Saturday, April 30, 2011

I Cried

In case you ever need to know, two weeks seems to be the limit for self-delusion.

My sister Kelly found me standing in Tom's workshop a night or two before the service. I was trying to find an appropriate item from there for the Tom shrine I intended to build to go at the front of the room since there was no casket and I still have yet to receive his ashes. She wanted me to cry, which at this point I hadn't done. My response was that I really wanted to speak at the service and couldn't fall apart yet or I wouldn't get through it. It still seemed so surreal. Like he could come walking through the front door at any time. It's now been 2 weeks and though I have tremendous sadness, I hadn't REALLY cried. Until today.

Today I lost it. Things feel more real. More permanent. I wish I could explain it to our pets. The parrots have a distinctive call for Tom and when they hear a car come down the driveway or if I walk through the front door they call out. In the past, I would say, "it's just Mama" and the call would change to "insert opera note" which is Zeppo's name for me because I sing to them. Today I yelled, "It's just Mama and it's always going to be JUST MAMA!" The dogs know the parrot's call for Tom and also run to the door to look and it's breaking my heart. I keep thinking that from their point of view, I walked out the door one day and didn't come home for 6 weeks. My hospital stay wasn't exactly planned. They may hold out hope for a long time.

Crying didn't help. I know. I know. Time. Time sucks. Give me a time machine to undo all of this. Where is Dr. Who when you really need him? I need a blue Tardis.

Everyone else got to go home to some semblance of normal. Most to someone to comfort them. My only real comfort is gone. And I hate it. And it's not fair. And life is random and cruel. And right now you cannot convince me otherwise. Don't try.

I tried to be mad at Tom today for leaving me. It didn't work. I felt guilty about it. It wasn't his fault.

I tried painting today. That didn't go well either. My style is very detailed and needs concentration and control which doesn't pair well with high emotion.

I tried watching TV. An "In Plain Sight" marathon was on. Okay, cool. I like that show. I turn immediately to a scene where the office manager, who lost her husband, was explaining how each morning the reality hits that he is still gone. How each day starts with such pain and that day, that day, she woke up without thinking of him first and that hurt too. Really? Did I just relive my blog from yesterday? Thanks.

I sold a painting today. If one can experience simultaneous elation and despair that was what hit me. Normally, I would get excited and run and tell Tom when I sold a piece. Another reminder that he isn't here.

I don't have a way to end this entry. I guess because I'm nowhere near the end of the journey or the pain.


I chose "Wednesday's Child" for the painting because like her, I am full of woe.

Friday, April 29, 2011


I find that the passage of time is skewed and I've lost track of days. Nights are still the hardest. I have a difficult time making myself go to bed. This still feels like some horrible dream and if I could just wake up everything would be okay again. Each morning when I open my eyes the first thought I have is that he is still gone. I get up. I feed the parrots, feed the dogs, feed the cats and try to feed myself. The last one hadn't been going all that well. Some people are stress eaters. I would be the opposite. I've lost 7 pounds. Most of that in the first 7 days, so I have been doing better lately.

I went to the store today. I had been dreading the small talk that I expected the cashier to make, "How are you today?" or some variation of it. It's not like they want a real answer. You are just supposed to say "fine" then talk about the weather or some other innocuous subject. Except I wasn't fine and didn't want to say that I was, but instead I got a checker with laryngitis and found that amusing. She could barely squeak out the total of the sale.

A new neighbor just moved in recently from Connecticut I think. He is older. His wife and he broke up after close to 30 years of marriage. Tom had talked to him and gotten his life story. We talked about inviting him over for dinner. Shortly after the obituary has run in the paper, he rings the doorbell. I assume the visit is in regards to Tom's death. It wasn't. He was looking for his 13 year-old cat who was on medication and had disappeared. This is actually the first time I had met him. I hadn't seen the cat, just 5 other cats that didn't belong to me. Two of which ambled through the yard as we stood on the porch. Then I go and blindside him with Tom's death. I had planned to go over and tell him and that I might need help with heavy things. Maybe that was cruel of me. He was visibly shaken and repeated what I said like he couldn't have heard me correctly the first time. I felt bad. He came back the next day to see if I needed anything and gave me his card in case I heard noises at night and got scared.

