2 Years Later

2 Years Later

It’s been two years since I wrote on this message.  I can’t read thru it without feeling pain.  I usually use this blog to indirectly communicate with her, but I felt it fitting to tell her that I miss her tonight.  I never wrote a text message to her again while she was alive.  The night before, she was in distress and having trouble even typing.  Her neighbor was sort of a lunatic, and that wasn’t helping her either.

She was getting back to being stable, so the plan was to get her to feel good enough to go home and find a hospice care place who could help manage her care from here on out.  8 years in, and it became too dangerous for her to stay home.  I felt like a failure.  I went home to get some sleep so that I could coordinate finding a place that was right for her.  The amount of incompetent shits in the medical field is criminal, but what industry isn’t filled with useless fucks?

She had been in the hospital since Sunday, but it wasn’t till I went in that Tuesday that I realized that she wasn’t coming home.  That Tuesday was the last day I would get to tell her that I love her.  44 hours in a morphine coma and she was gone.

That morning, I came in and her heart rate was back up.  What happened next has been documented in this blog, and frankly, it is hard to repeat it even in text.

I have always felt guilty that I didn’t stay more Monday.  But I didn’t know then what I knew that Tuesday morning.

I tell myself that.  But I don’t allow myself to forgive.  Still don’t. I wanted to give everything I had.  I wanted to die when she died.   Go with her spirit.  I didn’t want to face having to start over.  I didn’t want to start over.  I didn’t want to play this terrible game anymore.  A large part of me still doesn’t.  I’m terrified of my entire life becoming a series of tragedies.  It’s fucked, but there it is.

I still feel guilty for being alive while she is dead.  She deserved more out of life and frankly, I never really enjoyed it as much as she did.  I feel like in many cases, the time I still have would have been better spent if it was given to her and I was the one who died.

I feel guilty now for having good days.  For being in a relationship and learning to be happy again.  Every time I feel that there is some hope, I feel guilty for not being miserable.  It’s like there is a part of me that needs to tone down my enjoyment of life.  Like I’m fucking responsible for Cancer?  But there it is.

I feel like I owe it to her to try to slow down a bit and enjoy life a bit.  But it all doesn’t give as much happiness as it did when I was younger.  When I was ignorant of what pain was.  To enjoy life, you have to go live it.  But bad things happen when we peek out of our protective shell.  I know it’s irrational.  But there it is.

In spite of still having these feelings, I try to live.  I accept that I have this pain, and I don’t try to fight it.  When I need to cry, I do.  But then I go back to living.  Not reckless.  Not self-destructive.  Just a boring average existence.  What anyone expects is within reach in life.  Go to work, get shit done, get paid, and enjoy the weekend.  But I still feel guilty, even though I shouldn’t.

I wish I could say that I appreciate how lucky I’ve been, but honestly, I wish I didn’t know what this pain feels like.  I wish I had the luxury of bitching about the ball-n-chain and how the kids drive me nuts.  I wish I still looked forward to Christmas or my own birthday.  But I am sort of numb to happy.  I don’t look forward to anything, even when I am happy.  I’m also numb to sad too.  It’s like my brain decided that it has had enough of feeling a strong emotion and it is in this mode where it mutes the color of life.  It’s a daily struggle to rise above this.  Being happy requires me to work at it.

Dumb and ignorant people would say that I am depressed.  Well, my first love and wife died.  You want me to feel what exactly?  But I’m not depressed.  I am in a promising relationship.  I’d say I am in love.  I have a good job.  I have my own place.  I’m comfortable.

But I have survivor’s remorse.   I’m mad that God decided that her eternal kindness, happiness, and optimism needs to go while my brooding calculating self gets to stay.  What kind of fucking diety does that?  Seriously, where did this guy learn to “God” anyway?

I’m scared to have kids.  I always figured I would have them, but here I am past the point where I felt I wanted to sign on to 20 years of indentured servitude to a rug rat.  I don’t know if I have it in me to take the risk of creating a life that could be taken from me.  Or the energy to give that kid the time and attention it will need to become a self-actualized adult.

I am not sure that after all that time caring for Felecci that I have the energy to give, even though I feel it is one of the most important things we do in life as human beings.  How fucked is that really?  I’m not saying I don’t want kids.  In fact, I’m very certain I want the option on the table still.  But I’m scared that I will never be ready to pull that trigger.  No pun intended.

2 years later, I am still trying to move forward.  I owe it to Felecci to do so.  She wanted me to, and she can’t live life for me so the job is mine regardless if I want it or not.  But even though I seem better, I really am still just starting to figure out how to live again.   I am flying by the seat of my pants.  Trying not to feel guilty for every good feeling and emotion I find.  Not letting the pressures of life bother me like it did.  In fact, I have never been so balanced in my life.

Normally I try to edit these posts a bit to tell a story to the reader so that they get some message.   I’m not going to do much editing here.  If you are in a similar position to mine and you still feel like you are lost and drifting thru life aimlessly, then you are normal.  See my words, and realize that I’m still nearly as fucked as I was 2 years ago.

I am not sure I will ever get over this.  Like a scar, I think I will carry this forever.  Hopefully, we learn to feel good in life and get excited about the opportunity.  I’m still trying to find that, and I think Felecci would be nagging me to do better.  So, I try to every day.

I love you babe.  I wish it was me and not you.  I know you always hated when I said that, but it is still true. Not because I want to die, but because I feel you deserved life more than I did.  I hope I do better in year 3.  But I’m trying.  For you, if not for myself.

Say hi to Nana and Artie for me.  I still think about them every time I think about our marriage.  Also, say hi to your Lola for me.  I was sad to hear that she went.  I hope her spirit keeps you company till we meet again.

