Grief, a Primer, and We All Need New Frontiers

dream after dream

I haven’t been here in awhile.  Between moving (still can’t find most of my winter clothes) and tending to the dying, I am surprised I am still relatively calm and sane. Even so my absence here is ironic, because I’ve certainly had the need for catharsis and venting and a place to sort out all the conflicting emotions (there’s that dirty word – emotions– again) that have been rolling about in my head.  I’ve just been scattered so far and wide that I’ve not had the time.

Unfortunately I was right about Jerry in his illness, that he would not survive long once he couldn’t work any more.  He was deemed permanently disabled July 8th.  He died October 21st.  It was a hellish ride, and slowly suffocating to death is a cruel and shitty way to die.   Pulmonary fibrosis finally won out, and I emphasize, it is a very shitty way to die.

I am thankful that he didn’t die like his Dad did (also of pulmonary fibrosis)- after a week of poking, prodding and fruitless and painful interventions in intensive care.  Jerry was fortunate enough to die at home, I think, if only because of his determination to stay out of hospitals.  After witnessing his Dad’s horrible death in the hospital a only a week earlier, yeah, I’d want to stay the freak out of that mess too.  Especially when you have a terminal illness and death is the inevitable outcome.  Nothing that hospital could do was going to make him any better or move him toward any kind of recovery.

I am not going to pretend that our marriage was loving or happy.  Most of the time, with some brief exceptions, it wasn’t either one. Most of the time it was barely tolerable.  For me it was upholding a choice to do what I said I would, even if the decision I made was an ill-advised one.  Marry in haste, repent in leisure. Got it.

funny-bad-decisions

This isn’t to say that I didn’t love him or care, but that I’ve been worn down by many years of dealing with his alcoholism and weathering the emotional and verbal abuse that is part of that.   I can’t say that I was perfect or blameless either, and hindsight being 20/20 I still wonder if it would have been more admirable or noble for me to have left him quietly long ago.  Even though it came about in a fashion I would not wish on anyone, twenty one years later, that obligation is over.

This is the hard part that my family (as well as his family and some of our mutual friends)is having a hard time understanding.  I’ve been mourning for a very long time already.  I’ve been mourning the fact that I spent 20+ years of my life in a difficult and troubled marriage.  I’ve been mourning the reality of living with an alcoholic and riding that rollercoaster ride. I’ve been mourning witnessing someone I once loved suffering and dying in a most horrible way.  Mourning has been a way of life for me for way too long.

mourning-black

Even so, I’m not dead yet. I’m not getting any younger, either.  Excuse me if I want to live. I am not prostrate in grief.  Yes, I am sad that he suffered the way he did, and I miss him in some ways, but in most ways I’m relieved.  Relieved that his suffering is over, and that I am free to pursue my own life, whatever that might mean.

By the grace of God new frontiers are right in front of me, and in ways I couldn’t have imagined a year ago.  I’m living an ending and a beginning at the same time.  As truly bizarre as it might sound, I can’t help to stand back and feel blessed and in awe.

 

 

Trolling for Ephemera, Space and Time, and Other Things I Don’t Understand

I found a wonderful new place to troll for old pics and related ephemera- believe it or not, the Library of Congress’ website is a vast treasure trove of scanned digital images of cool old stuff (most of it is OK to save or print, as most of it is public domain.)  I have merely skimmed the surface of this treasure trove. 

It only reminds me of how I should get busy with the scanner myself while Dad still remembers who some of the people are in all those piles and piles of pictures my grandma hoarded over the years.  She had literally tons of pictures in her stash of stuff.  Grandma never threw anything away.  Some of those pics go back to the late 19th century, most of them are family members, and I would love to have scans of them, especially if I can find out who they are.  It doesn’t help that my scanner is ancient and slow (that doesn’t help my motivation factor at all) and that I would probably have to take a few stacks home here and there and spend some late nights scanning them, uploading them to Shutterfly, and then going through the Shutterfly albums with Dad so he can identify as many of them as possible for me.

Perhaps I can do some of this on my next vacation, if Jerry doesn’t find me “better” things to do. 

I’ve learned long ago that if I want an actual vacation, I need to take it by myself.  Otherwise I simply become Jerry’s personal gofer for the duration, and I end up looking forward to going back to work so I can get some rest.

