Saturday, February 25, 2017

Letting Go is SO Hard to do...

Today was an excruciating day.

Conner and I spent much of the day riding around the farm, taking picture of all of our favorite places and saying "goodbye".  My heart broke so many times over and over today; we had to stop riding a few times for me to cry, as the tears were blinding me.  We are selling much of the farm and no one in this world realizes the pain I am struggling with.

I feel sorrow...
loss...
sadness...
desperation...
anger...
betrayal...
cheated...
like a failure...
inadequate...
lonely...
scared...
unsure...

When Mike and I first began he was living on a 182 acre farm. I loved that farm.  We began there. We began our family there.  We had our first date there.

I loved that farm.  We chased cows on that farm, watched baby calves come into the world, talked about our future, and built our dreams.  We laughed until we cried, survived a few health scares, made more love fill that small single-wide trailer than the walls could hold.  We cried and fought and learned we would have our own baby while living on that farm.  Tristan told me he loved me for the first time at that farm, and that was huge for me as a stepmom.

But Mike wanted more.  He always wanted more.  He complained to me that I was the one who had to "keep up with the Jones'" for wanting nice vehicles, nice clothes, vacations, etc...  But he never saw it that way with his farm dream.  So, after a few years together, he purchased this huge 1200 acre farm from his cousin.  For a couple of years he drove about 40 minutes one-way twice a day to check cows, especially during the winter and flooding months.  I wanted him to sell, to give up on this place.  It was too big.  He was never home.  But, he wanted it and there was no telling my husband, the former Marine who still had the "I'm always right AND invincible" concept drilled into his brain, no.  If I said no, he pushed harder.

So, he bought it and worked it for a few years.

Finally, we were able to move to the big farm.  We moved in the cold winter month of February one year.  He just decided it was a day to move, even with snow on the ground.  So we did.  Me, him, and Conner.

Mike worked so hard on this farm.  When we took it over, it was grown up in many places.  Fences were old and ragged; bush hogging had not been done regularly; lots of wooded areas needed cleared to create more pasture for the cattle; and more.  So Mike worked.  And he worked and worked and worked some more.  I helped with what I could; the boys worked alongside their dad as often as they could.  I made bologna sandwiches for the workers, cooked too many meals to count when the sun had set and the farm hands were still going strong beside Michael.  I made so many jugs of sweet tea that I lost count.  I drove a tractor when he asked me to and sometimes showed up just to surprise him with a kiss and an "I love you and am proud of you."

When Mike died, the debt left behind was too much for me to handle.  I knew the big farm was still indebted but did not register that the payment was more than I was making at the time...like 2 times more than what I was making.  It is a little more than what as a high school principal I now make in a year.  A couple of weeks after he passed, and I learned that even more was indebted elsewhere, literally every inch of ground, every piece of equipment, cow...literally there was not one thing for which I didn't owe.

I knew then and I know now that I cannot handle it.  Plus, it was not deeded properly for me and the boys to "be ok", so we have been in Probate Court for almost the full two years he has been gone.  So knowing that I could not swing a payment of this size, I made a deal in court to sell it, or much of it.

So, today, with the sickening realization (really hit me like a ton of bricks at school the other day when my lawyer called saying we are close to finalizing and finishing up in court) that most of the farm will no longer be ours, Conner and I rode around to many of our favorite places to say goodbye. And let me tell you, it hurt.  In every ounce of me the ache radiated. A finalization washed over me and I shook as I drove.  My heart literally hurt.

Hot tears streamed down my face all day.
I cried so hard I couldn't catch my breath many times.
I took pictures and tried to pull in every last ounce of love that my husband left here for me.
I drove to all of our most favorite and memorable places and every turn brought a torrent of memories.

No one realizes the absolute desperation I had to get to in order to agree to sell.

I wanted to keep it.
I wanted to work it.
I wanted to maintain its beauty.