Dear God, what the fuck is your plan here anyway?

Today would have been Felecci’s 41st birthday.  I thought I’d be able to carry that shit today.  Till everything hit me again when getting ready for work.

See, I had to make a choice after about 12 hours of Felecci being sedated.  Wake her up, let her sister speak to her who flew in from Vegas, or let her sleep and be free from the anxiety of slowly suffocating to death because Cancer was attacking her lungs and heart.

The problem was that she was at peace with her decision the night before.  She knew this was the end once she went under.  I made sure to explain her choices to her the way doctors never do.  No one tells you when it is your time, you are supposed to figure that shit out for yourself.  But we had talked about this time before.  She told me she didn’t want to suffer, and she wanted to know when the time came that there were few options.  She wanted to understand them clearly.  And she wanted to make her decision.

Part of me knew she also wanted my input.  She hated making tough decisions, she agonized over them.  But this wasn’t a decision I could bring myself to make.  I mean, I love her.  To decide if she stays awake in major discomfort or sleeps till she dies?  Fuck, how do you make that choice for someone?  It’s impossible.  The arguments you have with yourself when exploring that decision makes the House of Commons look like a well-run institution of decision making.

In the end, I told her truthfully.  I can’t make this decision.  But it is going to be bad no matter what you do.  Reject the morphine being offered, and continue to gasp for air no matter how much oxygen they feed you.  Run a 170 heart rate at rest as your body struggles till it finally gives out.

Or take the morphine.  And go to sleep, never to see me as a mortal ever again.  When this situation came, I fought every instinct in my body to try to make her stay.  There was maybe 15% of me that felt that if she decided to take the morphine that I should try to dissuade her.  But that 15% of me that knew to respect her decision was logic and reason.  God was going to get his angel sooner or later, and there was no stopping it.  So why make her suffer more than she already has?

To wake her, give her sister closure meant making Felecci make that decision twice.  She struggled with it.  She didn’t want to die, but she feared how this deterioration was going.  We were at the point where doctors wanted to cut into her lung and drain fluid while she was awake and on no anesthesia except a local.  But her heart was too fragile to even get her out of bed to move her.  Her heart nearly crashed during the attempt.

To make her have to make that decision again, go thru that fear.  Or to see her sister one last time.  Honestly, I don’t know if I ever know if I made the choice she would have made.  I just wanted her torment to stop.  To wake up and not be face to face with God and to start struggling again.  She was hanging on by a thread when she made this decision.  The weight that lifted off of her when she knew it was her time.  I couldn’t make her do that decision again.  We spoke in the past that she just wanted to go when it was her time.  She believed she would exist as…..something….after it was over.

I made the hardest decision I have ever had to consider. And I knew that I will never know it was the right one.  But it guaranteed her less suffering.

Which brings me to you, God.  I don’t know what you are exactly.  But I don’t believe we are here by accident.  I know we are less important than we think we are, being so small relative to the universe and all.  But why will us into existence only to have to see everyone we love die before us?  I don’t understand what the point is.  And before you strike my being from existence, I expect an explanation.  I want to understand why I had to go thru this.  Why she had to go thru this.  What was the fucking point?

And why, in my second year of living with the aftermath of this does it get harder to deal with her holidays?  I was good till I got in the shower this morning.  Then it hit me again, just like when I was in her hospital room for 40-howeverthefuck many hours it was.

I’d like to think that if this all had some real purpose; that our suffering served to meet some end that I will find worthwhile; that this shit would be easier to carry.  But I am only mortal, and I can’t understand the will of the universe and creation.  I think if I had the clarity to understand, that I would be ok with trading that for my being.

I guess my biggest fear in life is that the struggle is for nothing.  Thanks for reading.  And happy 41st birthday to the person who made the single biggest impact on me in my life.  I hope there is some part of you still out there with a better understanding of why than I possess.

Mahal kita.  Palagi kitang mamahalin.  I looked up the second one.  I wish you were around to help my Brooklynite ass pronounce it.

As 2018 closes, I am glad you took pictures.

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I never liked taking pictures, but you did.  I’m very glad now to have them.

Felecci knew a side of me most people don’t get to see. The side that isn’t afraid to be silly. She also loved to take pictures, and I most certainly didn’t. It’s good that one of us did though. While I can’t look at many of them because of the emotions it brings up, I do smile when I find pictures like this. It reminds me of what was great about our marriage.

I sometimes wonder if our marriage would be the same had we met later in life. We met in college and we were still sort of kids / sort of adults. There was no pretext to our relationship. She didn’t need to have a baby within 1 year or be married within 2 years. We didn’t have our entire lives planned out before meeting one another. And we most certainly didn’t need dating profile pictures with Instagram filters applied to hide our imperfections.

Try dating in 2018 and often you start to notice some things. And it doesn’t exactly matter between age either. I’ve dated both older and younger women, and while not universally true, many people already have an image of exactly who it is they are looking for. It’s like they saw their perfect match on TV and are going out onto Tinder shopping for it.

I wasn’t looking for any relationship in particular when I started dating Felecci. We sort of fell into it. As we grew closer together, we started to discuss (negotiate if you will) what our futures would look like. I imagine if we had critical issues then it is possible we wouldn’t have worked out. But we were compatible. We figured that out over a long time. We weren’t sure about it after 2-3 dates.

We were friends who were attracted to one another. We became what I would describe in modern terms as “exclusive best friends with benefits”. We had a connection and we enjoyed one another’s company. The other stuff got worked out along the way as our lives unfolded. Sooner or later we got married. And if it wasn’t for cancer, I am sure we would be complaining about 2.5 kids and New Jersey property taxes right now.

