At the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2000, Mike and I were standing in the grand atrium of the Sheraton Suites, along the Cuyahoga River, in Cuyahoga Falls. It was like prom with every woman and man dressed to their nines. There was gourmet food everywhere, extravagant desserts like cherries jubilee, and open bars. There were several rooms containing music and bands of different types–a room with dj music, a room with a jazz band, a room with a rock band, a room with a barbershop quartet. People of all ages were there. Probably people like ourselves who loved to party on New Year’s.
This was a special year because it heralded the new millennium. It was a magical New Year’s because no one knew what was going to happen on January 1, 2000. Would all the lights go out? Would every computer fail? “Y2K” was the buzz word of that decade. Now we have “2012” (read: load of crap). It seems every few years, the End of Days folks have to find some new timeline for the end of humanity. I don’t think they realize that the world ends not with a bang but a whimper.
Anyway, at midnight, we were standing at in the main atrium watching the ball drop in New York City on a big TV screen placed there. 10… 9… 8… 7… “You ready?” Mike teased… 6… “Nothing’s going to happen!” I said, hoping it was true… 5… 4… 3… “We soon shall see,” returned Mike… 2… 1…
“Happy New Year!” everyone in the room screamed as “Auld Lang Syne” began to play in the background. People in Times Square danced and raved; the people in the room with us began to kiss and hug; we embraced each other and shared a quick kiss of our own. It was like any other welcoming of the New Year except with the feverish excitement of seeing a new millennium ushered in. Somehow, to me, that symbolized new and exciting things for my already exciting life as a newly married woman. I was going places, I thought.
Who knew the next ten years would hold new experiences–some terribly tragic, some filled with new discovery, and even a few adventures. A lot has happened to me in these ten years. Some days I feel like I’m 54 instead of 34. Sometimes I feel like I’m still a kid trying to make my way out of high school. I guess despite the worst that’s happened to me, it’s comforting to know that I haven’t stopped living. I’m not as happy as I was on January 1, 2000; I’m not as sad as I was on April 1, 2001; and I’m out of the darkness that consumed my entire experience of 2001. Somehow I made it through okay.
I’d like to review some of the major events that occurred in my life over the last decade by year:
2000: Adopted my cat, Cleo. Went to Oregon with Mike to visit Sarah. Got my first job as a technical writer. Enjoyed life as a married woman, celebrating my first (and only) wedding anniversary. I did my first MS 150 on my trail bike (ouch).
2001: My grandma E died in February. Mike, my beloved husband, died on April 14th. September 11th. Sold my house in Stow. Moved into an apartment in Mayfield Heights.
2002: Spent New Year’s in Las Vegas because it was probably the last place on Earth Mike and I would have gone on vacation ourselves. Not too much to recall of this year. By the end of the year, I scored a job as a quality assurance analyst in Boulder, Colorado.
2003: Moved to Colorado. My car (a beautiful Honda Civic Si) was stolen. Bought a new house in a Denver suburb. Bought my hybrid (the Beast) and started to become a bike fanatic.
2004: Did the MS 150 in Colorado (the hardest ride I ever did up to that point). Got homesick and moved back to Ohio (stupid!).
2005: Turned 30. Bought my third house in Stow (again). Took a new job as technical writer again. Did a bike trip to Amsterdam and Germany (a lifelong dream was to go to Germany).
2006: Had my tonsils removed (found out I had sleep apnea). Bought my Giant OCR 1. Started riding with the Akron Bike Club. Mike’s cat, Tanya, died.
2007: Another bike trip to Italy. College 10 year reunion (has it really been 10 years since college? Seems just like yesterday that I was graduating!). Made a new personal goal of 2,000 miles ridden on my bike. Started my blog.
2008: Grandma H died. More bike trips, more riding. Lots of job jumping. More fits of self-discovery. Put Tanya’s ashes on Mt. Elbert where I scattered Mike’s ashes six years before.
2009: Rode my bike across Ohio. Another personal record of 4,000 miles met. Went to Utah for the first time.
So another decade goes by. Really, time flies whether you’re having fun or not. Most of the experiences of the last ten years feel like they just happened to me, which is probably why I still often feel like a newly widowed woman rather than one who is almost nine years out from that tragic day. Still, it’s hard not to think about the expectations I had of my life and look at what happened. Though, I suppose, one could say I’ve made the best of a bad situation. Mike’s death didn’t stop me from living, as they say; rather, his life inspired me to fulfill my dreams even if they weren’t with him as I would have liked. I’m sure he’d have been proud that I found the bravery to explore the world as I wanted–to see Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy–all on my own (well, not completely alone as I went with my friend Holly). I found unique ways to deal with my grief (cycling). These are all things Mike would admire in me if he could see me now.
Most of the things I have done in the last decade have come with some amount of bravery on my part. I don’t think people realize, given my often driven personality, how hard it was for me to go to any foreign country–be completely out of my element and comfort zone–without the aid of someone who had been there and new the ropes (which would have been Mike). I wanted to go that badly. I had to go because it was in my heart to see the world. Which is a spark that has always burned within me but Mike fed it so that the flames bulged. It was our personal philosophy–and mine today–that we use money to buy experiences above material items. Experiences always outlive material things.
I don’t think people fully appreciate how brave of an act it was for me to even sustain myself in those first few years after Mike died. Because I’d never lived on my own before, having gone from practically my parents house (that less than a year stint in my best friend’s basement and then into an apartment in North Canton doesn’t count) to Mike’s house. When he died, I wasn’t sure I could manage all the responsibilities of taking care of my own household. In this day and age, believe it or not. I was very scared for that first year. Very scared. I spent the better half of this decade just trying to figure out how to support myself–learning what I could spend when and how much.
I hope my future continues to be less turbulent. I would like to see for myself some sort of change career-wise, even if that just means I really sit down and try to get some of my personal writing published. That’s another lifelong dream of mine that I’m too overwhelmed with fear to attempt–I want to be a published writer. In something other than these boring technical manuals that do not bear my name. I hope I’m not just blowing air.
I won’t harp on the romantic road. If it happens, it happens. I learned in this last decade that I can still have the life I want–I can still live the experiences I crave–on my own. I don’t need anyone. Well, as I learned from my Colorado experience, I do need my friends and family. Apparently more than I ever thought. So, thanks, all of you who have loved, supported, and listened to me through good times and bad. Especially those of you who stuck it out through the many moods of widowhood.
Here’s to the hope of a better decade ahead. I’m not holding my breath, for life offers no promises. Hope is all I have. And I hope that I have the strength to manuever whatever obstacles lie in the road ahead.