Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Beginning of the Last Year

I took down my 2006 wall calendar today and I read all the notations I had scribbled in each little square beginning with January. Clueless me, innocent me, poor widow me was completely blind to what was to come.

I turned over the January page to the February page to the March page and I felt my left eye twitch as I tried to stare at April. January was filled with fun stuff and mundane happenings "Home from Atlantic City" (January 1st) or "Eyebrow consult 2PM" (January 12th) We saw Jersey Boys on the 10th and had dinner with our friends Jade and Gary on the 28th.

Hair was a big item on my calendar for January, February and March. If I wasn't cutting it I was coloring it or having it blown out or straighened. Admittedly, by May I was pretty much back to the same schedule. I just had no one at home to tell me how pretty it looked or

"What the hell did you do to your hair this time?"

There was a wine tasting at the Friars Club on February 7th that I dragged him to. I'm sure I dragged him to see Jersey Boys, too. I was the dragger and Jimmy was the draggie.

We rarely acknowledged Valentine's Day with anything more than a card but this February Jimmy bought me a gorgeous diamond necklace. I remember thinking, "hmmm...Could he be feeling guilty about something?" Now, of course, I wonder if he sensed something.

"Leave for Florida" is written in on February 24th and I am grateful for this because he loved Floriduh and this time he was the dragger. I agree with comedian Paula Poundstone who says, "Florida juds out too far on map. It makes me want to chop it off and let it drift off into the ocean."

I dragged him home on March 1st. In between, we really did have fun, visiting his brother Robert and our friends Blondie and Barry and my cousins. He seemed fine. He sheepishly bought another horse while we were down there. Maybe that's why he got me the diamond necklace. It turns out I was jealous of a filly.

I went to an Oscar party at a restaurant with my gay nephew on March 5th. We were thrilled. After all, to women and gay men the Academy Awards is the Superbowl. Jimmy was thrilled to stay home. "Go and have fun. You know I hate award shows and anyway I don't feel that well."

First doctor appointment is marked on Thursday, the 9th. His brother Charlie's 65th birthday party was that Saturday, the 11th. He was tired, but he drove the 45 minutes. He didn't feel up to going out for our traditional dinner with the kids on his birthday. That was the 14th of March. I thought he had a virus.

The next day Jimmy had a cat scan. After that, less than a month before he died, I stopped writing in the calendar. I stopped making plans for us.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Day After Christmas

The holiday I dreaded is over and I feel sadder than I have in weeks. Today it hit me that I didn't only need to get through this Christmas without Jimmy. This is forever. I need to get through all my remaining Christmases without him.

I tried to make it easier by having no tree or decorations in my house. It kinda sorta worked in a way. This is the first year I don't have to concern myself with poinsettias that refuse to die until President's week. Jimmy couldn't bear to discard a living thing so by the end of January I'd begin to sneak them out in a hefty bag along with old newspapers and chicken bones. They had to go. Red leaves don't belong in a house full of earth tones.

Two weeks before Christmas the cemetery people mailed me an ornament in the shape of a wreath and in the center in gold it read James Scibelli 1950-2006. Being treeless I hung it over a framed picture of Jimmy. It felt right, respectful, my only decoration and easy to put away.

It's a strange feeling to be done with Christmas as soon as Christmas is over. I even left Christmas Day leftovers at Jackie's house although there wasn't much to pack up. Jimmy's brothers vacuumed up the lasagna and the beef tenderloin and the shrimp in a valiant effort to make up for the portions Jimmy would have scuffed down.

We all claimed we forgot our cameras on Christmas Eve. The truth is we went out to dinner with our heads down because no self respecting Italian family dines out on the 24th. Even Skylar covered. When the waitress said "Merry Christmas" she responded, "And, Happy Hanukkah."

As a Jew, I'd go anywhere for a meal, but since becoming a Scibelli 30 something years ago I've been inundated to slave over a stove and then set the table carefully with the good china reserved for the four main events - Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas and Easter.

In between the unusual quiet and the palatable sadness Skylar would squeal for joy to remind us that all this was new to her. Yesterday was the first of her Christmas memories and we struggled to stay in the moment to make them with her. Next year will be easier. And, next year I'll put up a tree.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Taking A Bullet For Each Other

The last session I had with Jean she used a word I didn't know. I did my best imitation of an intelligent person, but I'm afraid she's smart enough to realize I'm not.

I confessed to her this week. I had to. I had missed the complete content of her wisdom by not understanding that one word.

"Uh, I have to ask you, used a word last week. I know it started with an 'm'."

Jean looked at me blankly until her expression told me to give her more.

"We were talking about how people react and respond on the basis of how they've heard they're supposed to..." This was stupid. Now, I'm was wasting today's session.

"Oh, you mean market place thinking?"

"That's not a word."

"Who said it was a word? It's my own expression. It means the way the masses think they should think."

"Market place thinking. That was it."

