I didn’t have to use my AK

I got to say it was a good day.

I mean not awesome. Good is definitely on a scale. But from devastated over the weekend to living is ‘good’.

I opened my laptop and worked. I cleaned. I made dinner. My laundry is done. I hung out on the couch with the kids instead of hiding in my room. I don’t think a single tear fell.

I guess that’s how ‘good’ is defined. I’ll take it.

The kids and I planned for our F You Holidays Thanksgiving festivities. I’ll post more about that later.

We’re also thinking of doing a Christmas card after all. I’m thinking it will be the five of us flipping of ‘2018’. Still trying to decide.

When I thought about Christine I thought of good times.

When we were in Norway I left the bathroom with wet hands and brushed her cheek.

Me: I forgot to wipe.

I stopped when I realized I was supposed to say ‘I forgot to wash’.

She lost it. I lost it. Another one of those times our sides hurt from laughing so hard.

Christine was never more beautiful than when she was laughing.

One morning we got ready and left the apartment we were renting. We got to a nearby Church that was supposed have some cool art.

She looked at me.

Christine: WTF happened to your hair?

I had out some product in my hair and gotten it all the way through but didn’t style it so it was all sticking straight up. I went to fix it.

Christine: Wait wait. I need a picture first. What a dumbass.

More laughing. We did that so often.

That’s about all I’ve got.

I got to say it was a ‘good’ day.

Inspiration

I never listened to music much. I don’t hate music or anything. I just rarely played music for myself when I was alone.

Christine, on the other hand, loved music. She loved to sing songs in the car, listen to music on her headphones, blast something while we were cleaning.

When she left the silence was deafening (cliche alert).

So I’ve started to listen to music. A lot. It’s always playing. I dance to it, sing to it, travel to it. It’s become my constant companion. It’s a way I keep her close.

Some of the music is upbeat. I’ve listened to a lot of Queen lately. And alternative. And pretty much anything people suggest to me.

Some of the music is sad. I hear things that remind me of her in so many lyrics.

Yesterday someone suggested I listen to a song called ‘If We Were Vampires’ by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit.

I had been suffering from a condition I’ve termed ‘crystipation’. I felt absolutely dead inside after burying Christine. So profoundly sad. Deep, horrible longing. I was too sad to do anything, let alone cry. Just existing in void.

Then I listened to this song and it dropped me. In a good way. The emotions that had fled into nothing came back. I was hurting, but I was alive.

They’re singing about how if lovers lived forever the moments wouldn’t matter. How immortality would lead to indifference, but because we have such a short time together we have to cherish every moment with the person we love.

‘Maybe time running out is a gift
I’ll work hard ’til the end of my shift
And give you every second I can find
And hope it isn’t me who’s left behind

It’s knowing that this can’t go on forever
Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone’

It really struck me then. Every marriage is intended to end this way, with one person left behind, longing for the other.

Kind of fucked up, right? We do this knowing the outcome is sorrow.

Why? Why would we set ourselves up for this?

Because the moments we get to have before are worth the pain at the end.

The misery comes, but it’s a divine misery. It’s so hard, and so painful and so awful because what we had was so perfectly beautiful.

That doesn’t exactly give me solace. I’m not cured. But it is helping me hold her tighter, us tighter. All the best parts of us.

And then something else happened. I’m part of this group on Facebook made up entirely of ‘wids’. It’s a terrible club to be a part of, and I’ve come to need these people, none of whom I’ve ever met.

They talk about the person they lost, their recovery. They have some of the darkest humor I’ve ever witnessed.

One woman posted a long explanation of her beliefs about afterlife, and how thankful she was for her person. How before he left us he saved her.

Christine: I need you to save me.

She said that so often in our 18 years together. And I would. I’d stretch, I’d take a breath, and I’d carry more.

As weak as I can be, I was her strength in so many of those dark moments.

‘It’s knowing that this can’t go on forever
Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone’

I realized it had to be me. She couldn’t have done this.

Yes, we should have had so much more time together. So many more of those moments to cherish. So many more times laughing together, crying together. Being together.

But one of us had to go first and it had to be her. It’s the last gift I gave her. To be here when she’s gone.

So I stretch, I take a breath, and I carry more.

Musical Interlude – Happier, Bastille and Marshmello

Hey Babe,

Yesterday was so much harder that I thought it would be. It’s like I lost you all over again. It’s all so raw and painful right now. So final.

I’m empty. I’m totally destroyed. I really don’t think I can do this without you. There’s all these people reaching out to me and offering to be there but it isn’t enough. It doesn’t lift any of the pain. There’s no respite.

I’m just sitting here totally dead.

I can’t stop thinking about you. About how much you must have hurt.

That’s why I chose that song. Happier. It isn’t a happy song. It’s someone telling a person they love that they love them so much they have to leave. That they have to go away so their beloved can finally be happy.

Every time I hear it I cry. And it’s every where.

I imagine this is what you thought. That last night when you were all alone.