Today I did ask for help with the large water bottles for the cooler and loaned him some mineral spirits. He was building and staining Adirondack chairs in his driveway when I interrupted him. He said he hated the staining. This made me smile. Tom had built two of these same chairs when we first got together and made the same comment. Tom hated the staining, so we did it together.

Remembering Tom and talking about him is not as painful as I thought it should be. It's the moments when I realized that I heard or saw something that I thought was cool, interesting or funny and normally would run and tell him. Those are the moments that I suddenly freeze and realize that I have no one to share these things with. Not who would really get it. We had a shared history, inside jokes. I am sad for the things he will miss out on. I am sad that I won't have him to share in my art.

Maybe I am afraid for the day to end because I know that one day I am going to wake up and the first thing I think about is not going to be Tom. Right now that is a day I dread just as much as each new morning now.


The painting: "Quiet Room." I had to practically drag Tom on a honeymoon. He always fought me on vacation plans. It's too much money. There is too much going on at work right now. I finally learned that if I wanted a vacation I'd have to plan the entire trip and finally demand we set a date. Then he has a great time once we are actually gone. About 2 years after we were married, we finally took a real vacation-a much belated honeymoon. We went to several cities in New Mexico. This chair was in a casita I rented us in Santa Fe within walking distance of most of the art galleries.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

GPS Coordinates

The Asian jasmine is blooming. It's as intoxicating as the bottle of Kentucky bourbon that remained on the kitchen counter after everyone left. This is about the best time of year in Texas temperature-wise. Days not too hot and nights still have a bit of chill as the sun goes down. It won't last. I sit in the perfumed garden and watch kittens Chloe and Olive race through jumping, twirling and pouncing on leaves, imaginary foe and each other. I laugh out loud. It feels wrong.

We talked about this. All of it. What happens when one of us dies. I thought with my illness I'd be first. I worried that Tom would be lost. Wouldn't recover. I impressed upon him that I wanted him to be happy. Not lose the joy in life, not to retreat back into his shell and not give up on love if the possibility presented itself again.

He healed me. He made me whole. Because of him, I know I can survive the loss of him.

A friend stopped by today. She commented on my ability to separate from my emotions and concentrate on the tasks that had to be done in regards to the memorial service. I have possessed this ability for a long time and it always serves me well in times of emergency. Another had earlier commented that instead of people comforting me, I seemed to have taken on the role of comforting everyone else. This duality may also be my undoing. The rational side knows the stages/symptoms of grief and seems to believe I can just jump right over all of it because rationally I understand them so there is no need to actually experience them. That there is no point to it. That it will change nothing. Is this wisdom or delusion? I suppose time will tell.

Today I decided to go to the store and go pick up the accident report that I had asked Real County to fax to the the DPS here in Granbury. I should have done them in that order. I sat in the car and looked at the two page standard form of check boxes, text boxes and an area labelled "Field Diagram-Not to Scale." There is a drawing with little rectangles representing the vehicles and arrows indicating direction of travel. These sterile pages devoid of emotion represent the death of my husband, Unit #1. I understand them. The need for them. They don't intend to be cruel. Still it hurts. I go home.

There are GPS coordinates on the form. I type them into Google maps which drops me onto the correct road, but it's straight. Not a curve in sight. I know there was a curve. I go to the street level view and "walk" down the road. It's still straight. How accurate are GPS coordinates. I look it up. To within 49 feet. I continue 'walking' down the road until I hit a set of curves. Which one is it I wonder. I don't know when the street view was made, but I find it odd that I can sit at home and see the same things that Tom saw on his last day.

I'm tired. Very tired. Emotionally, physically, intellectually drained. Perhaps I will sleep well tonight.


The painting is "Twilight on the Road Less Travelled"

It's of a road on private property in the Texas Hill Country. Tom and I had been on a catalog photoshoot in the Hill Country when someone stopped their car to ask what we were doing. Turned out they owned a Resort/Spa we were near and invited us to shoot there. Both of us walked this road that I painted. I will miss times like that.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Business of Death

Check one:



I stared at this a minute. I didn't want to check either one. Neither communicated my status as I saw it. It was not this simple. How dare they try to make it so. At least Facebook gave the option of widowed. That was a less painful choice. My eyes teared up as Lynn sat across from me. Thankfully she volunteered to bring and explain to me the various forms I needed to fill out for our company and to get the health insurance back in my name. You've probably gathered by now that Tom and I worked together if you didn't already know. The form taunted me. I took a deep breath, checked the first and moved on.

