I Do … I Did

It would have been 36 years of marriage today.  Thirty six years of ups and downs, happy and sad times and 36 years of memories together. This doesn’t even take in the years we lived together or were friends first

I remember our wedding day as if it was yesterday.  The night before John was helping to clear the table after dinner and he was scraping a plate into the garbage and he turned and put his back out.  He was in terrible pain and went to bed early to try and relieve it.

I slept in to conserve my energy because I was 3 months pregnant.  John got a phone call and came in to talk to me.  His brother, our best man, phoned to say he would not be our best man at the wedding.  I cried.  Already the oldest brother and his family had said they would not attend the wedding and now this.  His family objected to our marriage because John had divorced his first wife.  They all sided with his first wife.  John and I didn’t have some sordid affair.  I had already had an affair with a married man and hated the way I felt when I was seeing this man. I realized early on this man was using me but I was enamoured of him and the life he exposed me to.   I told John we couldn’t have a fling.  We had worked together for a few years prior to getting together and were friends first.  However when he left his first wife it wasn’t long before we were together permanently.  My daughter was the same way when she started dating her “sun and stars”.  Basically after their first date they were never apart.  It was the same for John and I.  I don:t really care what other people think of how we got together but we were meant to be together

Going back to our wedding day I told John I didn’t want to marry him anymore.  I told him to go back to his ex-wife and two daughters.  He told me we didn’t HAVE to get married and we could continue living together.  He said that no matter what, we were going to be together.  Married or not.  He said he would rather have me in his life and his family could go straight to hell.  He said we were not going to give them the satisfaction of tearing us apart.

So he made a call to my brother who was happy to step in as best man.

At three we went to city hall to be married.  Julie and Laura looked adorable in their matching pink dresses.  My sister was my matron of honour.

John’s parents and my parents were there also.  My dad really liked John’s parents (they were all Dutch).  John’s parents were not overjoyed at the ceremony but they put on a brave face.

A justice of the peace married us.  She didn’t make me feel like a number.  I was so filled with love for John that I thought I would burst.  He was standing ramrod straight because his back was so sore.  The ceremony was beautiful.  Afterwards we went behind City Hall near the creek and had our photos taken.

We had our reception at an Italian restaurant that just opened in Oshawa. Many people came and it was a wonderful evening.  My new sister-in-law got drunk and knocked a planted tree over.  It was only recently that I found out she and her husband spent our wedding day drinking with John’s ex-wife.

After the reception we went home. I was so happy to be home with the man I loved.  To this dany I am happy we didn’t bow to the pressure of his family and we created a life without them.

My family made up for John’s family.  My brother became one of John’s closest friends.  We travelled together and spent weeks together in Florida.  My father loved John like a son. And my nephew Stephen looked up to John like a father.  John never regretted his decision to marry me, not even in our bad time.

Come Monday It Will Be Alright

john-toronto

My husband was a Parrothead and not ashamed to admit it.  Normally he was quite proper, straight laced (he was an accountant after all) but he did love his home in Florida and listening to Jimmy’s music while we were at our favourite restaurants and bars.  He and I attended every concert Jimmy ever performed in Ontario and had made plans to try and go to other venues in our retirement.

Several months ago Jimmy announced a summer tour that included Toronto so I bought tickets for my kids and their spouses.  That was a challenge in itself as it is not easy to get 10 tickets together.  So after much finagling we got 6 tickets in one row and 4 directly behind those ones.

I wanted this night to be very special to the family so that we could begin to heal and move on.  I reserved a limo to drive us so we could party in safety.  But I wanted this night to be super special and I tried to think of an idea that would be the icing on the cake.

One day I emailed Jimmy and told them about John.  Almost immediately I got an email back from his videographer Stan Kellam.  Stan and I decided that a photo of John during a song would be a great idea.  He asked for photos of John which I provided.  Over the course of several emails I told him about what a good man John was.  This man was so considerate, so patient and so nice to me that I had a good feeling that this night would be a success.  This was my biggest secret ever.