Know that means I’ll have to leave
Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been thinking
I want you to be happier, I want you to be happier
So I’ll go, I’ll go
I will go, go, go
So I’ll go, I’ll go
I will go, go, go
Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been thinking
I want you to be happier, I want you to be happier
Even though I might not like this
I think that you’ll be happier, I want you to be happier
I think it’s what you thought. I think you were being selfless. The ultimate sacrifice for me. I think you were trying to save me from you.
You must have been so alone. So horribly sad. So totally destroyed. I wish I had been there for you, to tell you again that you’re the reason I live.
And babe, you were so totally wrong. It is so much worse without you.
I don’t know if I can make it. I don’t think I can do this.
I’m not strong enough. I’m so very weak. I need you. There’s no way to replace this. It’s just emptiness. An open wound. A bottomless pit. A void.
An absolute absence.
Great pain is repetitive. Grief is repetitive. Sherman Alexie wrote that. It’s perfect in the most horrible way.

I can’t believe how much I hurt. How dark it all is. The pain is unbearable. There’s no escape.

I thought it was getting better and now it’s so much worse. I am totally alone without you. Incomplete. Broken. I need you.

I am so sorry.

I love you.

Requiem

Hey Babe,

We’re having your graveside service today. It’s going to be a very small group, just family. I don’t think we’ll do much. Everyone is coming over to the new house afterwards for a small reception. I got all the food from Costco. No pinwheels. You hated those so much.

I also finally picked up your ashes yesterday, the ones we’re not burying. I put a little aside for each of the kids, some for me for a tattoo (I’m getting the Tlingit love birds one you wanted so much), and then we’re going to spread the rest in Dingle. I hope that’s the right place. You always said ‘My heart belongs in Dingle’. That was my favorite day with you.

Right now you’re sitting on the nightstand on your side of the bed. It’s weird.

I realized yesterday that I haven’t done much to tell your story. Not with this blog or anywhere else really. I’m sorry. You were right, by the way. I am selfish. Or actually thoughtless.

I’m not selfish. If someone asks me for something I give. I do a crappy job of thinking about other people though. I need someone to tell me to think about them.

Just like how all I talk about is how much I hurt but I don’t talk about you. I’m so sorry I didn’t listen to you more.

I’m going to try and tell your story. I’m sure I’ll forget stuff. I’ll probably tell people some stuff you wouldn’t want them to know. Sorry in advance.

OK, here goes.

Christine was born in Sitka, AK. When you live in SE Alaska and you’re on Native healthcare you have to go where the facilities are. In her mom’s case that meant travel from Petersburg to Sitka.

She grew up in Petersburg (with a short 6 month stay in Skagway). They lived in a trailer, mostly because they had to rely only on her mom’s salary because her dad just isn’t a good guy. In fact, he’s terrible. He’s a monster.

This overshadowed her life. It would anyone’s, but in her case she grew up very mistrustful of people. She was always looking for hidden motives and rarely believed people had her best interest at heart.

However, she did have some people in her life that loved her a lot. Her mom and grandfather were on team Christine from the beginning.

She was a pretty girl and had a lot of neighborhood friends. She wasn’t much of a student.

She was also fiercely proud of the fact that she started commercial fishing when she was in 2nd grade and would regularly bring it up when people were complaining about how hard life is.

As she got older she became sadder, and with that came weight gain, and with weight gain came more sadness.

Kids were cruel to her. She was a Native girl in a town populated by Norwegians, some of them incredibly racist. There were times she wasn’t allowed in homes of her friends because she was ‘dirty’. They also picked on her because of her weight.

Kid: Tubby tubby, 2 x 4, grease your hips to get through the door

She told me that story many times.

Her father never paid her for fishing so she started working when she was 14 at the local Trading Union. She also worked at a pizza place making desserts and espresso.

Sadness was a regular part of her youth. She talked about it a lot. She also talked about how her grandfather and mother protected her from her dad. They were bright spots in a dark world.

Christine graduated when she was 17 and moved to Washington to attend beauty school. When she got here she found out that the world was a much bigger place and that people liked her and her sense of humor. She started going to clubs and got into the rave scene. She lost a lot of weight.

She met a guy in the navy, a pretty terrible person who treated her like crap. Because of her feelings about herself she didn’t think she could do better and stuck with this guy for a lot longer than she should. He was the only person she ever dated besides me.

School didn’t last long, one quarter. Christine found jobs to keep her apartment, eventually landing a sales job at Tiny Computers. She was told by her manager that her job was to stand at the front of the store and look pretty to draw people in and then he’d sell the computer and give her credit.

That manager eventually left and she learned to sell on her own. She was promoted to Lead Sales, similar to an Assistant Manager role. The new job was at the showroom where I worked. We both applied and she got it.

I hated her instantly. I was also incredibly attracted to her.

After a few days of bullying from me Christine pulled me outside and asked me what my problem was. This little 19 year old woman got in my face. I apologized and we became friends. And then more than friends.

She later told me she couldn’t believe how long it took me to ask her out. She would do things like lean over me so that her breasts would push against my arm, laugh at my jokes when they weren’t funny and get into things she knew I had interest in.

I wanted to ask her out very badly. I had talked to a friend shortly after meeting her,

Me: She bleeds sexuality

I was scared. She was super intimidating.

I finally asked her to come over and cut my hair. She agreed. I asked for frosted tips. It was 2000. Don’t judge.

We kissed that night. She slept next to me on my twin mattress, both awkwardly fully clothed.

And we never looked back.

I’m pretty sure Christine got pregnant the first time we had sex. I asked her to marry me a couple months after that.

I used a $2 ring I bought at a stand in the mall.

She said yes.

These things never work. She was 19. I was 21. It was doomed. But we did it.

I was upset with her for getting pregnant. I was not nice.

She planned a trip home after K was born.

