Friday, January 29, 2010

Love- Part lV

As a woman and wife I loved the sides of Joe that I wrote about in my previous 3 posts. However I know that was not the side of him that most people saw. I also loooooved the "public" Joe too, which was every bit as real:

The guy that watched sports in every season. Baseball all spring and summer. Football on Sundays. Hockey all winter. He participated in fantasy leagues and liked to do up the hype for any big sporting event as much as the next guy (yes, we were once those people who bought a big screen tv in preparation for a big game). He snowboarded, played hockey, ice fished, snowmobiled, wakeboarded, played wiffle ball and was out on the field to help with Luke's team when he played t-ball. In other words, if there was a game going on, he was in.

He drank beer most nights (though didn't get drunk most nights) and liked to fall asleep on the couch, remote in hand, tv on a sport-any sport- with his arms folded. His baseball hat would always end up pulled way down until it was covering his face.

He took on many projects around our house. He had no experience in carpentry but always felt like he could figure it out and get it done. He had a tool belt and loved tools. He built decks for us, railings, patios, on and on. None of it was perfect, yet now, all of it is perfect.

He loved to mow the grass slow while drinking a beer or two.

He loved attention. Before we ever had kids I spent many a night sitting on a couch somewhere watching him stand in front of me singing into a broom stick- pretending he was Eddie Vedder- or whoever he was feeling like. He was so funny. Many of you have seen him do this...YOU KNOW ITS TRUE!!!

He loved his motorcycle. As much as it hurts, riding that bike was a true love of his, a true joy. I saw it in him.

He laughed out loud when he watched something on tv or heard a good joke. He'd often slap his leg if he thought something was really funny.

Of course, he loved music.

He was driven. He wanted MORE in life all the time.

He never owned a car as long as I knew him. I knew him for 12 years and he only ever had three vehicles- all pickup trucks. One was purchased less than a year before he died.

He loved to live. He enjoyed life.

When he ate his eye twitched open and closed slightly as his jaw chewed. I noticed this one of our first dates and teased him that his eye was somehow incorrectly wired to his jaw. He claimed he didn't know what I was talking about. The whole time we were married I used this incorrect wiring as my proof that it was really him and not an imposter.

When we went to Hawaii on our honeymoon he wore a shell necklace pretty much the whole time. He liked to participate.

He was in the process of trying to get me to skydive when he died.

He loved to pilot small airplanes but hated flying on jets.

He loved to gamble.

He was a great judge of character.

He was a risk taker.

He was not boastful about his business success.

He rarely ate sweets at home though I often heard of him eating stuff at work that I just couldn't even picture....whoopie pies, or shakes or whatever.

He hated cockroaches. They were his evil nemesis. If he was here right now I would see him scrunch up his face and move as if one crawled up his spine.

He liked to cook.

He was a great guy. He could light up a room simply by walking through the door.

I love you.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Love- Part lll

Appreciation was a big part of what made our relationship enjoyable. Appreciation, not in just saying "thank you" here and there, but in a real, true and genuine sense. There are about a thousand ways I can think of where appreciation made a difference in our marriage. I will write about a few important ones, particularly for my children, but suffice to say I could not possibly cover this topic here the way it deserves.

First I do need to point out what may seem obvious:

Everyone wants to feel like what they spend their time working on is valued and appreciated, especially by the people they love.

Joe was way more traditional than I am when it came to some things. For one, we went back and forth for pretty much the entire time we were engaged as to whether or not I would take his last name after being married. I basically did not want to. I could not see the logic in why I should take his name any more than why he should take my name- a thought that often elicits laughter from most people, including Joe. In my mind, all of my accomplishments up to that point in my life had been completed by "Robin Lord". I took pride in who I was and why, WHY would I change my name?? In the end, after many discussions with him in which he constantly and repeatedly told me that he wanted me to take his name, I did. Because I loved him, and because it was important to him. I did it 100% for him because that's what you do sometimes when you love someone. And he appreciated it. That appreciation is what has caused me to not regret my choice and feel confident that it was the right thing to do. If he didn't appreciate it, I would have felt forced and resentful.

As I have said before it was important to Joe that I stay home with our kids. This was a constant and ongoing discussion between us the entire time we were married. I have a hard time with it, I still do. Now a disclaimer- I never would EVER say what is right for any family in terms of caring for their chidren and it drives me nuts when people comment on such things. I believe that every woman and family should do what is best for themselves and that in itself is enough of a burden to carry. I do not waver from that opinion.

