is and how important it is to live it.

I still think now and then about the trip to Berlin where Kim stayed behind because she was needed.

Kim never said she was staying behind because she had to. She stayed behind because she wanted to. There were people she wanted to help out. Co-workers who would be unduly stressed if she went.

That was sweet.

She didn’t make that choice all the time. This was special because a co-worker was getting married.

She knew she didn’t have to stay and work and most times she wouldn’t. This wasn’t were life-work balance being off. This was her making a life-life choice to help someone.

 

For the most part, Kim understood life-work balance. For her, it was people that mattered.

She’d look at someone at work and say, “what’s wrong honey” and mean it.

She chose to stay at a hospital where the pay wasn’t great, where she had many frustrations, because they made it easy for her to take time away to travel with me on trips or to just spend a day watching Maggie play Rugby.

People thought she too was lucky because her time was flexible.

Lucky? Maybe. They didn’t know what she’d given up for this flexibility. I guess, lucky in the sense that she was able to find a place and position that allowed her this flexibility.

Kim worked a short day when appropriate and a longer day when needed. She worked hard at work and then she came home.

They fired her after twenty years without any warning.

It wasn’t personal.

Not to them.

They had fired every part-timer like her.

Thank goodness she had life-work balance.

The next day when they hired her back she was able to think about it and decide if it was still the best thing for her.

It was. Some people thought, “lucky for her.” I thought, “lucky for them.”

Your job probably cares less about you than you think.

Next time you spend all that time because you “have to”, stop and think, “do I?”

What are the things that this “have to” is keeping you from doing in the rest of your life.

 

 

Published in: on March 2, 2017 at 9:24 am  Leave a Comment  

She said “no”

Last week I asked someone out.

On a date.

She said “no”.

I know that I’ve said many times that this blog is for me – and it is – but I also know there are people who read it so I don’t post everything and often I leave out names when I do post things.

Last week I didn’t post something I wrote because I worried that it might effect the court case against the man who hit Kim’s tiny car with his semi. I showed the post to a lawyer first.

He said, “there’s nothing wrong with what you’ve written here.”

Even though he said there was nothing wrong, I had a feeling that he would prefer I didn’t post it.

So I didn’t.

I tend to be pretty good at reading between the lines.

After I wrote to thank him and to tell him I wouldn’t be publishing the blog post he went into more detail of why he thought it was better to restrain myself in this case.

I started to not write this post as well.

I know the first sentence will upset some people.

Last week I asked someone out.

“How could you,” some will say and many will think.

“It’s too soon.”

“You must not have loved Kim that much.”

I understand those that feel that way.

I really do.

I’ve looked at other men and women in my position and judged them. I didn’t understand how they seemed to be off and dating or so happy so soon.

I completely understand that others will judge me.

I’m not sure that those who say, “it’s too soon” are wrong.

Not because it implies that I’m moving on from Kim cavalierly, but that maybe it really is too soon for me to be making a rational decision.

It may be too soon because I may not be ready.

I’m really not the best judge of that.

And yet, I’m the only judge I have.

Those who think it implies that I didn’t love Kim completely and in every way and with everything in me – I can’t answer them. They’re wrong.

If they don’t understand, then they won’t understand.

In fact, most of you know I still love Kim in every way with everything in me.

And yet…

Last week I asked someone out.

It’s not that I was looking for someone.

It’s more that it felt appropriate to take that step with someone I’d been talking to.

I likely misread the situation or misinterpreted a signal. But from what she was telling me, it felt right to ask her on a date.

I tend to be pretty good at reading between the lines.

It felt right. It didn’t feel awkward. It didn’t feel like back in seventh grade crossing the gym floor to ask a girl to dance.

I thought she was giving me an opening. I thought it made sense for both of us. I asked her if she’d like to try cautiously dating.

She said “no”.

I waited.

I watched my reaction.

I looked to see if I’d feel bad.

I didn’t.

I didn’t feel bad or embarrassed or wrong – if I did, I don’t know if I’d be telling you about it now.

I also didn’t feel ok in the “I didn’t want to go out with her anyway” kind of way.

I did want to go out with her. I asked her. She said, “no”. And I was ok.

As a younger man I might have thought of the reasons she should have said “yes” and tried to convince her. At my age, I know that that never works – not in the long run. Even if you convince them in the short run they’re not there because they want to be.

I looked back at our conversations and thought about how we’d had such a different view of what we’d been saying to each other.