Christine: How long should I stay?

Me: I don’t care

And then something happened. We fell in love.

No that’s not right. She loved me. I fell madly deeply in love with her. It was a holiday weekend. Labor Day? I don’t know for sure.

We had such loud sex the cops were called. That’s pretty personal but it’s a great story.

It was HOT. The windows were open. When we were done-

Cops: Renton PD. We need you to keep it down. We’ve had several noise complaints.

How long had they been standing there listening? We laughed uncontrollably.

K was born.

Two weeks later we were married at the Issaquah courthouse in front of my parents and her mom.

She took that trip back to Alaska. I missed her so much. Every minute.

I’m making this about me again.

She tried to be a good mom. I was out of work and staying home with K. She worked everyday and brought in all of the money.

I got a job. We found a place to rent. She worked delivering papers in the middle of the night so K didn’t need daycare.

Her grandfather’s health was failing. She wanted to be around him. I wanted an adventure. We decided to move to Alaska.

We struggled at first. The child support for B was crippling. Christine worked hard. First at a bank, then at the assisted living facility. I did better. We bought a house ‘out the road’. The property touched the ocean. It was ours.

I started traveling for work. Her depression got worse. Then she started taking medication. The medication made her not care about anything. I’d get home and find out K hadn’t been to school while I was gone.

We wanted another kid. It was her dream. We tried and tried but found out she had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. This meant she should not be able to get pregnant. And then she did.

T was born. Christine held her every minute she could. All the time. Even the slightest noise from T and Christine would pick her up and hold her close.

She also wanted a boy.

Me: I don’t want to have any kids after I turn 30

She took that as a challenge.

E was born 12 months and two weeks after T.

We had a full family. She had the family she always wanted.

I lost my job. We moved back to Seattle.

Christine wanted to chase her dream of being a hairdresser. We didn’t have the resources to put her through school but we did it anyways. I always gave her anything she asked for. Absolutely anything.

She finished school and went to work. Six months in she was a salon manager. Six months after that she was running 6 stores.

I am so impressed by her. I don’t remember all of the steps of her career through the years but she just went for it. She was the first person in her family to get promoted. And she just kept doing it.

Her hands started to hurt from cutting hair and she wanted to quit. She also wanted weight loss surgery. We were in a position to do it. We had to work hard for six months to prove she cared enough to do it. She was in the gym 3-4 times a week. She changed her diet. Like always, she worked her ass off.

The surgery was scary. It isn’t a small one. I walked six miles while I waited to hear how it went. The doctor came out and told me it went well.

The weight fell off. She was so happy. She was so so happy. Everything was perfect.

We bought a house. We loved more. We loved so hard.

It was all so good.

And then it wasn’t. Christine started to get jealous. She thought I was having an affair. She was convinced.

I wasn’t. Just so everyone knows. But she was sure.

I stopped talking to anyone from work outside of work hours. I did everything I could to prove to her I was only into her. But it didn’t go away.

She got a new job. It was a temp position. Then it was permanent. Then she got promoted.

She was insanely popular at work. Everyone loved her so much. It’s not hard to understand why.

At home the fights came more frequently. She would get so mad at me. Anything could lead to it. She would bring up things from 5, 10, 15 years before.

She started cutting people from her life. One slight and they were gone. It kept getting worse.

She started telling me the same thing.

Christine: I want you to find someone else. Why won’t you just find someone to make you happy?

She didn’t believe the person I loved more than anything else in the world was her. She hated herself. It got worse.

When she got mad she would leave. She would sleep in the car. She would go to the bar. She would buy wine and just drink. So much.

She started hiding her drinking from me. I would find airline bottles and boxes of wine hidden all over the place.

And then Norway. We agreed she would seek help when we got home. She pleaded with me to sit in her sessions because she said she would lie otherwise. It was all set.

And then she didn’t make it home.

Christine was passionate. She cared so much. She wanted the world to be how it should. She was furious it wasn’t that way.

Christine was popular. Everyone gravitated to her. She was magnetic. She made you want her to be your friend.

Christine was funny. No, she was hilarious. I’ve never met a person I could laugh harder with. I’ve never met someone who always made me laugh. We spent so many moments in time crying because we couldn’t stop laughing. Bent over, doubled over. Painful laughing.

Christine was loving. She cared so much for our kids. It broke her heart when B was hurting so far away. She would defend me and the kids against everything and everyone. She always took our side.

Christine was beautiful. She was beautiful before her surgery. She never believed that I could love her and find her beautiful. She has always been the most gorgeous woman I’ve ever met.

Christine was smart. She succeeded when she should have failed. She was the most incredible person I’ve ever met.

Christine was broken. She thought in black and white, and the black kept taking more space.

Babe. I hope I did this right. I hope I told your story. I can’t include everything. I can’t expect people who didn’t know you to understand how incredible you were. You amazed me. You did what no one should have been able to do. You said ‘fuck it’ and just did it.

I miss you so much. The kids miss you so much.

Christine: I want you to find someone you can be happy with. Why won’t you find someone you can be happy with?

You are that person. I was so happy. I’m sorry I couldn’t make you understand that.

Babe, I loved you.

No.

I love you. You are everything to me. I would do anything to have one more minute with you. Sacrifice anything.

I’d tell you I’m sorry. I’d tell you you’re the best thing I ever had. I’d tell you you’re the best thing the world had.

You are my everything.

