Just…ugh. Yesterday was not fun.

I had to take Dylan for his second round of getting his cavities filled and now I am $630 poorer. And when I went out to start up my car, I discovered that I need an oil change again, which is another $80 I have to come up with.

It’s kinda funny (but not really at all) that for the past couple of years, I have driven so little that I always far exceeded the recommended time for another oil change. This time, because of all the driving down to A&M and back, I actually have to get an oil change before the recommended date on my sticker. I’m not really happy about that.

Dylan gave me $200 to cover my oil change and the fact that his fillings were more than we were quoted by $120. I think that helps a little.

Overall, it was just a tough day in general. I needed way more sleep than I got and tomorrow is more of the same. I’m trying to catch up on my work again and didn’t get nearly as much done as I needed to do.

I felt at odds with the kids (well, Chloe and Dylan) and like they are leaving me to do most of the work around the house and I just can’t.

The gentle parenting approach I’ve tried to take with them seems to be biting me in the ass right now.

But I made the mistake of complaining to my mom about it (who has been a wonderful source of support otherwise) and she had all kinds of unrealistic reactions, like that I should have the kids mow the lawn this summer. She’s basing that on what Michigan summers are like, not Texas ones.

I got pretty testy with the kids, especially Dylan. I know that most of that was just that I was mad that he took such poor care of his teeth last semester and he acted like there was nothing he could have done differently. He just completely refused to take responsibility for it and thought I should take sympathy on him.

He is the most like his father, especially like J was when he was younger. And that brought back a lot of unwelcome memories of when J had similar issues with taking accountability for things for so many years of our marriage. I want to believe that he was always the great man that he was in the last five years of our marriage in particular but the truth is that he wasn’t. (And to be fair, I had at least as many shortcomings that I’ve overcome as well.)

I needed to try to reconnect with the kids and move forward, which I think I did. Chloe paid off J’s car yesterday and finally bought new glasses, which I think she will actually really wear and which look cute on her. That’s a very big deal because she’s needed to wear glasses since about sixth grade and hasn’t. (SO much wasted money on glasses and contacts she never wore!) But maybe that was somehow related to gender dysphoria, who knows.

Dylan came in and showed me a link to a Twitter account of bodega cats, which just made me super happy. I think we ended the night on a note of peace.

But I also found out that I most likely did not get a mortgage approved on my own income alone. I will probably have to wait and reapply later, most likely in 2 years when I have my husband’s social security survivor benefits. It doesn’t matter that my credit score is good; I just don’t have enough income.

Of course that makes me worry even more about what will happen to interest rates and home prices around here in that time. But right now, all the signs are telling me to cool my heels.

And that’s probably a good thing in the big picture because the thought of moving was a pleasant distraction from my grief. I’m still trying hard not to think about the depth of my loss and what just happened to me; it’s truly unbearable.

I know I need to let myself start feeling it soon but I honestly don’t even know how.

The cats are even out of sorts. Hermione is peeing on everything and Scooty is sitting on the ottoman for the purple chair where J used to sit…like he’s waiting for him to come back. It’s so sad.

And meanwhile I sent my mother-in-law a text message 2 days ago, offering an olive branch, and she hasn’t responded. But she’s posting on FB about additions she’s adding on to her house in Michigan and she just bought a brand-new car. Must be nice. She has never once offered any help to me of ANY sort, financial or otherwise.

The kids and I will stumble and figure out how to get on our feet without her. But she shouldn’t be surprised when we want nothing to do with her. It’s not for any of the bullshit reasons she thinks it is, either. It’s because we all see through her and how selfish she really is.

I tried to make peace because that’s what J would want but I can’t make her extend the same to me.

Connecting with the other side

I had a really strong reaction to my Covid booster on Saturday. I got a fever around 1 am Saturday night. And my fever was still 103F last night at midnight and I had body aches, a headache, and a stuffy nose. I even began to wonder if I had somehow contracted Covid before I got the booster.

Around 9:30 am Sunday morning, I was awake but not fully. All I know is that the Klonopin that I take at bedtime would have worn off.

