Today is George’s birthday. I’m feeling his absence a lot today. There’s this hollowness inside me I can’t fill. It’s almost like his death is very real today, which is odd because I know he’s not coming back. But I can’t explain it. I feel very off and sad. This morning I watched a video we had made when we used to blog, and it made me so happy to hear his voice, and see him smile. But then it’s gone. I have to search for it if I want to hear it. I allowed my mind to float back in time to when we grabbed a cab to his birthday party in K-town. We had just started dating and it was carefree, wonderful, and fleeting. I was embarrassed by the age difference, but I couldn’t get enough of him. I miss his sense of humor, I miss his lightheartedness, I miss his laughter, I miss his sense of calmness through all the chaos. I miss him so much. But I’m so thankful I got to be with him.
I turned 30 years old yesterday. George and I used to talk about my 30th birthday a lot. He said he was going to throw me a party for it, and for some reason I’ve always looked forward to turning 30. When I took the job here at Huntingdon College, the moment I signed my lease to my sweet apartment, I promised myself I was going to party in Nashville. Which is only 4 hours north of here.
So why Nashville? I am a Andrew Jackson fan. The Jacksonian era is my favorite time in American history, and he’s also my favorite president and politician. I wanted to ring in this new lease on life with my favorite president. When looking for activities to do, and things to see in Nashville besides Jackson’s Hermitage, I discovered that there was going to be a half marathon on Halloween. Ring in my 30s by running one last half marathon in my 20s? Oh hell yeah.
So I signed up for the race, booked a great hotel near Vanderbilt, and the birthday weekend festivities started to roll forward. Accompanying me was my Airman who I met down here in Montgomery in the dog park. Jackson was my favorite president and commander, Mike is my favorite Airman and fellow history nerd. Made sense.
Are you still with me? I’m sorry for the long drawn out anecdote in the beginning. We’ll get the birthday party crasher, President James Garfield.
I’ve had a lot of luck in the dating game. Beginning of this year I was seeing Tom, and due to taking the job in Alabama we broke up. Not on bad terms. Upon moving here, I wound up at the dog park on the hottest damn Sunday of the summer, and I met Mike. We’ve been dating ever since. I do recognize if the circumstances of my life didn’t go the way they did, neither Tom or Mike would be in my life. I remember standing outside one evening in the Alabama humidity and asked George to show me a sign if I’m making the right choices in my life, whether it’s dating, professional, emotional, etc. I just wanted him to show me a sign. I then forgot about it for awhile, and then came Packet Pick up mayhem of October 31, 2015.
I got to the packet pick up late on the day of the race. T-minus 20 minutes before start time. I was freaking out. But Mike was there to calm me down, and make fun of my annoying chirping of “where’s packet pick up?” We found the tent, and I gave my name and the woman handed me my bib number: 1881
As I was running I started thinking about 1881. Who was president? Was it our 19th president Rutherford B Hayes? Or was it Garfield? Maybe Chester A Arthur? But then my head went clear and I realized why 1881 was such a gnarly year. It was the year Garfield was assassinated. No joke, I had to hold back my tears. I love history, I really do, but I also recognize not many people love it as much as me, so I try to keep it together. But when I went out to Cleveland with George in 2010 we visited the cemetery where James Garfield is buried. It was the only time we went to a tomb of president.
Such an eerie coincidence right? No it gets weirder. I make no bones about it. The number 19 is my favorite number, so what does this have to do with our 20th president? He was born on November 19th, and he died on September 19th. For those new to my widow blog, I married George on September 19th.
I’m a firm believer in signs. I feel like here and there George will put markers out for me to know he’s still with me. But he provided me with the surprise of James Garfield on my birthday weekend. I see this and I can’t help but think, yes the puzzle pieces are slowly fitting together and I like what I’m seeing.
My grief has been bubbling to the surface more, and I know it’s because I’m entering that stretch of time where I remember the days leading to George’s death. My wedding reception is October 19th and I still remember the drive back to Connecticut on October 17th. A Thursday. And how George couldn’t stay awake for the whole trip so I remember singing along to Duran Duran. The days are like crystal heading into those final weeks in November. The mind is interesting like that. I want these memories to vanish, but they are the most vivid. It’s like I close my eyes and I’m watching a movie of my life.
This year the anxiety is more powerful than last. Last year was the first anniversaries and I didn’t know what to expect. So I walked cautiously and tip toed around anything that could be a possible trigger. This year the streets are filled with land mines. Various words are like grenades and arbitrary memories are shrapnel piercing my will to move forward. I miss him like crazy. I miss the life we had and the life we were supposed to build. But I’m grateful I got to experience a love like his. Because without it I wouldn’t be so damn determined to push along. To hope the next hour or day will be better.
