Hello, my name is…

Slim Shady.  Not really.  But for those that now have a song going through their head, you are welcome and  I am sorry.  LOL!

Something happened today that caused me to write down the title of this blog.  As I read it again, I laughed and part of Eminem’s songs flowed from mouth.  The song is quite crude with lyrics but at any rate it made me laugh…and dance.

So today, I was getting ready to facilitate an enterprise wide Community of Practice meeting and my phone rang.  It was a business lead for a project I am on.  I had 30 minutes until my  meeting started so I took the call.  I have just started working with this person and they are located in a different state then me.  Why is that important information?  You see why in a little bit.  I think in a meeting earlier in the week I had mentioned my sunburn from the weekend.  Without any other information it was left at that…until today.  But today they asked what I did to get such a bad burn.  I could hear the real concern in their voice.  It is so nice to work with people who truly care.  I then explained that I had been at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa on Sunday and forgot sunblock.  I explained that I had pit passes and had a blast.  With excitement they asked how I was able to get pit passes as it sounded like a great time.  And there it was.  They didn’t know.  How could they?  They aren’t in Information Technology.  They aren’t even in my same state.  They didn’t know that at the age of 35 I am a widow with a 2 1/2 year old son.  But now they do.  I started to answer their question by saying, “I’m not sure you know much about my situation but my husband died a little over 2 years ago of a heart attack.  Our son was 6 months old at the time.”  I have less trouble saying those two sentences now, I guess I am used to it.  I don’t need many to say anything because from the facial reactions I get from people when I tell them the story no words are needed.  I can see all I need to see.  When you are talking on the phone you don’t have the facial expressions so what I heard next is common as well.  “I am so sorry for your loss.”  Then there is usually a variation in responses I get of “Your husband must have been young?…”Oh my…I am so sorry…what happened?”…”I am soooo sorry…oh my gosh…I cannot imagine what you go through.”  I honestly cannot remember what they said today, but I do remember my next goal was to work them out of the awkward information I had just given them.

So what does that have to do with the blog title?  Because you know there is a connection.  It is amazing to me that before Jay’s death never did I think of introducing myself the following way…”Hello…my name is Alyssa Taber…and at the age of 35 I am a wife, sister, friend and most importantly a mom.”  But now I almost feel I have to introduce myself the following way…”Hello…my name is Alyssa Taber…and at the age of 35 I am a widow of 2 years with a 2 1/2 year old son.”

I am used to the looks I get in the stores Aaron and I go to where at times I struggle to keep him in a shopping cart, or get him into the car.  I am used to people looking at my ring finger as I walk around with Aaron and the looks I get.  You perception is your reality so although some may say, “Alyssa…you don’t know what they are really thinking, don’t assume the worst in your mind.”  I would say that you are right…however how does that saying go?…oh right…”Actions speak louder than words.”  I don’t wear my wedding ring for many reasons.  I couldn’t continue to look at something on my finger that reminded me of something that doesn’t exist anymore.  And I don’t have an opportunity to go to the grocery/retail store much without Aaron.  He has to come with me at this age, a difficult age, unless I have a babysitter.  And honestly when I have my babysitter I am doing one of two things…going out with a friend to have a little break or cleaning and picking up the house while I don’t have to entertain a 2 1/2 year old along with get stuff done.  And as for this past weekend, well I am doing so many things in memory of Jay and to honor him by living and loving my life.  I don’t see them as sad.  I embrace these opportunities I am given and they are good.

I know I don’t have to explain my situation to everyone I meet.  Although I find it difficult, in my situation to just say…”Hello, my name is Alyssa Taber.”

Gone but never forgotten

I finished my work week on Friday.  I was ready but anxious for the weekend.  I spent a better part of Friday evening cleaning out the rest of the basement.  Demo was starting Saturday morning and everything needed to be out.  And it was.  Physical strength along with pure determination and by Friday night there was nothing else for me to empty out of the basement.  Aaron and I went upstairs after things were done downstairs and as we did our nightly ritual of rocking together in the chair I started to cry.  I was really going to do it.  I was going to make the basement mine.  As I cried Aaron squirmed a little bit in my arms.  I was slightly annoyed with this until I saw what he was trying to do.  Within a few wiggles he was face to face with me with his arms open to give me a hug.  Aaron has the most loving and caring heart.  I am so very lucky.  As a 2 1/2 year old he has the compassion of someone so much older.  I am a proud momma.

