As Time Goes By…So Slowly…

The longer I wait between checking in here, the more this builds up in my mind. Like I need to have some sort of amazing, kick ass post to explain why the gap. Unfortunately, there is no real good reason. Basically, I just struggle to come up with a really compelling idea to write on…

Don’t get me wrong, life has kept moving. I’ve spent this summer really trying to pour our time out for maximum child enjoyment. We’ve been to Dutch Wonderland, we’ve been to Port Discovery, we’ve gone swimming a couple times, we’ve taken up fishing, we’ve done parades, we’ve been to ballgames, I let the kids basically borrow my credit card in a Cracker Barrel Country Store (our dinner cost less than the toys the saleswoman talked them into…Thanks for that!). But, none of it really ever seemed like such a compelling post than I rushed home, broke out the laptop and put keys to text box.

So…where did I leave off? Noah’s birthday party, roughly. The rest of May was spent taking Noah to T-Ball and getting the kids through the last few weeks of school. Noah really never had emotional issues with school, but I was proud to get him through the last bits of this year. He finished off strong, and despite some butting heads on math homework (I am determined that he will be good at math…or at least, he won’t lack for effort in that department!), he really hit strong on his school work. Around the time of his birthday, walking through Wal-Mart, I ended up in the clearance section and saw a big model X-Wing (like 3 feet wide size) for like 10 dollars. I already had his birthday stuff but…LIGHTBULB, a “graduation” gift! So I found another toy that would work for Darcy and I hid them in the closet. And come mid-June, LOOK WHO WAS AWESOME DAD! Only thing was…here was quoted Darcy’s reaction upon seeing a My Little Pony on her bed on the last day of 3 year old room: “Oh, but Dad, I wanted a Lalaloopsy”. Womp womp. Thanks a lot kid! Oh well, she didn’t consent to me giving it to Goodwill, and she’s been holding onto it ever since. Father’s Day also passed without much issue. My parents had the kids one day during the week and took them out to shop for a gift for Father’s Day, I got some new polo shirts for work and a new pair of khakis. And the kids had each made me some things both in school and at my parents’. I missed not being able to hear Shannon remind me that I was doing right by the kids, but I know by now that she always felt like I did a great job taking care of both her and the kids.

So, let’s just go ahead and tackle the 6 month mark. I knew it was going to be the roughest one yet. It’s like I posted above, the line from Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers: “Time goes by so slowly, And time can do so much. Are you still mine?” Time goes by and I try so desperately to keep the memories as fresh as the days we made them…but as time goes on, the memories begin fading. Not disappearing, but fading. Details get fuzzy. Daydreams get harder to make real. I find it hard to remember the sound of Shannon getting out of bed and coming down the stairs, waking from the sleep I would let her take until she wanted to get up. I find it hard to remember the look of her sitting in the passenger seat of the van, riding co-pilot and keeping the kids in check while I drove us on adventures. So with that in mind, the day before the 6 month mark was an Orioles game I took the kids to. That kept my mind off it a bit but getting home, I had to make dinner. And it all just started rattling in my head. Seeing her face, missing her smile…everything, and I started tearing up. Not crying, but just tearing up. So I knew the next day would be rough…

I worked from home with the kids. Working from home with the kids nowadays usually means being The Arbitrator. “Dad, Darcy won’t stop touching me”. “Dad, Noah took this toy from me”. “Dad, it’s my pick, NO IT’S MY PICK”. “Dad we want to get in the poooooooooooooOOOOooooooOOOOOllllll!”. So that kept my mind occupied along with getting my work done for the day…but there was a moment. A moment I wasn’t proud of the way I handled, though my intentions were good.

