Here we are on the other side of the 3-day federal holiday. The day started with trying to get the kids to the bus after having two weeks of non-scheduled do-what-we-wanna. It wasn't too bad. They both made it to the bus with minimal gnashing of teeth and no discernable bloodshed.
Then the city adjuster and the field adjuster came out and poked around my ground floor with about six dudes representing various contractors to bid on the work happening all down our street. All the carpet is gone, plus the vinyl, toilet and sink from the kids' bathroom, plus about 2 feet of drywall from every wall. In taking down the drywall in Kayleigh's room, we discovered 1" thick solid pine paneling underneath. Evidently there was a finished room down there before the last owners covered it up. Despite the drywall screw holes in it (which can be steamed shut), it's in lovely condition, and K wants to keep it. We also found an uncapped drain that had been covered by the carpet the previous owners had put down. Crazy. But since we're adding the door downstairs for access to the carport, we will probably replace the carpet with vinyl down that whole hallway (since it also includes our laundry facility).
Took down the Christmas tree this morning, put away all the ornaments. Put on the new Kate Bush. Had a nice weep. First holidays without Sam and my dad are over. Putting more time and distance between where I was when they were in my life and where I'm going now that they aren't.
Had another Sam dream last night. Won't go into specifics, due to content. Most folks would probably assume I'd be having "those" kinds of dreams about my late wife, to kind of stave off the skin hunger. Actually I only ever had one of "those" dreams about Sam, when I was 18 and she was on a long vacation with her grandmother (back in the days when we were rutting like rabbits). To be sure, I have had several dreams about Samantha since her death, some of them quasi-erotic in nature, but they're never the typical adolescent wet dream; they're always much more deeply emotionally-rooted. It's cuddling, kissing, holding onto each other as if we knew to let go meant more than a temporary parting. It was the way in which we connected from the moment she was diagnosed. We lived and loved more fully, freely and deeply in those two and a half years than in the prior two decades. If I had to name my single largest regret, it would be that it took cancer to break us free of whatever held us back, whatever holds most people back.
In any case, the dream had to do with the two of us getting ready to go somewhere, but instead (as was so often the case) found ourselves rolling around on the bed. It was just PG-rated kissing and hugging, but damnit it was so vivid - I could feel her, hear her voice (the tone and the words that only I got to hear). I could smell her. Do you know how long it's been since I've been able to actually catch her scent on anything?
Sam put on a tough exterior much of the time. She adopted the online handle of Cast Iron Bitch, and most of the time it was quite fitting. She admitted (and even reveled in) the fact that she was strong, suffered no fools, spoke her mind and didn't worry about diplomacy too much. Many people could find her abrasive. And yet, if you got to know her... if she trusted you... you'd be let in past the moat and the spiked pit traps and the alligator pits, and she'd show you a whole different person. A woman who was soft-spoken and loving and kind, extremely funny, nurturing and generous, and vulnerable. And I think until her diagnosis in 2002, I was one of the few who got to see that vulnerability. But then again, I was rarely the object of her Cast Iron Bitch persona - from the time she set her sights on me in high school, with few exceptions, I was a VIP in the fortress.
I wish more people had known her other, softer side. Since cancer really forced that side of her to the forefront, she ended up embracing people at first meeting, rather than holding them at bay until she'd figured out the whole trust issue. She made a lot of friends in the cancer community, right up until the end. Somewhere in the back of my mind, there is the wish that her cancer had gone into remission, that she hadn't died, and that we would move forward into a new chapter of our life together, armed with the lessons of cancer, taking nothing for granted from this "near miss". But that would have been a very different lesson, a very different experience.
I'm in the home stretch now. Sam's birthday is 2/11, my dad's is 2/27. Then we have Easter and the anniversary of Sam's death on 4/12, and dad's on 5/30. After that, it's familiar territory. The flood is forcing change and renewal, and that's not a bad thing at all.