Thursday, December 24, 2009


Both angry and depressed. We had a nice trip laid on to NYC to see eldest son and his lovely bride. We reserved a room on the train, berths, own bath, shower even. Scheduled to leave at about 1000 PM on Dec 23. Time to have a few drinks, sleep, breakfast, then arrive in NYC before noon on the 24th. We finally gave up and cancelled the trip at 0600 in the morning of the 24th. Eight hours late and no train yet. Good excuses/reasons, but no train. We already started making plans to fly up after New Year's to see them, but right now, just angry and depressed. At least we can get the dog out of the kennel and have xmas day with him. We always hate leaving him.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A less bleak Autumn than anticipated

A less bleak Autumn than anticipated. My mother survived and appears to be out of danger. For a while it was not day to day, hour to hour, or even minute to minute. For a longish time is was second to second. I said “Goodbye” along with the rest of the family. She is a tough woman, she survived. She went back to the nursing home for rehab for her original issue and I decided to return overseas to work on my book. The day I was to leave she was back in the hospital via the emergency room and again it was bad, but only hour by hour this time. I returned anyway, canceling my flight the morning I was to depart. Again, she survived and I have now returned overseas. She still has multiple complications which threaten her, but not on an immediate basis. I am not sure surviving was a mercy for her. She does have a living will demanding no heroic measures, and we walked right up to the edge of that.

I have said goodbye, if something happens now, I do not feel the pressure to get home before she would die. I would still want to, but that pressure if off. I have said what I needed to say. Not that she knows me, as far as I can tell. She will never return to her home. After rehab she will go to another wing of the nursing home. She will need more care than she can get at home, more care than in home nursing will provide.

If she avoids further infections she will live quite a bit longer. She is already 88, but the women on her side of the family seem to be nearly immortal. Unfortunately, they also seem to develop Alzheimer’s pretty early. That is OK as long as she is happy.

Last year, at my brother’s funeral, she already had no idea who I was. However, we had a nice talk about my kids, my family, my life. She was engaged and lively. Totally out of touch with reality, but seemed happy with it. She no longer seems so happy, but it is hard to tell - this has been a miserable experience for her. Not only unpleasant, but unfamiliar surroundings and she cannot understand where she is or why she is there. She does not remember her surgery and cannot understand why she cannot get up and walk away. She wants to go home, she never will. She talks about her Daddy coming to get her. She knows my sister and eldest brother because they see her every day. Well, not sure she knows who they are, but recognizes them as belonging in her world. She will ask about me and express her desire to see me, even when she just has. Not being recognized bothers me less than I thought it would. It is not her fault.

So, this Autumn, so far, was not marked by another death. Did not make it three in a row. I am grateful for that. Last October my brother died, two Novembers ago, my wife killed herself. I think enough is enough.

I accepted my brother’s death pretty quickly. He had been ill a long time and was miserable. I miss him, I loved him. I accept his death.

The suicide has been much harder. That anniversary was last night. I did what I said I would do a couple of entries ago in this blog. I drank, not that much, cried, some, smoked, thought. Not the last tears, not the last ache, but without much anger and that is real progress. I did not get to say goodbye, I was not ready to say goodbye, I still cannot say goodbye aloud, but I can wave goodbye, and do it without excessive anger spoiling and poisoning my memories. That is good enough for the second anniversary.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Another Autumn To Hate

It has not happened yet, but my feeling is that my mother may die within a few days. I am currently abroad and am trying to get home as quick as possible. My sister thinks that I may need to hurry if I want to see her while she still lives. No definite data, but it does not look good. So, tomorrow I will travel all day to get to my home, then travel the next day to her home. My sister and older brother are there to take care of things. My sister is like me, capable, decisive, and a bit of a control freak.

Mom is 87 years old, suffering badly from Alzheimer’s, and fell and broke her hip last month. The entire joint had to be replaced and she seemed to come through the surgery well. After a few days she was transferred to a nursing home for rehabilitation. We doubted she would ever return to her own home again, but only thought that meant she would have to stay in the nursing home.

However, she has proven unwilling to eat or drink much and continually pulls out any IV. She is now malnourished and dehydrated and has pneumonia. The pneumonia may be the result of aspiration when people tried to help her eat. No ones fault, everyone has been careful. She is back in the hospital, doped out and with an IV running full bore. Sister and brother decided to allow a feeding tube to be inserted. This is kinda dicey as she has a living will which forbids extensive measures to prolong life. Their feeling is that feeding may allow her to survive, or a least give her a chance. I told my siblings that they are on the scene and I will back any decision they make. I know they will show mercy and not needlessly prolong her existence once she is no longer able to survive. I believe everyone has done everything they can to help. I do not think it is going to matter this time.