My 30th birthday is in 2 weeks and I decided to treat myself to a trip to Nashville. It will be my last weekend in my 20s and I am going out in fashion. Three things I love: fitness, history and halloween, and I know George will be with me throughout the weekend. My favorite holiday is halloween, I love fitness and will be running a half marathon, and my favorite era in history is the Jacksonian era and I will be in the city of my favorite president, Andrew Jackson. I can’t think of a better way to cap off my 20’s and head into my 30s. I love that man so much for all the love we share and how it still propels me forward to do great things and be the best version of myself. I want to make him proud and if he catches a glimpse of me, he can smile and say “yeah that’s my wife.”
It’s been quite awhile since I’ve updated this thing. I was planning on updating this with a post near George’s birthday back on July 12th, but I ran into some physical issues right around then. Basically my knees started hurting in ways I have never felt before, and I was certain that I blew out my meniscus or ACL in some unexplained way. But now 3 weeks later, I feel much better but still suffer a little bit. Turns out it’s from the flight mixed with hiking. Okay, moving on:
George’s birthday landed on a Sunday this year and it was the same weekend as a big lacrosse tournament out in Colorado so I basically spent his weekend in Colorado. I had never been to Colorado, and George and I had talked about vacationing there, so I made sure to attend this tournament and then honor him on his birthday. For those of you who have read this from way back when I first started this blog, I recall flying over the Rocky Mountains the first Christmas I spent without George and staring down at the mountains and seeing them in all their beauty and glory. Then finally in June of 2014, I headed to Switzerland and went into the Alps and once again I yearned to visit the Rockies. George and I hiked in New Mexico and I remember how wonderful it was trekking through the mountains with him and seeing the snow, or trekking down to a hot spring. It always felt so mystical. So finally, I grabbed a flight and booked a hotel and it was Colorado full speed ahead.
On his birthday, I wanted to be in the Rockies, not some strange tributary (I don’t know the correct word for this) off of it. So I looked at a map for a good point of attack and there it was: Georgetown. I got in the car and I drove almost 2 hours upward to the little valley where Georgetown rested. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL! Not only that but strangely enough Georgetown was known for it’s incredible meatballs (George loved meatballs, vegan or not), and the elevation was 8,519ft. Why is this 8,519 a special number, I’m sure many are wondering. Well because George graduated from HS in 1985 the same year I was born. We found that funny. Number 19 is my favorite number and oddly enough George’s HS hockey number, so we made sure to get married on the 19th. Plus there was this crazy bike race going on that day, and we all know George loved bikes. So there you have it, 8519 glared at me as if I was meant to be there. As if George was waiting for me to finally arrive in Georgetown. I walked all over the little town, and finally I headed toward the Rockies. I brought some of George’s cremations with me so he could enjoy the experience with me as well. And together we climbed 12,000ft and enjoyed the picturesque backdrop I knew these magical mountains would provide. It was beautiful, and the greatest way I could have imagined spending his 48th birthday.
Tomorrow is my birthday. Last year I traveled to Maryland on my birthday for a recruiting tournament. When I got back I was in a cranky mood and was just so stand offish to George. I wanted to go out to dinner on my birthday and I didn’t want to go out to the place he wanted to go and I remember getting so fed up with him. Finally we ordered out and ate dinner at home and watched TV together.
If I could go back in time, I would have never gone to that tournament. Because of that tournament it has changed my entire perspective on the recruiting process and how I do my job in general. I remember my last birthday with George as a negative memory, and it’s damning to me. To make a long story short, I will spend time with the people I love and cherish my time so I do not have regret later on.
Anyway, every time it was my birthday I would ask him if he still loved me as much at the older age than the younger. So I would ask him tomorrow if he preferred me at 28 or at 29. He always said the older age.
As I keep getting older he will be frozen in time at 46. I hate the feeling that as I keep aging, it closes the gap. I will be 17 years separated from him now.
There’s a feeling of loneliness swelling inside of me tonight. Tomorrow is going to be a very difficult day. I’m just really sad about growing old without George.
The end of October heading into November is my favorite time of year. I love the colors, smell, festiveness, basketball, cool weather, and everything involving pumpkins and cinnamon. I love the Fall. Halloween and Thanksgiving are two of my favorite holidays and they are less than a month apart. My birthday is November 2nd, and 2 days before Thanksgiving this year is George’s death anniversary. Unfortunately the grim reaper will linger for much longer than just Halloween night. My grief has been getting worse, and it’s impacting my routines. I’m crying in public again, which in itself is humiliating for me because I hate feeling weak. I’ve been shutting my office door more often and I’ve been becoming more reclusive at night. When I go out I need to be home by 10p so I can just be.
