God knows I’d been dreading Thanksgiving Day and the weekend typically known for family and shopping. For at least half of the almost 31 years that Tim and I were married we hosted the huge Veney family in our home for Thanksgiving dinner. It was always busy, loud, comical and most of the time it was fun. This year, after handing off the Thanksgiving dishes I purchased years ago to Tim’s niece Ralphaella, I decided to have my first Thanksgiving dinner after Tim’s death alone. I had many invitations, and not everyone was thrilled with my decision to spend the day alone, BUT they supported it.
On Wednesday night my stomach was really queasy…Did I really want to be alone on Thursday? To calm my nerves one of the projects in my plan for the weekend was a new LEGO build which I hadn’t done much at all since Tim’s death. My boss had given me a card which mentioned what was behind the gates of heaven, so I built what I believed Tim’s place in heaven would look like. I loved the end result, because I’d wanted to do a setting that included pieces of furniture for a long time! What better place than Heaven?
After finishing the LEGO project late morning on Thursday, next up on my plan was to remove the plants I received after Tim’s death from their baskets and re-pot them into cute orange pots. This was risky!!! I kill everything that grows, but in honor of Tim, I wanted these plants to LIVE! I had purchased potting soil and gloves and I anxiously got to work. I felt like I was handling Tim’s life and didn’t want to screw it up. I gingerly placed the soil, then the plant into each pot and ensured that I covered the roots with the soil. Funny that at my age, I’ve never re-potted anything. After I placed the newly potted plants in front of the bay window, I felt as if new life that included Tim was growing. My tears as I stood in front of the window where Tim always sat for hours were cleansing and I suddenly see all the plants in a new light.
Next up on my plan of action was visiting Mom. I had downloaded some Thanksgiving coloring pages and I was excited to see whether or not she’d like to color like we did together when I was a kid. She loved it!! So much so that she worked constantly on her page for an hour. I was very surprised at how she carefully stayed inside the lines and though she only finished a portion of the page, she was pleased with her work and so was I. After a few hours hanging out with Mom, it was time to head home for my dinner alone.
My dinner of baked chicken, spinach with mushrooms and onions and a baked sweet potato was awesome! I loved my plating too, and of course I shed some tears thinking of all the meals Tim and I prepared together in our kitchen. I could hear him reminding me that I’d forgotten the wine, so I quickly poured a glass of Riesling and then toasted Tim, thanking him for all of the years of great fun we’d had in that kitchen. By the end of the dinner, I was smiling more than crying.
On Friday, after working for a few hours, I took Memory Maker II to the dealership to get it winterized, which prevents the water systems in the RV from freezing during the winter. This was another task that had always been handled by Tim that was now my responsibility. I had ordered a cover for MMII to protect it from the elements and asked one of my neighbors to help me put it on this weekend. We decided to tackle the task on Saturday afternoon. It took us less than 40 minutes to complete, and I am thrilled that MMII will be protected from the elements all winter!
The most soul-shaking event of the weekend occurred Saturday morning. The bed Tim and I shared is a split-king Sleep Number Bed. I hadn’t touched Tim’s side of the bed since June 30th when we left home for Herkimer, NY. I had only changed the sheets on my side of the bed. I was finally ready to take the sheets off of his side to wash them. I noticed right away that the sheets no longer smelled like Tim and that made me cry. I then saw something sticking up from Tim’s side of the bed. When I lifted it up, it was Tim’s favorite pair of Redskins shorts that we had torn the house up looking for before we headed to NY. They were his favorite workout shorts and he didn’t want to leave home without them. I started to yell out, “I found them!”, but of course Tim isn’t here to hear me. I cried more.
