Jul 31, 2009

What to do next?

I have read and participated somewhat in a widow/er group in Facebook. One of the topics I was interested in was concerning how long people find it appropriate to continue wearing their wedding rings.  I know how many have done so, such as Matt and 3SF, from their blogs and it helped give me a little perspective but it hasn’t really helped me make up my mind. 3SF said his promotion from his left to right hand was more or less planned, and until I read his account just the other night I too had a plan of sorts. But the more I ponder how long is long enough…how long is too long…the less I feel I’m ready.

The issue for me is that on most days I feel like a single father of three, first and foremost. There are a few days, randomly selected by this brooding monster of grief, that I feel primarily the widower of my beautiful late wife. On the more frequent days, when life is a normal as we can now expect it to be, I could handle removing the ring or moving it from my left to right hand. Even though those more normal days are the more frequent days, they lesser and more selective grieving days are still more powerful. I still feel an enormous amount of guilt that for all accounts I can’t explain  can’t understand can’t get passed. I don’t carry a burden of guilt because she is dead, but because I could’ve been a better partner when she was sharing her life with me. This guilt seems ridiculous to carry around on most days; it’s the fewer, more potent, days that really make the difference.

On those days the past is more important to me; not dwelling in it as if I could change something. More a remembrance of it to relive the details for my children. On those fewer days I couldn’t imagine taking this ring off my left hand for any amount of time. I feel there’s some mosaic shade of hypocrisy in that I berate the State agents for not acknowledging that I’m no longer married and yet I can’t remove this ring because I still feel, at times, very much married.

Now, as I write this, I’ve become aware that in the past week or so those fewer days have been not so few. The guilt a little heavier of a burden with which I wish I could part ways. I think of my children and wonder if they even care that I wear this ring. Not that I wear it for them, but that I’m consumed with how they will react with every little decision I make. Do they understand what the ring represents? When my parents were divorced I kept my father’s wedding ring for a very long time (I haven’t a clue where it is today) because I understood what it represented and, as most children of divorce do, I held out hope that he would need the ring again one day if they decided to reconcile. That day did not and will not come, but I understood then what the ring symbolized. Now as a widower the symbolism is more than ‘till death do us part’. Now the ring means “I remember our life together”, it means “I still love you”, and it means “You are always apart of me”.

As I approach the first anniversary of Mindy’s death…the first anniversary of the end of our ‘life of before’, which was the date I thought I could remove the ring, I find that I am undoubtedly not ready to relieve myself of this reminder. I still need to feel it around my finger; to be able to twist it around and around while remembering how blessed I was for those 10+ years. I still need to allow myself to feel married on those fewer days, regardless of how frequent they become. So as it does so many times, writing this entry has helped me make up my mind…I’m not ready to part with the ring just yet. I think I’ll let spontaneity determine the right time and place for that as my plans seem a bit premature.

The next week will hold what I hope to be, but realistically know won’t be, the last “first”. For this next week, as I have no idea what to expect of myself, I reserve the right to completely collapse. The children will be distracted by a short trip to visit cousins and I have filled my calendar so I won’t have much time to “think”. But with each day I inch closer and I just want to clear the calendar and crawl in bed. If I could sleep through the entire month I would. Given the chance I would pass over the death anniversary, my Father’s birthday (her funeral was on his birthday), Mindy’s birthday, and my birthday. All this occurred in August; all were tough days last year with little expectation of any difference this year.

Jul 30, 2009

Lazy but not illiterate

So maybe I jumped the gun a little about the State.  Not that they weren’t completely incompetent in deciphering the information that they, themselves, requested I send in but it ended up not being such an ordeal to straighten out. It took less than 20 phone calls (still annoying, but I’ve met with worse.) to get it all in order.

The agent at the State Heath Services department NEVER answered her phone if I called directly. But if I “chose the wrong option” in the automated system and then asked to be transferred she amazingly picked up every time. I had to also consult my attorney that handled the adoption as well as the Social Security Administration to make sure all the ducks were in a row before nudging the State to do the right thing. All in all it’s a closed issue.

I hope.

The new birth certificate should be sent out next week so I will hopefully have ample time to get the school district’s paperwork in order. The new birth certificate will list my name only and I’m disappointed that it worked out that way.  But according to my attorney the other option was to file another lawsuit and I wasn’t about to reach for Pandora’s box. Although now it will be obvious to the casual observer that the birth certificate has been amended in some fashion.

