Below is a raw essay I wrote late one evening after a long and quiet night at home. I paid no attention to the flow of my words or the structure of my writing. I simply wrote exactly what was on my mind at the time. At first I wasn’t going to publish it, but after some thought, decided it paints an accurate picture of where my mind will still occasionally go and where my spirit will sometimes wallow. Especially now, nearing the anniversary of Ryan's death, I think it’s important to accept that these moments still come and will probably continue to visit me, maybe forever…
Where do I even begin? Life is…different. Life used to be so easy, it really was. I was taken care of. Ry was here to make sure I was looked after. He did everything for me. He fixed what was broken, fed and cared for me. He promised me a future where I really had nothing to worry about. I remember driving home from work one day thinking that all I needed in life was Ryan. I didn’t care how much money we made, where we lived, who we were friends with or how our lives turned out – I just wanted Ry. I remember how much I looked forward to coming home to him. How I couldn’t wait to get dressed up for him. He made me feel so alive, so sexy. He had a way of looking at me that made me walk with a bounce in me step, my head held high. I bought clothes because I thought that he would like them. I did everything for him. He was my everything. My favorite things in life revolved around Ryan. There was never any judging, we were partners in crime! Who cared if we drank too much wine at dinner, who cared that we had spent too much money, who cared that we made decisions that may not have been the best? We had each other and that’s really all that mattered.
I find it hard to believe that he is gone and I still flash back to that night. I remember everything as if it were yesterday. I remember Travis coming over, ordering meat lovers pizza. He took charge and in a way, made the situation seem worse than I had thought it was. He wanted to go to the hospital, see what we could find out. This seemed excessive to me. Why do we need to go anywhere? Shouldn’t we wait at home? I was sure he’d show up. I remember calling the hospital. I can feel the couch under me, smell my living room, see the lights of Wauwatosa Avenue. I remember thinking that the nurse on the phone sounded strange. I remember being put on hold. Paul Simon was on the radio-how is that possible? I remember thinking that “Slip Sliding Away” was a strange song to be hearing, more than a coincidence. I never thought he was dead. They knew nothing on the phone, or so they said. It was time to go, Travis was ready. I needed to do one last thing. I ran upstairs to get my shoes or something, no, it was to close the bedrooms doors so that Brady wouldn’t ruin the pillows. There was someone at the door. Oh good, it was the police, I wondered what took them so long. Oh no, Blotter is jumping all over them. I apologized, felt a little embarrassed. Oh, they’re asking me to sit down – wait, there’s two now, there was only one before…this can’t be good. I wonder what they found out. “I’m sorry miss, but he passed away.” A look of sympathy in their eyes. No. No, no, no, no, no. I am screaming. I am on the floor. No. no, no, no, no no. No. Wait, they must be joking. You’re joking right? No. Travis is picking me off the floor. More screaming. Travis is setting me in the big chair. Still screaming. Ryan’s dead? Do they know I’m pregnant? What? No. I can’t breathe. A police officer is rubbing my back. Travis is on the phone with my mom. “You need to get down here NOW.” I’m still screaming. I can hear someone ask Travis to identify the body. I think they are showing him on a cell phone. There’s whispering, questions. They are asking me questions and telling me nothing. Do they know I’m pregnant? I don’t want to be pregnant. I can’t do this alone. I'm so scared.
The night went on from there and continued for a very long time. One day that changed everything and I’m ready to be done. I don’t want this day to continue. I want a new day, a bright day. I want happiness and fun. I want to take vacations with someone I can cause trouble with. I want to go out to dinner and drink too much wine. I want to feel safe and loved, worshiped and taken care of. I deserve these things and want to find them again. I don’t want to be judged or watched in everything I do. I just want to be me. I can barely remember Ryan’s Kristin, but would give anything to be that person again. I can’t, it’s not possible. I need to be a different Kristin, no longer Ryan’s. That fucking sucks. It’s bullshit. And there, I said it and it’s true. I’m allowed to say it because this is my life and it is indeed fucking bullshit that someone like Ryan is no longer here.
And an essay I wrote today....
I know you’ve all been watching and waiting, wanting to hear how I’m feeling, wondering if I’ll be able to get through this weekend without melting down. There have been so many feelings and emotions running through me this week, I don’t even know where to begin. I do know that I have a lot to say and am just going to open the faucet and let it pour out. I apologize if this entry is, as Ry would say, discombobulated, but if it is, it will adequately reflect my current state of mind.
My emotions have been running hot and cold lately and I’ve been struggling to make sense of the new and strange feelings I’m encountering. I’m not having bad days as much as I’m having bad moments. The change in the season has brought about feelings inside of me that I don’t entirely understand. Some days I’ll be wrapped in sadness because the weather feels like it did those days immediately following Ryan’s death. All of a sudden, stagnant memories come alive and flash through my mind. I remember sitting on the couch listening to this strange sound, wondering what it was and where it was coming from. After a while, I realized the sound was coming from me. Every few minutes my body would gasp, as if it had forgotten and was just remembering that I was alone. I remember making a comment about the sound and my dad telling me I’d been making it for days. I also remember taking a walk with my family, my parents and my brother, around my block and through the village. It had been the first time I had been outside without Ryan. Not the first time without his presence, but the first time outside in a world where he didn’t exist. I remember looking around and feeling surprised that everything could look the same, but feel so different.
