Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Notes from the Past

I have grief group tonight and need to do a 'Show and Tell'. At first I thought, 'Cool! I get to talk about Craig uninterrupted for 5 - 8 minutes!' Then the reality started to sink in - I need to BRING something and talk about it and tell the story of Craig's life in a mere 5 minutes using only one or two photos or objects. Sh*t.

I panicked.

I was supposed to do it last week and crapped out, not even going to grief group. I am a lousy widow.

This week I figure I have to, no matter what. So I hunted and hunted to find something to use to tell the group about my Craig. Doesn't help half my stuff is still packed (can't even find the damn box with all our wedding photos... what the hell!) but I did manage to find some old notes. Thought I'd throw a few passages up here since they cheered me up so much.

(Once again, spelling and grammar were left as-is on purpose)

"I was telling Bobby about how I didn't place at the Taekwondo tournament. I said to him how I felt it was alright to be imperfect. Then he was like "Oh my God, my life is over; Im going to cut my wrists, Craigs not perfect, That was the only Thing I believed IN."


"Hey you. I know you have had a rough Year with work, school, family and supposed friends, so I thought I would just remind you (Not that you forget things) that I will always be here for you. After all, whos going to be your backup when you get kicked out and your friend steals your bag. Sorry I cant give you a University Degree in Management or Science, but I'll let you use my computer. :)

PS 'In a world that keeps on pushing me around, but I stand my Ground, and I wont back down.' - Tom Petty"


"First of all I just want to say I Love you. Second your my wife and I think your great. If I had all the riches in the world, you would still be the best thing in my life. Your my buddy and nothing can take that away.

Even if we dont get the jobs that everyone knows we diserve because we have no education and look like twelve year olds, we can enjoy the time we have together just being with one another.

We at some point will look back on this and say 'those were the tough years but we made it." We are both blessed to have found two of the few (Thats poetic for me and you.)"

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Today I was attacked by Cujo. You know Cujo. That stupid, evil, rabid dog of Stephen King's imagination.

Apparently he's real.

Let me set the stage:
Miserable widow up waaaaay too early after a night (scratch that, several weeks) of minimal sleep. All she wants is a nice hot cup of tea and some breakfast.

Widow has recently moved into a basement suite with, what might be, the world's worst neighbours living upstairs. Ah the sweet, sweet smell of pot constantly eminating through the vents along with a lingering hue of cigarette smoke always hovering in the air. My sinuses have never hurt so much in my life.

And naturally, Evil Neighbours also have... you guessed it... Evil Dog. Pitbull, of course. It barks, it's ugly, I want to throw snowballs at it. But I don't. I refrain. I try very, very hard to ignore it. Love all God's creatures, even the evil ones.

So I'm in my basement suite kitchen, newly made cup of tea in one hand, tuna sandwich in the other (yes, I eat tuna sandwich for breakfast... don't judge me). In the upper corner of the kitchen is a small-ish window that does not have curtains. The window just looks out into the fenced-in backyard, so who cares.

Well I happen to glance up and who has their face pressed right up to the glass with Satan's expression written across his ugly face?

Freaking Cujo the pitbull.

My scream was so high pitched I'm pretty sure only dogs could hear. Which is probably why he jumped almost as high as I did and took off.

Tea goes flying.

Tuna sandwich lands face down with a splat.

Widow has a heart attack.

Bloody Cujo. I hate that dog.

Am now sneaking upstairs to build a snowfort in the yard that I can bury Cujo in where he won't be heard from again until spring.

Which in this weather might not be for a few more years.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Gift of Life

"Grief can destroy you --or focus you. You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. OR you can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time, so much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, just took for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn't allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it.

But when it's over and you're alone, you begin to see that it wasn't just a movie and a dinner together, not just watching sunsets together, not just scrubbing a floor or washing dishes together or worrying over a high electric bill. It was everything, it was the why of life, every event and precious moment of it.

The answer to the mystery of existence is the love you shared sometimes so imperfectly, and when the loss wakes you to the deeper beauty of it, to the sanctity of it, you can't get off your knees for a long time. You're driven to your knees not by the weight of the loss but by gratitude for what preceded the loss. And the ache is always there, but one day not the emptiness, because to nurture the emptiness, to take solace in it, is to disrespect the gift of life." — Dean Koontz (Odd Hours)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Art of Racing in the Rain

"To live every day as if it has been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live. To feel the joy of life. To separate oneself from the burden, the angst, the anguish that we all encounter every day. To say I am alive, I am wonderful, I am. I am. That is something to aspire to."

Just finished reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein and let me just say... wow. It is so beautifully written. And so amazing. Screw Marley and Me, this is a REAL book for dog lovers. Or human lovers. Or just anyone who has ever loved anything.

