Everyone grieves…


Everyone grieves in different ways. For some it could take longer or shorter. I do know it never disappears. An ember still smolders inside me. Most days I don’t notice it. But. Out of the blue it’ll flare to life. ~ Mary V Snyder

I’ve written before about how the body knows, how the mind knows and remembers those horrific instances in your life.  I would liken that to a memory foam mattress.  How can I compare grief to a mattress? Well, the mattress knows exactly where it fits you, it remembers those angles and curves of your body as your mind remembers the intricacies and pain of grief.  And sometimes, or every year or milestone, your body gets right back into that groove because it knows what’s coming.

This year has been on the back of my mind for months.  Here we are about to enter the fifth month of 2014 and I have had this niggling thought in my head.  What year is it Joanna? 2014.  What’s the significance of 2014? Why it would have been mine and Barry’s 15th wedding anniversary.  Oh really? So is that why you have felt so uneasy about it? Probably.  It’s also probably why I have been quite bitter about this huge milestone.  15 years seems like such a big deal to me, and I am mad that I have to wait another 13.5 years to experience it with husband #2.  I always look forward to the milestones. I am jealous of all those people I know that are still happily married after so many years.  I had to start over.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am very happily married to the love of my life, and excited to grow old with him.  He completes me.  And we are madly in love.  But I’m still allowed to be bitter about missing these milestones the first time around. Hell, I missed the 10th year by 3 fucking months. Ugh.

So I was watching Call The Midwife tonight, which I just adore by the way.  Jenny’s boyfriend falls during a construction job and ultimately dies from an embolism. Cue big crocodile tears.  That’s what my husband died from.  Watching her fall apart, sobbing because she didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.  And then hearing an older woman (WWII Survivor) tell her that she might not think she’s ok now, but she will be one day, and that she had to keep on living until she felt alive again….all that resonated with me.  So much so that I wanted to find a quote about grief.  I went to google and typed in “quotes about grief”, and wouldn’t you know it, the very first one that popped up was the quote I wrote up above.

How very true. Little thoughts remind me, and sometimes they don’t bother me, but sometimes they set the ember ablaze like tonight. You learn to live with the heartache, it dulls, but a quick knife twist and it’s throbbing again.  No woman should ever have to say goodbye to her husband at 29, ever.

I guess grief is what I needed to push me to write again. But since I’m so slow with my writing, don’t expect to see a post for awhile probably.  If you get another within a week, count yourselves lucky.  I’m going to go nurse my crying hangover with a trip to my bed.  This one isn’t a memory foam mattress.


Dear Barry


Dearest Barry,

Remember when we were engaged and I always wrote you letters while I was working every night at Subway? You’d get 10 page letters sometimes. I always wrote longer ones than you did haha. I still have all of those saved up in my hope chest for the kids to read and keep one day. Four years ago today you died, and I wanted to write you a letter again.

In the last year, I’ve married a wonderful man, gone to California (including Disneyland!), flew to Kansas twice…once without the kids, went on a lovely honeymoon to New York City, and moved to Kansas. I became a US CITIZEN!!! I also swam in rivers, saw a show on Broadway, hiked on Mt Rainier, went to Yellowstone and saw Old Faithful, took a ton of pictures of Mt Rushmore (secretly very excited to be there because I was FINALLY a US Citizen), moved out of the house I thought I’d never leave, said goodbye to friends, left Olympia, and made a few new wonderful friends.  It’s been a whirlwind of a year honey, and sometimes I wish I could pick up the phone to call you and tell you everything.

The kids have remarked before that it doesn’t seem like you’re dead, and sometimes it really doesn’t at all.  Because you were gone so often, I just had to pick up a phone and call you to hear your voice.  Shortly after you died, I was at a Starbucks in Lacey, and some woman ahead of me had done something really dumb or dressed silly, and I remember picking up my phone to call you.  But I couldn’t.  The painful reality of not being able to call you hit me really hard that day.

