Monday, October 26, 2020

Conversations with Warren ... in my head

 Honey, I used to have red hair. I don't have it anymore. If you were still here, I'd still be a redhead.

I no longer have my nails done. After 34 years, Covid put an end to that and I don't even care.

Please keep us safe. Watch over us and keep us safe. Keep the boys safe and well.

You know, Hon, we talk about you all the time, the boys and I. There is always something that reminds us of you, as if we needed reminding.

Both the guys come out with puns and jokes and the reaction is always the same:  That's a Dad joke! They both channel you a lot. Thank goodness they got your sense of humor! 

Snuggles, I think, is missing you more and more now, ever since Sterling joined you. She now sleeps hugged against your pillow, needing to touch it every night. Ever since you left, she has slept on your side of the bed but she seems to need to actually be in touch with your pillow now. 

Well, it's another Friday night, another Shabbat and I'm not eating my meal at the dining table. I rarely use that table for meals. I occasionally eat my breakfast in the kitchen but you're not beside me anymore so I usually bring the meal to the coffee table and sit on the sofa for most meals. Snugs is always at my side and she's reaping the rewards of being so close. She ends up getting nibbles of my food.

I tried to keep lighting the Shabbat candles but I kept remembering you standing beside me with your arm around my waist as we both said the blessing. It was overwhelmingly sad for me to do it by myself and so I've stopped doing it. Sometimes I mumble the blessing over the challah while I look at your photo. As for the wine, I really don't have any in the house anymore. So, that's done. 

I still bake challah, though. That's one of the few things that gives me pleasure now.

Since this Covid pandemic, we've been doing Zoom Shabbat services via computer. Zoom.... something I'll have to explain to you! It's a good thing I'm in the privacy of our own home because I often am reduced to tears when we sing certain songs. I remember you standing or sitting beside me at services singing them with me and those memories cause me to just lose it. You know I've never been able to hold back tears.

You left several bottles of cologne so I've been using them a little bit at a time. I want them to last as long as possible. The scents make me think you're just in another room. I wear a bit when I go to Abbott's house to watch the Patriots games. It's almost as if you're with us.

Sometimes a really strong memory sweeps over me and I have a physical reaction, almost like I've bumped into you. My heart races for a second or two and then I feel the letdown. So I wonder if you know about that...perhaps in a different universe!

I've misplaced an important document. I know it's somewhere in the house but I've gone crazy looking for it. Do you suppose you can sort of guide me to where it is????

You know, I've gone out to the back yard every night since you left and looked up at the night sky. There has been one and only one very bright star above me for all those nights. I've been imagining that it's you, shining and watching over me. I talk to it. Okay, I'm a little crazy but.... it's a short conversation! And ever since Sterling left, there has been one other smaller star to its left, a little dimmer but definitely there. It must be Sterling's star. At least I'd like to think so. He did, after all, pick you to be his main human. 

I watch that little video of you talking gibberish to Sterling almost every night and I still giggle every time I hear it.

You know, Sweetheart, one of the toughest times of the day seems to be at dusk, when daylight recedes and the light in the living room comes on. The quietness of that time of the day makes me feel pensive and I struggle to get through it because of sweet memories of you or both of us coming home from work and  settling in for the night............. together.  Together.......that's what I miss.

God, I miss you so. I miss your hugs, I miss your embrace. I loved when you encircled me with your arms.

Well, my Love, the conversations will continue...........

Copyright © 2020. Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Forever changed

 I look in my mirror now and I see my mom's face. Sometimes I just stare intently and say to that image staring back at me, "Hello, Fannie." Mom used to wear her hair pulled up on the sides with a comb and she made a French twist with the long hair at the back. That was before the name  'French Twist' was even applied to that style! And now I realize I have been using combs in my hair almost like she did, sweeping up my hair on each side.  I don't do the French Twist. I just let the hair hang down. It's now half way down my back. And my mom had the most gorgeous skin. She never needed makeup. She had what she described as having "high color", pink cheeks so she never needed to use blush. I didn't inherit her color, I got my dad's. But I do see her beautiful face staring back at me and silently thank her for giving me a bit of her beauty. 

My hair is all white now, a color Warren never saw me with. I colored my hair most of my adult life, first a dark brown and then I tried a variety of colors. I didn't look great as a blonde or with black hair! But then I went to auburn because I had that color naturally, as did my mother. So, for decades of our marriage I was a "redhead," a color that seemed so natural on me and one that Warren just loved. 

After my beloved Warren died, I stopped coloring my hair. There seemed to be no reason to keep it up and the white had started to creep in. It wasn't long before my whole head of hair turned white, just a matter  of a few months really. That seemed to be record time to me.

So, getting back to the mirror..........  While I stare, I wonder if Warren would love this color on me. Of course he would. He always told me I looked great no matter what I wore or how I looked. He always made me feel beautiful. He always made me feel loved and he always made me feel cherished.