I won't give too much away but the book essentially follows the life of a young man, a race car driver named Denny, as he falls in love with and marries his soul mate, Eve. Eve grows ill and passes away and he is locked into a painful and difficult custody battle for his daughter with his in-laws. All this is written from the perspective of his dog, who slowly ages and ventures forth into his own death.

The dog's narrative on life, death, pain, sorrow, grief... it is incredible and inspiring. The entire story is woven beautifully around the central theme of continuing the fight. The constant struggle, the pain, the adversity - and that sheer strength of will to keep going, no matter what. To fight and fight and fight, even when you think you have nothing left.

To refuse to give in.

It captured so perfectly how I have felt since Craig's death. The sorrow, the despair, that feeling that there is no hope left.

But you keep fighting and you keep struggling and you keep putting one foot in front of the other. When you think you have nothing left, no strength, not even the thinnest thread of it left, you still manage to find that one last piece to make that one next step. And then the next. And then the next.

And out of nowhere you are rescued by circumstance. People who drop into your life unexpectly, saving you right when you need it. Funds from nowhere when you are down to your last $0.14. Things clicking into place in a way you had not even considered possible.

And slowly that trudge onwards turns into a journey worth walking. Just as the opening quote says, you begin to live your life as though it is stolen from death. As though it is worth living. Because it is. You embrace the joy wherever you can, you refuse to allow your life to be dictated by the pain of grief and the fear of death.

The mantra of this book is that the car goes where the eyes go. And this couldn't be more true.

If you look forward, eyes never straying from where you want to be, rather than where you have been, you will find yourself inevitably moving in that direction.

This is key.

Look forward, focus on where you want to go and how you want to finish. Do not let yourself be distracted by what has happened in your rearview mirror. Be wary of what is going on around you, mindful of the other drivers, but stay focused on the direction you want to travel to.

And slowly, but surely, that is the way you will go.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

8 Months

Hi Craiggie, it's me. Your little Sal.

It's been 8 months since you disappeared. Funny that. It feels more like 8 years. It also feels like it was just last week. Remember when I couldn't even get out of bed? Day after day, sitting on the couch with TA, staring vacantly at the Food Network, of all things. You'd think I'd have learned to cook something from it, right?

I barely remember those first weeks. They are one long blur. All I remember is the pain. And thinking it would never, ever get better.

I remember wishing I could just have died with you. Because it felt like I did. All those crazy drives out to the hill at all hours of the day and night. Wishing, just wishing, somebody would hit me. But wanting to die and wanting to kill yourself are not the same thing.

I thought I would suffocate from wanting you. That's what it felt like. Like I couldn't breathe. Just you, all the time, in and out.

I was so angry with you. For leaving me. For not saying goodbye. For not getting out of bed that morning. For not telling me you loved me. For not giving me the chance to say it back. I know it's not your fault and there was nothing you could do but sometimes you just need someone to be mad at.

But things change.

It's not that time heals our wounds.

We just find a way to live with the pain.

And I'm finding ways.

I sold our house and moved. That was hard. Our home. It was so perfect, wasn't it? I know I never said so, but man do I think it now. I'll probably miss it more than you. I took lots of pictures though. Just like when we left the apartment. They weren't as good as the ones you took though. No Craig making goofy faces standing next to the tv while it played the Magic Bullet commercial. Damn, I was in such a pissy mood that day. And you made me laugh so hard with those ridiculous photos. Just like always.

I survived court. I did what you wanted. I made peace with it. It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I thought I was going to be sick standing up there, telling all those strangers about out life together. And that man. That poor man. He looked like someone turned him inside out, chewed him up, and spat him back onto the ground. He looked how I felt. He's sorry you know. Well. You probably knew long before I did.

I got back into school. Finishing that accounting certificate I've been working on since forever. I wish you were here for that one. You did all this stuff already. All these nights I've wished you were here to help me study. You were so much smarter than I ever gave you credit for. Than anyone ever gave you credit for.

I got winter tires on the car. I figured now you'd probably approve. I know they wouldn't have done you much good, but still. And today it snowed but I'm still too scared to take the car out, even with them. Now I'm the one who is afraid to die. Imagine that.

I've been doing the work, baby. Grief work. That's what they call it. I talk about you all the time, even when nobody listens. I go to grief groups. I go to counseling. It's not the same as talking to you though. You would be the best counselor I could ask for. But you aren't here. But still. I keep trying.

I started playing again. Music. I forgot how much I loved it. Sometimes when you get the notes just right, and the tone is just perfect, it's like creating a life of your own. I hope you can hear it, wherever you are. I know how much you loved to hear me play.

