An interesting topic in the group, someone asked “when is it too soon” (to start dating). I looked around the room and saw some smirks and grins, so I figured out the question. For this gent in particular it’d been two years since he lost his wife. It turns out that his girlfriend (who was sitting next to him) lost her husband a couple of years back as well. Everyone in the group knew they were dating, but they were naïve enough to think nobody had a clue. He tap-danced and finally announced it, the group were genuinely happy and applauded, and then an interesting twist. The discussion transitioned into meeting one another’s adult children, and it was unanimous disapproval. Huh! He also took her to his church and she got the stink-eye from far more people than either of them had expected. Not only do adult kids not accept dad seeking happiness and companionship, his church family seemingly wants him to grieve much longer, maybe even forever? Granted he and his former wife had been going there together for decades, but it was clearly not okay with most of the congregation. Ultimately I decided to thank everyone for welcoming me, but to step back. Things they have in common are all applicable, just not to me, and I felt I'd be a distraction despite how warmly I was received. They all seem to struggle a bit sleeping in 'their' bedroom alone, despite new furniture, paint, and sometimes flooring. Mornings are rough too, most are empty-nesters, so quiet times can be challenging and lonely for them. Another relevant topic for newbies in that group, when do you take off your wedding ring, if ever?
I came home from that meeting and discussed the when-is-okay scenario with Angela. In the unlikely and tragic setting that she ‘goes’ first, when is it too soon? She pondered it, and said that if I’m emotionally happy and available, there’s really no time frame, adding that people need physical and emotional companionship. I replied “cool, a month or two then works aye?” I got the stink eye.
So in the quest of what’s my new normal, I have noticed some patterns. I can’t stand watching the news, and can’t be in the room if there’s ‘breaking news’, no matter the argument. One of the shows that Madison, Angela and I watched is “The Voice”. While we didn’t like the banter of why an up-and-coming singer should go on whose team, Angela noticed something we thought was new. On Monday a young woman sang and it was truly beautiful, she was all heart. Another ‘new’… beauty brings tears. Angela and I both pretended that we didn’t need Kleenex, so I played it again. Okay, done deal, we’re now saps when things bring us joy. In 2015 Madison, Angela and I watched Andi and Alex on The Voice, twin sisters who sang a duet. The song, beautiful… link here, it had all three of us in happy tears and looking back, post-cancer treatment applicable, like we've been rewired in a sense. To quote Madison "The beauty of the light owes much of its existence to the darkness".
A couple of weeks back I was driving along and decided to fumble with my phone and play Amazon Music. At the top of the list, Eric Clapton’s Greatest hits. Okay, I just had to press play. The song that played first, Tears In Heaven. It’s was inspired when Clapton's four year old son Conor fell from their NYC apartment. Gripped by the words, my phone rings: it was Alex, a pastor at Madison’s church wanting to know how it’s going, how am I, and am I free for lunch. A coincidence that that song came on and someone I’ve not spoken to in 6+ months happens to call? I think not. This one hit me: it’s easy to connect some convenient dots while dismissing others. Impossible for me to ignore, her (yes Madison’s) signals that she remains present in spirit.
Last week Angela and I watched the movie Bedazzled. At the very end, a scene in San Francisco. I had to pause the screen, the background has been forever etched in my mind, comparing the TV to a memory. That was the same exact place that Madison and I stood with Alcatraz in the background during one of the trips for her clinical trial. Coincidence that I see things I've never seen before?! Nope, an implanted reminder.
Last week Angela and I camped at Carpinteria beach. We always bring more than two chairs, despite it only the two of us. We keep the blanket that Madison was sitting on for her first birthday party in our RV as you can see in the pictures. (Bailey likes it too)
Her head being too heavy for her neck, Bailey staring at an empty bowl of yogurt and granola. The beach was gorgeous all week, Angela too! She did take off to gather some firewood, came back hungry before it was even dark, thinking the sticks that she collected might be enough for a quality fire. Sheeeeesh! PJ noticing that the most pictures are of his tubby step-sister, popped his head up saying 'hey, what about me'.
A story if I may: As you're aware, Madison had a great body... something that all dads dread of our daughters. For me, I didn't see it until it was pointed out to me by Angela. You know on the TV shows they blur license plates, some logo T-shorts, etc.? That's how I was with Madison's physique... I only saw her face. One morning when Madison was about 14, Angela mumbled to me like a ventriloquist "are you going to let her wear that?" Looking over at Madison, she seemingly had grown boobs overnight and the particular top she had on made it apparent. Not for this parent, "Madison, please go change your top... that's inappropriate". Being respectful, Madison went to her room and changed. I asked Angela "when did she get those, I never got the memo". Angela said about a year prior. I gave Colleen crap about it too, this is her genes, so her fault!
I guess it's human nature to selectively see the things you want, and blur or bury some others. When the time-share salesman I'd mentioned previously asked Angela and me if we had kids, I felt a sense of guilt saying 'no', I managed to suppress the urge to ask him about his ex-wife (yes, he was that bad), but the reality then and there was that I didn't want to go down the path of love and loss, to that jerk, and other and four letter words. That said, the next time I'm asked regardless of the circumstances, it'll be a resounding 'yes', she's forever 22 and f***ing awesome".
I'm going to invite you to trust me on this... it seems much more common for those who have lost someone, to not hear their names. I suspect people generally fear they may feel like they're ripping the scab off of an old wound. To people who have lost someone, say their kids, spouses, or friends names aloud, and celebrate the remember-when's! It may prompt a tear or two, but those happy memories to me are fond tributes to people like us who all lost someone like Madison.
If I happen to weep like a 12 year old Amish widow, it's on me so it's all good :-)