Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Two Anniversaries

As I sit here my mind is wandering into the days that lay ahead of me. September has been an emotionally loaded month since the death of my husband on September 13th three years ago. It's not like other anniversaries where there is necessarily some kind of celebration, more like a thoughtful observance.

On the first year anniversary I found myself in a new city. I had chosen to move from San Francisco to San Diego 9 months into my widowerhood. That first anniversary was spent walking along the shore and spreading small amounts of Michael's ashes wherever I went. That next day I found that annoying little chihuahua at my door that later became my pet Fido.

On the second year anniversary of Michael's death I found myself working at a new job. I didn't have the foresight to expect a problem so I went ahead and worked, and failed to forewarn anyone at the office of the day's significance. It was all going fine until I was assigned to mediate a custody plan for a child left in the care of his mother and paternal grandmother due to the father dying the prior year. It obviously hit too close to home, and I found myself sobbing in my supervisor's office.

This year I considered taking the day off, then told myself to just man-up and get through it. I don't anticipate it to be a huge emotionally draining day, more one of quiet observance. I plan to have a quiet evening at home with my family, share some memories of Michael, and close the day with some sort of ritual.

Ten days after this day I will be celebrating an anniversary of a different sort. This anniversary is a new one. This anniversary was not on my radar last year, or the year before. This anniversary celebrates a new beginning.

September 23, 2012 I woke up like any other day. I dropped my son off at school and then moved on to my job. Throughout the day I was anxious about the upcoming evening. I had been chatting online and on the phone with a very sweet guy. With each conversation I was amazed at how at ease I felt, and how it suddenly gave me something to look forward to. I had met other guys online before, and it never really worked out. It seemed that there was always an easy rapport when exchanging email or text. Then it always came down to what I call the science test, or "chemistry." Because of past failed attempts I was prepared for the realization that this one could also go nowhere. Yet, I was willing to try.

 On the evening of September 23, 2012 I drove up to designated meeting place, and began looking around for my date. It was actually a planned casual outing to buy concert tickets for our official date. As I continued to look around all I could see was some guy riding around on a skateboard. It took me a few minutes, but I suddenly remembered that this guy was a skateboarder, and perhaps he decided to leave his truck at home.




That was it. That was the beginning of a year filled with filled with love, kindness, patience and passion. It was the beginning of something I never expected. It was a year of exactly what my late husband Michael wanted for me.

 It was new love. It was a new beginning.

 Interesting that these two dates are two years apart, yet with only 10 days separating their observance. I don't know how my heart, my body or my soul will respond to the first of these anniversaries. I know that I will mourn the loss of Michael in my life and in this world. Both Abel and I have discussed the awkwardness of these two anniversaries being so close together. I know that for my part I want to let the day of September 13th be what it is. I want to mindfully recognize the loss of Michael while also celebrating his life. I then want to move forward in anticipation of the next date.

September 23, 2012. The anniversary of new love. This will be a day to acknowledge how far Abel and I have come within the past year. Abel is now a member of my family, both within my home and throughout the homes of my many relatives. Abel is recognized as the man I love, and the man who loves me in return. Abel is now by my side, willing to be there come what may. It has been a wonderful first year with him, yet it has also been quite a challenging one. To reach this first year anniversary together is a sign of our commitment to each other. In this year we have both had to be there for each other during times of major loss. We have each had our ups and downs, and we have come through them more committed to each other than the day before.

Anniversary:   The annual recurrence of a date marking a notable event.
                        A day that commemorates or celebrates a past event.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dan and Abel Go Camping

This weekend was a first.  Abel and I went camping together for the first time.  The weekend included many of the same components of camping trips that he might have taken in the past.  There was good food and drinks, long conversations, and hiking.  Only this camping trip was also very different than one's he has likely gone on before.  This was Camp Widow.

This was my third Camp Widow, as I have been a "member" of the widowed community for three years now.  This year I assisted again at the reception desk, had some focused sharing with two other LGBT widowed campers and took a group of alumni on an afternoon of food, drinks and hiking at the beautiful Torrey Pines.  Funny, someone at the reception desk said to me, "Dan, you have been here all four years, right?"  I said no, I hadn't, then felt her disappointment when I reminded her that I didn't qualify four years ago.  Damn, had he died a few months earlier.

Okay, my morbid sense of humor.  But it is exactly what Mike would have thought and said.

Anyway, this year was significantly different for me.  The last two years I attended on my own.  This year, not.  I met Abel one month after last year's camp.  Yes, in just a little over a month we will be celebrating our first year together.  And it has been a wonderfully rewarding year.

I was very pleased that Abel chose to attend part of the weekend with me at camp.  I felt it was important for him to participate in this part of my life.  Some might have expected me to say that this, Camp Widow, or being widowed, was something in my past, but let me tell you, it's not.  These last three years of being widowed have been the most challenging years of my life thus far, and I must also say, have been extremely rewarding.  I have grown and changed so much over these years.  I have been at my worst, had lost faith and hope, and have emerged a changed person.  The person that Abel met and fell in love with is a different person that Michael met and fell in love with many years ago.

During my journey I have had the constant companionship of so many other wounded widows and widowers.  We have held each other up and have watched each other take those baby steps toward a sense of healing.  We can now look at each other now with tears of joy in our eyes.  I have also met some lovely new partners and spouses of these widowed friends.  Each of these individuals have contributed to my being willing and able to trust falling in love again.

Now let me be honest here.  This past year has certainly not been an easy one for Abel and I.  We each have our individual scars that need healing, and we each have worked to understand each other's journey.  This weekend Abel got to take a first hand peek into mine.  I want to thank each fellow camper that greeted Abel with such sweet care and acceptance.  I want to thank each person that shared a bit of their journey with him.  I want to thank Michele for such a beautiful workshop about taking a chance on love.  Her words had both of us walking away with such emotion!

Here is where I am today.  I love my husband Michael.  Yes, I still actively love him.  I love Abel.  Yes, I have two loves.  Yet for me, this is the difference.  One is present, one is not.  What I had with Michael was wonderful, challenging, and and not without problems.  It was real.  What I have with Abel is wonderful, challenging and well, just as real. 

Each day I choose to keep moving forward.  Each day I appreciate having had Michael in my life.  Each day I appreciate the new man that lies next to me.

I have found joy.  Having hope in a future that is full of love allowed me to find that joy. 

Abel brings me joy.  My children bring me joy.  My grandchild brings me joy.  Each of you bring me joy. 

Looking forward to going camping again in the near future.