I did for a while.  Had cattle, worked them myself, moved them myself, fed them and made sure they were good at least twice a day.  I mowed fence rows, worked on everything I could myself.  Asked for help when I had to have it, and didn't when I could swing it on my own.

And then a vet bill came.  Another vet bill.  A gas bill for fuel tanks, a bush hogging bill, the fence stopped working (it's electric), cows got out...and out again...and again...and again...and so on...  So, with complete despair in my fingers, I typed an email to my lawyer and said I don't have a choice.  I can't pay the payment and I can't manage it on my own.  I am a solo mom, a full time principal, and haven't all the skills and time I need to do it.

If I did, I would have to work like my husband did...which meant I would go to school, work more than full-time (that's what principals do), and then come home, change clothes, and work until 10:00 p.m. just to make a dent.  Then I would have to dedicate my weekends to the farm and would never get to spend time with my son.  I would have to take on another job just to help pay a farm hand just to work a small amount of time to help when I was otherwise engaged for school.

I would never see my son.
I would never have a moment's rest.
I would never be able to stop...

Just like him.

He never saw us.
He never rested.
He never stopped.

Until it killed him.

So, with that email, I made a decision that was against every fiber of my being.  My soul, my gut, my heart ached with the stroke of the keys.

So, yes, for those of you who are wondering, I have sold most of the farm.  I was encountered by someone a month ago at a basketball game who said, "heard you sold the farm...that's good."

NO.
No it's not good.
Not one bit of it.
So, don't tell me it's good.
Don't tell me you're glad for me.
Don't tell me that things will be easier and better now.
No to all of it.
I didn't do this because I wanted to, or because it will make things better or easier.
I did it because I didn't have a choice.

Mike didn't leave me with one.

So, today we went to say goodbye and I captured pictures of some of our favorite places that soon we will no longer be able to visit.  There will literally be a fence cutting through the farm, through my husband's dream.  And I can't do a damn thing about it.

Each picture I'm sharing has a story.  A memory.  A piece of my heart and soul.


This one is of a stack of rock I remember Conner, me and his dad climbing when Mike had bought me my very first digital camera.  We climbed to the top and somewhere I have a picture of Mike and Conner on the edge, smiling form ear to ear.  


Here is our boy about to climb through the narrow passageway to get to the rocks from where he and his daddy sat for pictures.
  

 He made it to the top! :)


Many deer seasons have been spent atop this hillside. 
  

I remember searching these woods for Mike's cousin's deer one year; it was windy and warm that day.


This is the spot I took some of my favorite senior pictures: those of my stepson, Tristan.


Mike and I sat here one day watching the boys ride the four wheeler down the hill.  We loved watching Tristan and Conner together. 


I remember when Conner was tiny and we were in the truck with Mike; Conner was scared to go down this hill. He would hang on to Mike's arm and say, "be careful Dad...I don't like thee rocks."


He sure does look like his daddy in that MRWA coat and sock cap...Mike's normal attire in winter.



Across the huge hay field sits a stack of tarp-covered hay bales.  I remember watching Mike and his workers cover them with tarps and hang tires from them.  I hated when he bought those tarps.  They were so expensive!


We had to stop and smile a while.  I'm wearing Mike's jacket and deer hunting sock cap; the boy is wearing daddy's coat and black sock cap.  


Me and the boy sitting atop the same rocks he and his dad sat atop years ago for pictures. 


I have always had a love/hate relationship with this creek bed.  Some summer it has been deep enough for us to use as a river.  Other times it is bone-dry.  One summer we had such a terrible flood that I pulled up to it to find it raging like the Mississippi and Mike's truck was parked right at the edge of the flood. I remember being scared to death to find his truck and not him that time.  I thought we had lost him then.  I cried such tears of relief after he called and said he had swam across several times to try and save some calves and he was at his cousin's house.  He was soaking wet when we got to him, tired from fighting flooded waters, and needed a beer and dry clothes. 


One summer this was deep enough that Mike dug out a little more with the backhoe to allow Conner and some of his buddies to swim.  We love the Spring Branch.