Jean has nice straight teeth. She showed me all of them when she laughed in my face. Nice reaction from a bereavement shrink.

She's had thousands of 'patients' over the years and became a widow herself some 30 years ago when she was 43. She's acutely aware of the many paths grieving takes. Her market place thinking phrase was in response to my rant.

"About three years ago we were with my cousins and somehow the conversation
became 'Would you take a bullet for your spouse?' Everyone said they would, but Jimmy. Can you believe that?"

Jean shrugged.

"No, no...listen to what he said. He said, "Why would I take a bullet for you? I've got a lot of living to do."

Jean smirked. I thought the smirk meant the irony wasn't lost on her. Nooo... she was smirking at me. In just a few moments this became clear.

"I remember saying, "We don't exactly live in a neighborhood with drive by shootings every other day. Lie to me! Then, Jimmy challenged me, 'Come on, you would take a bullet for me?' And, I said, 'Of course, I would. How could I live with myself if I didn't?"

Finally, Jean jumped in, "Well, here you are living, aren't you?" she said.

It wasn't a drive by shooting that killed Jimmy and I didn't skirt my opportunity to save him, but Jean explained that while Jimmy's comment would dim his chances for getting laid that night he was the most honest person in the room.

"I've worked with thousands (that's how I knew this) not hundreds of people who have lost their husbands or wives, even parents who lost children. The market place
thinking is that they can't go on. Guess what? No suicides in all those years."

Okay. So, I can live without him, but I didn't know this until I had to. How come Jimmy knew he could live without me?

I comfort myself by fantasizing if I had died he would have become Jean's first suicide. Romantic, eh?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Shrinking About It

At first I was embarrassed to mention here that I've been seeing a bereavement shrink because I had such a negative experience and hated everyone in my first group. And, then again in my second group

I took a shot with Jean because I liked her no nonsense attitude on the phone. I cautiously told her I didn't make it past the third session in two bereavement groups like I was confessing I flunked out of high school. I immediately saw that going one on one with her would earn me my G.E.D.

She bad mouthed my first group (she knew organization by reputation) This took the heat off me and we were instantly aligned through mutual hate. And when I told her my second group was comprised of people 150 years old she groaned and said "Their experience is nothing like yours."

I knew that deep down, I told her. I knew I was fooling myself when I said we were all the same age in grieving years. I felt her rolling her eyes and now after three sessions I see that she rolls them often.

In between rolling her eyes Jean gives me analogies. I love analogies. Easy to remember and it all sinks in. The first analogy she put out there was to think of my family like a boat. The captain has fallen overboard and drown.

Me, the first mate is to step up to the helm - not the son (which often happens if you let it) and not the son-in-law because well, because he's the son-in-law and could be digitally removed from all photos and replaced with a plant.
Jean didn't go into such detail but I did and she rolled her eyes.

Jean told me about the thousands of widows she has seen over the years and how different each person grieves. (she didn't list them) I told her I feel like Jimmy just disappeared and shouldn't I accept this by now? (8 months today)

She gently explained that for all of my adult life he was the one I shared everything with. There is barely a memory that he's not starring in and each day for decades was ours and I looked ahead a future with him in it. Eight months is a blimp on the screen.

I knew all of this. Of course, I did, but hearing it made me see an awful picture almost like it was someone else. This is why this therapy with Jean may help. She insisted I take the helm, but she also gave me permission to treat myself kindly and steer slowly.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

How Do I Do Christmas Eve?

Doug lives in Manhattan now and he came home today as he does most Sundays. I told him it's fine not to, but he says he wants to - sweet - until he smirked,

"Because you have the football package."

Later in the day Jackie and Glenn and Skylar popped over for dinner and the house got loud and frantic as we all played hide and seek and crawled around being puppies thrilled to be taking silly orders from a 2 and a half year old.

The toddler that Jimmy knew 8 months ago is a little girl. The passage of time is undeniable as she helps me make the salad with the finese of a midget Martha Stewart. I just hope jail time isn't in her future.

We talked about Christmas Eve. That was Jimmy's holiday - he cooked and prepared for more than 20 people and did it with the ease of a pro. Each year he had a theme. One year he made a volcano with shrimp and calamari overflowing.

Another Christmas Eve he had little carrot bundles that were supposed to be boats and he arranged the shrimp in the shape of a tortoise. All this was on a blue foil to symbolize the water.

He was proud and there was a lot of oohing and ahhing and applause. He wore a chefs hat and apron and moved the macaroni out of the kitchen onto the plates and into the dining room with flawless rhythem.

We had a Santa suit and for many years each of us took turns being Santa. After dinner the designated Santa and half a dozen of us elves would go two doors down to Marie and Dick's house and bring a pillowcase filled with toys to their little grandchildren. These grandchildren are older now and I always expected to use that Santa suit for our own.

The other day I saw Marie and Dick putting up their Christmas lights and I remembered that the last time I saw them they were knealing by Jimmy's coffin.

So, how do I do Christmas Eve? I can't.