I have a lot to do still, though. Your ashes. Your clothes. Your books. So many things. It took me this long, but I have a plan now. I just have to put it into action. I know you'll love it.

I miss you, you know.

So much more than I thought possible.

It just feels like I've lost this part of myself. Not just a limb or something. But like a whole half of my body.

All these years together, all these memories. We really were best friends, weren't we? I miss that most, you know. My buddy. Our whispering and giggling and how I could talk to you about absolutely anything. And you'd get it. You always got it.

But it's been 8 months now.

And I keep putting one foot in front of the other.

And sometimes I laugh. And sometimes I cry. But not as much as those first days. Not by a long shot.

But I never stop thinking about you.

And I never will.

I miss you, Friend.

So much.

Hope you're okay, wherever you are.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I'm A What?!?

Newsflash: I'm a widow. With a capital 'W'.

Did you know?

I didn't.

As weird as it sounds, I haven't felt like a widow since Craig's accident. The first few months I'd have kicked anyone's arse who tried to call me one, muttering obscenities under my breath and shouting something to the effect of, "I'm not a widow! I'm married, my husband just isn't here right now."

Never quite got a handle on the 'single' tag either. For some reason this alludes to all sorts of adjectives that I haven't been in a decade and, therefore, couldn't possibly be now.

But I started going to a spousal grief support group last week. The first one was a little rocky, but last night's was much better. We broke into smaller groups which was great for me since it let me talk a lot more. And you know how I love to talk.

But it was the first time I felt like I actually fitted into a group. Like I actually belonged somewhere.

And then it hit me.

I'm a widow.

I. Am. A. Widow.



Yeah, you'd think it would have occurred to me at some point already, but for some reason it was just a word. I never felt like it was ok to be sad or cry or grieve. I'm 26 for crying out loud, who loses someone that young? Only old people are widows, not me.

But there it was, last night, steamrolling over me.

I am a widow.

Craig's widow.

I get to be sad.

I get to miss him.

I get to grieve.

I even get to act a little nuts sometimes.

It's ok.

This is me now. I don't have to hurry up and get over it or pretend I'm ok for everyone else. I'm allowed to be sad.

I thought it would be more depressing for this realization to hit me, but for some reason it was liberating. A huge relief.

If other people don't get it or are made uncomfortable by it, oh well.

Deal with it.

I'm a widow.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I'm One Wonky Puzzle Piece

Being the anal retentive/control freak/organizational wizard that I am, there is almost nothing I love more than sitting down and finishing one hell of a puzzle.

I'm talking thousands of itty bitty pieces, some horribly complex building as a picture, so big it fills the whole table and the better part of a weekend.

But nothing drives me crazier than finding that one wonky piece that got bent the last time you tossed everything into the box.

You can bend it back, but it never quite goes flat again and good luck ever making it fit its neighbours just right again. Everything else is smooth and perfect but that damn piece - it just sticks out like sore thumb.

I feel like that piece.

When the rest of my friends are talking diapers and engagement rings, I think about nothing but ashes and car accidents.

I am supposed to be in my 20s here. One of those decades you want to recount and relive for the rest of your life.

Not bloody likely.

I hate that I can't relate to my twenty-something friends anymore. I hate that the things we used to laugh and giggle about I just don't understand anymore. I hate that I feel completely left behind.

And good luck fitting into the 'Widow Club'. Even in my 'Young Spousal' group I am the youngest, by at least a decade. When the rest of the widows are talking pension plans and grandchildren I'm still fixated on whether I'll get to have babies one day and how I'm going to pay off my student loan.

There isn't anywhere I fit in anymore.

I'm a wonky puzzle piece that just won't lie flat.

Damn you, Craig, for being my best friend for 10 years and then disappearing when I need you most. Damn you.

You were the one place I always fit.

Because right now, I know we would be wonky together.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Brand New Apartments

When Craig and I first moved out together we rented this tiny little apartment on the third floor of a complex in a less-than-desireable area of town.

It wasn't cozy, it was cramped. One of those places where you can only have one person in the kitchen at any one time. And you can't open a lower cupboard and the fridge or dishwasher at the same time.

None of our things fit, we had to sleep on the tiniest bed (translation: I like to sprawl and Craig woke up many a night with my foot in his ribs or elbow in his eye... although in my defense, he snored an awful lot and, therefore, I feel, had it coming).

And every month or so some homemade chef with a bad case of the munchies would burn their batch of 'special brownies' at 2 am, setting the fire alarms off, and causing a mass evacuation in the midst of a blizzard.

Ah, the good times.

Eventually I couldn't handle it any more and begged and pleaded until Craig gave in and we moved into our current home. I could not have been happier to see that place in my rearview mirror.

