Reflections

I’ve had time to reflect tonight. It’s the first weekend I don’t have plans, but I’m making a few things happen.

Two years ago, I would have been devastated to be alone on a weekend. I would have thought “all these happy families and couples are together. Why not me?”

Two longer-term relationships later – I failed one and the other failed me; in short they weren’t meant to be – I feel ambivalent about relationships. I know that I didn’t have a perfect marriage. Who does? We didn’t do a lot on weekends. We worked during the week so winding down was the agenda on weekends, or we were busy with kids when they were younger.

Once the kids got older we didn’t go to beaches in the summer. It wasn’t Bob’s thing. I acquiesced, I guess, because you can’t force someone to do something they don’t want to do, or you can try and it ends up in a fight. Besides, he didn’t have great health so he needed to regenerate after a busy work week – at least that’s what I told myself. In relationships you often concede rather than push. 

Six years after Bob passed away I know I have lived a different, fuller life. I’ve done things I would never have done before. I put myself into situations I would have avoided – large crowds for example. I had a year at a lake every weekend (relationship #2). Didn’t turn out to be  all I’d hoped for in my mind when I thought I wanted it with Bob, but I did love being near water.

It took me four years to even think about dating (because I was battling very deep depression). And when I did, I chose online dating, resulting in more misses than hits, a typical ratio before you meet “the one,” or the “the one” you think is “the one,” (who, it turns out, actually isn’t).

Somehow I lost four years and maybe that’s why I feel many years younger than I am. But reality says I’ve actually moved ahead a full decade, as far as age numbers go.

Reflecting on what I thought and what is, I always believed I’d be in another relationship – the “after Bob,” different than our relationship because I’m different now, but that hasn’t happened. And now I’m not as sure as I was that it will happen.

I don’t believe that humans were meant to be alone, but some people make a conscious choice to spend their lives without a partner. I look at couples now and realize they aren’t always happy.  I see them making accommodations for their differences and wonder if I have the energy to do that, let alone set the intention that I want it.

But one thing I do know is that you really do have to be happy with yourself before you can share yourself with someone else (law of attraction) and before now that wasn’t where I was at.

Right now I’m the happiest I’ve been, probably in my entire life. With my depression under control I have more energy. I can work. I don’t have negative self talk. In short, I feel ‘normal.’ And that’s very strange for me because I realize now that I’ve never felt normal in my life, at least the times I can remember in my life.  

As with any reflection I don’t know if there’s an answer here. I think the question is “Will I be alone forever?” I do know that somewhere inside me I’m being told to let life happen organically, rather than pushing it (read: online dating), and be true to my new-normal life belief that you need to live life one day at a time. But sometimes, when you think you’re not looking for anything, it actually appears right in front of you. 

Back with a vengeance

I haven’t been sure what’s been happening to me. I wake up sad. I cry a lot. I sleep a lot. I don’t eat so much. I can’t write. This has been going on for a while, but we can never see when we’re “in the weeds” as my sister always reminds me. Is it depression again?

I’ve had a lot of personal upheaval in my life this past year (2018) and it seems to have escalated this past month. When I’m alone I wake up talking to myself but what I’m saying isn’t good. It’s the negative words again telling me I’m bad and useless. I’m not worthy of love and that I will always be alone.

I practice gratitude. I am fearful of saying things out loud because of spiritual lessons – “Be careful what you wish for” and “If you say it out loud it may come true.”

My state is mainly confusion. My drive to do anything is non-existent.

When I was first diagnosed with depression it took a while. My GP at that time wasn’t nice to me. The nurses couldn’t understand and gently urged me to seek help elsewhere when I went to her office crying and she told me to buck up and get myself together.

I’m not sure how I found the strength but, finally, I went to a new doctor. I was sobbing when she came into the exam room and I said “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“You’re depressed,” she said.

“I can’t be,” I told her. “I can’t sleep or eat and am losing weight. People who are depressed sleep all the time, eat a lot and gain weight.”

