With And Without Her: “Abandoned”

A few days away

Hello dear reader, it’s been a while since I’ve spoken to you. I tend to wait until I have something to say. And when it comes to this subject, grief that is, I thought I was done writing about it. Though it is the backdrop today it isn’t the main subject…

I spent the past few days away on a self imposed retreat. I needed time away to pray and hear what God had to say. I’ve been out of work since January 4th, it wasn’t stunning. But it has left me with quite a dilemma… loss of income, health insurance and so on. So there has been a lot on my mind. So much so, that the stress has caused me to have somewhat of a scatter brain. Lack of focus and forgetfulness, the lack of a daily routine hasn’t helped much either. So… I escaped New York in search of quietness. I found it and an answer to a question I didn’t ask. Sometimes the Lord drives me crazy with that. I pray about something, don’t get an answer and he answers something I wasn’t thinking about. Or at least I don’t think I was.

I threw on some quiet piano worship music, I set for a while, then laid back on the loveseat. Fully immersed in the melody flowing throughout the house, I suddenly drifted away. A sobering worship, I felt tears of joy forming but then stopped. One word came to mind, Abandoned. It went from my mind to my heart. So I started to pray “lord… speak, I’m listening” then I read a few verses, pray some more and continued to wait. Once more abandoned can to mind. Mind you, dear reader, I was asking for direction in the many things I need to do. So now I had to ask why “abandoned”. There was no audible voice, no hand writing on the wall, no scroll from heaven. Nope, just a flood of emotions, images and instances of feeling and being abandoned.

The beginning

Now, believe it or not, I’m not talking about me waning “Why is everyone leaving me”. It’s something far deeper. I suspect some of you know what I mean.

I was about 7 when my grandmother died. It was an odd time, she died around the age of 55 or so. Pretty young. I strangely believed, because little kids believe a lot of things, that my family was plagued to die early. A few other family members died in succession after she did, naturally the clan splintered. We moved to the Bronx after that. I was raised by a single mother and a dad that visited on the weekends. It was a really rough time,I didn’t know we were poor (because schools didn’t tell us like they do now) but I knew something was odd and my embarrassment while shopping with plastic money proved it. Yes! In those days public assistance “welfare”, didn’t come in the form of bank like, debit card. It was plastic coins and monopoly like, paper money. But food was always on the table and in our bellies. Clothes on our backs… even if it was borrowed. If there was no more toilet paper and no money, we sometimes used my mother’s Pattern paper,it was made of tissuepaper. She made clothes.

Most mornings she was there when I left for school but not there when got home because she worked. So there was no checking or helping me with my homework. Fast forward… I was about 11 or 12 when my sister left home. Meaning I was now an only child. It also meant there was no buffer when the stress of single motherhood, came home to roost. In my mind my sister left me behind. The flip side was, I stayed. I took it! She was off living the adventure(not true it was hard for her too) and I was stuck dealing with my mother, project and school bullies, massive failing grades, no one to talk to and what I would later come to realize, were panic attacks during my high school years.

Later years

Many things happened to me between child and adulthood, including a failed marriage. I believed marriage was forever and no matter how hard it was, I would stick it out. In other words, I stayed. The other party came and went and I gave chase to work it out. Eventually, like my retreat, I was in the house alone and heard a still voice…”leave this place” just like that. Just like Abraham! It came with a price, shortly before I was seeing a therapist because I suddenly developed Anxiety Attacks. Apparently the stress of the relationship was too much for me or should I say, my body to handle. And my body was fighting back to survive the blows I was unaware I was taking. I would later learn the seriousness of not taking care of yourself…

Dear reader, I developed a very bad habit, of holding things in, fighting back anger. And when I did push back I’d explode with frustration. Kind of like, I needed to be a “good boy” and not start trouble.

Sharol

When Sharol and I got married there was a lot of love, that was evident to all who knew us. But there was also marital stressors. We would battle like two proud and stubborn Klingon Warriors. Our biggest augments were over the kids, see we had a blended family, though we raised them as Christians we made the mistake of not choosing one system of discipline early on. The tension between us in the early years took a toll on me mentally and emotionally. Apparently. I thought it was normal… just like the high stress job I had. What wasn’t normal was my aforementioned way of handling things. Not only did I suffer from severe anxiety attacks I became an agoraphobic. Eventually I couldn’t go out, get to work or ride the train. Nothing! My wife couldn’t hug me, simple tasks like brushing my teeth were agonizing, sitting at the table with all the kids was unbearable. I would have panic attacks a few times a day, sometimes multiples in an hour. As I’ve written before, I lost a year and a half of my life to them.

