Wednesday, March 15, 2017
In the following, “yesterday” refers to March 7th, 2017.
Yesterday was a day that brought a new beginning to this life that is somewhere in the middle—of what often feels like…nowhere.
I drove out to Blendon Woods Columbus Metropolitan Park. I met up with two of the most incredible spirits who are greeted me with warm smiles. I met the park director, whom I immediately felt an instant friendship. Then we hopped into the car and drove over to the ground where my beginning was waiting for me.
When my husband was killed suddenly in February of 2016 in the Ohio Valley area with 2 other men, I found myself swimming---no drowning-
Drowning in words, requests, demands
Drowning in decision and tears
Drowning in the possibility that despite a pain I couldn’t even
feel yet—I might make the wrong choice, the wrong decision—
one that couldn’t be changed…
When someone dies, the survivors are given less than 24 hours to construct plans and make choices. The survivors are likely sitting around a kitchen table, as we were, listening to funeral directors ask questions and present options. I don’t know about anyone else, but on that day, as I sat there in my blue jeans and blanket scarf that I had tossed into my bag the day before—having no idea that that would be the “outfit” I would wear to plan my husband’s funeral services—I wasn’t listening. As I sat there, I was shaking so terribly that my brother in law had to take my hands. As I sat there, I just nodded and agreed. Then, I stepped away from it.
When I arrived in Athens with my friend and her family—she graciously had taken me out of the Ohio Valley until the services. I can recall lying on the couch, watching the damn snow fall across her lawn—a sign that he was still with us. The funeral director’s secretary (I think) spoke with me on the phone. Flowers were already coming. People from all over wanted to give money to something—but what? I spoke with the girlfriend of one of the other boys whom had passed, and she suggested that I think of a charity…
While, I don’t exactly recall how the idea came about for the money to be put into a fund to benefit the Columbus Metropolitan Parks, it stemmed off wanting to do more than just put money into a college fund, and through talking with my friend, the idea of something at a park arose, and then, as I sat curled up on the couch, watching the flurry of flakes that seemed strangely reminiscent of my thoughts scattering my mind, I made this decision. I sat and I, through the tears and the shock and the ever-present cold, wrote a small blurb to be shared at the funeral home and on social media.
The following are the words I typed into my phone less than 2 days after Tim had passed….
On November 12, 2011, Maris Leigh Zugaro, our miracle baby, was born. From the moment she arrived, her eyes were bright and shiny, ready to take on the world. From that beautiful day forward, it was Maris and Daddy...best friends for life.
Tragically, "for life" ended on February 6, 2016 when Maris was just 4 years old. Her daddy was killed in a car accident. Her last words to him were, "I love you, bye" on a FaceTime call, as she hugged the phone.
Daddies and daughters love to play. Maris and her Daddy, Tim, loved to play outdoors. They loved to run, climb, swing, jump, hike, go up big hills, splash in the water, climb through tunnels, look for frogs and snakes, and laugh and laugh.
In honor of all of the daddies and their daughters, Maris would like to keep the Columbus Parks alive, green, and full of uncharted adventures.
Thank you for your donation consideration. Daddy, we miss you already. Love, Maris and Mommy
And then the whirlwind began…within 2 hours of posting, Tim’s legacy and love for his daughter and their love for being together-at a park…raised $2,000 dollars. I couldn’t believe it…and the money just kept pouring in… it was a brush of warmth in the midst of the year’s coldest days.
As the days and weeks passed, the funeral was over, and then I was home, just Maris and I. They closed the account after one month, and the director of the funeral home sent me a check that just overwhelmed me. As I looked through the messages, I couldn’t believe all of the people from so many areas of our lives, past and present… that donated to this…idea…of…something, something that we didn’t know what it would become.
I chose not to contact the park director, whom actually knew Tim (and his name is Tim!) for a long while. The weeks and months that followed February 6th were wrought with pain—a pain I could never ever explain. I wasn’t ready to do a load of laundry, let alone broach the topic of how to spend this money. I felt like a re-occurring train wreck each day, and I did not want to screw this up! So, in a move that is very unlike my spontaneous, full throttle personality…I paused.
And, then, I called the director, and on a rainy morning, we sat in his office and brainstormed. He sat with me, as I spoke through tears about how I wanted this to be more than just a tangible item, like a water fountain or a group of stepping stones. He looked at me, and I could tell he was thinking all of the same things I was…how can we make this more than just a donation.
