Sunday, January 25, 2015

10 years ago, my husband was killed at his job. 

According to government investigations, machinery failed, gas leaked, and there was an explosion. Outside of some small forensic curiosity, I never much cared for the details. My husband, my best friend, my daughter's father was gone. Who cares HOW it happened?

There are no words to properly describe the hole in my life in those days following his death. How do you explain the feeling of having someone snatched away, so immediately, so permanently? To this day, I feel breathless at the enormity of it. How do you move on from 8+ years of constant contact, conversations, and intimacy to a complete and utter feeling of desolate aloneness?

I've written frequently about Pablo and loss and how we should value what we have in the now. So I just have one thing to say now: I miss him. I miss him so much it hurts. And when I think that I'll never see him again, it hurts all over again. You think the more time goes on, the easier it gets. And in a way it does. But in a way, it get even harder. Because time doesn't heal all wounds. It just makes sure you grow accustomed to it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

That Same Old Feeling

I have wrestled and thought over this a lot for the past 6 weeks. Once the end of November rolls around, I spend weeks agonizing over the last few days Pablo spent with me. I thought it would stop as the years passed by, but it has not. 8 years ago today, Pablo went off to work and never came back.

In many ways, I marvel at the ways I've been able to recover and how I'm mostly the same person I was before. However, there is no denying that I have been profoundly changed from the me I was on Jan. 24, 2005. What a dumb, naive girl I was, thinking that nothing would ever damage the little world I'd built for myself. Death was something that happened to other people. Until it happened to me. Then it became my entire world.

Since then, I've lost my two grandmothers and my grandfather. But seeing someone die after a long illness (Papa Angel), or at the end of a long-ish life (all grandparents were in their 80s) is something completely different than seeing someone in his 30s plucked out of your life. There are moments when I wish for nothing more than to be able to talk to him, about his own death even. Read that again and see how absurd that sounds. I wish for that and the obvious thing - for him to be able to see the amazing little girl he gave me.

There's nothing left for me to do at the point but wallow in the memories for a few minutes and move on with my day. The final stage of grief is recognized as acceptance but I will gladly refute that with a Fuck No, I will never be okay with the fact that he's gone. But I guess I don't have to be, do I? Whether I accept it or not, he's not here, and Sam doesn't have her dad. Life sucks that way.

Reminder - go tell someone that they make your life suck just a little less. It's what makes hurtling through space on this rock worth it.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sing a New Song, Chiquitita: Of Grandmothers and ABBA

What in the world can a 30-year-old bit of pop fluff possibly do with the death of my grandmother? I'll get there.

Last August, my 81-year-old grandmother fell ill. One thing led to another and she ended up spending close to two months in the hospital. There were the nights when she was barely conscious, knocked out by pain killers. There was the open heart surgery, done to replace a narrow valve. There were the endless days on an oxygen machine, courtesy of the fluid accumulating in her lungs. A domino effect of issues cropped up until she ended up on dialysis.

We convinced ourselves that it was a temporary measure. After all, the nephrologist told us her numbers improved significantly following the first couple of treatments. And her brother, who'd been put on dialysis because of diabetes, was about to begin his fourth year of the treatment. Surely my grandmother would be done with it by Christmas?

Since I was unemployed, I gladly shouldered a lot of the hospital time. My grandmother first came to this country in the 90s and she never learned any English. At most, she could say hello and thank her nurses. We knew she was alarmed at all the piling health concerns and being alone in a hospital would only add to that panic. No one escaped sleepover duty. Even friends cheerfully volunteered to spend the night at JFK Medical Center or a few hours in the middle of the day while my mother and aunts went home to tend to all the things that still need attention.

During the many hours I spent alone with my grandmother, we never really delved much into her earlier years. I knew the main details: Maria Dominga Ruiz; born in 1930; at the age of 23, married my grandfather, who was 56 and a widower with children older than she; four kids; etc. She herself was widowed at the age of 37. One would think that alone would spark endless talk between us. 

But my grandmother was never really chatty. Scratch that, she was never chatty about deeply personal things. I always wondered if she ever regretted staying alone after my grandfather passed away. I wished I had asked her how he'd courted her, what it was like to marry someone who had children your age. Alas, I thought we'd have more time. Even after all those health issues, I firmly believed my grandmother was a fighter. She was widowed in her late 30s and she picked herself up by the bootstraps and raised my mother and her 3 siblings to be respectful, loving, decent human beings. 

What exactly does this have to do with that ABBA song I posted in the title, you ask? When I was born, my mother and father were living here in New Jersey and my grandmother was living in Dominican Republic. My parents were thrilled to be the new parents to twin baby girls. Three months later, my twin sister, Wendy, passed away. The doctors told my parents it was SIDS-related. They also advised my parents to keep a close watch on me, that they could easily lose me too. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child and on top of that being casually told, "Hey, it could happen to your other child." My parents were devastated.

My grandmother's heart broke for her family. There she was, stuck thousands of miles away, with no way to comfort and console her daughter. Eventually, she sent my mother a tape with the Spanish version of Chiquitita. For my mother, it became an anthem. Years later, it would become my younger sister, Jessica's favorite song. But I never truly listened to the lyrics until my mother told me the story of the tape her own mother, in a moment of desperation, sent to her. The final lines genuinely speak to me:
Otra vez quiero compartir tu alegria, Chiquitita
Once again, I want to share your joy. 

