Why is the death of a spouse so damn hard? Well, I believe I can give you quite a few reasons. 14 months ago, I lost my husband to an unexpected, sudden, out of nowhere, massive heart-attack. On that day and everyday since, I have come to realize that I lost a lot more than just my husband. I also lost the following people, just to name a few:
1. Car Mechanic: Before my husband was a paramedic, he worked at Cadillac, as a mechanic, fixing cars. He loved his car, which became our car, and knew every nook and cranny inside and out. If the service engine light went on, I didnt call AAA. I called him. If something went wrong, he got underneath the hood and figured it out. I never worried when I would drive the car long distances, because I knew he would somehow get to me and come out and save me. Now? Everytime I start up the engine in my car, a tiny part of me freaks out and panics inside, begging the car to just please work correctly forever and ever until the end of time, or until I die.
2. Killer of Bugs, Rodents, and all Things Scary: The very first time that Don met my parents, I was having a mouse issue in the apartment, and so him and my dad were installing traps and filling in tiny holes in the walls – together. They basically said “nice to meet you”, and then immediately got to work pulling out the refrigerator, stove, and looking under all the scary places that I refused to go. In our marriage, I would regularly wake Don up from a deep sleep by shaking him while saying something inaudible like: “Ummm … there’s a … a scary thing… in the kitchen … go look.” He would get up, half asleep, groan at me, and go inspect whatever I thought might be a frightening, human-killing insect. Most times, it was just a large piece of dust or something else that was not alive. “It’s a piece of fabric, Boo. You woke me up for a piece of fabric. Goodnight.” He would roll his eyes and throw himself back into bed. About 2 months after he died, one night I was in our bedroom at about 3am when a large cockroach scurried across the floor. I screamed, cried, and grabbed a broom and held it for dear life as if I was starring in a horror film. As I tried to end the insect’s life by beating him to death via broom, I realized for the first time that I would have to do these type of things alone from now on. I had no other choice, and that scared the shit out of me. That night marked my very first of many emotional breakdowns.
3. Kick-Ass Water Maker: I love water. But the water I love is made a very specific way. I cannot drink luke warm water. It makes me feel nauseous. It has to be ice-cold, with LOTS of ice in it. There is a whole process involved. You “make” it ahead of time and prepare it, in order for it to be perfect. You take a large plastic water bottle – Smart Water is my favorite bottle to use – and you fill it about 3/4 with filtered water. Then, you fill the rest of the bottle with ice. (I have those special ice-cube trays that make the ice that fits into the narrow long neck of the water bottle. I told you – this is serious stuff.) You then put the bottle in the freezer, and you set a kitchen timer for exactly 45 minutes. When it goes off, your water is finished. You take it out of the freezer, lightly squeeze the bottle, and all of the ice turns to this incredible slushy consistancy. Not quite frozen, but almost. It’s like a water treat! I call it “Kick-Ass Water.” Don used to prepare my kick-ass water bottles for me while I drove home from work. I would call him when I was about 45 minutes away, and say: “Boo? Can you prepare me a kick-ass water?” “Yes Boo – I’ll make it now”, he would say. When I got home, he would hand me my water bottle , all perfectly prepared ahead of time. It was great because he worked nights, so he was home to make me my special water treats. Sometimes he would surprise me with one when I didnt even ask. That was the best. Lately, Ive been making my own kick-ass waters, which isnt nearly as fun. In fact, it really kind of sucks. I now call it “Suck-Ass, Lonely Water.”
4. Take-out Food Delivery Pick-Up Guy: Like most couples who live in or near a major city, we ordered a lot of take-out. There were multiple places just down the street. Chinese. Pizza. Italian. Brazilian. Deli. We had our system. I would always call in the order, and Don would go and pick it up. Most of the places were anywhere from 2 to maybe 10 blocks away, and they delivered. But he would always say: “Nah, I’ll go get it.” I was much too lazy for that, but he would get up anytime, no notice, and go down the street to get us food. When he died, I started to feel extremely lazy the couple times I asked them to deliver, and they were only 2 blocks away. One time I actually lied to the guy on the phone and made up some elaborate story about why I couldnt walk there. “Oh, I broke my ankle and can barely move. Can you deliver it?” Im convinced they all laugh at me everytime I hang up the phone.
