July 31, 2004 -- Our last day of happiness

Like all widoweds, I have spent innumerable hours remembering my life with Nick, trying to ensure that no moment is lost, that every glance and kiss is treasured. The really good days and really bad days are easy to remember, but the everyday goodness gets lost in a blur.

Three memories from July 31, 2004

1. It's a hot summer afternoon, so I have inflated a little wading pool (3 feet in diameter) for the boys. The pool is on the driveway under the dogwood tree, and I am sitting in it with HardPlace and Rock splashing in and out. (HardPlace is 6-1/2, about to enter 1st grade; Rock has just celebrated his 2nd birthday.) Nick is heading out to vespers, and he stands on the front porch beaming down at his family.

I can still feel the love binding us all in that moment, the happiness and gratitude for everything. And I remember the irritation as well, that Nick was going to church AGAIN, walking away from this idyllic vignette AGAIN, leaving me to deal with the boys alone AGAIN.

2. It is late evening, and the boys are just about ready for bed. Nick is determined to start reading The Hobbit to HardPlace. This is something he has been looking forward to doing since before we became parents, and he is determined to start it tonight. Does he know that this is his last chance? Can he sense on some level that he has to do it now?

I can still see Nick and HardPlace on the elephant chair, adored father and beloved son. I can still hear Nick stumble through the first few pages, losing his place more than once. I can still remember thinking how tired he must be, wondering why he's insisting on reading this book tonight, when HardPlace really isn't quite old enough to follow it.

3. Nick and I are in bed, both of us worn out from another ordinary day at home with the boys. I snuggle up against him and ask, "Did you have a headache today?" "No, I don't think so," he says a bit faintly. "Good," I say, moving my hand down his side toward the inside of his thigh. It's been such a long time.

"Oh, honey, no." And he moves my hand up to his chest, holding it against his heart. "One day you'll know how sick I've been." Or did he say, "You don't know how sick I've been"? I wish I could remember. I still hear his voice, still feel his body next to mine, but I cannot remember his last words to me that last night we lay in each other's arms.

Remembering is terrible; Forgetting is worse

Nick had sinus headaches for years and years, which generally went away when treated with over-the-counter medicines. Finally in early 2004, I persuaded him to see a doctor to either get stronger drugs or consider surgery to correct the drainage. He was given a cocktail of allergy and sinus medications, which did the trick. He was breathing clearly, and his sinus headaches went away.

At the end of June, we went on a family vacation to my mother’s house in California. Quite apart from having a wonderful time in a place that is a slice of Paradise, Nick had absolutely no headaches during that trip. In retrospect, however, I did notice that his driving was a bit erratic and aggressive in a way that was totally out of character. And Pierre told Jane he thought Nick was acting a bit spacey and out-of-it.

Shortly after we returned to Maryland from California, Nick got the first of the terrible headaches. I learned later (when he was describing them to the hospital staff) that they weren’t typical sinus headaches, focused in the upper front quadrant of the skull. His whole head hurt, like it was being crushed in a vise. The pain was so awful that he couldn’t even manage to take medicine for it. "Oh, honey! Make it stop hurting! Make it go away!"

The pain would last for 45 minutes or an hour, leaving him too drained to do much of anything. He couldn’t focus on work and would come home halfway through the day; I was so delighted to have him with me and the boys that I didn’t let myself worry about him. I later realized (with bitter 20/20 hindsight) that he couldn’t focus on anything: Bills were going unpaid, he would ask me the same question three times in 20 minutes, and he would lose his place when trying to read to HardPlace. At first the headaches came every three or four days; then they came every two or three days. By the end of July, hardly a day went by that he didn’t have at least one spasm of unbearable pain.

The last Sunday of July, he got a headache while serving as Deacon during Divine Liturgy. It turns out that he actually started to pass out, and if someone hadn’t been right there, he would have fallen to the floor. But we didn’t learn that (because he had no memory of it) until later in the week. A few days later, he was driving the little blue Mazda when he rear-ended someone at a stop light. It was pouring rain, and we attributed the crash to road conditions; after his diagnosis, we both wondered whether or not he’d blacked out again. It doesn’t matter, and it’s too dreadful to contemplate what might have happened he’d blacked out while driving on the Beltway, or while driving with all of us in the car.

We thought the new drugs he was taking might be causing the headaches, so he had gone back to the doctor toward the end of July. The doctor (a new doctor for us, because Dr. Wielebinski had retired to Idaho) took Nick off one of the medications and said to call him in a month if he still had problems. After another week of continuing headaches, Nick didn’t take much convincing that he needed to call the doctor sooner. He was going to call him on Monday...

Should I? or shouldn't I?

That was the question bouncing around in my brain as I went to sleep last night. Should I or shouldn't I share Nick's story on my public blog? Should I or shouldn't I?

Rock woke me up around 1:00 a.m., needing to go to the bathroom, but afraid of the dark of the hotel room. As he lay sleeping sweetly, the question came back to me. And the story came back to me. And the knowledge that soon Nick will have been dead for 3 years came back to me.

