Missing Bernie

(Lorin and Bernie at PetSmart)

I’ve been missing Bernie terribly today. He was the last kitty we adopted–in April 2016.  Lorin saw him at the adoption center at our local Petsmart and said, “You have to meet him.” We already had four cats, so it seemed nutty, even for me, but I went with Lorin on a Saturday to meet Bernie.

Love at first sight. As it was with my Lorin.

They were two peas in a pod.

Everyone loved Bernie, but no one wanted to adopt him, because he was fat. They were afraid he had diabetes or some other illnesses and didn’t want to be burdened with a sick feline.  Understandable.  One of the foster cat ladies named Chris told us that before he landed at Petsmart, Bernie was in a pound. Apparently his owner had died. He had matted fur on his back that had to be shaved off. It was still growing back, and rather coarse.  He had been in the foster system for several months. Chris said we could take him for a week and bring him back if he didn’t get along with our other cats. Of course, we kept him.

He was shy, but loving. He had a favorite red sherpa blanket that he dragged around the house and even brought down to the basement, when Lorin was working there. Lorin’s office was in the basement. Sometimes Lorin helped him drag it down. Bernie talked to his blanket and gathered lots of toys around him. He seemed to need security. We wondered if he had been abused.

Karl adored him, and they started to sleep on the guest room bed together.

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(Karl and Bernie)

Bernie eventually moved from his “safe space” upstairs and started playing with the other cats. One of his favorite games was musical chairs, played at the dining room table. Karl seemed hurt when Bernie migrated downstairs and engaged in play with Quincy and Samson.

****

I have grieved over Lorin, but have been unable to grieve for my cats. On one hand, I felt  guilty for grieving over my pets, grotesque even, in light of the loss of my beloved husband. On the other hand, I had no space in my mind and heart for more sadness. The pain of losing Lorin was enough.

But today I was able to grieve for Bernie. Like all my lost pets, he is worth grieving for. I wish I didn’t have to grieve any losses, but there they are. I will never forget the image of Lorin lying dead, nor will I forget the image of Sylvester and Bernie struggling to get up after the accident. I was helpless, useless, unable to save them. I didn’t see Quincy, Karl or Samson, and assumed they were dead.

These images still haunt me and weigh heavily upon my shredded heart.

I still fantasize about Lorin walking through the front door.

Lorin found Bernie and wanted him to be part of our family. I am happy we adopted him and that he had a loving home for even the brief time he did.

If I have learned anything from this, it is that every moment counts, as trite as it sounds. Love the people and animals you love, unreservedly. Don’t take anyone or anything for granted. Love is all.

Let Me Breathe

(google image)

Pulling myself out of the earth
grasping at crumbling bits of clay
choking on each bit as it slips
through my fingers and
into my mouth

Let me breathe

two steps forward
three steps back

Let me breathe

Your opinions are not welcome
a listening ear will do

Have you been living in the dirt
with me?
have you seen your husband die
alongside I-95?
then shut up
and let me be

Let me breathe

 

 

I Am the Widow

(google image)

I am the thing that keeps you up at night
I am the thing that makes me sick
I am the elephant in the room

I am the widow not wearing black
I am the hands tied behind my back

Certain things are expected of me
I try to keep up appearances

the world is watching
ever watching

I am the one who dirties your dreams
I am the guilty Sophie’s Choice survivor
I didn’t ask to live
Who chose me?

I am the one you can pity
and despise
for not being who you want me to be
I am angry, angry, angry
wanting to tear off my own skin

I am not the Merry Widow
I am not the ever-mourning one either

I am not made of wax
but I burn

I want you to understand
but I don’t think you can

Rage at the Machine

(google image)

No one to blame
so let’s blame the machine
the machine that drove us to his death
the black Ford Explorer with champagne trim,
like Stephen King’s Christine

or we can blame lack of sleep
we both fell asleep–
not a Viking death
as Lorin had hoped for

death be not proud*

I am not proud

I am deeply depressed

I want to get over it
but I can’t seem to
so I’m trying to get through it
every day

but the days are long
and they don’t make sense

Let’s blame the machine,
the inanimate object,
not the humans who
controlled it
and lost control of it

the lives lost
the heartbreak

blame the machine

 

 

*Death, be not proud (John Donne)

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

 

Can’t Cook

oreos

(Nancy Rodrigo)

The oreos were screaming at me
from the aisle at Publix
Your favorite cookies
I kept seeing them
around every corner
as if they were the ghost
of you

Knowing I will never
cook for you again
is sometimes too much
you thanked me for every meal
even a frozen dinner

I can’t cook
for one
food doesn’t taste good

Can’t eat
what I used to
or buy the foods
you liked

Why don’t you appear
in the aisle
why don’t you
visit me
I hear stories of other deceased spouses
visiting their wives
Why not me?

