This week was emotional, in the way that probably only other widowed folks would totally understand.
On the surface, a few little things happened that were somewhat sad. But in widow-land, all those things got amped up and took me back, at least in part, to the sudden death of my husband, and life in the aftermath; stirring up heavy emotions and leaving me depleted and exhausted.
Nick and I have been house-hunting. Our one year lease at the apartment ended in March, and we are now on month to month tenancy here while we look for our forever home together in this absolutely insane market that does NOT favor the buyer. We have been going on showings together, and because Im a Realtor, I am also acting as OUR Realtor, and Im doing my best to find something for us off-market through my connections at the office and all of that. Problem is, in this market where a seller can get an average of $40,000 ABOVE their asking price on-market, not many are willing to take us up on our hopes of doing a private sale. So, it’s been challenging and frustrating, to say the least.
And, for me, the part where it gets extra emotional is the part where I never got to search or live in our “forever” home with Don, because our forever was 4 years and 9 months. He died before we ever started that part of our story. Here I am, almost 50 years old now, 10 years after his death, and hoping to be a first-time home owner. I cant help but feel A: a tad resentful that it never happened the first time, B: a tad of “I DESERVE an amazing home, dammit! I’ve been through so much! Why is this so hard?”, and C: a tad of “When is the other shoe going to drop? We are just about to maybe have everything we want, so when comes the part where he randomly dies and everything disappears all over again?” Okay, so that last one is a bit more than a tad. It’s a raging ocean, to be honest. Turning 50 in a few short months, and Nick being a couple years away from 60, and making big life decisions and planning for our future together – I am keenly aware of the fragility of life, and how everything can be taken away at any time. There are days where I don’t think about this, but there are other days where I have to do everything in my power to NOT think about it, and not focus on it. It is a constant battle to live in the NOW.
About a week ago, we found “the house.” To say this house was PERFECT for us in every way is an understatement, really. Beyond that, there were so many ways in which this house felt “meant to be” for us. So I worked my magic, got us a private showing with the listing agent instead of attending the Open House with everyone else, put in the absolute best offer we could afford, which included handing over my Realtor commissions to the seller as part of the transaction (in Massachusetts, the Buyer Agent commission comes out of the sellers closing costs), and wrote up a buyers letter from us that basically talks up why we love the house and tells our story. Then we waited to hear on if our offer was accepted.
For the past year or so, Nick and I have been seeing a couples counselor, from our apartment, on Zoom. We met her last January when we took part in an incredible in-person program in Boston at “Home Base”; which is a Red Sox / Mass General founded non-profit, whose mission is to offer programs that help Veterans and their families deal with the invisible wounds that come from military service. Because the programs they offer are at no cost to the veteran, the couples counseling we received was time-limited. This past Wednesday was our final session with our counselor, whom we both absolutely adore.
So right in the middle of our session with her on Wednesday, as we were literally wrapping things up and saying goodbye to her and feeling emotional, I saw the notification that an email had come in from the listing agent. In the pits of my stomach, I knew that email meant we didnt get the house, because they generally would call you if its GOOD news, and send an email out to all the agents whose client’s offers were not accepted. So seeing the notification come up for that email, in the same minute that we were saying goodbye to our counselor, my heart felt like it was slowly being ripped out with sadness. I was reminded and taken back to my last few sessions with Caitlin; my incredible grief-counselor that I was in NYC for almost 3 years after Don died. I recalled how losing her felt like another death, another loss, and how heart-wrenching it was for me at the time. I didnt feel ready to let her go yet, or maybe ever, but she said it was time. Now, here we were with this incredible counselor who taught us so much about how to communicate with each other, how to better listen, how to care for each other better – and she was telling us it was time to let her go.
After our counselor left the screen, and after us giving each other a “virtual group hug” and sharing our mutual love for one another, I opened the email and the first sentence read: “Kelley and Nicholas, I so wish that I was writing with better news.” She went on to say how much our story moved both her and the sellers, but in the end, it “came down to money.” All the little goodbyes hit me in that moment and I just started crying. I dont WANT to end our sessions. I dont WANT to lose this house that FELT like it was meant to be ours. Things shouldnt have a “meant to be” feeling if they arent meant to be. It sucks.
Lastly, I found out yesterday that my kitty Sammy, the 21-year old that Don and I adopted from the rescue shelter back in 2010 when he was an adult cat at around age 10, most likely has a tumor growing on his paw. This was not a total surprise, as I had taken him into the vet months ago for that paw, which had developed a bad ingrown toenail issue that was bleeding off and on. They cared for it at that time, gave him antibiotics, a cone around his head so he wouldnt lick at it, and weeks of after-care. Now, months later, he has continued to slowly decline (matted fur, dry and fragile, smelly mouth area, arthritis), yet he is still a happy kitty and still has quality of life and seems to not be in any pain. Yesterday, I took him to the local groomer to give him some dignity and see if they could help with the matting and maybe make him smell a bit less like old-man cat. The harsh realities of his age and of me having to say goodbye to him at some point soon started to set in as the groomer informed me that she thinks his paw has a tumor, and that he is generally “a mess.” She did what she could, but he was screaming in pain / crying when she touched his matted fur, so she had no choice but to shave him, so now his whole backside looks like Dr. Evil’s cat in “Austin Powers.” The message she left me with was that he may not have too much time left with us, so just keep him comfortable and safe for as long as he still seems happy and is eating ,drinking, and able to continue with basic functions. X-rays, surgery, and other invasive testing is not the route to go with a cat who is this fragile and elderly. So, for now, the stinky old-man cat gets to live.
When I went to pick him up, I saw him sitting in that pet taxi cage, and I just started crying. Crying because he looked so pathetic and small and hair-less on his backside. Crying because he won’t be here forever. Crying because he was “our baby”, me and Don’s, and Don was his favorite human ever. Crying because Don should be here for all of this, and because he was the better pet-parent by MILES, and he would have taken much better care of Sammy and Autumn than I have. Crying because we never had children, so these kitties WERE and are our little family, and thinking about losing that last little living piece of our family is heart-shattering to me. So I sat there in the vet/groomers parking lot with my Sammy boy in his cage and his sad eyes looking back at me, and I just cried.
A million little goodbyes. Some that are immediate, others that are inevitable and heart-wrenching.
Loss stays with you forever, and it affects you in a million little ways, throughout the years, and over time.
There are some days when you don’t even think about it.
But there are other days when it takes over your world, permeating everything.