Saturday morning was here and it was finally demo day.  I walked through the basement with my general contractor going over final details and then I needed to get out of the house.  Aaron and I got in the car and began the day of driving to see family, leaving Aaron with my parents and then me driving back home.  A total of 8 hours driving.   I picked up my grandma on the way up and so for the final part of the drive to my cousin’s graduation Aaron had company in the back seat and I had someone to talk to.  It was a nice drive.  I love my family.  They are a major reason I was able to make it through those first days.  They came with a support that made me feel I could and would not fail.  And yet when I got to the graduation part of me started to drown in the sadness not many understand.  I never want these moments to happen when they do.  I cannot explain them.  I wanted to be uncontrollably happy.   And in that day part of me was trying to drag me down.  Unfortunately and yet maybe fortunately anyone that knows me knows I can be read like a book.  So when asked what was bothering me I wasn’t surprised I was being asked and yet I did not have an answer that was good enough.  I had made it through the 2 year milestone of Jay’s death the week before, I was celebrating a happy event with close family, Aaron and I are heathy, I was about to get a little break having Aaron at my parents for a couple days, I was beginning a new chapter with my basement., the next day I would be in the pits at Iowa Speedway watching a NASCAR Nationwide Series race..seriously…what the hell?  I kissed my little boy, got in my car and 3 1/2 hours later I was back home.  I went down to my now EMPTY basement, took a few pictures and then went to hang out with a few girlfriends.  I still cannot believe I took down a majority of his basement…I mean my basement.  I slept great on Saturday night.  And when I say great I mean fantastic.

I woke up Sunday feeling refreshed.  Today was the day I was going to the Nationwide NASCAR race in Newton, Iowa.  I had donated towards Joey Gase Racing to get a picture of Jay on Joey’s car and in the process had won pit passes for the races.  If you ever win or have an opportunity to be in the pits for any race, do it.  And if you ever have the opportunity to meet Joey Gase, do it.  He puts donors on his car so that although they are gone, he wants to show the world they are never forgotten.  His mom died right after the had turned 18.  He was next of kin because she was not married at the time.  It wasn’t entirely easy knowing Jay’s picture was on Joey’s car…it was an honor and amazing but it wasn’t necessarily easy.  He was on Joey’s car for a reason.  He was a donor.  He was gone but by no means forgotten.  I took a close friend of mine with me to the races.  We had a blast.  It was so much fun literally being in pits within feet of the car as Joey came in for a tire change and to fill up on gas.  Jay loved NASCAR.  He had once been in the pits but that was in Indianapolis.  He had talked about how awesome it would be to get pit passes at the Iowa Speedway in his hometown.  We had gone to a few races before he died but never got into the pits or garage area.  That is until this past Sunday.  Baby, not only did you get a pit pass but you went around the track at an ungodly speed 250 times.  I hope you had a good time.

Jay would have loved to support Joey and his race career.  You don’t see many people that get to do what they love in memory and to honor someone they love and then to also provide others a way to honor their loved one for an ultimate sacrifice.  That is what Joey does.  He promotes organ donation in the most awesome way a person could.  I am proud to know Joey.  I am excited I was able to support him and ultimately help Jay do one more thing he always wanted to do.

By the end of the day Sunday I was completely fried.  I wish I could say it was just mentally fried but no I was really fried.  A gentle breeze and no sunscreen and I looked like a flippin tomato.  Aside from the sunburn the emotions of the past week stopped me in my tracks on Sunday night.  I went over to a friends house and talked it out.  Being a widow is not easy.  I know what I have done with organ donation is good.  I know making the basement my own is good.  I know moving forward is good.  I feel good about the choices I have made but many of them have not been easy.  I wish Jay back every day at some point.  It may surprise some but it is not for me, it is for Aaron.  I wish him back if only for his son.  It is that part that makes my life difficult and yet sometimes easy.  Because although Jay is gone, he is never forgotten.

2 years later.

May 9th, 2014 marked 2 years since Jay died.  The days leading up to this day were trying to say the least.  The day itself was actually nice.  There is always this anticipation that certain days, holidays and milestones will be terrible and unbelievably sad.  My experience says the days around are worse.