I hear you in the chimes
on the back porch
in the TV that went on
in the hotel room
in the middle of the night
in the traffic, sometimes
I was never good at directions

I don’t even have an old
voicemail message
to listen to
we preferred to text

so much silence
so much left unsaid

I can’t cook, and
I don’t want to

 

*Artwork by Nancy Rodrigo.

New York-born artist Nancy Rodrigo uses her life experiences as a medium. “The media and content have changed and evolve to reflect my experiences. I see art as a means of expression and a therapeutic process.” She began her art career in 1981 under the name Nancy Weinstock, exhibiting in the East Village, Soho, Chelsea and Brooklyn. Her recent work of rich, colorful biomorphic paintings‒with vaginal imagery‒influenced by the Feminist Art Movement, including initiators Judy Chicago, Nancy Spero and Miriam Schapiro. In the 90’s she  did a series of works on canvas and mixed media constructions, the “Collective Memory Series.” These intricate pieces are constructed from found objects, organic and synthetic materials, paints and old photographs. Another project she is working on is the “Subway Series” hundreds of pen and ink portraits of people riding the NYC subways, all done without the rider’s knowledge and capturing most of the portrait in under 10 minutes.  This project has been a love letter to my city and her amazing people. Rodrigo’s work is diverse, expressive, and she is very prolific.

Truth or Dare

I haven’t spoken to Mom since Christmas — bad daughter.  Yes, I am. I haven’t had the energy or the desire, I suppose, and I haven’t wanted to hear her rebukes, such as, “You haven’t come to see me in so long!”

When Lorin and I lived in New Jersey, I saw her once or week or at least biweekly. Now it’s once a month. I haven’t got time for more pain, and I’m living far away.

A nurse called me from the Actors Home and asked if I could calm her down since she was ranting about being poisoned, again.

This is nothing new.

She shrieked into the phone, “”When are you going to get me out of here? I’m being poisoned.” Then, “Where have you been?” and “You only think about yourself, or dear ole Daddio.”

That pulled the trigger.

“Mom, I have to tell you something.”

“What?”

“Lorin was killed in a car accident. That’s why I haven’t been calling or coming around.”

“Oh no! Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I didn’t want to upset you, but it’s time that you know.”

She started to cry or it sounded like crying. “I’m so sorry.”

It felt good to tell her the truth. I have spared her so many truths, but I am tired of lying to her, even if she has Alzheimer’s.  I have no more time for lies and obfuscations.

“And I’ve moved out of state,” I said.

“What? Why?”

“Because I can’t bear to be in New York since Lorin died.”

“But you dumped me here and now I’m alone in this God-forsaken place! Where are you?”

“I’m living in Savannah, Georgia.”

That didn’t seem to register. Her brain must now have been on overload or “tilt.”

“You have to get me out of here. Take me to Grandpa’s house . . . anywhere.”

“Mom, Grandpa is dead. You can’t go there.”

“There’s a room for me there.”

“I don’t think so, Mom.”

More crying.

“I’m coming to see you on Saturday,” I said.

“But that’s not soon enough. You have to get me out now.”

“It’s in three days. Can I bring you anything – soap?”

“Yes, please bring me the lavendar soap. They took that away from me.  And someone scribbled all over my Wuthering Heights. It must have been Lorin.”

“Lorin wouldn’t scribble in your books.”

“Did you bury him?”

“He was cremated.”

“Oh. I’m so so sorry. I’ll pray for you.”

“Thank you. Try to relax. I’ll be there soon.”

“Okay. Jack took me to confession.”

“Oh, good.”

“He prayed with me.”

“I’m glad.”

“I have so many sins. How will I ever be forgiven?”

“It’s okay, Mom.”

More crying. The phone and she sounded far away. I waited for a while, then hung up.

No more lies.

 

 

Rabbit Hole

down_the_rabbit_hole_by_somefield

(google)

Plunging deeper into the rabbit hole
can’t get out
can’t breathe
Nobody sees what I do

I don’t belong anywhere
I don’t want your pity

Re-living the death
Yet
Trying to live
Why

Trying to dig myself
out of the swampy dirt
hole

falling

clawing

trying to find

love

meaning

warm flesh

wherever I can

Can anyone help me
get out

I’m a Stranger Here Myself

Years ago, I did a cabaret show that included the Kurt Weill song, “I’m a Stranger Here Myself.” If ever those words rang true, it is now.

I feel like an alien, a zombie (not that I know what a zombie actually does or does not feel).

If I hear “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” one more time in a shopping mall, I will go postal. Yes, I have done all my Christmas shopping and have wrapped most of the gifts. “Fake it till you make it,” as someone said.

The world feels like a dangerous place, a place that offers no security now that my security blanket is gone. Yes, Lorin was my only security blanket in an unpredictable and often cruel world.

I started a list of “Things I Miss About Lorin,” which includes:

(1) How he told me, “I love you,” several times a day and always insisted on a hug before he departed for work.

(2) How he would grab me and start dancing with me in the kitchen while I was cooking and not let me go.