Although I would never tell anyone else what they should do, like many other mothers ("working" and "stay-at-home") I am given unsolicited opinions all the time about the choice that my husband and I made- they are both opinions in support and against our choice. I have been the recipient of comments that imply that I "wasted" my college education- (seriously, can you pull the knife out of my heart now)- as if somehow since staying home while my kids are young means my professional life is over, also, furthermore implying that what I do with my life currently has no positive bearing on the world. I also repeatedly get a constant stream of comments of how "lucky" I am to not work, assuming that would be aspiration of all women, if they were all given the choice. I have a deep personal negative feeling about that assumption as well. I also hear a constant, constant stream of what I would call put-downs by people who act like, only if you work, are you contributing to society in a positive way. Only then are you are doing something "worth-while". If you stay home with kids, you are doing nothing. In fact, you are living a life being provided for you to which you sail through your easy days while your husband works his butt off. I hear this stuff all the time, it never ends.

I know that there are few people I could have been married to and be a stay-at-home mother.

Joe and I approached our family situation in a very basic way. In order to live the life that we wanted we needed TWO BIG things. We needed MONEY and we needed CHILDREN. All the necessities to living a full life came from those two things. Money provided us food, clothing, shelter, etc. Children provided us with family, love, joy, fun, fulfillment, etc. In a very basic sense we decided how the bulk of our time would be used- Joe would provide the money and I would provide care for our children. We did not treat either contribution- money or childcare- as more important than the other. We knew in order for our life to work the way we wanted, we needed BOTH. From that basic premise we were able to make our situation work, but there was another important ingredient that was necessary to keep us happy and keep us going. It was appreciation for what the other person was providing.

Joe often thanked me for staying home with our kids. More than anyone he knew and understoood what it meant for me to do so. He didn't act like what he was doing at work was more important or that he was 'providing life' for me. We were 'providing life' for each other, and for our family. He would praise me for how well I did and listen to my gripes without judgement or defensiveness. He didn't leave this up to "I thought you knew" he actually said the words to me. "You do such a great job Robin."; "I don't know how you do it."; "Thank you for my children." etc etc. Those types of things are what kept me going. I honestly don't know if I could have done it without those words from him. And I do know for sure that if he hadn't been that kind of husband, if I did continue to stay home, I would have been pissy, resentful, and hateful. And our marriage would have suffered.

On the other side, I also praised Joe for getting out of bed early every day- though most days I had to kick him out :-) For working so hard and for making such a great living. I admired his people skills....and marveled at how he could do his job so well and let all the difficult stuff slide off his back. I congratulated him about the success of the company that he and Derek built when they reached milestones. I constantly reminded him if he got frustrated with money that he was solely supporting a family of four- and look at the life we were living.

I don't want to act like it all worked perfectly all the time. It didn't. There are gray areas and neither of us was perfect. I might have accused him of having a few too many wiffle ball games at work (implying he wasn't working hard) and I am sure that he said things that weren't perfect either (though I can't think of any and if you know of any you don't need to tell me). But the point is that the bulk of the time, I'd say 95% of the time we made the choice to appreciate each other for what we were doing. And I do want to point out that although I was providing the majority of the care for the children, we saw care for them at night and weekends as shared responsibility. In other words, Joe didn't treat me like my "job" never ended yet he still got nights and weekends to himself. Our relationship just wasn't like that. He was a great father and husband. And I appreciated him deeply.

Luke and Alyssa, I hope that when you grow up you find someone who appreciates you. It is powerful and can guide you through the difficult times. It makes life more enjoyable and full. I hope that when you read this you understand that my struggle with staying home started long before you were born. It had nothing to do with who you were as children. It had to do with who I was as a child, what I thought my own life would look like, what my own dreams were. Some day I know you will understand. And I hope that if you struggle too and either of you make the choice to stay home with your babies then you can keep in mind and remember something my mother has told me through these years:

"In the scheme of things, it's only for a short time."


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Love- Part ll

I said in my last post that the love that Joe and I had was real. I spoke of the foundation of our love which was that we had a deep and genuine desire for each other to be happy.

By real I also mean that it was about and between him and I. Had he not died, you would never have read our words to each other in emails like you do here. You would never have seen the cards he gave me, or the thoughtful gifts, or any of the other meaningful items that were evidence of our love. That is because we did not need the attention or approval or validation of anyone, except each other. We did not try to have the appearance of a relationship to aspire to, in fact, due to the fact that I am a person who must get things off my chest immediately in order to be done with them quickly, many people witnessed our disagreements. Resolving conflict was part of our love. Our relationship was a constant work-in-progress and neither of us ever gave a thought to what anyone else thought of it. It was the tiny acts of kindness that we did for each other. The silly games we played. The teasing. The sacrifices. The working towards the same goals. The trust. The respect. The encouragement. The constant day-in day-out caring for each other. The US. The ONLY US.

I share the things I do here (emails, cards, etc) for two reasons. Neither of those reasons is because I need any praise or validation for my relationship with my husband. No part of it is contrived or written with the intention of creating something that was not, or rewriting history so to speak. I am 100% confident in that. I write this stuff here because I can't talk about love - or grief- without talking about what I am grieving, and talking about the the love I lost is part of that process.