5.The Sane and Logical One: Don was one of the most calm and easy-going people I have ever met. Nothing ever stressed him out. Everything stresses me out. I would get panicky about something, make a billion assumptions, and flip out and create drama where there didnt need to be any. He would laugh and say calmly: “Boo, calm down. Everything will turn out fine. It’s going to be okay.” I panicked. He comforted. This was true whether I was auditioning for something, whether we were on an airplane together and I was digging into his arm with my fingernails preparing for the inevitable crash, or whether I noticed a small dot on my back and would ask in a frightened tone: “Boo – what is this? What is this thing on my back? Oh my God! Its cancer. What if its cancer? Do you think Im dying?” “No, Boo. You’re not dying. You’re fine. It will go away in a couple days.” And it did. It always did. Now I just panic, and panic some more, and nobody is there to tell me it will all be okay.Everybody needs a calm person in the relationship. Everyone needs balance. Without balance, it’s hard to stand up.
6. Editor / Co-Writer / Critic: Whenever I would sit at my computer and come up with new stand-up comedy material, I would run it by my husband. “Is this funny?”, I would say, and read it to him or tell him the idea. He would not only tell me if it was any good, often times he would add something brilliant to the joke. He would help me write the stuff, and then he would be so happy and proud whenever his piece of writing made it into the set. “I wrote that part – Boo thinks Im funny!” I also write TV reviews for the entertainment site www.poptimal.com. My husband would always be the first one to read them after they were published, and he would crack up laughing at my mocking writing style. He loved it. We would watch Dancing With the Stars together and he would say things like: “Oh, you HAVE to comment in your review about how Chaz Bono has plumber ass every week in his outfits.” Now, when I write or create something, I try hard to imagine what Don would say, what he would like or find funny. He had such a great sense of humor, and it sucks to not be able to toss around ideas with him anymore.
7. Light Turn-er-Off-er: Yes, english professors, I know that term is not a real thing. Shut up. Every night when we went to bed, we would both try and run into the bed first, and then yell at the other person: “Haha! You’re the last one in bed! You have to turn off the light!” 95% of the time, I would win this game, and he would turn off the light. Now, I am the first one to bed, the last one to bed, and the only one who turns off the light.
8. Errand Runner: My husband was always willing to go out, even in the middle of the night, no matter how tired he was after work, and do annoying and stupid errands. I never had to do any of them. He always volenteered before I got the chance. Printer breaks in the middle of the night? Don is in the car driving to Walmart to buy a new one so I can finish my grading. Ran out of cat food? No worries. Don will go down the street and get some more. Car needs an oil change? We need more toilet paper? Don will get it. He just didnt mind doing those things. Now, if its pouring rain and lightning outside and I need toilet paper, nobody else is going out to get it except me. Let me tell you something – errands suck.
9. Personal Nurse: It is kind of a known fact that most men can be babies when it comes to being sick. They whine and act like they are on death’s door when they have a slight sniffle. Not Don. First of all, he was never sick. He rarely had a cold, and when he did, it would last about 14 seconds. He never had a headache in his entire life. He told me that one time, and I was so confused. “What the hell do you mean, you’ve NEVER had a headache? Never?” “Nope. Dont know what they feel like. Never had one.” Despite all this, whenever I was sick with a cold, or got one of my terrible migraines, Don was the best nurse / caregiver of all time. He would wrap me up in a blanket, make me soup, green tea with honey, and sit with me and make me laugh. He would say “Aww, poor Boo is sick”, and make a pouty bottom-lip face. He would go to the pharmacy, get all the necessary drugs and other essentials I would need, and treat me like a queen. I would get lots of hugs, and when I would say: “But I dont want to get you sick too”, he would just smile and say: “Aw I dont mind. I just want you to feel better.” One time, a few years ago, I threw out my back, and was literally sitting in his chair for a week, unable to move. He walked me to the bathroom daily, cleaned up my puke when I had a terrible reaction to the percacet they gave me, and literally took care of my every need for an entire week without a complaint. He was the best. Today, I often fear getting sick and being alone. It is one of my greatest fears. My personal home nurse never ever got sick. He just got up one day and died.