If I could call you today, I’d tell you how much I loved you, and how much I miss you every day.  I’d also tell you how easy it is to forget about you, even when I don’t mean to, because I am so entrenched in another life now, that our life together doesn’t even seem like it was real.  If I could call you today, I would tell you that I had to let Maegen take Hades to Vancouver with her because we aren’t allowed to have more than three pets on base, and that everyone misses him a ton…including Zeusy.  I’d tell you that I’m in Choir!!! That I joined a choir on post and I sing really well with a bunch of other Army Spouses.  Oh yeah, I’d tell you I married another Army man 🙂 You’d scoff because I went for a higher rank than you ever were haha.  I’d tell you that I resented you for a long time for giving up so easily, and leaving the military right before the twins were born, but that it makes no sense to be upset about it now because we did come through it ok 🙂  But you know I have always had a weakness for a man in uniform, why do you think I married you 14 years ago?

If I could call you today, I’d tell you all about Andrew, my new husband, and how I laugh all the time about how I imagine your reaction would be about me marrying a guy that’s half Chinese. I’d tell you how wonderful of a dad he is to the kids, and how he said he was taking the torch from you and carrying on what you first started.  I’d tell you that he loves us very much and is a wonderful provider, and that eventually when we have time, he is going to adopt those four children of ours.  If I could call you today, I would tell you I never in my wildest dreams imagined I could love another man as much as I loved you, but just because I do love him, does not take away your place in my heart.  I’d tell you how amazed I am that the heart has the capacity to love so much, without any limits.

If I could call you today, I would tell you all about our four children.  I would tell you that our oldest daughter is hell on wheels at 12.5, and is too pretty for her own good.  I would tell you that she complains all the time about being so short, but teases her “little” brother about her being the oldest (TWO MINUTES!!).  Id’ tell you she is the typical girl of her age, obsessed with One Direction and a total girly girl, just like I always thought she’d be.  I’d tell you that she is on her third year of playing the flute. I would tell you that just like I predicted, she still has the hardest time out of all the kids with you being dead, and that she talks about you the most.  If I could call you today, I would tell you that our son is taller than me, and is 6′ tall at 12 years old, and wears a bigger shoe than you ever did (sz 14!!).  I would tell you that he is obsessed with basketball, and really shows no interest in girls yet (hallelujah!!), and got his brains from you.  He is getting straight A’s in every class. I would tell you that he is in advanced band just like his twin sister, and plays the trumpet like a champ.  I would tell you that he still has problems not being the “man of the house” anymore, and still holds steadfast to you being Dad, and that it makes him feel weird to call Andrew dad.

If I could call you today, I would tell you about our middle child, who at almost 11 years old is 5’6″ and a head taller than all her friends. I would tell you all about her obsession with wolves, and how she is still best friends with Anna after all these years, and that she is a total book-worm like her mother.  I would tell you that she has taken after me, and played the trombone.  She is on her second year now!  I would tell you that she is still our sensitive little girl, and as big as she is, we still have to remember that she is in fact, still only 10 years old.  I would tell you how much of a wonderful artist she is, and how I know she got that from you, because she draws so well, and I can only draw stick people.  If I could call you today, I would tell you all about our baby, who at 7.5 years old, is also one of the tallest kids in her class.  I would tell you all about her love of My Little Pony, and how she watches it on the Roku obsessively.  I would tell you about her nickname, Buck Tooth Billy, which I gave her because she started sucking her thumb again after you died.  I’d tell you she has finally stopped, but now she needs braces.  Oy.  I would tell you that I am still having a hard time with her growing up, and that she will always be my baby girl.  I’d tell you how much it makes me sad that Andrew is the only dad she will ever truly know, and how she calls him daddy, and you daddy too. And I would tell you that she is one of the best readers in her class, knows all of her sight words, and tries to be a daredevil on her bike.