The afternoon of the show my daughters Amanda and Laura came over early and we had some frozen concoctions.  I was so pleased that my son Adam and his girlfriend (who never attended a JB concert) really got into the event.  My son had a shark hat and sunglasses and Leesa (Adam’s girlfriend) made herself a mermaid outfit.  For at least a week prior to the concert I played Jimmy’s songs in the car so they’d know them when we got there.

After a few drinks we piled into the limo and traveled to Toronto.  We laughed in the car but I was nervous and high strung.  I really needed this evening to go off without a hitch.

We got to the concert shortly before 7.  I wanted to go thank Stan in person but security wouldn’t allow it and he wasn’t getting my texts.

Once Jimmy came on stage I felt totally relaxed.  I sang, danced, laughed and cried.  I sobbed during Come Monday (more below) but generally I was  having the best time in over a year and a half.  My daughter Amanda and I belted out the chorus of One Particular Harbor as I always felt it was our song since she was a little girl.   As I looked into the faces of my children with their spouses I could see they were having fun too.

Then came the song.  Stan told me it would play during “Back Where I Come From”.  I told the kids to watch the screen.  I never imagined that the moment would be so wonderful when John’s picture appeared on the screen.  I felt like my heart burst out of my chest.  There he was, with us.  Larger than life, larger than death, he was there.

Everyone cried.

At that moment something happened to me.  It was like a crack opened in my heart. Light crept in.

The rest of the concert was wonderful.  I must admit that I drank too much and was rather inebriated on the ride home but I laughed and laughed on the way home.  The kids kept me in stitches.

As usual when I woke up in the morning my first thought was of John but this time I didn’t cry.  I got up, started my day and put music on while I cleaned the house.  There was definitely a shift in me.  Two weeks later I can still feel the change.

I still feel sad and empty but I also feel like there is a light back on inside of me.  I still cry several times a day as my grief comes in waves but I feel like there is a tomorrow.  I notice I have begun to make plans that are for my life and not for when I am dead.

Part of the shift in me was due to my children.  The love they showed for me and for their father was (and always has been) amazing.  But one thing in particular helped wedge that door open.  My daughter posted this the following morning.

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I finally felt that I did something right.  For so long I have felt like a total failure.  I feel like I’ve made mistake after mistake and have been second guessing everything I do.  I was paralyzed in relationships because I felt so insecure and helpless since John died.

There is no way that Stan Kellam or Jimmy Buffett will ever know what they did for me.  I got my life back.  It is my responsibility to steer it forward but I will need help from my family and friends.  I’m not as strong as I used to be but I’m stronger than I was.

So … Come Monday It Will Be Alright.

Headin’ up to San Francisco
For the Labor Day weekend show,
I’ve got my hush-puppies on,
I guess I never was meant for
Glitter rock and roll.    (John was never meant for glitter rock and roll.)
And honey I didn’t know
That I’d be missin’ you so.  (I miss him so much)Come Monday It’ll be all right, (John passed away on a Monday)
Come Monday I’ll be holding you tight. (He told me he would hold me every day)
I spent four lonely days in a brown L.A. haze
And I just want you back by my side.

Yes it’s been quite a summer,
Rent-a-cars and west bound trains.
And now you’re off on vacation,  (While he was dying he told me to think I was on vacation and we would be together soon .. I spent time in Florida alone getting our place ready for retirement)
Somethin’ you tried to explain.
And darlin’ I love you so that’s  (I knew at the end I had to let him go because I couldn’t bear to watch him suffer any longer)
The reason I just let you go.

Come Monday It’ll be all right,
Come Monday I’ll be holding you tight.
I spent four lonely days in a brown L.A. haze
And I just want you back by my side. (I would give anything to have him beside me)

I can’t help it honey,
You’re that much a part of me now.  (John is my soulmate and forever a part of me)
Remember the night in Montana when
We said there’d be no room for doubt.

I hope you’re enjoyin’ the scenery,
I know that it’s pretty up there. (He is watching me from heaven)
We can go hikin on Tuesday,
With you I’d walk anywhere.
California has worn me quite thin,
I just can’t wait to see you again.  (We will be together again someday)

Come Monday It’ll be all right,
Come Monday I’ll be holding you tight. (someday)
I spent four lonely days in a brown L.A. haze
And I just want you back by my side.

