This blog is for Jim Marventano's family and friends to review his status and updates while he goes through treatment for Stage IV Colon Cancer. We can beat it together!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Besting Jim

It was hard to outdo Jim at much of anything. When we were first married he taught me how to play backgammon. He'd win nearly every time, until I'd start crying. Then I'd miraculously win and he'd deny throwing the game. Then I'd get mad because he let me win.

Over the years, we had a number of talks about not telling other guys what to do. Other guys don't want to know what's wrong with their grill. If they said it's broken, then leave it. If there's a better way to hang drywall, perhaps they can figure it out on their own. I know that at one point my mom said something like "Wait on that project until Jim gets here" and my dad got furious and said he could do it without Jim. (This was probably pre-JimnI, during which he would proclaim for everything "JimnI are going to {insert location}".) Jim couldn't understand when we had to have these talks. Jim just figured if there was a faster, easier way to do something, you might as well do it that way. He just wasn't familiar with handling the male ego. But sometimes guys would get annoyed.

And by the way, Jim was great on the grill. No one made a steak like Jim.

Jim was also a sneaky trickster. One of my brothers had a not-so-subtle way of teasing Jim. But Jim wouldn't tease back the same way. Jim's was pure wit. He knew how to tell a good story. He didn't babble endlessly at a party (like someone else we know) - he interjected short, sweet, really funny things. Jim was the one who would come out with one-liners.

Jim was smart beyond belief. If he didn't know it, give him 20 minutes and he'd figure it out. I can remember getting frustrated on the few occasions where he admitted he didn't know something. What do you mean you don't know? You're Jim, for heaven's sake. Of course you know.

Sometimes I would feel so jealous. He was just so smart and so good at everything. His hobbies created or resulted in something substantial. Woodworking - he made practically everything around our house. There are little symbols of love all over the place, including bookshelves, a fireplace mantle, a windowseat and shelves in Rachel's room, an awesome mudroom name it, he could make it. He was a great runner, and even at my best I couldn't do better than his worst. He was good at drawing, although he was pretty shy about that. And he was great at puzzles, mind benders, stuff like that. Sometimes the jealousy got so bad I'd start to wonder if I was ever good at anything. Sometimes I wouldn't let him watch me work on something because I just couldn't bear to give him proof that he was better than me. (As if he needed it!)

When we redid our kitchen in Atlanta, I put my talents to work and saved a lot of money. We paid off a big credit card and paid for the kitchen in cash. But Jim was the one that actually did the kitchen (with help from our neighbors, Paul and Sara), and people raved about it. I childishly tried to point out that I'd been in charge of saving the money and picking the stuff for the kitchen, but no matter what I said or did, I didn't do the work. And the work was the really amazing part of the kitchen. Especially if you'd seen it before we finished it. My stuff was all behind the scenes. Jim's was all so tangible.

When we moved into our second house in Atlanta, Jim went out of town when I was about 8 months pregnant. Well, we had a house full of boxes that weren't even close to unpacked, and there was some sort of mix-up with the water company, and somehow the water to our house got shut off while he was gone. I called the water company and tried to explain that there'd been some sort of mixup, but alas, it was after 5:00 and they wouldn't help me. By the time I called Jim I was crying so hard he couldn't understand what I was saying. (But he knew it was me - he was familiar with the crying thing...) He finally talked me through the entire process of stealing water - "Go down to the basement. At the third box, take a right. In the first box on the left is my water wrench. Take it out of the box. Now get a big screwdriver from the box next to that. Go outside. On the left side of our lawn close to the street is the water access. Pry the cover off the water access with the screwdriver. Put the water wrench on the screw and turn it to the left. Now put the cover back on and go inside." All the while, I'm sobbing and wailing that I'm going to be arrested for stealing water. Jim laughed and said "Kate, we live two miles from the 'hood where they've got drive-by shootings and crack houses. Do you really think they're going to care about an 8 month-pregnant woman stealing water for a few hours?" I stopped crying. "Well, no." "Then go take a shower and calm down. I'll be home tomorrow." And that was that. There are so many points to that story - one being that he happened to know which box the water wrench was in. A second being that he knew where the water access was in the yard for our new house. The third being that he got a hysterical hormonal pregnant woman to stop crying. The fourth being that he had a water wrench.

When Jim and I first met, it was sort of a love-after-first-date kind of thing. Shortly after our first date, my parents asked Jim to watch their house while our family went on a backpacking trip in Colorado. We called the house at one point and asked how Jim was doing. He said to my dad "Fine. I was a little bored...I hope you don't mind but I cleaned out your pool filter, fixed the pump, and fixed all the fallen rails on your split rail fence." When we hung up the phone dad looked at me and said "I like this one." And that was that. He's been fixing things at our house ever since.