I think in light of this I may just go ahead and get the Teen a passport to, in many cases, avoid using the birth certificate. Besides when I returned from Panama last April, before Mindy passed, I told her it would be nice to take her and the kids there. I made her a video while I was there and I’m not sure if I ever got around to showing it to her. Maybe the kids and I can revisit Panama to make a new video and get a new stamp in the passport.

So catastrophe has been avoided and I can go back to getting anxious about next week.

Jul 27, 2009

Can’t you read?

I was under the impression that since the adoption was complete that I was in the clear. I was wrong. It appears that the great State of Texas requires that you send in paperwork to which they have no intention of reading. Such is the case with my Order Granting Adoption. I need these documents in order to properly enroll her in school. I sent in the order, along with the Certificate of Adoption and the required fee as requested by the State only to receive a letter in return that my request could not be completed because the child’s mother did not join in the petition.


The agent handling my request at the State office got  a concise email and several voicemails to inform her that had she bothered to read the documents I sent in it is clearly stated that the child’s mother is not included as a petitioner because she is deceased!! To this point all attempts to contact the agent to ask her to actually read the paperwork I was requested to send in have met with no response.

So to quickly recap; I sent in the documents and the fee. The State waited three weeks to cash my check for the fees and waited an additional month to notify me they couldn’t complete my request. All attempts at contact have been fruitless and school starts in three weeks. I can only envision the mess I’ll have trying to straighten this all out with the State, then the school, and then the Social Security office. I just have no patience for this sort of laziness.

Jul 22, 2009

My Gold Medalist

My Sugarbear had his gymnastics evaluation yesterday evening and as expected he aced it! They ran him through the rings, balance bars, parallel bars, and more. He gets to move up to the “Silver Level” class for next year. He loves gymnastics and he’s getting to be very flexible. He makes it look so easy and fun, so Princess decided she wanted in on that too. We got her all signed up to take a class at the same time each week as her big brother.

My very smart and talented gymnast gets overlooked, not out of intention but of application. He’s the middle of three children, and my only son. His older sister has entered the teen years and requires keen guidance. His younger sister is the baby girl and still wants to be held and helped. He is my little rock; he manages so much on his own. He likes to work things out on his own and be acknowledged for what he alone has done. He’s a thinker and will one day solve great problems, I’m sure. I’m so proud of him. His mother would be so proud of him. We’re looking forward to another year of  accomplishments. Congratulations son!

Jul 20, 2009

Road Trip!!

The kids have been off having a blast while I work for the past couple of weeks. This weekend, in an attempt to “catch up” with them we took a short day trip to Dr. Pepper, TX (aka Dublin, TX). The kids had no idea of what to expect, I didn’t tell them much about our trip outside of the fact that we were going to Dublin. So in the car I got the usual “how far away are we?” and “are we here yet?” audibles about ever 10 minutes.

We enjoyed all the themed treats we could indulge in when we got there. We of course had a REAL Dr. Pepper along with other treats like Dr. Pepper marinated beef jerky, Dr. Pepper fudge, and we couldn’t leave without having a Dr. Pepper float. We took the tour of the specialized bottling plant and grabbed a few souvenirs before heading back home. All the kids had a blast; even one certain Teen who pretended to be bored out of her mind.

There are only a few weeks left of summer, even fewer that are available for a short trip, but we’re going to have at least two more little excursions before school starts up again. Maybe it will distract them enough to not totally immerse themselves in what happened at the end of last summer. Just a distraction, not a delusion.

We still have loose ends

After Mindy passed, nearly a year ago, I began to get a lot of paperwork in order that we should have done well before anything happened. I had my will drawn up, a trust created, got all my insurance in order, and took care of the adoption that Mindy and I had been talking about for some time. We put many of these things off because who really expects to die at 33? Is it realistic to prepare to be a widower at 30? Obviously, YES!

When the adoption was complete, my very awesome attorney told me that since I had just deposited additional money into my retainer that I should have some money coming back. I too expected this as I had put in a couple of thousand just the week before. Fast forward 10 weeks and I get the final invoice in the mail. Amazingly there is no refund. Not only that, but I was about $650 short. She graciously adjusted off the remaining balance so that in effect I broke even. I would highly recommend her for any family law concerns you have in Tarrant County, but I should’ve expected that given enough time…the refund would disappear. Even without the refund I ended up not spending quite $10k on the whole process; which I understand is about the norm. So I guess I still came off on the better side of it all. It sure would’ve been nice to have a little change back though. I’ve filed for the updated birth certificate, which I have yet to receive, and will get the Social Security information updated if the new birth certificate ever shows up. All of that is out of my hands for now while we wait on the great State of Texas to get everything in order.