So what does this have to do with abandoned? Well, it’s not as simple as I thought. But as set on the loveseat I had an urge to kneel so I did. That’s when all this came to mind. The feeling that I have always “stayed” while others found freedom to leave or let their emotions go or take over. I’ve never felt such freedom. I was left to “hold the bag”. That’s when anger crept in during prayer… “when do I get to say ef you?!” When do I have the chance or freedom to say this or that pisses me off, without feeling guilty or the need to apologize for my actions… this sort of abandonment Is more like betrayal or dissertion. When Sharol died I didn’t want to get angry at God. How could I? Death is part of life, right?. But there was a day…I was on a street corner talking on the phone. I started crying then got really mad. I was mad that my wife left me alone. Alone to bury her… it was a strange feeling. I forgot I was on the phone. I can’t remember what I told the person but I hung up then went upstairs. I wanted to run as far and fast as I could after her passing. I never did I stayed to picked up the pieces as best I could. Immediately going back to work to keep my sanity. Wouldn’t know…? As deaths does… the family split down the middle. The kids are older with families. Each moved on and away. But I stayed, at the same job, in the same apartment, looking at her clothes and so on. Never angry… but apparently my heart had been speaking to God, what my mind and mouth failed to realize. Or was willing to say. Like the panic attacks were my body’s way of recognizing what I didn’t. Weird huh…?

A few months short of the one year anniversary of my wife’s passing, I purchased a Nissan Murano. It was intended for more than just two people but as I mentioned earlier, life does it’s thing. My youngest daughter and I have taking to the road. Camping, short east coast roadtrip and last year we add hiking to our adventures. Yes, it’s time spent together before she starts her own life…but more than that, it’s my chance and time to leave. To go anywhere and everywhere. It’s a bit late in life and I don’t expect anyone to understand. But I feel alive and free out there, unrestricted. No sir, I’m not dragging the kid along she’s the one that suggested we drive across country. “Let’s go to the states no one else goes to… all the places no one else heard of”. It is entirely possible that, wanderers and outdoor enthusiast are running from death, pain, life changing events, but we are all running towards something too. Life! We are enjoying life as much as possible, with as little strings attached to us like puppets. Healing is also part of the process and adventure. I know many who have become healthier because of the great outdoors. If I didn’t subconsciously feel abandoned I would have never left, nor saw the beauty of God’s hand in nature. The beauty that draws me closer to him and what I needed to help in my process of grief. If Sharol didn’t live, I would have never written a book. If she didn’t die… let’s just say, her death changed me as much as her life with me did.

You see, dear reader, God didn’t answer my pray about a job or at least not at that moment. He answered the cry of my heart. I was left with, “I haven’t abandoned you” the other thought…”come to me and I will give you rest” Still in need of a job, but I’ll take a God answer in any form any day. What about you, dear reader, anything you haven’t realized about yourself?

Until next time…

“Without Her: Anger”

January 2014

I have stacks and stacks of papers and letters on my bed, desk, chair and ottoman. I now nap (I don’t really sleep) with half my bed covered in bills, letter…and newspapers. Well, the newspapers I’d fully intended on reading. But in the beginning I didn’t want to read the news. Now I don’t have time to because of the constant shifting through letters and threatening bills…

Looking at her phone of course.

The other day as I sat with a letter in my hand, a thought hit me what else am I missing. One of those letters was a bill for the three cell phone lines I’m still paying for. But I said I wouldn’t turn off my wife’s (Sharol) until I had contacted everyone and changed all the billing information into my name. So I unlocked her email to check for a bill that might have been a online/direct payment. I found two…and much more. As read a few saved emails I was instantly transported back in time and became very angry. What did I find? A few old angry emails from past arguments!! I remembered them well too. I could hear Sharol’s voice, see that annoyed look in her eyes, I could hear her yelling above me, I could smell the air of that day, I could feel my heart rate raising, my glucose level as well. I remembered the look I gave her, the thoughts I was thinking about her, how I hated her in that moment… I couldn’t believe I kissed that foul disrespectful mouth! I could feel the taxing drain of hours of combat. The dry mouth and hurting feet from standing. What was it about this time…? The kids? Something I said? Something she said? Something we did? Does it really matter?! Why keep such things! And when you die, leave it behind to be read!…

I remembered one day so clearly… we were fine, in fact it was a good year for us. But something happened, we argued, didn’t talk to each other. I believe I threatened to leave. Sharol didn’t care. I was furious, I had enough of the kids, married life and arguing. I packed a bag and walked out. I found a cheap motel up by Co-Op  City in the Bronx. I’d taken my cell phone just in case she decided she loved me enough to call.  I bumped into our oldest son on the train, he was clueless. So, I handed the guy my ID and credit card. He gave me a key…I walked in the room, turned on the TV and checked my phone…no call! As the night progressed I became more and more uncomfortable be in the motel and not at home. But I crossed a threshold, I did something I’ve never done before. I can’t turn back, I left, like many of men before me…but why didn’t I feel good about it?! I went to the bathroom…stared at the TV, then suddenly dread fell on me. What if I die here? What would the headline say? What about the kids?…but if Sharol cared she’d call…  

2014 weekend getaway. Sharol liked picture.