She was the baby of 13 children and is the sole survivor. She buried her husband, our father, over a decade ago and one of her sons, my middle brother, last year. At that funeral, she already did not really know who I was, but seemed quite happy to talk to me about my family and my children. She was happy with life, mostly. She lived in her own home, my older brother lived with her, and sister was in the same town and over to see her most days. She was not really in contact, but got along well enough, had lots of care and visits from extended family.

In the last few months, she has not been as happy. She had frequent pain in joints and bones, was unable to get around with any ease, and was less and less connected to the present and resented it. She has been difficult to be with, live with, work with. She was always stubborn, runs in the family apparently, and this aspect of her personality seemed to be taking control. My sister has persevered, but it weighs on her and, being a control freak like me, had trouble dealing with her own anger, guilt and concern.

I would like to see her before she dies, if that is in the offing. I want to see here for me, not her. I doubt she will know who I am. There is, of course, the possibility that she will pull through. She has always been a tough woman. Still, if I do not go home this time, and if she dies, I will regret it.

She was not always the perfect parent, who is? Certainly not me. I have been a less than perfect son, like so many of us. My sister was pretty close to perfect and well loved by both my parents. My brothers and I got what was left over. At least, that is how it appeared to me. However, sis did not demand such affection, and always took care of me when I was little. She is a good person. Tough like me, if much more touchy feely and willing to cry. Much more in touch with who she is.

I know I am beginning to hate Autumn. It used to be my favourite season, especially in the South. Finally cool enough to enjoy the evenings and days still warm enough for shorts and sandals. If my mother dies, it will make three Autumns in a row with the death of a loved one. My then spouse in 2007, my middle brother in 2008, and now my mother this year. Death is becoming a habit, and I am tired of it.

I doubt this makes much sense, I am mainly just marking time until I get on the plane tomorrow. Laundry and dishes done, bags are packed. Just waiting.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Last Tears

"These are the last tears I'm gonna cry for you." It is a song by the Indigo
Girls "Last Tears") that has caught my attention of late. No, I do not think
the tears I have shed are entirely gone, nor do I want them to be, but it is
time to move on. It is time to lose the anger. Grief, like death, seems to
go through stages and I have been stuck in anger for too long. I want to move
to acceptance. Not understanding, I do not think that will ever come, but
acceptance. Acceptance with memory intact. Acceptance without pain would be
nice, but I will be happy with acceptance without anger. Pain is an old
friend and I can deal with it.

Music has helped, more than I expected. I wrote earlier that I had put a lot
of my music aside: Meatloaf, David Wilcox, Manhattan Transfer, some of my
Lyle Lovett. I put aside most of the love songs I sang when I looked for
love, and sang after I found it. I also put away most of my classical music.
Cyndie did not know classical before we met and we had a wonderful time
learning it together, her for the first time and me really listening to old
favourites with a new appreciation. Same with jazz vocals and big band - they
all went into the bin, literally deleted from the computer, pretty much gone
forever. Some I may get back into, some I know I never will. David Wilcox is
probably gone forever. I discovered him when we met and his songs were the
leitmotif of our courtship, marriage, and now her suicide. One David Wilcox
song did help stabilize me. The song is "For Real" and the lines that meant
the most are, "Death took the husband of a neighbor of mine on a highway with
a drunk at the wheel. She told me 'Keep your clean hands off the laundry he
left and don't tell me you know how I feel'." (I know now to never use I know
how you feel for any tragedy, I do do not either. At best, and it
is best, you can say you know what pain feels like.)

So, some new songs, some old friends untainted by memory. Tom Waits, who she
never liked, Indigo Girls, some new Jazz vocals by Jane Monheit even some
techno like the Safri Duo. Many of these songs hit hard, especially the
Indigo Girls one mentioned above. It is time to cry it out, then dry the
eyes..."I won't forget, I don't regret...but these are the last tears I am
gonna cry for you". Of course the singer will have more tears to shed, but
that the soul wrenching kind of tears needs to go away and stay away. Tears
of memory and loss are fine, tears leading to anger or dark sadness are not.
I do not want to forget, I want to accept.

