It’s not about me anymore

Today is the 9th anniversary of JM’s death.

I’m not going to post on Facebook to remind people of this date like I have in the past. I felt a kind of duty to remind others before, but it definitely was a duty that I wanted. I wanted to be the one to say, ‘hey, don’t ever forget him, don’t forget what happened today.’ I knew others missed him and would appreciate it, yes. But I also made it about me – I reminded people how I suffered, how I was changed, how I will always be changed.

But what kind of message is that? There is no good in that message. It’s selfish. ‘Don’t forget what happened to me on this day’ was my message. I want my message to be positive and worthwhile. My experience needs to be worth something.

Maybe I couldn’t see it before, I couldn’t let go of the pain of my experience, of the thing that made me feel different than my peers. I didn’t want to. I carried it as a shield – It allowed me to hold some parts of myself as untouchable. And it also blinded me from the message I now know is the only one I want to send on this day:

Try to remember, every day, to love your people more openly, more freely, even more fiercely than you think you can. Stretch yourself. And then tell them and show them, and continue to do so. Not because you have nothing to lose, quite the opposite. Anyone and anything can be lost at any moment. You don’t want to regret not loving as much as you could.

So do the work you need to do to get to the place where you can give and receive love. Where it doesn’t send you running. Take risks and reach out. Tolerate being uncomfortable expressing yourself if you aren’t used to doing that.

It’s good to remember that love, for however long or short a time, is worth it.

 

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A note to John-Mark

Dear JM,

Three days ago was the sixth anniversary of your death. It is strange to realize this, but you’ve now been dead longer than I knew you–we met in May of 2003 and you died in May of 2008. You were only in my life for five years, but I’m happy for all of them, even the tough ones.

You were tall, good looking, outgoing, educated, eloquent, charming and ridiculously smart. Things come pretty easily to people like you. I used to be resentful that things came to you so easily, because it never allowed you to learn how to work hard (and hence you didn’t know how to when circumstances called on some focus and hard work). Now I just smile and am grateful that I got to witness such a clever brain at work on a daily basis.

JM, I’m still laughing at you rocking your shoulders back and forth looking like such a white dude when dancing. I know you didn’t care at all. That was the thing about you, you weren’t shy and didn’t care about looking stupid — you never did look stupid though, you could pull off being an expert at anything – you just pretended like you were skilled in whatever it was and people lined up to follow you like little ducklings following a mama duck.

I’ll never forget the night when the neighbors across the street had yet another loud after-party at 3am on a week night. The thumping music woke me, even while wearing earplugs. You, of course, were fuming and marched straight across the street in a rage. You strode up to their front door and pounded on that thing until some drunk idiot opened it and saw all 6’3″ of you standing there, dressed in a green plaid robe and galoshes (it must have been raining that night). I could hear you yelling from the bedroom, and then the music went quite. You came back and said that after you finished chewing them out and the music stopped, someone quipped “nice robe” as you turned to head back home. We laughed our heads off about that. Later, after you were gone and one of those degenerate neighbors reached out to me, I learned that it was that night that you were dubbed “angry robe guy”. You would have loved that.

You always knew exactly what to do when I hurt myself. Whether I had broken a bone in a crash, or just skinned my knee when the dog yanked me off a the seat of some crappy little scooter I was using to make her run, you always knew if I needed medical attention or just a hug. You weren’t a worrier at all but you knew when to show concern.

I learned a lot from you, JM. Yes, you told me all kinds of facts and trivia about everything under the sun, but I learned more by the example you set (both good and bad!), though maybe those lessons will be for another post. At any rate, know that I still and will always carry those lessons with me. Thank you.

Me

5 years.

I had a dream last month where JM appeared. He appears in my dreams every 6 weeks or so.

The usual scenario is that he is suddenly alive and back in my life. I’m surprised because I know he is dead, so obviously I am rather unprepared for such an event. I always have to choose between my current life and my former life, between our marriage and my current relationship. The dream ends with me feeling trapped.