I tend to be pretty good at reading between the lines. It seemed that I wasn’t this time.

As I looked back, I saw both sides.

I understood how she saw what she saw. I understand how I saw what I saw.

Both interpretations are readily apparent in the conversation. The two views are consistent with our different vantage points and not in the actual words that were spoken.

So, I felt pretty good.

I’m not in a rush to go out with anyone. Really.

Actually, I don’t like going out that much at all.

Mostly, I stay in.

I cook. I hang with the dog. I hang with Maggie. I go to the gym. I go out for coffee with friends.

I’ve been happily married for twenty-some years. I’m pretty boring.

So now what?

Now that I’ve asked one person out and feel pretty good about it, I’m not going on a “will you go out with me” rampage.

I’m in a good place.

I feel really good that when it felt like I should ask someone out, I did. And when she said “no”, it was ok.

The next time it feels appropriate, if there is a next time, I hope it goes as smoothly.

Right before Kim died, we were in the kitchen talking about how we were glad that we’d never have to date again.

I’d still prefer not to ever have to date again.

But if I have to, I’m so glad I’m not the person I was when I was twenty.

Last week I asked someone out.

On a date.

She said “no”.

I’m ok with that.

Published in: on February 26, 2017 at 5:57 am  Comments (3)  

Only Kim

Before it was 7 I’d gotten texts from my brother and Helen.

In the next fifteen minutes one from my sister and one from Kim’s friend Kim (like I have to make it clear that it wasn’t from Kim herself).

Maryann posted a “Girl Power” picture on my Facebook timeline.

Jodelle and Bill came to visit yesterday. Kevin came last week.

Folks at my CocoaHeads meeting were just so nice last night.

Susan hung the valentines in the garden.

I’m surrounded by love and support and I appreciate every one of you.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but in a way it makes me miss Kim even more.

People always supported Kim and me separately and together on this day. It meant so much to us and means so much to me.

But today was the day that Kim and I would look at each other and nod, “I know”. And we knew that the other knew.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years all felt different without Kim with me.

But Daniel, you say, I didn’t know that Washington’s Birthday was so important to you?

Today, Elena is dead eleven years.

I flash back eleven years and Kim and I are in the hospital room standing together looking at the body of our dead six-year old daughter waiting for the priest to arrive.

I flash forward to six months ago watching that same priest say last rights over Kim in her hospital bed.

For ten years Kim and I marked this day together.

Some years were harder than others. No year was easy. But each year we had each other.

I never traveled this time of year.

Kim called February our month of eating cookies.

I baked a lot of cookies.

People gave us recipes.

I didn’t bake fast enough.

Kim would come home from Heinen’s. “Look,” she’d say, holding up a package.

“What did you get?” I’d asked.

“Homemade cookies from Heinen’s.”

“They’re not homemade,” I’d object.

“Heinen’s homemade them,” she’d say opening the package. “Want one?”

And we’d stand in the kitchen and eat cookies together.

Over time our month of eating cookies began in January and ended in March. Later it didn’t really end in March, it just slowed down.

This year I decided to break that tradition.

We’d go to breakfast together each year on this day. After the first couple of years, Kim didn’t like to have people over.

We’d have them over in a week for Elena’s birthday.

Maggie and I decided to have family over for Elena’s birthday again this year. Colored pancakes, sausage, and bacon.

Some traditions continue. Some don’t.

After breakfast I would drop Kim back at the house and go to Elena’s grave. The last couple of years Kim would go with me.

Maggie and Elena’s birthdays were just about six months apart. Six months and a day.

Kim’s mom would always celebrate the half birthday of the one whose birthday it wasn’t with a little gift. A nice gesture that coupled the two girls and their birthdays together.

The anniversaries of Kim and Elena’s death are six months and a day apart. Elena is dead eleven years today. Kim is dead six months tomorrow.

Their deaths are coupled in so many ways.

Kim was the only person on this earth who felt the loss of Elena the way I did and do.

I’m not saying other people didn’t love Elena. I’m not saying other people don’t miss Elena.

I’m saying Elena’s mom and dad stood by her dead body eleven years ago today. It was a shared experience we could have done without. It’s a shared experience that was communicated in a nod and a touch.

We came out of that room and sat with all four of Elena’s grandparents who had come immediately to the hospital.

Washington’s Birthday. Elena’s favorite president.

I’m not going out for breakfast today.