Here he is smiling at the memories.  


Conner has always loved finding cool rocks in the dry bed.



Gosh he is handsome and we will miss these rocks.  That may sound stupid, but we will.


A "stove" Conner and our old farmhand Matt built one day not too long after we lost Mike.  Matt and our other farmhand Kevin were God sends for me and Conner those first few months.  They stepped in to be big brothers when Conner needed them the most.  They played cards with him, roamed the farm with him, slept in his bed while he slept with me, and more.  


We call this spot the "Hole in the Rock" Field.  It isn't quite a cave, but Conner and his daddy sure did like to pretend it was big when he was little.  He stood in it today and could almost reach the top.  He has grown so much.


Mike always loved this old rock wall.  He admired the amount of work that had to have gone into it hundreds of years ago.  This rock wall runs from one point of the creek to a barn we call the Kinnard Barn. It stands beside an old two story farm house filled with small stairs, beautiful old windows, and stories we will never know. 


Ice formed at the base of the Spring Branch.  


This cave is the last spot we had family pictures. My sister and her family came to the farm and we took turns taking each other's family photos.  I have a picture of the four of us, back when we were whole, kneeling in front of the cave opening.


On this rock is where my husband sat, and wrapped his arms around me for a picture.  The boys sat on either side of us.  It was a beautiful fall day and I will cherish our photos forever. We didn't get many family ones taken, so it was nice to have a couple framed.  They are still on our walls.


We ended our trip with a smile today.  It was difficult to muster our smiles through our tears today but we did.  Letting go is so hard to do and neither of us wants to.  It is almost like letting go of much of the farm means letting go of Mike, letting go of our dreams we shared.  And it kills me.

Today was a difficult day.  The farm deal isn't final yet, as we haven't had a court date.  But it will be soon. Mike's dream will be mostly out of my hands.  We will have some acreage left, don't worry, but it will be so small in comparison and getting my son to realize he will no longer be able to wander wherever he wants has been difficult to do.  He doesn't want to accept it.  I don't want to accept it.  

Many more memories exist on this farm, in pictures in our hearts, not the ones I can take with a camera.  Not the ones I can post for the world to see.  But the real memories are ones that you can't photograph. 

They are the smiles, the wrinkles, the laughs, the stars, the stories shared in the seat of a pickup truck. They are the calloused hand that rested on the window sill and the warm summer air that blew through the cab of a truck.  
They are the sun baked skin on the back of his neck from hours spent driving the tractor through the hay field.  
They are squeals of delight from my niece as she touched the cold water of the creek the one summer we used it as our river.  
They are the screams of my oldest niece and son as they jumped from the cliff above the Spring Branch, and the sounds of splashes made when they landed.  
They are the winds that blew through my hair on a summer evening as my husband brushed it from my face long enough to tell me how beautiful he thought I was and to kiss me and thank me for being his wife and for loving him.  
They are the grins and smiles that adorned our son's face whenever he was "mudding" in the field on the four wheeler.  
They are in the sounds of family that spent every Fourth of July here. 
They are the sounds of cows bawling to their babies and the babies bawling back.
They are the old country songs that played through the radio in the truck for the hours we rode around.
They are in the secret moments a husband and wife shared, in the dreams we shared, in the life we built, and in the love we made and grew.  

My gosh I miss him.  

#stillhis
Love,
Veronica









Sunday, February 19, 2017

All That We Were...

Man, I miss him.
I miss all that we were for 13 years.
I am sitting on my front deck with the warmth radiating across me, but sadness still riddles my heart.

Used to on days like today I would be with him. Conner and I would find Mike wherever he was.
We would ride with him to check cows, the windows down and old country songs playing.
We would take a rare Ranger ride to the top of a hill somewhere on the farm and look across what he was trying to build for us.
We would pack a lunch and take it to him at a concrete job or at that God forsaken concrete plant.

I used to be happy. Back when we were all that we were.

My son used to be happy.