As I lay in bed, tears streaked down my cheeks. Silent tears, for I didn't want to wake my mother or my children. But I wanted someone to know that I was crying, to know that I still love my Nicholas, to know that I still ache for him. Should I? or shouldn't I?

I guess I have my answer.


Anyone care to guess what my favourite tipple is at the moment?

On the road again

Today we head off on the last of our big road trips: We'll spend 3 nights in Santa Fe (after 8 or 9 hours in the car ... blyech) with 2 full days to see the museums and churches and shopping. Also, Mother and I both have meals scheduled with good friends. Then we'll sleep 2 nights in a small town north of Santa Fe, which we are using as our home base for expeditions to Bandeleir National Monument and Taos Pueblo. Assuming that all goes well, we'll come home by way of the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, taking an extra night along the road somewhere if we need to.

It's going to be great, but it does mean that I won't be posting too much. I will try to put up a few pictures from Rock's birthday (and our afternoon with my MIL) before we leave.

A few too short thoughts before I go...

We have been having a fabulous summer. After we return, there will be only 1 week left before the boys and I head back to Maryland. As with any vacation, part of me will be (already is) champing at the bit to get home, and another part of me will be (already is) very sad to leave.

The boys have been so happy here. HAPPY! I have seen smiles on HardPlace's face that I haven't seen since Nick died. Which of course makes me wonder if I should yield to family pressure and move out here, at least temporarily. If I do move to Tucson, I won't sell my Maryland house: I'll rent it out and rent a place here, making it possible to return to Maryland.

But what would that mean for my relationship with Ron? He absolutely doesn't want to live in the desert, and the time difference is already taking its toll on us.

And I miss my Washington widoweds and my dear friends of long standing (yes, Beata, that means you!) And I would miss all my Eastern widoweds, because I wouldn't be able to jump in the car and see them. (Yeah, yeah... I know there are Western widoweds too, at least one of whom I positively adore.)

In less than 2 weeks, it will have been 3 years since Nick died. As happy and busy and wonderful as family time has been, that awareness has been increasingly with me. The sadness, the loss, the pain are all nibbling at me, skirting in and out of my field of vision. Sometimes, the horror of it all takes my breath away.

I am thinking about posting Nick's story here. B in Boston has done so for the last few years, and it has been moving and cathartic to read her story, even though I know the terrible ending. Last year I posted Nick's story, day by day, on a private blog giving the address to only a few people. It was unbearably painful to write about it, but also incredibly healing. I've gone back to it a few times since writing it, washing myself in both the pain and the comfort, the sorrow and the love. So as the anniversary of that terrible time approaches ... my thoughts wander.

No place else to go

More California pictures

It's faster and easier to put together a Photobucket slide show.

And some shots of Arizona wildlife.

Let me know if you have problems viewing these.

New Words for 2007

* TESTICULATING. Waving your arms around and talking bollocks.
* PERCUSSIVE MAINTENANCE. The fine art of whacking the crap out of an electronic device to get it to work again.
* GOING FOR A McSHIT. Entering a fast food restaurant with no intention of buying food, you're just going to the bog.(Loo) If challenged by a pimply staff member, your declaration to them that you'll buy their food afterwards is known as a McShit with Lies.
* MILLENNIUM DOMES. The contents of a Wonderbra, i.e. extremely impressive when viewed from the outside, but there's actually naught in there worth seeing.
* MYSTERY BUS. The bus that arrives at the pub on Friday night while you're in the Toilet after your 10th pint, and whisks away all the unattractive people so the pub is suddenly packed with stunners when you come back in.
* MYSTERY TAXI. The taxi that arrives at your place on Saturday morning before you wake up, whisks away the stunner you slept with, and leaves a 10-Pinter in your bed instead.
* BEER COAT. The invisible but warm coat worn when walking home after a booze cruise At 3:00am.
* BEER COMPASS. The invisible device that ensures your safe arrival home after booze cruise, even though you're too drunk to remember where you live, how you got here, and where you've come from.
* PICASSO BUM. A woman whose knickers are too small for her, so she looks like she's Got 4 buttocks

Common as muck

We've always had these little chaps in the garden and I was always lead to believe they were sand lizards, but now I'm not so sure as they could be common lizards. Anyway I found this one in the shed at the bottom of the garden.

California pictures, part 1

First, a pilgrimage to the beach as soon as we could get there.

Of course, Rock got so excited, he tripped over his own feet and went face first into the waves. But he was so happy, he just didn't care.

The Sea World dolphins were really amazing (as were the seals, sea lions, rays, orcas, etc.), and both boys watched the shows with utter delight.

I think it's even MORE amazing that this photo came out!

I loved loved LOVED Sea World.

LegoLand was pretty cool too. (Click on any of these pictures to see the detail.)

Rock blissed out on a boat ride through fairy-tale land.

Hard Place did battle with Darth Vader, while Rock spun R2D2's head around!

The boys were so eager to get into the MindStorms exhibit, I don't think they even noticed Albert Einstein.

Vader, R2, and Einstein (and MANY others) are made entirely of Legos.

