Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Eve Traditions

Do good, and good will be done to you.

It had become somewhat of a tradition. I'm sure we missed a few years here and there, but otherwise, New Year's Eve Ghon and I went to Carrabas for dinner.  He often joked that an hour wait, spent at the bar with a bourbon, in 2007 resulted in Jonathan in September  2008.

He must have been onto something. More bourbon at Carrabas in 2009 resulted in Genevieve in September 2010.

It all started because of Christmas gift cards from our friends Scott and Jen Thompson. And our love for the appetizer called "Scott Thompson."  I think Ghon laughed a little every time we ordered it, even when it was no longer on the menu.

We still had a gift card when Ghon died. While moving and packing it up months ago, I decided that no matter what, I was going to Carrabas on NYE and I was going to buy someone dinner. Another couple, and spread the love. I didn't initially plan on taking the kids, but decided today that they too should go and help me on our secret mission.

I wanted the kids to experience how nice it can be to do things for others. How awesome it would be to surprise someone with a free meal. And that the recipient, now not having to pay for dinner, may give their waitstaff extra. As a result of our gift, we would feel awesome, the recipient would feel amazing and possibly, the waitstaff, and maybe, just maybe, the recipient would then pay it forward and more people would benefit.

Off we went. Call ahead seating, 5 minute wait. Genevieve in her normal fashion needed to go to the bathroom as soon as we arrived, so Jonathan and I started looking for recipients of our secret gift as we walked through and waited. Another trip halfway through dinner and I felt like I found my couple.

I originally thought it would be just a couple. Perhaps someone that reminded me of how we would be. Dressed up but not to fancy. Talking. Obviously a couple. But, I saw a couple there with their young child. So many times it was hard for us to go out without kids. I remember going out and having that messy spaghetti face beside me. I know that I will always be dining out with my kids.  I suggested them to the kids, and they agreed.

Now, not the norm for a secret or random act like this, but before we went out, I wrote a note. I don't know what I wrote word for word, but basically it went something like this:

It was a tradition for many years for my husband and I to have dinner at Carrabas on New Year's Eve. This year, he couldn't make it as he died unexpectedly this summer. Live each day to the fullest. Love each other completely and faithfully. Your meal is on me. Take care of your waitstaff. Be kind to others. God bless you and Happy New Year.

I went to the hostess stand, and asked for their help. Deliver the note anonymously and give me the check. A few minutes later, their waiter brought me their bill, and verified it was me who wanted it. A manager came by on his way around to ask if I should stay anonymous as they wanted to know who paid for their bill. I asked to please stay anonymous.  I paid the bill, and decided to be safe, and still left a little something for the waiter. 

The kids just giggled at the secret we were keeping.

My waitress comes and was going to take the bill. I said mentioned it was for another table, and that we hadn't received ours yet, but were ready. Her reply?

"Someone has already taken care of your bill."

I was so shocked I couldn't speak. When she came back by, I tried to find out who. Turns out it was a table near us, but they were already gone. Not knowing if they covered gratuity, I estimated our bill and gave a tip to our waitress, and we left with full bellies and fuller hearts.

The kids think it's quite silly that we paid for a stranger's dinner and a stranger paid for ours. I'd love to know if somehow, it kept going. Or will continue another day.

Perhaps, we will go back and do dinner or lunch again. Since my dinner was paid for, I still have that gift card I walked in with.

Thanks Ghon, for going to Carrabas with me all these years. I think I'll keep going. 

Happy New Year friends. Be the good in the world; the world needs it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Death in 2016

2016 has been a year of tremendous loss when it comes to musicians and actors. I remember David Bowie dying, then Prince. I'm not sure why, but I was shocked. I recall taking to Ghon about Prince. Nothing too specific, more about not knowing who he was since he was so private or what songs he wrote that I never realized. I listened to tributes and dedicated stations on the radio.

And then, Ghon died.

I had some people to talk to. Memories to share. A celebration of his life. And while I continue on, and some people still let me know they are around, or still grieve for him, many others have moved on.