Did you know that Jim used to cut his own hair? Looked pretty good, didn't it? He'd cut his hair in the basement, using an ancient pair of clippers and a mirror. The first time he did it he came upstairs and there was a big red ring on his forehead. I said "What happened to your forehead?" He said "Oh, I just cut my hair." I said "Okay, but why is there a big red ring on your forehead?" His twinkly eyes shone as he said "I used to shop-vac to get the hair off me and it must have gotten stuck to my head." I just laughed. He looked good - if wanted to use the shop-vac on his head, I was okay with it.

When I look back over the years, I remember feeling so much pride in Jim's talents. I loved showing people around our houses and when they'd point something out I'd get to say "Oh, Jim made that for me!" But I remember feeling envious, too. He really was an amazing man, and it was easy to feel envy for his many talents. I always wished I was more like Jim. In fact, after Jim passed away I considered getting one of those WWJD bracelets. But instead of thinking "What would Jesus do?" I would think "What would Jim do?". I wish he was here with me right now.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hope springs eternal

Thanks to those who expressed concern for me this last week. It was a tough week - it sort of slid downhill and the last blog was an accumulation of nearly a week's worth of stress. (Or did I write it on a Wednesday? In which case, it was only half a week...)

I rarely get that sad. Writing all that on the blog was a luxury - I sat here and cried and wrote. But before that, I'd cried in front of Rachel and Jake. Rachel, in an effort to make me feel better, pulled ornaments off the Christmas tree. And Jake poked me in the face. So, as you can see, crying is actually an extravagance around here that I cannot afford. And now we have a fence around our Christmas tree because the kids have broken so many ornaments.

As bad as a week can get, we also have highlights and good things. We had our annual gingerbread house decorating this year, which was really cool. All the parents were really impressed with my ability to put gingerbread houses together at this time until I finally admitted that my mom put them all together. But hey, we carried on the tradition and that was the important thing. Rachel got to hit the sledding hill in Kohler today with some friends. Jake said "banana" and "Rachel" this week. I had a lovely talk with my pastor and felt good about some recent decisions I've made. I've also been doing more prayer and meditation at night. Jim's cousin sent me a series of meditation CDs that are amazing. They really help. One of them is a "suggestion" meditation that encourages me to meditate on ways I want to improve or things I'd like to learn. So I'm meditating on being a better mom. (My example is living next-door - she's AMAZING!) I'm also meditating to balance my chakras, which, call me crazy, seems to be helping with back pain.

Alexander Pope said "Hope springs eternal from the human breast..." and I believe that to be true. I do have hope for better days to come. Yesterday wasn't my best day, and neither is today, but tomorrow might be better. Sometimes it's overwhelming being here without Jim. But I think one of the reasons that Jim loved me is that I have the ability to persevere and push on. I can look toward a new day. I might not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel right now, but I know there's one there. And I can move forward based on faith.

{Religious bit to follow - it's a wonder I haven't been struck by lightening yet...}

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” —John 8:12, NIV - you all know that I'm not super-churchy. (Although you'd never know by reading this blog...) But the church I go to is so NOT churchy...that I actually take good information away from it because I'm comfortable there. The first time I ever quoted anything from The Bible was on this blog. But on occasion, something really resonates with me and I believe it to be true. So I think "Hope springs eternal" and "I am the light of the world" are related. I have things giving me hope, I just need to use them. I need to lean on the resources available to me right now. My friends, my family, my community, my faith, and yes, my church.

One of my favorite sayings is "Rome wasn't built in a day". But if I go around tossing that cliche out, shouldn't I listen to it? Why are my expectations so high? Can't I do things one step at a time? Is anyone really going to fault me for not having my laundry folded right away? I doubt it. Deep breaths. It will get better. Tomorrow is a new day. I can meditate on that tonight.

And p.s. - I'm about 1/2 way through the memorial cards! Maybe I'll meditate on that tonight.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

On a day like today

On a day like today, there's only one person I want to talk to. And he's not here.

On a day like today, I start to wonder if this isn't some kind of mega-karma kick. You know the saying "What goes around comes around..."? Well what the hell did I do to deserve this? WHAT THE HELL DID JIM DO?

On a day like today, it doesn't matter if the sun is shining. It's not.

On a day like today, I eat an entire tin of peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate. (Thanks Mrs. D!!!)

On a day like today, I dread the mountain of paperwork. I can't bring myself to do the Memorial Cards, which loom over my head like a teetering cantilever.

On a day like today, I feel like giving up. And I wonder why I haven't given up yet. But then I get mad and tell myself that giving up is for weaklings so I should just buck up and get through it.