I hope you’re better now. I hope you’ve found the peace you couldn’t find.

I miss you so fucking much.

Literary Interlude – A Grief Observed, CS Lewis

“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything’

Several months ago an acquaintance recommended I read A Grief Observed by CS Lewis, a short collection of his thoughts in the time following the death of his wife. It sounded dry, dull and completely lacking in lions, witches and wardrobes. I put in on my mental bookshelf, doomed to collect dust until it eventually disappeared from my cluttered mind altogether.

However, recent events conspired to bring this work to the front of my mind, compelling me to seek out the original recommendation (I could only remember it as ‘The Book With Grief In The Title”) and procuring a download of the book two days ago.

I’ve read it twice.

There’s a lot to unpack, and it’s going to be a while before I’ve mentally and emotionally processed all of the thoughts and feelings surfaced while studying the text, but there are a few items that struck an immediate chord.

CS Lewis took a pilgrimage shortly after the passing of his wife, ‘H’. Similar to my time in Ireland, he visited places important to them in life. His discovery, however was that she wasn’t any less absent in those locations than she was anywhere else.

In my race to escape Christine I avoided reminders of her. I went out of my way to avoid anything that would trigger feelings, thoughts and especially emotions related to her being gone.

But the thing is, it didn’t work. No matter what lengths I went to, she was always there. Or rather, she wasn’t there and her constant absence was a reason to remember her.

On the other hand, trying to escape her brought on anxiety and increased the impact of the PTSD I’ve been suffering from. The more I tried to avoid feeling the loss the more I was reminded of it.

I was in a state of near panic constantly.

Now, after finally facing my greatest fear and embracing Christine I have realized something else. She is absolutely everywhere. She is in everything I see, everything I do. There are reminders of her and us. It can be beautiful.

Sometimes.

However, as the above quote continues, there is one place she isn’t present in a way that is acute and jagged.

“But no, that is not quite accurate. There is one place where her absence comes locally home to me, and it is a place I can’t avoid. I mean my own body. It had such a different importance while it was the body of H.’s lover. Now it’s like an empty house.”

I may be at the very beginning of learning to live without my beautiful, passionate, magnetic, vibrant, broken, beloved wife, but can I be whole again?

‘It will get better’

Will it? Should it? Lewis compares sharing this statement with a widower to sharing the same sentiment with an amputee, which seems to be the perfect example.

‘The leg you’ve lost will get better’

In one sense, yes. The wound will heal. An amputee will learn to become more ambulatory. Prosthetics will assist even more. You will live, and in time your life will be better than it was just after losing a limb.

But the limb will always be missing.

In the same way, I don’t believe I will ever be whole again. Not like I was with Christine.

Will I live? Yes. Will it get better? Of course. Could I meet someone and fall desperately in love with them? Yes. It’s entirely possible.

But I can’t imagine ever being whole again. Not all the way. There will always be a piece of me that is absent and can never be replaced.

And as much as it hurts, as painful as it is, maybe it’s also OK.

Maybe it’s right to let her have that part of me.

Hiding

Throughout all of these bad choices I’d been procrastinating my way through some things only I could do, mostly bringing Christine home.

All of this is going to get somewhat graphic. It’s hard to write about. I’m sorry if it’s hard to read. I want you all to know some of the external things that led to my need to escape the emotional roller coaster I was riding. This isn’t an excuse, not at all, but it is a reason.

Any suicide in Norway must undergo an autopsy. During the first week, when I was struggling through putting shoes on, I knew my wife was halfway around the world preparing to be… to be autopsied.

Correction. My wife’s body. I know she’s gone. But it was still terrible to think of. Her, going through this all alone. It’s still terrible to think of.

After the procedure was done I had to release her body to a funeral home for preparation to return to the states. The police helped me find one that would work with someone in the US. Then a couple weeks of back and forth as we worked out details.

Did I want her cremated? This was so hard for me. We had talked about cremation but I couldn’t remember for sure what she wanted. Also, if she was cremated in Norway I would never get to see her face again. This killed me. I would never see her again.

I finally decided to go with cremation but I asked them to send me a picture first. Just to see her one last time.

Them: We will do that, but I warn you, it isn’t like the US.

I received the email and opened the attachment. There she was. Kind of. She was wearing a white dress and her hair was spread out on a pillow. It looked thin and unkempt. Her mouth was slack and I could see her teeth through her lips.

It was terrible. This was the final proof Christine was gone, that she wouldn’t jump out from around a corner at any moment and shout ‘Surprise!’. She looked so lifeless. So totally opposite of the girl I knew. That passionate, beautiful, girl I loved so deeply and missed so much. I will never share that picture with another person. It isn’t her.

At the same time I had to take care of a lot of things that required a certificate of death, something I couldn’t get. I had to work with the American embassy in Norway to get a Certificate of Death Abroad. They were very nice.

Them: First, let me just tell you on behalf of the United States of America we’re sorry for your loss.

Thanks?

Then they told me it would take 8 weeks to get the certificates that were holding up closure on so many things. There’s still a lot of these things I haven’t taken care of.

I needed to figure out transportation for her remains and her belongings. They still had her phone and iPad and of course her wedding ring.

I wanted those pictures, those potential pictures from her phone. I had no idea what was on it, but I hoped it was something. You see, after she left me I spent hours obsessively looking at our pictures. Something I quickly discovered… I had no video of her. Or at least very little. I didn’t have many voice recordings. I’d deleted almost all of my voicemails. Why in the hell did I do that?