I've been referring to matters like this as "the business of death." Handing out credit card information over the phone to pay for cremation like it was no different than buying frames for my paintings. Name on card. Expiration date. Same questions only followed by "we're sorry for your loss." Over and over. And all I can think of is how Tom and I used to make fun of this phrase while watching the various crime drama shows. Used so much that it's lost its meaning. As I told someone who recently apologized for an awkward moment at the funeral, "I rather have an awkward moment that conveys real emotion than hear the same platitudes yet again."

The business of death. Talking to the funeral home in Leakey and reading a full page of 6 point text detailing the cremation process. "Following a cooling period, the cremated remains, which will normally weigh several pounds in the case of an average size adult, are then swept or raked from the cremation chamber. To the extent practical, the crematory establishment will remove all recoverable cremation residue from the cremation chamber." I look at the logo for the funeral home at the top of the page. It's terrible. Tom would have made fun of it or offered to design them a new one.

Calling the hotel to get them to send the rest of Tom's belongings back. They wouldn't release them to David who was there. Policy. Instead they needed to hear some voice over the phone claiming to be his wife, I could have been anybody calling, to say send them back and then hand over credit card information for the shipping. They arrived yesterday. The dogs sniffed at the dirty clothing. There is his breathing machine. I wonder if it is actually his or if it is essentially leased and needs to be returned somewhere. I don't remember. There is a pocket flashlight. I put it in my purse.

Talking to the auto yard where the bike was towed. They graciously mailed Tom's pocket camera left with the bike back to me when I asked and wouldn't let me pay for the shipping. The photos were of the motorcycle museum near Leakey. Pics of bikes and pics of old advertising posters. Talking to highway patrol to get a crash report. Talking to the insurance company, twice. The second caller asked how Tom was doing. The first had not made a notation of death. "We're sorry for your loss."

Unable to decode Tom's cryptic list of passwords, I went to the bank in person to get them to reset the online banking account. I haven't received death certificates yet, so I brought every other piece of identifying information I had from pay stubs to check books and an expired driver's license. Highway Patrol kept his current license. I regained access to the joint accounts, but they wouldn't even give me a balance for his personal accounts (we each had some) without the death certificate and probate papers. Policy. I left with the phrase, "we're sorry for your loss" trailing behind me.

It's far from over, the business of death. I learn to speak dispassionately to these people. To ask questions. To repeat everything they have told me back to them. Frequently this elicits additional information that they forgot the first time. This saves frustration. I don't want to have to talk to these people again. Ever again.


The painting is of a Lily of the Nile flower I did quite some time ago in gouache rather than acrylic. Tom told me frequently that he liked this piece.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cosmic Joke

Apology to current followers:
You were expecting art. To follow along on my artistic journey. I fully intend to keep painting and posting art, but the loss of my husband is taking me on a different road and I need to work it out in words. You are welcome to stay. You are welcome to go.

I feel like the target of some sick cosmic joke.

I spent nearly 6 years in an emotionally abusive relationship. Finally untangling myself from the controlling tentacles that ever so slowly picked away at the core of who I was leaving me a puppet to be manipulated and controlled. No one else knew. I had learned early in life that one is not to show weakness. I was high functioning, a perfectionist and excelled in my job. Underneath I was a pile of puzzle pieces with no picture on the box. No way to put myself back together. No vision of who I had been only what I was supposed to be now.

I got out. I was sitting in a familiar restaurant. A waitress, whose name I don't remember now, had become friendly over time. She was telling a story of a fight with her boyfriend. How she had to ask permission to do something. Again I don't remember what, but I was livid for her. How dare he. His behavior was completely unacceptable and she shouldn't stand for that. As I'm speaking to her the hypocrisy of my own words is too blatant for even me to ignore.