As we talked, we began waxing on words…daddies and daughters, wild child, the Maris Movement. We talked about how this could become more about getting families back outside and spending time together, playing, being creative, exploring, and getting dirty!
The next time we met, we added in an expert in all things park related…Maris. We took her to an area of Blendon Woods that is already designated as a “Natural Play Area,” an area that encourages children to go off the pathways and let their imaginations run the course. Maris took to it immediately. She ran, she climbed, she played, and she got very dirty! She was taking risks, laughing, and she wasn’t listening to a single, “Be careful” from mommy. That is exactly who her daddy was, and in watching her, I knew he was right there with us. It was during this visit that we knew this was where we wanted to invest our ideas.
And then, there was the presentation of the “model” of the park layout and an entire book of the concept and proposed designs. I can’t tell you how full my heart felt just looking at the ideas that were shown to me. I just knew at that moment, we were doing something really amazing—something that was more than a gift in “memoriam.” We were about to change Sunday afternoons at the park!
And then I met with Peg, the Public Information Manager. Well, obviously, the universe connected us. I was immediately attracted to all things “Peg.” We sat and talked for over 2 hours about everything, and I knew that the next steps of this venture wouldn’t be “handled.” From here on out, the passion was our driving force. Peg encouraged me to begin writing for the story boards that would be a the front of this area.
I have to pause here…I met Peg exactly one year and one day after Tim passed. The “one day” is where the “beginning” starts to appear. It felt comforting to be sitting in a chair embarking on the “new” instead of just swelling in the old…the “what if’s” that had kept their hands on me so tightly for the past 365 days.
I wrote and wrote, and nothing seemed right, and even as I sit here now, I am questioning my words. How do I tell the story of what happened and leave people feeling hopeful and inspired, rather than simply sad and mournful? I am still sad and mournful in randomly placed moments throughout each day…but I am still hopeful. I still believe. Tim taught me so much about believing, and I have this little face whom with her bright blue eyes commands me to believe and have faith through each of those random moments…and I do.
Yesterday, I was humbled in a way I don’t think I can describe with words. I love words, yet, I cannot seem to string together a sentence that expresses what I saw yesterday.
When we got to the site, I was struck immediately by these tall trees, shaved of their bark, towering above me, some in triangular patterns, and others, standing solo. I was welcomed by the crew, on this day, a group of 5 incredibly talented and dedicated dream weavers. They were excited to see me and to share what they had been working do diligently to construct. Here, I stood among men that I knew Tim would have instantly connected with, and I listened to every word they shared to describe the process and journey. But, I will be honest, I was simply in awe upon stepping onto the wet, muddy ground. I think I thought I might just see some ground clearing, so I was not prepared for the absolute wonder that was everywhere.
As they walked me through, they explained the plans for each area. What!? This area just kept going and going. At every turn, there was something new to see, and they had so many creative and innovative ideas…I couldn’t help but be envious of brains that tick like this! …genuinely blown away…
Over time, I will show a few photos, and I will share a little of some of the insanely intricate details, but as I sit here, typing away…I am also feeling suddenly protective. I am feeling protective of these men who have put their hearts into this project, of the park manager at Blendon, of Tim and of Peg, and of all the brains and hearts that have collaborated on this thus far (I hesitate to list too many names at this point because I don’t want to leave anyone out!!). I feel protective of the absolute joy they deserve when this is all revealed at a groundbreaking ceremony sometime in April or May. I feel protective of Maris who will get to visit tomorrow. This is her story, too. She may not be able to share her voice just yet, but she will, and someday, she will tell the story of “Maris’s and daddy’s park.” And I feel protective of Tim, my sweet husband, whom I know without a pause or hesitation, was with me yesterday as I walked over to the fence to cry, slow silent tears…of a mixture of missing him terribly and feeling him everywhere. I am grateful. I am grateful.
I cannot wait to see the rest of this story unfold, --no actually, I can. I don’t want to rush this …I want to do this…to be in this-in this “beginning.” And… I am so excited to share it with all of you, and for you to share it with your children when they say, “Daddy, maybe we could go to a park?”
Friday, February 3, 2017
From this moment on…
On our wedding day, Tim and I had a video montage shown to the guests—you know the kind that everyone was doing in 2000: it shows the bride growing up, the groom growing up, and then it concludes with the bride and groom together before the wedding day, falling in love and being oh so happy.