These days, a high number of people seem to have their relationship search boiled down to an exact set of specifications. “Meet these minimum requirements or you can’t date me.” Or, they suffer from buyers remorse. They test drive one person, but they can’t stop looking online for a newer, better model.

Surprisingly, so many people have trouble telling the other person that is going to work out. The whole concept of ghosting was a foreign idea to me and someone had to explain it to me. Assuming the other person isn’t nuts or dangerous, don’t we owe the person the courtesy of breaking it off? I mean, how hard is it to call or text someone that you don’t wish to take this any further?

I knew dating would be weird for someone who is in my situation, but I really can’t wrap my head around just how fickle a number of my encounters were. People were almost grateful when I was a mature human being and declined further dates as if I was doing them a great favor by talking with them and breaking it off clean. Others seemed to be 100% into me only to break up via text the next day out of nowhere. Making me think I missed some sign or something. Oddly (and hypocritically, I guess) enough, I found myself grateful that I got a text at all. Not left wondering for a week if we were still dating or not.

I don’t remember dating being so complicated. I’m not sure if the information age has not just amplified our insecurities and flaws and made us way more judgemental of one another.

I mean, I am ok with someone not liking me. I had a great marriage and I took care of Felecci for a long time. I know what type of person I am and if I never get married again I will take pride in the type of husband I was to my grave.

I am actually worried for some people that I’ve met though. You can see from their profile and then by meeting the real them that they are struggling with who they are. You see a photo, but that isn’t really them. It has 20 filters applied to it, in person, they sort of look like their picture but it’s hard to tell really. Are we all really trying to deceive one another into liking us before we even meet them?

And some of the personalities. I mean some folks come to the date downright angry at the world. You can tell that they have had some negative experiences in the past and they are going to hate dating, in spite of the fact that no one is forcing them to show up. I mean chill out, I didn’t apply a Jason Momoa filter on my face to trick you into coming here. Have a drink before telling me how terrible your life is and how many people in your office you hate.

Who knew the hardest part of dating wasn’t going to be finding dates, but it was going to be dealing with all of this human insecurity out there. While I’m not going to pretend that I am god’s gift, I am ok with who I am. I don’t get the impression many people who are dating feel the same way. And it makes for tense people who worry too much about what went wrong on a date instead of just chalking it up to two people simply not having any chemistry.

Advice to widowers dating for the first time: you might think you will be the one who doesn’t have your shit together – but trust me. You might have your shit together better than some folks out there. Don’t sweat it if the date doesn’t work out, sometimes you just don’t click. Don’t get your hopes too high or too low, people are fickle out there. Take your time and enjoy it, and when it gets to be annoying, take breaks.

To those dating in general, I’m not sure some of you are cut out for marriage. Consider changing your status from long-term relationship to hookup. Because some of you don’t realize it, but you have no idea yet what it is that you want. Date casually, don’t put so much pressure on it. Try to let it flow. And if your bar is really high in a bunch of areas, you may be creating requirements that no one can meet. Be sure those requirements are genuine, and not just you being really picky.

Finally, be yourself. There is literally no one you date who isn’t going to figure out who you really are sooner or later. Better they figure it out at the profile reading stage and spare you and them the trouble. While I don’t lead with the fact, I state that I am a widower in my profiles. It for sure reduces the activity pool, but I don’t want to date casually. One of my requirements is that someone is ok with my past and that they are supportive of it. If they can’t cope with my history, then they aren’t right for me.

I’m on a break from online dating, and frankly, I’m enjoying my break from it right now. My tolerance for other people’s bullshit is low in general. I’ll be back in the pool before long, but it’s nice to have a breather when it stops being fun and starts feeling like a chore.

Here is to hoping 2019 has more easy going and silly people out there. Because I had a great one, and she told me to find another when I was ready. Too bad she didn’t leave me instructions on how I did so well in catching her in the first place.

Have a safe new year everyone.

A new beginning.

Before Felecci died, I knew I would not stay in the apartment we shared.  It represented the hopes and dreams we had together.  Those plans died a long time ago, and for many years I felt that I could not live elsewhere because I didn’t want to start new memories.  I didn’t want to buy a house I would come to hate because she wasn’t there anymore.

I kind of knew I would wind up back in Brooklyn eventually I guess.  I wanted to move back to New York if I wasn’t going to get my opportunity to start a family.  I wanted to give myself every opportunity to find some peace.

My new apartment is nice, but I am here again on a Friday night not being able to figure out what I want to do.  For entertainment, for life.  Whatever.

It’s the odd thing about becoming a widow/er.  It fundamentally changes you.  I don’t like the same things I used to.  It’s as if what I enjoyed doing in my spare time no longer feels interesting or important enough.  But fuck me if I know what is.

I don’t get upset at this part of the process.  But I’d very much like to figure it out so I can find a new hobby.  I am a guy who needs goals.

 

Dealing with dating setbacks.

Felecci was my college sweetheart.  Dating her was easy.  We communicated well, we both enjoyed one another’s sense of humor, and we had major chemistry.

I am finding that my experience with Felecci was the exception, not the rule.  I recently thought I was in the beginning stages of what would be a great relationship.  I didn’t know how far it would go, but I didn’t see the ending coming.

All of the same signs were there, but this time overnight it went from all systems go to “I don’t want a relationship”.  I’m not mad at her, I wouldn’t want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be in a relationship with me.  I just am befuddled that I didn’t see it coming.  I was honestly blindsided.

While I was in a relationship before, the previous one I ended.  I know why I ended it, and it wasn’t because I went from wanting monogamy to not wanting to be in a relationship overnight.  I let someone go because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to be the person she needed and deserved.  Rather than drag it on and hurt her more, I came clean as soon as I understood this fact.