He is experiencing a ton of aggression lately. He is angry about so many things.
The loss of much of the farm builds anger inside Conner partly at his dad for leaving us unable to handle it, and partly at me for being unable to handle it.
The absence of his hero and best friend rips his guts open on an hourly basis. I'm not his dad. I'm not that rough and tough "let's go fix fence" kinda parent for him. Can I fix fence? Well yeah, but I only did it when my husband was here.
I'm not his dad. I can't be his dad and do Guy things with him all the time.
I'm not his dad. I can't tell him manly things or share those guy jokes he and his dad used to share.
I'm not his dad.
I'll never be.
And I'll never understand what it's like for my son.
I'll never know the amount of hurt he feels on a daily basis, but I do know it's excruciating.

He used to be happy.
He used to laugh and be carefree and play.
He used to love the farm and he still does, but he also hates it sometimes too because it's just not the same anymore.

All that we were was a family.

We no longer are whole.
We very rarely get to see or talk to Conner's brother. It is terribly difficult and sad. But we can't force it. So we don't. A relationship has to come naturally and I pray to God that one day it will. We love him. We miss him.

Without Mike we fell apart.

We all still fall apart.

Grief still visits like a thief in the night. It bashes us over the heart with a club and robs us of peace. It happens all the time.

I didn't know grief would still be our constant companion two years later. How naive I have been.
Grief has robbed my son of his childhood.
It has robbed both of us of a family and of happiness.

And even the simplest of moments are filled with pain and loneliness.

All that we were is gone.
And as hard as we try, we will never be the same.
We will never go back.
We will never be whole.

I miss love.
I miss being loved.
I miss romance.
I miss safety.
I miss happiness.
I miss my son's happiness.
I miss my family.

I miss all that we were.

#stillhis

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Widow's Role(S)...

Do what YOU want.
Become who YOU want to be.

It's so easy for outsiders to say.

Did you forget who you were before you were his wife? Did you lose yourself in being his wife and/or a mom? Did you fall right into your roles so happily and fully that they engulfed and became you?

Well I did all of that. I forgot about being Veronica because I was so insanely good at and happy with being Mike's Wife and Conner's Mom.

At 23, I was a divorced first-year teacher. I soon became a girlfriend.

Within two years I fell into the role of Farmer's Wife and made the best jugs of sweet tea and packages of bologna sandwiches you'd ever see. I fell into the role of Mike's Wife with grace and ease, after a few years of hard work. Everything ran like a well-oiled machine and I was happy doing it all. I fell into the role of Conner's Mom the day I learned I was pregnant with him. This role has made me the happiest of all.

So here I am all of a sudden no longer Mike's Wife. I'm no longer a Farmer's Wife. And I miss being those SO SO SO SO much.

But ladies, I can't change that. And neither can you.

We have to find our new roles, our new selves. We may have to redefine our meaning of happiness. And it's just so freaking HARD.

I don't want any of my new roles. I want my old ones back. I don't want a new man. I want mine back.

And taking on these new roles or finding yourself in these new roles is excruciating. It's like trying on a pair of leather pants, three sizes too small. Ya know, where you have to lay on the bed and have your sister use pliers to zip them?? I mean, I've never done that but have watched my mom and aunts help each other plenty of times! No leather was involved. Lol...

But it's just all so dadgum hard!

And I don't want a new man, but I also don't want to be alone forever. But you know what? The ones I've dealt with so far sure have burst my bubble pretty dang quick and easy! I get my feelings hurt so easily. I like people so easily. I am just so vulnerable and ready to feel loved and appreciated and wanted just like my husband did for me, but I just feel like what if it's not in my cards??

What if I'm SUPPOSED to stay Mike's Wife? What if I'm supposed to be his widow forever? What if he WAS my one true love and soulmate and God gave us 13 years and now I'm done? Just what if?

Ugh. Just having a little "widow whine Wednesday" I guess. I'm tired. This is all so hard and I have to buck up, grit my teeth, and clench my fists to get through because if I fall apart every time I feel like it and want to, my son suffers.

