May 12

Shots to the Heart

Long-term relationships change us in ways we don’t understand, or can’t understand—that is until one fateful day when it comes crashing to an end.

Fifty years of loving the same person creates a bond that is inseparable, even when the physical life is gone. At some point, Linda and I became “us.” Nothing important happened that didn’t revolve around “us.” I’m not sure when that transformation happened, but over the years, we began to verbalize it more as our life became one. We knew, no matter what, we would always be together and nothing could tear “us” apart.

 

Much of my memoir is about the dynamics of our relationship that began when we were teenagers. Our parents thought we were foolish children and did their best to isolate “us.” They even moved away from the small community where we both grew up. Her parents bought a house in Utica, Michigan and mine moved to Waterford, Michigan. That separated “us” for about a year. Our age (fifteen and

Always together, Always in Love
Always together, Always in Love

sixteen), and financial dependence, left us powerless and easily controlled. That changed when I turned sixteen. I got a job and bought a car. It’s been nearly fifty years since fate and love brought us together. Now, after living a fairy tale life, I’m alone—my love taken from me in the worst of ways—me, standing by helplessly as the one I love slowly dies. The inevitable outcome lingered hauntingly while I watched her endure pain and suffering, and life leaving her body. Her love held “us” strong, yet her will to live washed away like a receding tide. I have never felt so powerless and for the first time in our life, I had no solution. There would no longer be “us.” It was a shot to the heart, and has left me lonely, and afraid, for the first time in my life. Possessions have become meaningless and tease me in a callous and cold way. Grass grows around our RV camper and I can neither sell it nor use it.

 

I still have memories of a great life with a wonderful woman. We raised three boys and grew long-lasting friendships. We were truly blessed. However, with loss comes change, and the glue that held our family together has dissolved and I am finding it difficult to share my life. Some friends are also dropping away. They, too, are uncomfortable with “me.” What I’m experiencing reminds me of the song by Ricky Nelson, “Garden Party.” “When I got to the garden party they all knew my name, but no one recognized me, I didn’t look the same.” I hope my friends and family will click on Garden Party and listen to the words.

 

Linda was the only person that knew my heart. She was my soul mate. Every day we kissed, every day we said, “I love you,” and every day we looked forward to being together. She loved me Linda Steve mountain topunconditionally. My sister, Cathy, my brother Jeff, love me unconditionally, but they cannot fill the void of a lover’s heart. Others, who love me, are blinded by emotion and are unable to get beyond their pain. One of my five granddaughters no longer speaks to me and I have no idea why. It’s just another shot to my heart.

 

Linda was the buffer in my life. I gave her my all and she was all of me—my purpose, my reason and all my trust. Now, that “us” has become me, I’m not doing as well. It’s not easy for family to accept me; they can only hold a vision of “mom and dad,” or “Steve and Linda.” They believe I’m making wrong choices. Perhaps they are right. What they are unable to see, is me drifting in a bottomless sea without a life jacket and unprepared for the journey. My body is weary from struggle, exhausted by too little sleep, and hollow from self-medicating and prescription drugs. And I can no longer thoughtfully direct my life, or whom I will be with. I wanted to be rescued. Then someone reached in, grabbed my hand and held it. I didn’t want them to let go. There was no process of logic or outcome—no thinking about tomorrow. The heart cannot think in those terms or with judgment—it only feels and finds comfort. This has created conflict with my family and friends, and the unspoken tension has caused me to collapse further. They are saying, “You’ve pushed us away.” Given the circumstance, their perspective is honest, but not my reality.

 

Now, all that remain are my memories and emotions. One of the reasons I write is to recapture those memories, especially the ones that only Linda and I share. If I don’t tell the world of our great love, it will be lost forever.

Another reason I write is to communicate openly and unabridged. The beauty of the written word is the free flow of thoughts and ideas without redirection or interruption often found in dialogue. There is no requirement to modify a sentence, phrase, or word, to meet the needs of a specific person and their emotional state. To me, this is the purest form of communication. I hope my words are not taken personally, but that has not been the case, which brings me to my point. We cannot know how others may react to our words or how they will interpret them. In real-time conversations, when we sense a negative reaction, we adjust to not offend. Linda often said I lacked this skill. She would tell me, “It’s not the message, Steve, it’s the delivery.” Her words, compared to mine, were always watered-down pea soup, but perfectly expressed in her own way, and mine were raw and uncensored—delivered with hoofs and horns still attached. Because of this, I received many gentle leg kicks from under the table. I miss that so much. I don’t have my extra filter anymore, and I’m beginning to realize that what I say may hurt others without my knowledge. I’ve trusted friends and family to have compassionate understanding, but they don’t and probably can’t. Their pain is closing them off and they have lost empathy for what I’m going through. I feel it, and it’s causing me to shut down and guard what I say, and to whom I say it. Or just avoid as best I can. Also, I’m sensing a lot of gossip and side talk about me, and then of course there is direct lash-out of anger from some who say they love me. That’s been another shot to the heart. When I say something that others take offense to, it spreads like a Chicago fire. Yet, in every other instance I am ignored.

 

I’ve shared a great deal on this blog and other places, but for the most part, my family remains quiet and uninvolved in what I’m writing. Maybe they expect me to be more open with them during my grieving, but some things you can’t blurt out during a conversation or maybe I don’t want them to know how much I suffer. Besides, depression shuts down any desire to talk, especially if you know the reaction will be negative or critical. It took me many months to seek counseling. Even when I’m not depressed, I don’t answer the phone anymore without monitoring calls. So, today my gut still grinds and my head still swirls, because the only person I want to call me is forever gone.

My grandmother wrote this poem when the love of her life passed. How long do I cry? It’s a good summation for broken hearts everywhere.