For a good while there I was actually dealing with 5 separate attorneys at the same time, keeping each of my little issues compartmentalized. I’m down to just 1 now, the counselor who is filing my trust and final will. He’s been working on this for several months and keeps promising me documents…to which I have none. I have paid him all but the last few hundred dollars and I’m visiting him today. He should have the paper work ready…if not I’ll be a few hundred dollars better for a while longer. Again with the attorneys and money, I guess all the jokes and stereotypes aren’t too far off.

At least my insurance is all cared for and there was no hassle in setting it up at all. Too bad my finance guy who did my insurance can’t take care of the other stuff too!

So here we sit, quickly approaching a year since our lives changed forever, still dealing with the aftermath. I know that to some degree we always will be, but it would be nice to have these things checked off the list. I have this idea that if I get all these things checked off that my life might slow down to something resembling the pace I had in my life of before, but I know in reality it never will. I know this is my new life…I just haven’t fully accepted it yet.

Jul 17, 2009

I still laugh at our inside jokes…

It’s been another week of me trying to stay busy in the evenings without the kids at home. It’s been increasingly difficult to sleep. I think it’s partly because the house is so quiet and partly the anticipation of what is just around the corner…52 weeks later.  I have had an absolute blast being out with friends, sans kiddos. But it is all fleeting; as soon as I come home and walk through that front door it all seems to be a just a little surreal.

It rained last night for a good while, and since I couldn’t sleep anyway (having another surreal moment) I figured…why not go stand in the rain? So, at about 2am I was out on the driveway soaking in the rare TX summer rain. The rain drops were unusually warm as they fell from the sky. The ground, still hot from the days sunlight, seemed to almost steam with each drop. The fresh rain smell was in the air and for just a moment all I thought about was how beautiful it all was.

Then a bolt of lightning lit up the night sky and I figured it would be better to watch from indoors…just in case. I’m not to keen on becoming a lightning rod, or ending up like the character, Mr. Daws, in ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’.

In the last couple of weeks, as I indulge in the extra time I have to spend with friends, I am constantly thinking that Mindy would’ve loved this. She’s such a social butterfly; always wanting to be with friends. I was the one who never really wanted to go out much. It seems like I’ve been compensating for her in my own behavior lately. I haven’t been quite as laid back and easy going as I was before. Instead I seemed to have taken on some of Mindy’s concise, to the point, and some times confrontational nature. Maybe I just want to think that because it makes me feel good, maybe it’s actually true. I don’t really care which the result is the same. The result is that I feel like I can carry her with me where ever I go. I can enjoy life and know she would’ve enjoyed it too. She would enjoy being out with me, creating memories to share later. As sad as that could sound since she’s no longer here…it’s actually a very peaceful, inviting thought for me.

I don’t really know how to explain it more than that. If you watched the FOX show ‘Fringe’ where the main FBI agent shares her memories with a former partner by way of some weird experiment…that sort of the same. Only without the scary water tank,  electrodes, or trance inducing hypnotism. Although I’m not trying to find odd terrorist types using her memory. I like to think we remembered things similarly. So that when I smile about something we did together…she is smiling too.

Jul 10, 2009

Cooling off

Yesterday morning, as most any, I checked the weather before heading out for work. The nice weatherman said it would be sunny and hot all day; a typical TX summer day. I wrap up my morning routine and leave for work on the Harley, but I didn’t get 5 miles from the house when it started pouring rain. Not, this is annoying cause I’m on a bike and I’m wet rain. No. This is cars pulling off the road cause they can’t see rain! The rain drops were like little darts of ice poking at me, and the overpass I huddled under seemed so far away when the surprise downpour started. It was a very brief, very cold rain. Only about a quarter mile of the highway was even wet, but I was soaked.

Really, really soaked. Squishy socks inside my shoes soaked.

Luckily the rest of the ride in was dry, and at 60+ MPH you dry out in just a few minutes. It makes that memorable part of my morning bearable. The real highlight of the day was going out to see my little monkeys at my Mom’s. It wasn’t anything too exciting but having them gone all week is really getting to me so I had to make the drive out to see them. Princess and Sugarbear both asked if they could come home with me and I would’ve loved to have them with me. But aside from the whole full time job thing, I rode my Harley out there and there just wasn’t enough room. They will be gone again next week…all week; again. We have a little weekend trip planned that is coming up soon and I’m really looking forward to having them all in the car for a few hours. Road trips are great for catching up with your kiddos!

