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: 4 Months Later”

   

       October 14th marks the fourth month… and to quote Chris Stapleton,”My life has become a country song”  How fitting too, since I’ve been listening to country music for the past month. Yes, the chocolate colored man likes a little country too…

   The last two months, dear reader,has been filled with contacting agencies, changing contact information and putting nearly everything in my name. I’ve learned that we made some pretty good choices concerning the death of one another. Now, my concerns are what happens when I die. All of my beneficiary information has to be changed. All of my password information has to be in a place for my kids to find. What happens if I get sick?! I’ve been worried about who will take care of me. But it’s greater than that, I’m the only income… if I’m out of work, this damaged ship will sank. I have lost about 30lbs now. About 15 before my wife died and more afterwards. I ordered a full week’s worth work pants and jeans( I’ll get shirts eventually), so that I can stop walking into the office with my pants hanging off my backside. What’s worse is tightening the belt. I look like I’m wearing clown clothes…

    I’m a bit grateful for weight loss, lord knows I need to get and stay fit. The kids couldn’t take loosing both of us in the same year. Will the weight loss prevent that? No, not if you believe that God ordains life and death. But it does make this old car run a bit more smoothly. And less trips in the doctor’s office. Hopefully less, to, no more diabetic medication. Basically, it’s about the quality of life. God, will extend or shorten it, himself. 

     What else has happened in the last two months? Medical insurance! Sharol’s employer was quick to drop us…but, it took forever for it to register with the rest of the city. We both work for city government, so one agency couldn’t turn on the insurance without the other shutting off. An absolute pain! However, I can finish what I started two months ago…grief counseling. I’ve survived this far without it and don’t believe I need it. But, I will go and sit and talk. See how it goes from there.

  

October 9, 2016 Wyndham Skyline in Atlantic City, NJ

     We had a mommy and daddy  weekend getaway planned, we booked it back in April. I never cancelled it…So, the 13 year old said she wanted to go. So we went. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be…I kept the same schedule Sharol and I would have. Do nothing on day one! Sunday night we went out to dinner at Kelsey and Kim’s a soul food restaurant. We ordered takeout once and spotted the restaurant last summer, when we were there on vacation.

Waiting for dinner and listening to live jazz. October 9, 2016

Imagine that, at 13,you to get to experience live jazz in it’s natural environment, with great food and lots of people enjoying themselves with pleasant conversation. My daughter said it was “loud but a good loud. People are having fun” I couldn’t agree more. A couple of weeks ago I took her to her first Rock concert. We saw the Newsboys  at the PlayStation theater

Newsboys at the PlayStation theater September 24, 2016

    Although it was a relaxing and enjoyable weekend getaway, I still found myself tearing up from time to time. Once when I was talking about the kindness of my Co workers. And when I laid in bed by myself. Out of nowhere the tears and sudden sadness… it’s all good though. I feel, because I was loved and I loved. But, dear lord! I wish there was a warning shot!

View from the balcony. Watching the rain fall. October 8, 2016

     My youngest son is away at college…freshman, so missed out. But I hear he is adjusting well and having his own fun. Which is good. I wouldn’t want the needle of his life to get stuck playing the same thing over and over again. 

    My dear reader, though I am trying to put life back together and trying to sure up holes and deal with the missing piece. Yes, that includes having a little fun. I am beginning to feel a different stage in my grieving process…guilt!! Four months later and whatever scent was left on Sharol’s clothes are gone. I spray her perfume once in awhile before bed, just so I can remember . But the memories, like a vapor, are fading quickly. In walks the new feeling, guilt. Guilt that I can’t recall her voice, guilt that I can’t remember what her hair feels like on my face or in my hands or smells like. Guilt, that I went out to eat and it wasn’t with her. Guilt, like a returning soldier, that I lived and she didn’t. Guilt, that I’m doing better than I thought I would… guilty because.. 

    Wouldn’t a husband who loves his wife, mourn her death with sackcloth and ashes!?!!  Shouldn’t I be depressed and drinking my troubles away??? Oh sure you miss her, why aren’t rolling in floor!   One thought pressed me. Why didn’t fall apart when the Trade towers fell?… I don’t know. Maybe God understands that most of my life was spent fighting depression. Maybe, he thinks that, this is my “too much to bear” moment. Survivor’s guilt, SUCKS! I struggled with purchasing the clothes I needed. A constant second guessing of myself and everything I do. I haven’t been this way since before we were married. Oh, there were times during our marriage when I did but Sharol always said “Ty, don’t worry about it, you need it just get it”  depending on the situation, but the sentiment was always still the same.

Walk on the beach. Atlantic City, NJ August 2015

If we need it then get it…and yet, you still feel the guilt. There’s nothing anyone outside of you can do. I’m certain that what soldiers go through is far worse.

    The next time we meet, dear reader, I’ll let you know if the counselor had any answers. If they gave me any tools for coping with this new stage in life…my new normal.

Until next time…