And call it whatever you will—a “fever dream” if you’re a cynical atheist like Dylan, my subconscious mind telling me what J would say because I knew him so well (Chloe’s take on it), or J trying to communicate with me from the other side—J came to me and had a few things to tell me.

He told me that where he is now, he has no more pain and he’s watching over me. He said he misses me and it makes him sad to see how much we miss him.

He said that the kids will help me get through this and to lean on them more. (Which, notably, I have not been doing as much as I should; instead, I’m trying to take care of them, often at my own expense.)

He also told me that even though his mom is difficult, to remember that she’s still a connection to him.

That one took me by surprise the most. He didn’t tell me not to cut off contact with her but obviously he knew that I had been considering doing so. And it gave me enough pause that I sent a nice message to his mom tonight. We’ll see if she actually responds or not.

And of course, like always, he said, “I love you, little bird.”

The dream (?) or experience was powerful and overwhelming and made me cry so hard. I have wanted to receive some kind of experience like that ever since he died.

I think that the Klonopin that I take to help me sleep probably blocks out a lot of those communications. That’s tough because I’m physically dependent on the medication by now and in fact recently increased my dosage.

If I took naps in the evening like I used to, that would enable the dreaming too, but for a wide variety of reasons (all of them bad) I haven’t been napping in the evenings anymore.

Yes, I’m fully aware that I am not doing the things I need to in order to take care of myself. I just feel so much obligation to be there more for the kids that I’m not allowing myself to do what I need to do for my own health (physical and emotional.)

Meanwhile, I got J’s death certificates yesterday, so I need to start sending them out. And that will begin the real battle with the life insurance company.

J’s life insurance provided by his employer was supposed to increase by $58,000 as of January 1st. So far, the life insurance company is denying it because he had just filed for short-term disability days before he died. The insurance company is now saying that he had to be an active employee as of January 1st and they’re claiming that he wasn’t because he was on short-term disability.

J’s employer has been really good and helpful and they are trying to fight this too. But the real question will be whether or not I get $155,000 or $213,000.

That obviously makes a very big difference. The IRS has discovered their overpayment last year and now that’s due. I have a bunch of other smaller debts to pay off, too. If I only get the $155,000, that will be enough to put down a sizable down payment on a house in Denton and pay off my debts but won’t leave much left for savings—and I really want to have a sizable savings account to protect my future.

All I can really do is pray desperately that the life insurance company will pay me the full amount.

A long day away

Yesterday, I spent most of my day away from home.

Dylan and I finally got our Covid boosters, which had been scheduled and rescheduled for seemingly a million times. I found out that you should get a mammogram before you get a booster, which messed up my scheduling a lot. (You can get a false positive for breast cancer unless you wait 4-6 weeks until after your booster.)

Then, we picked up his girlfriend and got dinner, came home to eat it, then we all went to get piercings. Dylan got his nose pierced, his girlfriend got her third lobe piercings, and I got a double helix. I hadn’t gotten any piercings in 10-12 years at least, when I got my traguses done.

My piercings hurt quite a bit, which is kind of a welcome thing in a weird way. I guess it reminds me that I’m still alive, which isn’t something that I always feel lately. Most of the time, I just feel like a half-alive zombie, floating untethered between life and death.

And then I took them for Slurpees and snacks (which is kind of a post-piercing tradition by now) and took his girlfriend home. On my way back from that, I picked up dinner for Chloe, which took seemingly forever.

In truth, I was probably only gone for a total of about 8 hours but it was the longest I’ve been out in a single day since J died.

And suddenly I just felt his loss even more than usual. It’s like time itself has shifted and no longer functions the same way that it did before.

I think about the few times that I left during J’s final weeks and I wonder now if any of them were even necessary. I honestly had no idea at all how little time he really had left because if I had known, I wouldn’t have left his side.

I regret taking his advice not to stay in the hospital with him. I really, really wish that I had been there. Even though he insisted that I not stay with him, I wonder if he felt lonely or abandoned.

