Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Supra-Eruption of Tooth 15 (A Love Story of Sorts)

Warning, This true story depicts the life, care, and loss of a tooth; with intentional correlations to a deeply rooted love affair.  Sense of humor is advised....

It was 18 years ago and I was the young mother of a sweet 3 month old baby, living in a frigid basement apartment right next to Utah Lake.  My first husband and I moved to this area, just starting out in life and money was sparse.  I contemplated this as I sat eating a pork rind when I felt the crunch of a back tooth. 

Upon a visit to the dentist it turns out I had fractured a molar and at the time we could not afford the dental work to repair it.  Taking the tooth out was only $50.  I asked the dentist what the repercussions of this would be and he did advise, that perhaps, 20 years from now -the tooth above it may miss it and wander downward to find it.  At the time, I was so young and 20 years sounded like a world away.  This was a no-brainer, lets take it out!  So we removed the tooth.

Fast forward to now.  The upper molar is now seeking its long lost mate.  Sure enough, on an 18 year odyssey, tooth number 15 is desperately seeking to be reunited with the lower tooth that is no longer there.  Slowly, it has dropped down, filling in the space of the missing tooth.  My current dentist indicated that it would probably be best if it was removed.  He saw the disappointed look on my face and questioned me about it.  "Well" I told him, "It's just that I have had that tooth for a really long time." 

I mentioned this to my mother and she found it quite odd that even a tooth would miss it's mate and would actually go looking for it.  I mentioned this to my Aunt, and she wondered what would happen if instead, the tooth was cavalier and had more of the attitude that it would be better off on its own. 

But of course, I would find myself with "sensitive" teeth.  Teeth with feelings, or "fillings".  Teeth that go searching for each other...  just my luck. 

Tomorrow, I will go in for the extraction and in a note of seriousness and honesty-
There is a part of me that is proud of myself that I took the initiative to encourage good health in my body.  After losing a spouse or loved one, it is easy to ignore personal issues that go on, or to put off appointments.  It is much harder to make decisions, too.  Especially when the person you would discuss this with is gone.  These differences show in other family members as well.  After caring for a terminally ill person, it becomes easier to see how fragile life can be.  I can see this in my youngest child too.  "Are you sure it's a simple procedure Mommy?"  He asks with worry in his voice. 

"Yes, baby it is."  I say, "And you know what?  Now both teeth will finally be reunited in tooth Heaven."  

Which makes him smile.  I am getting a bit long in the tooth now.  Thanks for listening and wish me luck!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Write This Down

Exactly three days after my husband passed away, I was asleep in bed and felt a firm hold upon my right hip which startled me from sleep.  There, above me, was my husband's face.  He had a very intense look coming from his eyes and it felt as though he looked directly into my heart.  I sat up and and stared at his face.  Overwhelmed, I asked him over and over again, "Is this really you?"

With his eyes he told me firmly, "Yes."

I asked him if I could touch him, and again he told me -Yes. 
I put my arms around his shoulders and buried my face into his neck and just cried and cried.  I was amazed at his patience allowing me to do this for it seemed, as long as I needed.  Then, he held me away from him and looked deep into my eyes, he told me, "Write this down..."

I was unsure of what he was about to tell me, but I knew he was going to tell me a message.  A very important message.  I did not feel prepared and told him to let me find a pen and paper.  He just repeated, with a very intense look in his eyes, "Write this down."

I ran around the room looking endlessly for a pen and paper when suddenly I found myself behind my very first typewriter, one that I had used as a teenager.  I put paper in the typewriter and my fingers on the keys, and told him I was ready.  Then, he disappeared. 

This time, I really woke up from my sleep and I cried out into the empty room, "Please tell me!!" 
But, there was no response and I knew it had been a dream.

For many days, I would fall asleep mentally asking him to come back and tell me what his message was.  Days turned to months and the intense dream I had, after my husband had passed, stayed with me and I often wondered what it all meant.  Until one day, it hit me.  I realized what I believe is the answer.  The message he wanted me to know is exactly what he told me.  To simply, Write This Down. 