10. Professional Hugger: He gave the best hugs in the universe.
11. My Number One Fan / Support System: Don moved his entire life from Florida to NJ, so that I could pursue my dreams. From day one of our relationship, he supposrted those dreams 1000%. Not only would he come to every show he could, he would be beaming from the audience and so proud of me. He told me early on after moving here, after a comedy show I did one night: “My favorite part of the night isnt watching you perform. Its afterwards, when all the people are coming up to you and telling you how funny and great you were. I love to watch you succeed.” That’s a man.
12. Professional Laundry Do-er and Clothes Fold-er: I know, I know. This is also not a real thing or real words. Fuck off. The day after my husband moved in with me to my apartment in February of 2005, he said something that would make me love him until the end of time. He said: “Boo, you got any laundry you need done? I have to do my work uniforms anyway, so Ill just do all our laundry. It’s no big deal.” And from that moment on, he did all of my laundry. He even folded everything. In perfect, thin, little squares. He was in the Air Force, and they had to fold everything in a very specific way for room check each morning. One time I felt guilty so I started to fold our clothes. He walked in, looked at my pathetic folding job, said:”Really?”, and then took over. What an angel. To this day, I loathe doing laundry. LOATHE IT!!!!!!
13. Onion Chopper: I did all the cooking in our marriage. Don couldn’t cook to save his life, and he loved my cooking. But I cannot chop an onion. It makes my eyes burn and hurt. Don would always ask me if there was anything he could do to help, and I always said: “Yes. You can chop the onion.” His eyes didnt burn at all and he had no effects whatsoever. Im starting to think he wasn’t human.
14. Teacher: Don knew things about random things. He was a trivia master, a weird-fact knower, and a big-time documentary watcher. A bit after he died, my brother made a statement that was so true. He said: “Whenever I was around Don, I always felt like I was learning something new.” Yes. Don taught me how to play tennis. He taught me how the scoring works too. He taught me to skeet shoot. When I was afraid in the plane, he would explain to me how the engine works and why it was very unlikely that we would crash. He taught me patience (even though Im still the most impatient person on earth, but Im trying.), kindness, and compassion. He taught me to take time to say hello or have a nice day to people. Sometimes he taught me things and I only half-listened; like how to change my tire on the car or what all the different things inside his EMS Emergency Kit did, in case I ever needed it. I really, really wish now that I had paid closer attention. Everytime I dont know something today, big or small, my first thought is always: “Well, Don would know. Let me ask him.” And then I remember that I can’t.
15. Eater of the Gross Colors: My husband and I had the perfect food relationship for sharing, especially with candy. If we got Chuckles, my favorite colors are green, orange, and yellow. He liked the red and purple ones. I hated them. Those are the gross colors, but he loved them. So he ate those, and I got the rest. M&M’s too. He liked the brown ones and would let me have the green ones, which are clearly the best ones. The best example of this sharing ritual was those bags of miniature chocolate bars that have the krackel, hershey, Mr. Goodbar, and Special Dark. Nobody actually likes Special Dark bars. Except Don. He loved those damn things. So I got the yummy Krackel while he got the gross Special Dark. Everybody was happy.
