First birthday without John…

Everybody, says that birthdays and holidays are difficult after you lose a spouse.  I knew it would be difficult, but I didn’t know how hard it would be.  I’ve found that if I’m prepared for things then I handle them much better.  The things that I didn’t anticipate have been the hardest for me. 

John & I met on my birthday.  I remember talking to Wendy on the phone when I was still living in my apartment in Gilbert, IA and she was telling me about this guy that I had to meet & I’d really like– that was John.Wendy & James set us up on a blind date.  John was less than enthusiastic about the idea- he hadn’t exactly been told about it beforehand.    

The first time we met, we went bowling.  John later would say that he loved my little hop that I did when I was bowling.  In reality, it’s a goofy little step because I didn’t have my feet quite right to get the steps down, but he thought it was cute, so that was good!  We went out for ice cream at Dairy Queen afterwards.  It was just a nice evening.  The only thing that tainted the evening was we heard about the death of Princess Diana.  (In England it was the 31st, in the states the 30th) 

John wasn’t looking for a relationship at the time.  He’d had his heart broken in a previous relationship and wasn’t looking for that to happen again.  I don’t know what Iwaslooking for, but I enjoyed spending time with John and wanted to spend more time with him.  In the past, I felt like I’d missed out on opportunites because I didn’t pursue them, so this time I felt I had nothing to lose… either the relationship would grow into something I wanted or it wouldn’t.  I thought John was cute, I liked his long legs (that he always hated) and his slim build and his height.  I LOVED his sense of humor and his intelligence.  I really liked how passionate he was about the fire department.  I think it’s important to have a passion in life!

I’d stop by and visit him at the Police Department.   The more time I spent with John, the more I liked him and at some point I fell in love.  He was the first to say, “I love you,” and he said it by accident after I had brought him some M & Ms.  He got that deer in the headlights look right after he said it.  It was funny.  I don’t remember when I told him that I loved him, but I waited till I meant it for real.  It’s a phrase that I don’t toss around. 

I remember when he went to FL for the wildfires and how I couldn’t wait for his calls and how disapointed I’d be if I missed them (this was back before cell phones).  I remember that giddy feeling I’d get waiting for him to pick me up before we went out.  He was almost always late, but that didn’t matter to me. 

Our relationship moved slowly, but steadily.  We never had an official date that we started “dating.”  I always used that we met on my birthday in 1997. 

So… it was difficult on several planes. 

John wasn’t good at celebrating holidays and birthdays.  He got me roses ONCE.  It was SO cool… but it was only once.  Other times he wouldn’t even get presents for birthdays or Christmas, but sometimes he would. 

One year, I told him that I wanted him to take me to a hotel somewhere for my birthday.  I told him that I didn’t care what we did and my only restriction was that we had to be farther away than Bel Air. 

Wouldn’t you know, John got a hotel the next exit past Bel Air!  Most women would have been PISSED!!!  Me… well, I’m not “most women,” I thought it was funny.  We had a great night and went to Outback in Bel Air (our favorite spot) for dinner!  I think that was when John decided he wanted a king sized bed & a whirlpool tub.  He never got the king sized bed, but we did have a whirlpool tub put in when we built the house.  It was just nice to get out and spend time together.  With the horses, it’s hard to go away.  Add to that, neither of us really had a burning desire to leave home either.  We never even went on a honeymoon.  As John said, “Why would I want to leave, when I’ve got a house like this!” 

So, back to 2009.  I’ve been dreading my birthday for weeks.  I knew that I’d be so lonely and I was right.  Part of me just wanted to curl up and spend most of the day crying alone.  Part of me didn’t want that. 

I stayed up till 2AM in a futile attempt to be so exhausted that I’d sleep.  Instead, I found myself laying all alone in our bed bawling my eyes out.  Winnie tried to comfort me, but it didn’t work.  There is something about laying in an empty bed in the silence and darkness of the night that just makes reality hit even harder.  I don’t think I can explain it, but I think just about anybody who has lost a spouse knows what I’m talking about.  Eventually, I fell asleep. 

Nathaniel & I went to “beach church” with Karen & Amanda.  The location was SO beautiful!  The sun shone on the water & it just sparkled.  A boy also got baptised and it was just beautiful.  Afterwards, Karen & Amanda took us out to breakfast at Waffle House.  Nathaniel decided waffles were good!  I couldn’t help but notice that our young server had a tattoo memorializing his father.  Part of me wanted to ask him about his father, but judgement intervened.

Afterwards, a stop at Walmart yielded a bike helmet for the munchkin.  John had always wante to take Nathaniel on a bike ride.  I’d always hoped we could take family bike rides together.  He never got the chance, so I decided to pick up the pieces.  My birthday seemed like a memorable date to start. 

Nathaniel modeling his bike helmet.  He reminds me so much of his father in this shot-- those eyes... that serious face...

Nathaniel modeling his bike helmet. He reminds me so much of his father in this shot-- those eyes... that serious face...

I was tired after getting very little sleep, so we napped after we got home.  Once I woke up we prepared to go on our bike ride.  I had thought about going to the dam for the ride, but instead opted to make the first test ride on Towers Lane. 

First, I grabbed John’s white helmet and mounted up on the Navigator.  I’m a novice bike rider and really could use some pointers on simple things like shifting gears and climbing hills.  With Nathaniel safely in the play pen on the porch, I took a few test laps to make sure I felt confident enough.  Beth had decided to take me out for dinner & arrived as I was in the process of getting ready for the bike ride.

I got NAthaniel situated.

I got NAthaniel situated.Took a deep breath & thought, "Please don't let me wreck and hurt Nathaniel," and mounted up.And off we went...

I think Nathaniel enjoyed himself!

I think Nathaniel enjoyed himself!

Afterwards, I had Beth snap some pics.
Check out the pose on the boy... is he getting ready for his centerfold after winning the Tour de France? Check out the pose on the boy… is he getting ready for his centerfold after winning the Tour de France?
Nathaniel & Mary after first bike ride

Nathaniel & Mary after first bike ride

I’m glad that I took Nathaniel on the bike ride.  I spent a lot of the day wishing that John was still here… still healthy… how proud he’d be… how happy he’d be… I can just see him smiling at Nathaniel eating steak!  Although, I’m not sure what he would have thought of Nathaniel eating lima beans the day before- John HATED lima beans! 
I’ll be honest… it was a tough day… a very tough day… I cried a lot, but there were good moments as well.  I can’t thank my friends who supported me throughout the day… I needed the both the time to bawl and the time to smile.