On a day like today, my eyes burn from crying.

On a day like today, I dread tomorrow. And the day after that.

On a day like today, no matter who I call, they can't comfort me. They just aren't Jim. And even when I do call people, they have their own lives and significant others to deal with. And what can I say anyway? That I want him back? We already know that.

On a day like today, I wonder why the person who loved me most had to leave me alone. Yeah, I know I can always call my parents. But my parents have to love me. Jim picked me - faults and all. And he still loved me.

On a day like today, turning the heat up in the house doesn't help. Jim isn't here to hug me. Nothing replaces that kind of warm.

On a day like today, I am so consumed with sadness. It's like an albatross.

On a day like today, I know I should count my blessings, but I can only count two. And they're fighting and whining.

On a day like today, I kick myself for not buying stock in Kleenex.

On a day like today, I can't quietly pray and ask God for grace. I scream at him and tell him that I want Jim back. It isn't fair. It isn't fair. It isn't fair.

On a day like today, I can't see the future. I can only see the here and now. And I'm miserable in the here and now. They tell me that things will get better, but I can't see when.

On a day like today, I just want my Jimmy back.

Monday, December 10, 2007

How long do these phases last?

I'm going through another phase. This is one where I feel the need to explain to people why I'm on my own with the kids.

Buying a Christmas tree: I explain that my husband passed away, thank you for tying the tree to the car for me because I was nervous about getting a tree.
Flying alone with two kids: I explain that my husband passed away and that's why he's not here helping.
Changing Health Insurance information at the doctor's office: I'm carrying private insurance for only three of us because my husband passed away.
The dogs: I only want them to go to a home where they'll be taken care of because I would never think of placing them except that my husband passed away and I'm having trouble managing.
Late for school (or church, or the salon, or a meeting): I'm sorry I'm late but my husband recently passed away and I had to arrange childcare, drop the kids off, get them ready and organized on my own, etc.

I'm hoping this is just a phase, because certainly the guy at Roy's Christmas Tree Farm didn't need to know all the details. Nor did he care.

I just want "strangers" to know that Jim's a great guy and he would be here if he could. He's not some clod that ran off and left me to fend for myself with two kids in the airport. And I want them to know that I'm capable. I'm adjusting. This is just not what I was expecting.

I doubt quite seriously that all that comes out when I feel the need to explain, but I just feel as though I have to make some kind of statement. I cannot let it go right now. I'm not sure how long this phase will last. Maybe it will go on forever? I hope not. It can make some people uncomfortable. And sometimes after I say it I berate myself. People just don't care why I'm alone with the kids. Not because they're uncaring, but because they see that scenario every day and they are perfectly okay with helping me, regardless of where my husband may or may not be.

Maybe it's also a statement that I'm not alone by choice. I'm alone because the person who loved me suffered the consequences of cancer. Our family suffered the consequences of cancer. I am not alone because I nagged my husband until he left. I am not alone because my husband was a clod and we divorced. I am not alone for any reason other than the fact that the love of my life had cancer. I really don't want to be alone. Maybe the statement is that even though I am alone, I'm really not alone because my husband wasn't the type of guy that would leave me alone. He's still with me and the kids, just not physically.

Putting up Christmas decorations was tough. Christmas was Jim's favorite holiday. He loved to put his Christmas list into a spreadsheet. He hung the wreaths on our windows, and he loved putting the candles in the windows. He wore a Christmas hat around the house while decorating the tree, and he liked listening to the Peanuts Christmas soundtrack. He listened to a radio station that played 24 hour Christmas music starting the day after Thanksgiving. He loved setting up the gifts for the kids. He would get so excited - he takes after his mother - he'd occasionally wander out into the living room to shake packages. We sat every year with the lights out, just looking at the lights on our Christmas tree. We lit a fire and had hot cocoa. Jim was all about Christmas.

This year I hung his stocking. I will have the kids draw him pictures, and I'll write him a letter for his stocking. We'll do that every year until we're ready to stop. Nothing seems right without Jim here. But I intend to keep him here as much as I can. I miss him so much. I've worried about the holidays, but I know we'll get through it. I don't have much time to wallow with Rachel and Jake around. And I know Jim would want us to have fun - especially the kids. Each day seems a little better, but each day also brings a new occasion to miss Jim. I wonder if he knows how much I miss him.

Well, if this is a phase I'm going through with all the explaining, it's a season - and just like the holidays, I'll get through it. It will be a good holiday. If I explain to you that the gifts are badly wrapped because my husband recently passed away and he was the one who wrapped the Christmas gifts, you'll know it's my coping mechanism.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Found a home for the dogs!

