Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Return to Houston

I have been in MN for many days - the 17th thru the 28th. Many firsts, such as travelling solo for the first time in several years (although Greg and I were not joined at the hip). It was strange to look at the occupied seat next to me and think that that was Greg's place until his death changed all those plans - changed all MY plans.

It was a bit strained, to see family that I had not seen yet. Most knew of Greg's death, but apparently I missed notifying one branch. They crawled all over themselves, apologizing, but hey, how would they have known? Three of the cousins in my age bracket are widows, including myself, my sis and cousin Lynn. Lynn's husband was the same age as Greg was when he died. The weather was good, expected MN summer weather. Of course, that was cool for me when I first got there, but I eventually got a little bit acclimated.

I brought Greg's ashes with me in the carryon bag. I was told by the funeral home that I had to personally carry this rather than in checked baggage, and I would have felt pretty bad if he had been in a bag that ended up lost (or worse yet, stolen by the nefarious baggage handlers/thieves). But wouldn't they have been surprised?! I am still uncertain about what to do with the ashes, but I'm leaning towards the same Duluth cemetery where my sister's husband is buried and where my dad's older brother and his wife are interred, too. Until then, my mother volunteered to store the box on a shelf in her apartment. I amused her by commenting that "the poor man will have to spend months alone with his mother-in-law". Anyway, I was touched by her offer.

A high-school friend suggested that I could place some of the ashes in jewelry, so I hunted out a couple of web jewelry-sellers. And yes, folks, there are those who specialize in this kind of product. I found a tasteful pendant with a very tiny opening into which you place the "ashes", then put superglue on the opening and screw the top onto the pendant. "Ashes" is really a mis-description, since I discovered that they are really more like coarse sand. That helps to define the weight that I toted - over 10 pounds - in the carryon.

This was one family reunion where I did NOT take one photo. Greg had always graciously snapped so many group shots, and I just could not bring myself to "replace" him in that capacity yet. Maybe the next time. I missed him so much, at so many times and for expected and unexpected reasons.

Still, I saw some cousins I hadn't seen for many years. And I am kinda nudging some of them to update their family dates - marriages, births, divorces, deaths. I do not care if someone "had" to get married, or if they had a child out of wedlock, or even if they have had 3 or more spouses. This is just for the record, folks. So I think that we are living in a more open-minded society and maybe I will get better cooperation out of this (my) generation than possibly from the earlier one.

My sis's boyfriend of a few months met the family at this reunion. I think it went pretty well. They seem well-matched and happy. I feel like I have (at least temporarily) lost her. Kind of wrapped-up in each other and she usually does not return my phone calls. And I do not bother e-mailing her, since she rarely stops at home to check her pc for anything. They are sort of teenage-ish in their relationship right now (but free to have sex and not pretend that they are NOT). I hope it all works out for them. But I do miss her.

Mom did not cook while I was staying with her, other than the boiled dinner that she had prepared ahead of time. A couple of bowls of that were, however, enough for me. She had had her teeth pulled (uppers?) recently, so she turned to soup while we ate meals at some of the local cafes. There are a couple of little eateries in the town (pop. of 800+) where I was raised, so for lunch, I too enjoyed some homemade soup. She had a chicken-wild rice and I had a mushroom soup - portobellas! - both of which I thought were a tad salty. But then, since I do NOT add salt to my cooking, my taste buds may be a little more sensitive to that. Then we had split pea and ham soup at the local truck stop. Surprisingly NOT salty, and very tasty and loaded with ham. Could not get over the bargain prices. Most times we each got a bowl and iced tea, and the total was only about $10 or less for both meals.

My sister turned 59 on the 22nd, so we celebrated with a meal at the Applebee's in the next town. Sis, boyfriend, Mom, me, and sis's girlfriend and her husband. The girlfriend happens to be the younger sister of the boyfriend. Maybe the girlfriend has better luck, talking with my sis. Ya think?

Anyway, I am going on and on and no one is being entertained by this. I'll probably expound on part 2 of my stay - in the Twin Cities - in another post.

I have been reading some blogs written by other widowed folks (male and female) and like this woman's - maybe because she is a Texas-based blogger. Like me, she really misses her husband and tries to go on. Sometimes she's funny, sometimes poignant. I like her web page and she also has posted the lyrics from Garth Brooks' song, "The Dance". Check her out: One Breath at a Time - if you feel like it.

And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance - I could have missed the pain
But I'd of had to miss the dance.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

My birthday

Well, that dreaded birthday - my 60th - was on Monday. And I was dreading it, not because of the number, but because it was the first birthday I would mark without Greg by my side. I did my damnedest to keep my mind occupied, and that did seem to work. For that day, anyway. I attended a fun, family-friendly Fourth party on Friday, and a wedding on Saturday. I had carefully planned to be at the home of two very good and dear friends for most of that weekend. So I woke up on the 7th at their home. They even had a gift for me, good people that they are! In the morning we worked on some projects at their place - they are readying a backdrop to bring to a Las Vegas trade show in a few weeks.

At mid-day, we drove into San Marcos, looking for some additional things for the trade booth. We took two cars, so that I could continue on back to Houston after lunch. After the brief shopping, we ate at the River Pub (or some similar name). Well known for a good spot on the river so you can watch the tubers frollicking (sp?) around, and the burgers, fries and Shiner Bock were also good! They then headed for home, while I went to the Outlet Mall and shopped for a carryon bag that would be big enough for my personal stuff plus the box that holds Greg's ashes. I don't know if he would approve being transported in a bag whose color is labeled as raspberry, but maybe he will see the humor in it.

So I didn't get in the door at my house until close to 6 pm. Unloaded the car, etc., and then the phone started ringing. (And I also had several "happy birthday" messages from friends and family on the answering machine.) By the time I hung up with the last caller, it was about 9 pm. I rounded up my stuff for work the next day - cobbled together something for lunch - and went to brush my teeth. And then it hit me. We always stood side-by-side at the dual sinks and brushed away, and the one who finished first would grab the mouthwash under the cabinet, set it on the countertop and uncap it. I saw his toothbrush in the holder - the one I can't bring myself to throw away yet - and whispered, "You should be here," and I teared right up. Just like I am doing now, while trying to relate my actions and emotions on that day. So, yeah, I nearly got through that day sans tears. Oh, well.

I have located some other good blogs by widows (and a good one by a widower). Some are around my age, and the guy who blogs lost his wife - when he was only in his early 30's - and he's raising a 4-year-old alone (wife died about 2 years ago). I also went poking around for a support group. There is one that meets monthly somewhere in the general Houston area. So I joined that one - I'll miss the July meeting/meal, but hope I can make the August one. The thing I read over and over again is how much advice is given by those who have not walked in our footsteps ("our" being widows/widowers). I thought I was the only one who felt like this - but it seems to be a universal complaint made by so many grieving folks. I am anxious to try this group and exchange some info with them. There appears to be more women than men, but the fact that a few guys even had enough guts to join and/or show up at a meeting is encouraging. I know it is so much harder for men to talk about or share their emotions. We are in this together, and I hope these gatherings will be helpful and maybe even give me a friend in my geographic area.

I am suddenly struck by the ironic title of this blog: aka Nancy Drew. Who knew that I would end up searching for me, for myself, under all this rubble?