And now that he's not here with me, I talk to his photos, I talk to him while looking in the mirror, I talk to him while staring at the lone star in the sky above my patio and I talk to him in my head. I have been forever changed......... in the way I look, in the way I think, in the way I live. It is such a different life but one thing has remained constant....... the love he showered on me for so many decades still lives within my heart and the love I still feel for him has not diminished at all. We will forever be that loving 'couple' who enjoyed a fifty-five year love affair. And to me, that love affair will continue til the end of time. That will never change.

Copyright © 2020. Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

I'm suffocating and struggling

 The pandemic has done a horrible number on all of us. I, like so many, have not been near another human being for the most part. For about the first 3+ months I didn't venture out anywhere. Then, one day, I went to Trader Joe's to get some food. I was the first one in the store with my mask and gloves, and I was in and out in 17 minutes. It's now nearly October and I can count on less than both hands the times I have gone into a store to do some really quick shopping. Abbott has been the one to do most of the shopping for me.

So, I've been home or rather, in the house for several months. I say 'in the house' because it's been horrendously hot here since the pandemic started.  It's been too hot to even sit out on my patio.  I'm able to walk Snuggles very early in the morning and sometimes pass other dog walkers, runners or bicycle riders but we give each other a wide berth. Sometimes we even wave. But that's it.

Since my beloved Warren died, I had become used to being alone so the self-imposed isolation because of Covid-19 didn't seem to make much difference, except that I missed the occasional breakfast or lunch date with some friends.

But in the last few weeks I have begun to feel as if I'm suffocating and gagging from the almost total lack of human contact. And it certainly didn't help my mental state to watch my precious little doggie, Sterling, get sick and eventually die. He and Snuggles were brought up together during 12 years of love and she and I are having a hard time adjusting to his absence.

I often think about how this horrendous situation would be if Warren was still with me. We'd be laughing throughout the day because that's how it was when we were together. We'd be walking Snuggles together, cooking together, and having great conversations with one another, as we often did. Together is the important word here. We may have felt a bit trapped as many of us do now but at least we'd have the joy of interaction with another human being.  Right now, I miss his hugs most of all.

 I'm grateful that Ethan calls so often, that I'm able to see Abbott a few minutes at a time, that I can keep in touch with family and friends via phone, emails and some Zoom sessions. But the struggle of loneliness continues.

Copyright © 2020. Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Some more heartache

I've been living with heartache since my beloved Warren died over three years ago. I've learned to keep it from overwhelming me most days. One of the ways I've been able to do that is taking comfort in the love of both my dogs, Snuggles and Sterling.  They've helped me keep my sanity.

But now, more heartache has snuck in. My adorable little Sterling has made his trip over the Rainbow Bridge. Four and a half years ago, he survived his first bout with cancer. Our vet saved him with lifesaving surgery.  He and Warren had bonded from the moment we got him and he was absolutely Warren's best buddy, following him everywhere and sitting in his lap every chance he got. He knew Warren wasn't well and stayed by his side always.

So, when Warren died, Sterling turned his attention to me. He seemed so lost and sad. He started to cling to me and started following me around everywhere I went. Both he and Snuggles showered me with enormous amounts of love, as only doggies can.

About five months ago I noticed some lumps under Sterling's chin. He had developed lymphoma. I was devastated. And though my vet and I tried desperately to save him without putting him through painful chemo, it was not meant to be.

However, as with my beloved Warren, I feel robbed of time we should have had, had it not been for the dreaded diagnosis of cancer.

Snuggles and I feel the emptiness and she has taken to following me everywhere, not letting me out of her sight. I can see the sadness in her eyes and true to living up to her name, we are snuggling more and more because we both need each other more than ever now.

We all know that when we rescue doggies and they become beloved members of our family, most likely we will outlive them. But our love for each one makes our time with them so precious. And our time with Sterling was filled with lots of love and giggles. It was just too short and I miss him terribly.

 The image of the Rainbow Bridge which ends in a beautiful meadow is very powerful. I like to think that Warren and Sterling, best buddies, are together, along with our other four wonderful doggies, playing around in that meadow. That's a very powerful and beautiful image, too.

Copyright © 2020. Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Another day, another tear

Great sadness made me think of strange and scary thoughts. There were some nights I'd slip into bed and think, "I might not survive the sunrise." The pain was that great.  Now, more than three years later, the intense pain has tamped down but, alas, another day, another tear.

The tears have not stopped. They are active daily, in moments, but especially at bedtime when I finally lay down, settle in, turn to his side of the bed and see the doggies curled up there....where he used to be. I sigh, the tears slowly roll down my cheeks and I whisper to him that I love him and miss him, as I've done every night since........

And yet, I'm not swimming in delusions or least not anymore.  The tears are just a gentle physical reminder of the love that still exists between us.

The broken heart remains but I have gently gathered up most of the pieces, put them in a velvety box buried within my soul where I have easy access to the beautiful memories and feelings.

Copyright © 2020 Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Easier? Not exactly.