We were all pretty tired and VERY happy by the end of the day.

Yes, I'm still here!

I don't even know where to begin.

We had a fantastic trip to California: 1 day at Sea World, 1 day at LegoLand, time with one of my favorite widows, 1 day at the beach, 1 daytrip down memory lane.

Also a wonderful visit with Ron, in spite of exhaustion and 2nd degree burns.

I'll put pictures up in the next day or so.

This weekend, the boys and I will go to Tanja's on Saturday for a gathering of widoweds; Sunday morning we'll head to Jerome and back up to Slide Rock to rendezvous with ... wait for it ... you'll never guess it ... I'd never guess it ... drum roll ... you won't believe it ... I don't believe it ...

My effing in-laws. Yup. The people who utterly ignore my boys are taking "their grandsons" on a 2-week tour of the Southwest and thought it would be nice to meet up with us somewhere. Ugh. Ugh. UGH. I hate to see them. I hate the thought of being around them. But the boys wanted to go back to Slide Rock anyway, and they will enjoy spending an afternoon with their cousins. I can only hope that it is an environment where Rock and HardPlace won't notice the discrepancy between the way my in-laws treat the them and "our boys," as my MIL refers to my nephews.

There's lots to write about, but I don't know when I'll have time. I miss you all -- I am terribly behind in my blog-reading.


A day out at the seaside.

Weird and wonderful

Just my opinion, but the sheep is a bit weird, the bull is a wonderful specimin and the men, well they're either from Butlins or a bunch of hunts (men)
Apologies for the lack of posts this week, it's been somewhat busy. On Wednesday we all went to the Great Yorkshire Show and yesterday afternoon it was Katies first sports day. Hopefully I will post a few photos over the weekend.

Penguins at Sewerby

A short video from our day out yesterday. Watch out for wifey getting what she deserved.

Ticket Touts

4.30pm on a Sunday afternoon and the city's traffic wardens are merilly dishing out tickets in the 'Avenues', where it happens to be 'Open Gardens', but they weren't aware of that were they? and it's not about making money, it's about traffic safety, isn't it?

I probably won't post much for a while ...

I'm heading to the Tucson airport to pick up Ron. We'll have a busy weekend with my family, an overnight getaway for the two of us on Monday, and then he and I and the boys will drive to San Diego for 5 days.

I'll try to put up a few pictures before we hit the road -- but if I don't, know that it's not because I don't care about you!

View from Queen's Gardens

I took this picture on my way to work this morning, It shows the fountains in Queen's Gardens, William Wilberforce's statue and in the background, Hull College.

Not my typical post ...

... but these are for my friend Mimi, over at Bigger Than a Breadbox.

Orthodox bumper stickers (from The Onion Dome):
My Church wrote your Bible.

You think that’s religious fundamentalism? I’ll show you religious fundamentalism!

Orthodoxy — Ancestors you can’t remember are part of our Church

Wisdom! Let us attend… to the road!

When in doubt, cross yourself.

Orthodoxy: If It Ain't Broke.…

Orthodoxy: Pro-Life, Pro-Christ, Pro-Baklava!

Honk if you know what this means: IC XC NIKA

Being Saved

Universality, Antiquity, Consent

Orthodoxy: It’s a very narrow road

51% Atkins-Friendly

The Orthodox Church: Not Only Standing for the Truth, But Never Sitting Down Either

Orthodoxy: Faithfully maintaining the tradition started at the Tower of Babel.


Orthodox Christianity: Not New, Not Improved

Orthodoxy: Putting the FUN back in ‘fundamentalism’!

Orthodoxy: Kickin’ it old school since 33 A.D.

Also (but not from TheDome): Honk 40 times if you're an Orthodox Christian

Orthodoxy: Disorganized religion at its finest

I apologize to my nonOrthodox readers: Convert, and you'll be laughing too.


There seems to be a general slothness in blogland at the moment, and I'm no exception. I guess other things have been taking priority (like the floods). It looks like the flooding has wiped out our potato crop, but the gooseberry bush yielded 2 pounds of goosegogs and has now become 3 jars of jam courtesy of wifey.

If I were really a grown-up ...

... I wouldn't allow myself to feel left out when my mother and sister stay inside and visit while I have to be outside watching the boys in the pool.

... I wouldn't tell them that it hurt my feelings and made me feel 12 years old again.

... I wouldn't let my mother make the same comments about my weight and hair that she's been making for the last 25 years.

... I wouldn't let my mother's approval/disapproval govern my wardrobe purchases.

... I wouldn't feel guilty for staying in Maryland and not considering a move to Arizona.

... I would let political comments breeze by, rather than allowing them to churn my stomach.

... I would re-negotiate some of Grandma's rules on behalf of the boys.

... I wouldn't be whining into cyberspace.

We're back from the Grand Canyon (part 2)

Our journey begins with a train ride: All aboard!

The boys LOVED it!

And at the end of the line, just LOOK at where we were.

Slide Rock State Park was great fun ...

... and amazingly beautiful.

BTW, any herpetologists out there? Anyone able to tell me what kind of pretty lizard we saw?