When I found out that George Michael died a few days ago, on Christmas day, I was shocked. My first reaction was WHAT? NO! My second, was “I wonder if Ghon knows…I need to tell him….” I'm sure he'd have something snarky to say; he was far from a Wham! or George Michael fan and often poked fun at me, probably because he liked to see me get all worked up and angry and defensive over my choice in music preferences. Two days later, there’s another celebrity death. And another. Social media explodes again. Quotes, memes and stories about how these celebrities impacted their lives flood the internet. Just like I did when Ghon died.

People quip how 2016 sucks, and how they can’t wait for the year to be over, all in response to the number of celebrities that lost their lives this year.  I can’t help but to feel a little hurt when I see this. Yea, it sucks. These people will never make a movie, or cause tabloid headlines, or more importantly to me, create amazing music. I’m going to try not to belittle anyone’s loss, or how the death of these celebrities impacts them. I have listened to Wham! or George Michael all day, and will likely have him on heavy rotation the next few days. It’s my way of remembering him, yet, not really far from norm for me. He's always in my rotation.

Yet, when I see people cringing over the prospect of any more loss in 2016, or the hope for better luck in 2017 for celebrity health, there is part of me that wants to scream. My friend lost her father this year. Two others lost their mother. My children and stepchildren lost their father. I lost my husband. My husband. Despite the sometimes rocky relationship we had, the man I spent more than half of my life with. The man I committed myself to and lived with. ‘Til death do us part. I don’t have my best friend. My companion, my rock. My kids do not have their father. Their beacon of strength and safety. For this, I can’t stand hearing how the death of celebrities makes this such a horrible year.

News flash people, we all die. We will all meet the same fate. In the end, regardless if it is an accident, intentional, or negligence in our own self-care, we will die.  Just because these people entertained us and became famous doesn’t make their death any more important than anyone else’s death. True, more people will feel the impact. More people will mourn. We won’t be entertained in the same way. These things don’t make their death more important or less important than Ghon’s. Sure, we won’t know what movies they won’t appear in. We likely won’t know what song won’t be recorded – yet, there are dead musicians having albums released, so we may still get more music. But Ghon’s kids – they won’t have him at their weddings. He won’t be at their graduations. He wasn’t able to be a grandfather. He can’t teach them to shoot, to hunt, to drive, to appreciate the outdoors. He can’t teach Jonathan how to shave. He can’t intimidate Genevieve’s first boyfriends. These are things that we KNOW won’t happen. I lost my biggest cheerleader. My #1 supporter.  Just a little different from living with the death of a celebrity.  If you were related to or a close friend of a deceased celebrity – you get a pass. You’re not dealing with the death of a celebrity – but of a friend or relative.

Experiences make us grow if we let them. Not just death, but make-ups, break-ups, births of our children, marriage, divorce, friendships made, friendships lost, change in jobs, you name, it – you live it – if you let it – every experience can make or break you. Ghon’s death won’t break me. I have two little people that depend on me now  more than ever. I’m not sure if it will make me – but it has, and will continue to make me different from who I was. I’m simply not the same person, and struggle some days with my new identity. Just one example for you. Think about your basic survey forms. Chose one please.
·         Single
·         Married
·         Divorced

Well, hells bells. When I woke up June 18, 2016, I was married. I went to bed a widow. Not a standard option. What do you choose? If widowed happens to be there, it’s easy. When it’s not, I have think about the purpose of the form and then choose. I still wear my wedding band, but legally, or for taxation purposes, this chick is single. After 21 years, that is so hard to say.

George is pumping through my ears right now. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to see him live. I love music and seeing live shows. Seriously, I have music notes tattooed behind my ear, not because I play, but because I love to listen. To sing in the car at the top of my lungs. (Because my sister ruined singing in the shower for me when I was a kid, but that’s a different story). Music moves me. I have my go to songs for invoking joy, those that wake me, those that make me want to run (and I’m not a runner), songs that will make me cry, songs that are relaxing and those that are great for background noise. Music creates memories.

Thanks to our experiences, at different points in our lives, lyrics may take on new meaning. They may have never meant to me what they meant to their author – and that’s OK. Music is about expression.  Songs that may have made me smile before may now make me cry. I sometimes feel lyrics differently.

