leaving home

Another snippet, someone asked me what they could do for me – maybe straighten up? “The kitchen is a mess,” I conceded, referring to the shambled breakfast I’d abandoned hours ago. “… and I wasn’t expecting company…” I sheepishly admitted.

Suddenly, there were dishwashers and a floor mopper, a dog walker and then the sound of someone vacuuming. And the suggestion that I should leave.

They were about to take Jeff out. The other ambulance that had arrived was solely for the purpose of extra hands to heft. They debated which door to use.

My feisty Oklahoma friend authoritatively spoke up. “She doesn’t need to be here for this.”

Then, to me, “You don’t need to see them taking him out, hon.”

There was a question about whether or not I had eaten that day. I hadn’t.

Someone herded me out to a car. I can picture myself in the back seat. There were two women in the front seat. I can’t say for certain, who those could have been. The people I knew best were still bustling around my home.

Another remembered oddity, the car I got into had been backed into our driveway. I think maybe the wife of the neighbor across the street was the driver, that would make sense. She’d have just backed across the street. Perhaps the other person was the slight neighbor acquaintance, one house past my next-door neighbor.

That one seems more solid because I remember taking the family cookies as a thank you. I don’t recall exactly what I was thanking them for. I think she was a bit touched and a bit appalled. “You made us cookies?” she asked. “Oh, my goodness, no! I should be making you cookies! But here you are…”

I know that in those few minutes it had taken me to get into the car, they hadn’t actually begun to take him. I also know I didn’t look back. In a way, we were both leaving home, in a similar time frame. Jeff going one way; me, another.

I was supposed to decide where to eat. I didn’t want to be gone too long, so I said McDonald’s. I didn’t want to eat, really, but went along with the insistence that it was the plan to feed me. I requested a Filet o’Fish sandwich. When asked if I wanted fries, I said, “No. I want to go home.”

“I think we still have to wait a bit…” was the reply.

“Ok,” I said, as I felt myself deflating. Of course, we’d all be going back, but I would never be going home, again.

Quote for the Week: 2020 01 21 home is where the heart is jakorte 01 21 2020

 

Arranged Around

 

When my brother and sister-in-law arrived, it was confusing and surreal. They lived an hour and a half away. We hadn’t talked about them coming. They’d just seen Jeff the day before, yet, there they were, and I was grateful.

I don’t know what the inside situation looked like to them. (I’ve never thought to ask.) We went outside to get some air and talk and my brother asked questions I hadn’t even thought about. Did I know which funeral parlor? When was the funeral planning meeting? Who was writing the obituary?

I don’t know how or whom I got that information from, how the arrangements were made or by whom. I don’t even know who told my brother – it might have been me and it might have been the next day or the day after. It must have been Jeff’s dad, Roger, who had to do the arranging. I still vacillate between thankfulness and guilt for the protection.

Everything was arranged more quickly than I expected, which seems silly because I didn’t actually know what to expect. I wasn’t part of the planning for Sally or Nannee’s funerals. My father did not have a funeral – his choice. So, I had no idea how any of that happened, either.

The mandatory autopsy added a day.  Mandatory, because he was under 45 and died at home. Part of that investigative thing.

The medical examiner called me directly with the results. Nothing nefarious was found. The final determination was cardio-myopathy; not unusual in diabetics, and genetically-predisposed persons.

Par for the course of Jeff’s life, the call took an unusually common turn. I listened as the examiner offered personal condolences. He told me, he’d known my husband. As a previous pediatric patient, and fondly described him as a very sweet boy.

I came across this gem on Instagram. For anyone who’s looking, glitterandgrief is a lovely place to land.

Screenshot_20200108-175252_Instagram

I do wish social media had been more advanced than it was in 2006. There are so many grief-related groups out there for encouragement and support.

There were a few, back then. Specialized clusters of military support, specific sites for the loss of children, and for parents who now found themselves single. In straight-up widow groups, the relative ages of me versus them seemed an enormous gap. Of course, there are countless circles for young widows, now. Only, I’ve aged out of that group now, too.

Quote for the Week: 2020 01 14 Protection is always gift, except when it jakorte

 

Bits and Pieces

The first question wasn’t what I expected.

The first question was whether or not I had told Jeff’s dad.

I had not called Jeff’s father. Nor had I called Jeff’s sister.

Partial cowardice, partial propriety. I couldn’t.

I could not do that. Tell him. Tell her. Not on the telephone

I don’t know if my explanation was taken as a request or if it was realized that none of them would be able to make those particular calls, either. The news was delivered to each by the trio, in-person.

I can’t put a time on how long they hovered, statued in their spots. Where the entryway linoleum met the carpet, loomed a gap none of us would breach. I maintained my seat, way more than arm’s length away. As if being in closer proximity might alter the containment each of us were fighting for.

If any conversation of action took place with or without my participation, I have no recall.

In exactly the same way they appeared, the three men were gone.

The next bit, I recall standing outside of our bedroom telling Jeff’s sister, “No.”