There were a couple recordings left that had somehow avoided the purge. One was her yelling at me, mid fight. Another was this:

Christine: Hey honey, I just wanted to say hi and that I love you and miss you and I hope you had a good flight annnnd hope I get to talk to you at some point. You can call me no matter how late it is just to say hi. Alright. Hope to talk to you later. Love you, bye.

I listened to this message obsessively, over and over and over again. It was one of the few places I could hear her voice and the only place I could hear her say she loved me.

So I hope this helps you understand where I was during all this. Not just facing grief, sadness, loneliness but also the horror (in my mind) of the manner of my wife’s death and being forced to face it every moment as I worked to bring her home.

This is when I really began hiding myself from Christine. Putting her in box to be taken out only when I needed something from her. Dehumanizing her, turning her memory into happy pictures and loving voicemails. Making her what I needed her to be.

It’s when I convinced myself it was OK to talk to other women. It would be fine, I was ready. Besides, Christine left me. Left me with a gaping wound and I needed someone to fill it.

This is where the first girl came in. As mentioned in the previous post we had been texting each other on a regular basis.

She messaged me at one point asking to facetime with me.

Her: OK, I just had to make sure you were real, not some weirdo that doesn’t look like their pictures.

She hung up. She was pretty. It was cute and funny.

We talked for a few more days. Now we were calling each other every night.

I hate talking to people on the phone as a rule, but during those few minutes each day I had someone. I could just talk. I mean, sure, she only wanted to talk about herself and the clothes she bought, but someone was talking to me.

She said she wanted to come up to Seattle and visit. We made some plans.

We spent a weekend together. I took her to a restaurant that was supposed to be awesome. She was wearing a small, tight red dress and tall heels and looked good. Really good.

Quick sidebar: I’m just a little bit pretentious. I like to dissect meals and talk about the food, both good and bad and everything I’d do to improve it. I also like to enjoy wine and be a bit of a D bag and swish it in my glass and pretend I know anything at all about what I’m drinking.

This girl didn’t do that at all. She was just… unrefined.

I know I sound like an asshole. Unrefined is OK. I’m not a super classy guy by any means and Christine was probably the most off color person I’ll ever meet, but we watched tons of Food Network and learned to cook together. We had so much fun diving into the ups and downs of every meal. It was a thing. This girl wasn’t Christine (#shocking).

This girl? No. She just wanted to talk about buying stuff. Her closet was so full she couldn’t fit anything else into it. She owned $800 shoes she had never worn outside. She liked to vacuum in her mink coat and wear those shoes around.

At the end of our weekend together she told me she liked me. I told her I liked her. We agreed to spend more time together but it would have to be weeks in the future. I was busy with kids and trips and couldn’t drop all that stuff and take weekends away. She was disappointed but said she understood.

We kept talking at night. Now she was making plans for the future. She would look for jobs in Seattle, move in with me, she wouldn’t date for more than a year without an engagement.

That came up a lot. She had never been married and really wanted that to change.

She pushed to come up again and see me. I relented, but it could only be for one day. I spent that time hearing about how my new house didn’t have enough room for her clothes and she would need the bonus room for additional storage.

There was a lot of communication between Christine and I during this time. Well, I talked to her a lot. I had come to the conclusion that this new woman was going to be a big part of my life because I needed someone and she was there. I was trying to convince my wife it was a good idea, which is ridiculous because Christine would have hated her.

We scheduled a third trip. Now she was talking wedding plans. Detailed wedding plans. Type of church, the service would be in Spanish, etc. I booked a trip to Hawaii for us a few months in the future. I was going all in.

In the days leading up to her next visit I realized something. I just didn’t really like spending time with her. I should be with my kids. Grieving with them. I didn’t have to marry anyone. Even if this is the last person to ever show interest in me (this is how I think) I didn’t have to be with them.

We still spent the day together and this only cemented my feelings. This person, while there was nothing wrong with her, was not for me. I needed to be with my children.

I told her this. I told her it wouldn’t work. She kept trying to contact me. Telling me she’d be in Seattle for the night or calling. She still reaches out to me today. I don’t respond anymore.

I felt somewhat renewed. I had purpose. I was going to be the best dad in the world and be there for my kids. This lasted a few days.

And then the loneliness set in again.

 

Bad Choices

I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about what happens next and totally avoiding it. It’s painful and it sucks. I’m also dreading facing some people after explaining what I’ve been up to. I hate being judged. I know I shouldn’t live my life worrying about how other people feel, but I do. It’s a thing.

My decision making was at an all time low. I was absolutely face down and it was easy to convince myself that bad choices made sense in this situation.

I walked to the corner bar every night. I made a rule with myself I wouldn’t drink at home unless there was someone to drink with, so instead I sat alone drinking Rainier and shots of Jameson. I’d drink until I could go one minute without thinking about Christine, then I’d make my way home and try to sleep.

One night I scared the shit out of K and B, stumbling into the house drunk at around 1am. They were up watching YouTube videos and I came into the living room and just collapsed on the floor, sobbing.

Me: I’m so alone. I’m so fucking alone. (Rinse and repeat for a half hour or so)

There’s that loneliness theme again.

They sat and watched me in silence, not knowing what to do. To their credit they never brought it up again. Neither did I.

