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: Friday Night Booze and Bluez”

Atlanta, Ga in my Sandy Springs apartment. With friend and neighbor, Cat; I was 23 years old.

   It started with one glass then another then another and another…

    Like a fisherman I casted out my text to see who would bite. I was in the mood to talk. There was a lot on my mind and I needed someone. It was a long  day. I just wanted to go home and  commence with the Friday night ritual…two glasses of wine and a movie. The text from the therapist earlier to confirm our appointment, set the blue mood I was now in. The thought of finally talking about Sharol and the loss, unfortunately just depressed me. I wasn’t nervous, just unsure about opening up a can of worms. I told my daughter I didn’t feel like sitting outside, I wanted to be alone for a bit. Maybe I’d come out and watch a movie later. Perhaps I should have just watched a movie. What followed was nowhere near anything good, at least for me anyway.

    I waited, but no one texted me back. I finished the first glass and laid down on the bed and started watching Chicago PD  on my phone. I poured the second glass…now my mind was calm. My usual eradicate thoughts were in a single focus…

    The first text ring in…then the next and then another. I was watching PD and having three conversations at once. Then a fourth! The therapist cancelled our appointment! First, I find out that the church that Sharol and I started to attend just closed its doors. Some other silliness happened earlier and now, a cancelled appointment, after opening up a crappy can of “feelings” worms. Are you kidding me!?!! The second glass was done…the texting continued. Unfortunately, the more relaxed I became, the more I felt. Lost…alone… missing the woman whose picture I was staring at. The bedroom door was closed and my pajamas on…the text went on. One conversation was encouraging, the other made me laugh and I needed that, the other was familiar…it took me back to a place I hadn’t been in a while. I liked that feeling. I waited to hear from the other two. But the last one, that was nice. I was compromising myself, my integrity, my faith and my heart. It felt great. Doesn’t sin always feel good?  

Text one, was about business, well the business I’m in. Text two, continued to make laugh and smile…as hard as its been, I enjoyed laughing. Text three, continued to take me down a dark path… 

   Sharol used to jokingly say”I’m glad I didn’t know you when you were younger”… she was right and I don’t think we would have attracted one another. I was a little free spirited, lack massive confidence, filled with pain and constantly battling depression and had many ambitious plans. Oh…I forgot to mention, always drinking, all day and many times high on something…

   I have survived many things this year, but the cancelled appointment was the proverbial straw. I poured another glass of wine exceeding, me and Sharol’s agreedupon two glass limit. I drink with malice. There was nothing I cared about at that moment. I wasn’t trying to wash away my pain, in fact I wanted to feel; feel the lost, feel the abandonment, feel the shock of that Tuesday night when she slipped into eternity in my hands. I’m not a person that can easily relax. My mind runs millions of miles a second. So I’m always in a constant forward motion. Years ago when I suffered from severe anxiety attacks, the medication that I was given help me to relax and for the first time in my life, my mind was quiet with a single Focus. Well I discovered, by accident, a glass of wine with my wife has the same effect. But relaxation was not what I was going for. I wanted complete and utter abandonment of my barriers.

    As the text conversation went on, my mind drifted away. I could smell the Old Spice and other cheap cologne in the air.

I was taking back and saw a guy I hadn’t seen in over 30 years. All the years it took to bury him. The mountains I climbed, to distance myself from him. The man I’d become, under God’s love and Sharol’s care, was gone. I was that guy posing for a picture with a 40 once bottle of Old English 800 malt liquor under my foot. One next to me and me drinking the other. I called it “King of Beers” today I might call him prince of fools. As I continued to slip backwards in time. So did my thought process, I’d forgotten who I had become; the man so full of faith and strength that Sharol wanted to marry. I became the dead man of the past, that texter  knew and wanted.  The first two conversations ended but the third continued…the pit was deep.

   I had always seen the devil’s attacks miles away. It would start with me and fail. Then my kids…then my wife…then back to me. Attacking my wife and kids would just piss me off and make me pray more, fight harder. But his victory that Friday was the result of a thousand tiny cuts. My tendons, that I needed to stand and fight with were slashed. Kind of like shooting Achilles in his heel.  A slow weakening of my defense. I kinda saw it coming, but hadn’t the strength or will to fight…

