“The Road To 52”

Hiking at Dekorte Park Meadowland Trail. Lyndhurst, NJ June 9, 2018

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything. I believe December 2017 was the last time I posted. Well put on your seatbelts boys and girls, I have a lot to tell you…

As my thumbs tap on the screen, Darlene Zschech’s Your Presence Is Heaven is fading away into the background of my thoughts. I was listening to it as I walked into my office this morning. It is quickly being replaced by an inconsequential discussion about dogs and food, a loud conversation is Spanish, my boss yelling from her office for a coworker to bring her something because picking up the phone is far to hard for her to do. There’s also frustrating talks about problems and mistakes, created by miscommunication and poor management. The only thing missing today, is the co-worker who is usually speaking on the phone in Russian. What is not missing, is the loud mouth know -It -all, who sits next to me. With only 4 feet of space between us. As you can see, I’m in a ridiculously noisy environment. Thus the reason, dear reader, I haven’t been able to write… my office used be a quiet place to think, read and write during down times. Since the Loud mouth came up and was assigned to the desk next to me, I have slowly loss the freedom of concentration, read, think or write. Over the course of the year, I have become that employee that stares at their phone and plays games. Anything and everything to drown out the background noise! It’s so bad that my off time thoughts are flooded by the days words, discussions and pointless stories. So what does this have to with 52? You may be asking, we’ll there… remember the title? Road to…

Atlantic City. August 2015

June 14th marked 2 years since my wife died. I spent the day extremely tired as I have been fighting off a cold this week. I ended the day by picking up some camping equipment from REI and grabbing dinner at a Japanese restaurant. As my daughter and I sat down “See You Again” from Fast and Furious 7 started playing. For those of you, who haven’t followed me or read any previous blogs, Sharol and I loved those movies. Each for different reasons and for the same reasons. We were a team and loved the undying love and devotion of Letty and Dom, Brian and Mia and the brotherhood of Dom and Brian. I was a fan of Paul Walker before his FF days, she came along later. When Paul died it hit us hard… when we saw FF7 we both teared up and eventually cried. We stayed in the theater long after the credits were done… it was Paul’s last FF film and our last one together. Essentially, our last ride together as well. So when my 15 year old mentioned that the song was playing, I strained my ears and took that emotional ride. Minutes before that, my other daughter text me that her son was a scooper like his Nana. I cracked up!!! They were eating chips and dip(a Bland family staple). Okay… here’s the backstory, Sharol and I used to fight over the dip. I would dip my chips, she would scoop! Dragging the dip into a heap on her chips. This caused me to constantly turn the bowl around to keep an even amount… or else! No more dip. Go ahead, you can laugh, you know you do it too.

Dekorte Park Meadowland Trail. Lyndhurst, NJ June 9, 2018

So as we were driving back home after dinner, The Kid found the song on YouTube for me. I cranked it up and drove off. I ended the night by kissing my late wife’s picture, thanking her for being my wife and saying goodbye…

“But didn’t you say goodbye two years ago?” I can hear your thoughts as I write this. Yes, I did say goodbye but I never left. The world around me has changed(we’re not getting into the crazies today) people have moved on, yet I remained stagnant. Most of my family is spread out across America. My immediate family is split between New Rochelle, Westchester county. The older kids have move on and made frightening new strides for their families. Moving to The Bronx, Brooklyn and now two to New Jersey. A dear friend of mines will be moving to the west coast. Former classmates are getting their PhD’s this summer, my middle daughter is getting married… and I have a granddaughter that I’m watching grow up in pictures. Even the church has changed. You know, Sharol used to say, the part about dying she didn’t like was that life and the world would continue “as if I wasn’t here”. I’ve learned you don’t have to die for the world to leave you behind. I’m alive watching it happen to me, it feels really weird too. It’s like watching a time travel sci-fi movie. Where the guy is watching his life on a screen and trying to figure out what point he wants to go back in time to…

Hiking at Sachuest Point national wildlife refuge. 3 mile loop. Middletown, RI. April 2018

The 52 Hike Challenge

While the entire family has been evolving into something different, something new for each person, my progression has been slow and at times no movement at all. I’m kind of settled into this widower’s life style. Meaning, there’s no one partner to walk through life with. Over the past two years, dear reader, I have found my wanderlust again. As a child in school I spent hours staring out of the classroom Windows. Bored I guess, but whatever it was, I wanted to be out there. Out of school I spent my time playing in street, riding my bike, running through the building or at a friend’s house. As a teen, I traveled on the train from the Bronx to Harlem and Suger Hill where my cousins lived. Often times ridding my bike over the Macombs Dam bridge then back to my sister’s house in the Bronx. I’d sneak into Clubs with friends, just to dance all night and ride the train alone in the wee hours back to the Bronx. Whatever it was in me, I’d always wanted to go. Never stop just move forward…

