Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Old Man

The title of this post is the title of a Joni Mitchell song. I find myself singing these lyrics to myself frequently these days:
"the beds too big, the frying pans too wide". In this song Joni's man is gone singing in the park verses, yeah, well, you know.

There's so many things to try and adjust to besides the obvious; being so alone, lost at times, tsunami waves of pain. There's also learning how to buy food for one. After 31 years of stocking the 'frig for a guy who had a great appetite and loved my cooking I'm now faced with food going bad on me. I buy the smallest little thing of milk and have to remind myself not to grab the biggest bunch of broccoli. I guess the upside is I can now buy black olives and Brussel Sprouts as I like these but Jim didn't so I just wouldn't bother to buy them .... why? when I was the only one who would eat them? Well, yes, I'm the ONLY ONE who will eat them.

"The frying pans too wide" ....

The bed hasn't felt too big, to be honest. I have a dog who likes sleeping up there with me and tends to really stretch out thus taking up more then her share ... Jim would do this too. But the nights, ah .... people ask me "how you sleeping?" and I say "OK". Truth is, I no longer sleep deeply all night long. But I haven't done this for over 2 years while Jim was sick. If I'm not laying awake at 2:00 or 3:00 (or both) just thinking and unable to get back to sleep then I feel I've slept OK. Now, I'm awake often, aware of Jim's absence every time I wake, glad for this little fury beast who is so tactile, but feeling "me and these lonesome blues, collide".

In Mitchell's song she sings how when her old man comes home "and he takes me in his loving arms, and he tells me all his troubles and he tells me all my charms" .... painful reality for me. My old man isn't coming home, is he? I no longer have that one person who, simply, adores me. There is no one I can ask "which shoes should I wear?", or as Clapton sang in his song "she said, 'do I look alright?', and I say yes, you look wonderful tonight". That simple exchange between two people in love is so intimate, honest and trusting .... another tough new norm for me.

I still swear at God sometimes as this new life I am being forced to live just sucks so bad and I don't like the fact that I have to use a smaller frying pan. And maybe I don't really care if I look alright anyway.

Loving you all back -
PS - I do read all your comments. It means a lot to me to know you're out there! Thank you.

Friday, July 23, 2010


I'm noticing some things these days that I want to share. First, if you read my Summer Storms blog then you read how all the boats in the harbor were a shocking white the night of the thunder storm. Today (well actually, yesterday, but let's stay present) I'm noticing that the same boats are still out there on their moorings but one sail cover is red, another one blue and not all the hulls are white .. one is even black! But the other night during that storm ALL the boats and ALL the sail covers were brilliantly white!! How does that happen?

I'm also noticing that my patience is very low these days ... I tend to snap at folks too quickly and too easily. It's quite annoying and I feel so horrible afterwards but can't seem to always stop myself. It's like having turrets syndrome! I hate doing this. Hate how it makes others feel ... how it makes me feel. Today I've been thinking about it and just wonder if it's because for 16 months I had to be incredibly patient with Jim; walking, communicating, bathing, entertaining him and on and on. I admit that I didn't always love doing all these things and there were many times over the course of a year and a half that I truly lost it and would go outside and slam sticks into rocks, or throw logs off the wood pile as far as I could heave them to blow off some rage. Jim and I always knew it was the cancer I was raging at, it was our situation that we both had been thrown into without giving permission to be there that I was raging at and Jim would do great at not enmeshing in my tantrums ... inside that broken body and compromised brain was the same wise and wonderful Jim.

But I'm honestly not sure this is a good enough reason to have this irritable nature now that just rises quickly and bursts out with no warning. It's not my true nature, it's not really who I am or how I usually operate in the world.

So, I just want to say to all my friends and family that I have an awareness of it. I know when I do it, and I hate myself for it. And if you have been in the line of fire when the shot goes across your bow I want you to know that I'm trying to get a handle on this and do better .... and I probably didn't really mean it but I understand this may not help to know when under fire.

Is this also part of grieving? There are so many alleyways to this process and no map!

Loving you all back ... even when I'm not that good at acting like I do ...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer storms

We had an amazing thunderstorm in Portland, ME last night. Torrential rains, tornadoes in some towns and crashing and banging that shook the house. Provided everyone stays safe I am one who loves the energy and drama of a good summer storm. My mother use to sit in the middle of the living room with her sneakers on ... rubber for it's grounding properties ... during a thunderstorm, while my dad would take all us kids out to the front porch. He would sit and look at his watch, timing the the minutes or seconds between the flash of lightening and the boom of it's thunder. He would then yell "GO!" and the four of us would run out onto the lawn in the rain and dance in little bouncy steps or run around with our airplane arms out until he would yell "BACK!" when we would sprint back to the porch just before the next flash and crash would hit. During all this dancing and running my mother would be yelling from inside the house, "Jay, bring those kids back inside!".