“Not always, she told me. It can be the opposite.” It was my first diagnosis.

Many therapy visits with many doctors and psychologists later, I finally agreed to go on anti-depressants. I didn’t really believe that there was a problem with my brain, but I was exhausted from walking the floors every night and crying all the time. By then I had a different doctor (my current GP, as the one who diagnosed me had moved away) and she oversaw my medication and renewed my prescriptions. I managed day-to-day life but, in truth, I was still dragging and lagging, just getting through my days but sleeping again, with the aid of low-dose medication.

When Bob died I stopped sleeping and started crying again. I was grieving the loss of my husband and life mate of 30 years so it was understandable. But then it was more. Lines became blurred between grief and depression. This continued and culminated in a threat to kill myself and now my memories of yelling at people who came into my house to help followed by acquiescence when I was gently persuaded to get into an ambulance and eventually admitted to hospital. I wrote about that previously. The diagnosis was that the anti-depressants were no longer working resulting in depression. How crazy is that? New medication prescribed, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy programs, practising meditation and mindfulness and I began to feel more normal than at any other time in my life, until recently.

Despite thinking about water and a warm holiday approaching, I’m back to crying yet again, and the negative self talk. No matter how hard I try to shake it, back it comes, confusing and finally enveloping me. And here I am again, realizing that the recent anxiety, loneliness with myself and planning how to clean my house and divest of excessive ‘stuff’ is actually preparation for – Lord help me – my demise.

Now it’s the holidays and the New Year is upon us. I’m going to get through the last of this, but I need to tell myself that I will, and set up yet another visit to the doctor to convince her this medication isn’t working. Or maybe this is just my reality. It’s been a life-long battle and, to be honest, it’s wearing me down.

From Joey’s Mom to His New Forever Home

Loss again…Joey The Cat left today for his new forever home. Here is his story I helped him write for his new forever family…

My name is Joey. Sometimes my mom fondly calls me Joey The Cat. I was found hanging around someone’s backyard. They couldn’t keep me. I was looking for a forever home.  Mom wanted a cat so she took me in.

At home I was an indoor cat and I was happy being her only cat. but one day she adopted my sister, Cassie. Mom worked hard to get me and Cassie to like each other and it worked. We were very close. We played and slept together and had lots of fun.

Sometimes mom would let us out in the backyard but one day I jumped over the fence so she put a tether on me and Cassie so we couldn’t get away. I didn’t like the tether but at least I got to go out and I liked that and loved my home.

After a while I started running out the front door whenever someone opened it. I didn’t go far, but mom would get mad and bring me back in and tell me not to do that. But I kept doing it because I liked being outside and rolling on the ground.

One day mom met dad. Dad had a cat named Zuey. He was much older than me and Cassie and mom and dad had to get ust used to Zuey, who dad sometimes called ZuZu. Zuey was an outdoor cat but he stayed indoors at our house. Later dad let him out for a little while and he told mom she should let me and Cassie out too and not put our tethers on us. Cassie was happy in the backyard but I got bored and started jumping over the fence. Mom and dad did what they could to keep me in the backyard but it didn’t work so they put a cat door into the house and, during the day, we could all go out and in when we wanted to. Cassie and Zuey stayed in the backyard. I didn’t. At night we all slept inside the house.

Slowly I got used to being outdoors and stayed out longer. If mom wouldn’t let me go out I started growling. Cassie is a very quiet and sweet kitty sister but she started attacking me when I came into the house because she doesn’t like the growling so I’m had trouble coming into the house.

Meanwhile, I was having a lot of fun outside and I learned how to catch mice and birds. One day I brought in two live mice and one that wasn’t moving anymore. Mom wasn’t happy because every time I came into the house I brought a mouse.

