Friday, January 6, 2017

Ready or Not, Here We Go

Today, as I write, December 29, 2016, at 2:20 pm PST, my husband Rick will be gone exactly three years.
Each anniversary is different. The first year I was steeped in my grief. The second year surprised me by unexpectedly not being so sad. This year I am called to solemn contemplation of Rick’s death and the life I am building without him.
He is physically gone, but lives on in my heart and memory, and in the hearts and memories of the many people who knew and loved him. He was a musician, a cartoonist, a true friend. He was funny, and ribald, and angry, and wise, and loving.
He worked on island water systems for almost forty years. By the end of his life he was digging up pipes he’d put in during the seventies when he worked for Mr. Mukai. He was completely dedicated to bringing people safe drinking water.
When you marry someone, you vow to stay with them until “death do you part.” How lightly we say those vows on happy wedding days. We were married a little over thirty-four years and I ended up thinking that happily ever after sure didn’t last as long as I thought it would. So many of us spent our youthful energy and purpose looking for true love, as if that was life’s main goal. Turns out it isn’t.
True love is a great thing, a wonderful thing, an extremely challenging thing. It is a great blessing to live with your one true friend.
Living with another human being will stretch you in ways you could never imagine in your youthful flailing toward your destiny. No one else (except your children) could make you feel so happy, or so angry. Sometimes you feel the intense gratitude of having met your match. Sometimes (rarely, thank the Lord) you wish you’d never met them, or their family, or their family’s dog. That’s all part of marriage, or lifetime partnership or friendship, or whatever label you use. Living with humans is hard.
So I spent my twenties looking for my partner, and now he’s gone. So now what? For the first year or more I was so lost in grief I couldn’t even ask that question.
But now, three years down the road, the answer for me seems to be playing and singing music, and writing. These are the things to which I have always returned, the steady threads and colors of the fabric of my life.
I’m not looking for a new partner. After spending so much of my adult life looking for love and then living out the results of finding it, I am on my own. I have no wish to be a caregiver again, or to saddle some nice person with being my caregiver. My children are grown up and living their busy adult lives. My grandson is on his way to adulthood. I have time to reflect on who I am alone. I am not an extension of or corollary to someone else.
The kids came home for Christmas, and that was lovely. We had a quiet weekend hanging out together. Before they came I meant to clean the house a bit, but I got that cold that was going around, and that flattened me.
An old friend from college days once said to me, “House cleaning has never been your long suit.” Hah. That’s an understatement.
So I looked at the mess and thought, at my age, am I going to change and suddenly become tidy? I don’t think so. I think this is it. I’ve felt such shame about my messy house, but you know what? It’s my mess, and I’m at home in it. It will be hard acquiring the habit of accepting who I am, who I have always been, and how I have always behaved, but I don’t know how much time I have left, and I don’t want to spend that time busting myself for something I am not even interested in taking the time or energy to change.
And if you want to live with me, and you don’t like the mess, you’d better bring the money to pay for a cleaning service when you come. If you are a tidy soul, God bless you. I envy you and wish I was more like you, but I’m not.
My calling in life now is to love the people I love, and sing songs, and write songs and essays. That seems to be who I am without Rick. I’m okay at those things, and I’m okay with spending the rest of my life trying to get better at those things.
So happy new year, friends, and courage as we go into the uncertain future. We’re going together, ready or not.


Colin said...

Isn't it momentous how the phases of grief for the love of your life change with time? It is two years since I lost my wife. The first anniversary weighed so heavily on my heart that I wept. Hopefully, I will reach a point of enjoying life, acceptance and strength.

Colin @ Remarkable Clean

Mike Yates said...

My name is Mike Yates and I am a Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veteran who has both Prostate and Thyroid Cancer. You may know that Prostate Cancer is related to Agent Orange Exposure and there is now evidence that Thyroid Cancer may be related.
I know the leaders in both House of CONGRESS do support SOME Veterans bills BUT when it comes to Bills related to Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans they stay away from them. You can see this in the past two Session of Congress. We have had HR543 in the 113th Session and HR969 in the 114th Session of Congress. In both you had a large number of Co-Sponsors but the Leadership would not bring the Bills to the Floor for a vote.There were always a number of reason why they wouldn’t bring it to the floor but mostly it was due to the cost.
Now to me it is funny that when it comes to supporting the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans they can’t find the money, BUT if it was for other Countries including Vietnam for the cleanup of Agent Orange they can find the money (Public Law No: 114-113). This was a Country we were at war with and we can find the money to clean up up the Toxins in Vietnam but not the funds to help the Veterans that served off the coast of that Country. (
It surprises me that people actually believe that the US Navy Ships that served off the Coast of Vietnam could not of been affected by Agent Orange. Agent Orange did not stop at the water's edge. By ways of the Rivers and Streams Agent Orange flowed into the Gulf of Tonkin where the ships were providing support to the ground troops. The US Navy ships would bring on water that was distilled and filter so that the sailors could have water to drink, cook, bathe, and all the other normal things that water is used for. During this process distillation of the water the dioxins in the water was actually enhance by a factor up to ten times the amount instead of being removed. So actually the Sailors off the coast of Vietnam received a larger dose of Dioxins than their brothers who serve “Boots on the Ground” in Vietnam.
So please support help us get the word out about HR299 & S422 The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act and let the Veterans Administration know that the Congress supports Veterans and they would like to fix the error that a General Consul of the VA started in 2002 when they charged the rules and no longer allowed Blue Water Navy Veterans file for Agent Orange claims.
Public Law No: 102-86 Agent Orange Act of 1991

Thank you for your time.

Mike Yates
Blue Water Navy Awareness on Facebook

John Rossie said...

Mary, Thank you for staying with Rick through his ordeal... your ordeal. We are still trying to save whoever is left!
John Rossie