I'm starting the fourth year without my beloved Warren. The past three years have been a crescendo of unmitigated sadness and physical and emotional suffering and pain. The passage of time, everyone told me, would lessen the pain, the sadness and the anger. Everyone assured me that, with time, my life would get easier to bear.

I still get asked how I'm doing. I can't answer without either lying to make you feel better or telling the truth which would make you feel bad about asking. My close friends never ask. They already understand that my heart will never completely heal. They know that I cry every day. They know that his loss is more than I can bear. They know this because his loss is their loss too, and they all still feel it, deeply, in their own way.

So, easier is not exactly the word I would use. There is nothing easy about losing a person who has been such a loving force throughout most of your life. The only change that I can readily recognize is a lessening of the times the searing pain rams through my very being. But to me, that is not an insignificant change.

I can now look at any of the dozens of photos I have of him all over the house and not get totally crushed with sadness. I think I smile at them a little more, remembering where the photos were taken and what we were doing. Those flashbacks have a calming effect and bring up incredibly funny and loving memories.

This is not to say that my life is normal again. My road has been long, maybe longer than what others believe is normal or standard or commonplace. There is no "normal" in my life or at least what I perceive it to be. I'll admit I have fought "normal" all the way, unable to give up my pictures of a life I still long for. I knew it would be difficult, but DAMN!

So easier? No, it will never really be easier. But maybe heading toward tolerable. I wrote in November of 2017 that I was looking for tolerable days. I think they're finally starting to show up.

Copyright © 2020. Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

He must have known

I've been having some particularly bad days lately during this self-imposed isolation period we're all going through. Even though I've more or less lived like this since Warren died, there are days when it almost feels like I'm strangling on the loneliness.

I was looking for something in particular yesterday and I opened a small drawer in Warren's bedside bookcase. I've opened that drawer before but never really went through everything in it. I came across a folded paper and when I opened it, I gasped. It was a love letter I had written to him seven weeks before we were married, telling him how much I loved him and all the reasons why.

That he kept that letter, so accessible, didn't surprise me. What actually surprised me was that I found it when I needed to. Rereading it took my breath away and brought me right back to that time of excitement and sweet anticipation, filling me with a rush of overwhelming love. Somehow, in this sequestered time and place, he must have known how much I needed a tangible sign of the joy of our lives as a married couple. He knew. I have no other explanation. He knew.

Copyright. © 2020. Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Music and memories

Music was always a big part of our lives. For me it began with piano lessons as a kid, then glee club in junior high. And I babysat to save up my money to get my own portable radio. That radio went everywhere with me and at night, after I was in bed, I turned it on very softly and listened for as long as I could keep my eyes open! In college, during my senior year, my music class turned into a mini-band and I played the glockenspiel and then, the bass drum! Don't even ask! My mother and brother, Ed, were music aficionados on the piano and Ed played the clarinet and guitar, too.

Warren loved to listen to music. And he told me that, as a kid, he had wanted to learn to play the violin but that never materialized. All during our lives though, music was "on" playing in the background, at home, in the car, at work. Sometimes we'd sing together but that always ended in us collapsing in giggles. Neither one of us had great voices but I, at least, could keep a tune. Warren, on the other hand, perfected the "one-note" melody! More about that later.

Our taste in music ran the gamut. Ed introduced me to the Big Band sound: Glenn Miller, Tommy & Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, etc. The list is endless. Warren had similar taste in music. We both loved smooth jazz and instrumentals as well as the music we grew up with in the 50s, 60s and 70s.  He adored the Everly Brothers and drew great delight when one of their songs came on the car radio. And, yes, he would sing along with them! He enjoyed classical music, a bit more than I did, and that station was his choice in his car.

And later on, the boys introduced me to the Hair Bands: Twisted Sister, Ratt, Bon Jovi, Motley Crew, etc. and I realized I enjoyed a lot of their music. Dad....not so much. Then, Abbott met Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme and his music interest, specifically with guitar, took off. Ethan didn't play a musical instrument. His instrument was a camera which he used to photograph hundreds of the best and up-and-coming rock bands in the world.

All of this 'preamble' leads up to this. When Warren sang, I occasionally called him "Johnny-one-note." Holding hot coals was easier than holding a tune! BUT, here's the really crazy thing. When we were at services and singing the beautiful prayers in Hebrew, my beloved one-note Warren was precisely ON TUNE and singing just so sweetly. I would often lower my voice to practically a whisper just so I could listen to him sing. It was profoundly beautiful to hear him. And he was always amazed when I told him how great he sounded. Who knows whether it was singing in another language, singing such beautiful melodies or just being in synagogue that made the difference. We both enjoyed singing those Hebrew melodies. And now, when I go to services, it's really difficult for me to get through the music because I can hear him in my head, singing as if he is standing right next to me and little by little the tears flow.

Warren, my beloved, I still hear your music. You were my love song, you still are and will forever be the music in my heart.

Copyright © 2020, Reisa Sterling Miller, All Rights Reserved.