Last year my daughter aka The Kid,and I went camping. She hated the bugs but loved the road trip and being away. This year I wanted to add to that. I joined a gym because I saw my strength diminishing. As we worked out together, I said I wanted to go hiking this year. It became my new obsession! Searching and searching, discovering that my busted knees and back may not make it. If you haven’t noticed I’m no longer on Facebook. I’ve just been on Instagram. While looking at pictures of travelers from around the world, I found the @52hikechallenge. Reading the story of the founders inpired me to go. I got my daughter to join me in this insane quest to hike once a week for 52 weeks. Yes! One whole year of hiking in all weather conditions. Feel free to follow our progress and cheer us on. The IG hashtag is #whitebeardandthekid So, going to the gym begin to take shape with a new purpose in mind. To train and condition the body, bad knees and all, to hike as high as it can go. I told her I may not have good working knees in the next few years and in a few years she’ll be college age. So hey, let’s go on this adventure. Let’s document it. She has gotten so used to travelling now, she wants to drive to Canada and hike The Appalachia trail…

Roadtrip to Pa. May 2018, pulled over in a truck stop to rest.

I had put aside my adventurous wanderlust years ago. The first life changing event was when I became a parent. I would still run off to a movie alone from to time to time. But Sharol tamed such lust in my heart. I no longer wanted to run or go, I found someone that I just wanted to stop for. No need to run off, but, I found that she too had a traveller’s heart and enjoyed the times we rented a car and hit the road. The excitement of packing for a trip or family vacation. Always finding a moment to be alone together. Before she died we had a couple of chances to get away alone. Gosh those were great and quiet times. Since her death and being on the road, it’s the only thing I want to. When I get to work Monday morning, I’m already planning where the next weekend’s adventure will be.

The hiking challenge has made it easy to go because every week there’s somewhere to be. Photos of other hikers and travellers and folks camping constantly encourage me to go out and experience the world around me. But in the beginning, I was uncomfortable enjoying myself, that survivor’s guilt kick in again. How could I enjoy life without her? Was it okay to enjoy living? Then I found this…

From another hiker and a widow, who like me, loss her spouse unexpectedly. It took a mouth to settle in my heart. Mostly because I know Sharol would’ve enjoyed travelling, that was the plan after the children were gone. My daughter’s feet on the dashboard reminded me of her mother’s, who put her feet up as we drove down Lincoln Highway in Lancaster Pa. We had left the kids in the hotel and took a drive. Every time I leave the city I remember days like that and I feel such a freedom and joy…

So as I embark on this challenge and purpose to travel across this country, get outside and meet people. Most likely I will be writing about it. Will you follow along, dear reader? You were by my side when all I could think about and write about was the process of grief that first year. If you have an IG account will you follow the hashtag #whitebeardandthekid and virtually raise your pom poms to be our cheerleaders? I look forward to hearing from you. Psst! I haven’t forgotten about writing, as I stated earlier it’s been difficult.

Until next time…

“Without Her: 7 Months Later”

Walking home across the Willis Avenue bridge. We went to dinner at a local restaurant (Perkins)and decided to walk home. 2015

  Hello, dear readers, a lot has happened since I last wrote to you. I started a “6 Months Later” but never posted it, I didn’t feel it and thought it’s better to write honest feelings, rather than write  something I forced out. Hey, if I’m gonna write about this stuff, that I really don’t want to do publicly, it should be truthful…

  6 months later…  I was sitting at my desk at work , checking my bank statement when I noticed a deposit. I Looked at the date and suddenly felt sick, it was the 14th.! The reason for the deposit was for a the loss of another’s life. And if you have loss your spouse to death, then you know  the feeling I’m talking about. It’s NOT a happy one. Some spiral into depression. I, slipped into deep blue mood. I immediately text my youngest child and told her we would be ordering the mattress she needed…it didn’t matter what we did with that little bit of change, it still came with a sickening feeling. It’s like coming late to work and your boss says  “I understand you’re going through a lot right now”. All I (or you too) could think of is, I got a pass because my wife died. People excuse you and give you an excuse. For some, they’ll milk it forever. Me? I’m not built like that. I was raised to stand on my own feet. Sure, today I’ll take the pass but I’m smart enough to know it won’t last forever. I reached for my blue pen and started filling out the withdrawal slip…I heard my coworker talking. The tears started. I was running late and stopped for breakfast, so I was eating and fighting the tears that wanted to fall at the same time. I walked in, and my boss said we were having a meeting. She was going away for the holidays and would be gone for 2 weeks…

So, my coworker turned to me and said we’re going back to the Bronx office. “Oh,@$%#$ no!!!” I thought. That place was horrible! Sharol had to literally lift me from the bed to get me to work. I was so depressed working there. I think I was more upset about going back there than anything else. I’d just spent 3 weeks there!!! I was so downcasted and didn’t have my counterbalance to help me through it. Dear reader, it was not a good morning. Uncharacteristic, I took to Facebook to complain! Many came to my aid with words of encouragement. My co worker said there was “nothing we could do” I said “I could and would quit!”…I meant it. I think he knew it too. We’d been working 9 to 9 for 7 days a week since November 9th. I had enough and hadn’t seen my daughter. I begin to plan our escape from the city…

 I went to the bathroom and cried, then begged God not to send me back there. When I returned to my desk , I was told that I was staying in my office. But many of my other coworkers were deployed elsewhere. Some I hadn’t seen in two months, more on that later. 