I met a new man before I left the old. He too was damaged, broken. Compensating in a similar manner. He saw my pain. He became my friend. Someone I confided in. Someone to encourage me to rebuild myself. Over time I fell in love with him. This is Tom.

It wasn't always easy. He could be as intense as he was tender. Quick to anger, but also ready to admit when he was wrong. He allowed me to be myself and encouraged me to paint again. Didn't try to remold me or tear me down.

You would think in a six-year relationship that separating belongings in a breakup would be difficult. It was unnervingly easy. I noted that in the first few months of Tom and I being together, we had more 'our' stuff than I ever had in the previous relationship. Tom wanted me in his life, not as a mere accessory to it. One weekend morning both of us sitting in bed reading, I turn to him and ask,
"Do you want to get married?"
Tom: "Really?"
Me: "Really."
Tom: "Okay."
It was that simple and effortless. I am happy.

Fast forward a few years. I begin to have strange symptoms. Heart racing, problems eating, anaphylactic-like reactions. Test after test comes back negative. I'm told by one doctor that they are really good at finding the serious illnesses, so I shouldn't be overly concerned." Nearly 3 years, dozens of specialists and innumerable trips to the ER later, I find myself in a hospital having had a heart attack and facing a life-threatening lung infection. They are trying to get my heart racing under control while simultaneously flooding me with multiple antibiotics to treat the infection that will take weeks to grow from a coughed up sample to know just exactly what it is, plus scanning every square inch of my body to figure out the root cause of everything. I'll die without surgery and may still die with it. My immune system is non-functional.

This is where I thank the people who allowed Tom to open up to them. I didn't know he had spoken his fears about me with you until now. I astound the doctors by not only surviving but with little complication. Eventually I have a diagnosis. A genetic blood/immune system disorder requiring lifelong treatment. I slowly start to rebuild my body. I was using a walker when I got out of the hospital. It was a 6-week stay. The walker was impossible to use in our home with its different levels and many steps, so I switched to a cane. I would fall periodically and would have to crawl until Tom could help me up. When I went back to work I was terrified of falling. I was still unable to get myself back up for many months afterward. Tom supported me emotionally while I rebuilt my body physically and struggled with the feelings of being so physically dependent on someone other than myself. I remember when he said he finally felt like he had his wife back. I finally felt like I had myself back too. I am happy.

I was happy. I was happy!

Universe: "Oh look at Rebecca. Time to knock her back down. Wasn't that such fun!"

I've been to Hell and back twice in my life already only to get pushed back into the flames. I lose Tom. Tom! The person I have loved deeper, truer than anyone else in my entire life and I can't even be mad. There is no one to be mad at. He didn't choose to leave me. No one else took him from me. He just..died.

I'm left to rebuild myself once again. Learn to be alone again. My last words to him over the phone were, "I love you too, sweetheart."

I always will.

My Loss

I wrote and read this for Tom's Celebration of Life Service...

I am lost.

My mind wanders through a maze of memories. Random moments I thought long forgotten spring forth to block my path and I turn away.

I have lost my soulmate. Not a term I use lightly. Tom was unique, eccentric, always an individual. He was his own person and didn't give a damn that he didn't fit into the accepted norm. He knew the real me. The good and the bad and I him. I never had to guess what he really felt or thought. He was completely honest. I cherished this about him.

He had passion and thirst for knowledge. He devoured books. Cormac McCarthy was a favorite, but recently books on robot design, programming, mathematics and electronics were always in his hands while I drove us to and from work. He had a curiosity about life that was rather like a child's and I could see the world anew through his eyes. The technical and the artistic given equal weight in his mind.

He would describe himself as a hermit, as someone who didn't need or want people, but his actions were those of a compassionate man. If you needed help, he was right there to lend a hand. If you were his friend, you had a fiercely loyal friend for life.

Most of you know of my 3-year journey and near death before my medical illness was finally diagnosed in late 2008. In many ways I think it was harder on Tom than me. He was my rock. I didn't want to leave him alone in this world. He was my reason to keep searching. Keep fighting. It could have all ended right then. And the way I see it, I was given nearly 3 more years with my soulmate. I am eternally grateful for that.

I come to realize that the maze is not to confound and torture, but is in fact a labyrinth.

There is a difference.