“I want to see him,” she’d said.

But he was near-naked and undignified, and I unexplainably felt strongly compelled to stop her. It flashed through my mind so quickly, I’m not sure the thought was my own.  He does not want her to see him that way; to have that final picture stuck in her mind.

Much in the same way, I don’t remember anything else about her being there; her coming or going, who came with her or anything.

The next piece, I see myself sitting on the other end of the couch nearby Jeff’s Aunt on an out-of-place chair and a cousin sitting on the floor. I don’t remember them coming or going, either – just that snapshot.

Sadie was doing her best to make people happy, eagerly seeking out the sad and dropping her ball for distraction.

Quote for the Week: 2020 01 07 bits and pieces can be jakorte

 

 

My Favorite, Noel.

I decorate for Christmas.  

Some years, not a single soul sees it. Some years, maybe one or two or three tops.

But, that’s because I travel, and it really doesn’t matter. I do it for me.

I refrained for many years. I could only see painful reminders. I suppose if there was such a thing, I’d say my grief has matured.

One year, I decided I’d at least try. I went through the box and struggled through each memory. Then, I went to World Market and Target and Meijer and struggled through buying new non-traditional décor in fuschia pink and winter blue and brilliant 80’s lime-ish green.

I couldn’t bring myself to put up the unique partial tree that Jeff and I had marveled over. Imagine a fake three-foot fir in a wicker basket – neatly sliced in verticle half to allow for wall hanging.

We used it in the townhouse, much to Miss Fred’s annoyance. She’d sit near the wall and balefully mewl. I suspect she was either trying to convince the tree to come down and play or she believed her caterwauling would spur us into action and bring all the shiny things down to her level.

It seems every year, I’ve managed to find the baby-steps, bits and pieces strength to add another sentimental piece. At least that’s what my lighted, miniature, fake burlap sack ensconced pine tree is telling me.

These are a few of my favorite things:

The purple and gold swirl paint bulb Jeff made.

The beaded snowman pin that Jeff also made

A tiny box with a big message from my mother-in-law, Sally

The tree topper is a handmade ornament from Nannee Vincze

The paper folded pinecone is a purchase I made at a craft show from a couple who reminded me so much of us.

The glass chili pepper is part of a set of six I bought for Jeff the Christmas after our store opened.

The Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh were a beautifully authentic biblical present to myself, and to others one year.

The Hershey kiss angel, by my best guesstimate, is somewhere between 20-25 years old – the result of a crafting episode with my sister-in-law.

The illuminated pine bottle was a gift this year from a friend who likes to call me ‘sis’.

The miniature Hannukah lamp was a gift from my mother that year we took her to Bronner’s. That is a story unto itself.

The nativity was my first, acquired the same year I purchased my condo.

The tatted cross is a gift that is a story unto itself, as well. A heritage heirloom I was astonished and honored to receive from a family that wasn’t mine to start with, but now completely is.

The Christmas Loon comes from the same family. No one has ever able to explain why, and the only thing I’ve found on the internet is a reference to the Loon being the state bird of Minnesota.

And I have no idea where the super shiny sparkly pine cone came from or how it landed in my Christmas storage tote, but… I like it.

All of this sits on the top of my living room hutch. There’s a lot of love crammed onto the four-foot-long top, which is conveniently completely Blu proof. He’s got jumping issues.

Happy Christmas from me. Repeating an adored adopted phrase, I’m the one who wants you to know – God loves you, and so do I. Noel.

Picture for the Week: 2019 12 24 Merry Christmas Noel jakorte

The Ripple Began Then

 

Over the years, in my tragicomedy approach to healing, I sometimes emphasized the on-the-verge-of-inappropriate, near-comedic aspect of that moment.

Other times, I’ve grumbled outwardly about the monkey-wrench that almost reset the officer’s overdose suspicion back to square one.

I think back on it now in wonder.

To pass by two ambulances, two police cars, a parade of neighbors outside and in and still have the hopeful faith that what I said wasn’t what I meant, is perhaps a gift from God. One that got her from one point to another safely, and positioned her to tell the story in a way that I could not.

I don’t know how long I sat there on the couch, on the section closest to the front door.

But, that’s where I was at the moment it became real.

The moment when the heartbreak became a ripple and the ripple was absorbed.

I don’t know how they got there. It seemed they just appeared, each hovering one step inside the door. A three-man row of grief and disbelief. I recognized the vacancy.

These were the first three people to share my grief; the first intimate ones I had faced.

The ones I knew were at least where I was, and were perhaps even deeper.

The ones who’d had him way longer than I; the catalysts of tears.

I had no words. Even if I had, speaking and crying is a complicated gift I have always lacked. Unconquerable, it’s either one or the other. Right then, it was the flow and terror.

In many ways the police and the emergency personnel were impartial. They were interested in facts.

Facts were an eerily calm surface; I dreaded the questions barely beneath. At some point, they would rise, buoyed by ripples, pushed upward as expelling gulps of grief. How could I explain why I wasn’t where I was supposed to be; where I usually was; where, for just this one time I wasn’t.