 Saturday morning…

My mouth felt like an aspirin bottle cotton ball. I felt dehydrated. The guilt from the night before didn’t come…but anger and disappointment did! “You’re a really nice man” one person said. “You know, you’re a stand up guy” another said. One person, over heard me calling home to check in on my daughter’s homework. “You’re a good dad” she said. “You’re a good guy…people are responding to that, they want to help” still another said. “I love you Ty…” Sharol would say, especially when I was going through something. All of the words folks had been saying to me started flooding my mind. How could I have let them down. I thought. How could I let my troubles get to me, get me to the point that I was so weak.  I’d determined that I couldn’t do anything about the night before or my past. But I had full control of the present and the future. This was not the hill in which I was going to die on!  Sunday morning, I was at my computer watching a church service online. I was reminded of who I was, of whose I was. I was reminded that years ago a good work was started in me. I was reminded of Sharol’s words, that God had her with me so that I would be the man he wanted me to become… clearly, that old dead guy wasn’t it! I determined, at that moment; however arduous this journey to the end of my life is, I will continue to beat down and bury the old man. This is not The Walking Dead.  That which is of the past and from the past will remain in the past. What has been risen like the Phoenix from the ashes of my old life is something entirely new…

    It is the thing, that encouraged the maintenance man in a hotel room, listening to me talk to my 13 year old daughter. It is the thing, that blessed my boss when he came Sharol’s funeral! It is the thing, that encourages and blesses my Co workers and bosses, when they see me working diligently! It is the thing, that, shapes generations to come simply because I gained new wisdom! It is the thing, that makes me stand and fight… and tell that hellish old man from the 20th century, he has no place in the 21St century!

     I don’t know, dear reader, how I’m going to continue to navigate through this strange time I’m in. I assure you I didn’t intend on writing about it. Heck, I thought I’d be in the forth chapter of my book by now. But life has taken me along the scenic route. Crazy, people keep telling me to continue to write. Really? Are you all crazy? Have you any idea what this subject is like for me…? But, apparently, there are some reading this and being blessed by it. That, my dear reader, was the reason I started writing in the first place. Now, I’m going do as The Afters said and have the time of my life.

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…

“Widower”

IMAG0282_1_1 “Life’s journey has brought me to you and we shall continue together” the pendant says on the front.

IMAG0293_1_1

“Here’s to you, Here’s to me, Here’s to us. Semper Fidelis Love, Abby” She inscribed on the back..

Island-1

Father’s Day 2013 Governor’s Island. One of our kids took this picture of me and Sharol

Sharol always said that she was not the romantic one…as she would tell the listeners “Tyrone is the romantic one”  For the most part she was right. But Sharol had her moments. Like this Christmas gift she give me a few years ago. I’ve always wanted a pendant/dogtag or something… I’d given her a heart pendant a few years earlier it reads: “My Abigail when I’m too old to remember you, Remember that I love you. SS 4:1-15 Ty”  Song of Songs 4:1-15  Of course I hoped I would never forget her but the way my brain works some times I surely did wonder.

I was reminded of this as I watched a cute romantic movie with my 18 year old son and 13 year old daughter Sunday night (8/21/2016) after dinner. While we watched “Old Fashioned” I knew my son, the 18 year old, was wondering why on earth did I forced them to watch such a corny movie. My daughter on the other hand was engulfed in the film and like a 13 yr old, the chatterbox was dismayed when things were looking like it wasn’t going to go the way she wanted it to go. But it was good for him to see the film it will linger in the back of his mind and one day it will return. They’ve heard the stories of their mom and dad, how we disliked the American idea of dating and preferred courting instead.

     Dating as a typical american idea, just leads to a horde of broken hearts and dreams. It’s so bad now, that grammar school kids are claiming  “boyfriends and girlfriends”. Who am I kidding, they don’t even use those polite words to describe the “relationship”…. We’ve already seen what TV has done to the pre-teens, oops I means Tweens, in the past 15 – 20 years. So it was refreshing to see this movie depicting a college age kid living a wild life that lead to a major decision in his life. One that change his own ideas on how to treat a lady… 

20130616_155608     One day, when I was particularly lonely and sitting at my desk at work, I started looking up dating sites…Good lord! was it depressing! Not to mention there are a lot of freaks out there. I was seriously tempted to try speed dating.  Hey, why not? It’s within my wheel house, I get bored pretty easy as Sharol knew all to well. Instead of me spending a ton of money on someone I don’t know for 2 hours and probably won’t see again, I’d spend a little money and the date last for 10 minutes then off to the next woman. There you go! I swipe my metro-card  then ride the train home alone, maybe listen to some music, but I wouldn’t have to carry on a conversation that I knew wasn’t going to lead to anything. I also checked out rent a friend. Now this is fascinating, You sign up, for a small fee of course, then you get to rent someone for a date or a wedding, an evening at the movies or a play. Or simply because you have an extra ticket…Or lonely and just want to talk face to face. The renter, gets to choose from a wide range of ages and interest. The rentee, list lots of things that one might want to do…Like, ride bikes, see a play etc. But! they also list other things that might be appealing (or appalling) Like… one woman said the usual things…then added…she was into gay men, straight men and women! Uh..NOPE!… Next! I changed the age category, lord knows; me and a 25 year old ain’t gonna work. Please, I have daughters that age and I don’t think they’re looking for play-dates… anyway, I scrolled through the pictures. I don’t think they realize that someone would actually be looking at the photos and picking them for a rent-able night out. Go grief! have you seen those really bad, dare I say, ghetto “selfies” people have up on LinkedIn?!? It’s like, folks; you are trying to get the job, right? Yeah… well, some the photos were worse then the jobless people on LinkedIn.