Songwriters: BUFFETT, JIMMY

One Year — 365 Days — 8,760 Hours — 525,600 Minutes — 31,536,000 Seconds Later

It has been one year of heartbreak.  It has changed but it is still there.  My heart still searches for John in a crowd, still dreams he is alive and still hopes I will see him again.  I still feel so empty, even when I am with people.  Even when I laugh I am not truly happy.  It is like all happy emotions are played on the surface but not inside of me.

I couldn’t be home on the anniversary date so I went on a cruise with my daughter Amanda.  We headed south and visited the Bahamas, Grand Turk and the Dominican.  It was a perfect holiday.

My daughter is like sunshine to me.  She is beautiful, brilliant, funny, IMG_6510 creative and, in so many ways, just like her father.  This cruise was important to me because I feel like I have failed her.  I know I have disappointed her and I don’t know how to make it up to her.  This time away helped us reconnect.  We had a wonderful time together and I’m hoping we can continue building on that in the future and have a stronger bond again.

The other day I was crying and wanted so much to talk to John.  I heard this little voice in my heart ask “what would you say to him?”.  I thought I would tell him that I loved him … missed him but then realized he already knows that I love him and miss him. He always knew that.  Then I thought … no what it is that I want to hear is him telling me he loves me and misses me.  I needed reassurance that he was still here for me.  I stopped crying and decided to get back to work.  I was switching computers over (I bought a new one at Christmas and still wasn’t using it) and I went into an old email account.  I had lost all my emails from John when we closed our website and was sad about that loss.  But when I opened this old email up (hotmail) there was just one letter in the inbox.  And when I read it I knew John is still here with me.  Here is his email.

This is really weird.

I was just thinking last night about the differences between us. And about how much I love you.
You think you fail at things when, in fact, you are doing great things in life. 

You are the reason our kids have turned out well. You have spent the time with them when they needed it; unlike lots of mothers who do not pay attention and then their kids turn out to have all kinds of problems.

You have always been the one that backed me up. Now we are both getting older and like everyone else, things start to deteriorate, both physical and mental. But, that is just the way it is. It happens to everyone. 
I don’t know what to tell you about work. Maybe I rely on you too much. Everyone seems to do that to you. 

This is a tough time of the year. But we will get through it. 

I know the two of us don’t handle stress the same way. For me it is getting better because I feel that we are now at the stage where I believe we have already made it. 

We have done the right thing by our kids.  Adam still needs to work
things out, but he is certainly not a problem for us.  
Manda, Laura, Julie (and Emily) have all been put on a good path for their lives.

I think 99% of our clients like us. And that is why I feel okay about the relationships in the practice. The clients we like also like us, and understand when we have problems. And we do a damn good job for them.
I feel financially secure. If I died tomorrow, I know you guys would be okay. Not as well off as we will be in a few more years, but okay.

My only concern is you. I would like you to get to the stage that you are feeling okay too. I was hoping that this weekend would give you the break you need.

The thing is … It doesn’t matter. Pretty much any of these things can be fixed. If they can’t be fixed, we can handle the consequences. It will all be okay in the end. There are going to be things that come up all the time. That is life. 
The important thing is to get you to the stage that you feel the same way. 

I don’t know how to express this. The ups and downs happen. I look at them as challenges. But, in the end, that is all they are … We can handle any outcome. So how we get to the outcome doesn’t have to hurt us with the stress.

The one really important thing is that I love you. You are the best thing in my life. When I see you happy, I am happy. 

I wish I knew how to make you feel better. <Smiling> Just looking at you makes me feel better. Oops, there I go reverting to my character again .. This is not supposed to be about me.
One last try … Put this stuff out of your head. Relax. Go swimming. Go shopping with them. Enjoy the hotel. And while you are in Niagara Falls, think about our honeymoon. 

I really, really love you.