I’ve read that heading to the first death anniversary is the hardest time, but I thought I could be the exception. But I’m okay. It’s okay it will crush me all over again. I have different weaponry and perspective than I did the first time around, but unfortunately the reality of this emotional uncertainty is the way of life for a bit. Try explaining that to colleagues. You may have forgotten I’m widowed, but when I go home and cook a meal for one, go to bed alone and wake up on George’s side of the bed, I have that excruciating reminder every day. I put on a good face and take my position in the foxhole knowing I’ll be stronger later.
This morning when I looked at the young widow board a woman posed a question I cannot stop thinking about: “What’s the one thing you’ve turned to during this time of loss that has given you the most comfort and hope to keep moving forward?” She’s not asking for what people are doing to cope with grief because there’s an endless array of combative strategies. I’ve adopted fitness as my strategy to deal with my loss. But the thing that gives me comfort and hope… That’s what had me humming and hawing.
I work out to make myself feel better. I work out to change my body. I work out to focus. I work out to be different than I was before. I work out to control my grief.
When I became more involved with fitness and training, I wished for my body to change. And it did. I’m not physically the same person I was when I was with George. But I had a dream several weeks ago where I visited him in the hospital and he didn’t recognize me. I cannot believe I didn’t write about this yet! I kept trying to explain to him it was me, but George just didn’t recognize me, and finally I went out with my grandfather (who passed away in 2011) for pizza in NYC. So with a drawn out anecdote, I don’t think fitness provides me comfort– at least not in the way I want.
I believe I’ve found different avenues that have given me hope to keep moving forward. My lacrosse team being one of the most important and ever glowing beacon of hope. But as I reflect on what has provided me comfort, I think it’s another sad realization the feeling and idea of comfort is eluding me. But I also may be preventing myself from becoming comfortable. It may be time for a visit to the grief counselor.
Today would have been George’s 47th birthday. The lead up to this day had been very placid. I knew it was coming but I had the mindset that I would treat it like any other day. His family had organized a second memorial service for him in Ohio, which I made the decision not to go to. It’s what his family needed for closure and I felt it was in my best interest not to go. I’m in a good place I’m my life and have made a lot of progress. The thing about funerals is that I was numb when we had his in December. I am no longer numb and to relive his death would have obliterated me.
I really had no anticipation for this day. I tried with all my might to make it just another day and hoped to just glide through it. As I was gliding, I ended up face planting instead. I remembered all his birthdays in NYC where he threw himself a birthday party. I never met someone who loved birthdays more than George. When I visited him for the 4th of July in 2009, the morning I had to go back to Connecticut he asked me if I wanted to come back for his birthday the following weekend. I said of course. He used to say when I agreed to come back for his birthday that’s when he knew we were in love. He had so much allure, and I couldn’t stay away. I used to miss him before I even boarded the train back home. I love him so much.
For his birthday today I went for a walk with my cousin this morning and we caught up on life and everything in between. It was really nice and comforting. Afterwards I went to the gym to occupy my mind. As I was doing cardio on the bike I couldn’t avoid crying. I miss him so much and all I want is to have him back. When I get really sad when thinking about George, I tend to go overboard with my workouts. So after cardio I did circuit training for a little over an hour. My arms and shoulders are pretty sore, but I was no longer stuck in the dark abyss which takes over my mind when these horrid lows come. After the gym I met up with one of my good high school friends and we just chatted about grief and getting by alone and how difficult it is. My friend and I are in very different situations but they have similar qualities and it’s nice to have someone to talk to who can relate on some grounds. Later in the evening I found out my other cousin had her second child today. Hearing this news I quickly became distant and sullen. I don’t understand why so many life events in my family has to take place around major events in my life. Can’t the world just cease to turn for a day so I can grieve in peace? When these things happen I pull further away from those people. I need to take care of myself.
Even a wid friend called me today to make sure I’m doing okay with this first birthday event. It’s really heartwarming to know people care and it did perk me up as the night wore on. I just miss George so much and I know he would have thrown himself a memorable birthday celebration today. 5 years ago he brought me to Weehawken to go to the Aaron Burr/Alexander Hamilton dual site and then we went to Ktown for karaoke. It was an amazing day, and I wish I could travel back in time to it and stay there forever. To have him to hold and to be so helplessly in love.
Behind my eyes, there’s an endless montage of pictures. On occasion, I stop to look at one of the images that cuts across my vision, and depending what’s there, I can instantly be brought to tears. When I’m participating in physical activity- like running, the montage quickly turns into a flip book and a hurricane of bi-polar emotions makes landfall. There’s nothing more embarrassing than whimpering on the elliptical machine, and then having a full break down while stretching. “She lost her husband, how unfortunate to hear.” “She’s so young too.”