20130608_165308_26753   Tattoos everywhere, names like Cinnamon...and yes, one spelled with an “S!” would you believe…Tree!?  These are not the names of 21 year old girls but 40+ year old full grown women! I closed the page then thumbed through my phone’s photo gallery…

20130616_142048 I leaned back in my chair frustrated and stared at pictures of Sharol and watched videos that I have of her…

20130616_143220Dag gone it, why did you leave me! I thought. There’s no one to sit across the table anymore…who am I going to kiss? will I even kiss another women? Dude, this really sucks!!! and even the women our age, are loony birds!… 

20130616_143214       Widower.  The reality hit me, the New normal. What now…? What do I do with my life? My life was built to journey through it with my bride… I have spent 19 years in a constant routine. After work, meals together; I’d wait for Sharol to eat my food. Fridays, it was coffee,pastry and Blue Bloods. Then popcorn with a movie, then Chinese food. Later as the kids left and our youngest; Hannah, spent time with her friends it to turned into, Wine time! our feet up, a movie on and 2 glasses of wine…and one really good night’s rest. Saturdays, we tried to sleep late, but that didn’t work for two early risers. Sunday, church then time alone before dinner. Mondays were marriage building nights. Sometimes we talked, take a walk, sometimes we read a book together, sometimes we augured, sometime we played a game or did nothing…unless, there was a TV show like The Following on. Tuesday nights, were prayer meeting night…or I’d watched Sharol sleep and snore… Once a month on Mondays, was DateNight. It was the only day she didn’t have to work late, until she did then we moved it back to Saturdays then back again. Because of busy schedules and allowing our lives to become hectic we did what many couples do…schedule time to love(nothing more needs to be said).  So, as you can see, dear reader; that empty space in my life where my wife use to occupy, is really a massive void! A vacuum! I have been living a joined life then all of a sudden, a tectonic shift! It’s not just an empty bed, no more kisses and hugs, no one to talk to, no more dates, no one to appreciate  my cooking, it’s ALL of that and more. An earthquake changes everything…the landscape, the ocean level, the geography, etc.

So before you question my sanity as to why I would be looking at dating sites, think about the many routines in my life that have been yanked from under my feet and tossed to the other side of the world.

Surf & Turf

Coney Island July 30, 2014

I haven’t thought about remarrying, I mean really, it would be the 3rd time…I’m honestly thinking my luck really sucks.  I haven’t had casual sex in nearly 30 years. I’ve been a husband twice…It’s highly doubtful I can change and go back to living that kind of life. but… a 3rd time? At this point I just want to have an adult conversation with someone who understands. Understands the music, political and TV references. Understands, that when a Prince song comes on, everything stops! and we must sing it together. Oh, dear reader, there is so much more…

Recently I wrote about going without my wedding rings on…well, a couple a times a week. Now, I go the whole work week then (psst don’t tell anybody) I put them on at night to sleep. Weird right? Nope, not at all. I found this woman’s article today while riding home  on the train . It appears there is no right or wrong way to greive/move forward. It’s all about what you are comfortable with. I choose to wear Sharol’s rings and for the moment put mine’s on at home. I guess it makes me feel close to her, just last week I started sleeping with 2 pillows behind me so that there’s something there when I turn. Which is where my wife would be all the time. Tuesday night I tripped over Sharol’s sandal, why your shoes always in the way?!  I thought then I laughed. It’s what I’d usually say followed by something like this ‘You trying to kill me? I’m too old to be falling”. 

Last month in one of my blue periods I was looking up something, I can’t remember what, but I stumbled onto this Marvin Sapp talking about embracing his singleness. The freedom to do his ministry with nothing between him and God. And bringing someone into his chaotic world. That person would have to fit in it comfortably. I started thinking about my own ministry, my writing. He’s absolutely right!  Paul said he wished everybody could be single BUT if you couldn’t, get married. it was better to do that than burn with passion… and here’s the rub, a husband’s first love is Christ but he will always be divided. Because he must care for his…wait for it…Wife. Yep, I get Marvin Sapp’s idea about freedom. Though I must admit, I ain’t exactly “embracing singleness”….but the ministry focus part, without hindrance. Yeah, I could see me spending a little focus time on my craft.