Escape from NY! Our first Christmas without Sharol.

I kept to myself for the rest of the day and It was an emotional lunch! 

Dec 14, 2016

Lunchtime at the Freedom Tower. Dec 14th 2016

Dec. 14th 2016 lunch at gound zero reflective footprint.

   I took a walk down to where the World Trade Towers used to stand. It was cold!!! But I wasn’t the only one dealing with loss that day… After my Facebook post, I learned some of my kids were having the same sort of day. I called Amtrak, our travel plans were set…

   The first Christmas without my wife was odd. My older children made plans to be away with their own family. I totally understood that and didn’t force the issue of us being together for the holidays. Thanksgiving was quiet, we met for brunch then parted ways. For Christmas we basically just went our own way. Guess what,its not uncommon for families to so after such a loss. This gives everyone and the family as a whole the opportunity to create  new traditions for the holidays. As for me, I took the two youngest to Washington D.C for the long weekend. It was odd without Sharol, but not too strange because the 4 of us had been traveling together for the past 4 or 5 years. So, we were just down one. I didn’t have Sharol by my side but… I had my two running bodies. We didn’t do much but it was a good time to be away from home and relax. 

Just Because… it’s what we do now. Amtrak bathroom, Selfie. Dec. 23, 2016

 7 months later:

       One day, when I was home alone, shortly before we left for the Christmas break. I signed up for Internet dating, no I didn’t tell my kids…but they know now. In short, this is not for me, I’m far too old school to find this form of meeting people useful or endearing. Within 48 hours I ran into 3 crazies! And blocked them all! One asked me for money to get her back to the U.S., she was in Ghana taking care of her ūüėČsick mother. That first experience set the stage for me. I don’t trust people to begin with, so this was NOT good. The second person to contact me 24 hrs later, had the same air about her… why would a beautiful 36 year old white woman  be interested in me I thought. Yeah…about that. Next! The third was the same. One week later, I gave up!. I miss talking to and dining with a woman and hearing laughter, after talking to a coworker he told me about another website, he was right it was better. I met someone…everything was fine for a week. She was kind, at times she reminded me of my wife.She laughed easily, had a brilliant smile, easy on the eyes too. She was totally compatible! But by the second week something broke. I left the city again for New year’s. I discovered something, a coworker told me once, that “you don’t want to either ” she was right. The subject was about me being a writer and needing the time to do it… what I’ve learned, is that I live a crazy, hectic life right now. I work for the state but I’m employed by the ciry. My job at times comes with a high level of stress. My world is communications , politics to be exact. And  as much as I want to be normal or live a normal life. The truth is, I don’t want to. My wife is with Jesus and I have nothing to (pleasantly) distract me from writing. Something I really want to do and I’m also fascinated by the world I work in. I don’t have the time, nor do I wish to give the time it takes to build a relationship from the ground up. Something that requires me to spend hours on a phone or video chat. I will be far too consumed by words over the coming months. Sharol understood this,but we were also married for 19 years. It took time for us to become what we were. That means starting all over again… It would be incredibly hard for a woman to deal with my lifestyle and artist moods. 

    Yes, I long to hold hands but… there’s so much I want to do. I once wrote that I didn’t know who I was without Sharol.I know now. I am a single dad, a single man…free to do whatever my God has for me. Free to enjoy life. I enjoy hanging out with and having lunch with my coworkers. One such lunch buddy I hadn’t seen for nearly 2 months, we were deployed to different locations. On New Year’s eve morning we had breakfast together. I said “hey, you wanna have  breakfast with me to say goodbye to 2016” the answer was “yes“, we had a nice time talking and eating. Then we parted. Would I like more? Absolutely!, but it’s  all I have to give  right now. This discovery, was hard to swallow. I don’t want to be alone, but I didn’t pick Sharol, God did, I can’t trust my heart. So, for now I’m going to trust Jesus to once again open my eyes to the one he has for me. If, like her, it’s someone I already know, someone right under my nose… Someone willing to come along side of me, love me, go where I go and eventually  send me home to the Father, Sharol and all those who went before me. Then that would be awesome. 

Dec. 26, 2016 teaching the kids how to play pool. In D.C.

D.C. Metro station. 2016

Show off our rings. Dec 24, 2016 dinner at a China Town, Washington DC.

Christmas dinner at Legal Seafood. Washington DC Dec. 25, 2016

  At the moment dear reader, I’m enjoying time with my two youngest children, looking for a new place to live  and still opened to whomever the lord my have for me. But I am also going to focus on my book right now. Who knows…maybe next week I’ll change my mind. But for now, my relationship plane is a holding pattern. This widower’s  life is an odd one. Wait. I failed to mention that we who have lost our spouse, not only feel guilty for living but often feel as though we’re cheating on our spouse. It’s crazy, right? Yep. But like I said, it’s an odd life for us.

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…