As mentioned in a previous post, I returned to work. This was two weeks and two days after my wife passed away. I was desperately seeking something to keep my mind distracted so I went back as early as I could. I didn’t belong there and shouldn’t have returned when I did. Even trying to read a few emails took hours. I had to rely more than normal on my team to pick up the slack and I remained distant.

Upon my return I had a conversation with a leader in the organization who told me something that felt like being slapped across the face.

Her: I’m lucky that I’ve worked with someone who went through the same situation so I know how to respond to yours. The one thing they told me was they didn’t want to be treated any differently.

You’re so lucky.

I began having high visibility escalations assigned to me right away. This helped push Christine further down. A lot of work was coming home with me too, giving me the excuse I needed to disappear and avoid my kids.

Returning to my job so early, another bad choice.

Bad choice number three:

I was lying in bed one night feeling absolutely alone. I didn’t have anyone to talk to. Or rather, I didn’t have anyone I wanted to talk to. I didn’t have anyone to talk to like I could when I had Christine.

I probably scrolled through Facebook 10000 times over the previous weeks trying to distract myself. I had spent thousands of dollars on bullshit I didn’t need. I mean, I was buying a new house for no reason I could think of other than I didn’t want to be in our house anymore.

Sitting there, not wanting to feel, looking for anything to distract me from the pain (because that’s exactly what it is, pain) I opened the browser on my phone and clicked over to a dating site. It was OK to just look, right? I mean this is how people meet now so I was just checking out my future.

Then after a couple days of looking I downloaded the app. I put my info in. Just to see. Just to see if I could find someone to take the loneliness away.

I didn’t get a lot of attention, which might be normal, but it definitely played into the  insecurity issues I have. I dwell on not being loved or being lovable. I don’t much like myself and don’t understand how others could like me. I was going to die alone.

This is going to come up again in a future post.

I talked to a few women via the app, struggling to communicate in a strange new (to me) world. I hadn’t dated anyone in 18 years, almost half of my life, and I had zero idea what I was doing.

Then one night after a few weeks someone from hundreds of miles away ‘liked’ me. Then she sent me a message. She was pretty. We started chatting a little bit. Then we exchanged numbers because ‘texting is easier’.

I had someone to talk to. I wasn’t alone.

To be clear, the bad choice theme has nothing to do with the choices themselves, not exactly. They’re pretty bad, but they’re a symptom, not the illness. It’s all about the root cause, all about avoiding pain. It’s about trying to stay away from the feelings associated with losing my wife to suicide after 18 years together. It’s about stuffing this down so far, walling it off, hiding it from others and myself.

It’s about refusing to face the emotional consequence of her being gone forever and me having to learn to live without her.

Musical Interlude – Some Nights, Fun (Entire Album)

I’m still struggling with how to express what happened after the first few weeks. It’s been very difficult to use language to paint a picture in a fair and thoughtful way without just writing a stream of consciousness mess. I’m also not looking forward to sharing this part of my survivor’s journey. I’ll get there. Just give me some time.

I’ve been listening to Some Nights by Fun constantly over the past week. It’s a beautiful album that touches a lot on loss of a loved one (to break up in this case) and dealing with that loss. Every song resonates with me in some way, especially Carry On and One Foot.

I arrived home from Dublin yesterday afternoon just in time to watch T play soccer in driving rain. When we got back to the house I found it was a total wreck. The kids hadn’t cleaned after themselves and I was so disappointed I told the little ones to clean and locked myself in my room. Then K showed up. When I asked her to clean she pushed back saying she had done more than the other two.

Me: We’re a team, we need to work together.

K: But I do so much and you never recognize it.

Me: You all need to clean until it’s done.

K: Fine. I guess I’ll just keep doing everything.

There was some more back and forth.

And I just lost it. Totally lost it on all three of them. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t deal with the attitudes, the push back, the way they felt so entitled. Don’t they know what I’m going through?

Because it’s not like they’re dealing with the same stuff. So dumb. So shameful.

I went back into my room and slammed the door. I crashed onto the bed, furious at them and at myself. I fell into a fitful sleep, maybe 30 minutes. I awoke to E telling me they had finished. It was an admittedly halfway job, but I didn’t care anymore. It was time to apologize. I handed out the presents I bought in Ireland and we went out for Chinese. My fortune read ‘Your wish is about to come true’.

Before finally falling asleep I thought about the last week alone in Ireland and how I had acted when I got back. I thought about some changes I needed to make. I thought about what kind of parent I wanted to be. I told Christine how upset I was with her and then asked the question I have asked so many times.

Why? Why would you do this to me? It’s just so fucking unfair.

Then I fell asleep.

My phone read 6am when I woke. I had some renewed purpose and committed to a few things. First, it was time to stop drinking at home. I’d started breaking my rules over the previous months and was to the point where I was drinking to feel anything more than loss. I felt terrible every morning. I was in a bad mood all the time and I was constantly exhausted. It might even be time to stop drinking. We’ll see how it goes.

Next, I went to church. There’s a whole background with me and church a lot of people reading this don’t know. I might touch on it later, but short story is I hadn’t attended regularly for a long time. When I got there the parking lot was full and I walked in about 10 minutes late after finally finding a spot in the back 40.

They were playing a song with the line ‘Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God’. This is the hardest thing about the whole church thing for me right now. Basically, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU, GOD?

Faith has been very hard for me in general for a long time, and now this. I’m not finding any comfort. Nothing is getting better. Why would a loving God let something like this happen?