16. Political Partner and Peacemaker: Although our views do tend to depend somewhat on who is running for office, my husband and I both tended to be more democrat than anything. We walked down our street together in 2008 to the polls and voted for Obama. Most of my family, however, are republicans. Sometimes the discussions at holidays and gatherings can get heated. Don had a gift for being able to hold political discussions with people who did not agree with him, and somehow keep the peace. He also knew his facts and made tremendous points. I hate talking politics because I never feel like I can back up my thoughts with actual knowledge, but I really loved it when Don would get into it with somebody over politics. I would cheer him on in the corner as I watched him slowly render the other person speechless, but never with a condescending tone. He would somehow debate you and you wouldnt even really know it.
17. Fellow Yankee Fan / Buddy: Don got me into tennis, and I got Don into baseball. When I first met him and we would talk on the internet for hours, I would always have the Yankee game on in the background. “How can you watch that?”, he would say. “Baseball is so boring.” Boring? BORING??? Oh, you have so much to learn, young grasshopper. And with that, I taught him all about the NY Yankees. It didnt take long for him to become a bigger fan than I am. We watched every game together, and if one of us was at work, we texted back and forth the score and highlights of the games. We spent a week in Florida so we could go to Legends Field over and over and watch them play spring training. We went to many Yankee games together. We had such a blast loving baseball together. Even now, whenever I watch games at home, I still reach over to my phone, ready to text Don the great play that his favorite player Texeira just made. I havent been to Yankee Stadium since he died, and I didnt start watching the games until mid-way through this season. Some things are just tough to accept, and having nobody to commentary with during baseball is one of them.
18. Personal Pimple-Popper: Gross, I know. But that’s the point. This is what husband and wives do. They pop each other’s gross things off each other’s backs and faces. If I had a nasty pimple, he was the first one to point it out to me. “You got a big pimple on your face,” he would say ever so tactfully. “Come here, let me pop it.” And he would. I couldnt stand popping them myself, but he would do it like it was his profession. I am reminded of this today because I have a disgusting pimple on the corner of my lip, and I just cannot make myself pop it. Yuck.
19. Garbage Man: He took out the trash. Always. No questions asked.
20. Bathroom Cleaner: Again, no questions asked. When we first started living together, he said “I’ll clean the bathroom. I dont mind.” We had our rhythms. I did all the grocery shopping and cooking and most of the dishes and kitchen stuff. He did all the car stuff, trash, bathroom, and laundry. And about a million other things. Hey – sounds fair to me! It was a pretty sweet deal until he went and dropped dead on me. How rude.
21. Security Guard: No matter what the issue, big or small, when Don was around, I always felt 100% safe. Always. Losing your spouse means losing your feeling of security, safety, and that everything will be okay. These past 14 months have taught me that, no, sometimes everything is not even close to okay, but you just have to keep going anyway.
22. Reaching Things That Are Up High Guy: Don was almost 6 ft 4. I am not. Any bulbs that needed changing on our ceilings, smoke detector issues, or that casserole dish I need to use but cannot reach – Don was the guy. Countless times I called him into the kitchen and pointed to something that I could not reach. Nothing makes you feel like more of a fragile useless female than having to call your building Super everytime the lightbulb goes out in your kitchen, because you cant change it yourself.
23. Music Partner: We met in a Music Chat/Trivia Room on AOL. Talking about 1980’s music. He owned 8 guitars. I’m a singer. He loved my voice. I loved to hear him play. We made a couple recordings of me singing and him playing, just for fun, in our friend’s basement recording studio. Whenever he came home from a long workday on the ambulance, he would sit on the couch for hours and just strum that guitar. The place is silent now, his music is gone. I miss hearing the music.
24. Lifter of All Things Heavy: For the almost 7 years that Don lived here with me, during our engagement, and our marriage, I never once had to carry of lift anything that was even close to heavy. My husband did that. He was a gentleman, and that is just what he did. If I had heavy things to put in the car early in the AM, he would pack the car for me the night before, and then move the car out front so I wouldnt even have to walk across the street to the parking garage. For the past 14 months, I have used muscles I didnt even know I had. Groceries, packages, suitcases, luggage, and especially the last month or so, which was consumed by moving out of our NJ apartment, into this one here in NY. I never want to lift another thing, ever again. But, of course, I have to now.