Noah has this habit, that annoys the ever loving spit out of me, where when Darcy is watching a show he doesn’t like, he’ll either change the words of dialogue or songs to potty stuff, or will start singing about how it’s the dumbest thing he’s ever seen. (Yes, typical 7 year old boy stuff, I know). He and I have had words about this. I see it borderline on the bully spectrum. It’s probably not, but I think it’s a good teachable moment to head it off. But, we’ve been down that road before. So this day, he does it, and I remind him curtly to stop that, or go up to his room. He doesn’t stop, so I send him to his room. He doesn’t go, so I count him to 3, then carry him up the steps. There was more and more escalation in here, but I’m summarizing. So by the time I carry him up the steps, my fuse has long since burned out. I walk him up the steps (with him yelling how I’m hurting his arms, because let’s face it I’m carrying all 80 pounds of him through his armpits), and then I sit him in the chair in the loft. I pull up a chair, sit in front of him and tell him neither of us are moving from our spots until he can sit up, look at me, and give me the respectful attention. So 15 minutes later, after pretending to sleep, he sits up. And I said something I regretted…I reminded him that it was 6 months since Mommy had passed, and I told him that he and Darcy were her legacy, and carrying on like that was disrespecting her memory. I asked him, if Mommy was still alive, would that behavior make her proud? I mean…I want him to think about his behavior and what others would think of it…but clearly, was over the line to use her memory to drive the point home. I still feel like crap for saying that, but I was already upset and the way he was acting was really pushing me over the edge. We ended by talking about Mommy and I apologized…but man, it hit another level for me, because losing my cool was one thing Shannon helped me to keep in check. When she could hear me hitting a brick wall with the kids, she knew how to bust me out of it and show me where i was going wrong.

Anyway, so my plans to mark the date…If I can pause a moment for a PSA, let’s talk about balloon releases. Please, don’t do them. What happens to that balloon when it goes up…it comes back down! Lucy ate a balloon in the backyard once, the kids were playing with them and she grabbed one. I called the vet and was told to shove Hydrogen Peroxide down her throat until she vomited it out. Yeah, so anyone else who’s had to do it can tell you: It is some nasty stuff. And that’s just one tiny example of how these balloons can hurt or kill things when they come down. There’s a small group of us on the Widow board I’m on that tries to steer people away from it and suggest alternatives. So, PSA over…my plan was to do a campfire in the backyard. Shannon loved sitting out and keeping her feet warm beneath the fire bowl, and she loved sitting out enjoying the summer nights. So, I figured that would be a great way to honor her memory. And as a plus, each of us wrote a small note/letter to her that we then folded up and burned in the fire. So instead of floating a note into the sky, we burned one into smoke. All the feels, none of the harmful stuff to the environment.

My original plan was to leave the fire smoldering, get the kids to bed, and have some solitude moments thinking about her. Looked like that plan was kaput when the fire started smoking itself out about 20 minutes before their bedtime. I knew it I left it smoking the way it was, a neighbor would call the Fire Department, thinking my house was burning down or something. So begrudgingly, I dumped some water on it and went inside. Got the kids to bed and all, and went out to check on it. Somehow, the thing had re-lit itself! Not all the way, I just saw the last log was back to smoldering, but it allowed me to sit out under the stars, warm my feet and just think on all the memories. I cried. A lot. Didn’t help that I put on a playlist of a lot of songs that reminded me of her. I finally played our wedding dance song by Jimmy Buffett. I hadn’t listened to it since the day she died, but I needed to hear it. I think the overwhelming thought was just remembering a time when we were young and carefree (And yes, the irony of me talking about how we were young when I am 31 right now is NOT lost on me). Just remembering the plans and dreams we had, and how it all got re-written. It was sad, but it was also good to go back to some of the great memories we were able to make. I try not to be one of these people who tries to twist and turn every little thing into a sign of her with me, but I have no idea how that log re-lit after I doused it with water. But it made for a great end for that day.

So, this brings us into July. I’m going to try to keep going with opening up my mind and sharing what we go through on a day to day basis. A lot of it is pretty close to what we did when Shannon was getting chemo, and I was kind’ve running the household, but I’ll try to keep jotting it down and sharing anything that can give anyone still reading this a little glimpse into this life. It’s painful at times, crazy most of the times, and uplifting at others. But at the end of that day…it’s life.