There was part of me that wanted to just stay in bed all day but I know better then that.  The two non-productive things I knew not to do was to be at work or be in bed all day.  I started the day off by dropping Aaron off at daycare. I then spent the time between when I dropped him off and going back for the Mother’s Day celebration at daycare at a coffee/bakery store just across the street.  By the time I sat down I already had 3 texts messages and around 4 messages on Facebook.  As I sat in the corner of the store I watched as a guy walked in with a flash shirt on.  Why is that significant?  I have a picture of Jay wearing that shirt while playing airplane with him just weeks before he died.  I then looked in front of me and saw this guy reading a book off of his newer style Nook.  Why is that significant?  Jay had bought one of those a month of so before he died.  When he bought the newer version he gave me his old version so I could read books while walking on the treadmill at work.  Coincidence?  Probably.  But I allowed myself for those few moments to see those things and believe that in some way he was there or that in some way he was putting happy memories fresh in my mind.

I went to Muffins with Mom and to see Aaron’s eyes light up as I walked in was so awesome.  He took it upon himself to stuff muffins in my mouth as well.  And after I pulled my present from him out of the bag it was in, he so kindly picked it up and took it to the garbage.  He didn’t want me to go when it was time for me to leave.  Deep down I didn’t want to leave either but I did.  Then I headed to the spa I frequent for my facial, body scrub, body masque, jet tub soak and massage.  Yes, you are right it is heavenly.  I have two of the best people that I go to there and have become really good friends.  The only notable thing from the spa portion of my day is that I don’t suggest you laugh while getting the lift and tone facial’s masque put on.  It tightens your skin.  Laughing is near to impossible to do while getting this facial and yet I tried…oh did I try. After the spa I went downtown and walked in on a Friday to a makeup place down there.  They just happened to have an opening so I had them do my makeup.  Why not right?  My hair was still straight from getting it done the night before and so after my makeup I decided to get a late lunch before picking Aaron up.  A waiter at a place I frequent had to do a double take because he didn’t recognize me.  Best compliment of the day.  There was part of me that did not recognize me either.  Two years ago I was not this person.  2 years ago I was different.  But I digress.

I picked Aaron up from daycare and I thought we could just get home and chill for the night.  OH how I think silly things.  I pull into my garage and as I get out of the car I look down and proceed to tip toe dance shaking my hands in the air as I exited the garage.  I ran over a mouse in my garage with my car.  Yep, you read that correctly.  For those unaware of my fear of mice, search my page for the mouse story in my “6 month” blog I wrote.  I. Hate. Mice.  Luckily for me on this day my neighbors, also good friends of mine, got to witness my weird dance moves as I exited my garage.  I worked with the woman and the man  was a good friend to Jay.  Once they figured out what was going on he came over with a glove on, asked for paper towels and clorox wipes.  Best. Neighbor. Ever.  The thought of that moment still makes the hair on my arms stand up.  YUCK.  My friend joked that I did the hard part by catching the mouse since they are usually fast little things.  That my friends is a matter of opinion and in my opinion his job was much more difficult.

It has been 3 days since May 9th, 2014.  2 years ago TODAY I said my final good-bye to his physical body.  I spoke at the funeral and truthfully saying good bye that last time knowing that the next step was to cremate him was the hardest thing I did that day.  I did not want to leave.  I wanted to wake up from the nightmare of the last 3 days.  As I walked away, assisted by my dad, I had the same type of feeling that I felt when we brought Aaron home from the hospital.  I thought, how am I going to do this?  When I leave here, they expect me to do this on my own.  I have never been more scared than in that moment.  I honestly had no idea how I was going to live without him.  I had no idea what lay ahead of me.  All I knew is that it wasn’t going to be easy.  In fact it was going to be hard as hell.

2 years later I still have moments like I did that day.  I work through those moments knowing they will pass.  2 years later I feel different.  I am not the same person I was then.  2 years later, I still struggle but I’m stronger.  It feels like it was yesterday, but the fact of the matter is that it is 2 years later.

The day before

I sit here today having cried a lot last night pondering why it is the days before that hit me so hard.  There is no guide or rules to grief.  It is the hardest thing I have ever had to figure out.  But as I was trying so hard this morning to put a reason behind why, it hit me.