I believe it may have something to do with post traumatic stress, but this week, for the first time, I’ve had memories run through my mind that I hadn’t been able to remember before. Suddenly, I can remember the last week of Ryan’s life as if it were yesterday – I remember everything.
Sunday. Exactly one week before he died, we went out to lunch at the Chancery. I was cold so he let me wear his Packer hoodie. He made a joke about how he hoped, when I was 8-9 months pregnant, the hoodie would actually fit. Then we planned out the pictures we’d take of our bellies, side by side. Man, that was going to be funny. There was never a thought in my mind that it wouldn’t actually happen. During lunch we watched the Packer game. Ry drank beer, and assured me a few sips wouldn’t hurt anybody. Later he drove all over town trying to find a baby store that was open because he knew that’s what I wanted to do.
Monday. I called him from work and told him I was feeling a little nauseous. In less than an hour he had showed up with boxes of crackers and soda water. He also help hang a bulletin board behind my desk, which is still there today. Who would have thought that would be the last time he helped me in my classroom? Later that night we went out for dinner at PF Cheng’s. Ry had a whisky and Coke, I had a small glass of red wine. It was very romantic and we talked about how we wanted to take our baby to Ireland in the summer. Ryan was excited to carry him or her in the baby Bjorn as we toured the country.
Tuesday. This was a monumental day. We had both taken off of work because it was my first doctor’s appointment and Ry wanted to be there. He wanted to be there for all of my doctor’s appointments, no matter how insignificant they were. I remember getting to the hospital and stopping for lattes at the coffee cart. I remember meeting the Midwife and how much Ryan loved her. They talked shop for so long I remember thinking, “Wait a minute, isn’t this supposed to be about me?” She later said to my doctor that she had never connected with a couple the way she did with us. I remember Ryan asking her to please assure me that a little bit of wine was okay during a pregnancy. I also remember being on the table, legs in stirrups, being asked to spread my legs just a little further and Ryan saying, “Come on, Kris, whaddaya scared of?”
Wednesday. I had a bad night at Grad school. I came home crying, crawled into Ry’s lap and he comforted me like only he could. (see post: My Forever). Wednesday was also the last night we spent together in our bed. He held me tight and whispered in my ear how lucky he was and how much he loved me. We slept like this almost every night.
Thursday. In the morning he took my picture. He said he couldn’t believe how beautiful I looked and wanted to capture the moment. I used the photo as my Facebook profile pic. It’s the last picture I have of myself before everything changed. I look so different.
Friday. In the afternoon I took a long jog. I came home right as Ryan was pulling out of the driveway, on his way to work. He got out of the car, gave me a hug and told me I was glowing.
Saturday. The last day of his life. He came home from work and detailed my car inside and out. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny. I was cleaning the house and barley spoke to him until lunch. He had gone to a hot dog place on North Ave. We ate Chicago style dogs and Root Beers on the back porch. He had stopped at a bunch of rummage sales and had bought tons of silly stuff like a six foot tall cat climber. We sat in the sun, talked, dreamed, loved each other. He was excited to go to the hot dog festival the place was throwing in a few weeks. This was the last time we’d sit down and eat together, the last time I’d laugh at his jokes, the last time we’d talk about our baby together. What would I have done if somehow, I’d have known he was going to die? After hot dogs I showered and he went to sleep. I was heading to the mall and he had to work. Before I left we had what would end up to be our last moment together. He was lying in our bed, both dogs next to him and at least one cat. I told him I had planned on spending mad amounts of money and like always, he said I deserved it and to have fun. OH, and buy him something! I climbed into bed with him for a bit, snuggled and loved him. I got up and kissed him goodbye. Told him I missed him already. Have a good night at work, can’t wait to see you tomorrow. Then I left. That was the last time I saw my husband…ever.
I called him that night, from the mall. I had bought him jeans at Banana Republic. I remember the sales lady telling me they were a final sale. I said that was fine, no worries. Ry had been a 36/32 since I met him. What if somehow I would have known that those were the jeans I’d end up sending to the funeral home?
I called him from the mall, told him about his new jeans. I told him I loved him and really missed him. He missed me too, couldn’t wait to see me tomorrow. This was the last time I spoke with my husband; the last time I told him I loved him. I thought I missed him then; I would have never been able to imagine how much I miss him now.
And the rest is history. I never saw Ryan again. So here I sit one year later, remembering. I'm not sure how this weekend is going to play out or what it will feel like to wake up on October 10. I do know that I plan on being strong, holding myself together like I have been doing for 12 months now. I plan on kissing my baby and hugging my friends. I plan on taking a moment to be thankful for the blessings I have, including being lucky enough to experience one true great love. I plan on praying quietly just in case he can hear me and making sure he knows, no matter what path my life takes, he will forever be loved and remembered by me.