I can recall asking Tim what song should play for my portion. He didn’t even pause. “Maniac.” Yes, the song from Flashdance. He knew me too well. I decided it was perfect. He picked his own song, “Bad to the Bone.” Even now typing this, I am laughing because there was nothing bad to any bone regarding Tim, but I indulged him anyway.
The portion of the video that showcased our crazy love was matched with Shania Twain’s song, “From the Moment On.” The beginning is a voice over that wasn’t often played on the radio…and it is simply beautiful.
I do sware
That I will always be there
I’d give anything and everything
I will always care
Through weakness and strength
Happiness and sorrow
For better for worse
I will love you
With every beat of my heart.
And from that moment, Tim and I lived a life together. For what would have been 16 years, we stayed together, through every up and every down. We never gave up on the tough days, and we never took for granted the beautiful days. And, that is what love was to us…
This morning, I was sitting in the bathtub, tears running down my face while I listened to Maris play “Elsia and Annia.” I was looking at his bathroom mirror, and I was thinking about a year ago.
A year ago, I was standing at my sink, watching him groom that damn beard.
A year ago, I was putting on mascara and talking to him about his trip to the valley.
A year ago, I was asking him if he wanted to go in on Friday or Saturday.
A year ago, I was telling him he should just stay through the Super Bowl on Sunday and come home Monday morning.
A year ago, I was saying he deserved a fun weekend with his boys.
A year ago, I left the house. I don’t recall saying good-bye, but …I always kissed him.
A year ago, I got into my car, where I found a post-it: “Have a great weekend. I miss you already.”
A year ago, I asked him to drop off some chocolate covered pretzels to school for movie night. He did, but I didn’t see him.
A year ago, I called him after work, and we talked about his day so far. He hung up when the ribs came to his table at the restaurant of his first stop that day.
A year ago, I face-timed with him and Maris. He told her he loved her.
A year ago, we sent text messages and talked on the phone one last time. Did I tell him I loved him?
A year ago, he sent a final text that I never answered.
A year ago was the last time I saw him.
From that moment on…every moment has been without him in our lives.
I miss him all the time in a million little ways. I can’t smell him anymore, and I have cleaned out some of his things. I’ve moved some pictures around, and our New Year card was only Maris and I. But he is here all the time. He likes to knock over this picture of Maris on the sofa table. He knocks it over when I get mad. I am pretty sure he turns lights off and on, as he also does with the ceiling fan in the bathroom. And everytime it snows, I know it is him. The geese he loathed terribly line up in our backyard, and I have a hunch, it’s him being funny. He is in the songs I play, the food I cook, and in the stories I tell Maris. Maris says, “MY daddy” almost daily in some way. “You know who taught me that? MY daddy!” She is so proud to be his daughter.
From that moment on, every new memory has been without him. Almost 365 days of memories have been made, each moment without him there. I no longer have the comfort of knowing he was still here a year ago—of seeing Timehop pictures of him in them from last year.
From that moment on, I have been a single mom-which I have discovered is the hardest job on the planet.
From that moment on, I have been the head of this household, making all the decisions about everything from lawn care, to buying a car…and let’s not talk about the laundry.
From that moment on, I have been navigating this life alone…in this big house, just Maris and I.
And now, from this moment on, Maris and I move forward with perseverance, faith, and love. From this moment on…
…my dreams came true…because of you. Tim, thank you making my dreams come true and for giving me the greatest of all of your gifts…a piece of you that shines all of my days, Maris Leigh. Love you, honeykins.
Friday, October 7, 2016
Today is October 7th. It is 8 months and one day. I started this blog about a week ago. Typically, I ICE it (Thank you, Mrs. Polles, Theme class, RHS) for 24 hours. However, in the midst of this, a fellow colleague and friend lost her life, leaving behind 5 children and a loving husband. I know the indescribable feelings he is experiencing. I had to take a minute…and so, this is a little delayed. Yet, here we are at 8 months and ONE day…each ONE more day is a triumph in my world, so I think this blog is landing on the exact date it should.
This is why I keep writing…why I keep telling my story. Maybe, I can help someone else. Even if this isn’t your story…maybe these words or any of the words I have typed since turning 40 will help someone else. That is my prayer.
And here it is…
I have mentioned it many times if you follow me on FB...Oprah’s 6 month rule always prevails and works.