One reason I share this personal stuff is because there is a basic sad fact that if I don't document it I will forget it. I have already forgotten so much, and it pains me. Other widows may relate to that feeling- the realization one day that you are forgetting things you thought you never would. It seems for every step forward in grief, the easing of the day-to-day pain for example, there is a realization of the price you pay for it. Forgetting brings relief in some sense but it also brings a new kind of sadness. I don't want my memories to be gone forever. If I write them down, my mind may forget but I can revisit them as I choose. I don't want to forget what a great relationship is like, and the specific parts that make it great. I don't want to forget what I had and what is possible in life. I don't want to forget what my marriage to Joe was like.

The other reason I share here is because I want my kids to know what their dad was like in many ways, including as a husband. I want them to see his words and have an insight into what kind of man he was in as many aspects as I can show them. I want my son and my daughter to see how a great man treats his wife and family so they can take that into their own lives. One of the biggest things I mourn is that I/we no longer show my young children what a happy, functional, loving husband/wife relationship looks like daily. Ugh. It hurts to even write. I will give my kids many examples of what their father was like and the bulk of that information is private. These posts also provide a slice.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Love- Part I


Geesh this should be interesting.

Why I am posting about this topic I am not sure, except that I keep hearing tiny inferences to it directed my way in increasing frequency. So I am guessing that either the acceptable amount of time has passed and now people think I should be "moving on" in terms of love (which was blatantly said to me by an aquaintance whom I felt that it was completey inappropriate of him to be telling me any such a thing) or maybe people are worried that I might end up a lonely old lady. I don't know. But anyway, in terms of love, I would have to start at where I came from. This post will be part 1.

If you've read this blog for a while, you would know that the love that Joe and I had for each other was real. When I say real, I mean a few things. First and above all, there was a deep genuine desire for each other to be happy. Notice the underline, this does not work one-way. This does not work when one person repeatedly puts their own needs and wants in front of their partner's. I could not live happily unless I felt that he was truly happy with his life. He felt the same way for me. If I wanted something he always encouraged me, he was always 100% behind me.

A few months before he died this topic was brought to the forefront when a conversation took place in which a husband was complaining directly to Joe about "never getting to do what he wants to do" (which happened to be a week+ long trip somewhere, by himself). He blamed his wife and basically the fact that he had a family for impeding on his own life's desires. I watched this conversation unfold and felt somewhat horrified by it. Joe went along with the conversation basically commenting that yes, a trip like what the guy was describing seemed like it would be fun.

That night I kept having little tidbits squeek back into my head about what that husband had said. It was just wrong on so many levels to me (way too many to delve into here) but it led me to wonder, did my own husband feel the same way? Joe was always talking about things he would like to do, did he also secretly blame me and our kids in some way for the fact that he didn't do them? I could not deal with the thought of my husband, a person whom I loved and respected long before we got married and had kids, not living a life that he wanted. So before 10 or 20 years passed, and he was sitting on a couch somewhere complaining, I figured I would ask him. I sent him an email the next morning with basically one sentence asking him if he felt the same way as that husband did.

He sent me an email back that could have been just "No I don't feel that way" or "I don't know what you're talking about" or whatever. But he didn't. He sent me a long email (which I can't post here because it would be inappropriate to do so) in which he said he did not feel that way but he also said things like:

"Any week long vacations that I have I would rather leave that to enjoy my time with you and the kids"

and (speaking of the type of trip the husband was talking about)

"I guess that’s something that we could do as a family if the kids were older and we were into it.."


"I enjoy my time w\ you and the kids and they are not young forever and I would NEVER take that for granted......."


"I hope you get the point I am making…So, when he says stuff like that…I let it roll off my back… Even If we had months off, I would rather spend it with my family."

I was surprised at the time he put into his response to me, but I wasn't at the same time. That is the man I fell in love with.

My response back to him is so ironic it just makes me cry. This email exchange is from April 10, 2007, 3 1/2 months before he died.

"I am so glad that you are my husband.

When (husband) says stuff like that it makes me feel like it's MY fault that you "can't" do things that you want to do (especially since he looks right at me when he says it). That is so insane. I feel like we both make many sacrifices and they are first and foremost for our kids first, then each other, and we don't feel the need to complain about the situation all the time because we know why we are doing what we are. I don't feel like I am living the perfect life in terms of doing what I want when I want to, and I am sure that you don't either. But I do feel like my life couldn't get much better than it is.

There are many times in a day when I hug the kids or look at them and think "God please don't change anything" and I know and appreciate the fact that things could change in an instant. If one of the 4 of us got sick, if one of us got into an accident, etc this life that we have now would change and although some days my nerves are shot from listening to these kids yell/jump/argue/generally be annoying, what keeps me going is that I know why I am doing it and I know how lucky I am. I am committed to my kids and to you and the 3 of you come first with me.