I just really, really believed that he’d have more time. But I can’t keep letting myself off the hook with that excuse. It eats at me a lot.

I know that he knew that I loved him and I knew that he loved me, too. I helped him through the hours leading up to his death, as difficult as that was.

I just can’t seem to stop beating myself up for every moment I could have had with him and wasted. I can never get any of them back now and I would give literally anything to have even one more moment with him.

Thoughts and memories

I’m still not okay but that’s going to be the case for a long time, I think.

I wrote something for Medium last night about my relationship with J. It just felt kinda cathartic and good to get it out. What we had together really was something special.

Then I saw that one of my friends posted this link to the music video of the local band that J and I always used to see when we were in Michigan. J and I were actually in the crowd scene at the end of the video and it was just such a good memory that I have with him.

I don’t know how to deal with the fact that all I will have from him, forever, is memories. It just really feels so unfair that he’s not here anymore. He really should be, dammit! Why do so many truly horrible people get to go on living but he doesn’t?

Dylan said he had a dream last night and J was in it. Our whole family was together, just sitting around on a mountaintop. J wasn’t sick in the dream. It was just like normal times we used to have together.

Fortunately, his girlfriend had spent the night so he was able to tell her about the dream when he woke up. He said that it made him really sad when he woke up and realized that J was still gone.

I haven’t had any dreams of J since he died, probably because I’m taking meds to help me sleep.

On the one hand, I think I would be very very disturbed if I had a dream about him and had to wake up to the reality that he’s gone.

But on the other hand, I miss him so much that even seeing him in dreams would be wonderful.

I’ve heard that sometimes people you love who have died try to communicate with you in signs or other supernatural ways and none of that is happening for me. I don’t know if it eventually will or if I have to do something to encourage that or what.

All I know is that I miss him so much and I feel so, so alone.

What the fuck?

No, I’m not adjusting well to being widowed, in case you were wondering.

Mostly, during the limited time that I was awake yesterday, I was just stunned, wondering what the fuck just happened.

I mean, I know my husband suddenly got really sick and died. From the time of his last hospitalization until he was dead was 12 days. And I can’t even wrap my head around that. It just makes no sense at all.

Five days before he was hospitalized, I went a little crazy at a store on my way down to pick up Dylan for the semester break at A&M. I spent a little too much on Aggie gear and I told my husband about it. He said it was okay because I was just showing how proud I was of my Aggie and that was justifiable.

And now, a little over a month later, J’s dead and Dyl has dropped out of A&M, most likely forever.

It’s not even just that things changed but that it all happened so fast. My mind can’t even catch up with what has happened.

Interestingly, my MIL says she’s still so angry at God for taking her only son. And I know everyone grieves in their own way and her usual reaction to death is to be angry with the person for dying. (Hence, her belief that J wouldn’t have died if only he’d listened to her and hadn’t taken chemo.)

I’m not angry, though—I’m relentlessly sad and heartbroken.

Amy told me a couple of interesting things I hadn’t known about J, though. One was just the day before he died and he said he had Bauhaus’ “In the Flat Field” going through his head. And I know he really liked that album so it didn’t necessarily mean his thoughts were dark. Maybe it brought him comfort. But I went back and listened to that album again after she told me that and it just seemed so dark and ominous to me.

I’ll never know if that album going through his head was comforting to him or if it was ominous and not knowing bothers me a lot.

The other thing was a couple of months ago. Amy had a good-paying job but she was absolutely miserable there. Her boyfriend was telling her to quit but she still wasn’t sure. She felt that she should “tough it out” because that’s what she thought J would do.

Apparently, J told her to quit and not to use him as an example of how to be a good employee. He told her that if he ever got to retire, he would be spending most of his time in retirement in therapy because of all the things he went through.

And that just breaks my heart more than I can even put into words. I know that he did all of that for us and I also know that his mom and stepdad were so proud of him for his “work ethic.”

But I can’t help but feel really responsible for how hard he had to work. In many respects, I can even see it that his whole life was sacrificed for us. I wonder if he felt that it was worth it. Was it okay, especially if it shortened his life or didn’t give him enough to live for?