It's not a path of potential dead ends, but a single spiraling road I must walk to contemplate my life with Tom. To see it with true happiness and not through the pain of loss. I do not know how long the road, but to find the center is to find peace.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I am Lost

My husband, Tom, was killed Saturday in a motorcycle accident. I am in shock.

Memorial Service information.

Memorial Service to be held on Friday, April 22nd at 3pm at the Bentwater Community Center 1801 West Emerald Bend Court in Granbury Texas.

Business casual dress. Hell, he'd be happy if you show up in shorts and flip-flops. NO SUIT OR TIE! Tom always said, "A tie cuts off circulation to the brain, so that the tie-wearer doesn't realize how stupid it is to wear a tie!"

Below is t
he obit I submitted to the local paper. In addition, a friend and former reporter for the Hood County News who now writes for Cleburne's Paper, Pete Kendall, apparently called the editor of HCN and spoke about Tom. The paper will publish a small article in addition to me obit. Pete, thank you so much. That was a wonderful thing to do.

Tom Taber was a man of passion. He could laugh easily or intensely argue his view depending on the subject. If you were his friend, you had a loyal friend for life. It took him time to find a woman who understood his eccentricities and loved him for it (or in spite of it). He finally married at age 48 shocking his family who had all but given up hope on that front.

You always knew where you stood with Tom. His blunt honesty sometimes made others uncomfortable, but was cherished by those who valued him for his friendship or as a trusted co-worker. As Creative Services director at Tucker Rocky Distributing for 18 years, he oversaw the creation of national ad and marketing materials in the powersports industry with a passion to produce only the best and guided his employees to reach their full potential.

We seldom know when the end will come. For Tom, he was blessed and in his own words said, "I am happiest I have ever been in my life." He told this to his wife, Rebecca, just a couple days before he was to leave the Earth. On a beautiful Saturday afternoon while motorcycle riding in the Texas Hill Country, a favorite past time, with his oldest and dearest friend, he was killed instantly in a head-on collision.

He wasn't ready to leave. He always said that there was too much left to learn. Too much he still wanted to know, but going out doing something he loved, going out happy...that was exactly what he had hoped for when the time came.

Tom will be desperately missed by his wife, family and friends. 57 years on this planet was far too short.

Tom is survived by his wife Rebecca Zook of Granbury, Texas; brothers Paul Taber of Monticello, Florida and Lewis Taber of Louisville, Kentucky; sisters Christy Anderson of New Albany, Indiana, Bonnie Wallace of Naples, Florida and Ruth Wilder of Borden, Indiana; and David Handmaker of Louisville, Kentucky a brother in kindred spirit and lifelong friend.

Also by his "kids." The dogs, cats and parrots who shared his life and brought it joy. Many of whom had been abandoned or abused. If you wish to do so, please do not send flowers, but make a donation to your favorite animal charity in his name.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Dark and the Light

I know it's not a 'pretty picture'...a dying cedar tree. If you look at my work, the majority falls within the generally accepted realm of what is beautiful or pleasing. If you form an impression of what you think I'm like in person based on it, you may end up pretty far off the mark. In my life I have often been drawn to things that are not pretty in the traditional sense. I see beauty in the ususual. I have a fondness for reptiles and kept large lizards for many years. I love bats. I used to grow carnivorous pitcher plants and was recently thinking of getting more. I'm fascinated with the biology and psychology of mental illnesses. I like to understand the motives behind what people do or say and take little at face value. I think medical examiner would be a pretty cool job.

Perhaps I need beauty in my art. The light to balance out darker side of life in general, but you can't have one without the other. Ignorance may truly be bliss, but I choose to understand and accept that everyone has both dark and light within and to deny this is to not know yourself.

So this cedar tree with its octopus like tentacles reaching out in all directions is not so much an anomaly for me, as it is just another part of myself.

About the painting:
I used a glowing, orangey background to make the time of day less easily pinpointed as well as making the tree feel even more isolated since you can't see it's surroundings.

"Last Days"
-Near Sedona, Arizona
Acrylic on Board
8" x 10.5"
note: dimensions are unframed size
comes framed
Currently accepting checks and PayPal
or pay in installments.
Contact artist for details.

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