Dangerous? Of course. But this was an era when you got a BB gun on your 10th birthday, rode on the tailgate of the pick up truck and all piled into the station wagon without seat belts on.

Last night, when the rains stopped and the black sky moved out towards the open ocean, the light became absolutely incredible. The boats in the harbor took on a surreal, bleached white color that was blinding in their contrast to the asphalt gray of the ocean and the pewter gray sky. As the storm moved out to sea the sky still flashed with lightening and there were periodic streaks of jagged bolts that would almost hover for that split second as though stopping time at that very moment before it all went black again.

Jim was a professional photographer. He taught me about light. He taught me to say "the light is so gorgeous right now". It was always about the light, about capturing that moment, about how quickly that light will change and it will be a different moment.

If Jim had been here last night he would have grabbed his cameras and gone to capture those shocking white boats on the black sea. He would have grabbed my hand and pulled me out to dance on the lawn in the rain. Jim had the unique qualities of seeing beauty in the light of the world through a mans eyes and the ability to live his life with a child's enthusiasm.

I miss him like hell.

Loving you all back,

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Saturdays, sometimes

I spent almost the entire day, Saturday, on the couch. I blamed it on the steamy heat of the day that kept me from wanting to get out into the garden and be in the blaring sun to weed. I blamed it on the hard bike ride I did with a friend that morning (and to my cycling community - I rode up Mountain, Dutton and Long Hill with my brake pad rubbing, thus effectively riding all these hills with my brakes ON! My friend said with a laugh, "you're awesome!", I said "no, I'm a bonehead!"). But mostly I blamed it on my state of mind.

I knew if Jim were here he would never allow me to spend that time not grabbing life by it's tail ... even one day. He would be calling friends, he would be doing projects around the house, he would do the drive by and stop in on friends. So I, timidly, called a few friends, sent out tiny little white flags in emails, but everyone was busy or away ... I was on my own, and unable to get out of my own way. My state of being these days.

Kay Redfield Jamison in her memoir titled "Nothing Was the Same" is very eloquent in her description of her grief stating "my mind was not right, but it was not deranged. I was able to reason and to imagine that the future held better things. I did not lose my sense of how to navigate the basics of life ... "

And this is how I feel. I always thought that when Jim died I would be in the fetal position with the curtains pulled down, opened and half eaten bean cans littering the kitchen, mail and newspapers piling up on the doorstep and friends coming in to force me to shower, force me to move, force me to live. But this is not my grief. I believe I look and act pretty normal most days. My grief hits in tsunami waves. One minute I'm thinking of something unrelated and the next there is a memory of Jim and the reality of his absence is crippling. As Jamison states "I learned to live in expectation of assault".

I haven't really learned this yet ... but certainly understand what she means.

I have a little something planned today, Sunday, which I'm learning is important to get me out and doing. I'll go watch the annual Yarmouth Clam Festival cylcing race put on by our bike shop, Cyclemania. This year the club - whose owner, and many of the club riders, are good friends - is devoting the race to Jim. They are even giving away one of Jim's photographs to the winner of the "preem" .... the sprints set up in the race. Jim would be absolutely proud and so honored by this. I'm hoping I can keep my eyes dry through all this, but perhaps I need to learn this doesn't matter either.

Stoic is no longer a sign of strength.

Loving you all back,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Snow Island

For the last 5-6 years my entire family has gotten together on this island owned by a friend of our family. He, miraculously, lets the entire Lello clan take over his private spot. There's a lot of us too, 28 or more depending. We don't arrive quietly, we fill his converted lobster boat with bags of needed personal items, baby fold-up cribs, food ... so much food ... and all of us. It's quite a big production, but we have so much fun out there from Friday to Sunday.

This past weekend was the island weekend. Last year Jim and I got to stay in one of the guest rooms vs a "bunk house" sleeping arrangement due to Jim's condition. Jim was improving at that time, getting stronger and able to walk with his cane by throwing that right leg ahead of his left, his right arm useless, rigid and held in front of his body. He had lost some of his ability to speak at that time too ... yet, he was such an incredible spirit and always pushing himself harder and farther. Dodge, the owner of the island, had a new double seater kayak last year and with the help of several family members we were able to get Jim into this kayak so that he and I could paddle around. Others joined us in the single seater kayaks, and a small motor boat came out on the pretense of fishing ... but really to stay close in case anything happened. Jim was smiling and kept saying "this is great".