No response.

The pastor got up and started talking. They were doing a drive for money. Of course they were. I was getting ready to leave when they started talking about what they were going to do with the money. 100% of it was going to local, secular non-profits.

I had just been talking with someone whose opinion on the subject of church I respect very much. We had chatted about what the perfect one would look like. Two things we discussed related to money included open books and really giving, through works and cash, to the community. This place checked both boxes. I gave some money to the fund and told myself I’d come back next time I’m not traveling on Sunday.

Following church I went on another ‘saying goodbye’ pilgrimage, this time to a trail along the Cedar River we had walked together. On that day we wore our Norway waterproof clothing to test them out in the rain before our trip. My pants had failed the test, rain leaking into my pockets and drenching my underwear, making it look like I had wet myself. She laughed so hard at this.

We talked about a lot of things on our walk, her getting treatment when we return, spending more quality time with the kids, taking them on the same trail as a family activity. I thought about how none of those things happened and never would. I told her I missed her and that I wanted her there with me. I told her I wished I was holding her hand. And then for just a moment it felt like she was there and we were doing just that. I cried a lot. I said goodbye.

It was time for lunch so I stopped at Taco Time and ordered the same thing we always ordered, a taco salad with chicken. I wondered how many people have cried over a taco salad at Taco Time and laughed through my tears at the ridiculousness of the question.

K was working that day and T and E didn’t want to join me on my adventures, but I promised them a 1pm return to watch the Seahawks and Sounders. It was time to head home. We sat on the couch and watched both teams lose. Just another Sunday in rainy Seattle.

And then I had to do the final thing I’d put on my list for the day. I had to hang our family pictures.

I mentioned in another post I’d bought a new house to escape Christine. She was everywhere in the last place and I couldn’t handle seeing her around every corner. Since moving to the new home I’ve put off hanging our portraits. I didn’t want to see them. I didn’t want to see her. It was more reminder that she was gone forever and I’m without her. That I’m totally and completely alone.

So today I took some nails and a hammer and hung the pictures. I was teary eyed and sniffling the entire time, but I got through it.

And she’s finally part of our new home.

Time Passes, Time Stands Still

I need to get to the part where I start making bad choices. I will soon. But I feel like I need to fill in some pieces that happened before then. Shouldn’t take too long.

Things weren’t easy at home. We were all off. Way off. The kids and I stayed home from school and work. Each night I would put the little ones to bed and walk to the bar. I’d come home a couple hours later and lay in bed thinking and thinking and thinking until I’d enter some half sleep.

At the same time I could tell something was really bothering B. She kept blowing it off, saying everything is OK until one night she broke down.

B: Everyone is telling me ‘I’m so glad you could be here for your family, like I’m not here because I love Christine. Like it doesn’t count because she’s my stepmom’.

And she was so right. I hadn’t realized this was happening but it broke my heart to hear her say it. She hadn’t traveled from Montana to be here for us, she had traveled to grieve someone she loved very much. To top it all off, she was holding in some brutal guilt.

B: I looked up to her so much and I never told her.

These are the thoughts after an unexpected death that truly hurt the survivors, especially after suicide. Coulda, woulda shoulda. What if I had said this one thing? Would that have saved them? Was it my fault?

The house kept getting dirtier. The grass kept getting longer. Less envelopes arrived from distant family and friends.

We sat in the living room almost all day, not talking about Christine. We’d try and make small talk. When B and K get together they are savage and the playful, sarcastic insults were everywhere but we all knew it was a show. You could feel it in everything we did. She was missing.

We started looking for a new house. I couldn’t stay where I was. I needed out so badly. I had to get away. She was around every corner and wouldn’t leave me alone.

We found a home. I put an offer in.

I dreamed about her. A lot of the time we were fighting. Once she wanted a divorce. I felt so empty, just completely used up.

I went out with friends, I sat around the house. I avoided my kids because I couldn’t handle being around them. I didn’t know what to do or say.

Two weeks passed since she left. The kids and I returned to school and work. Nothing was the same. Nothing was normal. It was all just sadness, emptiness and loneliness.

I was so incredibly alone.

Coming Home

The week following my return home is a blur. It’s funny how the first 24 hours are so clear in my mind but everything after that is just a jumble. There are some milestones throughout the last five months but otherwise it’s just one big mess of thoughts, emotions, small victories and big mistakes.

I sent an email off to my work letting them know what was going on. Then I announced Christine’s passing on social media. The response was intense. My family and friends mobilized on my behalf, putting together a meal signup, creating a gofundme to help with immediate expenses, taking care of all the details of the service. B was able to get some time off and stay with us for the month.

No, that’s too fast of an explanation. There’s some things I need to touch on before continuing. First, and it’s so weird that this stands out so clearly, if you offer to bring a grieving family dinner, please, for the love of everything holy, do not bring them pasta. For days on end we had pasta delivered to us. Lasagna the first two nights, then some other random pasta, then pasta with shrimp two nights in a row. I’m sure this comes across as ungrateful to some but after the first couple nights we either went out to dinner or tore the delivered dinner apart. I took the shrimp out and made a frittata, I pulled the noodles out of the lasagna and fried what was left… Which was delicious, FYI.