This George Michael song, Waiting for That Day, was always a favorite of mine. It’s from the Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1 album. Released in 1991, I was oh, about 14 years old. Oh to lament about break-ups…such a great song. And while I still see it as a breakup song, there are lines, bolded below, that bring me to instant tears today. I’d listened to it a few weeks ago, or maybe a couple months ago, and it had the same impact. I've had to wipe my tears before getting out of my car, dab them away in my cube and dash to the bathroom to check my face. Emotion. Emotion is real and necessary.
(Go ahead and click on that link and listen along...let me know if you don't cry while remembering a loved one - whether they be gone by choice or by death.)

So every day I see you in some other face
They crack a smile, talk a while
Try to take your place
My memory serves me far too well

I just sit here on this mountain thinking to myself
You're a fool boy
Why don't you go down
Find somebody
Find somebody else
My memory serves me far too well

It's not as though we just broke up
It's not as though it was yesterday
But something I just can't explain
Something in me needs this pain
I know I'll never see your face again

C'mon now
I've got to be strong now

Now everybody's talking about this new decade
Like you say the magic numbers
Then just say goodbye to
The stupid mistakes you made
Oh my memory serves me far too well

Don't you know that
The years will come and go
Some of us will change our lives
Some of us still have nothing to show
Nothing baby
But memories

And if these wounds
They are self-inflicted
I don't really know
How my poor heart could have protected me

But if I have to carry this pain
If you will not share the blame
I deserve to see your face again

C'mon now
You don't have to be so strong now

Come back
Come back to me darling
I will make it worth your while
Come back to your baby
I miss your kiss
I miss your smile

Seems to me the peace I search to find
Ain't going to be mine until you say you will
Don't you keep me waiting for that day
I know, I know, I know
You hear these words that I say
You can't always get what you want.

I miss Ghon terribly. I ‘survived’ his birthday. I ‘survived’ the 6 month anniversary. I ‘survived’ Christmas. Of course I survived. But the pain – the pain is real. I know I have friends that tell me I can talk to them at any time. But sometimes, I just don’t want to talk. I think I moved through so much early as a result of shock. I need to feel the pain now. And there are times that I do talk about Ghon, but the times I hurt – I’m not sure there is anything to say. It’s just like the times where Jonathan just looks at me and says, “I miss Daddy”, and all I can do is respond with “me too.”  What is there to talk about? I know despite him not being here physically, he is here in Spirit.  I will see him again one day. I’m not trying to rush that time at all, but if I could get what I wanted, he’d be here now. And I can’t get what I want.

Yes, 2016 has sucked if you were an aging celebrity. It seems to suck even more since so many "idols" are, well, older. Madonna and Betty White need to watch their backs for the next three days. 

But 2016 also sucks when you are suddenly a single mom of two living in a farmhouse made for 4+ in a country town when you are city girl and have a fear of snakes, mice, bad guys and no clue about septic systems, creaky noises and are cold at night. 

But 2016, well, 2016 has also been a good year. I am now living in a farmhouse with my kids that my husband and I worked so hard on for so long. I've sent mice to mouse heaven, found septic companies and bought down blankets and long underwear. I have friends help me prescreen the attic for snakes. My kids are learning to face fears, to live, love and remember, and to be thankful. We've seen an outpouring of love and support, made new friends and strengthened other relationships. I got a new job and my very own mortgage (who, other than me, celebrates stuff like that?). Ghon was battling a long seeded depression and was getting help. He was enjoying his photography and making plans to transition into full-time farming. He was getting his health issues fixed - until unknown and unexpected complications from that fix took his life. 

But with his death, he found freedom. Freedom from the physical pain he suffered since I'd known him. From the mental anguish - never feeling like he was good enough. He is reunited with his parents and grandparents, who meant the world to him. He's free - from all the stress he felt or created here. He's finally free. And with his freedom, he's given me freedom. I've lived for so long with my identity defined by the kids and Ghon that I have no clue who I am. He's given me the chance, even in death, to figure how who I am. And doing that without him - as twisted as that sounds - is so hard. I just don't know where to begin.

So 2016; you've been a very weird year and well, for the most part, I am glad to see you end and am ready for 2017.

With every end, there is a new beginning. As with every death; an end - there is life; a beginning. 

Peace and love to all of you that finished reading this rambling. May you find hope in the beginning each end brings to you.