Perhaps that is what happened to me?  I don’t know.  I don’t know if it matters.  I wish she didn’t make that decision, but she did and I have to move on.  We had a great weekend together, and now it’s over.  The sinking feeling in my stomach though took a little while to go away.  It really did hit me harder than it should have.

I miss Felecci a little more today.  I knew where I stood with her.  I miss being comfortable with a person, and perhaps that is what actually hurt here.  Maybe I had blinders on?  I don’t think I will know for sure till I have some distance.

But I was comfortable, and I was hoping I got more out of this last relationship than I did.  They say this is one of the dangerous parts of being a widow/er.  The first time someone rejects you, it can hurt more than it should.

I wouldn’t call it hurt so much because the relationship didn’t really get started.  But it did catch me off guard.

Dating post-loss can be hard man.  At least I hope R. finds what she is looking for.  She is a great person, and she deserves to be happy.  For that matter, so do I.

 

 

A year has passed.

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Your sisters miss you too, babe.

Hello love,

A year has passed since we lost you to Cancer.  This has been the single hardest year of my life.  Not having you around has been terrible.  It’s been hard on all of us really.

I wonder if your spirit remains, or if it has moved on.  I wonder if we will ever get to see one another again.  Will we be able to share our experiences?  Because even with the progress I have made, not being able to share my experiences with you has been so very hard.

Your family still loves and misses you.  You will be happy to know that your sisters have adopted me as their brother, and I really couldn’t have asked for more supportive inlaws during this process.

I’ve spent most of the year trying to recover from the shock mostly.  This is really the first time I’ve been alone.  Remember our first apartment in Flushing?  It was the first time either of us moved from home.  We were engaged for a year.  We first made love as man and wife there.  I finished my graduate school classes online from that apartment.

And our apartment in Weehawken.  It was supposed to be the last apartment before buying a house.  Now, I’m moving soon.  Back to Brooklyn.  This apartment just isn’t home without you anymore.  We stayed here for so long because it was convenient.  But it was always supposed to be temporary.  I didn’t think my next step would be in reverse though, but I’m lost.  I need to go back to where I came from and find myself again.

You’d like the new neighborhood I’m moving into.  It is a real neighborhood, just far enough away from the trains that things are more or less quiet, but still very close to everything.

I thought after taking care of you that I wouldn’t want kids, but it turns out I’m terrified of giving up that chance.  But I’m not yet ready to just jump into things.  I want to heal some more.  Hopefully, moving to this new apartment will provide new opportunities to do just that.

I really wish I could tell you all of this in person.  I wish there was some way to talk to my best friend again.  Moreso than anything, losing my partner in crime has been so terribly hard.

I am unsure if I believe in God.  But I hope and pray that there is more to this life.  That you are out there somewhere free from Cancer and exploring things I couldn’t begin to understand.  I hope you feel my love for you in this letter, and that you know that your memory remains strong with me.

You above anyone else helped make me the person I am today.  It was an honor and a privilege to be your husband.  I hope you are out there somewhere, and that the love and emotion I feel right now while writing this letter is reaching you.

I wish we had more time.  I really believe we would have been one of those old couples that still love one another.  But we just didn’t get it.

I know I am rambling, but words are insufficient to express how I feel.  Just know that I miss you, and I am grateful for you having been in my life.  I miss you, and I hope that you are out there somewhere, waiting for me.

Mahal Kita.

Cancer didn’t take everything.

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Almost one year ago, at 5:50 am on September 14th, I lost my wife to cancer.  The loss was mine, and her sisters, and her mother, and her nieces and nephews, and all of her friends who loved her.  But it wasn’t a loss.  Cancer didn’t actually win.  Let me explain.

Felecci was diagnosed when she was 29.  It was a devastating blow to both of us.  We had discussed buying a house within the next year or so and we would have decided shortly after if she would pursue her career more or if we would decide to have kids.  We felt we still had time.

She was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma which had a high survival rate.  We went thru the standard treatment for her disease.  We expected her to take 6 months to a year off, then recover and we would be ok.  We had hope.

We never finished the standard treatment.  It stopped working, and her cancer was growing.  So we moved along to step two: Stem Cell Transplant.  She was scared.  We made the decision not to freeze her eggs because we didn’t want to wait.  I was certain if we wanted kids we could have adopted in the future and my priority was to keep her alive.  But this was the first thing Cancer took from her.

The stem cell transplant worked for about 7 months.  She had gone back to work and things had started to get back to normal.  She was still immunosuppressed, but her job was very kind and made accommodations to provide her an isolated office for her to return to work to.  She was happy to be back to being productive.

But at some point, her symptoms returned.  Night sweats and pain.  Especially the bone pain in her hip.  I knew the first night she woke me up to help her ease the agony she was in.  It was at this point that I began to realize, Cancer was going to take her.  But I didn’t have the heart to tell her what the logical side of my brain had decided.  She wanted to fight more, so we went back to our doctor to see what drug trials were available.

We had some success with different drugs.  It kept the disease at bay for a while but time after time it would eventually stop working.  It made no sense to work with the fatigue these drugs caused.  She needed to focus on her health, and it was becoming too difficult to work.  She went on long-term disability and as it turned out would never return to work.  Cancer took it’s the second thing; her career.

My wife wasn’t good being stuck in the house and would go out to see friends or just get away while I was out at work.  Eventually, as the disease spread it became difficult for her to walk long distances.  And her motor skills started to become muted somehow.  I had to tell her that it was too dangerous for her to drive; she was a risk to others around her if she had a sudden pain attack or loss of motor control.  Cancer took its third price from her; independence.

