Monday, March 22, 2010

One Year

Last night was one year ago that Jack died. Hard to believe sometimes. A friend came over. We hung out and talked until VERY late and drank some of Jack's last brew that he'd been working on. I was able to look at my watch and mark the times. I'm glad to have gotten through it.

Also, earlier in the day, the girls and I went to the Unitarian Universalist church that we've been attending. The girls and I wore our t-shirts with Jack's picture on them. I lit a candle of remberance for him. After I sat down, the tears started to silently fall. Within minutes, 2 ladies were sitting beside me, including one who remembers Jack from Ancient Ways festivals. It was good to be able to cry as long as I needed to. Another lady told me at the end of the service that her whole row was crying with me. Wow. It was comforting to get so many hugs and pats from people there.

Leading up to that day was difficult at best. It was anxiety-provoking at times. I was dreading it. I had medication to help me if needed (it was at times). In some ways, the build-up was worse than the actual day. But it was still tough. And I got through it.

The last year has been one of the most difficult years of my life. It has also been one of many things happening along with adaptation. In terms of our physical surroundings, not much has changed. I didn't want to. I'm not in a place to move, nor do I want to right now. Jack's passing was enough of a change all by itself. However here is some of what HAS happened: I have taken several trips with the girls, both by car and plane (some without help); the girls have finally been to Disneyland and met some of their favorite characters; Jack's dad has met me and the girls and spent time with us; we've connected with Jack's sisters and neice; we've found a church home where there's spiritual community and acceptance of our beliefs (we're still just as Pagan as we've always been); I've finished my RN refresher course so I can go back to work; I've adapted to being a single parent; I've found friends I didn't know I had.

Through all of this, I've still loved Jack, and I've known that he still loves me, even from the other side. There is a piece of my heart that will always be his. We remember him every day. Yet there is one thing that I'm beginning to learn through all of this: that I am loved just for me. Not because I'm Jack's widow, or that I'm Sarah and Gabby's mom. Just because I'm me. And, oddly, that has been one of the hardest lessons of all.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Evolution of Us

I was taking a nice, long, hot shower and thinking. (C'mon. The shower is where I do some of my best thinking!) I had run across my eulogy for Jack this evening, and I was thinking about the relationship he and I had together.

Jack and I first encountered each other at the first Ancient Ways Festival either one of us attended in 1992. And, it was more of an "encounter" than anything. Mostly, we were attracted to each other. To this day, I don't remember if we even exchanged words that year. But we were each on the other person's radar.

Around 1993, Jack started doing his astrology newsletter via e-mail. It was called the Pagan Update. The festival was where he found many of his early subscribers. I was one of his first email subscribers. So, we now had at least a casual email relationship. And, frankly, that's where it pretty much stayed for the next few years. Yes, we were both still attracted to the other. But, I was married to another man, and Jack was busily sowing his wild oats.

Then, in 1997, things changed a bit. As an aside, Jack was infamous for an alcoholic cordial he brewed every year called Sweet Liquid Trouble. Its primary ingredient was damiana, and it was an aphrodesiac liqeur. (Mighty good, too, if I do say so myself.) One day, I was sitting at my computer at home, and an email from Jack came in. The first person to answer the question right would "win a prize." And, the question was, "Why is Sweet Liquid Trouble called that?" Being the wise-ass that I can be sometimes, I immediately shot back, "Because it's liquid, can get you into trouble, but the trouble it can get you into is oh, so sweet." Lo and behold, I won the prize! (I later found out that he was really taken aback that my answer was the first response, and he wanted to get to know me better, so he decided to get creative.) What I won was him fixing me dinner at that year's Ancient Ways Festival. I was, again, working operations staff that year. I arranged for the time off. That was our first "date." He fixed me a wonderful meal of steak, veggie, and I'm-not-sure-what-else on his camp stove. We talked the whole time. It was wonderful. During that meal, he told me that I was one of his heroes. I couldn't believe this piece of news! Here was this man who I'd admired for so long for living his beliefs who saw me as a hero?! I asked him why. He then told me that I had said that I was going to change my life, and here I was about to start nursing school. So many say that they're going to change their life, but never do. My response was yet another wise-ass remark: "Ok, fine. Just so long as I'm not the wind beneath your wings." He told me that that was the moment he realized that I was always throwing out zingers like that, and he needed to pay closer attention to what I said. (As an aside, Glenn Turner, the organizer of the Festival was a guest at our wedding in 2002. And when I saw her at PantheaCon this year, I told her that if it weren't for her, our 2 girls wouldn't be here. She immediately asked if she could be honorary grandmother. Of course she could!)

Fast forward to summer 1999. We had a few wonderful week-ends together, but it didn't work out at that time. Yet, I realized as a result of the time that we did spend together that there was something better out there for me. Whether it was with Jack or not, there was something better.

Finally, in Jan. 2000, things in my life were such that they could work out between us. We started dating seriously. What I didn't realize at the time was that Jack felt just as serious about me as I felt about him. The man seriously courted me. He played the guitar and sang songs. We had romantic dinners. He cooked for me. I'd be all worried that, for some reason, he would suddenly not be interested in me. He'd say, "Honey, J.B.Y. Just be yourself." He had to move within a month or 6 weeks of us dating again, and the separation of 18 days just about killed us. It was tough!

Then, on the morning of April 16, 2000, Jack pulled his chair around to face me and take my hand. The conversation went something like this:
Jack: "If I ask you a question, do you promise not to laugh?"
Me: "Sure. What's the question?"
Jack: "Will you go steady with me?"
Me: "Well, what does that mean?"
Jack: "It means that we're exclusive, and we aren't seeing anyone else."
Me: "Of course I will. It's what I'm already doing."
He then produced a blue star saphire ring that fit my left ring finger. The ring matched one that he already owned. That was the moment that I knew for certain that he felt as strongly about me as I felt about him. And it was the best feeling in the world. And it only got better from there.