Most shocking was that the shorts still smelled like Tim. I clutched the shorts and didn’t want to let them go. I fell on my knees and I cried even more. Then I got up…. I put the shorts down so I could put the sheets and pillowcase in the washer. I waited so long to wash them because I didn’t want to feel like I was washing Tim out of my life. Thankfully, I didn’t feel that. I watched the sheets go round and round first in the washer, then in the dryer. Then I folded them up and put them away, selecting another set of sheets and comforter for the bed. It took me more than 4 months to find the strength to wash Tim’s sheets, and I’m glad I did it on Thanksgiving weekend.
The Redskins shorts will have to wait for another day to be washed. Finding the shorts wasn’t included in this weekend’s plan and I have already expended all of the emotional energy I had. I’m thankful for the ups, downs, tears and smiles of the last few days, but I’m blown away by the unexpected gift I received in finding Tim’s workout shorts. When a loved one dies I think we all look for a special sign from them. Tim sent me the biggest sign of all – his favorite shorts of his favorite team. It doesn’t get any better than that and I’m Thankful! I hope you had a Happy Heavenly Thanksgiving Tim, mine was pretty great because it was in our Happy Home! Love you and miss you!
Another wonderful post, Loretta, as you continue to venture deeply (and to share with us generously) of your pilgrimage of and in grief.
In this series of your discoveries, I am made aware of a new (or, perhaps, better said, another) dimension of grief-work…
Often, I think, I have conceptualized mourning (that of others and my own) as that peripdnkf holding in creative tension the life that was and the life that is until arriving at the life that will be. Another way to express this, I think, is that grief-work recognizes the sorrow of the death of a loved one is in good measure rooted in one’s sense of wanted that person still in alive in the world and, thus, the need to recognize that impossibility so to discern who one now is and will be without the presence of that precious one…
What you have captured for me here is an awareness that one’s sense of one’s loved one’s person and presence – YOUR sense of Tim’s person and presence – can remain intact, tangible in powerfully physical ways. This helps me understand myself. For years, since my brother Wayne died, I’ve kept one of his favorite shirts. (I have one of the final pictures of him wearing it. On occasion, I’ve worn it.) Again, for years, it’:s hung in the closet. I’ve wondered why I’ve never tossed it out. Now, through the lens of your experience, I’m clearer about why. That shirt is a tangible, physical symbol of Wayne. I keep it as a reminder of him, yes, which reminds me that grief has many phases and that I still grieve his death and loss to me, though, yes, move in with my life I have done and continue to do.
For this, I thank you.
Paul, from almost the moment we met, I’ve learned from you. It’s almost impossible to even explain how much I’ve learned, so I’m thrilled that something I’ve written has made something more clear in your life. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the shirt of Wayne’s that you’ve referred to but I’m so happy that you kept it. I’ve already learned that giref lasts for a very long time because I surely still miss my aunts Diane and Frannie and my sister Renee. I think of them many times and smile. I know that at some point when I think of Tim, I’ll smile instead of cry. The shorts will make me cry for some time to come I assume, and I probably won’t wash them until the shorts only make me smile.
One of the things writing helps me to do is to embrace where I am. I don’t rush anything, and certainly not the grief process!! You really have had a significant role in this process with me, as you and Pontheolla focus on your own memories and time with Tim!
You are welcome!! and much love back to you!!
Ret, Again one of your blogs stirs many emotions in me. I am so happy that you found Tim’s workout shorts! I totally understand not wanting to wash those shorts, especially if they still smell like Tim. I still have a couple of Mom’s clothes and even my sister’s, even though she has been gone for 30 years. I still have Benjie’s Plucky Duck (well I gave it to Benj, but it’s still around) and some of his other things, and that’s been 22 years. Sometimes you just have to have the proof of someone, in a physical form. I’m also glad you had such a good time with your Mom! More memories for you to keep and store. You continue to inspire me with all the strength that you have, it’s amazing, you’re amazing! I love you tons Ret!!
Love you my sister!! Yes indeed finding those shorts was something!!!! Soooooo glad you kept Benjie’s plucky duck!!! Hope Benj will keep it forever!!! You’re absolutely amazing too and I can’t thank you enough for your support!!