Cassie is a good house cat and wouldn’t like to live outside. Zuey is the same. But I guess I’m really happy as an outdoor cat now. I love mom and dad but it’s hard for them to keep me in the house. I need a loving place where I can play freely and chase mice and be outside when I want to. My mom’s friend told me she knew a family in the country that had other cats like me, who like to chase mice, and they might like to have me live there.

Mom and dad are worried about me but they can’t keep me anymore because they can’t have my mice friends in the house and me and Cassie fighting all the time.

Mom and dad want to thank you for agreeing to keep me at your place and let me play with mice and be free. They love me very much and this is hard for them but they know I will be happier outside.

I have had all my shots and they think I am 4 years old (it’s hard to say because I’m a rescue cat). They made my birthday is January 1st and I will be 5 years old then.

Thank you for agreeing to take me in and let me live a happy life with you. Please know I was loved and will be missed at my home.

UPDATE October 18, 2018: Joey has adapted well to his new home. He is now “Leader of the Pack,” hunting to his heart’s content. We miss you Joey, But we know you are happy now.

Paying Homage: Who was he?

I recently took part in a memoir writing course, hoping it would help me write the memoir I’ve been struggling with – about my life with Bob, my husband who died four years ago June 8th, and grief, and whatever else this book will be when I write it. But I just can’t seem to get the writing down in any way that isn’t jumbled.

I tried to write a submission for critique. The first one wasn’t good. The second attempt wasn’t much better. Overall, it was a painful struggle. When it came time for the critique of my piece – the last of all the submissions – the facilitator didn’t go through my story like she had for the others. She asked questions.

“What was Bob like? From what you’re saying, without saying it, I think we can tell he was intrigued by you when he met you. I think he was introverted, kind and shy.”

But these were conjecture based on what was in between the words. I hadn’t said who he was and in missing that I missed what made him important to me, and to others who knew him.

So I’m going to do my best to tackle this again, and maybe by sharing this I am revealing just a small part of who he was.

Bob fought for his life the entire time I knew him and without complaint. We had a good marriage. We weren’t best friends, we became kindred spirits. We rarely fought each other; we fought for his life together. He had Crohn’s Disease – an often debilitating illness causing so much pain it’s palpable, especially to those who love you the most. We fought the disease one operation after the other until his death. “For better or for worse, in sickness and in health.” And yet, during the 30 years I knew him he never once complained about his lot in life. He barely complained about the excruciating pain until it became unbearable and he would tell me it was time to go to the hospital.

Bob was the most honest person I ever met. Over the past four years I’ve encountered people who are bitter over broken relationships, divorce and deceit. I can tell you without any hesitation that Bob would never do that to me. We actually had this conversation and I remember saying that cheating on someone would be the worst pain you could inflict on them. “That one act can affect another human being’s self-esteem and makes them question their self-worth. It’s better to admit you harbored those feelings and walk away before you acted causing irreparable pain to another human being,” I said. He agreed. I trusted that Bob would never do that and I know he didn’t. He was, as we say in Yiddish, a mensch – a person of integrity and honor.

Bob was analytical and a mediator. He always said “There are three sides to every story, yours, mine and the truth.” He was soft spoken and rarely raised his voice in anger. When he did, people would stop whatever they were doing. They would listen to him as he analyzed the situation, having weighed all the pros and cons before speaking up. In one of his jobs he was asked to be a mediator and in another job he was approached to be a union representative because people knew he would be fair and honest. He proved himself to be fair in all instances and took his job mediating on behalf of others very seriously.

Bob was respected by everyone who knew him. During his last months, his co-workers and supervisors from the automotive parts plant, where Bob was a lead-hand electrician, came to the hospital to talk to him about his return to work. They had decided to put him in charge of their apprentice program because he was so patient and good at teaching those who were in trade training. He was humbled and elated at the opportunity to take on this role, which never happened because he didn’t make it back to work.