On Elena’s birthday I’ll meet Kim’s parents for breakfast after mass. Kim’s mom and Kim used to go every year then meet me for breakfast. The last few years Kim’s dad has joined them.

Then I’d drop Kim off at the house and go to Elena’s grave. The last couple of years Kim said, “I’ll go too.”

Two breakfasts in two weeks. Two visits to Elena’s grave.

So no breakfast today. I’ll head over to the grave site in a little bit.

I’m not ready to go yet.

Today is about Elena but I find myself missing Kim so much more than I can explain.

I know I’m surrounded by love and support. I really do appreciate you more than I can say. I know I’m whining and not noticing the good around me.

But I’m on my way to visit the grave of my daughter on the eleventh anniversary of her death.

This year I’ll go alone.

Kim is already there.

Waiting for me.

Right next to Elena.

Published in: on February 22, 2017 at 7:57 am  Comments (1)  

Signs

This morning I saw the sun rise.

I took it as a sign that today was going to be great.

I know people who see signs everywhere.

They ask for a sign and they see it.

I don’t worry about them. I don’t question them. I don’t think they are silly or wrong.

These people are happy and going about their lives. They just are thinking about someone or something and want something in their environment to chime in.

I worry about the people who wait for a sign and don’t do things because they haven’t gotten the sign yet.

It’s kind of like a study about pessimists and optimists where they were given a newspaper and told to find some item. In the newspaper was a large ad that told them where to find the thing they were looking for.

The optimists saw the ad and found the item. The pessimists didn’t.

The sign was there for both to see.

Some saw it. Some didn’t.

All day long I get up from my chair and I head somewhere. I may head down the hall to the bathroom, to the kitchen for a snack, to the backroom to get something, upstairs for a minute, or to the dining room to grab the checkbook.

If I stand up around five o’clock, Annabelle pops out of her chair and follows me.

She takes it as a sign that I’m about to feed her.

She runs and stands by the stairs to the basement because we keep her food on the landing. If I pause at the landing she then runs to the kitchen and stands over her bowl. I don’t know if she’s waiting for me or helping me figure out where to bring the food. Impatient, she runs back to her food bag then back to her bowl to make sure I understand.

I’ve stood up all day but when I stand up near five o’clock, that’s a sign.

Last night I stood outside a moment after taking the garbage out.

The sky was so clear.

The stars just popped.

This morning I watched the sunrise as I made my coffee.

The sun rises every day.

It’s a big freaking sign.

It’s why it’s so important that we notice it.

It asks, “what are you waiting for?”

It reminds us of the empty day ahead of us that welcomes us to accomplish our dreams.

After something sad or tragic happens we don’t notice the sun rise.

We dismiss it as something that happens every day.

We think that there will be other sun rises.

There will be.

We might not be there to see them.

And even if we are, think of the days that just went by without us embracing them.

Annabelle’s morning routine is different.

She doesn’t wait for a sign.

She jumps at the back door until I let her back in and she runs to where her food bag is.

I follow her and scoop a cup of food and turn to see her running to her bowl.

I close up the food bag and she runs back to me – just making sure I haven’t forgotten.

She gets excited twice a day, every day.

I know people who don’t.

They’re waiting for a sign.

The signs are there.

There were weeks when I didn’t see them.

This morning I saw the sun rise.

Published in: on February 20, 2017 at 7:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Just One

I tell Maggie I’m off to meet the boys.

She rolls her eyes. Their ages span from late fifties to late eighties. The mean is probably eighty. So I guess she’s right.

When I got there, only one was there.

He’s not so much the leader as he is the center of gravity. I look at him and remember that I’ve known him since he was my age.

He runs through the group. One can’t make it because he can’t drive anymore. The guy who usually drives him can’t make it because he has a funeral. Another doesn’t come much anymore. The last one might be working.

Not really meeting the boys this morning. There’s just one. Just Bob.

We talk about politics like always. We talk about the news. He has facts and figures at his fingertips that just astound me. He tells me how many people have been killed since 1970 in the US. He talks about how many people have been killed already this year in Chicago. He then uses it in an argument about our current and planned immigration bans.

We’ve been discussing the news now and then since Reagan’s first term.

Finally, the line drops down so there’s only one person waiting. I stand and get in line. Bob doesn’t want anything. He’s got his coffee and he’s already had another cup today.

With one person ahead of me I get served in just under five minutes. While waiting for them to pour a cup of drip coffee for here, I look back over at Bob. He’s reading a newspaper.