Sharol may not have always been the romantic part of this duel. One thing is for sure, she’s gonna be one heck of a tough act to follow.    Until next time…

 

“With Her: 19 Years, A Great Run”

Father’s Day on Governor’s Island 2013 or 2014

Today August 8th, is our 19th wedding anniversary…

     Last time, my dear reader, I told you about the anger that I was feeling. This time… I’m overjoyed with the blessing given to me, of 19 years of marriage. Sure I feel a bit cheated out of not being in Greece or New Orleans next year for our 20th Anniversary. But! God was gracious enough to give me 19 years and 2 kids in our older years. 

Vacation in Lancaster PA. Outside the Sight and Sound theater. Judah, Sharol, Me and Hannah.

19! Go ahead, say it. Today, generations and scores of couples are fine living together. Many are opting out of marriage all together, calling it out dated and unnecessary. Even an affront to womanhood and the advancement of women’s Lib. Well…Sharol, as did I, viewed it as an honor, a privilege…a gift from God, that we had someone to walk through life with. Someone committed to Christ and the relationship enough to want to care for and make the other better. That, my dear reader, means you daily put to death selfishness and think of the other’s needs before your own. If you have trust, in that relationship, then you will find that you never have to worry that your spouse is taking advantage of you. Because you both are doing the same thing…putting the other first. It also put a smile on her face when she was called “Mrs.Bland..” “Mrs.Bland? Your husband is….”  one of my favorites “Mr. and Mrs.Bland..?”  To hear it made it official  we were a team, a married couple; we belong to an exclusive Club. We were partners…for a lifetime! Another favorite of mines was “Um…excuse me, where’s my husband?”  Or “My husband will be here in a moment”  it meant I had someone who loved me. Someone proud to be fastened to my hip. Someone willing to watch my hair turn grey then white. Someone who would nurse my cut and bleeding foot, without flinching even though she was afraid watching the blood pour. Someone who would bring the bathroom  to me because I was bedridden. Someone who would say “Ty…why is there blood in there..?”  Both of knowing full well that blood coming from your body where there hasn’t been a cut, means something is wrong.

And likewise, she could confidently walk in this relationship knowing that, I had no problem picking up her feminine products. Bathing her when she was ill or in pain. Like her personal doctor, I would examine her when she had concerns about things but wasn’t able to see the issues…I was her eyes and hands. We once heard a story from a pastor. He was talking about a relative who swallowed a bone and the man’s wife went above and beyond to search for that bone. While we may have said that, that was yucky, we knew that was love and devotion. As we were getting older and got older we found ourselves in some of those very same situations. Caring for someone like that… it’s beyond intimacy and you would have to have more than a strong stomach ; it has to be love, the love of and for Christ. It had been the key to our caring for one another in such a way. Not looking for anything in return but loving that person enough to care for them, I mean really care for them; even if they could never speak again and lay motionless in the bed. That’s the kind of love and devotion we had for one another. Even our kids don’t know half the things we did, in caring for the other. There have been so many nights when I stop breathing in my sleep or choked and Sharol was startled from her sleep. Yet she’d watched over me until I was alright. I too, would get up when her stomach was bothering her and she suddenly disappeared from the bed or needed me to pray.We spent a lot of nights rubbing each other down in Tiger Balm…. So yes, she wore Mrs.Bland  with honor and distinction. And was very honored to be my wife (she said so herself). I even gave her a Purple Heart once, because like many soldiers, she endured a great deal in life… sexual assault, ridicule for being smart, the ups and downs of marriage, parenting and Christian life. So, though she was a living warrior, I wanted to do something to let her know that I loved and appreciated her.

Valentine’s Day, weekend getaway with Sharol, Judah and Hannah. February 14, 2015

She was so happy and proud when I gave her that charm. She was also extremely broken hearted when it broke off a bracelet and she lost it. Luckily, I found the company and bought her a new not too long before her surgery. It’s sitting in her drawer now, because she wanted to have the piece welded to her bracelet so it wouldn’t fall off again. Further proof  that, that tiny little trinket meant  a lot to her. But it wasn’t really all about the gift but about the gesture…

The Bride. My rib. August 8, 1997

Daily beloved we are gathered here today… Tyrone and Sharol

It was a hot and sweaty August night in 1997. I spent the morning preparing the apartment. I bought a new bed(hadn’t slept in one since a previous failed relationship) laid it down and spread rose petals all over it. Then lined the hallway leading to the bedroom with the remaining flower petals. Then, I was in the care of my Best Man and his son. We later made our way to the church. Which was filled with choir members, a few friends, my immediate family members and Sharol’s dad. Most of her family opting out of attending.

