Archive | Remembering

my own group therapy session

I wrote this on Monday evening but I didn’t want to post it because I didn’t really like it and felt like I was being too negative. Plus, I was exhausted from crying. I remember when Greg was sick and I couldn’t bring myself to post on CaringBridge because I didn’t have anything positive to say. I guess I still feel the same way about writing something that you will all see. I want to be able to have a happy ending or at least some hope to leave you with. For you and for me. So, to add a little happiness to what you are about to read…I’m feeling better today. The sun was shining and I let Squeaky play in the van out in the parking lot (buckling and unbuckling her ‘babies’ is so much fun!) while I stuck my head out the door for a little sun. I prepped everything to work on taxes with my accountant next week. I THINK I finally figured out our health care situation. AND Squirmy and I found a game on the iPad to play together that had us cheering and high-fiving each other – the game is Where’s My Water. I’m sure you have all heard of it already and have been playing it for years and years but we had a great time with it tonight!

Anyway, I still don’t like this post but I’m going to share it anyway. See below for some ramble-y, 3-day old whining.

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I don’t feel fun anymore. I THINK I used to be fun. A fun mom. A fun daughter. A fun friend. I’m just not fun. I’m too stressed. I’m crabby. I don’t know how to participate in small talk so I just shy away from conversations regarding anything about anything other than my immediate sphere of circumstance. I have tried participating in some conversations but I float away, feeling like I have no right to be talking about daily things, silly things, trivial things. Things that don’t pertain to life and death. I still don’t know what’s going on in the news and that’s depressing to me. I try participating in things in the community but I’m held back by inability to converse and the fact that I’m now a single mom with no back-up parent. My girls like babysitters but I sometimes think I get them too often. They are usually very crabby and clingy to me the next day. I don’t want my girls to think I’m leaving them too, but mama just needs breaks. And it seems so selfish of me but after I get a break one day, I need another one a few days (sometimes HOURS) later! It’s never-ending guilty feeling.

I was supposed to go to my first group therapy session tonight but it was cancelled because of the snowstorm. I was actually looking forward to starting some kind of therapy. The next one is a month away and that feels like ages from now. I keep telling myself it was meant to be because everything that has happened since Greg died has felt bigger than me, more deliberate, just meant to happen. Every door that opens, I wander through. I do this because I’ve always liked going with the flow but in some ways I don’t feel strong enough to attempt anything else. It’s exhausting to stress about going in a different direction so I just float through that open door. Maybe this is the way I’ve always done things and I’m just more aware of it now. I’m paying attention more, wondering in what ways Greg is still helping us along.

I’m used to mourning the loss of Greg but I guess I’m now feeling like mourning the loss of me. The old me. The fun me. The aware me. The crafty me. The political me. The self-deprecating me. The save the earth me. Some days I just don’t recognize this crabby lady. This lost lady. This lady growing grey hairs and new wrinkles who’s yelling at her kids to go to bed or plopping them in front of the tv or telling them that she’ll read them a book only to realize she forgot to call the IRS to request 3 years of back taxes because she can’t find them anywhere in her computer files or that she hadn’t even thought of what to make for dinner and all that there is in the fridge is old tofu and yogurt. I realize that there are a lot of people going through hell in their lives worse than I am so I don’t like outwardly complaining. I just hate seeing me this way. Me not being able to handle it all. I’ve always been someone to pick myself up and go. But I still feel lost. I can pick myself up but I just don’t know where to ‘go’. Then I do my floaty thing.

We’ll be coming up on a bunch of anniversaries soon…the day Greg got his stomach ache. The day I KNEW it was cancer. The day we got the actual cancer diagnosis. The day I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe because I knew he was dying. The day he started radiation. The day he started chemo. The day the oncologist told us there was no more plan. The day hospice came to our house. The day he was taken to the in patient hospice unit by ambulance and the girls started screaming and crying and clinging to me when they found out I’d be going with him. The day of his party. The night I woke up and cried to him because I knew there would be so much to do when he died and he wouldn’t be there to do it with me. The day that was the beginning of the end. The last time I held his hand.

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Greg and the girls on February 23rd, 2013, the day before the stomach ache.

People always tell me that firsts and anniversaries will be hard but I never really believed them. I didn’t really even think of ‘firsts’ until I had a shitty time this Thanksgiving and Hanukkah and an even shittier time at Christmas. I wanted it to be good but it was all just too normal. Normal stuff we would usually do but with that big, gaping hole right next to me. I guess Monday, the anniversary of Greg’s stomach ache will feel like just a normal day. I’ll have to plan something to make it not normal. Maybe then I’ll feel a little better.

I don’t feel like this every day. Just some days when I feel I’ve done a shitty job of what I’m supposed to be doing. Or when I just don’t give a shit about this or that. Or when I feel like I should have my shit together a little more. Shitty shit shit.