The pain eventually subsided for reasons still unknown to me.  However, I wasn’t complaining.  Unfortunately, other problems began to take its place.  She continued to have difficulty walking long distances, her breathing was hampered by Cancer as it spread into her lungs and other organs.  Cancer took its fourth price, her vitality.

Several years of chemotherapy sent her into early menopause, making it very difficult to be intimate when combined with her health conditions.  This weighed on her greatly, making her feel like she was not able to be a wife to me.  Despite my assurances that I held no blame for her in our condition, she was deeply troubled.  We had mixed success with prescribed treatments as she had so many problems it became impossible to stave off what was happening to her body.  Cancer took its fifth price, her ability to be intimate the way she wanted to be.

Further deterioration caused her to suffer from conditions that a woman in her 30’s would find quite embarrassing.  She was eventually unable to be taken outside without the use of a wheelchair.  As her lungs continued to fail, she had to rely on oxygen which only made her confinement to the house even worse for her.  Cancer had taken the last thing it would take from her before it took her life; her dignity and health.

But Cancer was not able to take everything from her.  She still had me.  No matter how hard it got and how painful it was to see her go thru this, I would have died before letting her go thru this process alone.  I do regret not making more time than I did to talk with her, but my own fears and my stubborn pride kept me from showing too much in the way of fatigue or worry.  I had a job to do, and I would deal with my emotions later I thought.  And she knew. She knew that I had to deal with it in my own way.  And she understood.  She always understood why I was the way I was.  I rarely had to explain it to her.  She still got me.

But one thing Cancer never took away was her personality.  I am SO FUCKING proud of her for the way she handled herself.  She faced death with grace.  It never changed her. It was hard, and she was scared, and she had moments of weakness.  But they were temporary, and she would recover from them.

In the end, she laughed and enjoyed what she good as much as she could throughout the process.  She forced me to not be my normal introverted self.  Despite my desire to be miserable, my wish for it to be me and not her.  Even thru her fight with Cancer, she always had time to worry about me and to make sure I was ok.  She never stopped being a wife to me, in spite of the challenges she faced.

Her last words to anyone on this planet were to me, and they were “I love you SO much.”  I know she was scared, but she even faced her final moments awake bravely.  I was so scared she would have collapsed in the end under the pressure, pleading for anyone to save her when everyone would be powerless.  But she understood, and she knew we did the best we could.  And she faced the unknown knowing that while her time on this earth was far too short, she was loved.  And those of us who are left behind are better people for having her grace our lives.

Mahal Kita babe.

 

 

 

 

What’s more important, happiness or meaning?

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The poor bastards in this picture have no idea how their life will actually turn out.

As an American, we are taught that we have the right to pursue happiness.  On this 4th of July, most of us will be out with friends enjoying some of the freedoms afforded us from those who came before and sacrificed for it.  I appreciate many things about my life, and in a great many ways I am lucky to be who I am, live where I live, and enjoy the life I am enjoying.  But even though I have attained all that I have, I will be alone today to reflect, not celebrating.

I have been working on this article for about 2 months now, and it has taken many forms.  Its final version (which you are reading) reflects my sometimes chaotic way of thinking, of competing thoughts, interweaved and a tad disorganized.  And it’s all being tied together by a few common themes.  I figured this was the most natural way for me to express myself as I sound in my own head.  Hopefully, I do a good enough job for it to be readable for you guys.

To open, let me be the first to say that I have had happiness in the past.  This picture is one such example.  But sustaining happiness?  Seems impossible to me today after I reflect on the last 18 years.  Cancer took the person responsible for the vast majority of the joy in my life.  Much of what I worked for was so that WE could be happy.  But life doesn’t always turn out as you plan it.

No one said shit about actually having the right to catch happiness.  Chase it?  Sure.  Knock yourself out.  But we can’t promise anything.  And if you do catch it, it is a slippery thing to hold onto.

And if you don’t find happiness, does that mean you failed at life?  A great many people in this world struggle for their entire lives.  That has to account for something.  What keeps them going?  What makes a person going thru hell keep moving?

As the primary caretaker of a cancer patient, no one tells you shit.  You figure stuff out as you walk in a daze, doing your best to keep your loved one alive, and you hope you wind up on the right side of the statistics.  You aren’t happy, but you have shit to do.  That loved one you are taking care of NEEDS you.  There isn’t someone else coming around to pick up the slack if you can’t meet those needs.

As a widower, no one understands shit.  Death is not dealt with in our society, and people are afraid of it.  They want you to get over your loss because you remind them that this could be them.  You struggle thru periods of mood swings; sometimes you are ok and close to yourself and then there are days you just wake up and want to die.  But I get up, I try to find some purpose.  I deal with it as best as any of us could in the same situation.

I gave up on the pursuit of happiness 9 years ago and strived to simply survive.  For my sake and Felecci’s, I needed to keep my shit together so that she would be cared for as best as possible.

Today, I don’t really FEEL like being happy.  Even though many people would trade their situation with mine, I don’t think happiness makes the last 9 years worth it.  Happiness has no meaning for me anymore.  It’s almost a trap to me, to be taken at a whim by a cruel world.  If I make it the centerpiece of my life, I am opening myself up to be devastated.

Life is hard, full of pain, and you never appreciate it until it is almost over.  The thing that makes it worth it isn’t the periods of happiness so much as the knowledge that when I was NEEDED, I was there.  Before cancer, my greatest personal accomplishment was putting myself thru college and grad school.  Those years of taking care of Felecci dwarfed that struggle.  It wasn’t really till after she died that I started to really have days where I would totally fall apart.