Maybe that’s why he was so resistant to going to therapy—maybe the therapist would have told him to make a change, like to choose himself over taking care of us. He knew that would have been pretty much impossible and he felt like he was between a rock and a hard place.

It nags at me, not knowing. I will likely be thinking about this for a long, long time.

I hope that at the very least he knew how much we appreciated him and his efforts. I think he did. But what if he always wanted to stop and just felt like he couldn’t?

The future

I don’t know what I’m going to do in the future but it looks increasingly likely that I will just end up moving to Denton. The advantage to that is that it’s where Amy lives. It’s also a pretty cool town in its own right. (For example, I found out last night that Denton was the only county in the whole US that voted for Bernie Sanders. I think I would fit in well there.)

I talked to Dylan last night about what he thought of me moving to either the Pacific Northwest or Mexico and the look on his face when I asked that made me want to cry. I felt like such an asshole for even bringing it up and I immediately wished I could take back those words.

He said that Texas is his home and he’s not going to leave it. The idea of starting over where he doesn’t know anyone is the worst thing he can imagine at this point in his life.

How could I not realize that would be the worst thing possible for him? He didn’t ask me that; I’m asking it of myself. Especially right now, as he just lost his dad and is feeling lost about his life in general.

I swear, sometimes I’m just talking out of my ass. I talked earlier about it with Chloe and it didn’t upset her at all. Like me, she gets itchy feet sometimes and sees all the reasons to want to leave Texas, maybe even the country.

But such discussions aren’t casual to Dyl; they’re terrifying.

I really, really need to be more mindful of him going forward. He’s dealing with a lot right now and the last thing he needs is to feel like I’m not a stable home base for him.

I went outside

Yesterday, I went outside for the first extended period since J died. It was really, really weird—life is just still going on like normal, like nothing earth-shattering has happened to anyone else.

I got a mammogram, which I could still get as the 3D version because I still have insurance for another couple of weeks. The receptionist asked if I was single or married and I had to say I was widowed, which still feels like an unfamiliar term in my mouth.

I have a dentist appointment tomorrow at noon, which is probably going to be pointless. I have a 15-year-old bridge in my mouth that sometimes causes sensitivity when I bite down on it, which might mean there’s decay underneath. I should probably get it replaced but if I do, even with insurance, it’s still probably going to be about $1500.

I could put it on Care Credit but I don’t know how I’d pay that off. And not to mention that Dylan has EIGHT cavities I have to pay to get filled next week, which is another $500.

At which point will I be able to say, “Sorry, kids, but this one’s on you”? They have pretty substantial savings.

I want to be as generous as possible with them, like we’re still living a good middle-class lifestyle. But the fact remains that we’re not living a middle-class lifestyle anymore and I don’t know how to adapt and I don’t think they do, either.

I know that part of it is that Chloe just needs to get a job ASAP. She’s not really trying yet because we need to get J’s car transferred to her name. But the longer she goes without a job, the more I freak out.

Honestly, Dylan probably needs to get a job, too. He’s mentioned it as something he may do “in the future,” like maybe this summer or something. I’m not sure it can wait that long.

I also realized that I’m probably going to have to pay for him to take drivers ed classes instead of teaching him myself, simply because I don’t really know how to parallel park and he’ll be tested on that. J kicked ass at parallel parking so he taught both Amy and Chloe how to do it.

That’s another $400 or so that I’ll have to come up with.

I also promised to help him get a car but now I have no idea how to do that, either—especially if my life insurance money keeps getting whittled down.

Life looks so, so scary from here and I just want to sleep it away.

It feels like nothing

Or more specifically, I feel like nothing. I feel like I barely exist anymore and I don’t want to feel like this.

I slept until 6:30 pm yesterday. I woke up to the sound of Dylan washing a load of his laundry. Thank God he cooked for us because I don’t think I would have eaten otherwise. I didn’t even make a smoothie yesterday, which is kind of a big deal because I’ve had one almost every day since the last flare-up of my illness 4 years ago.