If anyone wonders why I stay motivated in sharing parts of our story, his illness, and our lives, it is because I think he wanted me to write it down.  How sharing these things may help or affect others, I will never really know, but I do hope some good will come from it.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Grief Channel

A year went by.  I wonder, where did it go?  Yes, I survived, but what did I learn and was I truly present in the moments that have passed?  I try to remember exactly how I felt or what I was doing at this time last year.  I can't.  Only snippets come back to me.  I remember last year, on New Year's Eve going to bed early.  I remember the relief of sliding into bed and pulling the soft blankets around me, laying my head on the pillow.  I remember sleep was my only haven -and even then, it was a minimalist haven, at best.

My husband passed away on December 15th, 2011, from Pulmonary Fibrosis.  He was the love of my life.  The only person that knew all of the real me.  When he was alive, I had somehow elevated him to hero status.  In my eyes, he was the only one who defined intimacy.  My partner, my mate. 

I was in denial, looking for him around the house.  Still, opening my bedroom door and seeing a faded image of him in blue-jeans and glasses, smiling, as I came through the door.  Then, poof!  The image is gone, he is no longer there, and the impact of that would immediately bring me to my knees.  No!  Where did you go?

I was in auto-pilot mode.  Like a zombie, moving slowly in my mind. Coiling up his oxygen tubing.  His glass of water on the nightstand.  Folding his glasses.  Fluffing his pillow.  Looking at those stupid meds on the table.  Those were the first to go and I bagged them up with disgust and anger. 

Then I would look for him again.  It was as though I had misplaced him.  I can't find him anywhere.  I still feel that way.

Then, the crying.  Constant crying.  Not the kind your mind thinks about before hand and then the tears come.  No, it was just the immediate tears before the brain has a chance to catch up.  The grief, palpable.  It was physical.  The tears during the day, then at night.  At bed, my mind ripping through the tangible love and experiences we shared was like torture.  Then the sleep comes and I see him, he comes to me.  Upon the first collective consciousness of morning, a thud in my chest and the tears come again.  It goes like this, on and on. 

Despite the physical ache and heart wrenching longing for my husband, there was also a parallel feeling that somehow he was watching me.  I could just feel it.  Even from the very moment that his eyes lost their sparkle and I knew he was gone.  I felt him watching me. 

Everything I did from that moment on, there was a deep feeling that he was seeing it all.  There were even moments within me that I felt shy about this.  In our marriage, although we shared the most intimacy I had ever experienced, we also had established a certain level of manners and respect for each other.  There were just things we did not do in front of each other.  Great.  Now he has the advantage of seeing all of those things about me.  But, what could I do besides just being me?  I hoped that wherever he was, he had a deeper understanding of human-nature.

Somehow months passed, although, my emotional disposition had not.  I stayed in a foggy, grey area within the recesses of my mind and heart.  Stuck repeating the same day, every day.  I told myself that grief has no time limit.  I knew in my heart what I was doing is what I needed to do.  All the while, I still felt our connection, I still felt he was watching me.  I began to consider what things where like from his point of view, wherever he was...

Just for one second, I contemplated the idea that he was truly watching me and it wasn't some sort of trick my mind was playing on me.  What if he was somehow still connected to me?  What if he died, but still had his own thoughts and feelings?  What if he was checking in on me and maybe flipping through others he cared about, too?  My mind imagined him flipping through TV stations of all the people that he loved.  His children and mine, his mother, ex-wife, siblings, best friend.  I could see him doing that.   Just checking in to see what's going on and seeing our daily struggles in a place he no longer dwells.  Then he gets to my channel.  There she is crying.  There she is grinding her teeth at night.  There she is crying again. Over and over. The Grief Channel plays the same thing all the time.

One day, I was blogging on the computer and the feeling came to me that he was watching me again.  A feeling of approval came over me, as though this made him happy.  I realized that I want to make him proud.  We are still in a relationship.  When he looks at my channel, I want him to beam with my progress.  It was a turning point for me.  It was the moment that I realized I had to fight to add more texture and experiences back into my life, so that I could share it with him.  To be honest, I haven't stopped crying, he knows that.  But, I have added other things into my life in addition to the crying.  Such as laughter, silliness, and love.  I have changed the channel.  The more I do this, the more proud I feel he is.

Somehow, I am here.  A year later.  I survived.