Two weeks ago was a bad week at the group for me. I had not anticipated it at all. We had homework, which was to basically describe our spouse to let the group know more about them. Also, we could bring in pictures and/or something that they loved. We had specific questions to answer such as what roles we each played in the relationship, what influenced us, what irritated us, etc... When we first got the assignment I thought, easy, piece of cake. I left it til last minute because I was sick that week. Well, not really, I probably still would have left it til last minute because that's just what I usually do. So Thursday afternoon, I sat down, wrote my stuff, printed it out and figured I'd just use some pictures I had in my car.
When it was my turn to go, all of a sudden I looked at my paper and I did not get through the first sentence without my voice cracking. Two sentences in and the facilitator asked me if I wanted someone else to read it for me. "No", I said, "I can do it if you just bear with me". Every word was a struggle to get out. I couldn't believe I was literally falling apart in this room under these conditions. It was awful. The stuff I was reading was just typical Joe, typical stuff about him and nothing new or earth shattering that I haven't thought/said a million times before.
At this point I pretty much chalk the whole scene up to the end of a stressful week full of sick kids, sick me, tiredness and the aching feeling that my husband never walks through the door. You'd think that at this point I'd be used to it. Sometimes I think, God, it's been so long, shouldn't this be easier by now? I think about myself and how I handle things, how I handle my life now, living alone, being a single mother, grieving, trying to think about a future, trying to hold onto the moment, trying to make sense of everything and I still just can't.
None of it still makes sense to me. Will it ever?
My husband, Joe, was the most ALIVE person I know. When I look at pictures of him, I think, my God, he was so ALIVE. He was unafraid of the world and curious about everything around him. He loved to try new things. He was a person who sought out a thrill. He flew airplanes, he rode his motorcycle, he wakeboarded, snowboarded, and he played hockey his whole life. He was the person that, in a crowd would raise his hand high to volunteer for anything; and by the end of the act in which he volunteered for, he’d have the whole crowd cheering for him, whether they previously knew him or not. What made everyone love him was that he tried everything and he was never afraid to look like a fool. He was not a superstar, he was a regular guy, loving life.
My husband's love for living was thoroughly enjoyed by our children. He was their "yes” man. When he came home every night the first thing he did was hit the floor and start playing. He missed them while he was at work, and he couldn’t wait to get home to us. I don’t feel I have the words to adequately describe what kind of father he was, however, I often found myself thinking how lucky they were to have him as a father and wondered from the time they were babies what kind of people they would grow up to be with him as their dad.
My husband was a hard worker but left his work at the door. He rarely came home in a bad mood and I was always the one to initiate conversation about the details of the company. It’s not that he didn’t want to talk about it, he’d just rather be talking and thinking about things that he enjoyed more. With the business, he always seemed to feel that everything would work out in the end, and it always did for him.
My husband was very loving towards me. We were together 12 years, married for 4 days short of 7. He used to look in my eyes and thank me for our children. He told me he loved me all the time. He appreciated me and the sacrifices I made to stop working while our kids were young. After we had children he used to insist on us going away together on little mini-trips to spend time alone. Even when we it wasn’t convenient and would have been easier to just stay home. When he died we were in one of the closest, most loving, wonderful periods in all of our years together.
My husband was extremely generous. If someone needed help with something they always seemed to ask Joe. And he always complied if at all possible. He liked the connections he made working with people and he had many, many friends. When our niece relapsed with Leukemia at age 4 it was devastating for our whole family. Joe and I pulled together and did some pretty amazing things during that time. He wanted to begin a charity motorcycle ride to help his sister’s family and also other families in similar situations. We worked hard on that project together and we raised thousands of dollars for families in need. It was a project that was close to his heart and he did it in an extremely selfless manner.
My husband was not perfect. On a Saturday morning, more often than not, somehow he would be the one to sleep in while I would get up with the kids. Somehow he didn’t hear them. That irritated me sometimes. Since I took care of the finances in the family, there were some times when he would literally stand over my shoulder, looking at my spreadsheet of bills and ask me “where all the money went”. That made me crazy, which brings me to the next thing, which was that he always wanted something MORE. He would talk about things…..Lets get a boat, a camp, new snowmobiles, a sportscar, and it drove me crazy. My husband provided well for us financially and we lived comfortably and our future was bright, but money only goes so far. When I tried to tell him this, instead of saying “Okay, we don’t need that”, his answer was “I’ll make more money”. Looking back on it, that answer just fit his lifestyle of not wanting to be held back from living. I always looked at it as being too materialisitic. He kept us moving forward though, and I kept us grounded and appreciating what we had.
My husband’s role could be characterized in a word as FUN and my role would be characterized as PRACTICAL. He was such a big picture type of thinker and I would tend to the details. He would have the idea and I would make it happen. He provided financially for our family, and I took care of the house and everything in it. I have always done all the painting, shoveling, roofraking and hiring of contractors when in need around our house which I think helped the changeover to widowhood a little less stressful for me. There were three things that Joe regularly did pertaining to the house—he mowed the lawn….he went to the dump on the weekend…and he carried the laundry up the stairs. At some point a few months after he died, I tackled my "phobia" of the dump and it is now something that I actually enjoy doing most weekends (don’t ask me how that’s possible). I also now like to cut the grass and finally understand his obsession with keeping it the right length. But every time I carry a heavy basket of laundry up the stairs I think of him and miss him. It's the little things that hurt. The things that seem stupid to even mention.