I feel it is important for any able-bodied individual (especially someone who feels they are a “true man”) to have a purpose.  But after Felecci died, I just wanted to crawl under a rock.  I was terrified of putting myself into a situation where I might have to suffer the loss of another person I loved.  I wanted to find something that made me happy and just do it.  For a while, I just did.

See, when she died I told myself I was done.  No more attachments, nothing that the world can take from me.  No more pain.  If the world wants to take me out, fuck it I accept that.  I am not afraid of death, only pain and suffering.  When I get sick, I am going to a right to die state and making sure that the only being in this universe who decides when I go to the afterlife is me.

But I quickly started to get a sinking feeling while doing whatever made me happy on a whim.  I just didn’t see anything in my future that would keep me interested under this scenario long term.  I quickly started to realize I had to find something that would be worth getting up for.  Or else.

I was scared that I would wake up at some point in the future and decide that I didn’t want to do this anymore.  Felecci was scared about this too.  Made me promise not to do something stupid.  And I did promise.  And I meant it.

So, to not make myself out to be a liar, I had to figure out what to do.  If I am not working towards something bigger than my petty concerns, what the hell am I really about?  But what does that really fucking mean?  I had no answers.  But I knew that I had to figure this out.  That is when this article started to go into various drafts.

It started as a question written in different ways: Why even exist, if not to serve and advance some purpose that I feel is important?  So that when I am gone, I will have mattered in some small way the way Felecci matters to me and her family.

That’s what she was to me….my family.  I lost my lover, my best friend, my wife, my confidant, and the person who made me laugh on a daily basis.  All at once.

 

See, in my early and mid 20’s, I didn’t really want to think about having kids.  I saw the amount of work it takes and felt that was for later in life when I had my shit together.  Felecci and I were doing well and enjoying life and we had some stuff to accomplish before we were ready to settle down.

I lived in a household that went paycheck to paycheck and it was frightening sometimes as a child to be worried that things might not turn out ok.  Money also was the source of most of the fights with my parents.  I didn’t want that for my kids.  I didn’t want to have to raise my kids with that kind of pressure.

I had a plan.  It involved so many variables my friends would laugh at me if I told them.  But I had spent my 20’s making my plans happen, so I was confident I would be able to make this happen too.

We would buy a house in the Clifton, Montclair, Bloomfield area.  Something either with a good school system or taxes that made sense so we could figure out some private schooling into the budget.  Something not too big, I didn’t mind if my kids had to share growing up.  We would have 1-3 kids depending on how my career panned out.  It might be delayed by 2 years if she wanted to go back to school, but we would work out all of the logistics and details.  In the meantime, I would save money like mad until we found a situation that made sense.  I would only reach a bit financially if we found a Tudor that was perfect.  She loved that style of home.

It was all planned in my head.  And then when Felecci was 29; a cancer diagnosis blew it up in the span of 15 minutes.  Our next 10 years were suddenly taken from us.  The life she always wanted was taken from her.  Survival mode kicked in, and the rest you more or less know from my blog.

I had given up on my family growing beyond just us.  I thought I had come to peace with that, feeling that after what I went thru I would be too terrified to sign up for more human beings that I would lose sleep over.  I didn’t want to worry about anyone but myself.

I figured if I find a good woman, I’d be ok with just being an adult without the added trouble of kids.  And for a while I was.  I dated a great woman.  Pretty, easygoing, fun to be around.  But as time went on, a part of me felt empty.  I had the feeling that if I died, I no longer mattered.  I had a lot of dark feelings about this, and I wasn’t happy.  The opposite was starting to happen, I was starting to feel that the direction I was trying to take my life was wrong.  But I didn’t know why.  Nothing ACTUALLY was wrong.  What the fuck?

I’m 37 now and I feel older than ever from a near decade of emotional distress.  I have the financial security, but my life is empty without my wife.  She was my family.  I figured I tried and failed, I might as well enjoy myself.  But honestly, even with a good woman, a good job, and no worries about where my next meal was coming from; it didn’t feel like it was enough.  I wasn’t making a REAL difference, I was coasting.  I didn’t feel like I was giving enough.

But it took a while to put my finger on it.  It was about family, and what I lost the opportunity to have.

As I remember Felecci, and as I see friends with small kids, I can’t help but think about how great of a mother she would have been.  She had such patience and kindness and she was tireless at looking after those she loved.  She would have been the perfect balance to my personality when it came to raising kids.  And it tears me apart that SHE never got that chance.  I was not able to protect my family from the random dangers of the world, to protect her from the plague that is cancer.  Knowing this wasn’t my fault doesn’t make the pain any less potent.

I can’t imagine what some of the folks in my widow/er group go through being both a widow/er and a single parent.  The amount of energy required is insane, the amount of patience it takes to be both the loving parent and the disciplinarian is daunting.  But everyone I talk to above all else loves their children, and in spite of that strain, those kids keep them grounded.  And it is what gets them up in the morning.

I don’t know if I could have done what they do if Felecci and I had kids.  I suppose I would have, but fuck if I don’t imagine it would have sucked as bad or worse than what I already went thru.

I was always thankful we didn’t have kids simply because I wouldn’t want them to go thru life without their mother.  But now that she is gone, I REALLY FUCKING HATE that I never got to see her BE a mother.  It may be the single thing I am mad at God for the most.  I can’t describe with words how much this bothers me.  It is a regret I will take with me to the grave.

And I’m mad that I didn’t get to raise her children.  To tell them how kind and sweet their mother was.  How she kept the worst of my tendencies at bay and made me into a better person.  That life wasn’t fair, but that I would do everything in my power to make them into BETTER versions of us.