I have kinda jokingly felt that the nutrition in the smoothies has kept me well. I really do think it might have. And right now I don’t even care.

I did my budget tonight and I am fucked. There’s no other way to put it. I don’t make nearly enough money to survive.

I will be okay when Chloe gets a job (maybe—I have about $9,000 in debt which I can’t pay off on my current schedule.)

My credit score has finally moved from the “fair” category to “good” and I really don’t want to lose that, especially if I’m going to be trying to buy a house with Chloe (who has no credit history at all.) So bankruptcy has to be the last thing on the table.

I have a sizable amount of donations that I’ve received and could almost pay off all my debts but I need to hold on to that donation money to cover my rent, at least until Chloe gets a job.

I can’t help but feel like between me and J, my kids got stuck with the worse of the two parents. I’ve mentioned that to them (but also made it clear that I wasn’t looking for them to compare me to J) and Chloe and Dylan both said that they don’t feel that way. The only way I fall short is in terms of money, which they’ve assured me isn’t my fault.

They’ve also said that they really appreciate that they can talk to me about their feelings. They didn’t say anything negative about J and they never would, but it’s never been a secret that I am more in touch with my feelings and open to talking about theirs than J was. And I’m also paying for Dylan to see a grief counselor, which I am sure that in a similar situation, J would not.

Honestly, that feels like a very small consolation.

I often feel like I don’t want to be here anymore without J. But as pathetic as my financial contribution is, they would be much worse off if I weren’t here and I know that.

I guess I have to keep hanging in here, no matter how bad it gets, because they need me. And I guess that has to count for something.

Someone I follow on Twitter (and donated to) lost her husband to a freak accident a couple of years ago and she’s also on disability. Her husband had much better life insurance than mine and she got to keep his health insurance for over a year. She raised $300,000+ from her GFM account, while I’ve raised a tiny fraction of that. That’s not to shade anyone who’s contributed to mine and I’ve genuinely, deeply appreciated every one who has. But why do some people get so much while mine pales in comparison?

I’m also still so angry at my MIL for not even offering to help. She knows how little I’m living on. She has literally millions of dollars and she can only complain about things like the fact that now that she’s on Medicare, they won’t cover Pap smears anymore now that she’s over 65. Like how much could it really cost to just pay for one herself?

She is used to having Cadillac-level health insurance through her husband and doesn’t know or care about people like us, who had a $10,000 deductible before insurance covered anything. She is the walking picture of entitlement, which is ironic because she rails against “those welfare bums who want everything for free.” Even though she has so much money, she still feels poor.

J once said, when I suggested that his mom might help me, that she was living on a fixed income just like my parents. I happen to know that’s untrue but I just let it go.

I just wish that she gave a single shit about how the kids and I will survive. Right now, even I don’t know how we’ll make it. Every day is a prayer that we won’t become homeless.

In my dreams, the best-case scenario is that I won’t get screwed out of J’s life insurance and can maybe buy a house somewhere. Chloe and Dylan will get jobs and help out, at least for the next two years until I get J’s survivor benefits from social security.

But there are a whole lot of “ifs” in there and I’m not good at living with that much uncertainty. It just leaves this knot in my stomach that won’t go away.

I did stuff

Yesterday, I took my son to his grief counseling session and I stopped on the way home to get bananas. That was it for my great outing and it still took all my energy.

I ordered pizza just because none of us have really been eating lately. It was nice to have a meal we could all share at the table together.

I have to force myself to even drink water. The day before last, I ate a tapioca pudding cup and had half a smoothie.

It’s really, really starting to hit me that J’s gone. He’s really gone and not coming back, not ever.

Everything of his is just where he left it. The kids asked if I was leaving it there as a shrine to him and I just shrugged. All I know is that to move it would be some sort of acceptance of his absence and I’m not ready for that yet.

It’s not that I think he’s going to come back—at least, not consciously. But maybe on some level it does seem possible still. No, I haven’t lost my mind (I don’t think.)