I thought I had been lied to by Oprah—On August 6th, 2016, it had been “officially” 6 months. I should have been able to look at my life and see that things were different –that my perspective had changed since that fucking awful day in February.
I recently looked back, played back that day in my mind. I was telling the story to a friend, and I had to really look backward, think carefully. The moments leading up to knowing that he was gone had been buried deep -
The prettiest, most amazing smile just walked in the room with her
kindle watching Caillou.
As I was saying –those moments before I knew he was gone had been buried—tucked away. But, as I spoke about it, I had to recall. I had to replay driving 80 plus miles an hour to the valley with my amazing friend Dawn (whom I know had the most difficult role—to not let me know what was happening…thank you, Dawn, for protecting my heart a little longer that day), driving down Route 7 thorough a million vehicles and helpers (which I wasn’t ready to acknowledge that they could be related to Tim), and I had to replay that moment I jumped out of the car, ran to Shayna, took her hands, only to hear the words, “he’s gone.” I can still feel the screaming coming from my throat, as I ran to the fence in the backyard of Donnie’s house. Thinking about it now, as I type, with tears streaming down my face …tears matched with the soundtrack of a whiny little boy on a cartoon in the background, I think about that scream. I can still hear me, shouting, “You fucking asshole. How dare you leave us.” I can still hear me say it. I still call him that around the house from time to time…although…
The 6 months that landed on August 6th didn’t really land, they didn’t collide with this whole new shift, and they didn’t suddenly awaken me. They passed by me without a word or even a pause. In fact, I didn’t even know the “milestone” had come or gone.
Non-descript. Not even a whisper.
Yet, here I am embarking on month 8. I heard recently that it takes a year to “clean up” the mess. I would agree. I am still dealing with paperwork and financial pieces. I am still surrounded by a mess…that he left behind. His clothes are still in his closet (yes, I know I can make something…), his tools are still hung, that damn carpet is STILL in the basement (oh yes…), and the photos are still everywhere…although…
There are some dents. I navigated through an entire TO DO pile yesterday, creating a much smaller TO DO pile. I have given away some of his clothes to family and friends (I also wear his t-shirts all the time—even the damn Bobcat and Johnny Cash). I cleaned out some of his tool drawer, and I moved a few photos. This might be shocking, but seeing the two of us everywhere was beginning to take its toll on me. …and the wedding pics and happy Put In Bay trips were just keeping me frozen. So, I move one of them, and I replace it with one of Maris or Maris and I. It helps…because then I cry…
It’s a few days later, and I am sitting in the family room. I decorated a little for Fall yesterday, and I turned on the fire. I sat by this fire night after night last winter, choking down tears and wine for dinner, listening to my iPod all night, and talking on the phone to anyone who was awake. Night after night I would be awake until 3 and 4 in the morning. I would cry and cry. Now when I look at the fire on this chilly Monday morning, I think about the next 6 months.
I am suddenly aware that I am in this bizarre parallel universe that carries me into two worlds…one that is in the past and one that is in the present. I’m not quite ready for the future.
Each day, I walk these two lines, hopping back and forth, back and forth. I don’t know how to grieve, and I don’t know how to stop. I don’t know where to tuck 18 years of life. A marriage isn’t a piece of paper that you fold and put into a box. It is a relationship made of a million little moments. No box could ever hold them, and I don’t want one to. So, I am surrounded by these moments. It’s like walking through a tunnel filled with dandelion fuzzies…I can’t see in, and I can’t see out.
Yet, when I hop to the other line, the tunnel collapses, and I am just here in the new moments. The moments without him. The moments with me and a fire. The moments with me and that crazy little 4 year old. The moments with family and friends. The moments cooking in a kitchen where the music is loud…so loud that I cannot hear my memories. The moments where I lie in bed at night staring at social media, wondering why everyone looks so happy. The moments where Maris feels happy…The moments where I feel happy. And there are moments where I FEEL happy.
I am pissed. As I head into month 8, I am pissed. Pissed as hell. I want to scream like I did that day when I heard those words. But, I can’t. I am in a new place now. I am tip toeing into the now and …the tomorrow. I don’t want to look back and say…where did all the time go? I don’t want to tell Maris that I am sorry that Mommy “went away.” I have to keep tiptoeing on this new path, even as I stumble onto the old one over and over every day…although...