And that was what was bothering me.  That we never got to teach our kids the best of what we were and make them into better “us’s”.  That, in a nutshell, is the whole fucking point of the species, isn’t it?.  Its how we live on when we die.  It’s how everyone can contribute to a better world without a 200 IQ or a billion dollars.  Just make someone who is incrementally better than yourself, train them, unleash on the world, and watch them kick ass.  It’s the fucking dream of every parent I got to think, no?

Then sit and watch them surpass you, and fill yourself with the pride that you did well.  Then these kids are going to make even better kids and start the process over again, and so on.  They won’t have to change the world, they will just have to be good people.

And grow old, sit at the head of the table at the family reunion and marvel at the ass-kicking family you started.  A man could die happy if he was leaving behind a legacy like that.

I wish I knew then in my 20’s what I know now.  About how fleeting life is.  I don’t know if I would have brought kids into this world to suffer the loss of their mother to cancer, but god I wish for just one fucking day where I could see what it would have been like to see my beautiful loving wife tend to her own children.  It would make life worth living.  All of the annoyances, struggle, and pain.

Felecci did her part.  While she didn’t get to have kids, her impact on me is immeasurable.  She has tempered my worst impulses and made me a more well-rounded person.  I feel that I also helped her to feel more self-confident and to define her own goals.  She made her own decisions, and even though she was scared, she was still smiling and enjoying the company of her family for as long as she could bear.

I feel like I haven’t yet finished my part. I saw Felecci to the afterlife, but I am still here.  When I die, I need to know that I did the best I could, that I took the opportunity while I could.  I don’t know if I will be able to succeed, as cancer has taught me that my plans can be shot to shit.  But the thought of not having the option to pursue this was turning into a fear of losing the opportunity to.

In the end, I feel that without meaning, I have no purpose.  Without purpose, I don’t need to exist.  This feels so clear and right to me.  I need to have a purpose, or else I might as well have not existed.  I keep tossing that around in my head in various ways like a Rubix Cube, and I can’t find fault with it.  It is a truth, no matter how I spin it.

The thought terrifies me of actually having children.  All I need after losing Felecci is to experience some tragedy with a future child I have yet to meet.  It would be the cherry pit on top of a shit Sunday.  But the thought of giving up the chance also terrifies me.  That I will wake up at 50 with so much regret that I fail to keep the promise I made to Felecci.  If I try and fail, I think I can live with it.   But to not try?  I don’t think I can live with myself if I just quit.

I can’t give up the chance to have everything I fought for when I was in my 20’s.  I really thought I could, and because I was wrong I have caused someone pain.  And I will regret that for a long time.  But I can’t ignore this feeling.  Because if I don’t and I just quit on the idea, I feel the lifetime lack of meaning will be too difficult to carry.

I dread the amount of work involved and the cost of it, and I am terrified I am one more tragedy away from totally falling apart.  But life does not guarantee you happiness.  You have to go out and work for it.  You have to be content with meaning and hope that some happiness is mixed in with the struggle.

I assume this is what you are supposed to figure out in the first year – what is your purpose and what are your goals going forward.  I don’t know if I am doing the right things for my life.  I am stumbling in the dark, feeling my way thru.  I pray and hope that I didn’t cause too much pain to others in my wake in the process.

Life; it is about finding meaning.  So that the pain and suffering we endure was for something.  Enjoy happiness when it comes, but rest your hopes and dreams on finding peace that when it was all done, your life mattered to people.  As I head toward the end of my first year without Felecci, this is the only truth I have found that makes sense of everything.

The “I don’t want to do this anymore” mood.

me and felecci in bahammasOur trip to the Bahamas.  She had a good time, I pretended to for her sake.

No one can describe the ebb and flow of grief accurate enough to explain just how deep the hurt is when you are on a downswing.  How dark your thoughts become, and how much this changes you.  The anger, sadness, apathy, (not to mention feeling the most alone I have ever felt in my life) occurs when I am having a particularly bad day.  Today is such a day and now is such a time.

This is what I want to yell at people but don’t, because they wouldn’t be able to understand it.  They would want to fix me when there isn’t anything wrong with me.  They would want to try to relate to me when they still have their spouse and kids to go home to.  There is a dark anger, and time and internal reflection is the only chance I have of dealing with it.

You – can’t – relate to it.  The mere suggestion that someone has the answers to cure me missing my dead wife pisses me off to no end.

I can’t spare the energy to make others feel better by smiling at them all the time.  It is exhausting to pretend to be ok.

See, I’m aware of my depression, and more or less I am able to deal with it on a daily basis.  By deal with it, I mean act normal enough so I don’t have to deal with people’s stupid fucking questions.  But it takes mental effort to constantly have to keep things in perspective and not go apeshit on someone.  To keep it together and function when all you want to do is sit in the dark and be left alone.

I can go through a day and act the way I would normally act if I felt ok, and no one is the wiser.  I had a lot of practice trying to give as many normal days to Felecci as possible.  Pretending to have a good time so that she could forget for a little while that she was dying.  The truth is, I haven’t enjoyed much of anything in probably 9 years.  Not like a kid enjoys Christmas.  Everything has had a subtext just beneath the surface, waiting to ruin it just as soon as I let my guard down.

Post-loss, these feelings are intensified.  It actually affects me physically; I have been going to doctors for a while to try to work out what is going on with various health issues I have been experiencing and nothing comes back out of the ordinary.  Sleep varies, and often 6 hours and 11 hours doesn’t feel any different.  Nothing appears to be wrong with me, yet I continue to feel like shit.

I am tired.  A large part of me just wants this all to be over with.  I simply lack anymore fucks to give about anything and am just living day to day without a goal.  I force myself to continue on mostly because I promised her I would.  But I. Am. Tired.  She is gone, and I don’t know what I am still supposed to do here?

