Wednesday, September 20, 2006

New Light

When someone is bereaved, emotions are tossed into the blender. Some say judgment is too. Who am I to say different.

With that is mind, you will pardon the hesitation, the stopping and starting, the erasing of words in this post (of course, you cannot see any of that, but let me assure you, it was there).

I am "seeing" someone. Not in the physical sense, though I have seen digital images, but in the sense of sharing emails and after a while, phone calls. So, given the fact that my senses are already under assault and that my ability to apply good judgment when it comes to matters of the heart is questionable, does this make sense? Is this something those around me who are protective of me and of my children should worry about? Good questions, all.

I imagine that there was great consternation when my children confessed to their closest confidants that dad was making furtive phone calls; indeed was tying up the family phone line for unreasonable periods of time - with a "woman." Given that the ears that heard this were two sisters and the best friend of my late wife, it is not difficult for me to believe that this was unwelcome news. After all, it has only been three and a half months since C died. Too soon for this sort of thing.

And I agree. I was planning on being alone for a long time. I had no idea how to "not be alone" after twenty-one years with the same partner. We went through good times and bad. We created and raised (and still are) a family. We built a life, made plans, and thought that we would grow old together - maybe join the Peace Corps after we retired and give back to the world a little.

A little over twelve years ago, that "vision" was changed when I learned I had cancer. At the age of 45, I was told I had eight to ten years to live. My son was one and my daughter three. Things felt like they were crashing down on me. We picked up those broken pieces and we went on. We decided that for whatever time I had left, we needed to live as normal a life as possible for the kids. And that's what we did. I went through periodic treatments, some easy, some not, and we pretended that everything was OK. We bought a different house in a different neighborhood where there were lots of kids. There was a lake where we swam and I put in a small sailboat. Life was good.

About five or six years ago, C was offered her dream job. She took it and it meant another move, not far in distance, but far enough so that the kids lost the easy immediate contact with their friends . We stayed in the school district though, so all of that was steady. We set about making the best of this new phase of our lives. Then, the other shoe dropped.

C was diagnosed with cancer - a different kind than mine and one that had a poor survival rate. The next three and one half years were hell in all of its variations. There were times when we were at the same clinic getting chemotherapy in different rooms. There were the late night / early morning runs to the emergency room. There were the stem-cell transplants, each of which was like playing Russian roulette , would it kill you or cure you. Either way, they were so brutal that you went through a sort of "little death" each time. There is no way to describe the indignity that one is pushed to during a process as this.

I watched my wife slowly waste away, as if there were a giant insect that sucked a little bit of her insides out every night. This was a woman who took pride in her strength. She loved to canoe and camp in the wilderness and thought nothing about flipping a canoe up to her shoulders to cross a portage, or carrying a heavy pack along miles of hiking trails. She loved to cross-country ski wherever there was snow. In the end, she could not walk or carry anything.

Just as her physical being was being eaten, her remarkable mind suffered under the onslaught of drugs and disease. The worst part was that she knew it and it was a bitter fate to endure. She saw everything that was the finest in her leave her in little bits and pieces.

Our relationship changed under this as well. We could no longer make love because of the pain that C felt. Towards the end, I could not even hold her in my arms - only hold her hands. Parts of our relationship died in little bits and pieces as well.

My love for her, and her love for me never died though. We were together to her last breath and I entered a dark place. The last three months have been very difficult. The demands of being a single parent, the details that must be attended to to wrap up a life and settle an estate, the sheer mental degradation that grief inflicts upon those who are left was unanticipated. In addition to all of that, I am undergoing another round of chemotherapy myself in my battle against terminal cancer.

This blog was one attempt on my part to deal with all that I was feeling. Through this blog, I slowly became connected with others who use the bloggosphere to journal, rant, write, sing, and to carry on in whatever fashion they wish. I have found friends out here. One person is becoming more than just a friend.

As I said before, the timing is not great for those around me, but for me, this could not come at a better time. This new relationship helped me to find my feet again and to stand up for the first time in a long time. The dark place that I had been in is dark no longer. I have felt happiness. This was such a simple thing - taken for granted in a life that seems so long ago now - not taken for granted now.

I am sensitive to the needs of my extended family and support group. They are my rocks and my foundation. They help me and my children in ways that I cannot praise enough, or repay in any reciprocal fashion. C was their sister and their best friend. Their loyalty to her is fierce and eternal. They are protective of my children and would do anything to see to their welfare. The thought that someone else would enter my life is a hard thing for them to accept.

They have shown the utmost quality of character in this. They have told me that I must find my own way and they will not stand in my way as I do so. They will continue to help me with childcare and the future support of my family. Still, it is not an easy thing for them and I understand that.

So, what now? Now, I hope to get to know this person better. Who can foretell the future. I learned that I cannot so many years ago. The best I can do now is to strive for balance, happiness, love, and to be the best dad I can be.

Someday, perhaps I can share this "someone" with you.



Blogger jules said...

Since none of us know how long we have left in this world, I say go with your heart. Just because you're talking with and feeling a connection with this other person does not automatically mean you will "be together". It would be great if it worked out that way, mind you. Your wife's family is understandably upset, but is TOO short (as you well know) to spend all of it worrying about what "others" think. Go with your heart.

8:43 PM, September 21, 2006  
Blogger Cheesy said...

Lovely post P~~~For those of us who have been down this path,,,I am sure you have touched their hearts as you have touched mine. It's a tough road but it is a journey of discovery. I wish you happiness and peace with your new found friend.. do what you need to do for you and the rest will follow. The more YOU heal your heart the better for those around you. And you don't need to share every aspect of your personal life with your children... this I know from experience, this is why it is called "personal". But in due time if you feel the timing is right, she may be a welcome addition to your extended family. For right now.. just enjoy your moments.. {my 2 cents worth}

9:04 PM, September 21, 2006  
Blogger Kristie said...

You have to take the chance. Who knows better than you how short life is? You've lost your beloved and are fighting for your own life. No one could begrudge you any happiness that comes your way, not deep down, even if they feel like the timing's not right. You loved C. You always will. That doesn't change. You didn't love your daughter less because you got to know your son when he arrived. Life is for the living; or so they tell me.

9:10 PM, September 21, 2006  
Blogger Tiffanie said...

I like what you said about the merry go round and grabbing the prize, you said it somewhere the other.

It is true.

8:20 AM, September 22, 2006  
Blogger lime said...

i have another blog buddy in a similar situation. he has given me permission to offer his email addy to you if you'd like his perspective and perhaps his take on how he has navigated the trickier emotional responses of those around him. my email is on my profile. drop me a note if you are interested. if not, no problem. it was just a thought i had.

i'll be away this weekend so if i don't respond immediately don't worry.

4:15 PM, September 22, 2006  
Blogger Rebekah said...

Thank you for sharing. I feel as though for the time it took me to read that I was invited into your life to see things the way you do. I got to see life from someone not as fortunate as me. And I say that meaning I have never had to watch my partner lose all that they are and die. I watched my grandfather slowly lose all that he ever was and die of cancer but I imagine it is much different when it is your significant other, your life partner, the mother of your children. Again, thanks for sharing.

1:41 PM, September 28, 2006  

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