I waited for what seem like 5 hours for Sharol to arrive…she was late. My nerves were shot! She’s not coming   I thought.  My confidence and trust was lacking after I failed the first time at marriage and the disagreement we had a few days before the wedding didn’t help me at that moment. My active imagination was doing somersaults… she changed her mind. I went on.  The tuxedo felt like an oven. I nervously shifted my weight, my heart was sinking…

“Sharol place your left hand in his, Tyrone repeat after me…”

Then the music started to play, the kids came down the aisle…the flowers sprinkled and the ring arrived on a pillow… my heart galloped.

My best man praying for God’s blessing on us and our household.

Then, she appeared! Music started and the guest were confused. They were waiting for the standard here comes the comes the bride song.  But chose “Praise You”  by The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.  

There she was! My rib! Coming down the aisle to take her place by my side. I met her and walked her up to the altar. The pastor said something, “blah blah blah”… I have no clue what was said. We have evidence to support that, a recording…where we both, as we listened, repeated all sorts incorrect words. We were prayed for and announced to the world for the first time, ever! as “Mr. and Mrs. Bland”.  By the way, I was praying too, I had asked God to use us as missionaries…to use our family to reach the world for Christ…

2007 our first Spirit of New York cruise

The result of that day was a wild ride. Four out the six kids went on missions trip, two to foreign countries. I served as a summer missionary to adults and children with special needs. Sharol and I for those 3 summers counselled young adults and ran prayer meetings in our summer home for them. What came out of that day was, a plunge into extreme poverty and a rise out of it. Combative and rebellious teens turn into self sufficient young adults. Two formed a band and lent their talents to others, to speak to their generation. What came out of that day, was three grandchildren. What came out of that day, were two children born in our older years. Sharol said her “Jesus babies” meaning they came after we were Christians…

Thanksgiving 2007

Thanksgiving 2007 photos by Imani

In the past or last 7 years or so, we decided to focus our attention on the last two kids. Because we a lot older, I’m 40 older than the last child. We wanted them to have the benefits the first 4 had. The problem was, life changed. There was now two full-time working parents. I was in college from 2006-20012,then returned to the work world. But we pushed to spend time with them as well as spend more with each other.

In Jamaica. Our first trip out of the country. Beaches Resort 2010

As a couple, we also wanted to do things we’ve never done before together or as single people. Anything, but skydiving!

Breakfast with Sesame Street. Jamaica 2010

On the beach. Yes, we were standing in the water. Jamaica 2010

Private dinner on the beach. Our 13th wedding anniversary. Jamaica 2010

In 2010, after my undergrad graduation we had the chance to use our passports for the first time. Unfortunately, it was the only time. My youngest has been bugging for the past two weeks to go the London. Jamaica, dear reader, was more than a trip. It was an adventure!! I hate flying, but my fearless partner was with me. And held my hand tight. I couldn’t sleep or relax. Then….even with the promise of all that. The trip was plagued with issues. First we missed our flight, not our fault. The airport had some construction going on and the gate was waaaaaaaay on the other side. We got to gate and was directed to somewhere else… it’s a 5 hour flight to Jamaica…it took us…well, let’s see. From NY to PA 1 hour, laaaaaaaaaayover until about 11pm! Then flew to South Carolina…where we spent the night! Then boarded a plane to Jamaica.  We arrived to a sea of brown people. I’ve never seen that many black folks in one place in my life. We passed through customs without a problem. Went for our bags…they weren’t there! Noooooooooooo. Yep.

Private dinner on the beach

Sharol with Hannah after her morning water aerobic class. Jamaica 2010

It was hot, humid and we were tired. The agents assured us the bags would turn up. They did, later that day. Sooooooooo we hopped into a van and headed towards the resort. We got there, 2 hours later!!!

Preparing for our anniversary dinner. Photo by Hannah.

But! The week’s stay was well worth the trouble.

Spirit of New York boat ride. 2007

Celebrating love. Spirit of New York cruise. 2010

13 years of marriage, looks good!

In 2013 we went to Virginia Beach, Va. For a College tour with Judah. We’d hoped he could get into Regent University. While we were there we visited CBN, Regent University and The 700 Club.  We  also went to Busch Gardens and Virginia Beach.

The 700 Club. 2013

The Aquarium in Virginia. I had the camera, Sharol the video camera. The fish were swimming above our heads. 2013

Sharol “Dancing it out” with the local Regent University & YouTube celebrity Nathan Stump. Nathan often ended his videos with a silly dance. We saw him in the cafeteria this is the end result.