All I needed to know about Mama Minga is encapsulated in that single line. She loved nothing more than opening her home to her family and friends, cooking up a storm and spending an evening just being with loved ones. We will greatly miss our matriarch, our Chiquitita. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

7 years...

7 years ago, my life derailed. It literally blew up in Pablo's face. And not a day has gone by since where I don't miss him, that I don't feel that ache inside.

A few days ago, I was driving to Queens to pick up Baby Girl. She was visiting Pablo's sister for the weekend. As I drove, I listened to my iPod. Everything was cool until Patty Loveless's "How Can I Help You Say Goodbye?" came on. I was hit with a wave of sadness and grief so strong that I nearly pulled over. As I choked down sobs, I wondered, "Whose life was that? Who's left a widow at 26, while pregnant? That only happens in the movies!" These thoughts weigh heavily on my mind nowadays as my new husband and I contemplate having babies.

I can't help but fear that the exact same thing is going to happen. And how selfish and stupid of me it is! As if my pain can compare to the fact that Pablo never got hold his baby in his arms, that he never saw how perfect she was. But in some ways, Pablo's pain was brief. He will never know the pain of loss. The pain of feeling a loved one torn away.

One of the most thoughtless things I heard in those early days was "You're young, you'll find someone new." As if it was merely a thing that had been damaged or lost. As if any one person can replace another. Now that I've remarried, it may be surprising to think that I still mourn the loss of not only my first husband, but a dear friend.

I still think of him every day. There are moments when I yearn for a glimpse of an alternate reality, a reality where he met his daughter and where he became the father I always knew he'd be. I usually banish those thoughts quickly because the pain is still sharp. There will always be a part of me that never heals, that always remains grief-stricken over the loss of someone so young, over the loss of our life together. Even as I amaze myself with the girl I once was, on that cold January day 7 years ago, to the person I've become today, I know a part of me will hurt forever.

This memorial post now becomes my yearly appeal to you all. Tomorrow is never promised to anyone. If there's anyone who you've been meaning to call or see, just do it today. For me. For Pablo.

We miss you always, Pablo.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In Memory of Angel DeJesus

On July 19, 2009, our dear grandfather, Angel DeJesus, passed away from complications related to Alzheimer's. For close to a decade, he suffered from the ravages of the disease. I will never forget the day in 2004 when we "lost" him. He was at our uncle's house and just wandered out. After searching our town for a couple hours, we finally found him at a local grocery store. We were terrified during those few hours, with thoughts that he could easily wander into traffic and get seriously hurt.

It was around that time that the family realized that we could no longer care for our grandfather, and that he would have to receive care from an Alzheimer's facility. He would spend the rest of his days well cared for in a facility specializing in the care of Alzheimer's patients. For us, the worst part of the disease was seeing our once proud patriarch become a senile patient who could do very little for himself. (Grandpa used to dye his hair black. Once his mind was truly taken captive by the disease, he no longer dyed it. It was jarring to see him with a white head of hair.)

Almost 50% of people who reach 85 have Alzheimer's disease. Like many diseases, it not only affects the patient but touches all of his family and friends. On May 1st, my sister, Jessica DeJesus will be participating in the Bike to End Alzheimer's. Please help us (every little bit helps!) raise funds to further research this disease. Thank you for your time.

Donate here:

Monday, January 24, 2011

6 years. That's how long it's been. 6 years since The Accident, The Day That Changed My Life. Yes, it requires caps.

Not a day goes by that I don't think about That Day. However, in the past 6 years, it's gotten easier to push it out of my head and focus on the man I lost. Why dwell on the terrible way his life ended when I can celebrate how he lived? Lately, Baby Girl has been asking more and more about her father. She's also displaying lots of his idiosyncrasies. It takes my breath away how like him she is sometimes. The worst is when she asks when he's coming back. I gently explain to her that he isn't and she carries on with her day. I wish more than anything that she had her father.

However, it's something I have to live with. Talking to her about him will always be emotional. I live every day knowing how easily, how quickly we can lose it all. It's a small price to pay for having had him in my life.

I miss you, Pablo. You were my best friend.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

5 days into 2011 and things seem to be going swimmingly. Or so it would seem. With a 6th anniversary rapidly approaching, I've found myself in tears every so often. I'm grateful it usually happens when I'm alone in the car, as I like to keep my grief to myself.

For some reason, every January I replay the weeks leading up to the Accident. I remember the birthday cake for my birthday on Jan. 1st. I remember flying home from DR on Jan. 2nd. I remember the phone call from him on Jan. 4th, calling to wish me a happy birthday. I remember going to the airport to pick him up on Jan. 8th. This will happen all month long until Jan. 25th.

People may think it's been long enough and life has gone back to normal. There will never be a normal after that. In the first few bleak days, I survived. In the following couple of years, I merely existed. I breathed, ate, slept, etc., just because I had to. I'm absolutely happy now. But there will always be part of me that grieves the man I lost that day, over the dreams I had, over the little girl who will never meet her dad (and the man who will never meet his daughter).

I'm glad the good days far outnumber the bad. I've grown to accept the bad as proof of how much he meant to me, how much he meant to all of us.