Today felt like the beginning...of something. With Ken's Memorial Soiree a jumble of fond memories and feelings, today the remnants of my out-of-state family left to return to their lives in California. There was nothing standing between me and my future. It was a good day overall. Cleaning, laundry and prepping for heading back to work per a traditional work schedule tomorrow. But it was also a bit...paralyzing. I've learned to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. If it weren't for losing Ken, today would have been the day things went back to normal. But, now, what is normal? My new normal.
I know I'll figure it out as I go, but as a planner, it's a bit unnerving to have to erase a planned future and begin re-imagining it from the ground up. It wasn't that I didn't have my own goals when Ken was alive, but he played an integral part in all of them--particularly in being the foundation on which I could achieve them.
Today is Independence Day. What an ironic holiday. In many ways it's just the third one I've had to endure...along with my birthday and the second anniversary of our getting married in Iowa. This one might just be the most difficult. It was this weekend last year, that Ken had healed in nothing less than a miraculous fashion from his hemipelvectomy surgery in January and had come through a "preventative" and devastating round of chemo a few months later with flying colors, a positive attidude, and some dear friends at the Creticos Cancer Center--our home away from home during treatments. Tonight as I hear the neighborhood fireworks crackling, and flaring in the sky, I'm reminded of a night like where he and I grilled outside and enjoyed many martinis while talking, planning, laughing and loving each other. We'd been through a war, and by all accounts at the time, we'd won. Now THAT was an Independece Day if ever there was one (okay, aside from the original one).
I remember he wheeled around the neighbor like Speedy Gonzales as we moved to get better vantage points of the night's temporary stars that abounded. The feelings and memories of that night are emblazoned in my mind. It was truly one of the best days we'd had post-surgery. He was in charge of the grill, and I was in charge the martini shaker. Like then, lightening bugs sublimely lit up all around us. And we marveled at them--as he always had. I mean, c'mon, a bug whose but lights up? High couldn't have been easy for any of them.
After dinner, we went for another wheel around the neighborhood. Ken was feeling strong and powerful--and he certainly looked the part--so he propelled himself forward like a hummingbird darting from flower to flower along the craggy sidewalks. I highly discouraged "drunk" driving, but he insisted he would be fine. The state of the art wheelchair came with more fails safe's than Fort Knox. So off we went on a gorgeous July night around the neighborhood. And it was on this trip, we had quite an adventure. Part scary and part hilarious.
In typical Ken fashion, he dusted himself off, get back in the chair and we continued on for another 40 minutes. He gently reminded me to please make sure the anti-tippers I removed were put back on his chair. He was remarkable in that respect--and in so many others. "Why not?" he said, to which I had no argument. The next day in spite of the tire burns on his arms, he wanted to go to Halsted Street and go to a couple of bars. And we did so. I video taped a lot of that journey, and I watch them with such great pride--for both of us. The video is a testament to how Ken's mind worked. His tolerance for pain was higher than most, and all he wanted to do was take a walk around the neighborhood with his husband to checkout fireworks you can only see in Chicago. Doing any of that with me was possible for him--but meaningless.
He's still teaching my lessons, and I'll be a start student. He left me with much more than he took. And that's just something I need to keep reminding myself about. You can feel free to remind me as well.
Before I sign off, I wanted to recommend a new blog for your reading pleasure, started by a good friend of mine. Check it out and make some comments. I have no doubt she'll give us a lot to think about: http://mycornermidwest.blogspot.com/
Make tomorrow an amazing day.