But the speed with which he went from somewhat okay—at least by cancer’s definition—to dead is something that I still can’t even process, let alone recover from.

Meanwhile, I’m also still having fleeting thoughts that my MIL will take pity on me and help me out. Obviously, that’s laughable. She expressed plenty of worry to J about my survival without him—and she knows that I’m on disability—but doesn’t see it as her role to help in any way.

Similarly, my sister has been moderately supportive but despite her husband making more than $200K per year, they haven’t helped, either.

Will I get through this eventually? I’m sure I will somehow, especially if/when Chloe and Dylan start working.

I feel the most sorry for Dyl, though he doesn’t see it that way. He worked so hard to get where he is and now he’s not even sure that it’s what he wants to do anymore. And he already felt that way before J’s death but it just got way accelerated. Him dropping out of school feels like such a huge blow to me and I feel so sad about it.

But I also can’t help but think that both my sister’s husband and my MIL claim to be such good Christians and yet they have nothing to spare for a widow. Maybe I’m just feeling sorry for myself and I certainly don’t feel entitled to anything but I do remember lots of Bible stories about the need to take care of widows. I guess they missed that part.

Really, I just want J back. I’m so lonely without him. Is this going to be the rest of my life?

Another partial day

I didn’t get out of bed until 9:00 pm yesterday and I’m already going back to bed soon. But at least I finished an article yesterday so that’s something.

It’s cold here…again. That just makes me want to sleep even more. But unfortunately, I have to get up tomorrow to take my son to his grief counseling appointment tomorrow afternoon.

I think I’m going to need a grief counselor of my own, as my current therapist seems more focused on surface-level problems. I’ll give her a chance and see; maybe she can help. She’s free for me to see because UTSW has given me financial assistance through July.

While right now I do have plenty of money to see a grief counselor of my own, I also have to be mindful of the fact that the money I have now has to last me for a long, long time.

Chloe is now appropriately recovered from her dental surgery but grief is messing up her sleep schedule again. So I don’t expect her to get a job anytime soon.

I asked Dylan today if my perception that he probably would not be reapplying to A&M was correct and he said it probably was. As of right now, he has no definite plans to go back to school anywhere.

I know that a big part of that is that he wants to take a “gap year” or more and figure out what he really wants from his life. J’s death at the end of his first semester of college was certainly like a bomb went off in his life. But it’s also true that he was having doubts about his path long before J died. I give him a lot of credit for sticking it out through his first semester.

At the same time, I also feel so bad about everything, even though I couldn’t control it. He was the one of my kids with excellent grades and test scores and he really had a good shot at being successful on a traditional path. And now he may throw all that away.

But he also may not throw it away forever. He plans on getting a job at some unspecified point in the future and splitting the rent three ways with Chloe. While that would certainly make things easier for me, I don’t want him to alter his future potential for my sake.

Meanwhile, J’s life insurance company is already trying to screw me over and they haven’t even gotten the death certificate yet. J’s employer was raising their contribution $55,000 as of January 1st and the life insurance company is saying J’s ineligible because he had submitted a disability claim (for which I haven’t been paid yet.) And furthermore, I’m not sure what the disability claim would have to do with anything.

I’ll almost definitely have to get an attorney involved at some point to help me fight this but I am so, so tired now.

I’m just in limbo in every way right now and can’t make any predictions about my future. That makes me feel very unsettled. But for the time being, there’s nothing I can do to change it.

Oh, and one other thing that pisses me off royally, even though it’s minor: the woman who sponsored my kids when we joined the Catholic Church sent me a FB message yesterday, asking how J was doing. I informed her that he passed away on January 1st. She replied that she would “pray for his soul.” I don’t know if that’s just because he left the Catholic Church or because that’s what she’d say about anyone but I don’t think his soul needs to be prayed for.

He was the closest person I’ve ever met to living like Jesus. I’m not at all sure what I believe but if there’s such a thing as heaven, he’s definitely there. So fuck you and your “prayers for his soul.” I truly don’t believe that the fate of his soul is even remotely in question.