Glen passed away three months ago this week and I’m trying my best to adjust to life without him. Needless to say, I’ve been somewhat without him for years, but at least I could still kiss and hug him and look into his eyes any time I wanted to. Recently I’m finding myself experiencing the shock of the finality of his passing and facing some firsts that I never expected I’d be dealing with at this point in my life.
Although my journey as a caregiver has ended, the new challenges ahead seem to be just as daunting – but inspiring at the same time.
I’m just beginning to settle in with my newfound independence and the responsibility of being the only parent to my children – and on top of that, I’ve started a new foundation and have an entirely new vocabulary of terms and skills to learn so that I can better serve others. I also have the unique task and privilege of preserving Glen’s musical legacy and continuing his quest to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s.
This is the first time I’ve been on my own since I met Glen when I was 21 years old. Since then, I’ve shared most of the biggest milestones in my life with him. Not just holidays, anniversaries, vacations and the glitz and glamour that comes with marrying a celebrity, but the births of our children and grand-children (notice I didn’t say ‘weddings’ … Ashley, Cal and Shannon, are you reading this?) as well as the hardships of overcoming Glen’s addictions and eventually dealing with his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. I did all of these things WITH Glen. Every new chapter in our lives, every new house, new car, new dog – everything was done as a team.
On October 25th, about two weeks ago, I didn’t celebrate a wedding anniversary with my husband for the first time in 35 years. I’ve been ‘doing the remembering for him’ and sending myself cards for the last six years, but this year I tried not to think about it at all – as an act of courage – but that idea backfired and just made me feel painfully empty. Not all firsts are good ones.
Two weeks from now, I’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving with my children here in Nashville. This will be their first Thanksgiving without Glen. Thankfully, Ashley and Matthew (my nephew) will be doing most of the cooking while I make Glen’s favorite pecan pie regardless of how badly I burned it last year. (*note: pouring bourbon over it only made it worse!) It’s a tradition that I will keep in his honor – for better or for worse. It’s my way of feeling a connection to him.
I know that it might take some time to get adjusted to my ‘new normal’ as things change, new traditions form and new memories are made. As I look ahead to 2018, I’m both excited and a little scared about the path ahead of me and how I will face the challenges without Glen as my partner. Thankfully, I’m very blessed to have a great family and incredible friends who support me, cheer me on, and help me stay focused on the positivity that sharing my personal caregiving journey is bringing to others. Although it was a bit scary at first, writing my blogs on CareLiving is the first time that I’ve opened up about being a caregiver and has provided me with a new community and feeling of purpose and meaning that makes the risk worthwhile.
I’m looking forward to the holidays, although I know they will be different this year without Glen. The family will still sing songs and eat too much, and maybe this year I’ll even manage to bake the pie without having to use the smoke detector as a timer…