At this time 2 years ago we were still a family of 3.  We were happy.  We were oblivious to what would happen tomorrow.  With all of the good that we have been able to do since and all of the opportunities we have had I would still give it ALL back to have this day in 2012 back.  There was no sadness on on this day in 2012.  I miss that feeling.  I grieve that feeling.  And as today comes to a close the emotions will lift slightly.  Tomorrow is the anniversary and there is nothing I can do to change that.

Last night as I cried, Aaron cried with me.  I hate to hear my baby cry but we needed it last night.  He wasn’t crying because I told him “no.”  He wasn’t even crying because I was crying.  I could see it in his eyes.  He cried because he knows his life is different than his friends.  He sees other little boys and girls that have a mommy and daddy and he looks at us and it is just us two.  I know he loves me, I have no doubt of that.  But he should have his father here.  I know I am enough.  There is no choice, I have to be.  But dammit Jay should be here for him.

That said, the people we have in our lives help in ways they cannot even comprehend.  I hear and read their words of advice and encouragement.  I witness their acts of friendship.  Once I allowed myself to hear, read and see all of those things it hit me like a big wave crashing down.  Some days it truly takes my breath away.

I don’t expect last night to be the last time I cry through this process of acknowledging the 2 year anniversary of Jay’s death.  I miss him every day.  I miss him so much more the day before.

One of the last emails I received

Before you read the email content below, let me set the scene.

Monday May 7th…I had been fighting a little bug since about Thursday the week before.  Jay had caught it on Sunday and had opted to stay home on the 7th.  He needed stuff from the store that morning so Aaron and I got in the car and drove to the store and back home so he had everything he would need.  When I got to work after dropping Aaron off at daycare I received the following email.

————————————-

Dear Aaron,

Thank you for being the best son a daddy could ask for. I love you so much. I never knew I could love someone as much as I love you. My life has changed completely since you were born. I love my life with you in it!!!

Love you always & forever,

Daddy

 

Dear Alyssa,

Thank you for being a super-fantastic wife! I appreciate you getting up early this morning and getting me stuff to feel better. I hate being sick but you make it so much easier to deal with!!!

Love you always & forever,

Jay

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Jay died on Wednesday May 9th.  Not from the bug he had earlier that week but from a heart attack.  A pediatric heart disease is what was later found to be the underlying cause of his heart attack.  He had such a beautiful loving caring heart.

We used to send emails like this often after we found out we were pregnant.  He would send a note to baby boy telling him to be easy on his momma.  At one point I remember him writing telling the baby that he really wanted some chicken for dinner so if he could just make it ok for his mommy to make his daddy’s favorite chicken dish he would be so excited. (Note: Chicken was a staple to me prior to pregnancy.  It was one of the ONLY things I could not eat while pregnant)

These emails, I still have many of them like this, seemed silly and insignificant at the time.  Now, they are part of the memories I hold onto.  It is something I can read over and over reminding myself how much he loved me and how much he loved Aaron.  It is something I can show Aaron.

If today was your last day, would someone be able to say the following about you:

I love that the the above email was one of the last emails I received from Jay.

Feet on the ground

Feet on the ground.  Eyes to the sky. I saw something the other day that basically said this and I instantly thought about my life.

In the last week I have had mini-flashbacks to the first minutes, hours, day and weeks after Jay died.   “How did I do it?”  The only answer I have is that I kept my feet on the ground.  I kept my eyes to the sky.  It is not easy.  When your feet are on the ground you can continue to stand in one place or you can move.  If you stand in one place and do not move you eventually collapse right where you are.  I think on some level I knew I did not want to stay where I was.  I didn’t want to look down at where I was so my other option was to look to the sky.  See what was ahead of me instead of what was behind me or where I was.

But there is something about keeping your feet on the ground.  It forced me to eventually realize what had really happened.  My husband, Aaron’s daddy….my best friend died.  Not easy.  It forced me to look at what was ahead of me.  The challenges, road blocks…but also the amazing opportunities I would be given.  Again, not easy.

Life is not easy.  You have to be strong.  It isn’t easy to move forward.  Some weeks, days, hours and minutes it seems damn impossible.  But if I have learned anything from this experience it is that to move forward you have put your feet on the ground.

The reason I cry

So my last post talked about how the little things help me through the difficult times.  Yep you guessed it.  It is also these “little things” that can cause me to cry…alot.