As Time Goes By…So Slowly…

The Long Rut

Yup, I haven’t posted anything here for almost 3 months. I felt like I should, time after time, after time. And each time, I got more nervous about how to start back up. But, I feel like I need to write down a lot of things, so I’m just going to go all over the place with this…

I’m getting towards the end of what I figured would be a pretty rough period. In consecutive months, we had Valentine’s Day, then Darcy’s birthday, then Shannon’s birthday, then Noah’s birthday, followed about a week later by Mother’s Day. And to cap it off, Father’s Day. Each a day that should be joyful, but each presenting it’s own unique grief moments. If any one of them was a huge ordeal, I would’ve made it’s own post for it. Instead, I’ll just drop a line or two on each one, to summarize my feelings…

1. Darcy’s Birthday (Party) – This was the first time since her 1st birthday that we had a party. So it was very clear to think about Shannon’s presence missed. Also, because at her age we don’t have a lot of same aged children she is truly friends with…much smaller party. Easier to handle, but less going on to take my mind off it. I try not to place Darcy as having a stronger link with Shannon than Noah, but being the daughter she wanted to raise in ways that improved from her own experiences, and from Darcy never really knowing a time where Mommy wasn’t sick…it was a much more emotional day than Noah’s birthday party to me.

2. Shannon’s Birthday – It actually passed a little easier than I expected. Shannon was never a big one on birthdays, so we didn’t have any big traditions to be missed or changed. We went out with Danya and Joe to have a nice meal, but since it was a day I worked, my mind was more pre-occupied.

3. Noah’s Birthday (and Party) – It was a very nice birthday for Noah…he got to go fishing with Darcy, me, and Joe…then after getting his gifts from me, we went to a Bowie Baysox game with my parents. Complete with fireworks. His party was pretty hectic, like I remember from last year. We both shied away from “party host” duties for Noah’s party last year, so that was much of the same this year for me. There was a bit of emotion, albeit kind’ve uplifting, in that the day was forecast for storms right during Noah’s party, which was outdoors. But as the time approached, the skies seemed clear, so we went for it. And it didn’t rain a single drop. Almost like Shannon willed the weather away so he could have his outdoor party.

4. Mother’s Day – Probably the most emotional day for me. In the morning, I decided to have a private moment with the kids where laid some yellow roses in a river, and then spread the first bit of her ashes. Originally planned to do it at a local pond, but decided I wanted something flowing to carry the flowers and ashes. By happenstance, I found a park about 15 mins away that was right next to a creek that carried straight into the Monocacy River, which flows to the Bay. When we got there, I realized it was the same park Shannon had taken us to once or twice when we were looking for things the kids could do while she was at acupuncture. It was quite beautiful and perfect of a spot. Later, we spent the day with my parents and brothers and their families, letting the kids play together, getting snowballs, etc. Just a nice peaceful family moment, but again, noting that our family is incomplete…

Also, that was probably around the time I started getting into one of my emotional funks. I go through these in cycles, where I start re-living the course of events, examining every action or lack of action, every word said, every decision…trying to figure out that there must be SOMETHING I could’ve done better or should’ve done. Realizing that, as a parent, I never let my kids have a final goodbye with their mother. This is what really has been haunting me of late. The kids don’t really say anything about it, but I just can picture something that will haunt them emotionally…they both saw her go in the ambulance, and that was it. Noah never had his chance to give her a final kiss, to hug her one final time….

And then there is Darcy. Darcy was with Shannon in the bed when I found her. I always thought she truly just never realized what was going on, but a few weeks ago, she out of the blue tells me “I was playing with Mommy…and then Mommy died”. We ended up having a 30 minute conversation where I re-assured her that Shannon did NOT die there in front of her, but the long and short of it is, it seems like Darcy has some scant memories or recollection that may provide a clearer picture of what happened that morning. I don’t want to pry it out of her, but I hope what I think I understand of the situation is the correct assumption: I think Shannon and Darcy were playing together, and something happened that caused Shannon to lose consciousness and develop the breathing difficulties. Why do I hope that is truly what happened? Because if her last conscious moments were playing with Darcy, I can think of few more beautiful moments to truly leave this world on. It would mean in her last moments alert, she was enjoying her children.

So now, we only have Father’s Day left…oh, and the 6 month mark. But really, I expect that for awhile after Father’s Day, it’ll be like any other day to me. A constant battle of sadness and guilt vs trying to establish a new normal. There are a lot of summer activities I am planning for the kids (Not so much vacations, but things like putting up the pool, the fire bowl at night, sitting on the porch before bedtime and just sitting, backyard camping…), things I wish Shannon could be here to enjoy…she loved the spring and summer weather. But in another way, that is the best way to honor her memory. Do the things with the kids that Shannon would love to do. That is how her spirit can live on through them.

