A New Welcome

Like so many of you, we have experienced some of life’s most significant events within the walls of our home. There has been and still is so much love and laughter. We have also fought, cried and mourned. What could be more significant to a new start after a family tragedy than a super simple frontdoor redo?

It is spring. Time for hope and celebration. Time for a power wash, a new door mat, and some fresh flowers!

As my friends in Newfoundland would say, “proper thing.”

BEFORE

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AFTER

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How To Win Every Argument

This past summer after an amazing month with family and friends in Canada I returned to Seattle ready to tackle several projects and tie up loose ends that I had not yet been ready to face. There was still a mountain of paperwork to work through. The day I no longer have to show up somewhere with my husband’s death certificate in hand will be a good day indeed. My eyes inevitably wander to the official cause of death and I find myself questioning all of the excruciatingly difficult decisions I made on his behalf.  Just the act of searching for a receipt can be painful and exhausting. There is always a little slip of paper with his sweet scraggly handwriting amongst our papers. When I find one of these bits of evidence of his existence, I slow to a halt and trace my fingers over the indentations of the pen. He was here. He made this impression. I become lost, wanting to just close my eyes and take a nap…or have a drink, or do some online shopping…honestly anything but this.  To get through it I planned to reward myself with one of the self-imposed loose ends that I had wanted to tackle for the better part of two years! Painting the living room.

As mentioned in an earlier blog, Roger had painted it metallic gold in an attempt to

Before - Gold Paint, old light fixture, red rug

Before – Gold Paint, old light fixture, red rug

recreate the feeling we had in our house in California. I wasn’t fully on board but standing in front of the Roger train when he became set on an idea was a dicey prospect indeed. This was a battle I chose not to have and truthfully, if it did help us feel more like we did in our house in LA, then that would be just fine. He painted the entire room in a day, all on his own. Although the finished paint job had its charms, it felt, to me, heavy, dark, and like a growing number of things in our lives, just not quite right.

For over a year after Roger’s death, my eight year old daughter Audrey had been vehemently opposed to any change of paint color. Well, she did suggest one wall bright blue, one bright yellow and one bright green but because I wasn’t opening a daycare I opted to just wait a bit. After our rejuvenating trip to Canada, Audrey gave me permission to proceed.

After an exhaustive search for the perfect grey I settled on Benjamin Moore’s Silver Bells. Not too green not too blue. Not at all sad. Refreshing and crisp. I took my time, slowly taping off the room. I left two stripes of gold paint around the doorframes to honor Roger. Even as I taped, I could see areas where he had rushed, were he used putty to correct some of the overlaps of paint on trim. And I found myself having a lengthy, detailed, sometimes heated internal conversation with him that both thrilled me and broke my heart all over again.

In his final years, he was very critical. In terms of the house there was nothing I could get right. He once said accusingly “I’m the only one who takes this house seriously!” I now know it was the tumor driving him to such rigid thinking but at the time it was hurtful and extremely confusing. So much so that while painting, I found myself having irrational “AH HA! You weren’t so perfect with this paint job, were you!?” moments. Other little slips of his brush seemed sweet and human. As I grew tired, I became resentful of all the extra work that his cutting corners caused me. I railed at him leaving me alone to clean all of this up. (Insert metaphor.) I took joy in nurturing a space that he had so thoroughly covered with his energy.

I had to stop at one point and laugh as I said out loud to him, “See honey, you stick around long enough you get to win every argument!” At the end of this sentence came a profound sadness. I like to think that he had some say in his death so that I can rail a little more but he didn’t. He had talked about just ‘getting through this’ so he could ‘get back to his life’ and that ‘this was the thing that was his wake up call’ and he was ‘going to make changes.’ He was ‘going to take time off work and spend more time with his family.’  It was too late. It is still heartbreaking.

Finally, I finished painting and it is sooooooo beautiful! (I know, beauty in the eye of the beholder and all that but I really do like it!) It is light and fresh and pretty. Even Audrey approves.

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Living RoomThe rug, I swapped the old one with my sister in law. Free of charge! But most of the other elements of the room we had before. The Sofa, coffee table, Chinese Camphor chest, and almost all of the accessories were already in the house. I did my best to edit and curate .