(3) His telling me, “All I need is the love of the Sweetie.” One of his nicknames for me was “Sweetie.”

I’ve come to the realization that no one needs me anymore, except, perhaps, my mom. Lorin needed me. It was good to be needed. It was good to be co-dependent, if that’s what it was. I don’t care. It worked for us, and we were happy.

I haven’t been able to cook or bake since Lorin died. He was grateful for all the meals I prepared for him and even bragged to his co-workers about the lunches I prepared for him. I made extra Christmas cookies so he could have his own tin. He thanked me for every meal, every cookie, even a frozen dinner. I miss having him to cook for, and how grateful he was for every culinary offering.

I made a spontaneous decision to go to New York this weekend to visit my mom and Lorin’s grandmother on Long Island since I won’t be able to see them for Christmas. I need to connect with people who need me (Mom) and loved Lorin (his grandmother). It makes me feel closer to him. I also have a keen sense of my mortality right now. Why wait?

In the evening, I light candles in the living room and in our bedroom, hoping he’ll see them.

This afternoon, I talked to a couple of turtles at the marsh, and asked if they had seen Lorin. No reply.

I said, “Well, if you do, tell him to come and see me.”

Lorin loved animals, turtles included. He said he wanted to die in Savannah. I wish he had lived here too.

Ghost

casper_in_live-action

(google image)

I am your friendly neighborhood ghost,
like Casper.
You see me every day.
I do what you do,
even Christmas shopping.
I wear normal clothes,
don’t smear myself in feces
or wear a burlap sack.

I look normal,
but I’m not.
I’m lost
flying in and out
of reality
thinking thoughts
no person should
grieving,
raging,
wanting vengeance
for the loss of
the  one who will never return

Hating Jesus,
hating people who want me
to embrace him
as my Lord and personal savior
I don’t want a personal savior.
I want my husband back.

I am your friendly neighborhood ghost
don’t mind me
I’m not really here

The Week of Living Dangerously

img_1134

(Samson)

Highlights of my week:

(1) called the coroner’s office, cremation site and others to find out what happened to Lorin’s wedding ring, watch and other jewelry. Turns out after numerous calls, that his jewelry appears to have been cremated along with him. Who does that? I have had to let this go. Won’t bring him back.

(2) got into a fender bender in the Walmart parking lot (I backed up into a woman’s car). I didn’t realize I had even hit her car (kind of dazed and confused lately), but she chased me down the road, honking and taking a photo of my license plate. I pulled over and we entered a small park where she let me know what had transpired. I looked at her fender, and could barely see anything. Am I going blind too? She was going through a difficult time (health issue), and she said, “I know my husband would be mad at me if I didn’t call the police . . . “. So she called the police, and a really cool female police officer (originally from Montana) took a report and the lady and I exchanged information. I told the lady about my situation and we ended up hugging before we parted ways.

It still felt totally ridiculous to me–I had to fill out a report online with Geico over something so trivial.

I have been feeling lately like I wish someone would run me down with their vehicle to put an end to this pain.

(3) Yesterday I took a drive to Tybee Island (one of Lorin’s and my favorite places), and took a long walk on the beach and got a hot dog and iced tea. On the way home, I got pulled over by a Tybee Island police officer.

He said, “Ma’am, did you know your right brake light is out?”

“No, I didn’t,” I said.

I handed him my registration, insurance card and temporary Georgia license. He spent a long time in his car mulling over my paperwork. He gave me a “caution” and said to please get the light fixed promptly.

Lorin and I had the right brake light “fixed” over a dozen times, but it never took. I even asked my mother-in-law’s husband to check the light when I got home. He followed me in his car and said it worked fine at times, then got faint. He also checked the light bulb and said it was fine. It might be the connection, but at this point, I think it’s unfixable and don’t want to purchase a new car at the moment.

(3) Good Stuff: My contractor buddies helped me set up some furniture in the condo and came by today to put up the panel curtains I bought for the porch (sliding glass doors open onto screened-in porch.). They are such good guys and they have done beautiful work in my new home.

(4) Last night I watched “The Invisible Man” (1933) with Claude Rains on TCM. It’s much funnier than I ever thought–the lady who runs the boarding house is a riot.

(5) Samson is my constant companion. He gives me a rather indignant look whenever I leave the house. We are considering adopting a kitten (not till after the holidays, of course).

(6) Last night I also decided that widowhood can make you think in ways you never thought you would. I was fantasizing about scoring some heroin and finding someone to have random sex with. Why not?

(7) Today I tried to close down Lorin’s Facebook account, and while doing so, found numerous articles on google about the car accident. I read one of the articles and saw the shattered car window on the driver’s side, and once again, saw Lorin lying on the earth dead. Realizing he probably flew through that window. Why did I have to see that? I can’t undo having seen it.

Nothing, I mean, nothing, makes sense to me anymore.

Oh, that, and Trump is now our president.