I volunteered myself to take Mom and Dad down to North Carolina for my niece’s half-sister’s graduation.  I know that sounds complicated but it’s not terribly difficult.  She and my niece have the same father (my sister’s ex-husband) but they have different mothers.  Technically I would assume this would mean she’s not really related to me in any way, but my sister is still close with her ex’s kids.  I don’t know her terribly well but any excuse for a road trip in early June is an excuse for a road trip.  I can put up with Mom as long as Dad is with her to keep her somewhat under control.  Besides, I really don’t want them: 1. driving down there in either one of their elderly, high-mileage vans, or 2. making that long of a road trip through mostly boonies by themselves.   My car gets far better gas mileage, and it’s a 2010 with 11K on it versus either of their 1998 vans, one has 180K and the other over 200K.  Dad’s van would be particularly fun on a long trip because the fuel sender doesn’t work.  It’s nice to know how much gasoline you have left from time to time when the nearest gas station is sixty miles out or more.  Granted, anything made by humans or machines can fail at any time, but failure is less likely in a newer vehicle, and even if there is a failure it is less likely to be a catastrophic one.  

I also know how to use the GPS function on my phone.  Yay!

One thing I’ve not been able to get a good understanding on is the one thing on a car that seems to wear faster than anything- the tires.  It amazes me that “run flat” tires aren’t standard equipment, given how often tires go flat and fail at the most inopportune times.  I wish I could afford run flat tires, and that’s probably why they aren’t standard equipment. I’ve been stranded by having flat tires and not being able to remove the lugs so I could install the spare.  Now I have a breaker bar so if the lugs are properly torqued (and they better be, because I make them note the torque specs on the RO when I get my tires rotated or any other time the wheels are taken off) I should be able to change it out.  I should check to see if I have one of those damned donut things as a factory spare, and if I do, I should go trolling for a full-size wheel and tire.   I did that when I had my Corolla- after, of course, I had a blowout and had to drive forty miles on a damned donut- after I paid a tow company $75 to change the tire because somebody at the shop overtorqued my lug nuts and I couldn’t get the tire off.   The poor tow driver must have been at least 300# and he was jumping on the dinky little wrench that came from the factory tool kit (this was also before I got my breaker bar) to break the lugs loose.   That wrench was bent at almost a right angle by the time the dude got through with it. 

I learned my lesson well from that.  Any tech who overtorques my lug nuts because he just grabs the impact and goes at it (too lazy to use a torque wrench on the proper setting) will be a very sorry puppy should I find out about it the hard way.

There are certain modern innovations I can’t function without, but I still have a fascination for history.  It’s interesting to observe, but perhaps it wouldn’t have been so fascinating up close and personal.  I know bathing wasn’t incredibly popular back in the day, there was a lot of communicable disease, and no indoor plumbing.  No wonder people died young, and of things that would be preventable today.

As I was trolling through pages of old Civil War pictures- mostly of people whose identities have been forgotten, I came across two pictures that haunted me a little bit. 

This was a mother’s picture of her son taken long before he died in battle at age 18.  I can’t imagine the heartbreak.   The irony is that death in battle is probably one of the most preventable causes of death- but it’s still happening today.  There are still soldiers dying in battle today.  There are still mothers whose sons aren’t coming home.

And a little girl whose father never came home…

Intellectually, I understand that there is such a concept of  “just war,” and that there are times where the only morally correct thing to do is to fight for one’s country.  Emotionally, I have a lot harder time with that concept.  I’m thankful that Dad got out of having to go to Vietnam at the 11th hour (a long story, but one reason why I should be thankful for my sadistic oldest sister- she was the reason he got exempted from service) and I am grateful that barring any unforseen apocalypse, Steve-o will likely not serve in the military.  I don’t think as things are now that he could get an exemption for the nerve injury in his hand even if he would try (again) to enlist.

I have nothing but respect for military Veterans.  I don’t know if I would have the psychological strength to do what people in the armed forces do every day.  I highly doubt it, even if I had been physically sound enough to serve.  My leaky heart valves pretty much nixed my chances for any type of military service.   So I am, like every other common American citizen, beholden to those who were willing, and who were put in the position to make the ultimate sacrifice. 

I do certainly hope that the quality of military chow has improved since this pic was taken:

That kitchen set up looks like Montezuma’s Revenge just waiting to happen.