Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Look Back

What a bizarre year.  For me anyway.  And it's all in your own personal perspective, isn't it?  If you've never been separated before, the first year after one probably seems crazy and traumatic.  If you've been married four times and the recent one is going down the tubes, it probably just seems more of the same (of course, here's a hint:  if you've been married that many times, the institution probably is not for you).  I'm not divorced, so it's just an example, but I am - for lack of a better word - separated, and just spent the first Christmas without Greg sitting at my side since we started dating in 1982 (holy crap!  I am really that old?!).  And, I really have to say, on balance, it was okay.  I mean, as I sit here, the main television in the Sports Cave is not working, having crapped out the day after the Steelers-Green Bay game (I think I have some Packer fan friends who will tell me that is karma coming to call), only to have the oven door come completely off on Christmas day.  Thanks to Marissa's boyfriend, the over door was put back on, but it really doesn't close right now so I'm afraid to use it.  So, I trudged over to Best Buy after a baby shower for our Lovely Philly Friend and buried myself in some more debt.  But, if not for those "little" issues and the fact that Ripley knocked me down the other night, so my knee is a bruised mess, and the fact that I'm waiting on the plumber to fix the new leak in the tub and I think he's forgotten about me, it would have been a delightful Christmas.  And even with all of those calamities, it was a pretty nice one (remember that Christmas took place before the Steelers Nation got screwed right on out of the playoffs).  Marissa and her boyfriend went out of their way to make it that way for me.  Hopefully I was able to return the favor to a degree.  Greg sent gifts for all, including the boyfriend, which I was touched by, so hopefully there was no one in this house on Christmas Day who didn't feel like they belonged to part of a family unit.  And that, I think, in the end analysis, is the best gift I could ask for.

So, as I sit here, pondering this climatic week to such a weird year, I am trying to work out the life lessons I'm supposed to take from everything that has happened.  For one thing, I won my fantasy football league.  That may seem sort of funny to list as a major accomplishment that teaches a life lesson, but bear with me.  It's a league through work, and they invited me to play the year Kelsey died.  I knew at the time it was a pity invitation - the core group of co-workers who gave me a spot knew I loved football, and I think believed it would be a fun distraction for me.  And it was, but I totally sucked at it (I drafted mainly all Steelers that first year because that was all I really knew about).  I've played ever since, but I've always dwelled in the basement.  This year, completely on my own with no input whatsoever from Greg, I won the whole thing!  I drafted the players, moved them around to form the best roster every week, and I nailed it (actually, I came in second during the regular season, but won the playoffs).  The sense of accomplishment I got from that was enormous.  Because the biggest issue I've had since Greg left this summer was trying to make major decisions without him.  Take the whole TV/oven thing.  I was almost paralyzed for a couple of days trying to figure out what to do.  I didn't have my sounding board.  At one point, I had Marissa cornered in my office trying to spell out the options and make her help decide.  She was not having it.  Truthfully, what sometimes happens is I talk to Greg about it and then do what I want anyway, but at least I get to work it out strategically with someone who has a vested interest.  It has been sort of frightening not to have that.  He's still around, of course, it's not like he went to Mars and doesn't get cell phone reception.  But he's busy.  He doesn't have time to fool with me.  No, it's on me to manage this house.  What I've learned is I can do it.  All by myself.  Fantasy football taught me that I've got the ability to pull it off and gave me the confidence to use it.

What I'm still working on is The Lonelies.  I can do without the physical contact really - I'm so tired most nights, that's the last thing on my mind anyway.  But some nights, if there is no hockey on in particular, the house seems sort of - not empty, not quiet, not stale - I'm not even sure what the right word is, but it's off somehow.  I've always got the dogs, the cats, my books, my music and the ability to catch up on all the episodes of Revolution and Mob City I miss when hockey is on, but some nights I just am really aware of being on my own.  Marissa has worked really, really hard to keep those moments minimal.  She's here every weekend and many weeknights.  But she's in her 20's.  The way it's supposed to work is the baby bird leaves the nest, not nurses the mother bird through her anxieties.  I watch the two widows who live next to me (in separate houses) because they are my inspiration - both strong and independent despite their advancing ages.  I can tell, and they will confess, that despite their having built a lifetime of relationships here and being still pretty socially active, they get The Lonelies still too.  I'm thinking then that it never goes away.  Some nights will just be like that.  I think as long as it's not most nights, then it's just the price you pay when you've been with someone for a really long time and then, suddenly, you're not.  I think that's an homage to the relationship.  If you never miss your spouse, he/she probably was a heel.

As you know, I often have a moral to the story, so here is this one: you have the inner strength to overcome the things you think will overwhelm you.  You have to believe it and believe in yourself first, but you can do it.  Then have patience with yourself on the days when you don't like the job you're doing.  Life is a lesson.  If you knew all about it already, then what would be the point in showing up to live it?

May we all have a wonderful 2014 that includes, for me anyway, a Stanley Cup.  In the meantime, here are some of my favorite photos from 2013 to cheer you on your way:

One of Greg's last evenings with Ripley
Charlie Batch, great Pittsburgher, great guy and a dog owner!  Wow!

Marissa Pearl graduates college!

Antonio Brown - and trust me, it's the subject, not the photographer that makes this a good photo

Ripley gets photo bombed by a big rubber ducky

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