We found a home for the dogs! I'm filled with a mixture of feelings - relief, happiness, sadness...relief. We found this family through friends of friends of friends. They are wonderful! They live about 45 minutes from us. We went to meet them today. They have three sons, they live on a farm with more than 300 acres, they are wonderful.

My friend Lisa and her daughter agreed to go with us, which was a good thing because I was wound as tight as a piano string. She called it an "adventure" (Lisa's a lot more laid back than me) - and when we finally got there, I teared up right in the driveway. I hadn't even met them yet and I knew this was the place. It's a beautiful farm. They came right out to greet us. The two sons that live at home (one is in college) came out and played with the dogs. They had gifts for the kids, and for me. They were the sweetest, nicest people.

I was so nervous about so many aspects of the whole thing - handing off the dogs, dealing with Rachel's feelings, worried that the dogs would screw something up terribly. I brought their "stuff", but I was worried that the new owners would think I was presumptuous if I brought along all their paraphernalia. They were really cool about it, though, and they'd obviously given some thought to accepting the dogs before we got there because they seemed okay with unloading the dogs' food container right away. I showed them how to use the gentle leader with Palmer. Major was his adorable lovable self. I gave them the plethora of leashes and paperwork that they have accumulated over the years.

I was so sad to say goodbye to the dogs. But at the same time, I recognize that this is a big step into our new life. I cannot handle everything. I was not handling the dogs well, nor was I handling the guilt about the fact that I wasn't handling the dogs well. I explained the whole thing to Rachel today before we left the house. She said "But I'll be sad without the dogs." I said "I know, me too. But they'll be happier." She said "Okay, then can we get a cat?!" I said (laughing) "I don't think we're going to get any more pets for a long, long time. But maybe we could put a playset in the backyard now." She said "With a slide?" I said "Yep." She said "Great! Does the farm have cows?"

I know the dogs will be better off, and I know this was the right family. Both of the boys (and the parents, who I would have been happy to move in with, by the way), thanked me for the dogs at the end. I nearly broke out in tears when they thanked me so nicely. Two teenage boys with nice manners like that? Come on. This is the family I've been searching for. And the dogs will be delighted. And I don't think that the boys will be upset when the dogs let gas on them. Okay, well maybe they weren't that perfect. No one is that perfect. But they sure were nice. And that's what I was looking for - a nice, happy family. I couldn't ask for anything more.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

San Francisco

San Francisco. Was. Awesome.

I left on Thursday of last week for a trip out to visit my brother and his girlfriend. My friend Sara flew from Atlanta to meet me. We drove to Napa and Sonoma and stayed until Friday. We ate dinner at Bouchon. We went to the worst looking spa, but I had a great mud bath and massage. We visited a wonderful little winery at the top of a very, very, very steep curvy mountain - I took three sips of wine before chickening out of drinking any more because I knew I'd have to drive back down the mountain. We stopped at Dean & Deluca. (Why does there always seem to be a Dean & Deluca everywhere but where I live?!)

We headed back into the city in time to have dinner with Tom and Kristy on Friday night. We ate at a really great wine bar - and get this - our waiter (who was quite talented, actually) talked us into ordering bone marrow. Oh yes. You read that correctly. And you know, we really enjoyed it. We had a fabulous dinner, enjoyed several bottles of wine and possibly went a little too far with champagne. Saturday we met Tom's best friend, his wife, and their son Jameson. We ate at a bar called Sam's in Tiburon, from which we could see the entire city of San Francisco. It was cool. Except the seagulls, which were a little aggressive. We shopped till we dropped. Tom and Kristy talked me into a pair of jeans that are way, way, way too cool for me. We went out for sushi. We walked all over the city and Sara and I braved public transportation. We walked through Chinatown. We got to eat brunch at one of the top brunch spots in the city.

I've got to say, Tom and Kristy really know how to live. Except the fact that they can't figure out how their furnace works, but fortunately Sara and I managed to make it through the night. I worried that Sara might have to gut me and put her hands in my stomach to keep warm, but it never came to that. Thank heavens.

I needed a trip for me. This was a good one. I had a few revelations during my mud bath. I got to spend some quality time with one of my best girlfriends and my ultra-chic brother and his girlfriend. I went a little Single-White-Female on Kristy at one point, asking her to help me pick out an outfit, but she seemed cool with it.

While in California, I was a little sad for the life Jim and I left behind - buying expensive clothes, hitting cool bars and restaurants, and having very few real responsibilities. But when I got home, I realized that although that life was fun, there are two little people here that make my life worth living. They are little bits of Jim, and little bits of me, and little bits of themselves. I wouldn't trade that kind of responsibility for anything.