Quote for the Week: 2019 12 17 there isn’t anyway to avoid grief guilt jakorte

synonomy

He put his notebook away – closed it, really – tucked it under his arm.

 

The next thing. It’s not linear, but I’ll try to make it make sense.

The phone call to my brother-in-law answered by my sister-in-law followed an unusual path. I set in motion a game of church-telephone, similar to the childhood one, beginning with my unconscious inability to say that word. The D-word.

Without hesitation, my sil jumped into action. She tracked down her husband in church by getting hold of someone there. Third hand, my understanding is that the message morphed from my intent of ‘gone’ to ‘gone missing.’

When told his brother was missing, my bil’s response was, “Which one?” The lovely thing about this is that, in this extended family, the pre-cursor ‘step’ was never more important than the word ‘brother.’ And, there were eight possibilities, so the question was wholly legit.

Back to the beginning of this post and the end of the last post…

A milli-second after the officer’s pad pages met in closure, my sil burst through the door and near-breathlessly huffed out, “Did he leave a note?” Other rapid-fire questions followed.

I’m not sure of the accuracy of my recall. I was too busy short-circuiting, in panic mode – trying to absorb that my emphatic word had not been absorbed.

I heard Wal*Mart and scooter and a suggestion that maybe he’d gone for an early morning ride to the store down the dirt access road at the end of our street. Trying to follow along, I pictured Jeff 4-wheeling in an electric scooter on the recently rain-soaked non-road.

I glanced at the officer, who was looking questioningly at me. I shook my head from side to side trying to convey that she wasn’t asking about a suicide note. She was asking about a where did he go? note. In an almost impossible way, I managed to squeak and scream at the same time. “No! No, he didn’t leave a note!”

Honestly, I have no idea who else might have been in the room with the three of us. Bits and pieces of garbled voices and suppositions were hovering just outside of my tunneling-vision.

Time stopped long enough for me to realize this was exchange was going wrong, way too fast.

Using the same words I’d been using all morning,  I tried a little harder instinctively adding the universal double-handed hand signal signaling ‘no’.

“No. No.” I insisted, more firmly. “He’s… gone. He’s … (pointed silence)… Gone.”

The shock dropped her to her knees with a keening wail, and it occurred to me, I hadn’t done that. Surreall,y I internally questioned myself, “Why haven’t I done that?”

I don’t recall her rising from the floor, but she must have because I’ve heard the story of the revisory call.

That’s where this segment ends for me. I don’t know what my next move was, where I went or what I did. I skip through scenes.

None are cohesive, none are in real-time. It’s all a shattered photo bleeding from one puzzle piece to another. I cannot make them fit correctly.

Quote for the Week: 2019 12 10 It’s important to use the correct words jakorte

 

Repeat, Repeat …

My inquisitor and I ended up sitting almost knee-to-knee.

I was asked to recount the whole experience up until then. I tiredly, bare-bones explained the events of the night before and the morning of.  I was asked a lot of clarifying questions.

I told him about sleeping on the couch, about the bacon and about Sadie sitting perfectly still.

When asked if I thought Jeff might have decided to overdose on purpose, I said, “No.”

“Maybe accidentally?” was the next suggestion.

“Absolutely not,” I insisted.

“Was he depressed?”

My hesitant answer was yes, but that Jeff was taking medication to help with that.

We spoke for a while about how Jeff felt awful he couldn’t work. How he hated saying he was on disability. How he meticulously filled his tackle bait box to avoid any over or under medication misses.

How he was doing less of the things he enjoyed. But, also about the way he rose each morning, verbally thanking God for another day. And how he repeated the sentiments aloud each evening, saying it had been a good day to be alive.

Then, we went back to the sequence of events.

I explained again what had happened.

There were questions about what time it might have been at certain points and when Jeff last took meds.

I guesstimated on the times and had no idea about the drugs. I learned later, Jeff’s estimated time of death coincided with Sadie’s signals.

What I find odd now, is that I really don’t remember Jeff taking pills. I can’t even picture it in my mind. I obviously recall the medication box and the myriad of reminders I arranged to be sure his meds were taken. To-do lists, email, phone calls.

Insulin was occasionally out in the open. Sometimes right before going into a restaurant, sometimes at a restaurant table, but rarely at home.

I suppose Jeff may have been discreet for my sake. Likely, though, it was more for Jeff’s sake – so he didn’t have to listen to my objections about his self-administering through the leg of his jeans or through the middle of his T-shirt.

It was commented more than once, that they would be able to tell by the pill count if he might have overdosed.

I repeated, “Absolutely not.” More than once, as well.

Then, came the canned movie line. If I thought of anything else that might help, I should call the number on the card I was handed.

I took the end of the interview as a sign that it was settled; that he finally believed me.

Jeff would never do that.

Quote for the Week: 2019 11 26 There are times when it is appropriate to be thankful jakorte