If I could call you today, I would tell you how often I wonder what you would think of our children at the ages they are now.  I would ask you how it feels to see them so big now, because when you died, they were still babies, and that the last four years have been instrumental in making them who they are now, and that they have grown physically and mentally by leaps and bounds.  I would tell you, they are NOT the same children you knew. I would tell you I often wonder what our life would be like if you hadn’t died, and we had moved to Pennsylvania.  Would our kids still be playing instruments? Would the boy be in basketball like he is here?

If I could call you today, I would tell you about last February.  I would tell you that an ex friend was in St Peter’s hospital, and I went to visit her, and that it took me 10 minutes to find a parking spot at the hospital.  I would tell you that when I knew I had to go visit her, I didn’t even think twice about where I was going, but went on auto pilot not even knowing. I’d tell you that as soon as soon as those sliding doors opened in front of me, the smell of the hospital came wafting over me like a tidal wave and that I started crying right away as everything came flooding back to me.  I’d tell you that I instinctively pushed the #10 button on the elevator to go up to the floor where you were, and that as soon as the doors opened and the 10th floor was in my line of sight, I stepped out and looked at the room where you died.  I would tell you that I immediately started crying and couldn’t breathe, and how I wanted to go in that room so damn bad. Maybe I was hoping I would fell your presence or something.  I would tell you that I walked up to the desk, and the nurse that was with me when you died was there, and that she remembered me, and that I cried and cried and cried.  And then I would tell you that I had to leave because it was too much for me, and that it took me a few weeks to get over the emotions of that visit.  I wanted to go one last time before we moved for closure, and I would tell you I hadn’t been in that hospital since right after you died when I went to pick up some forms from the hospital.

Barry, if I could call you today, I would tell you that I miss you, and I love you, and that our lives aren’t the same without you.  But, I would tell you that I am very happy, and that we laugh all the time, that we are loved and well taken care of.  I would tell you that it gets easier and easier as the days and years pass, but that my heart will always, always, have a spot for you.

If I could call you today, I would tell you that every time I see 11:11 on the clock, I think of you.

“Life is the one great indulgence; Death the one great abstinence”

Life and Death, and the thing about blogging…

It’s Thursday morning, and I’m sitting here at my desk in a very mismatched outfit.  I’m wearing a tan/black striped shirt, and my “bite me” gingerbread pj pants that I bought from Old Navy before Christmas.  I should be heading to the gym, or taking the dogs out for a walk, but I’m hoping I can postpone that another hour or so.  I’ve been wanting to blog, but then don’t, then want to again, and don’t again.  The thing about blogging is that you should just do it when the mood strikes you, which is what I try to do, but I’ve had some difficult things happen in the last week and though I know I needed to write about them, I just couldn’t.  But blogging to me can be very cathartic, and a great stress reliever for me.

My thoughts seem very jumbled, so if they come across that way, I’m sorry.

A week ago today I found out that a friend of mine had been in a really bad car accident.  I was so scared and worried for her.  Her car was totaled, she cracked two vertebrae, had a bruised spleen, among other injuries.  But the kicker was that it had happened the Monday before. No one told me. Apparently it was on Facebook, but because I had not been on Facebook since the previous Monday, I had no idea.  Her husband didn’t text me, she didn’t text me, our mutual friend didn’t tell me (she thought I knew because of Facebook), and I was pretty pissed off.  You’d think if you’re friends, someone would tell you right? If I had known, I could have helped them out, brought some meals to their house, visited her in the hospital…

Well, that’s when I decided to go to the hospital to see her.  I was already on base doing some errands, but then found out she wasn’t at the Army hospital, but rather one in town.  I wasn’t even thinking when I called her room and said to her husband, “I’ll be there after lunch”, because I wanted to see her and give her my support.  I did what any good friend would do.

As soon as I got to the hospital, I saw the parking lot was full as usual.  I drove around for a good 10-15 minutes trying to find a spot, the whole time my chest was starting to tighten up and get REALLY uncomfortable.  I was not feeling good about being there at all.

