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State of Being

Verbs are words that show a state of being—present, past, future. Transient or continuous. When we use the verb “was/were,” we mean something that has passed. It happened in the past. It is done. It is over. When we use the verb “is/are” we speak of something that is present. Something that exists now, current. An action that is going on right now. This moment.

For the purpose of my question, tense is not important. Past participle, continuous, perfect—none of these important to my question. What is important are simple tenses. Past and present.  

And so I ask, why do we say someone is dead?

We can say someone is alive. To be alive is a continuous state. Continuous, until it ends, either abruptly, or slowly, slowly over a period of time. Suddenly, or counting down, day, day, day. One hand. A few fingers. Done. Present becomes past very easily.

Someone is alive. Then they are not alive. But they are not dead. If we insist on using present tense we should say something that is an actual ongoing state. Something that is active. Her body is in the ground. She is decomposing. Her ashes are disappearing into the snowy stream.

Death is not an active state. It is not something someone does. It is the end of doing. She is alive. She is laughing. She is loving. She is healing. She is holding your hand, raising children. She is putting her feet on the dashboard on a long ride, talking, laughing, singing.  Under your hand, her leg is warm.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2016 in Culture, Family, philosophy, psychology, Social

 

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Halfway Through March

When I woke this morning, I was afraid I could not write. I felt it was gone. It, whatever that is, felt absent. But during the day’s discussion, in the three minutes between classes, in moments during planning, the topic of poets came up. I found the poem “We Bring Democracy To The Fish,” by Donald Hall. Don’t blame me for the way the title is capitalized – blame Donald. Anyway, he was Laureate until that poem was published. Then he was Poet Non Grata. He and the Dixie Chicks hung out together looking for work.

Distressed Haiku had this line: “I finished with April/halfway through March.”  His wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, had died in the month of April, 1995. That line. That one line. I have said that myself, nearly word for word. And I was writing again. But would I ever write of anything else?

I ask that, yet I have. I have. But, time and time again, I return to it. Why? Because one doesn’t go on. One doesn’t heal. One continues, with the wound. With the weight. One may be happy, one may be loved, and one may be content, one may have a wonderful life. I certainly do. But that is still there, because it is part of our lives. For those in this “club we’re in that I wouldn’t wish anyone to belong to,” as a friend of mine put it, one doesn’t go back to the old way of being, but creates a new normal around the space.

Everything is made of space. So, I guess, I’m still writing about everything. I guess.

 

Halfway Through March

It is second period.
I have been discussing
Poetry with Mr. Wolf.
Poets, appreciated but
Never paid well,
Never paid attention to,
Paid heed, respected,
Honored, yes: the Poets Laureate
Paid, at first, in wine.
Chaucer paid in
Gallons of wine.

Name bridges after them,
Put up markers roadside,
Have them inaugurate
The president, but don’t
Pay them enough to
Leave their teaching posts
So they can develop
Their craft without
Daily worries of bills due.

The discussion moved to
Donald Hall. One year only
He held his post.
He published
“We Bring Democracy To The Fish.”
So long and thanks for all that.

But now it is period three,
Donald Hall is in my brain,
So I am reading.
Students working,
Teacher reading, because
I can barely think
Anything else.

I didn’t know
He lost his wife.
Twenty-six years,
Cancer comes and
She goes.

I had always pictured him
Alone. Solitary, New Hampshire
Snow. Writing.

But he wrote of
Her leaving and
What was left,
He wondered if he
Would ever write of
Anything else.
Here, listen to his
Distressed Haiku:
“Will Hall ever write
lines that do anything
but whine and complain?”

Here is the Universal.
Here is the experience
Of the creative. Of those
Who take everything
Of their lives, of their
Surroundings,
Turn it into something

To understand.
Make the internal life
External, visible, palpable.
Make something with
No hands reach out,
Shake you, shock you,
Leave you thinking,
Understanding what you
Did not understand before.

Make the solitary
The common experience.
Remind me
I’m not the only one.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2016 in Books, Culture, Education, philosophy, Poetry, psychology

 

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Wintering

The sky is cloudless and
when I look up, it reminds me
of you, and when there are clouds
wispy, white, soft, light,
and I look up, it reminds me
of you. And storm clouds too.
Sunrises. Sunsets.

