Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Home - 1

Ellouise and Jim Schoettler - 25th Wedding Anniversary

On our 25th wedding anniversary (1980) our teen-age children put on a really nice
buffet dinner and cake cutting at our home.  It was a warm group made up of people from many aspects of our life together.  It was a lovely evening.

Jim and I bought and moved into this house - where I still live - in 1970. It has seen many gatherings that linger in my memories. In fact the whole house reeks of those memories.. gatherings, holidays, birthdays, just quiet evenings and busy days.  Jim's presence is strong here. Sometimes it makes me cry when I realize it is 6:30 PM and I am expecting him to drive into the driveway, open the back door and walk in. But he doesn't.

I do not want to move. This house is home and it carries 43 years of our history.

As I wake up from the shroud of fog that has been around my shoulders and mind for the last 11 months I realize how much there is to do here.  

Jim's illness was primary for a year and now I have to catch up.

I bought a new front door this month. That's a story. For one thing, what do I know about choosing a front door, not to mention the "sticker shock" for a decent door and storm door.  I cancelled the order the first time and then re-did it. Then they came and measured. Hopefully I will have a new door by the middle of February.

I still haven't donated our old Toyota. It is sitting its usual place in front of the house. Sometimes when I drive down the block I see it and when my first thought is "Jim's home." I start to cry.  I guess its time - but I still don't want to let it go.

On he Hill of Tara, Ireland  20008
You see this is what has happened. As I wake up for the fog of first shock and grief -  like a modern day Rip Van Winkle - I know that our life together is over - "til death do you part" - and so be it - but after 57 years Jim and I are too inter-twined for me to accept that. 

I am trying to figure out how to move ahead - and keep him with me.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Moving Forward - slowly

I haven't written here since December - because it was just too difficult. The "firsts" without Jim piled up on me:
i.e. Christmas, return to California and visit to Jim's home town, our anniversary (57). These were plain hard! Lots of crying as well as bittersweet pleasure in the memories.

Since then I have begun thinking about these same days this time last year as Jim's status began to deteriorate - - - memories I hope some day to forget. I had softened some of the tougher ones by talking individually with a counselor - - until I attended my first Bereavement Group Meeting this past Tuesday afternoon.

Ten women gathered in a very comfortable and pleasant parlor at a local church education building. During the introductions all of us mentioned that we don't know where to start in re-creating our life - our new life. Even so, the first exercise the leader asked us to do was "to tell the story of your loved one's death from the onset of the last illness to the death." What the hell?

However - being an obedient group member, I dove in first and told our story -  Jim's and mine. All the way to holding Jim in my arms as he died and then dressing him in his familiar beige cashmere sweater before our family arrived to see their father/grandfather in the bed at home.

All the way through my rapid fire telling I was uncomfortable, feeling this was too personal to share with a group of strangers. 

The organizers who are the "bereavement counselors" must have information informing them this is the way to go. So far as I am concerned - it's not! It's painful. It stirred the pot of memories and sent me reeling. Upshot? I doubt I will go back. Even though I will feel sorry not to do my share of listening to everyone else's story.

But, I have learned that I need to look out for myself - and in this case I am.

The experience left me wondering - was their pre-planned agenda more important than hearing what we all said? I wish they had listened.

I would have welcomed help with moving forward - and I think that would be a wonderful help to each of the others as well.  Asking to hear the stories strikes me as seeking to satisfy the curiosity of
the organizers
- unless some of the women are just bursting to tell that story again - and again - and again.
Let me tell you something - I have struggled since March 6 to work through each day and to put up a "brave" front so people would think I was OK.  Most of those days I have been anything but OK. However the play-acting did and does help. I have journaled through a dozen notebooks, talked privately to positively helpful bereavement folks, trusted friends, my sisters and our children,  read books about "making it through", worked on the business of closing up Jim's life and our life together - - and been grateful for my storytelling work.

Although I have "sinking spells" and crying many days, after 10 and a half months I am stronger and moving ahead -- one baby step at a time.

I guess that really is progress.