So, I will plow through until I find me. I will trudge through the hard turns God throws my way until I find my new role(S). Just know that I was blissfully happy with all my roles before. And I wish I had them still.

Much love to you...
Find YOU...I'm hoping I find ME soon.



#stillhis
Love,
Veronica

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Letter to My Husband in Heaven...




























Hi baby,

Wow.  You've been gone 2 years.  I literally woke up crying this morning.  I took two Xanax to sleep last night, hoping it would help with my mood upon waking, but it didn't.

How have you been gone two year babe?  How?  I mean, you were literally just here it feels like.  I can see your face.  I can hear your smile.  I just pressed play on the last voice recording I have of you on my cell phone.  It is of your outgoing message on your cell.  My gosh, I miss your voice.

Baby, I can't believe you're not here.  I can't believe this is my life and Conner's life and you are missing it.

Oh this child of ours....he's gonna give me so many grey hairs.  I NEED you here to help me with him.  I NEED you to help me get through the days.  I NEED your hand to hold and your lips to kiss. I NEED your voice to tell me it's going to be ok and that you love me.  I am so scared he's going to end up like you: dead before he should be.  I am so scared of all the accidents he has, and let me tell you about those.  I am definitely paying for your raising, baby.  Aye aye aye....  He thinks he knows it all!!!  Just like you! lol...  Seriously though, I can't tell him anything because he thinks he already knows it all and is not careful at all.  It reminds me of all the stupid accidents you had over the years, whether it was dropping a gate or a trailer on you somehow, stabbing yourself with a dirty terribly huge cattle needle while working cows, wrecking before we began because your sadness and guilt pushed you to drinking too much, and so much more.

I think about the last accident you had before you died, the one that ended you up in the ER at Mountain View with two broken fingers.  Conner and I were in the ER last week with his knife injury...stabbed himself with your knife while whittling a piece of wood...and we were in the exact same room as you were.  We of course cried as soon as we realized it.  I noticed it first and tried to just ignore it, but it took him a few minutes to realize it was your room and when he did, the poor nurse didn't know what to think.

I was so mad about that freaking concrete plant and that accident just confirmed my hate for it. I remember when you decided you wanted to buy it and you knew I was beyond mad.  You even asked me as we stood in the kitchen together with our cups of coffee, "if I buy this will you still be here?"  I told you maybe this one more time but you had to stop somewhere. You either had to give up the MRWA job and do concrete and dirt work plus manage a few wastewater plants, or you had to quit all of that and just go back to MRWA.  I told you that day something had to change or you were going to kill yourself.  It was too much.  I knew it. Everyone around us knew it.  But you didn't.  And so you died at that freaking plant two years ago today.

I almost surprised you with lunch that day.  Conner and I almost brought you food and thought about just spending the day at the plant watching you, helping you, playing in the gravel piles he loved to climb on.  I feel so guilty about not going.  I wish we had because maybe I would have seen you slip and could have helped you.  I'm so angry that you were alone. I should have been there.  Someone should have been there.

Or you shouldn't have gone.  I knew you didn't feel well that day, so why did you go??? Why didn't you stay home and rest?  I would have cooked for you and it would have been a great day to lay on the couch with our son and watch movies with him. Or to lay in the floor and play with his gazillion Matchbox cars that you two loved to crash into each other.  You should have stayed home that day.  I should have begged you.

My gosh I miss your arms wrapped around me.  I miss so much the way you used to come up behind me while I was standing at the mirror getting ready for work.  I miss the way you would rest your head on my left shoulder and we would look into each other's eyes via the mirror ahead.  You would say, "my gosh, you are beautiful baby, you make me wanna kck-kck."  That was your noise you'd make...lol...to mean you wanted me... totally inappropriate for my blog probably but I'm writing a letter to you so who cares.