The air is cooling now.
When I met you,
it was crisp, but
the world was warming,
opening wide for the spring sun
and now summer has passed
and some days are winter sets
for plays that pass their time
in the course of that season, but you,
you, I hope,
will see spring with me again,
and again,
will watch with me the world
open to the birth of love
until winter comes to us each
and does not leave.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2013 in Poetry

 

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Nightshirt

Nightshirt

Originally Published in Elephant Journal.
(For Lee, 9/8/13)

For the first few weeks,
once I would return to the bed,
I’d lie on my side
arm on your pillow
your nightshirt tucked
under my cheek,
One of the few pieces of your clothing
I kept. The body is a just a shell
You said. But your lab coat,
the suit you wore to your graduation,
your nightshirt.

The one you wore to hospice.
The one you were comforted in,
the one, the last one.
Your favorite,
cornflower blue
Bamboo fiber,
soft and light,
unwashed
the scent of you
still smooth upon it,
the smell of your skin-
the gentleness of
the small of your back,
the familiar comfort
between your breasts
where I would rest my cheek,
the collar that still
carried the nape of your neck.
Each breath, a calmative
against the cruelty
Of the sudden solitary sleep,
the life, a brain, that was built around
your existence
suddenly
without.

And, sometimes, I would sleep.
and sometimes not,
but over the days,
the scent diminished,
disappeared,
like your ability to walk,
speak, see, remember,
until little was left and,
fearing its loss,
as I still fear yours,
I put it in a plastic bag,
removed the air, closed it tight,
put it away in the dark.

A perfume, almost gone,
of days past,
that brings a flush or joy,
a smile, a sigh,
that, for fear of being used up,
isn’t used at all.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2013 in Family, Poetry, psychology, Social

 

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Link

Enter to win the Songs from the Well revised and Expanded edition, in paperback.

Enter to win the Songs from the Well revised and Expanded edition, in paperback, to be release on Yom Kippur, 9/8/13, along with my latest book, Yom Kippur as Manifest in an Approaching Dorsal Fin.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Books, Culture, Family, Religion, Social, Suicide

 

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Songs from the Well, on the Radio (and win a free copy!)

On my way downtown, to chant Chenrezig with our Tibetan Buddhist group, I got a call from Java John Goldacker. Photographer, artist, radio personality, and illustrator of Bud the Spud and River Dragon. As I was passing the studios of WFIT, no less. What timing! He wanted to know if I could pop in to discuss Songs from the Well, which is already an Amazon bestseller (ranked #9) after just one day. (Buy it here.)

Could I? Chanting could wait, I thought. Let’s do some good in real time, right now and, what do you know, the truck had already turned into the studio parking lot. Smart truck.

We discussed Songs from the Well, Lee, and love and loss and, of course, music. And you can hear it Saturday night, 4/20/13 in the 7:00 hour, on WFIT 89.5 FM or at http://www.wfit.org/

And I got to pick one of Lee’s favourite songs for the show. You’ll have to tune in to find which one. And I got to choose which Brevard Busking Coalition song too. NOT one Java John’s ever played before. Which one? Tune in to find out!

First one to post the answer to either will win a free copy of the book. Please post the answers in the comment section here or use the contact form on the homepage of adamtritt.com.

Java John doesn't know what to say. He lost his wife, Jenn, to cancer as well.

Java John doesn’t know what to say. He lost his wife, Jenn, to cancer as well.

What one person said, and I agree:

Want to do something to directly help families dealing with cancer?
Struggling yourself or know someone coping with the serious illness or loss of a loved one?
Have five bucks to share?

Buy this book.

Songs from the Well: A Memoir of Love and Grief, from award-winning poet and author Adam Byrn Tritt, is the remarkable chronicle of his love for his wife, Lee, his sudden and heartbreaking loss of her to brain cancer, and his struggle to find a way back to life. It is based on essays, blog postings, and poetry that he created throughout his relationship with her and in the time since her passing. His hope is that his experiences will help others grappling with a loved one’s serious illness or loss, as well as their friends and families. 100% of the author’s proceeds from the book are being donated to the Cancer Care Centers Foundation, which helps patients and families dealing with cancer.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2013 in Books, Writing

 

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My fourth book is out and you must buy it. Songs from the Well: A Memoir of Love and Grief

An author must practice promotion. And be utterly shameless about it. In this case, it is easy.