My phone didn’t have reception…

After a sleepless and restless night I swiftly left the motel. It hit me that I had to drop the kids off to school. I didn’t know how Sharol would feel, would she answer the phone? etc. I called and said I would be there…Sharol told the kids, one of them ask where I was, that I was probably at store and would be there soon…

After the kids were gone I walked into the bedroom. No words said…we set on the edge of bed beside each other. Then she started crying, I did too…we talked about where I’d been, my horrible night and how she couldn’t sleep. We apologized to each other. Then Sharol did a strange thing. Strange because there are many “strong woman” that don’t or at least act like they don’t, need or want men in their lives. She asked me with tears streaming, not to do that again, not to leave her. I didn’t. She told me, but I could truly feel it at that moment..”I love you”

About a month or so later Sharol heard this word in church Akrogoniaios “Jesus the Cornerstone”  after the service she told me the Lord spoke to her heart. And said she was with me to help me become the man God wanted me to be. Of course I was skeptical, we’d just had major marriage crisis. But there was a paradigm shift in our relationship from that time forward. Mostly because our dependency was focused on Christ.

I have been wearing a wedding ring for 19 years, there have been times when I took it off because I didn’t want to be reminded that I was married. A few days a week I’ve gone without it (feels very odd), because eventually, now that I’m a widower, they (She gave me one an anniversary gift, I wear both) will come off. The first day I went without it, I was reminded of a horrible day. Words were said, she and I were mad…Sharol through her rings, it went out the window! Apparently,I followed with you don’t deserve to have/where them!(I didn’t remember saying that,until she mentioned it about a year ago) Later that day Sharol searched the grass and street like the woman in the Bible looking for her lost coin. She vowed never to take them off again. She didn’t. My words cut her deeply…and taking off my ring now, has been incredibly hard. Not to mention the guilt and sadness over how simple minded I had been in the past.

My dear reader, I don’t know why we humans keep such heartbreaking things. The Bible does say that Love doesn’t keep a record of right and wrong. I can see why. Things like our angry word emails can last a long time. So can the effects of them. The day I read said emails, about a week ago, I spent the entire morning bitterly crying over the loss of my Abby. I didn’t go into work because I didn’t have the mental or physical strength to get up. Then came the reading of the emails, the anger, the rage and the questioning of Sharol’s love for me. A hellish pit a woe!!…

A few days later I was reminded of Lots’s wife who was warned to flee and “not look back”, she did. She died. She turned into a “pillar of salt”. This is what happens to many of us, we get stuck in a horrible loop of grief. Unable to move forward, backwards or any direction. And our love ones suffer for it too. Some of us need help dealing with our loss. My boss/friend suggested that I go to a grief counseling service for city workers. Her assessment of me was, I haven’t had a proper time to grieve because of all the things I’ve been taking care of. I chose to make the appointment. You know, not too long ago I was talking to my sister. She was telling me story about being around a group of mostly young people. They were talking about marriage, the usual  whining and complaining. Someone posed the question “What’s the absolute worst part of marriage?”  My sister said “One of you will have to die”  She is absolutely right!!  That’s why I’ve always hated standing around a group of guys whining about their wives and it never failed, someone would turn to me and say “You know how they are,right?  My response was always the same “No I don’t, I actually love my wife”  You could usually hear a leaf drop after that…  

2015 summer vacation in Atlantic City. Picture taken at the aquarium

  I also chose to remember something very important…Sharol told me she loved me! And I have proof of that love. And it’s not in some old, out dated angry letter!! It was said to me daily and most recently in a Love letter. 

A letter from Sharol written May 20, 2016 I didn’t find it until a week after her death.

2014 Father’s Day

these are the things, dear reader, that we need and should hold on to. Be careful not to step in to the trap/pit that I did. Yeah I know, some of you have already done it…well, learn from my mistake. Don’t look back into the past, it could paralyze you. Rendering you powerless and incapable of healing and moving on.

Until next time…