This year it was very different. This year I had the freedom to sit and read rather then tend to Jim, I didn't have to leap up and move when he wanted to move in order to help him over the uneven terrain. I could lay down and nap without asking someone else if they would be with Jim so that I might just close my eyes for an hour. I confess, this isn't the Jim I miss and only a small part of the Jim I remember.

Before the cancer when I was with Jim I was always "home". It didn't matter if we were at 17,000 feet in the Himalayas or meeting villagers of the Kachin state in Burma, I felt at home if Jim was there. And as much as I love my family there are always times when I feel a little lost around them ... it's hard to explain or perhaps it's not that unusual, just a family dynamic. But Jim was always there to find me, to check on me, to just be with me. I got a little lost this weekend at times.

Saturday had been a day of swimming and jumping off the rope swing and running in from the rain showers that hit periodically. But Saturday night the showers had stopped though the sky was still a milky gray. Everyone was sitting around the fire we had blazing waiting for darkness so we could set off a few fire works that I had been gifted with for this weekend. We all got talking about Jim; how he had water skied behind one of the boats one year, how much fun he would have been at the rope swing today, how he was the only one that seemed able to sail the little day sailer without tipping her over. And as we talked about him the thick clouds that had hovered all day opened up and the setting sun blasted through in rose and gold colors, igniting the island in the most amazing light. I said "well, here he is" and Adrian lifted his glass in a toast to Jim. We all got real quiet after that toast and watched this sunset continue to awe us with it's deepening reds, purples and gold as the sun sizzled into the bay.

We all felt Jim's presence with us at that moment.
And I felt very alone and a little lost.

Loving you all back,

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Incredulous. Such a great sounding word... Incredulous. Webster Dictionary defines it as "unwilling to accept or admit what is offered as true". A good word for me these days.

Even after 16 months of fighting brain cancer with Jim and understanding that our time together was so incredibly limited I am incredulous that he's gone. Even after losing so much of him to that f-ing cancer with his inability to talk to me and his entire right side paralyzed thus stripping him of his fabulous athletic abilities I still feel incredulous that my life ... MY life .... is without Jim Daniels in it. ME? HIM? How can this happen to ME? How could cancer kill JIM?

Incredulous. Indeed. I am.

I think this is why I can't look at any pictures of Jim right now. It makes me gasp to see that handsome face; that strong jaw, striking blue eyes and always a hint of a smile. He's gone? Really? It's just not possible .... is it?

Incredulous .....

.... and so very sad.


Monday, July 5, 2010


I went up to our friends camp on Lake St. George this past weekend. There's no better place to be then on a lake when the weather goes all hot and steamy like this. We've been blessed with being invited to this camp by these dear friends for many years now. I don't even call it the Puelle's camp anymore .... it's just "camp".

It was bittersweet ... my first time at camp without Jim. Everything I do is "the first time without" I guess. I found myself getting very teary a lot, needing to walk out to the dock or step into the bathroom, not wanting to share my tears with others for whatever reasons. I was seeing him out in front of me on the bike, flying up those god-awful hills with those solid, gorgeous cycling legs of his. Or in the water having water pistol fights with all the kids, or leaping off the raft striking insanely funny poses in mid flight. Or playing off David's one-liners until the two of them would be laughing so hard the tears would run down their cheeks and the rest of us would have jaw cramps from laughing with them.

I didn't know it was possible to miss someone this much.

The day after Jim died my sisters and David were sitting with me in my kitchen getting lunch. My sisters, Karmo and Sara were positioned where they could look out the sliding door to the yard. At one point they both leaped up and yelled "OMG, did you SEE THAT?" ... a Bald Eagle had flown through the yard. Not OVER the yard ... THROUGH it ... which meant it just cleared the Rhododendron bushes. Yes, THAT low!!! We all ran out to try and see this bird but it had already disappeared into the trees up back. How such a huge bird disappears that fast is such a mystery to me!

Yesterday, at camp, I had just walked out onto the deck to bring a drink to Betsy when a Bald Eagle soared THROUGH the yard, just beyond the deck and just barely clearing the small Alders growing lake side. We all caught a glimpse of this and gave the same gasp of "OMG, did you see that?!" Running to the end of the deck that huge bird had also just disappeared into the trees.

I can't help but feel that the Universe is sending these birds to 'see what's needed', maybe they are sent by Jim to check up on me.

He always knew how to get my attention.

Loving you all back,