Wyndham Governors Green Resort Virginia 2013 on our way to play mini golf

19 years is a long time but it wasn’t long enough with my wife. We continued to do things we hadn’t, like go dancing. I know it’s unheard of for Christians but  we were grown adults who had never known each other when we were young and hadn’t had the opportunity to dance together. Nope, I ain’t justifying a thing! We had good clean, fun dancing with one another, for 6hrs! Celebrating life!

Crazy faces, before I beat them! Wyndham Governors green 2013

Resting our feet in the hallway of BB Kings on 42nd Street. At the Rhythm Revue dance party summer of 2015

What made things work so well for us, is we thought of our marriage as a partnership. No one goes into business with someone calling them their partner to lose money. You partner with someone because you see their skill and their strength and you know together you can meet the challenges and be successful at whatever your endeavor is. She was also my sister in Christ and I her brother.    We protected each other. She was my lover, enough said. She was my friend, my business and writing partner

Working on on a autobiography. 2015

My bride, my wife, my girl…my…

I’ve been spoiled for the past 19 years, I’ve only dated one woman in all those years. I remained faithful to her and she to me.

“This, man!” She yelled, because I kept taking pictures of her. Busch Gardens 2013

Sharol was not only the matriarch of the family. But she was also the standard-bearer, where could I find such a woman today..? Intelligent, funny, easy to look at, prayer warrior, confidence Builder and the list goes on and on.

Dear, reader, I know this was very long. I have much more to say, but understand my point of the title, 19 years. You can’t possibly explain or tell that story in two paragraph.

Beaches Resort 2010 Jamaica

On June 14,2016 I lost one of the greatest gifts God has given to me and from this brief tale that I’ve told, you can see why, that on my anniversary, I’m not sitting around depressed or writing a suicide note. But I am grateful for the time I had with my wife. Now, maybe when I approach the 20th anniversary next year, God willing I’m alive. Maybe I’ll feel different I don’t know but today I’m so filled with joy because I was loved and I had the opportunity to love. that, is, awesome! Listen, take care of yourself. Enjoy the love of your life, build those memories…

Until next time….

 

“Holding hands”

Video

28 days ago my life and my world changed. It’s another Tuesday…I’m wearing my usual Tuesday work clothes, bright orange and blue plaid shirt with a burnt orange sweater,(AC in the office) tan pants and brown shoes. It’s what I was wearing on Tuesday June 14th…I came home and changed shortly before Sharol went to walk/exercise…

The other day one of our neighbors caught me in the elevator, she was with her husband. She asked how I was doing and expressed once again how heart broken she was that my wife died. “You guys were always together..” she remarked, when I said I was much better but was still having trouble sleeping. “If you need anything…” she continued. “I loved your wife”…

She’s absolutely right, we were always found together. Most times, arm around arm or holding hands. We never gave it much thought…but holding hands is beyond “old fashion” it’s ancient! Very few couples do it today, especially the younger ones, much less do it for 19 years strong. Even when we were mad we’d walk close to each other…then eventually grab each others hand.

Nineteen years ago Sharol invited me to her swearing in ceremony, she’d just become a fresh face NY lawyer. I didn’t go with her, we were courting at the time, I had taken the kids to school first. When I walked into, what is now “The National Museum of the American Indian” I was swallowed up by the vastness of the space. It was wall to wall attorneys all waiting to be sworn in. The noise from all the talking was so loud I could barely hear my own thoughts. A sea of mostly white males, all in suits. The ladies were wearing business dresses. Above the noise was a whisper, in a soft deep alto voice…”Ty…” I looked in the direction of the voice, but I didn’t see anything. Then “Ty…over here..” a pond of suits moved slightly.

Out of the corner, seated in an arm chair was Sharol. But all I could see was a pair of thick round calf’s sticking out from between a group of lawyers. Her feet shifted and her skirt rose above her knee as she leaned forward to see me. She was in a brown skirt suit…and looked good to!! I couldn’t help but stared at those gams “Ty…” she said and our eyes connected. Of course I had a goofy look on my face. Who wouldn’t?! We kissed then soon moved to “The Room”I have no clue now what was said, I did feel a bit lonely when she went in. The crowd closed in on her and separated us.

When it was all done we pushed through the heavy crowd to get to one another. She had a big smile on her face. We said something, I don’t remember what it was, all I have is the image of us looking into each others eyes… I know we hugged! But what can’t forget and have never forgotten is the rush I got when she held my hand. My heart felt something it hadn’t and my body responded in kind. The smiles were fixed on our faces. We held hands out the building…down the street…on the train, to the place we ate at, on the train again and ALL the way to St. Jerome school where she walked with me to pick up the kids. We were holding hands when they came out the door…

This Memory is implanted in my mind forever…why? Because of the incredible, painful cramp I had from holding hands, for hours!! We continued to hold hands and walk down the streets of NY, New Orleans, Rhode Island, Lancaster PA, the beach in Jamaica, the camp in Putnam County, Maryland…and everywhere else we went. And to the marvel of others who would say “wow, you don’t see that often” or other things similar.