On a bright note, I do remember making some people laugh the other day. And today I was watching an old video of Squirmy and Squeaky dancing that Greg had recorded almost exactly a year ago. It made me laugh so hard I cried. It’s been a very long time since that has happened.

Well, I guess that’s my therapy session for this month. And a successful one at that, since I have a pile of snotty tissues on the floor next to me. Maybe next month I’ll be able to say it all out loud.

xxx,

Mariah

P.S. I did NOT go with Greg right away to the hospice facility. I stayed home to make sure the girls were okay and happy having a picnic before I said goodbye…just in case you were wondering.

 

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greg and mariah simpson

The Simpsons was one of Greg’s favorite tv shows. He thought the writing was brilliant and even tried to convince me that Squirmy should watch it with him when she was about three. He did not convince me and also ended up agreeing with me that she should NOT be watching it. :) I really wish Greg was here to tell you all WHY he liked it so much because he would go deep into his explanation. He had the habit of going into great detail when someone asked him a question. I’ve realized lately how much he was genuinely interested in understanding other people’s opinions/way of life/careers/hobbies, etc. He expected the exchange to be reciprocal. He had the time to talk and to listen. He wasn’t in a hurry.

We went to one of The Simpsons movies in the theater and this was the time that Greg yelled out (the theater was PACKED) after 4 or 5 commercials, while it was quiet, “Enough with the commercials!” Some teenager yelled out, “Stop being obnoxious” (p.s. what a moron teenager), a few people clapped, a few chuckled and I slunk down into my seat, happy that we were in a DARK movie theater. Greg once told me he yelled something out at a Joe Jackson concert when it was quiet and I was happy that I wasn’t at that concert with him. Hee hee!

In 2007, there was a website called SimpsonizeMe (it doesn’t exist anymore) where you could create your personal Simpsons avatar. Greg immediately logged in and I remember it taking an entire evening (it was a really popular website) to create these beauties…

Greg and Mariah SimpsonI love that Greg’s avatar is talking with his hands. He is probably explaining something. Something that people are shocked and entertained to hear him say out loud. Something that he is not backtracking on or apologizing for. Something he may be going on and on about because that’s what he did. And if you had the time for an exchange with him, you most likely didn’t regret it.

xxx,

Mariah

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last words

I recently clicked on some silly article about things men do that women love. One of the things was the way their eyes soften when they look at us. I remember the way Greg’s face relaxed and his eyes would ‘smile’ when he looked at me. The article made me think of the last thing he said to me.

We had a lot of people around us for the last month of Greg’s life. At times, our entire bedroom was full of people but we could always catch each other’s eye to share a little smile, send a little love without saying anything. On Greg’s last day, he was starting to get confused and was quickly getting worse. He had moments between clarity and confusion that reminded me of my Grandpa during the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s.

Later that afternoon, Greg caught my eye from across our bedroom filled with family. His eyes softened and he smiled. It was like those beautiful blue eyes were trying to tell me, once again, everything I already knew, before the thoughts slipped away. He said to me, “Hi Baby. Hi Red. We made it. And look at the results.”

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Nothing else made much sense the rest of the night and a few hours later I couldn’t even understand the words he was trying to say.

But that statement. That little statement means so much, I can’t even express how much. Maybe it’s because these are his words for me. His LAST words for me. When I think about them or whisper them to myself, I feel like I might hyperventilate. Without being this obvious proclamation of how much he loved me and would miss me, I consider the sentiment behind it to be the ultimate statement of love. My Greg, on his death bed at 46, his eyes smiling at me, his Red, told me that we made it. We did it. We succeeded. We succeeded with flying colors because you just look at those babies we made and the love we shared. That love and those babies. That is ALL that life is.

Yeah Baby, we made it.

xxx,

Mariah

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distracted

I’m having a hard time concentrating on anything lately. When I do get time alone, I seem to start something and then get distracted and want to sit and look at old pictures or find other memories.

I came across this photo the other day. It’s the last one taken from Greg’s phone. Squeaky’s little hand on top of his, about 12 hours before he died.

last picture on Greg's phone

xxx,

Mariah

 

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kissing: a series

Here is a series from Thanksgiving a few years ago. There were other people around to take photos of us but there was something intimate about just doing it ourselves. Where are our children? I have no idea. We were in our own little world!

Look away if you don’t like seeing other people kiss. Ha. :)

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Mariah

 

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holiday traditions

I love traditions. Some of my best childhood memories are from our family traditions and I want to continue them for my children. We also have traditions from Greg’s family. And since Greg was Jewish, his holiday traditions are a lot different than what I grew up with.

Last week and this week, we are celebrating Chanukah.