He’s always reading. Always learning something new. Always has a story to tell you about something he read.

I sit back down. I check that he’s sure he doesn’t want anything. He waves me off.

He’s ok.

I gesture at his Smithsonian magazine on the table between us. There’s a giant Cambodian Buddha on the cover.

Bob tells me he read an article about Einstein and space time theories.

Not in this issue he tells me, pointing to the magazine between us. He has a bunch of back issues stacked up at home.

Me too, I tell him. That’s why I finally unsubscribed. I love the magazine but I wasn’t reading it.

National Geographic too, he tells me.

Yeah. Me too.

So he tells me about a mental model from the article of how space is bent. The metaphor uses a bowling ball on a trampoline.

Nice.

Bob pauses, looks up, and asks, “are you dating?”

“No,” I say, “I thought I might try it but it didn’t really work out.”

Bob nods.

He doesn’t ask why.

He wouldn’t pry anyway but there’s something in the way he doesn’t ask.

This isn’t a question about me. This is a question about him. Not that he’s wondering about dating. But it’s about him.

His wife of sixty-plus years died a little over a year ago.

“I miss the two of us sitting and talking,” he says. He looks to me to see if I know what he means.

I do.

I nod. “Me too.”

Sitting with him and talking is good. But it’s not the same for him and it’s not the same for me.

I lean forward, “especially,” I say, “especially, now. I would love for her to help me make sense of this world.”

He nods but you can see his thoughts have shifted again.

“And cooking,” he says. “I miss cooking for two.”

“Yeah,” I say. I miss that too. Really it’s not that I miss cooking for two so much as I miss cooking for Kim. She appreciated it and always helped out. It was coupled with the time we would talk to each other.

She’d go to the refrigerator and cupboards for ingredients. We’d stand in the kitchen a few feet from each other. She’d cut with her knife on her cutting board. I’d cut with my knife on my board. I’d go to the stove to cook.

Cooking for one. One cooking.

Bob brought me back from my thoughts telling me that there were only really a few people left connected to Sue: her sister, their son, their daughter, and their grand-daughter.

The daughter lives close. I asked about the son.

He lives far away.

“Did you ever visit?” I ask.

No, Bob says. He and Sue were going to drive out there.

They had a trip planned that included side trips and stop-overs. He mentioned the Carl Sandburg house. That’s so Bob and Sue.

I look at him. I know it’s not a trip he’ll ever take. Not now that it’s just him.

I look at him again. I don’t think of me. This is his story, not mine.

Published in: on February 18, 2017 at 2:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Date Night

You’d never believe it from the way she acts, but Kim and I took Annabelle to two different trainers.

I may not be remembering this right but I think the first trainer gave us our money back.

Dog training is partly about training the dog but mostly about training the owners. The second place we took her was much better at training us. The second place was much more like the place we’d trained Tara when Kim and I first got married.

The first place had a bunch of exercises we didn’t really understand. The one I remember the most was a Zen exercise for the dog. You held treats in your closed fists on either side of the dog. When the dog ignored the treats and looked at you, you gave the dog one of the treats.

The dog had to not want the treat to get the treat.

More accurately, the dog had to be able to “see beyond the treat” to get it.

Annabelle is not an enlightened sort of dog.

She didn’t see beyond the treat as lose interest and glare at us til we stopped teasing her.

Probably my assessment of her is unfair. It’s not that Annabelle isn’t an enlightened dog. It’s more that she’s a dog. She thinks like a dog. She acts like a dog. What else should we expect or want?

I was thinking back to this time last night as I hung out at home with Annabelle.

Maggie had to work at the mall.

Annabelle and I were spending Valentines Day evening together.

I’d eaten through most of the gift Maggie gave me – a family size bag of peanut M&Ms and thought I should eat something more substantial. I heated up the last of the Cinnamon Beef Soup I made last week and Annabelle and I had dinner.

We cleaned up. Maybe not so much “we”, but that’s ok, she’s a dog. We headed into the living room to watch the Cavs game.

At half time I wandered into the kitchen to make popcorn and Annabelle followed me. We split the batch and then we cleaned up. That’s the same “we” as before.

We headed back into the living room for the second half. Annabelle settled into her chair and I returned to the couch.

Valentines Day and I was completely content being at home with my puppy.

It reminded me of before I was married. There was a long stretch where I met women where we just weren’t right for each other.

Something had to change.

Either I had to change or they did.