At his visitation services grown men came and cried on my shoulder saying how much they would miss him. The day of he was buried, the plant he worked at shut down production at 11:00 a.m. when the funeral began. There’s a sizable financial cost to involved with shutting down a plant, even for a short while and, believe me, this isn’t done for everyone.

Bob was a wonderful father and grandfather. We have a daughter and he had two children from a previous marriage. His daughter has a child, our granddaughter. Bob was an amazing father. His children looked up to him and wanted to make him proud. It wasn’t hard to do that. He was proud of each of them and always let them know this, not with constant praise but by being there to counsel them whenever they had problems. It was dad they often turned to when they were struggling. They knew he’d have the answer they needed to hear.  His granddaughter was nine when he was in the hospital those last months. No matter how sick he was, when she came to visit he’d swing his feet over the side of the bed, sit next to her and whisper quietly having a special, private conversation only a grandfather and granddaughter can have. When he died his children were bereft and to this day they all miss him profoundly.

Is this what people need to know if I were to write a memoir? I’m still not sure. But I hope that by giving just a few small insights into who he was, I pay homage to a man who never looked for the limelight, but in his death I hope I honor him with my memories.

I will always miss you

It’s been almost four years and my heart still aches.
I will always miss you.

I am in a different place than I was four years ago, but
I will always miss you.

My heart is open to new possibilities, but
I will always miss you.

When I see couples together and I feel jealous.
I will always miss you.

I am stronger than I was three, two, a year or less ago, but
I will always miss you.

I walk without you beside me but I’m told you’re always near. I don’t feel you.
I will always miss you.

I wonder what life would be like if you were still here.
I will always miss you.

A bird, a word, a song, all reminders of our life together.
I will always miss you.

Realization that finding someone like you is impossible but I must go on.
I will always miss you.

I am hopeful that I will find a light and a different kind of love beyond sad memories but I will never forget you.
I will always miss you.

I will remember you forever even as my new life evolves.
I will always miss you.

You Hurt Too

Sometimes on our journey we meet people who are also grieving. They inadvertently hurt us with their grief.

I know I am stronger because I don’t blame myself, but it hurts. I can’t help you if you don’t want to be helped and you can’t blame me for how you feel. We are at an impasse.

I no longer feel pain. I can’t cry because I’ve built a wall around myself. It’s my protection. I can’t feel empathy and that scares me.

It all changed when he died and I was propelled on this path. I don’t recognize myself anymore. I hope I will be able to let this wall down so I can feel again, but I can’t trust right now. Where did I go? I miss me.
 

You Hurt Too was originally published on Write From Here

Eulogy for my Dad

Eulogy for my Dad

Friday, October 7, 2016

dad-gradDr. Murray Boles, August 27, 1928-October 5, 2016

As many of you know our dad’s passing on Wednesday [October 5, 2016] came as a surprise. But that’s not what I wanted to talk about because Dad wasn’t the sick person we saw the past two years. He was a vibrant and active man, a healer and kind father and husband.

I could tell you about all of dad’s professional accomplishments but they really are too long to list so I’ll try and summarize.

Dad was born in Windsor, Ontario and so was my mother, but they met in London, Ontario, where I live now. Dad was attending the University of Western Ontario to become a doctor and mom was attending Victoria School of Nursing.

Dad received his degree in diagnostic and therapeutic radiology and was a member of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and Fellow of the same prestigious organization, as well as a Fellow of the American College of Radiology.

He worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Sarnia, Ontario waiting to immigrate to the US to practice there and started working at Grace Hospital in Detroit. He later became Chief of Henry Ford Hospital Therapeutic Radiology. In fact, he started that department and is a legend in the hospital because he forged into new area of cancer treatment and research there. He also held several teaching positions including Clinical Instructor, Assistant Professor and Acting Chairman in Radiology at Wayne State University Medical School. He was Director of the Therapeutic Radiology Residency Program and School of Radiation Therapy Technology at Henry Ford Hospital.