We’ve talked about that day a lot over the years. But it was just the beginning of something that left a lasting impression on the world around us. And I’m so glad that out of all the things our kids saw us doing together…cooking, arguing, dancing, laughing, kissing, sitting etc. They had the chance to see romance in action.

Until next time…

  

“With and Without Her”

IMAG0100_2_1_1

This year opened up with a devastating blow to our finances. In our 19 years of marriage we have gone through so much. I used to joke that we had double years…in others words and closer to what I would say, is, every one year was like two years. So, Sharol and I have been married for nearly 40 years. we look good after 40 years together don’t we,Lol. After leaving grad school I searched earnestly for a job. None came, so Sharol suggested and I agreed that after a year of surviving why not just write the book I wanted to write. From 2013 -2014 I worked on the book. I was getting nervous about being out of work for so long but Sharol encouraged me to continue. When I completed the book, the process to promote it begin…it was hard and did not do well. I’d given away many of them hoping folks would write a book review, I was wrong, so very wrong. The stress piled up on me. I enjoyed politics in grad school so I apply for a Senate Fellowship, after a 2 month wait I didn’t get the job. Four months into 2014 another job opened up, it was seasonal. I took it, it was better than nothing. It ended right after Thanksgiving. We were back where we started. While I was looking again I started working on an update of the book and added two new stories. Being a NYC teacher, Sharol had the summers off and usually typed and edited my work. That summer, of 2015, we were faced with another major scare in our marriage, we were staring at a hysterectomy right in the eye! Earlier in the year she was having massive pains and huge clots. Nothing help and naturally I feared losing my wife. After pain relievers didn’t work we went to the ER. I later found this

February 10, 2015

February 10, 2015 “Love Letter”

letter in the book of letters she was writing to me. Yes, I love reading letters and Sharol wanted to bless me. She was thanking me for being with her…like, really, where else would I be but my wife’s side. We spent the next few months monitoring her health and going to appointments for the possible hysterectomy that summer. Praise God, it wasn’t needed and I landed an assistant trainer position. I finished the book update and Sharol was done with the edit work, all I had to do was double check then publish. I did. We made it through the summer with minimal aging pains…except one. Both of our knees were hurting, Her’s had given out on her, mine felt like grinding glass. Sharol had gotten a shot in her knee, I didn’t, I had less stairs to climb…

Sunday in church. Three days before the knee surgery.

Sunday June 5,2016 In church, three days before the knee surgery.

The summer of 2015 ended, I was out of work. Sharol started her trek back to Brooklyn. The new lease came and Housing decided to “project” my summer pay as a yearly amount, added our daughter’s income and Sharol’s raise…BAM! The rent was way more than we could afford because of all the other bills we had. We all know they don’t care about that. I stopped working on the follow-up book and started looking for full-time work. Writing, was done. By November things had gotten worst and I didn’t know it because she didn’t tell me. She wanted to spare me the extra stress I was already feeling. And for the first time ever, in 19 years, we had a fall-out over money. Money! can you believe that? Not Us…never!. But it happened, it was so tense that between Thanksgiving and Christmas we hardly said a word to one another. After Christmas our eyes caught each other and we found it hard to be silent. The conversation started too, the love returned and we made up. The house was noisy again. But, this issue didn’t go away and we had a strange something between us…we’d NEVER fought over money. I later found out that my wife was carrying a huge weight on her shoulders. the credit cards weren’t paid, nor the rent, neither the tithes. She felt she couldn’t tell me…after a very heated talk, I reminded her that I am not a “millennial” our generation “doesn’t run scared of everything” I wasn’t mad at the bills not being paid. I was upset that she forgot, that we are Partners… It was finished! we tackled the problem. Now it was time act. I spoke to a friend who said he and his wife went through the same thing once and hurting finances can cripple a relationship. He fought to get me back at The Broad as we call it. I did.

May 7 My Birthday. She sing happy birthday to me.

May 7 My Birthday. She sing happy birthday to me.

We went after our debt with a vengeance. First stop, back rent and no unnecessary purchases until after the summer. But…Mother’s Day was coming and I wanted to go dancing with my lady….

Dancing was put on hold, Sharol’s knee got worse. A piece of bone chipped off and was now floating around. It cause her knee to lock, thankfully she never fell down the stairs. There were trips and appointments to discuss possible replacement surgery.