This last dream, however, ended differently. In it, I was angry at him for something–probably for suddenly returning in my life after being dead–but instead of being rather nonchalant about my anger, he embraced me. It was the most vivid experience I can ever remember dreaming. I could feel exactly how tall he was by where my face fit into his chest, and how long his arms wrapping around me were. I felt safe and calm in this warm hug. I woke up smelling him and still feeling that embrace.

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Four years and a day…

Whenever the end of April rolls around, I start feeling uneasy and wonder why. Then May hits and I remember and I dread the passing of May 10.

I am a day late here in recognizing that four years ago yesterday we lost John-Mark. I wanted to write yesterday, but I got as far as posting a photo and a note on Facebook before being taken down by a virus that made it hurt to even lay down. He got a lot of love on that FB post, so I don’t feel quite so bad for not getting this up in time. Thank you everyone for recognizing him on FB.

It’s hard to think that another year has passed, technology has developed,and things have happened in the world that JM would have loved to have witnessed. The US killing Osama Bin Laden springs to mind-man that would have made him happy. Or the creation of the iPad, or BMW entering World Superbike with his friend heading the team, or a million other things to do with his friends.

I was going to write some self indulgent things here but I’ll leave them. This here is for you John-Mark. Miss you and your humor, your talent, your towering height, your ultra-stubbornness, your fierce loyalty, your love for animals, your naivety that you hid so well because you were so smart, your curiosity, your love of knowledge, your power of debate, your charm and how comfortable you made the people around you feel.

 

Three Years.

It was an afternoon in late May of 2003, and I had some quasi work meeting someone else had arranged at the motorcycle dealership JM was managing. I was observing him closely for the first time, in profile, while he looked at his work computer in his little office at Spectrum Motorsports. He played with the tidy soul patch he kept under his lip and peered through his stylish glasses. He leaned forward in his chair, presumably to relieve the sciatica from a bulging disc he was suffering from those days. And just as he leaned forward, it was as if he suddenly started to sparkle, and I realized what a good looking man I was having a meeting with.

We kept talking business, but for the remainder of the meeting an additional agenda snuck its way into my side of the conversation. I could see he was responding to it, so I kept it up, trying to impress him with my bike knowledge and experience. I’m sure to an outsider I sounded a fool, but I know now that he did not care; he was viewing me through the other side of the sparkly lens.

It took one full month for him to ask me on a date. Ten months later, we snuck off to the county offices and were married.

And then, just after our fourth wedding anniversary, he died. That was three years ago today.

A lot of stuff happened in between. And presumably, I am still processing some of it because I still dream of John-Mark weekly. Or rather, he is in my dreams weekly, they are not necessarily about him.

In these dreams I am back in my old life in San Diego, in my old house, and JM is is always there. He, and my life, are as they were and whatever is happening in the dream, in  my life, is just taking place as normal. Sometimes I am mad at him, sometimes we are traveling somewhere, sometimes we are talking. I never think to ask him questions because while I am dreaming, everything is as it was and I don’t realize he is gone and that in my waking life I am living in Spain and in another relationship. My dreaming life hasn’t yet caught up to my waking life. Or maybe my dreaming life is pulling me back to try to resolve all that can never be resolved between us.

And it never truly can be. Oh sure, I can come to terms with things and let things go or “get over it” as some idiots like to offer as (useless) advice. But I’ll never know who he was on his way to becoming or what dreams he would achieve. I’ll never know how the story above was supposed to play out…

So I will appreciate what I have now. Everything and every friend and every family member and person in my life. And know that I am not alone in missing him.

And so it continues

Someone saw my tattoo Saturday night at a dinner we had in the flat. He was washing dishes to make space in the kitchen while others were preparing food, eating pica pica, drinking wine, putting stuff on the table. He asked me what it meant. I explained about my husbands race number and nickname, how they were one in the same. And then of course, why I got the tattoo.