Without the kids on the weeknights, it’s been pretty uneventful. I’ve watched a lot of carefully selected movies (re: mindless comedies that hopefully won’t trigger grief) and spent some time with my Dad. Mindy has crossed my mind several times each and everyday, but there hasn’t been any “moments” that I have to deal with. So far all the thoughts I’ve had of our time together have been wonderful, smile inducing memories. Such as the time we took the kids to the State Fair a few years back; Mindy walked my Teen (then only about 8 years old) through the petting zoo. Sugarbear and Princess were in the double stroller and somehow Sugarbear got his little toddler hands on the goat food…which was then toddler food. Gross, but funny. I don’t remember why I was waiting on them outside the tent but I missed all the real action. The expressions on Mindy’s face as she told me…priceless. I was probably buying drinks or something as it’s always hot at the State Fair.

State Fair 2004

I’ll try really hard to stay off my soapbox here, but it’s nice to have a little break from all the little daily reminders that she’s gone…for the rest of my life. And in this world of misplaced adoration, and people “grieving” for celebrities they’ve never met (Sad…ok, but grieving…they don’t have a clue). I’m glad my kids have a real understanding of the importance of life, the gravity of death, and what it means to really grieve. Even thought the trip is unwelcome and unwanted we will be better at it’s end for having taken it. Better than we would’ve been if we tried to ignore it or deal with this as most of the world would have us “work through” this.

I’m just glad I have highlights to any given day. I’m thankful that even though I miss them terribly my kids are well cared for while I’m off at work. I’m blessed to have such wonderful memories of a wonderful life with a wonderful partner. I just hope I can get these memories all written down to share with my kids before time washes them away. As much as I want to stay dry on my bike, it was nice to cool off from this Texas heat.

Jul 7, 2009

Life…a year ago today

I had to look at the calendar to see what I was doing one year ago today. As I read through the entries all the events were vaguely familiar; but I would never have remembered them on my own. The week following July 4th one year ago the kids went to spend a week with my Mom. Ironically, that’s where they are this week. It’s not an annual tradition plans just worked out that way. I was coming home from work each night to Mindy; it seemed such a simple thing then. I took for granted that when I opened that door she’d be on the other side. That week she was calling me constantly…she missed the kids and she got very anxious. She knew she couldn’t call to my Mom’s fifty times a day so she called to talked with the kids, and then called me all day to tell me that she missed them. I wish I could call her to tell her how much I miss her.

I miss the kids too. They’ve been bouncing around between family members this summer and I feel like I’m not getting to see them enough. But I know this way is better for them than having them in a day care while I’m at work. I try to stay busy after work to make the week go by quicker but I’m running out of motivation. I don’t know if it’s because I’m trying so hard not to think of the fact that I’m one month away from the anniversary of the end of my life of before, or if I’m just getting worn out from the hectic summer schedule of shuffling the little monkeys from house to house and trying to cram in some time with them in between. Realistically, it’s probably both.

This time last year Mindy and I were coming off a bad month. In May she found her way into trouble again and the month of June was tense as we waited to see what the fallout would be, so we argued. Her doctors were attempting to regulate her meds and they kept adjusting them up and down and I’m sure that didn’t make it any easier for her. The higher the dose was, the easier it was for her to function “normally”. But the side effects increased and became intolerable. The doctors were trying to find that middle ground of tolerable side effects and beneficial regulation. They never made it; they ran out of time.

The week the kids were back home after visiting my Mom Mindy found a new energy. She was taking the kids out for lunch and straightening up the house and just generally taking good care of things. She and I were getting along better than ever before. I found myself daydreaming about what our future would look like and we’d talk about it at night when the kids went to bed. That hadn’t happened in our marriage in quite a while and it was a very welcome change. I really enjoyed my life in July 2008.

We’ll see what the rest of July 2009 has in store.

My little monkeys are just as brown as can be from the sun. SPF 70 is no match for the countless hours they’ve spent in the pool the last several weeks. The Teen…not so much. She’s spent most of the summer inside on the computer or the phone. Princess and Sugarbear have become pretty good swimmers. Both are swimming underwater which they would never do before. I wish we could find time to head out to the lake. I would love to get my Teen and Sugarbear on water skis. I’m just so thankful I have good kids. I couldn’t imagine doing all this and having to fight through behavioral problems or something along those lines. Now if I can just keep all the adults they interact with from pulling them in too many different directions I’ll be set. But that’s fodder for another post all together.

I hope everyone out there had a wonderful Independence Day weekend and thanked a soldier or veteran for allowing us to continue to celebrate our independence.

Princess with Sparklers

11 months down; a lifetime to go.