It was also interesting to see the response from people. It’s amazing how many try to empathize by telling you their sad story. ‘My grandpa died’ ‘My sister died’ ‘My cousin died’ ‘I know someone from high school that took their own life’. Every one of these statements came from a distant family member, an acquaintance, a co-worker. Someone I wasn’t close to. Each time it was preceded or followed by ‘I know it’s not the same as what you’re going through’. And they were right. It isn’t the same. It’s not even fucking close.

Next thing I heard from the same group of people, ie., people I don’t know, was ‘let me know what I can do to help’. Can you invent a time machine? Bring my wife back to life? No? Then you can’t do anything. You’re worthless. Go away.

I know. That sounds cruel, but after the 300th time hearing this from some random person that went to school with Christine, that knew me from a previous job, that neither of us had ever met I just wanted to scream in their stupid faces that they didn’t matter. I didn’t of course. I told them all the same thing ‘thank you, I appreciate it’ and left it at that.

Look, I know there aren’t words to describe how you feel when you interact with someone in my situation. I get it. Maybe there aren’t words because all you’re supposed to say is ‘I’m sorry’.

The other thing that stands out is how many people I discovered really did care. Some of the people who took time out of their day to attend the service, deliver a meal (even if it was pasta), share a memory of Christine, surprised me. We weren’t close, but there was something about my/their/her relationship that compelled them to deliver comfort in a real way. These were coworkers, friends of friends, people I’ve played soccer with. They never asked me a damn thing, just let me know in the most gentle way that Christine and I are loved.

At the same time my closest friends stepped back from me. This isn’t because they’re cruel people, but because they know me the very best. Despite what I’m trying to do with this blog, I’m a generally a very private person. I don’t like people doing things for me, I don’t like asking for help. I do like time to think. These people knew this. They checked on me, they brought dinners (lasagna!), they made sure I knew I could talk to them, but for the most part they left me alone and for that I am eternally grateful.

My larger family began to get details together. They spoke to Christine’s work on my behalf about how to get life insurance and collect her things and claim her 401k (I still haven’t done this). My mom made lists of things she needed input on from me while trying to get the service put together. It’s amazing how overwhelming answering a single question can be. I’d look at this list and close the app, putting it off until later.

The gofundme my aunt had started was growing rapidly. This was weird to me. I didn’t need the money, and yet it kept coming. I think more than anything else this was a way for people who didn’t know what to do to help in some way. It’s appreciated, it was uncomfortable. We used the money to buy tickets to Disney World.

I spent days with my kids, or tried to. Nothing held my interest for long. I would try and watch TV, play a video game, read. Restlessness would overcome me and I’d usually end up in my bedroom because I didn’t know where else to be. Except at night. I stayed out of my bedroom at night for a week, until B arrived. I spent most of my thoughts on all the things I could have done differently. I could have been more kind, I could have called the police, I could have stopped her from walking out of that fucking hotel room. I barely slept at all.

I also started unpacking her luggage. This was a slow process, but one of the first things I found was her room key. Room 212. That’s where it happened. That’s where she spent her last hours. Just one floor away. Until that moment I hadn’t known where she went next, not for sure. She was so close to me. Why didn’t I go to the front desk and ask? Why didn’t I call down to be connected? Why did I just sit in my room, angrily hoping she would get her shit together and come back? I burned the key card.

The other thing I got from a lot of people during this time was ‘What happened?’. Well, for anyone reading this that is curious, she took her own life. I don’t care if you want closure, I don’t care if you want details, I don’t care at all how you feel and what you think you need. All you need to know is she was so sad, felt so terrible that she thought the world would be better without her. This bright, shiny, beautiful woman couldn’t recognize her worth and left us all. Don’t ever ask a suicide survivor ‘What happened?’. They’ll tell you if they want you to know.

Furthermore, at the time I had no idea. I didn’t want to know. She was my wife and she was gone. That was already more than enough for me to handle.

Concurrent to this I was working with Norwegian authorities to try and find out what the hell was happening with her remains and belongings (they wouldn’t release her phone and they still had any jewelry she was wearing). I won’t say I was very dogged in my work. It was exhausting. It could wait another day. Everything could.

T’s birthday was on Wednesday. The entire family came together. It was a huge turnout. I warned everyone beforehand this should be about T, not about Christine. We shouldn’t cry, we should celebrate my little daughter. It went well. Shockingly well. And then we got in the car and I handed T the last present she had asked me for. It was a picture of her and her mom together. She began crying immediately. ‘I miss her’.

Like I’ve mentioned, B showed up on Thursday. I also went out with friends that night. The first half went pretty well. I talked a little about the trip, we ignored the elephant in the room. Then it just all came out. We cried, we struggled through the night, we won a surprising amount of money playing pulltabs and they gave it to me so I could do something with the kids. Some woman in the bar thought we were speaking poorly of her gender and confronted us. I told her what we were talking about and she offered to take me home with her. I declined.

I don’t know what happened Friday. No recollection at all. I’m pretty sure it was more of the same cycle of guilt and sadness. I think I might have walked down to the bar.

Saturday came and we had her service. There was a slideshow. Some songs. T read her mother’s day card. E said some things. I choked my way through some words. People said nice things to me afterwards and hugged me. It was nice, it was awful.

We went to my mom’s house, just some family and our very closest friends. We drank, I got drunk. My friends gave me a ride home and we stood in front of my house drinking while I told them the story of Christine and I’s last night.

I went inside my house, fell into my bed and told Christine how much I missed her. Then I fell asleep and dreamed of her.