I know that (husband) would just say you are saying these things because it's what I want to hear....that you are your real self when you are with "the guys" and I'll just have to trust that that's not the case."

To that he replied, "I love you."

The reason why this email exchange is part 1 of my topic of "Love" is because it shows that my husband was not the type of person that put his own wants/desires/wishes before those of his spouse. And neither am I that type of person. Joe and I were in our marriage and in our family by choice and purposefully. We did not lose sight of that. And that is the foundation that made our love so special.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I have not been sure if I would post this story but now I just feel like this is the correct place for it to be. The reason why I didn't want to post it is partially because it was what I consider to be an intensely personal experience and also one that might make you think I am completely crazy. Because I don't want my experience tainted by others' views of it, no matter what they may be, I have turned off comments on this post.

I think I have mentioned before here that I have never had a peaceful dream about Joe. I had a few dreams a long time ago, and they were unsettling. Weird stuff and just generally not good dreams. I also do not have that feeling that "he is with me" that so many people talk about. No, to the contrary, if anything I have felt that he is definitely not with me.

On New Year's Eve morning my kids woke me up about 8 when they walked by my bedroom on their way downstairs. I talked to them for a few minutes, as I always do when they first wake up, but on this day I went back to sleep.

I had this weird thing happen, I'm not sure if it was a dream or what. It was definitely not like any dream I have ever had before. When I think of it I don't really consider it a dream, more of an "experience". I will, however, refer to it as a 'dream' below for descriptive purposes.

I was what you would probably describe as half-asleep. I was sleeping but I could hear Alyssa talking every now and then downstairs. I felt like a very vivid scene was unfolding in front of my eyes at the same time.

In this scene I was in a room that I thought was my kitchen. Across the room I saw a wooden window and the top half of it was completely crooked. "WOW" I thought as I walked toward it, feeling more amazed by how it was hanging there than wondering how it got like that. As I approached it and touched it to set it back in place, all of a sudden I had this gigantically huge rush of energy envelop my body. It was like facing into a gigantic hurricane-force wind but instead of feeling violent and breathless it was incredible peaceful and comforting. It felt like love, exponentially magnified. As this wind rushed by and through me, a curtain (that appeared suddenly near the window) wrapped completely around me. I can't really describe how my body felt. The only way I can think to describe it would be like having goosebumps times one million (next time you get goosebumps imagine it times one million). While I stood there in this state, every part of me thought that this energy was Joe. It was like for the first time since he died I could actually feel his love for me in a real, physical, undeniable way, and HE was showing me.

I stood there not wanting the feeling to end and I heard my own voice half-crying say "I love you" and soon after that I was aware that I was back to reality, back in my bedroom. My body was tingly all over, like a regular case of goosebumps but all over. I laid there for a while, completely in awe of what had just happened.

It's hard for me to describe it in words and the way I described it above seems pitifully unworthy of the experience. Every time I have thought about it in the past three weeks it brings tears to my eyes because it was so powerful. I would consider myself a skeptical person when it comes to some things. I can find a concrete explanation for just about anything. I tend to lean towards that way of thinking other than constantly believing that, for example, every flick of a light is a "sign". I don't look down on that way of thinking, I just have a hard time making myself truly believe in things like that. I cannot, however, explain my experience that morning. When I think of it as "just a dream" something inside me says that's not right.

Whatever it was, it was meaningful to me, and in the end, that's all that matters.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CDs in Joe's case in his truck on July 25th, 2007.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers- The Uplift of Mofo Party Plan

Groovechild- House of Life

Insane Clown Posse- The Amazing Jeckel Brothers (I have no idea who this is and never heard him talk about it so I'm not sure how much he listened to it)

The Crow- Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Pearl Jam- Los Angeles/New York 1992

Pearl Jam- Vitology

Come Dancing with the Kinks- The Best of the Kinks 1977-1986

Led Zeppelin (Not sure the name of the CD...has Black Dog, Rock and Roll, The Battle of Evermore, Stairway to Heaven, Misty Mountain Hop, Four Sticks, Going to California, When the Levee Breaks)

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers- Greatest Hits

Matchbox 20- Yourself or Someone Like You (ha ha- definitely not his...mine!)

Grateful Dead- The Best of Skeletons from the Closet

Van Halen- Diver Down (I don't think I ever heard him listen to this cd)

Pearl Jam- Binaural

1965-1969 Only Rock n Roll #1 Radio Hits

Jerky Boys- The Jerky Boys 3

Primus- Tales from the Punchbowl

Tool- Lateralus

Eminem- Live from the Eminem Show

The Brian Setzer Orchestra- The Dirty Boogie

Neil Young- Greatest Hits

No Doubt- Rock Steady

Pearl Jam- "Pearl Jam"

Pearl Jam- No Code