25. Animal Specialist / Number One Kitty-Cat Dad: To say that my husband loved animals doesn’t even begin to describe it. He volenteered at animal shelters. He loved spending his time with animals. But more importantly, animals loved him. Our kitties were never happier than when they were cuddled up to him, or when he would brush them weekly. There was also a time way back when the vet told us to brush our late kitty Ginger’s teeth. I have never witnessed a cat sitting so still with absolutely no fear or panic, as I did when Don brushed Ginger’s teeth. He was magic with animals. They flocked to him, climbed him, and loved being around him. Our pets love me too, of course, but it’s just not the same. I don’t have that same magic that Don had with them. There have been many nights since he died where I would sit holding Sammy or Autumn and actually apoligize to them over and over as I cried. “I’m so sorry that I’m not Don. He was such a good Dad. I’m sorry I’m not as good. I’ll try …”
26. Professional Confidence Booster: It’s easy to feel badly about yourself, especially when you gain weight after getting married, get lazy, and stop having motivation to change. But Don would always make me feel better, saying: “I will always think you are boo-tiful”, or “You look Boo-tiful!” (Since he called me “Boo”, he would say “Boo-tiful” instead of “beautiful.” It was cute.) My husband made me want to be better. Since his death, it has become quite hard to care much what I look like. It is sort of the last thing on my mind right now, and it shows.
27. Health Insurance Provider and Half the Bills Paid Guy: Yeah. This one sucks. Aside from all the emotional hells of being without your life partner, you lose half of the income that used to come into your home, if you both worked. My health insurance was provided by my husband’s job, so when he died, that died too. Suddenly I was on my own with the bills and rent, with only my crummy salary from teaching. We also had a system for all the bills and how we split them up, so when one of the two teammates disappears with no warning, it’s hard to figure out what his system was for his bills. Days and weeks were spent just trying to figure out passwords and what bills were paid when. Incredibly stressful. I am still getting back on my feet, and the first step to doing so was to move out of our apartment and into a new one, with a roommate.
28. Future Husband / Future Life: Losing your spouse is not just about losing your past and present together. It is about losing your future. Your plans for life together. The family you wanted. The dreams and career goals and wishes you shared. Present day husband is so hard to see disappear – but even more difficult is the realization that your new future is not the one you had in mind, and it no longer includes your partner by your side. You also find yourself asking what he would have been like, had he lived to be older. What would he look like? What would you have done together in the future days and years? What might have been, is one of the saddest realities out there. It’s a hard pill to swallow.
29. My Best Friend: If you are lucky, your best friend and your spouse are the same person. In my case, I was extremely lucky. Don was the person I laughed with, dreamed with, cried with, trusted with everything, ate meals with, went to movies with, sat home bored with, made plans with, and went through life with. My best friend. To wake up one day and not have that anymore is not only shocking – it’s just plain awful.
A spouse holds many places and many purposes in your life. They are, in a sense, the other half of you, or at least, the other half of your rhythms and patterns. When you lose that, it’s like you forget how to breathe. You forget how to be. Everything becomes harder. A spouse is so many, many things. So many people are hidden inside that one person who died. When they go, you lose all of their pieces. It’s like if you had a puzzle, and suddenly dropped it down a manhole, and only one piece survived. That piece is you, and all the rest are gone. You find yourself doing the job of what feels like 47 different people. You have to do things you are not used to doing – AND you are grieving. After the last 14 months, it really is no wonder Im so damn exhausted. Taking on all these roles is draining, and often feels impossible. Honestly – at this point – I just would like to take a nap for a couple of hours – or months. Maybe a year. Seriously, just let me sleep. I am really, really tired.