Roger Hatton Memorial Mudroom

My darling, sweet, capable, smart, funny, husband and love of my life died on February 17, 2012. He was young. His heart, his lungs, his muscles, bones and spirit were strong. It was his brain that succumbed to cancer and all other strengths fell in line behind the brutal dictator, Glioblastoma.

In the process of grieving we walk alone. If we are lucky, as I am, we have friends and family in which we find respite along the long isolated road but our particular grief, that is singular to each of us, can be carried by ourselves only.

Throughout the past eight months one of my “happy places” has been home design. When I felt like there was too much to cry for, when I feared I might be swept away by the sorrow I found comfort in brilliant light fixtures, bright colored accents and rugs! Oh my, rugs! I began to allow myself an indulgence that I have done my best not to feel guilty about but any of you who have been with someone for a good chunk of time and have had to enter into interminable negotiations about home design decisions will understand the little giggle that comes with “I could totally paint the living room fuchsia!”

My husband has always been lightly, shall we say, fixated on possessing certain objects or seeing ideas through to completion. It had at times been a little annoying but for a gal whose father left peat moss throughout the living room for months on end as he slowly transplanted ficus trees, having a guy who believed in “getting things done!!” was a comfort. Slowly, at an imperceptible rate, his tendency to fixate escalated to disquieting proportions.

One of his obsessions became the set of stairs that connects our two-car garage to the first floor of our house. It is an awkward entry with little room to move. I should clarify, for me it was awkward. Our adorable, exuberant and you don’t know me well enough yet to stomach my bragging but perhaps, in time you will and will forgive my exuberance, all round awesome daughter, would be at my feet trying to push by me. My arms were inevitably filled with my daughter’s backpack, various bags containing groceries etc and a ridiculously large purse. He’d arrive home alone, empty handed burdened only with a wallet in his back pocket, kick off his work boots and voila, he’d arrived! What could be easier?

Here in lies the rub. The stairs were covered in carpet, white carpet and Roger became bahnannahhhhs about keeping that carpet clean! I tried to explain my plight. The tight space, the groceries, etc.  It also didn’t help that most my favorite footwear seems to require both hands to unlace, unbuckle or unzip. Getting up the stairs, and dropping the bags was necessary. Yes, I could have always just worn the clogs that I got while I was pregnant so I wouldn’t have to bend down but let’s face it those shoes look like a pair of baked potatoes and since the age of 18 I’ve been too old for them to look ‘ironic’! One has to draw a line somewhere!

What started with his occasional grumble about not taking off our shoes in the garage, became huffing exhales and all out arguments. I kept saying, “This isn’t about the carpet!” He said, “It absolutely is!!!!!” He was grumpy, controlling and impossible to please. He also started having headaches.

We were nine years into the marriage and fourteen years into our relationship and I just thought, well I guess this is the phase when he falls out of love and into profound annoyance with much of what I do/am. It hurt.

When on Tuesday, August 30th I arrived home in the middle of the day to find him in bed in unspeakable pain we went to the ER. They found “a mass.” Brain surgery four days later. Two and a half weeks after that, diagnosis and devastation.

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On the day he died, Roger’s brothers, one brother’s partner and my mother all gathered at our house. My brother’s partner, a fantastic chef, cooked for us and we sat together in Roger’s memory. We ate, we cried and we managed even to laugh. We had the most remarkable conversation that speaks to the kind of light and intimacy that can only break through in such momentous, terrible times. One of the topics we discussed was the fact that one brother had heard at length about the white carpet on the stairs. Two and a half years ago Roger began complaining about it at work.

Within days, I had decided. I was going to build a mudroom. Roger and I had talked a lot about how to resolve the white carpet conundrum.  An area in the garage with hangers and cubbies would be great but with two cars, there was no room. Well, there was now only one car and with a loose plan and the help of my daughter, we began.

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A couple of weeks later….

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I smile every time I use the mudroom. I want him to know that I heard him, that I felt his deep, deep maddening frustration, that I now see how, as his life spun horrifyingly out of control it was just so much easier to concentrate on something concrete and seemingly simple. Carpet.

…And a funny thing also happened; I found a little piece of myself in the process. I felt a small glimmer of happiness in its creation. It was… fun.

27 thoughts on “Roger Hatton Memorial Mudroom

  1. What a wonderful memorial – made me laugh and cry while I read through your story. I will light a candle for Roger Friday night at Relay for Life and another candle for my dear friend who is battling the brutal dictator, Glioblastoma. Someone has to beat it!!

    Now if you two could come and sort out my decorating issues at my home in Rhode Island! Big hug to you both, love your strength.