I figure I have more of a chance of teaching my dog to help me clean up after dinner than I do getting other people to change.

So I changed. And I got happier with who I was becoming. It’s still a process. I’m not saying I’m happy, but I’m happier.

And I got comfortable being alone.

And like that Zen dog-biscuit thing, once I was happy being alone I was able to not be alone.

I thought of that last night because everyone had worried that I’d be miserable on my first Valentines Day alone.

I was fine.

Just me and the puppy, hanging out, watching the Cavs.

Not that I don’t miss Kim. Of course, I do.

Not that she wasn’t the best thing to ever happen to me. Of course, she was.

But, just as that time before we were married, this has nothing to do with other people. This has to do with me.

I’m back to being happier with who I am becoming. It’s still a process. I’m not saying I’m happy, but I’m happier.

I’m comfortable being alone.

The thing that Kim and I didn’t like about the Zen dog-biscuit thing is that you are teaching the dog to ignore the hand with the biscuit because you know she’ll be given one.

If I open my hand and it’s empty, Annabelle can’t say “where the heck is my biscuit.” She’s got to be happy with me using that hand to scratch her ears or pat her head.

It can’t be about the biscuit.

You don’t ignore the hand and look at the person because that’s how you get the biscuit.

You ignore the hand with the biscuit because you don’t care if you get one or not.

You have to feel complete sitting there without the biscuit.

 

 

Published in: on February 15, 2017 at 1:22 pm  Comments (1)  

Hearts

Each year one of my neighbors does something so sweet that perfectly captures the spirit of Valentines Day in an expression of generous love.

So often Valentines Day is filled with selfishness and agendas. The gift is used as a weapon or as something to be evaluated to see if it is sufficient.

We lose track of the person we’re giving it to and what we can do to make them feel loved and cared for.

Maggie brought me a bag of peanut M & Ms. I gave her a nice tea ball. Two simple gifts that were more about the person receiving the gift than the giver.

My sister texted me a heart emoji to start my day.

Perfect. What more do I need.

One friend texted to make sure I was ok on Valentines Day.

I was. I am. But I really appreciate him asking.

Another friend texted that her wish was that Kim sends me a sign today.

Again, perfect. I imagine that the child next to me at the coffee shop who rolled her eyes back at something her friend said was just that sign.

Kim and I seldom exchanged anything but cards on Valentines Day. We made each other cards that captured something we were thinking about.

Last year she gave me something.

It was small, thoughtful, personal, and was something that she had to think about and do. It said so much about her and what she thought of me and our future together that I am still moved a year later.

She really was something. I know I’ve said this before – Kim was pretty great when I met her – she was getting better and better.

So is it hard being without her this Valentines Day?

Of course.

But not because it’s Valentines Day.

It’s hard because it’s Tuesday.

I miss her every Tuesday.

And Wednesday. And Thursday. And – well, you get it.

Anyway back to our neighbor.

Every year Susan and her son make hearts for Elena and hang them in trees at the end of our street in Elena and Jan’s garden.

This is the tenth year that they’ve done it.

Yes, Elena will be dead eleven years this coming week.

I woke up this morning and walked down the street and took pictures of the hearts.

This was the one part of being alone on Valentines Day that was really hard.

Kim and I always talked about these hearts and what a beautiful gift it is each year.

One year there won’t be hearts on the tree and that’s OK.

For ten years there’s been this wonderful tribute.

It’s a stunning display of unselfish love.

It demonstrates to everyone who drives by, the power of the love we express on Valentines Day.

It serves as an example of the gift of love we can give each other.

We can give this gift of love on Valentines Day.

And on Wednesday. And on Thursday. And on – well, you get it.

 

 

 

Published in: on February 14, 2017 at 3:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Closing Loops

Kevin and I had breakfast this morning before he hit the road.

We were talking about someone and I said that they were unforgiving. Once they felt wronged they would never forgive the other person and would never speak with them again.

“You’re that way too,” Kevin said. He brought up a discussion we’d had about three different people who had cheated in three different marriages. It’s something I’m black and white about.

In those cases it wasn’t really up to me to forgive or not to forgive. They hadn’t cheated on me. One had cheated on a friend of mine and two were friends of mine.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t forgiven them so much as that I never felt the same way about the friendship again. I don’t think I was unforgiving so much as wary. I had less time and patience for them.

I think it is partially around forgiveness but more about choosing to spend time with people who I should spend time with. I don’t mean only spending time with people who can benefit me and I don’t mean spending time only with people who make me feel better.