I miss how proud you were to be seen with me and how proud you were of me.  You always told me that.  You told me that about taking pictures.  You told me that about teaching.  You told me that about singing...well only like twice because you usually got mad and said, "I don't know why you have to get on stage with those boys and shake your a** for everyone else."  Well ding-dong, in case you didn't know, I was doing that for YOU.  I wanted you to be proud of me.  I never wanted to disappoint you, in all our 13 years together, I never once wanted to disappoint you.

I miss the way you complimented every meal I cooked.  Your boy has taken after you on that.  It's so sweet.  He'll tell me, "oh this is good momma...dad sure would have liked this."  You used to tell me how good everything I cooked was.  Even the first time I actually cooked a full meal at my rental house when we were just freshly dating.  My stupid oven, do you remember it?  That ridiculous thing!  It didn't work right with the temperature setting on bake, so while I had it set at 350 degrees to bake the chicken parmesan, it actually was at like 500 degrees!  My alarm started going off and you walked in with me standing below the alarm, waving a towel to try to get it to shut up, crying like an idiot, and already apologizing profusely for disappointing you.  But remember what you did?  You smiled, opened a window and said, "babe...it'll be ok!  We can just scrape off the black stuff!"  I mean, that was love right there! lol...

I miss so much about you, babe.  And I miss so much about being happy.  And our home...it is beautiful and perfect and I've made the little adjustments to it you always wanted done but didn't want to spend the money to do.  But, even in all it's perfectness, it is so lonely.  It gets so silent.  I miss the thud of your steps that used to make me so mad.  You never could just walk somewhere.  It was like you were on "go" every step of every day... a man on a million missions.  It used to make me mad because you literally stomped through the house and would wake me up.  But, boy what I would give to hear your stomps again.

Michael, you gave me the best years of my life.  You gave me 13 years of fighting, loving, growing, learning, and creating a family.  I wouldn't trade one second of any of it, except the second you took your last breath.  I want to thank you baby for all that you gave me while you were here.  Our son is the most important thing.  So, I am trying to live.  I've been having better days lately. I've been feeling a positive change ahead.  I just know things are going to turn around for us.  Please don't think that means we won't miss you every step of the way because we will.  We always will.

We will celebrate your birthday every February.  I will tell you Happy Anniversary every August. We will visit you every December 29 for the rest of our lives.

But baby, I have to heal.  I have to step forward in life.  I actually feel you right now smiling and nodding yes to me.  I know you want me to, so I'm trying.  Michael, I want to fall in love again.  I want to be wanted and needed like I was with you.  I want to find happiness for our boy.  I want to find a man who loves me and Conner and who will spend time with him, teaching him things a man needs to teach a boy.  I want to find a Godly man, one who will go to church with us.  One who won't work himself to death, but won't just sit on the couch and do nothing either.  One who will love me enough to compliment me every day like you did.  One who will take the boy and me on adventures. One who will help me build a life again for us both.

Know that no matter if and when that happens, I will love you for the rest of my life.  It is going to take one heck of a strong man to deal with this.  To love a woman who loves him, but also loves you. Do you think that's possible?  Do you think it's possible for someone to accept and love me knowing that a piece of me will now, forever, and always times infinity belong to you?  I worry sometimes that it won't happen.  But Michael, I have so much love left inside me to give baby.  I want to love again. And I hope one day I will.

I hope that Heaven has a few dirt roads that you and your dad can drive down today.  I hope it has a field full of green grass and grazing cattle.  I hope that you are sitting in the sunshine today, laughing and smiling at all the memories we made and the love we shared.  You are missed here by so many.

I love you more than words can explain, Michael Richard Hollis.  Thanks for marrying me all those years ago and thanks for making me the happiest I've ever been at least for a while.  Conner, Tristan and I love you and miss you but hope nothing but pure happiness and bliss belong to you now.

Until we meet again my love, and prepare yourself for that day because I plan to come running as hard as I can, keep smiling...keep laughing...and we will keep living as best we can.

NFAxI...
#stillhis
Love,

Your Wife