The guy literally stopped moving, soap covered hands in the air, mouth half open. He paused in this position for 5 seconds while I finished my sentence.  I watched him search for what kind of reaction to have – I hate this part the most because of what the next statement so often is – he then said sorry for bringing it up.  It’s a strange situation to be in, watching wide eyed panic set in someones eyes as the word died comes out of my mouth. But by then I have to keep going, it is not my job to assuage their discomfort or even acknowledge it. I also won’t change the subject if it is brought up. Because as I’ve said so many times, not talking about JM is so much harder for me than just…talking about him.

I can now accurately predict who will avoid me thereafter if I mention that my husband died (this actually happens, as if I had a disease they could catch). That fact is he died racing motorcycles, and hearing this makes some people really uncomfortable. Occasionally I decide to skip saying I was ever married at all, if I don’t have the energy to deal with an uncomfortable reaction. But more and more, I just talk about him because I like my memories of him and don’t want to forget. And if that makes someone uncomfortable, tough poo. So that’s progress on my part, I guess.

But while I can now say the word widow,  I still have a hard time dealing with the life I left behind in California. I miss my friends, my family my dogs, (OMG I miss my dogs like crazy). In fact, more than that, I still cannot deal with so many things in my life. I wonder when and if this will change…

Example 1: I got a message on my US phone from my accountant reminding me that April 15 in coming up and did I want an appointment. Wait…didn’t I just complete my 2008 taxes? I did, in October. Or was it December? Whichever. I can’t remember, my brain still blocks this stuff. I ‘ll get an extension. If I remember to.

Example 2: I am selling my house in San Diego. Though it is not on the market. I am hoping I don’t have to put it on the market, that my neighbor will buy it, or someone will just make me an offer so I do not have to deal with anything. This is not the recommended way to sell a house.

Example 3: I cannot use any of my air miles because they are in JM’s name. In order to transfer these, I will have to produce a copy of my marriage certificate and a death certificate. Then some other shit has to happen that I can’t remember because I stopped listening after that point and promptly told them they can shove their air miles up their ass.

Example 4: My health. I have not had my teeth cleaned or had any type of medical check-up  since I arrived in Spain in October, 2008.  I don’t have health coverage here and as far as dental care goes, have you seen what people’s teeth look like in Spain? I did have a couple (pretty crappy) therapy visits in BCN over a year ago because I thought I was going crazy.

Example 5: I have not cut my hair since October, nor had a pedicure since December 3rd. My feet resemble hooves.

Example 7: I am provided healthcare and dental coverage in the US through my company, but I have not signed any paperwork or gotten any insurance cards. So actually, I do not know if I am covered in the US.

I’d rather lose money – on my house, in IRS interest, in air miles – than take responsibility and action to set everything in order. So  I may not be the best candidate for watching small children (OK, I am never a good candidate for watching small children) or say, planning an itinerary for your visit, or planning much of anything for that matter.

So if you maybe were wondering why I haven’t answered an email, returned a call, acknowledged an event, bought the ticket…well, it’s not because I’m traipsing back and forth between Italy and Spain, drinking wine and riding motorcycles. Though, I am doing that too. I guess that is progress as well.

Gifts from John-Mark

It’s John-Mark’s 42nd birthday today.

I refuse to wonder what would have been, and  I am grateful for the time I had with him.

Here is a photo I found on his phone, I think he took it from a hotel room traveling somewhere. I gave him that shirt, possibly as one of his 38th or 39th supplemental birthday gifts.

He loved it.

We were good gift givers, and for Xmas and birthdays would have a series of gifts to open.  An exceptional shopper, but a terribly lazy gift-wrapper, he would always surprise me with beautiful clothes or moto gear wrapped in a shopping bag. On my birthday he would buy me jewelry that contained a star – our race team symbol that came to represent me, two stars representing the both of us. (The jewelry was at least wrapped by the store attendant).

A few days before his accident, he bought me a Mother’s Day gift (from our dogs) that I found upon coming home after his death. It was a necklace with two stars, one little, one big – the two of us.  Wrapped in a small paper bag.  His last gift to me.