I started packing my apartment up today. I should use the word “started” very loosely. I attempted to pack my apartment up today. That’s better and more accurate. I was able to do 2 bins worth before I found the birthday card George gave me on my 28th birthday… which was 23 days before he died. Yeah, this shitstorm happened really fast. Just to give a quick synopsis for any new readers:
- married 9/19
- wedding reception 10/19
- honeymoon 10/21-10/25
- 28th birthday 11/2
- hospitalized 11/15
- at home hospice 11/19 (2 months of marriage for you mathletes)
- death 11/25
At first I thought the card might have been from my parents, so I opened it up, and when I realized it was the card George gave me, wow did I lose it. Even my dog was worried, he jumped on the bed and was barking at me in a high pitch. “What’s wrong! Don’t cry! Pet me!” When I collected myself I put the card in the bin I was preparing and then I saw a journal George got me and I opened it up and the first page said “Julia- you’re my favorite story. Keep writing it down. All my love, George.” Well, that was a sign. Stop packing and write. So here I am, writing.
There was one image that popped up a lot today and it was when we picnicked in Prospect Park. We used to grab sandwiches at La Bagel Delight or S’Nice and walk to Prospect Park with our dog and just lay a blanket on the grass, eat and then cuddle. Sometimes the horseback riders would trot by, and Bodie would perk up and examine the enormous dog-like things clopping by. We then would take Bodie to the doggie pond and he would splash into the water carefree until we had to pull him out. Reciting this memory, I can feel the sunlight hitting my skin. I can smell the pollen in the air, and hear the laughter of people walking by when they would stop to see the little terrier going nuts in the water. I miss holding his hand, in the special way that we did because I hated sweaty palms. I loved how much bigger his hand was to mine, and how when he would hold on to it I felt instantly protected and safe. I miss how he would always grab my butt at inappropriate times. I want to hear his voice telling me how beautiful I am. Instead, I have pictures and notes that will remind me of those fortunate times we had together. No new memories will be made, but all I can do is immerse myself in what we had. But all I want is to have him back. How fortunate am I? I’m in love with memories.
Last night I was finally at peace. My head was resting on George’s shoulder as he was typing away on his computer. He was putting the finishing touches on his script, and I kept reaching over trying to fold his computer, and get him to turn the lights off and go to sleep. He was playfully pushing my hand away, and said “I have until midnight to finish.” My warmth, and full heart was quickly shattered by my apartment’s fire alarm. My mind was mendacious and brought me hope. This sliver of hope was a horrid disappointment when I woke up shivering and my head was resting on George’s empty pillow and my right arm stretched over to where he would usually be. Devastation doesn’t even begin to describe it. I felt like I had entered Armageddon. The fury that surged through my body that moment I realized I was alone, can only be like someone who’s extremely dehydrated and they think they find a well to only realize it’s been filled in with cement. I’ve had emotional pain, but this was the first time it actually caused physical. My chest was aching and my limbs trembling. I wanted that dream to be my reality so badly.
As more days come in-between the last time I was with him, I’m starting to think more and more about how going on without him will become more challenging. Life does go on, and I accept that. But he was my life. We were beginning to build our lives together. We were supposed to get into irrational arguments and then make up over cups of tea while watching Modern Family. We were supposed to go to the dog park together and watch our fur-child play with other mongrels. He was supposed to drag me out to concerts and plays to expand my mind, and I was supposed to drag him to basketball and lacrosse games to expand his manliness. We were supposed to travel to LA for the holidays. We were supposed to continue enjoying our time together, because every moment was blissful.
I know I’m supposed to not dwell on the time I’m losing by losing him but cherish the memories we had together, but some days I can cope with it better than others. My mind, body and emotions are capricious and difficult to sort through. Today is one of them.
On my way to work, I was a mess, but I started thinking about his first birthday we spent together. It brought me happiness to think about it. His birthday is on July 12th. For any American history fans, this is the same day of the infamous Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton duel in Weehawken, NJ in 1804. George knew I loved Aaron Burr, so he planned for us to go visit the duel site. We took the ferry over to Weehawken, and it was a gorgeous summer day. Sun was bright, the clouds looked like they were painted in the sky, and the air was not too thick with humidity. When we got to Weehawken, the dock was below a massive cliff and I remembered that the duel site was on top of the cliff. So we immediately started scaling these steep staircases to get to the top. When we got to the top of the cliff there’s a bust of Alexander Hamilton indicating it was the duel site, and when we took a picture, the face of Hamilton was crying. But off in the distance was a wedding. Looking back at that day, I do think it was a little foretelling. With complete joy, the shadow of anguish lurks.
Dear George, I’ve always wanted to tell you that, you’re the greatest man I’ve ever met and you brought the best out of me. You made me the happiest woman in the world, and seeing your face when I got off the train at Grand Central stirred up feelings I never knew I had. Moving in with you was the second best day of my life, but marrying you was hands down the best day and best decision I ever made.
I’m too emotional to continue. I’m sorry. 2 pictures today