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I pulled out our menorah, the dreidels (tops) and bought some gelt (chocolate coins) for the girls. I looked up what I was supposed to say online and found this. I kind of remember from watching and listening to Greg so this year I have been lighting the menorah myself each night while the girls watch. I think I may have lit them backwards. Someday I’ll get it right. I’m just learning!

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Gelt!

I got the girls a couple little gifts and they exchanged gifts with their cousins over the weekend, played and went swimming together at our hotel. One of the best moments of the weekend was watching Squeaky walk down the hotel hallway holding hands with her big boy cousin who is 9 years old.

For a half second, I thought of stopping our Chanukah traditions because this was Greg’s contribution and I felt a little like a fraud. But really, how could I just stop? It’s another way for us to honor Greg and a wonderful reminder of his, and now OUR family history. And when we light our little menorah, we can remember Daddy lighting the same one. And I can feel Greg watching me, possibly laughing at my Hebrew pronunciation, but I know it would make him happy.

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My dad (Papa to the girls) and Cathy battled a snowstorm to be here for an overnight this week to help us set up our Christmas tree. My dad has gone with Greg and I to get a tree for many years and this is something we do every year soon after Thanksgiving.

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Last night as I sat at the dinner table chatting with the girls, I watched the menorah candles flicker in the kitchen and the Christmas tree lights twinkle in the living room. Our traditions.

Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas and everything in between.

xxx,

Mariah

P.S. Did you know that Fiddler on the Roof has been my favorite musical since I was a kid? It’s true. Here’s a bit from the movie. Enjoy!

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making the most of it

*Please note that I write this post expressing how Greg and I were both feeling during his 3 month ordeal with cancer.  I do think I understood some of the things he was feeling, but certainly not all. I maybe should have written it as simply my own thoughts and feelings, but I like it how it is. There’s always the chance that I got some of this wrong so I apologize to him if that’s the case. Stick with me though. These are some hard thoughts to explain and I hope I’m going to make some sense…

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“It is what it is.”  I can’t count the number of times I have said or thought that in the last year. When we found out Greg had cancer, we accepted that this is what was happening to us. This was being forced on us so we were going to make the most of it, like we always did.

In my life with Greg, we didn’t do a lot of complaining because no matter what hardships we had, we had each other and that made things okay. And not only okay, it was almost as if good or bad, we loved each other so much that even the bad times still seem like good times. Greg was always appreciative and that really came out when he got sick.

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Even after finding out that his cancer was incurable, Greg allowed himself to be fascinated by the experience. It was this newness of what he was going through that was almost exciting. He had always loved science and astronomy and the mystery of things in this world, things that make us feel insignificant. He thought it was actually kind of cool that he could see the cancer in his eye, a flashing, white fuzzy spot. After seven treatments of radiation, he literally watched the cancer retreat, only to come back in retaliation with a stronger, larger fuzziness after radiation stopped and we switched to the chemotherapy to treat the rest of his body. His radiation mask was this strange and haunting thing that he wanted pictures of.

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I also think he felt a sense of responsibility to do this right (and maybe even a sense of honor), like he was going through this for the rest of us – so that we didn’t have to. He felt comfortable walking us through what was going on in his head. In his own words posted on Caring Bridge, “This has been a wonderful experience in it’s own warped way.”

He could literally feel the love from family, friends, even strangers from virtual and personal contact and that really kept him going. He now had this audience that he had never had before and felt that sense of responsibility to share what he could with us. If we were too busy and hadn’t posted anything in a couple days, he would say, “We should really do another post to check in with everyone.”

4-18-13 photos 003And once we were sitting in one of the patient rooms at the Cancer Center, there was a sense of comfort and belonging, even when we knew that it WASN’T going to be okay. Of course there was no comfort in the reason he was there, especially since virtually all of our appointments revealed devastating news. But there was something about that little room, something monumental, where we talked about such important things as life and death. We weren’t insignificant there.

Greg pretty much loved his oncologist too. Toby. First of all, Toby reminded Greg of Andy Partridge from his most favorite band, XTC! But Toby gave Greg the time to take it all in and I think he realized that Greg needed to talk. Are all his patients like that? I have no idea. But Greg was an expressive, deep thinking person who could articulate his thoughts well. And for the times we would get bad news and all sat silent, it was Greg who spoke. It wasn’t ever anger or complaint. He never once verbalized, “Why ME?”. It was always thoughtful and in respect to me, our girls, our family, all those around him, and the things he needed to do for us and the plans he needed to make. He was valiant. He accepted it and I think he knew, we all knew, that this was it.

We spent almost two hours with Toby in that first meeting. I almost wished I could have cracked open a Guinness for him and his new friends. Now that is something I know without doubt that Greg would have loved. :) It’s hard to describe what happened in those patient rooms but Greg usually had the entire room (at times there were up to 7 people – family, doctors, nurses, researchers, etc.) completely absorbed in what he was saying. We just wanted to take in as much of him as we could, while we still could.

