It’s been a while. I’ve had so many thoughts in my head; so many emotions to go through and while not alone, often alone. I enjoyed an amazing week away in Mexico with my sister Jeannie being pampered at an all-inclusive spa resort. Unfortunately for us, the fine print of $100 massage therapy credit per room wasn’t really included unless you listened to a spiel about the excursions there was to offer. Jeannie has a torn tendon in her foot anyway and despite my 70 spf sunscreen, I burned the first day so it worked out in the end to forgo those (over-priced) massages! I guess when they say avoid sun when on medication you should heed that advice! I just needed to re-apply more often and got much better at it after that first day! I am blessed that my sister didn’t shoot me for my worry that we would miss the bus taking us to the airport the last day. Keith and I were always the early-birds no matter where we went and it was kind of a pet-peeve when someone would come late (ok, not kind of – it is). So thank you dear sister for your patience with me as mine was wearing thin!
Mexico brought a lot of emotion for sure. It was the first vacation I had taken without Keith and I missed him terribly. I wanted him there to share in the beauty. I packed his picture for my nightstand and had my nightly ritual with him. Thanking God for another day and prayers for my friends and family always. The food was amazing for the most part. Fresh fish cooked right out of the water (not my cup of tea or his) but the whole ambiance of the resort was amazing. He would have loved the many drinks served on the pool decks and even the pool swim-up bar. One day the chefs got in the water and served off of a floating sushi table. They walked around carving as they went, an amazing beef roast sandwich … fresh fruit, fresh drinks and poured into pineapples and coconuts. It was a wonderful experience! I was in Puerto Vallarta 32 years ago; to say that things have changed is an understatement. It’s a thriving city now with many hotels where there were only a few back then. It was just another reminder for me that things change and life moves forward. How blessed I am to have a sister to enjoy those changes with.
On Wednesday of this week I ended up breaking my baby toe by missing the second step going out to my garage from the house – it happened very quickly and I guess that’s how all accidents happen – quickly and unexpected. My youngest is a registrar for a medical group and has told me many times how she just wants to cry when people come in and have to change their marital status and/or point of contact due to the death of their spouse/partner. I knew it would be coming for me and I was prepared. I cried like a baby when the registrar said, “I show married to Keith” … I couldn’t get the words out – they were stuck in my throat but finally said, “no, I’m a widow, Keith passed away”. And sob … more sobs and she said “I’m sorry, would you like me to come back in a few minutes”? I told her no and composed myself but as soon as she left I cried and cried some more. The nurse came in and said is the pain getting any better after the medicine? I said yes, but clearly she thought I was crying over the pain in my foot.
But I survived that episode too. I am surviving everything! I am doing it! I am doing it together with my family and friends and I am doing it alone. Alone is OK. It’s someplace I have never been in my life, so it’s a journey. I can do this and I have the love of the most amazing man I had ever known … now I am emerging and today I am smiling because Keith loves me. He loved me in 1994 and he loves me in 2015. I am the luckiest woman alive because of him. There is no doubt that the road I traveled with Keith was paved before we met. Our love and incredible marriage were based on respect and friendship. That man could make me laugh through the most difficult of times. I could turn his frustrations into happiness because of our love. We had so many “inside” jokes. I think about those jokes sometimes and catch myself in a giggle – we are still sharing them!
Keith was the epitome of strength and chivalry. Even in his weakened state, he would walk around to the driver’s side of the car to open and close the door for me before getting into the passenger seat. Doors were always opened for me and it was difficult for him when he needed a wheel chair because he couldn’t do that. I remember going to the mall one time with the kids and he put them in the wheel chair so that he could open the door and let me walk through first. Keith was just an old soul. He was like this from the time he was a young boy. My favorite story that he would tell is of walking with a girl in grade school home and there was a puddle of water. Keith took off his jacket and put it in the puddle so that the girl could walk on his jacket instead of the puddle. He would have paved a road by hand to protect those he loved if he needed to.
Keith and I just clicked on every level in every way. He was the kindest, most thoughtful man I have ever known. If I wanted a star in the sky he would ask me which one and find a way to get it for me. If that meant he had to “chicken scratch” it as he called his handwriting, that’s how he would give it to me. When the kids were growing up and we didn’t have two nickels to rub together, we would find things to do that didn’t cost money, only time. Sometimes that was hiding in our bedroom eating a bag of tootsie rolls together while watching a movie or one of our favorite TV shows. It would be our date night. We had the best of times. One of our favorite pastimes was to sit on our deck and draw house plans – we dreamed out loud, together. Some of our plans were so ridiculous but they were our plans and were the best part of both of us because we drew them together. His ideas and my ideas complemented each other until we would have the “perfect” home. Both of us knew that we couldn’t make those dreams a reality but it was fun to dream. Then one day we got the idea to go look at brand new houses. We made that dream a reality. I wouldn’t change a thing even though the market tanked and the house still is not worth what we paid for it, we picked out every carpet color, flooring, trim, cabinetry, roof color, you name it. It was ours. It IS ours. And as I go forward, and picking out colors for some painting I am having done, I am relying on others to help me pick colors. There’s disagreement among those I’ve asked so far … what would Keith say? Would he pick the color I am leaning toward? Probably!
I emptied Keith’s closet and dresser drawers and donated them to the Cancer Federation – that man had a lot of clothes! And those that followed his CaringBridge site, Keith and I did this once already when he lost so much weight. He didn’t want me to have to do it after he was gone. Maybe that’s why it really didn’t bother me to do it. I knew the clothes were going to a good place and hopefully others will get good use out of them. I kept a few flannel shirts (Keith’s signature wear) just so I can smile when I walk in the closet. My next project (I think) will be Keith’s office. When my sister was here on hospice we emptied my office into Keith’s so that she had her own room and that was 2012. I can’t believe she went to heaven 3 years ago yesterday. I miss her very much but I know she is pain-free, cancer free and with the people she loved so much that went before her – I also believe she welcomed Keith with her amazing laugh, saying “here Keith, over here”. The boxes never made it back to my office which tells me I need to purge, purge, and purge some more. Keith and I talked before he died about my need to d-clutter my mind and part of that is getting rid of stuff. I had great plans to begin this d-cluttering post vacation, but it will have to wait until my toe heals. Until then, I will continue to count my blessings.
May God bless you and keep you until this journalist gets back on track. If you pray, or if you believe in a higher power, please pray for so many of my appendix cancer/PMP friends who are struggling. Pray for my family members, my friends and yours, afflicted with other cancers or illnesses. Mostly be kind and trusting. Happy Easter! – He Lives within me. And to my Jewish friends, the happiest of Passovers. Be blessed, I know that I already am.