Mom and Dad moved to Columbia, Missouri in 1983 where Dad opened his own cancer clinic in conjunction with Columbia Regional Hospitals, where he also held the title of attending physician. That’s our dad on paper.

dad-2The man I remember, as a child, was very unassuming and quiet. He didn’t talk to us about his work but sometimes we’d go to his office with him. My biggest thrill was being allowed to use the typewriter. I think that’s where I got my start learning to type so quickly, that and mom making me take typing in Grade 9, which I thought was ridiculous but look what I do now. I’m a writer and can type 80 words per minute. So, yes, mom and dad had our future quietly planned, at least they knew we were going to attend university and created a life that allowed us this opportunity.

Of course there are so many memories I have of growing up and what I tell people is that, truthfully, I had a perfect childhood. We had loving parents who really cared about us. We learned the value of a dollar. Our parents came from modest families. When they married they weren’t wealthy. They bought their dream home in Farmington, Michigan for $25,000 and the living and dining room parquet floors were a place for my sister, Anita, and I to practice gymnastics because they couldn’t afford to furnish those rooms for several years.

One story dad told us was when he was in medical school and got a notice for a second term tuition. Though he worked in the Canadian Naval Reserve during the summers, something he was very proud of, especially in his retirement years, but that year he didn’t have the money to pay for his second term tuition. He went to the accounting office and they told him to fill out some papers and he got a bursary. Dad would give mom a dollar each week and asked her to hold onto it for him. They would go to the infamous Bobby Sox diner in London on the weekend and he would use that to have a hamburger. Being a skinny guy and putting all those hours in for school and internships, etc., this was a wonderful treat.

Dad had a loving family. We often visited our grandparents, dad’s parents, Bloomie and Joseph who lived in Windsor with dad’s brother, Uncle Lew. Lew and Dad were actually 21 years apart so Lew was more like a big cousin rather than our great uncle. The home they lived in was built by our grandfather and our father. We had our cousins, Stephen and Ellen State and their parents, Frances and Jack who lived in St. Thomas, Ontario.

Some of my fondest memories of bonding with dad included the day he decided to make bread from scratch with me and Anita. Mom was fastidious about a cleanly home, so he shooed her out the door that day and promised to have the place spic and span when she returned. I’m not sure how clean it really was because I remember being covered with flour from head to toe, but the result of our hard work was delicious.

On Sunday we would attend Hebrew School and Dad would take us to the bagel store and bring home a dozen bagels and cream cheese and lox and make scrambled eggs and we’d have a yummy brunch.

Dad also had a wonderful sense of humour. He would always pull a prank on mom on April Fool’s Day. Each year she swore she wouldn’t fall for it, but she always did.

Dad loved music. Every Sunday he’d pull out the portable record player. I know all the words to all the songs from Gigi and loved singing very song along with Maurice Chevalier.

He loved sailing, though his only solo attempt resulted in husband and wife overboard. Mom wasn’t impressed, to put it mildly. He enjoyed playing golf and tennis.

Our parents were married for over 50 years before mom became sick and died in 2009. They were the love of each other’s lives and we all missed mom, but dad missed her terribly. They were each other’s best friends. Every morning before he headed to work Dad would bring two cups of coffee on a bedside tray to their bedroom. Mom would be in bed and he’d sit on the side of the bed and, sipping coffee as they’d talk quietly together. He’d go to work and come home at night for dinner because they both felt it was important to be together, as a family, at the end of the day. As I said, it was a pretty ideal upbringing for my parent’s daughters.

In 2012 dad decided to move back to Michigan. He said it was an area he was familiar with and he would be close to me and his brother. He loved Canada and was proud to be a dual American and Canadian citizen.

I know this is just a sketch of our father’s life. He was a remarkable man. And today [at his funeral], as we put him to rest so that he can be with others that he loved so much, we ask that you remember him and all the wonderful times that you had with him when he was alive.

Eulogy for my Dad was originally published on Write From Here