We knew as soon as we walked back out into the waiting area, we were like everyone else there, a cancer family, fighting through the stages of this horrible disease. That made it hard to leave. And as we stepped outside and drove away from the hospital, we weren’t exposed anymore. It wasn’t written on our foreheads. We were physically closed up – our winter jackets zipped – being shuffled back into the world of traffic lights and Starbucks and strangers who didn’t know that Greg was dying.

I have such happy memories of my time with Greg. Even at our most mundane, I loved simply being with him. I liked driving in the car with him. I liked doing chores with him. I liked waiting with him. I liked telling him to ‘stop talking’ when he was telling a long, drawn-out story to someone while I was in labor. I liked being bored with him. I liked telling jokes with him. I liked being the only couple to volunteer so we had to demonstrate EVERYTHING at our birthing class. I liked arguing with him. I liked being embarrassed when he shouted out in the middle of the movie theater, “Enough with the commercials!!”. I liked struggling to make a decision about something with him. I liked laughing with him and crying with him. I liked being annoyed with him. I liked making our marriage stronger with him. I liked being there with him and for him during his 3 months of cancer. I liked kissing him. He liked that too. :)

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It is what it is. Good or bad. And I’m going to be thankful for what I have had and I what I do have. And I’m going to make the most of this life, just like Greg did.

Happy Thanksgiving.

xxx,

Mariah

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wedding rings

A week or two after Greg died, I was filling out one of a million “someone just died and there is a shitload of paperwork to fill out” forms with my Dad’s help. I came to the question, “What is your marital status?”. I honestly wasn’t sure what to write. Where was the “YES I’m married, but my husband died” option? My dad quietly said, “Well, technically you aren’t married.” :( So my husband is gone and so is my marriage? I guess it makes sense but it felt too much like someone else, someone far away who has no idea who we are, made this decision for me. I know it’s just a question on a form, an official status, but I still get kind of upset thinking about it.

After months of wearing my wedding ring, I decided last week to take it off. I now have it locked up in a safe spot so it’s ready for someday for one of the girls.

One night at dinner, in the spring of ’06, Greg told me that we should start looking at rings. Yay!  So we did. After we decided and had the ring made, I told him I still wanted to be surprised.

A few weeks later, as we were raking the yard, one of our rakes broke. Greg volunteered to run into town to get a new rake and off he went, leaving me raking. He had gone to get a rake AND to pick up the ring, which took him about an hour and a half. And I think he probably stopped and had a little chat about it with every person he saw along the way! I was so mad at how long he took to get that damn rake (or probably that fucking rake…I think I said fucking rake…just trying to accurately recall history!) that I almost didn’t realize what he was doing when he started on a little speech asking me to marry him. He loved recalling the story of how I was mad at him when he asked me to be his wife. And then I even managed to say yes! Fuck yes!

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Our rings look so cute next to each other. Just like we did.

Greg’s wedding ring fits on my right middle finger so I’ve started wearing his instead. It makes me feel like I can keep our marriage a little bit alive even if he is not. And since I’m not officially married anymore, this is my little protest. I think he would be proud.

xxx,

Mariah

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coffee table

Greg kept a lot of furniture from his childhood, furniture we still have. This glass coffee table was something that he loved. He would always tell stories about his older brother trapping him and his middle brother under it. And I think his middle brother even got his head stuck between the bars once too!

The girls loved the stories and one day, Greg told Squirmy she could go under there to play. Because the glass on this table is so heavy, it was only something the girls could do with Daddy. I’m just not strong enough to feel comfortable lifting it up without it slipping and hurting someone. But because they could only do this with Daddy, it made it that much more special.

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This coffee table is still in our living room. I think the girls have almost forgotten about playing under it. The few times they’ve asked since Greg died, there hasn’t been anyone around to help lift it.

I’m hoping that one day they’ll tell their own kids stories of how fun their Daddy was and with this table from his childhood, they can show their kids why.

xxx,

Mariah

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light up a life

Every year, Agrace Hospice highlights a family in their end of year campaign. This year, they asked me to share our story and I said yes. As sad as it is, I love our story. Because it is ours and it says so much about us. Every time I talk about it, it gets easier. I think it’s silly when people tell me it must be so hard to talk about our experience or about Greg. No, it’s not hard. It’s exactly what I need. So to anyone who will listen, I will talk. If you ever want to know, please just ask.

Here is this year’s brochure. It’s a bit of our story describing how important Hospice was to our family.

(If these are too small to read, you can click on each one and it will get a little bigger. You can also increase the size in your browser by zooming in. Or let me know and I can email you a pdf.)

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Just look at that sweet, kissable face. I miss him so, so much.

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I’m going to keep talking. Thank you for listening.

xxx,

Mariah

 

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