Hanging in There for the Holidays...

Just an update on how things are going personally…

It’s been more than 3-1/2 months since my wife, Michelle, passed away and things are settling into a new normal. It is very hard to be without her but I am very, very grateful for the wonderful family that I have. I’ve been living with my youngest daughter, Jenny (age 28), her husband, Ray (age 28), and their daughter, Destiny. It is so nice to have a family to come home to each night. They couldn’t be more wonderful! My biggest complaint is that it’s kind of funky to call home to tell your daughter you’ll be home late. Still, you can’t have someone sitting at home worrying. They have all been incredible and it is such a huge help. One of many funny stories is that I had gone out with some friends for dinner a week or so ago and my cell phone rings. Jenny asks how I’m doing and I tell her that we decided to keep visiting and had moved from the restaurant to a bar. Jenny says to me: “Have you been drinking, Dad? Are you alright to drive? You know I’ll come and pick you up… <pause> Gee, a little bit of a role-reversal, huh?” It is just wonderful to be so loved (and I stayed out late, remained sober, and drove home on my own).

Last week I was at Disneyland with 5 of my 11 grandkids. The biggest treat was seeing my daughter, Christine (age 34), her husband, Greg, and their 4 kids. Christine has always been a joy and a huge part of our lives. The time since Michelle’s death has been no exception and she has flown from California to Washington a number of times to help with many things and to just plain be there for us all. Still, with Michelle’s illness, the funeral, the chaos and difficulties, I had not really seen the kids since June (I’m not counting when I saw them at Michelle’s funeral since we were all zombies). It was just plain too long! Seeing Anastasia (age 3), Branden (age 8), Vince (age 11), and Nick (age 15) was SUCH a treat. As I settle into defining a new normal for our lives, I know that this simply has to include serious visiting to the Bay Area in California at least every couple of months. They are simply too important to me to see so rarely. I’ll never forget sitting in the live theatrical production of “Snow White” at the Fantasyland Theater holding Anastasia while listening to the singing. Live musicals have always gotten me mushy but holding onto her while watching and listening really touched my soul with both the loss of this last year and the joy of such a rich family. I will be down seeing them for New Years.

Both my sons, Mike and Rich (identical twins age 32), have been a source of great happiness. Both of them have grown and matured so much and have handled the difficult times amazingly well. It has been a special treat that I have been growing so much closer to each of them. While we used to just do our own thing and see each other as our lives revolved around mom, now they call me for no reason at all but to chat. It is an incredible blessing. For each of them, we try to see each other for dinner or lunch every week or two (if possible) and that is so cool. I’ve been to my grandson, Alex’s Junior High football championship game (he played defense and they were champions of their league). Alex is 15 now and I had the astounding experience of watching him legally drive away (the age for learner’s permits in Washington State is 15). It really hits you to watch your grandson drive… I think I’m the oldest 48 year old I’ve ever met… The instant family at age 19 really changes you.

We all made it through Thanksgiving very, very well. Christine’s gang couldn’t come from California for the holiday since Greg had to work. Jenny and Ray took over the preparation of the feast and did a magnificent job. Jenny was terrified the food wouldn’t be perfect but it was incredible. We had 15 people (Jenny’s gang, Mike’s gang, Rich’s gang, and my recently widowed 84 year old father (Mom died last May)). While we stopped to remember the loss of both these ladies and how hard it was, we absolutely all felt a true giving of thanks at the blessings we have still with us. It was so hard to have the holiday with such a big hole in the family and yet the family is so very strong we all truly focused on the many blessings we have.

We have successfully emptied the old house that Michelle, her mother, and I had moved into only this last February. It never became our home and the house is not something that I want moving forward. My mother-in-law is staying with a brother-in-law and doing fine. With lots of family help (and frankly me doing a little too much avoidance of the work myself), we have sent furniture, family heirlooms, and lots of stuff to different family members. The job is still only partly done as we have two storage units full of boxes that need to be sorted through. It is a difficult challenge to disassemble a household filled with 29 years of memories. You shift all too quickly from laughter to tears.

As we prepare for Christmas, it is hard but we are moving through it. Michelle was an enthusiastic Christmas zealot who simply loved to get lots of presents for everyone (and there are a lot of people in that list of everyone) and she loved the decoration, excitement, and family time of Christmas. She is strong in all of us as we try to define a new normal. Still, there is a lot of happiness in trying to select presents for everyone! Being male, I had largely ignored this (with a bit of Grinch-ness) as it used to swirl around me and I would focus on work. I am finding that participating in the shopping (with lots of family help) is more fun than I had thought.

On another note, last March or so, I had decided that I was simply too fat and too large. I started eating more normally with nothing between meals, no sweets and snacks, and modest portions for meals. Even with the stress of this terrible year, I somehow felt that eating too much was not the answer. The weight has been consistently peeling off and I am now down over 80 pounds (from 350 to 269 this morning). This is the least I have weighed in 20 years. My goal is to drop another 60 or so to be within striking range of a healthy weight. I hope that when I come to visit all of you in the upcoming year, I don't leave quite as deep an impression as I have in the past!

I miss Michelle very much but I am also relieved that she is not in the pain that she suffered for so many years. It is hard to look and see all that is lost and yet there is so much still here to care about and embrace. I am beginning to feel emotionally stronger after all the difficult changes and promise to regain a new vigor for posting technical content. You will see less of these cathartic family discussions and more of the nerd in me cutting loose. I have a long list of posts in mind and will do a couple of them very soon.

I wish all of you a wonderful holiday season and I look forward to interacting and learning from you all in the new year!

Love and kisses,