Lots of Tom Waits helps as well, always has. I do not care if I am the only
person who likes him, he speaks to my heart and his voice is like mine so when
I hear the pain in his voice it feels like my own raised in song.

So. Going to give it a try. As the second anniversary of Cyndie's suicide
approaches, it is time. Not sure I can handle forgiveness, that is going to
take a bit longer and the betrayal was deep and personal. However, I think
she tried to atone for the betrayal by killing herself and I try to take that
into account. In my opinion, she had not a good enough reason - I was not
ready to say goodbye, I had no chance to say goodbye. If I am honest with
myself, I know that is part of what drives the anger, I did not get a chance
to say goodbye. The honest part of myself also admits that I never would have been
ready to say goodbye.

Because she did betray me, I am not sure what would have happened to us. I
would like to think I would have forgiven her, but I am not sure I could have.
My new partner and I were discussing things after dinner one night, around the
table with after dinner drinks. She said something beautiful and painful,
i.e., that she was happy with what we had, but thought that if Cyndie walked
in the door at that moment she was afraid I would go to her. I thought of
that and something crystalized in my head - no, I would not. The pain was too
keen. It is not the betrayal that would have made it almost impossible to
forgive, it was the fact that I was literally willing to die for her and she
was not willing to live for me. Maybe that is unfair to her, she was mentally
ill, but it is true. I would not now return to Cyndie if she was magically returned.

People mention that she had mental issues for years, and that it really was
not a surprise. Well, it was. She seemed to be getting better, had started
with a therapist after years without regular meetings. She had projects
started and had ordered things for her hobbies that only arrived after her
death. It was a surprise, yes. It was not a surprise, no.

A friend gave me a wonderful piece of advice early on. She said, do not make
her into a saint. True, she was not. However, I moved too far to the other
side and somewhat demonized her. That is also not true. She was a human,
both flaws and beauty. She was not always a good person, but I knew the demons
going in and learned many of the others. Maybe I could have forgiven the
affair, I do not think I ever could forgive the real betrayal of us - killing
herself. Suicide of this type is the ultimate selfish act.

I still had to deal with guilt and I do believe that drove the anger to a large
extent. The question of what I did or did not do haunted me a long time. I
have come to believe I could not have done more than I could. Her children,
we have five in common, say I made her happier and longer than anyone ever had
or probably could. I do take comfort in that. However, if I want to be
honest with myself, I have to admit that guilt drove at least part of the
anger. Easier to blame it all on her, is it not?

At Last - Etta James
( )
So where am I now? I am with a person who loves me despite having seen me at
my worst. She is adorable, lovable, helpful, close without smothering, and I
finally believe she is going to stay, that she will not be taken from me. Oh,
yes, there was some guilt in giving my love to someone new - guilt that helped
to drive the anger, but I think I have moved beyond that. In an odd way I am
sure Cyndie wanted me to be happy and find someone who could give me all her
love. I got lucky and I did. One door closed and another one opened, to
quote an overused cliche. Repeat, I got lucky. Will there be more tears, more pain
at remembrance? I hope so, it means that I will have dealt with it. Any time
you lose a loved one there should be tears, there will be pain. There will
even be anger because one is never ready to say goodbye, but the anger should
be allowed to fade. The love and good times should be allowed to thin and
fade the anger and allow new love and good times in to complement, not
replace, the old ones. My new love and I both took a chance that things would
work, there were no guarantees. It has, very well. Moving on and being happy
is not a betrayal of memory, that was a hard thing to learn. Feeling guilty
for being happy is normal, but hiding beind anger to cover both loss and guilt
at moving on is dreadful.

So, are these the last tears I am gonna cry for you? No, surely not. This
November, 2009, the two year anniversary, I am abroad and alone. So, what will
I do? Have a drink, have a cry, wipe the tears, sober up, "make some coffee
black and strong, give thanks for healing time, finally make up my
mind...these are the last tears I'm gonna cry for you".

Last Tears - Indigo Girls

I wrote this as pretty much a stream of consciousness and only reviewed to try and get caps and spelling right. I decided not to edit it. The formatting is screwed up and, frankly, I do not care. Comments always welcome, you can even say you know how I feel, but would prefer you just say you understand what pain and loss feel like.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

And the anger still boils up at times...