I wonder if this is the fate of a man who provides for his family.  To be secretly miserable but unable to rest because others depend on him.  So we put up a front that only lasts as long as we have a purpose.  Take away that purpose, and what is left?  Why go through it anymore?

 

At some point, after a lifetime of working hard, aren’t you supposed to get ONE fucking thing that you want?  Why does family get to bother me when they fuck up their own lives, yet I don’t even get a chance to start mine?

This has made me so bitter.  I dislike who I am becoming, but how do you “look on the bright side” when you just want to punch the next person who presumes they have any fucking standing to give you advice?  I don’t want thanks.  I sure as fuck don’t want pity.  Because most normals do not understand and presume that their own problems are always the most important thing.   Here is a hint, I don’t care about your problems; I am having a hard enough time caring about myself.

I am resigned to the fact that I will be unhappy for a very long time.  But I will not make you feel better about yourself when you add to my burden.  I don’t have the energy to cheer you up.  You came to the wrong place for optimism.

What I want is not in anyone’s power to give.  In this condition, I am not much good to anyone who is looking for compassion or love.  I have too much anger toward life and god.  I feel dead inside.  Anger, sadness, & depression are the only feelings I still fully feel.  Everything else is muted.  I remember what they are, but I don’t feel them the way I used to.

I will work on what I can control and hope that these moods get further and further apart.  I am told that they do.  Maybe I’ll have some more clarity in the future and look back and regret how I was during this period.  But I can’t continue to pretend I am ok, I need to save my energy for surviving, and focus on how I am going to live with this and function in society.

I’ve earned my right to be pissed off.  I’ve got my cross to bear, pick yours the fuck up and carry your own damn baggage.  I need to spend some energy on myself or I don’t know if I am going to make it.

I am out of fucks to give.  I don’t want to do this anymore, but I have to.  Fuck I’m bitter.

 

Happy 40th Birthday Sweetie.

2012-05-21 15.47.27.jpg

Today would have been your 40th Birthday.  You wanted a white cake like I got for your 30th birthday, but this time with cannoli cream like our wedding cake.  I couldn’t bring myself to get one – the pain of getting it and not having you here to share it with would have been too much.

I miss you terribly, but you know that.  Not having you around to just check in on or come to bed and cuddle with leaves me with a large void in my heart.

I have wondered how our life would have worked out had you not had cancer.  We would probably both be working.  We would have bought a nice little Tudor home and be paying god awful amounts of taxes.  We’d have had kids by now.  We probably would have complaints like normal people do.  We wouldn’t appreciate how lucky we would be to be dealing with raising kids and having a mortgage and having each other.  We would be in our own little world of problems, but we would be together.

Our lives would be so different.  I’m sure it would be a struggle, but we would have a family!  We would have children whom we could raise to be better than us, just as our parents tried to do for us before.  It hurts terribly that this was stolen from us.

You would have made an amazing mother.  You were always better at connecting with people then I was.  You so loved family.  You would have taken to it so well.  I would have loved to watch you be a mom.

I don’t know if I can still find our dream.  I’m scared of trying again only to have disease or misfortune take it away from me again.  I know you want me to, but I don’t know if I have the energy.  I need more time to decide if this is what is best for me.  I hope you understand.  I can’t just move on from you.  You were everything to me.  The thought of starting over scares me.  The thought of giving up on this gives me such despair.  Please help me figure this out if you can.

You would have dragged me to Europe and Asia again by now.  You wanted to go wherever the Travel channel was showing.  You had this great wanderlust.  You wanted to experience life where I was always intimidated or bored by it.  I hated crowds and people, but you were always able to get me to do things.  And we had a good time usually.  Mostly I enjoyed seeing you happy.  You had this great big personality behind all of that shy exterior.  You knew how to live where I only know how to survive.

Without you, I feel incomplete.  But I am trying, I promise.  I am doing my best to stay myself.  I hope I have made you proud that I have kept my word.  I have not harmed myself and I am doing a relatively decent job of taking care of myself.  I don’t want this life, I want you back.  But I am making due as best as I can.  I get up and try every day because you can’t.  I will try my best to live a life you would have wanted for us.  As well as I can tolerate it at least.

I hope wherever you are you are happy.  I hope you have a spot for me someday and we can see one another again.  I want this to mean something, to be for something.  You were too good of a person and too important to me to have gone first.  I wish I could have given you more time.

I know it was your decision to take the morphine.  I agreed with your decision.  I still feel guilty though because a part of me wanted to keep you longer.  Even though your body was failing, I wanted to keep you awake.  I fought this with every fiber in my being because I knew the quality of life would have been terrible for you.  But I never wanted to let you go.  As much as I wanted all of this to end when the time came I would have done this for 20-30 more years if it meant I could keep you and you could live ok.

I would give my life for yours if I could.  Watching you die was the hardest thing I ever did.  I didn’t want to, but I had to.  I’m proud that I endured through the whole process.  It was the last thing I could possibly do for you and it was the greatest honor in my life to watch over you.

It’s late, and I’m getting tired.  Please look over me and help me through my dreams.  I am struggling to make sense of them and I could use your help.  Oh, how I wish we could talk once more just so that I could ask you for your opinion on what I should do.  I feel conflicted and lost without you.  I don’t know what I truly want out of the rest of my life, and the only option I would take right now isn’t possible.

I love you so very much honey.  Not a day goes by where you are not in my thoughts.  I love you with all my heart.  I miss you so very much.  Watch over me, and don’t forget me.

Happy Birthday, Felecci.

Your loving husband, now and always.

– John