Finally I found a spot and pulled in.  Taking a deep breath, I steeled myself and stepped out of my Honda.  I walked over to the main entrance, and as soon as those doors opened and the hospital smell wafted over me, I about panicked.  I wanted to run back to the Honda and go home and forget I ever even tried to come to the hospital.  The smell was too much for me, but I kept on going, putting one foot in front of the other and eventually reached the elevator.  So many thoughts kept going through my head.

You see, this is the hospital where Barry died.  And I had not stepped foot into it since then.

My heart was literally pounding out of my chest, my breathing was fast and labored, and my chest hurt like a bitch.  I was doing a most horrid job of holding back my tears too.

As I stood waiting for the elevator, my first thought was a memory of the day Barry died.  I had walked out of the elevator with my friend Lisa, into the same lobby I was currently standing in, and said to her as we walked out: “When I left this hospital the last time, I was leaving with Barry and our brand new baby, now I’m leaving without him, and he’s dead”.  I recalled so much as I was standing there waiting for the elevator, all my memories came back to me, I was crying, my chest hurt and I just wanted to run back home and never come back.

The elevator door opened and I was about to press the “7” to go up to see my friend, but I instinctively pressed “10”, and went up to the 10th floor where Barry died.

Why? I don’t know.  Perhaps I had a morbid curiosity to go back, and see where it all happened again. To remember, to feel the pain again, just one last time to get closure so I’d never feel like I had to do it again. When those doors opened, I cautiously turned my head to the left to peek at the door of the room he was in, and it all came flooding back.  I stood there in front of the elevators crying, staring at the room where my life ended. Desperately wishing I could go in there, and knowing I couldn’t because there was another patient in there.

I turned around and saw nurses staring at me from the nurses station, and noticed one looked oddly familiar.  I told her I thought I knew her.  Turns out I did.  Why? Because she was the nurse that was with me when he died.  She was his nurse. She was the one that put tape on his eyes after he died when I tried to close them, and kept saying to her over and over “his eyes wont close”.  She was there with me every step of the way.  She remembered me, and I was so happy to see her…to tell her I found a wonderful loving man again and got remarried.  But at the same time, I just wanted to cling to her, and not let her go because she was a tie to this awful day 3.5 years ago. I desperately wanted her to remember with me.  I turned around one more time and saw the door of room 1029, and then went back into the elevator.

I did get to my friend’s room, and I am glad she was asleep when I got there.  I spoke to her husband for a few moments and told him I couldn’t stay, and wouldn’t be back. He understood, and I hope he told her why I wouldn’t be back. This hospital had/has too many bad memories for me, it was the source of Life, and Death for me, and I didn’t want to face that again.  Have you ever had an anxiety attack? I had not expected that to happen to me, but it felt awful.  I felt shaken up even hours later after I had got home.  I still haven’t seen her and she’s been home from the hospital for almost a week now. I just can’t.  Thinking about going to her house to see her even reminds me of the anxiety attack I had, reminds me of Barry, reminds me of things I’d just rather not remember right now.  Those are those little things you push to the back of your memory…like the primal scream you give in the stairwell when the doctor comes and tells you they can’t find a heartbeat, like how a heart monitor sounds when it goes flat, and trying to close your dead husband’s eyes and not being able to.  Things like that.

I really wanted to write a happier post, and had another angle I was going to go with for today, but I suppose words come out the way they want to.  On a happier note, tomorrow the twins will be 12!!  I’m not having an easy time with this.  12 is not such a big deal, but the realization they will be 13 in a year startles me.  I’M NOT READY FOR TEENAGERS!!! (more on that later!)  I’ll write a blog post about that soon too.

It looks like the sun is starting to peek through the clouds, so I am going to go throw on some proper clothes, and take the dogs for a walk.  I feel today I need fresh air, and not a gym.  The fresh air will be cleansing for me right now.