The Long Rut

Picking her up, one last time

Shannon and I had always been clear on our final wishes when it came to “disposition”.  We didn’t want burial.  We didn’t want our body placed in an expensive casket, we didn’t want a headstone for weeping at.  We were both adamant about being cremated.  Shannon further wanted her body donated to science.  Her original intention was to have her cancer studied, but I was told by Hopkins they have no specific body donation program for cancer, they will simply continue to use her tumor tissue from her original surgery to study and research for colon cancer.  So, we found a local company that accepted her body for scientific study and would provide “partial ashes” to us after a few weeks.  Seemed like a slam dunk thing.

After 4-6 weeks, I began to get nervous that maybe they’d lost her body, or that we’d have no ashes to return.  I called them at 6 weeks, and was told they got “backed up” due to holidays and weather.  So I gave them two more weeks…at 8 weeks, I called again, and was told they’d be ready this week.  I began to think on Friday that they were going to delay again.  But I got the call yesterday…the ashes were ready.

I read a story from a fellow widow who was actually given the option of turning the knob herself, then being able to see the remains once the fire was completed.  I could never do that, it was strange enough to be handed a small box and know…that was Shannon.  Here was the woman I loved, my best friend, the mother of my children…in a small plastic bag, inside of a small plastic box.  Even though I feel like our bodies are just tissue and bone, and doesn’t retain the spirit…As soon as I was in the car, I felt compelled to turn the radio down, change it to a country station…and instinctively as I drove back to work, I had my hand on the box.  I can’t say why, but I just felt like this was me, taking her home finally.  The only problem with this was…I still had a few hours of work.  Felt like it might be too weird to take her up to my desk, so I just left the box out in the car, then drove her home.

Noah picked up pretty quickly what it was (Probably helped along when I got upset at Darcy throwing a fit and yelling out that I didn’t need more stress because I had to pickup Mommy’s ashes today.  There’s a Father-Of-The-Year award vote for me…).  After Darcy fell asleep, I moved the box up to my closet, and Noah followed me up.  I asked him if he wanted to see the cremains, and immediately I could see tears in his eyes, and fear.  So I sat him down, explained to him what happened with Shannon’s body and what options people had when they died, and asked if he still wanted to see them.  He said if I looked at them, he’d just bury his head and hide his eyes, so I told him we didn’t need to look at them, but if he wants to ever, all he needs to do is ask me (Maybe that will cancel out that Father-Of-The-Year moment with Darcy from earlier)

So now, with her home, I’m left with a final decision…what to do with the ashes.  That part, Shannon didn’t really make clear.  Much like her ceremony, she just wanted me to figure it out.  We’re going to get necklaces made for the kids with a tiny bit of the cremains in them.  And I decided to get one too, because I found a nice piece that just felt like her

The rest we are going to spread…likely a bit in Maryland, and then some in either Charleston or Carolina Beach.  I knew Shannon really liked the Charleston area where Erin moved to.  Carolina Beach is where she and Erin had a girls weekend before she started the Vectibix, a chance to get away while she was on her last big break from chemo.  It was a really special weekend to her, and that seems to just be the right place to put some.  Only one small issue with these plans…apparently the EPA requires you to go three nautical miles away from land before you spread the remains.  So…that’s not going to work.  I could hire a boat to take me out that far, but the places that seem to offer that service do it at an especially jacked up price!  So…still to be determined.  But at long last, Shannon is at home with us.  In one form anyway.

Picking her up, one last time

You leave the kids alone for 5 minutes and…

We’re getting snowed in today, which has led to cabin fever on the kids part.  I’m not sure if this is an every parent thing, or just a solo parent thing…But every time I need to use the bathroom or get a shower, or run outside to shovel snow, etc…I come back just minutes later to something like this…

Anyone else find their kids turning to anarchy after just minutes alone????