I know he is still with me.  I know in my heart he is waiting for me.  And I’m counting down the moments until I can be with him again.

 

10 Months and Counting

I realize I haven’t posted for some time.  I’ve been struggling, but in a new way.  It seems I have battle after battle to fight, whether they are legal or tax challenges that relate to my husband’s death.  I’m just so tired.  I am doing tax returns this year and all the clients that come to see me want to talk about John.  It is not easy to tell the story over and over again.  I never want to cry in front of them.  Everyone makes a comment like “you are an inspiration to all of us”, or “you are so strong” or the one I hate most “you look great” (because I have lost weight).  I am not an inspiration, not strong and I feel like shit.  They don’t realize that as soon as everyone is gone that I cry.  I wake up crying, go to sleep crying.  I feel like crap.

This week has been one of the worst I’ve had in a long time.  I don’t want to rehash everything but my company is being audited by CRA (this is a non-issue but just frustrating right now), I had to file the estate tax return for my husband for the IRS because we held property in the US and had issues with my new car.  On top of all that it is tax season and I have had so many clients here this week and employee who barely shows up.  There are no excuses during tax season not to be at work! So I’ve had even a rougher go the last little while.  On top of that I’m having heart tests done.  I’m not trying to be a doctor but I know there is a problem.  I’ve always had a weird thing with my heart where it races and sometimes I get light headed and feel faint.  But now I’m getting worried.  It happens more and more lately.  I hope it is just that I need a pacemaker to regulate the heartbeat or medication.  I have always said I don’t want open heart surgery and now … well even more so now.  If my heart is physically broken it can match my emotional heart.

Now I feel like I need to wrap things up.  Get things organized.  Make sure my son can take care of himself (he actually finishes college today).  I need to train him and my daughter on taking over the business or simply close it down.  I have a “to do” list.

If I’m to move forward I need to change that attitude.  Find something to live for.  My kids are all self sufficient so once my list is done I don’t need to “live” for them.

My next blog I will begin telling stories from my past.  How I met John, how we fell in love, how our life was together.  I’ll tell stories from my childhood and leave an online legacy.  Gives me something to do.

Forever and all ways … I will love you John.

Last Perfect Day

Today I hate FaceBook. A memory came up that is hard to deal with.
 
One year ago today I had my last perfect day. I remember as though it was yesterday. John and I were in Florida at our condo. John decided to sleep in a bit because we were going to have a busy day. He was still building his strength up after the corrective surgery he had in January. He was feeling better, eating more, smiling more and we were feeling positive. At this point it never occurred to us that he wouldn’t recover and we were happy. The sky was so blue that day and it was warm and breezy out.
 
John got up, showered, changed and had breakfast. He was in such a good mood. We were meeting friends for lunch at a restaurant about an hour away from our condo. We left around 11 and drove leisurely along Gulf Blvd so we could enjoy the beauty of the day. I was driving and John was enjoying the sunshine. We were laughing, reminiscing about all the places along the route. I could see John was so much stronger and happier.
 
We arrived to the restaurant before our friends so we walked around looking at the water. This restaurant is beautiful (Pier 22 in Bradenton). The building was built in 1928 and had a breathtaking view of the Manatee River. We walked along, mindful that John didn’t want to get overtired early. Our friends arrived and we were seated in the restaurant.
 
John was on fire that day. He was chatty, happy talking about work and happy being in the company of old friends. My friend Lisa mentioned how thin John was but I reassured her that we had heard back from the doctor from the tests were all negative and that John just needed time to recover. The doctor had told us there were no signs of cancer, that it was pancreatitis and he would be fine in time. John had a good lunch, ate sushi and crab. He was laughing and having so much fun.
 
Afterwards we walked hand in hand back to the van feeling better than we had since the whole journey started back in October. John was tired but happy.
 
When we got home he napped and we had a light dinner. Afterwards we went over to our neighbour a couple of doors down and had a glass of wine and chatted. We went to bed happy, tired from the sunshine, wine and long drive.
 
The following week we stayed close to home as John was taking a tax course. Even “semi-retired” John felt it was important to keep taking these courses. He was always looking forward to the future.
 