I’m still trying to understand what I mean.

Maybe I’m trying to make it sound less selfish than it is. I don’t think I’m driven by selfishness – but, then again, I’m the wrong person to ask.

When Kim died I decided to spend more time in the gym. I thought I’d hire a personal trainer to jump-start the effort. It’s an indulgence I never would have considered but it seemed important that I start to get back into shape and perhaps this is what I needed to get there.

A friend of Kim’s recommended someone she liked so I contacted him.

I didn’t hear back for a while.

I contacted him again.

He got back to me and we went back and forth with me trying to set something up and him being very difficult to pin down.

Finally, I wrote him and said “no thank you.”

I told him that as much as I wanted to work with him, it was more important to me right now to be standing on solid ground. If I couldn’t get answers from him while he was trying to court my business, how could I depend on him being responsive once we were working together.

He was an open loop.

He was something I had to keep revisiting to see where we were and what we’d do next.

I closed the loop.

Then I went to the gym six or seven days a week on my own.

I loved it. I still love it.

I’m sure I would have loved working with him but I couldn’t have an open loop.

Sometime’s it’s really hard to see these open loops and it’s even harder to walk away from them. It’s something to check on regularly and that’s kind of comforting. But at some point you realize how much energy you’re putting into this thing.

Year’s ago when I was applying to work at the last radio station I would ever be on-air at, I sent in my audition tape and resume along with a cover letter.

I called the program director regularly to ask if he’d listened to my tape yet.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t unusual in that business.

Each time I’d call he said, “sorry, not yet.”

One day I said, “you know what, thank you but don’t bother.”

You can’t just say this as a ploy – you have to mean it. You have to be ready to really say it isn’t worth the trouble.

“Steve told me you were different,” I continued, mentioning the name of the guy who’d convinced me to apply at the station in the first place. “This is the same as every other station.”

“Thank you for taking all of my calls,” I said, meaning it, “but I’m not interested any more.”

We chatted a few more minutes and then I hung up.

A half hour later my phone rang, “did you listen to my tape yet?”

It was him. He hired me. I enjoyed working for him for a while.

Anyway, I’ve been working on closing my open loops. I’ve beaten my email inbox down to six messages and will have it back down to zero by tonight. No open loops there.

I’m spending the next hour paying bills and closing off all of those loops.

I’m capturing my to-do’s in Omni Focus. I find that helps me knock them off one at a time. I expect those loops will be closed by the weekend.

Maggie reminded me of some personal loops I need to close.

Perhaps this applies to those people that Kevin thinks I haven’t forgiven. It’s not so much that I haven’t forgiven them that I don’t want to have open loops around the things that upset me. I want to resolve them somehow and move on.

There’s a huge comfort in closing open loops. It helps me see what I have left to do and what I can enjoy once I’m done.

 

Published in: on February 13, 2017 at 12:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Not Sorry

I know I’ve told this story before, but when Maggie was little, Kim came home one night to find Maggie sitting at the top of the stairs.

“What happened,” Kim asked me.

“She’s in time out,” I said.

“Shouldn’t she be in bed?” Kim asked.

“Yeah, as soon as she apologizes.”

Kim went up to talk to Maggie and then came back downstairs.

I looked up. Kim was laughing.

“What?” I asked.

“She says you told her she could get out of time out when she apologizes,” Kim said.

“That was part of it,” I said.

“I know,” Kim said, “Maggie says she can tell you she’s sorry – but she can’t mean  it.”

With Kim’s help, Maggie and I worked things out.

I’ve noticed lately that I say “I’m sorry” a lot.

I mean it, but it isn’t always the right thing to say.

Sometimes I say “I’m sorry” when someone shares a story and I mean to say that I’m sorry for what they’re going through.

I am sorry for them but I’m not sure that that’s the best response. “I’m sorry” is more about me than it is about them.

Sometimes I say “I’m sorry” when I do something I shouldn’t. Again it is a genuine apology but I’m not sure that it really makes amends.

I’ve been thinking lately that many times when I say “I’m sorry” what I really mean is “thank you”.

It’s odd to conflate those two.

When someone shares a story with me that demonstrates how something I said has resonated with them enough to tell me something painful and personal – I am sorry for them but I’m also grateful that they shared.

I’m not sure yet but the right answer might be “thank you”.

Published in: on February 12, 2017 at 10:27 am  Comments (1)