You leave the kids alone for 5 minutes and…

I Should’ve Done This More Often…

The first Valentine’s Day without Shannon…going into it, I didn’t think it’d be especially hard, because Shannon and I always downplayed it.  We got the requisite cards and chocolates, and we took good care of the kids, but since we’ve been married, we both felt it was mainly a Hallmark holiday.  But yesterday was a bit tougher than I expected.  While cleaning the closet, I found an envelope of US memories.  Notes we’d left each other, pictures from some of our earlier times together, pictures she’d colored for me, ticket stubs from early dates/concerts.  And I’ll be honest, I broke down at seeing those.  Remembering the days where we knew nothing of this damn cancer, and had dreams of years and decades together.  And then, going out to dinner…I went with my parents and the kids, which was good, but looking around at all the couples and young love…it was definitely a reminder of the one that wasn’t there with me.

But, I survived.  That’s the first “event” in a series of 5 months straight that will be tough without Shannon.  March is Darcy’s birthday, April was Shannon’s birthday, May is Noah’s birthday and Mother’s Day, June is Father’s Day.

In honor of Valentine’s Day though…Now that Shannon isn’t here, I’ve noticed a lot of things I wish I had done more often.  I post this for those who may take these things for granted…Do them now and appreciate the little things

  • Gone to bed the same time – So many times, I would stay up too late watching TV, puttering around on my laptop, snoozing on the couch.  She would sit in bed reading, and usually fall asleep by the time I came up.  Spending the night alone in bed, missing the time to be in each other’s presence
  • Wrote love letters – It wasn’t “practical” to do…we lived together most of the time we were a couple, we always saw each other.  But I regret that going through old emails, all I see is notes like “Can you bring me a cup of ice?”, “What do you want to do for dinner?” and “We need to remember to pay this bill and pick up this from the pharmacy”.  I never stopped and just poured my love out for her.
  • Taken moments to tell her HOW I loved her – Oh, it was easy to say I love you.  It becomes routine.  Take time in your day, maybe not every week, but every couple weeks, and tell your significant other exactly what they mean to you.  Believe me, it goes a long way.
  • Held hands or Hugged – We hugged, but usually it was just a passing thing as we parted ways for the day or something.  I can’t remember the last time we just hugged, and held onto each other like we would never be letting go…
  • Kissed on the lips – I’m not talking the open mouthed kiss here.  But most days when I went to work, I would just peck her on the forehead or cheek.
  • Enjoy the silence – Nowadays, the silence is what makes me lonely.  But the times just sitting, just enjoying her sitting with me, not needing to talk to fill the space between us.  I sure miss that company
I Should’ve Done This More Often…

Re-starting a social life

I have to be careful with this post, because it isn’t my intention to indicate or imply that Shannon kept me from having a social life.  No, I pretty much took care of that on my own.  I’ve never been a very outgoing person.  I’m not someone who wants to go out meeting people.  I remember my first week in college, my brother and (future at the time) sister-in-law had to practically lock me out of my room to force me to walk around my hall and meet my hallmates.  I just don’t like the awkward new social situations.  This is one of the “I could fill a book” amount of things that made Shannon and I perfect.  Shannon was also socially anxious.  She didn’t like going out and meeting lots of people.  We liked our friends, don’t get me wrong…but we were most comfortable staying at home, reading, watching something on TV, enjoying present company.  And having kids was the PERFECT complement to this condition.  You have an eternal built-in reason to avoid social gatherings (Well, unless they were kid gatherings, at which point we focus on the kids having fun with other kids and just keep to ourselves in the adult social aspects).

This weekend, my parents kept the kids.  We did this for a number of reasons, really.  First, the kids like having sleepovers with their cousins.  Jeesh, since Noah’s knew about this, he’s been practically grilling me on why I haven’t already packed his luggage for his weekend.  Which was still 6 days away when he first asked me!  Second, I needed to get some home organization done.  I could do this with kids if people came up here to help (Which they have!  Every weekend since the Celebration of Life, we’ve had help, which I’ve been VERY thankful for).  But it is a bit easier to handle if the kids are distracted somewhere else.  Third, I was taking the sugar gliders down to Aimee, so I can start learning the more advanced things about caring for them.  Some of you reading may not know this, but Shannon was very much a pet person, and especially loved sugar gliders.  In late 2012, early 2013, she researched them and worked with Aimee to adopt a trio to take care of.  They were practically therapy pets for her.  The research kept her mind off treatments and side effects, and she put a lot of energy and love into caring for them.  We made that move with the agreement that when she passed away, I would be okay to take care of them.  Over the past year, I took over the day to day care of them, but Shannon still took care of nail trimmings, taking them out of their cage, etc.  So, that’s what I need to start picking up.