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  2. I cried…and then I hugged my daughter, Jhene you have always been incredible, from Day ! Love Jules ( Whitney from BCI)

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  3. I don’t know you, I just saw this on one of my Facebook Friends page….you are a dynamic writer, and you wrote about such a personal tragedy and triumph – – you really should consider writing a book about how you are so strongly – and lovingly – travelling through your sadness, grief and how you are helping your daughter cope also! Your husband would be so touched if he were able to read this!

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  4. I love your mudroom and the back-story. 🙂 Thanks for gifting us with a little bit of you. Hope you are continuing to transform…. Sophia

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  5. Seen this on a friend’s facebook and decided to read it and I am glad I did! What a beautifully written piece! My heart goes out to you and your family during this difficult time. God bless!

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  6. Jhene, I hadn’t seen you on the playgroud at school and had no idea that you and your family had been going through such horrible pain. Thank you for opening up a window into your world. I feel moved to live now and love now. You are such a gem. Love and kisses from the playground and the Cake family. ~julie

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  7. Wow – this is truly moving. You rarely know or can begin to understand how people’s lives are affected. You assume that life is grand for everyone following highschool. Sean Thompson, in Calgary, resolving to bravely live the balance of his days in a hospice with his family close by…..you losing your husband to this horrific and non discriminating disease. I walk in the the weekend to end cancer – in Calgary this year, and then I volunteer in Toronto. You and your family will be on my mind. Michelle Irwin (Boughton)

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  8. This post made me cry and then the comments REALLY messed me up! Jhene, this is a wonderful thing. You and Child are precious precious beings and I look forward to seeing the further impact your sharing will have on us all. Much Love.

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  9. Saw this on my friend Sarah’s FB post and decided to read. My goodness. Just – my goodness. My heart goes out to you and your family, your strength is inspiring. Thank you.

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  10. Hi there. I don’t know you. One of my friends shared this on Facebook. Thank you for writing this. I had a similar loss a few years ago and you are right, that you alone carry the grief and I found you must get through it alone – no matter what help you are given. I’m so glad you’ve found a way to work through yours. I too find myself thinking of how the smaller things became the things he had to control because he couldn’t do anything about the monster that was taking his life. Know that you are not alone and that while many of us might not know you, we know the hell and are thinking of you and your daughter.

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  11. This is such a beautiful post Jhene. I could feel your love for Roger and who he was coming right through your words. You are such an inspiration. Once again you have shared your own experience, as painful as it is, to uplift, give hope and remind us all of the gift that every day of our life is. What a beautiful honoring. We are sending you and your daughter all of our love. Know that we are with you.

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  12. What a beautiful story. We lost my father in law to brain cancer many years back…still praying one day we will find a cure for this horrible disease. After all you have been through, hoping that God’s blessings will shower over you and your daughter for the rest of your lives…..

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  13. HI, Jhene and Audrey, it’s “Aunt Betsy.” Sophia had me read this. You are an amazing lady! I am glad you shared your story, and that Roger had you…

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  14. Love your mud room, thinking of you and thank you for sharing your Memorial to your dear husband, so beautifuly written

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  15. Thanks for sharing. You really are quite remarkable. Love the mud room. How are you getting on with the fairy garden ? Let’s get together soon. Much love to you both, Caroline xxx

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  16. Jhene,
    Although I have only met you once, I feel that I know you so well through your mother and this truly wonderful tribute to Roger. It was beautifully written, Jhene, and moved me beyond words. It was….fun for you. Keep that up for Roger and for you.

    Love,
    Ruth (Trent) Stiegemeyer

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  17. My most sincere condolences on your loss and my equally sincere admiration for you efforts to remember and cope.

    Hunter Taylor

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  18. Jhene, while I don’t personally know you, this reiterated what Roger told me shortly before he passed away, that you are an amazingly strong and intelligent woman that he truly respected and loved. Very well written and I applaud your strength and character that shined through the writing. I will always miss my friend and am thankful for his memories. God Bless you and your daughter as you continue to move forward.

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  19. Dear Jhene,
    I saw this posted on Roger’s wall and read and laughed and cried. I wish I had met you, but I do feel like I know you from all Roger has said and from your beautiful words. I feel Roger’s presence all around. I am positive he absolutely loves the mud room and is getting a good chuckle over the memories leading up to it. May you and your daughter continue to heal and grow and love and live in vibrant color.
    Marie

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  20. Jhene,
    I am so sorry for your loss. Roger, myself and my sisters all new your husband when he worked at Arnies in Edmonds. We did alot together. I am here at work and have been in tears while reading your poetic and captivating story of your real life situations of marriage. Your loss is felt by so many. I am just so sorry for you and your daughter. It happens so quickly at times. Your writing is touching in so many levels. YOu sound like a remarkable woman. My children and I will say a prayer for you and your daughter.
    God Bless you. Roger thanks for being our friend so long ago.
    Cathlene Kerr

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