As I stated in my last post, so long ago, I got married on 24 Jan 09 to a wonderful woman. She knows my flaws and past, loves me anyway, and has done much to bringing me back to normal. That is why I hate being pulled back into the painful past at times.

Yes, I know the past is there and cannot be forgotten. I do not want to forget it, I just want it to stay in the little box I created for it. Yeah, I know that will not work either.

I am happy, things are going well, life is good. For months after Cyndie killed herself I could not imagine ever saying those things again.

I think it is because things are going well that being pulled back into anger and pain is such a pain. Anyone who has ever lost someone will recognize how hearing a song or seeing a movie clip will bring back the memory of the lost one, bring back that pain. My particular problem with this is that I am so heavily involved in music. I have it playing almost all the time. Why is this a problem? Well, I exposed Cyndie to large body of music for the first time, especially classical, but also people like David Wilcox. If you do not know him, search him out. I can no longer listen to him and have deleted all his song files from my computer. Did the same with Mozart and Meatloaf. Both of them are too closely associated with her, and car trips, and lazing after making love.

However, that is not why the anger is back, I think. OK, I am not really sure. I think the real trigger was moving picture files off my computer and onto disk for storage. To do that, you have to look at them. Some were family type, some alone, some innocently intimate. All were twelve years of my life and seeing each one was like raking nails across a scab. Eventually it comes off and you bleed a bit. It is a self inflicted wound and you are angry with yourself for making it bleed and angry at the circumstances that lead to the first injury.

I do not want to lose my memories, I do not want to forget. There was much good in our life together, most of time together was good in fact. I want to look back without anger.

The new love in my life understands and accepts this. She has her own anger issues with the women who hurt me and our children so bad. I am actually glad to hear that from her, not sure why. When I spend a couple of days in a blue anger funk she always accepts and understands, leaving me room as needed. I know it hurts her and I feel some guilt about that, which she understands, but sees no reason to feel upset about. She is upset for and not at me. Yeah, I got lucky and I know it and tell her with every I love you.

So, the anger still pops up as we begin to approach the second anniversary of Cyndie's suicide. I try to accept it. Try to let it wash through me. Try not to scratch at the scab. I try to understand. I am so glad that I am not alone.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What a long, strange trip it has been - Part I

To recap: In November 2007, my wife committed suicide while I was in Afghanistan. I considered eating my gun or walking out into a mine field, but friends took my gun, sat with me and one even escorted me home to Charleston, SC.

The kids rallied around me. My friends rallied around. I survived the first week and the funeral and the cremation and the aching emptiness of a house not only empty, but bereft of life.

I had/have a good therapist and anti-depressants and made some promises. First promise I made was to scatter her ashes in the water at Isle of Palms beach in April '08. I knew this promise would make me hang on for a time and let the hole in my heart, in my life, scab over. I kept that promise and I kept the promise to the kids to not leave them without a father. I have been in wars, been poor, been homeless, been ill - holding the promise to the ash scattering and to my children was the hardest thing in my life.

I was not perfect. I broke my hand twice on inanimate objects - doors mostly. I went to a biker bar, picked a fight and beat the hell out of a stupid redneck, breaking my hand again. It felt good and I am not sorry I did it. However, I am ashamed at my lack of control for wanting to get into a fight. I realize it was part of a death wish.

I did not work for over a year, living on my pension and my savings. I ended up virtually broke.

My health went to hell as I stopped taking care of myself. My immune system took a dive and my thyroid went berserk and tried to kill me. This was one of the things that pulled me out, odd as that may sound. I went to the Dr, found out I was about two days away from a massive stroke and started to take care of the issue. It is still a problem, but is being controlled and I am getting better.

However, let me give credit where credit is due. I have a friend who was/is in love with me. She knew that love would go no where as I was married, but loved me anyway. She had her own struggle after my wife's suicide, not wanting to capitalize on the opportunity of a tragic act or take advantage of my grief, but wanting to be there for me. On my part, I nearly dropped contact on my way into my hermit crab shell. Long story short, we negotiated the mine field of issues, my therapist was so much help there I cannot thank her enough, and allowed love to grow.

Still shortening the story, my friend is now my love and on Saturday, 24 Jan 09, we will be married in front of family and friends. My kids love her and support the marriage and the ones who physically can will be in attendance.

I have more to say about working out if love was an option and dealing with death and the, "am I using her as a replacement", issue, but for now I can only say I got lucky. I am in love with Wendy as a separate and distinct person, and I want to marry her.

Good things can happen.