Rosie and Book Shelves

Anne Moon Painting

Coffee Table

I’m really happy with how the dark wood dining table that belonged to his family while he was growing up looks with the light wood floors and grey walls. Last year, I obsessed about finding a light fixture to replace the one that came with the house. Yes, it would have been super easy had I $10,000.00 to toss around, but I didn’t and I snagged the one I wanted on sale at a ridiculously great price.Dining Room

Austin ProductionsI found the Austin Production Inc. sculpture and the Lucite candle holders on sale at Value Village at astonishing prices! The sculpture… $1.99!

Depression Glass

The rose depression glass, cut glass vase and silver tea/coffee set are all from Roger’s family. The silver was tucked away, wrapped in newspaper and stored in an old cardboard box! Going through old boxes felt a bit like treasure hunting.

 

 

 

The room now represents our past together along with my life without him. …and I am working really hard to feel okay about it. I know that the alternative of pretending we are still married and that he is just away on an exceedingly lengthy business trip is not healthy, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t conflicted.

There is still so much more grieving to do but I am getting there. I try to take each step mindfully so that I can both honor who he was and allow myself to move forward as the person I now am. I feel him. I know he is happy where he is and I know that both while living on this earth and where ever he is now, he wants more than anything for Audrey and me to be happy too. We are learning a new skill, a skill that we never wanted to learn but that has been thrust upon us nonetheless. We are learning to live with out him.

Whether or not he would have actually liked the grey paint? Well as I said, …’you stick around long enough…”and I am still here. Thankfully.

 

Huggin’ Makes Me High

It has been a year since Roger died. People ask me how I am. I say, “I’m okay,” not really knowing what that means anymore. Is my hair on fire? No. Am I wearing a snowsuit made of honey while a bear chases me? Nope. I am healthy. My daughter is healthy. The bills are paid. There is food on the table and a roof over our heads. We get through the day. Is that the definition of “okay?” Okay lives in a whole new neighborhood now. If I compare the old neighborhood, the one where Roger is alive, to this new one, things are most certainly not okay. They will never be okay again. Roger is gone and he is not coming back. I miss him more everyday.

I still can’t wrap my head around how to get rid of his ‘things.’ His drawer full of gold toe sports socks and white undershirts? The suit he wore when we married? His shirts that hang spooning each other in his closet? The first date shirt, the second date shirt, the shirt he wore when he rushed to the ER when I was in early labor? …And his shoes! Those shoes that ran, played, hiked, and walked beside me. That stood firm when I fell, allowing him to open his arms with confidence and catch me as the ground drew near. I keep hearing things like, “You hold him in your heart now.” Ack. Give them to charity. Bla. Give them to family members; okay that is the best one but, phooey anyway. I doubt they want his used toothbrush and Old Spice deodorant or the pair of shorts that I bought him that are worn thin with holes and splattered in paint. These feel like the most intimate of things and I just can’t face tossing them.

And what, what do I do with the green plastic bag the hospital gave me that contains the clothes he wore in but never wore out. I can’t bring myself to wash them, discard them or give them away. Even now I hope there is a whisper of him caught somewhere deep in the weave of cotton that might still mine.

So, am I okay? In the ‘hair on fire, bear chasing me in a honey snowsuit way,’ yup, I am. It’s just that ‘okay’ is no longer the flat, innocuous word it once was. It is complicated and multidimensional and conflicted. Will I physically survive Roger’s illness and death? I’m assuming, yes. I haven’t turned to drugs or alcohol (much.) I am not engaging in reckless, high-risk behavior (drat). I am most definitely seriously, acutely, spectacularly pissed off!!!! In a Shakespearian, King Learian:

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow!
You cataracts and hurricanes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!
You sulfurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ th’ world,
Crack nature’s molds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man!

…kind of way. THAT kind of pissed!!

Sooooo….

…having said all that, um, please do keep asking me how I am.

After all I am a lot like my 99 year old Grandmother. Who has been known to say things like “Huggin’ makes me high!” Even though that’s a metaphor, (no hugs necessary,) and she also said in reference to box picnic parties of her youth, “Oh, all the boys they were just dying to get into my box,” it really îs connecting with others that brings me the most joy. And as much as I have come to hate it when people look at me knowingly shake their head and say, “Time. It takes time.”, I know they are right.

…I just need a little more, ‘oak-cleaving’ and ‘nature’s molds cracking’ first.