He didn’t really have another perfect day. He was tired, not eating and quiet. We went to a couple of Spring training games for the Jays but he only lasted 2 or 3 innings. Ten days after our perfect day John flew home to see our family doctor as we felt he was not recovering as planned.
 
Eventually it was our family doctor that diagnosed him with pancreatic cancer. All the specialists and surgeon missed it. I don’t think the end result would have been any different if we had known back in February but at least I had that one last perfect day with him.
 
So if you actually read this … I’m not looking for your pity or sorrow. I just want you to make sure you live each day to the fullest and show the people you love that you love them. Don’t just tell them, you need to show them. You never know when your last perfect day will be.

Acceptance Speech

It has been 7 months now.  I’ve noticed that there has been a gradual shift in my emotions this month.  I realized I have accepted John’s death.  Before, in my heart, I was waiting for him to come home.  Now I have accepted he is gone from me.  He can’t talk to me, he can’t advise me, he can’t hold me, he is gone.   I still am overcome with grief throughout the day but it is almost like ripples on the ocean as opposed to large waves.  It is silly little things that trigger it.  I won $13 at bingo the other day and the first person I wanted to tell was John.  Then in the same instant I realized he is no longer with me.  It was a small ripple and not a wave.  I felt my breath catch but then could move forward.  Breathe in, breathe out and move on.

Six Months Later

John died six months ago.  June 13, 2016 the life I knew ended.  I’m learning to move on.

I miss John.  I miss talking to him, sharing things with him, knowing he always had my back.  But what I miss the most about him is the way he smiled at me when I’d come home.  He would look up at me and give me this half smile and it would make my stomach flip even after 35 years of marriage.  In that moment I could always tell he loved me and he was happy to see me.  I miss that smile.

I believe I made the right decision about selling the condo.  I know John would have kept it but he loved going there because he was comfortable there.  He would spend hours sitting on the balcony reading and watching the golfers.  He liked having his own things there and sleeping in a comfortable bed.  He was not happy traveling.  I think though he would understand why I am selling.  I know I’ll have second thoughts and regrets but in the long run it is the right decision for me.  I know it.

I find it overwhelming having to handle everything on my own.  Not just the big things but the little things too.  John was so good to me.  He would fill my car with gas or just bring me a bowl of ice cream (he did love his ice cream).  He would take the garbage out at the the condo and take my car to have the oil changed.  We also split the office work.  We worked on tax returns together, he’d choose the mortgages we would fund and I’d do the bookkeeping.  We were the perfect team.  I took good care of him too.  I’d remind him to take his insulin, I took care of him the best I could.  Not just when he was dying, I always took good care of him.  It made both of us feel good to do things for each other.  Now I am alone and struggling.

I have been thinking about what I want to do in the future.  I don’t want to continue working with the clients. I should never have signed up with Simon to continue working with the clients.  Simon isn’t reliable enough and it is stressing me out.  I should have just told the clients that I was wrapping everything up when John died but I didn’t.  First, John wanted me to continue with the personal tax clients and secondly I thought I was helping Simon.  But I’m not qualified to do all these tax returns.  I would rather get a normal job than have to deal with all these clients all the time.  But I’ve told them I would take care of them.  I need to figure out a way out of this mess.  I will continue taking care of the family’s returns but not everyone else.  I only have two corporate clients to worry about and I can either have them work with Simon or go to another accounting firm.

I wish last April that John had not encouraged me and the clients to continue our relationship.  I don’t like answering the phone.  I don’t feel qualified to answer the questions they ask me.  John wanted to make sure i had something to do when he was gone but he shouldn’t have decided my future for me.  I can easily get a part time job and make just as much money and have less stress.  I need to move toward that life.  The accounting practice was John’s life and not mine.  I only got involved when he opened his own office.  I’ll blog about that story another time.  But right now, I realize it is time to give this up.

I need to carve out my new place in the world.  I need to decide my own direction and my own life.  I need to leave my old life behind and move forward.  I need to make my own mistakes.

I am really starting over.