One unintended thing from my parents taking the kids for the weekend…it’s gave me a chance to be social.  My college roommate turned 31 on Sunday (Happy birthday Ben!), and they had people over to celebrate on Saturday.  Ordinarily, this would be a case where I would say “Well, I have to take care of the kids, so I’ll have to pass”.  But with the kids already cared for, it gave me an opportunity to go out and be social instead of sitting at home, alone, and wallowing in memories.  And it was really fun to hang out with them.  Got to see a good bit of old high school friends and got my first taste of Cards Against Humanity!  In the end, we reminisced about a lot of great times from years ago, and I absolutely needed that night to get out with friends…

But, this blog post is about the feelings I got leading up to this, and my what it reminded me of.  Immediately, when thinking on this, I’m reminded of senior year of high school.  I dated a girl from end of freshman year through junior year.  As summer after Junior year approached, she broke up with me.  I’ll skip the details on why, they aren’t important to this story, which is approaching rambling length.  But what I found was that, I had to start over on my social life.  See, when I was dating her…we did everything together (Not everything, but every Friday was hanging out together, most weekends we tried to do things together, etc).  So when we broke up, I turned to find…I couldn’t remember how to have a social life.  I was just used to “Friday nights, going with my girlfriend, done and done”.  So now (and then)…It’s like I have to remember how to walk again.  How do you get out and be social?  How do I do that with kids now?  How do I do it, being that my personality is such that I don’t feel all that comfortable sticking my neck out and trying to initiate the plans…Shannon was the one who always made the plans with kid hangouts, with going out and having “adult” time without kids, with meeting up with others.  I just tagged along.  Now, I need to be the one to plot the course, to take the initiative, to look to friends for time and company.  Awkwardly.  Very, very, very, VERY…awkwardly.  Because, that’s just me.  I don’t think anything is going to change that.

And in that respect, it sure does feel like senior year ALLL over again.

Re-starting a social life

Morning Crisis as a Single Parent

Well, this morning I certainly got tested on my single parenting balancing skills…

So we’re coming downstairs at 6:20am to begin our morning routine (Noah’s bus comes at 7:10a, need to leave the house by 7:04a, with packed lunches, fed children, and clothed children and me).  I check my work emails and notice OH HOLY SHITBALLS EVERYTHING IS DOWN!!!!

Okay, not EVERYTHING was down, but one of my main applications was having major issues, getting Service Desk calls.  So, I kicked into work mode, signed in remotely, started troubleshooting etc.

(Tick, tick)

I started figuring out the problem, started resolving things, kept telling Noah that no, we were not going to turn on the TV

(tick, tick)

Finishing up, asking one of the analysts (otherwise known as Bill, my brother…nice perk of my work situation, I tend to end up working most with my older brother) to test…

(Tick, tick…why is there this ticking sound)

It’s 6:50

10 mins to leave time

No one is fed.  Only one child is clothed.  There are no lunches packed.


I could’ve chosen this moment to melt down…to start flying all over the house in a dash to get everyone ready…But I was still finishing up my work responsibilities!  And also, that wouldn’t fix anything, there’s no way I can do all that in 10 minutes.

Breathe…Ok, we’re not doing the bus today.  We’re going to drive them both to school.  Kids, breakfast, now.  Kids, what you want for lunches, now.  Darcy, clothes, now.  Check, check, check, check…it’s 7:20 and we’re heading out the door (I did dress in that little time frame, don’t worry I didn’t go out the door in underwear or anything)

Oh…it’s 12 degress outside.  And the window is covered in frost.  Well, just awesome.

BUT, I got it done.  I fixed my work stuff, I got both kids to schools on time, and I made it into work MOSTLY on time.  The ironic thing is…this happened at times when Shannon was here.  No idea why this was any different, but it just felt like all hell was breaking loose in the house.  But, somehow, we all managed to roll with the craziness and get the job done.

Hamilton Force, ASSEMBLE!

Morning Crisis as a Single Parent