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Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved. Steven Schuler

Posted May 12, 2014 by Steve Schuler in category "Memoir", "Musings

14 COMMENTS :

  1. Pingback: Perfect Imperfections | Steve Writes

  2. By Renée George on

    My Dear Friend,
    Your writing is a beautiful and healing way to get you through the pain. Some may perceive it to be unfiltered or raw, but it is a reflection of where you are at this point in your life… it is YOUR journey and it is perfect just as it is. “I love you and appreciate you, JUST the way you are”. Brenda Renee

    1. By Steve Schuler (Post author) on

      Thank you so much, you have always been there for “us.” You always made Linda smile…me too.

  3. By Steve Schuler (Post author) on

    Thank you Vickie, I found the book on Amazon.com. I appreciate your taking time to share this with me, and others. S…

  4. By Vickie Bowser on

    Steve,
    I am very sorry for your loss. I lost my husband 17 years ago 5/7/97. It is such a difficult time in our lives when we lose our partner. We have to start over. It is frustrating that we do see family and friend leave us in this time of need. I found a book when Brad died that really helped me make it to the other side of my grief. It is written by John D. Martin & Frank D. Ferris,MD. The title is ” I Can’t Stop Crying”. It is no longer in print, I have a few copies I keep for Family &friends that may need it. If you want a copy and cannot find one please email me and I will send you one. Take care of yourself.

  5. By Wendy Kelly on

    My Dear Steve,
    Thank you for sharing, with brave hoofs and horns, the raw depths of the love, pain, and isolation you feel. I think about you and the honey badger, often. I miss Linda. I miss you. I miss the “us” you both created, over a lifetime of sharing. I know it is overwhelming to find yourself suddenly thrusted on a path, yet to be mapped, holding the compass to a journey you once shared together. I have found, in my own experience, that when people witness the tearing apart of a life they knew as an “us”, they feel a heart wrenching pain, a stabbing reminder of what we all dare not imagine, but must, one day, face. The real truth is, people don’t know what to do, what to say, how to be, or how they might help. It is certainly not for lack of caring, but for lack of knowing just how to do it. Remember, people are here for you, quietly waiting in the wings with unconditional love and support. I am one of them. I am here, however you need me to be. You, I, and everyone who knew Linda and love her, will take the steps with you on this journey. Linda would not have wanted it any other way, then for you to thrive and find happiness in the next chapter of your life’s book. Why? Because… “honey badger, DOES care, and she DOES give a shit” (Linda, forever present in the energy that is life beyond life, got a pretty good chuckle out of that, I’m sure)
    You will get through what seems overwhelming, to create a life that fuels your soul, with Linda forever cheering you on, like all of us, in the wings…or should I say, in her case, with wings! 🙂 I love you, my friend. Call me, anytime. I look forward to seeing you. In the meantime, be gentle with yourself and all of us knuckleheads that love you.
    Wendy

    1. By Steve Schuler (Post author) on

      Well said Wendy. I’m trying to finish the memoir that I started before Linda became ill.I now find it difficult to write about our childhood love, but fortunately, most of it has already been written, and “Linda” approved. It was so much fun for us to work on writing our life story. It brought us closer together, when I didn’t think we could be any closer. I guess everything happens for a purpose, I just have to figure out what I’m suppose to do without her. Love surrounds me and I’m still lonely and I’m crying again or is it still crying? S…

  6. By jeffS on

    Don’t you remember when you where 10 and you and your best friend got in a fight and everyone had to pick sides. When you and your friend became friends again there were a few unhappy faces. Childish.
    I hate selfish people. I am sure Linda is very upset with them. People can’t accept change. You are condemned to a loss for the rest of you life and you will deal with that till your end of days. I guess some people think you should suit up and keep playing the part and roll over die.
    Keep writing, posting pic’s and doing things that are forward in life. Memories play a big role in our lives. As a matter of fact I think that’s their job. Love you always no matter what !!! little brother Jeff

    1. By Steve Schuler (Post author) on

      Thanks brother, some things are easier for me to say with the written word, otherwise I would bottle it up and eventually scream. S…

      1. By jeffS on

        I know. i know pen and paper really do wonders. I dont know how it soothes, it just does. more people should know this. Some of the things ive wrote had to be thrown away (or burnt), and thrown from my mind aswell. Sometime even little things that are eating at me and my selfish mind. I often say ‘my mind has a mind of its own and its trying to kill me. will call soon, Jeff

  7. By susan on

    I am saddened… The judgment and complete SELFISHNESS others have shown you during your time of grief and struggles is inexcusable! A part of you died with Linda, however you are still very much alive and deserve to find happiness comfort or whatever else you need.Shame on anyone who can’t just be there for you as you muddle your way. Personally I would tell those who judge you to kiss your ass and find someone else to harass belittle and judge.PS And be sure to buy them a big ass mirror upon your departure. I’m praying for you Always You’ve already suffered a great loss, say goodbye to those who are hurting you even more. I hope they read this because I’d be embarrassed to associate them as friends or family. . JUST SAY IN BUT HEY I WEAR MY UNDIES ON THE OUTSIDE, WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET. XOXO

    1. By Steve Schuler (Post author) on

      Thanks Susan, you’re a great friend—tenacious like a honey badger. Our friend Wendy, who also commented on this blog, used to call Linda “Honey Badger” because she was such a strong woman. Linda would have done better if I would have died before her. Life isn’t fair. S…

  8. By Steve Agronick on

    Dear Steve, I’m so sorry for your lose, I don’t even iknow what to say, so i won’t say anything. I’m not really sure what i would do if my wife left me. I can understand your word’s “really” hang in there , try and be strong.

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