It struck me as so odd that Craig insisted on going around taking photos of the apartment right before we moved. He later explained to me that he had enjoyed the misery of our little apartment, that he loved that we would have this to compare everything to for the rest of our lives, and that we could tell our kids the story of how we survived this place much in the same way our fathers bragged about walking 20 miles to school, uphill both ways.

Given the proximity of that apartment to our new home, we often ended up driving by the complex on the way to and from work. Whenever they were renting they would put up balloons and a sign. Given Calgary's low vacancy rate in recent years, the sign wasn't up that often. But when it did show up, it proudly declared:

"BRAND NEW apartments! Now renting!"

For some reason, this struck me and Craig as utterly hilarious. For starters, the place was hardly as shiny and bright as the sign optimistically made it out to be. The walls had a special I've-been-smoked-in hew and the carpet had that wonderful most-frequently-used-path worn out between the couch and refridgerator. And lets not forget the broken glass strewn throughout the parking lot from many a midnight drunken escapade courtesy of our colorful neighbours.

But the real kicker had to be the 'BRAND NEW' part of that sign. They weren't anything close to new when we lived there five years ago so I'm not exactly sure how they managed to get away with this generous little adjective.

Whenever we would drive by and the sign was up, we would try to beat the other to the punch and shout, "BRAND NEW!" at the top of our lungs. Inevitably we would both crack up, howling with laughter over that ridiculous sign.

Well I guess the Calgary housing crunch is easing slightly because that dang sign has been up more and more lately. And no matter what my mood is, who I'm with, or what I'm talking about the very sight of it is enough to bring on a tidal wave of grief.

I hate that we had so many more fun times together that we'll never get to experience.

We'll never laugh at that sign again and no matter how well I might explain the joke, nobody else will ever find it as funny as we did.

And I do so miss our jokes.

I miss the way we would laugh and laugh until we cried.

I miss how Craig would act do or say anthing, keeping at it relentlessly, just to make me smile.

I miss my buddy.

I miss my friend.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Train Whistle

This week I survived moving.

Nobody likes moving. It's tedious, time consuming, and dirty. I discovered dust bunnies behind bookshelves the size of a small dog and grime behind my stove that had to be scraped off with a spatula.

And don't even get me started on the lifting. Me = no muscles. Apparently.

But with a lot of help, I did it, and it is more or less done (for now).

Unfortunately, packing up my life was every bit as heartbreaking as I thought it would be. Possibly even worse. The first few days at the new place I didn't do much more than cry and holler and yell. There is something about taking all the things that make up your life and shoving them into boxes that is unsettling and just a little bit sad.

Of course I had the added challenge of deciding what to keep and what to throw away.

Now, I am an avid declutterer. I hate clutter. And knick-knacks. And things that don't have a proper place. It's the CDO (which is basically like OCD but all the letters are in alphabetical order where they belong).

Anyway, as a natural part of the decluttering and packing I had to throw or give away a large number of Craig's things. Some I have absorbed permanently into my life and will be staying, but many others were given away to the Salvation Army or family members who wanted them. Clothes, shoes, toiletries, gadgits, whatsits, you name it. Some things I would have fought and screamed to keep months ago I was able to let go without much more than a minor twinge of guilt.

Now as with most packing, sometimes you just get to the end of a week of it, you are sick of it, and you can't stand to see even one more piece of bloody bubble wrap. So I had a couple boxes where I pretty much just chucked whatever was in my drawer into the box and voila! All done!

Well I finally started unpacking some of those last night (in the hunt for earrings - long story, apparently I have fat ear lobes) and came upon something I forgot I even had.

Craig's train whistle.

I have no idea where or when he got this thing. Probably on some family trip or from a relative as a gift. I'm not even sure he remembered. He showed it to me a couple years ago when he was cleaning out some boxes. It's one of those little children's wooden whistles that you blow on and it sounds like a train.

Of course I teased him that he had a toy for little kids (we'll just ignore the dolls action figures thing here). But of course it didn't take long for me to start playing around with it.

If I was bored and wanted Craig to come entertain me, I would blow on the whistle.

If I was having a rough day and wanted a hug, I would blow on the whistle.

If Craig was getting to wrapped up in his studies and I felt he needed a break, I would blow on the whistle.

If I felt ignored for video games or the computer, I would blow on the whistle.

If we were having a serious moment or argument and I wanted to break the tension, I would blow on the whistle.

If I just wanted Craig to come to me, I would blow on the whistle.

And he always did.

It became a sort of secret code with us. No matter what was going on or what we were doing, if I blowed on that whistle he would drop whatever he was doing and come to me.


Something in me broke when I saw that whistle in that cardboard box.

Because now when I blow on it, he won't come to me.

All the train whistles in the world won't make him come running.

These are the little things that break you.

Day after day.