“Happy birthday Ty”

Since we didn’t have money to go away for a weekend alone, it had been 2 years since we had a weekend getaway; we decided to spend the weekend together around town. We were leaning towards the surgery. I wanted to do a dance cruise with Rhythm Revue. Last summer we had a awesome time dancing for hours! non stop! of course, we went home and took some Aleve afterwards. Unfortunately, I missed the window to get the tickets. So…. We went book shopping instead.

Sunday May 29, 2016

Sunday May 29, 2016

😊 Slept a little later, brewed a pot of Darjeeling tea, made us breakfast then we talked..and..talked..and talk.
Had a late lunch at a diner, then toBarnes & Noble) for New books.
Then top it off with camera foolery. Home for Catfish nuggets & salad.👍celebrating love.” -From my Facebook page. Oh yes, I followed her around the store and the street. Watching her walk and snapping picture. She was giddy ALL day. We were junior high school kids.

The date..

The surgery was set…I was scared, we’d been planning our 20th wedding anniversary and we were having a whirlwind affair..again! The “summer love” was awesome. We planned to see a family in Africa we’ve been supporting for years, then maybe a cruise or back to New Orleans. I’d hope to surprise Sharol with a chocolate diamond ring and a celebration bottle of Graham’s 20 year old Tawny port. I had no idea how I was going to get that ring…but after 20 years she deserve it! the $55-$60 port, that was easy. We had time for a lunch date before the surgery…

Monday June 6, 2016 our last date.

Monday June 6, 2016 our last date.

She stopped by my job and had lunch in Battery Park with me. Sadly this would our last date together.

Without Her…

Sharol had her knee replacement on June 8, 2016…she woke up and said “I came back to to you!” the tears were trying their best to fall from my eyes. But I fought them off “Okay, now can we get you come home” I replied. She came home Friday not Thursday as planned. I had her cheese cake I promised would be waiting for her “See, a man of my word” I said. “I know you are dear”. I stayed home from work an extra day. Got up early and washed her…yeah, we giggled. Then moved on with the day. Monday I went back to work and our daughter took over for me. On Tuesday the youngest girl helped while I was at work. I came home, made a slammin’ dinner and took my place beside my woman in my chair, we watched an episode of Star Trek Enterprise, Sharol started looking at phone and I went to the room and played a game my phone. She text: “I’m going in the hall to walk” Tue,Jun,2016,8:47 PM I went out shortly after that, she was walking towards and I was joking about her knee being “straight now” She collapsed about 4 feet away from me…

Me watching her walk, filming her and taking pictures...

Me watching her walk, filming her and taking pictures…

Tuesday at 9:43 PM Sharol left me to be with the Lord. I spent a week and a half sleeping with the clothes she wore that night. Though it was very, very little sleep. The clothes were cut off her but I didn’t care, it had her scent on it. The smell of sweat and perfume…I clanged to her head scarf so that I could remember what her hair smelled like. I couldn’t pray, sleep, eat, think…nothing. The next morning, our youngest daughter came in my room as I was putting on my shoes, she wanted to go to school. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe either, something was wrong! She came around next to me and it felt like my heart had literally been tore from my chest. I reach out for the window and exploded into a wail. My daughter put her hand on me and I melted into a puddle of tears. I dropped her off at school…Got 30 feet away and darn near hit the ground. I was having trouble inhaling….I put my head phones on, only to hear music that Sharol and I listened and danced to. I couldn’t control the crying. Then the phone calls started….

A week later I found myself angry that I was left alone, alone to do all the planning…all the living…and die without her holding me. Followed by hours and days of numbness and lost with no relief, grieving was a luxury. I hadn’t time to really do it. Added stress from all over didn’t help. My glucose went way up…and I hadn’t eaten, even my blood press skyrocketed! ….

Then one day last week I just couldn’t get out of the bed. My daughter came everyday for a week, she doesn’t live that far from us, but I really couldn’t focus….

Now 3 weeks later, I decided to write, dear reader, not so much for you but for me. To let go, to heal, to begin to take care of me so that I can take care of my children. Sharol’s scent has left her clothes…I was sad, it felt like she was disappearing and she is. Thankfully I have pictures that remind me of her, I thank God that they don’t make me sad but rather make me laugh or think fondly of that moment in time. I still have times when I cry. Heck I spent most of the day in tears before writing this. I was paying bills and couldn’t figure out who got what and when.

I don’t have any Pearls of wisdom for you, dear reader. I’m just a guy trying to live with…..And now, without his wife. I know someone reading this gets it, it’s such a strange feeling to find yourself sudden alone. For all of you reading this who are going through what I’m going through, I pray that your comfort comes quick.

Until next time…