The example that is fresh in my mind, as it happened about 2 hours ago, is the holiday right next to the day Jay died.  For those still not up to speed Jay died on May 9th.  That is next Friday.  Next Sunday, May 11th is Mother’s Day.  In 2012 May 9th was on a Wednesday.  A week prior Jay had taken Aaron to go Mother’s day shopping for me.  Because he thought ahead I was able to get my first official Mother’s day gift from two very important men in my life.  So in 2012, Jay’s visitation was Friday May 11th and his funeral was Saturday May 12th.  When I sent all of my family home on Sunday May 13th, Aaron and I followed as they drove their cars away because we were on our way out together without Jay to go get my Mother’s Day gift. Jay also was so excited about the gift that he had told his mom what it was and where they did it.  That is the only reason I knew to pick it up. He had gone to a pottery place here in the metro that allows you to paint on them and come back a week later after it has been glazed and fired and you have a masterpiece.  When we walked in I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for but they found it.  You see most that go back in know what they did and can pick it out.  When I found the square vase I knew it was mine.  How?  On the bottom it read “To: Mommy From: Aaron 2012”  And on the sides were Aaron’s painted hand and foot prints.  It made me smile and cry all at the same time.

So why is that making me cry today?  Today at daycare I received a cute invitation for May 8th at 9AM to visit daycare for juice and yummy muffins where he will have a gift for me.  It is at the time I got the invitation I reminded the teacher that next Friday is the anniversary.  It didn’t bother me telling the teacher about next week.  To a point you become numb to telling people.  Aaron and I walked out and then as I was about to shut the car door where Aaron was I noticed the director was next to me.  She said “I’m so sorry but you have the wrong date on the invitation you received.  It is actually on Friday the 9th.”  She asked if I was still going to be able to make it.  She didn’t know.  I looked at her and said, I won’t be able to probably make it.  That is the 2 year anniversary of Jay’s death.  I have appointments that day.  I started to cry as it started to sprinkle rain.  She apologized and I said not to worry…that I would talk to them next week.

OK first things first.  I am not upset at my daycare.  Second, I will work around my previously scheduled appointments to make myself available to spend a little time with my baby boy for some juice and yummy muffins.  So why did I cry?  I cried lightly with the director but when I got into the car I let it ALL out.  I know daycare did not schedule it on May 9th to make me upset.  They scheduled it because it is the Friday before Mother’s Day.  I know I can move my appointments around and still have a day of peace on the 2 year anniversary.  I cried because in that moment I realized this scenario will never really go away.  I have to figure out how to move forward through this and not let it paralyze me.  I have yet another “thing” to work through.  I have to put a lot of energy towards this working through the emotions around this struggle.  This is life.  I will work through it.  But today, it is the reason I cry.

The little things

This week I have been struggling.  It is no surprise but it is frustrating as hell.  I keep telling myself the fact that in 8 days it will be 2 years is no different than any other day because he is still gone.  That fact has not changed and never will.

My job is to keep walking and moving forward.  That should be easy right?  Nope.  There are so many of the people in my life now make it less difficult and have all of their ways of keeping me moving.  But it has been more difficult this week because honestly all I have wanted to do is to sit down and stop time.  Luckily I know better and continue to move, even if it is slow.

So what does my blog title have to do with this?  Those that follow me know there is always a tie back and there is.

It is the little things that have kept me moving this week. 

On Monday we welcomed my nephew into this world.  Aaron has a little cousin.  He is perfect.  He is a gift.  He is little.  And his arrival made it easier to get through Monday. 

We have some co-workers in from out of town this week and on Tuesday I helped one get back to their hotel and picked up two others to go to a get together put on by another co-worker.  A small gesture may seem inconsequential to some but to me it was what kept me going.  It was something as little as my co-workers allowing me to help them while in town that meant the world to me and kept me going. 

On Wednesday when Aaron and I were hanging out after we got home he just hung out with me in our chair and snuggled me and kept giving un-solicited hugs.  His little hands around me giving me hugs were exactly what I needed.

What is my point?  It doesn’t take a big effort to help someone through their day.  I type that and laugh.  Monday’s “little” thing actually was a huge effort.  And I thank my amazing sister in law and wonderful brother for that gift.  But for the most part it can be a text message to say “hi”, allowing someone to help you, giving a hug or probably the easiest of all…smile at someone.  Most if not all days it really is the little things.