Songs from the Well: A Memoir of Love and Grief.   Out in time for Lee, my wife’s (I cannot use the word “late”) birthday.

From Amazon: Songs from the Well is a memoir, selected from the author’s writings and told in essays and poetry, of the author’s life with his wife, Lee, through her diagnosis with brain cancer and death five months later, to the aftermath of dealing with his grief and facing a life without her.

100% the profits go to the local charity, Cancer Care Center of Brevard Foundation. They do not do research or anything alike that and have no administrative costs. All the money goes to pay for things those in treatment and their families can’t afford due to their treatment. Like water bills. Gas to get to appointments.Rent.Like that.Please please help us raise fund and help those who have gone through this process, but think they are alone.  So buy the book and share this link.

Or just scan the QR below with your phone and it will go right to the correct page.

We can celebrate her birthday with her by reading her stories. By celebrating her. And helping those who helped her when she needed it the most. And, frankly, if you don’t want to read it, buy it anyway. It is $4.95.

It is an ebook. It can be read on a Kindle, or on an iPhone or Android phone with a free Kindle app or on any PC with the free Kindle program or on Amazon with their CloudReader. If it goes well, we’ll do a paperback edition as well, but, for now, ebook was the way to go to raise the funds.

Don’t want to read it? Fine. it is $4.95. Download it into nothing. let is spend it electrons into the free air. But buy it. The idea is to raise money for the Foundation in Lee’s name. And as much as we can by her birthday, 4/22.

And we got it out in time for her birthday. I want to see how much we can raise for them and how far we can get this.

Please buy one, share this, send it out, whatever we can do to help refill their coffers and remember her birthday.

Thanks.

Scan the QR to buy the book! 100% of the profits go to charity.

Scan the QR to buy the book! 100% of the profits go to charity.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Books, Family, philosophy, Poetry, Suicide, Writing

 

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Love Means Never having to Apologise for Saying “Sorry, You don’t get to treat Me like that.”

Loving someone, even deeply and completely, does not automatically confer a sprinkling of pixie dust that creates compatibility.  It takes work. And even then, work will not make two people fit who do not. Like sanding, it may take off rough edges, but will not make something into a new shape. That would be to make a new person in a shape that fits. Such love is not for the person, but an image or ideal, an imagining. Work will not make a miss-sized or miss-shaped shoe fit. You may get it on, but it won’t get you anywhere.

There have been a spate of “Love me as I am” graphics on the Internet lately. The latest says “The person who really loves you sees what a mess you can be, how moody you can get, and how hard you are to handle. But still wants you in their life.” Bad punctuation aside, this is a load of trite, treacly tripe not worth the pixels it takes to render it. The “hard to handle” part of the poster is the part I find most, well… hard to handle. Sure, no one is perfect. As one friend said, we are “Perfectly imperfect works in progress.” But the poster isn’t saying that – the poster is saying this : “Hey, even if I’m a complete and utter basket-case that makes you crazy, so inconsistent that you cannot even build trust in me, if you love me, you’ll put up with whatever the hell I do to you.”

There is a quote that has been going around that is attributed to Marilyn Monroe. “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”  Let’s look at this. That’s a bit like saying “You love me, so I’m going to feed you fishsticks. If you don’t like eating fishsticks, you sure as hell don’t deserve to eat fresh salmon.”   What we should be saying, both men and women, to our lovers, is this. “You love me and you deserve my best all the time. I love you and want you to have my best. But sometimes, like all people, I’m at my worse. And thank you for dealing as best as you can with that as well.”

Love doesn’t mean putting up with abuse. And love should mean doing our best to modify the inconsistencies, the moods, so there is stability.  Without stability, nothing can be built.

Look at is this way -these posters usually come with graphics that have beaches, and hearts, and flowers, denoting femininity in some way, so we know it is aimed at men and regarding women. What if we changed the graphics to denote something that is culturally understood as masculine.  For the sake of argument, perhaps a garage. Or a beer can. Telling women that, as a guy, I can be unstable, inconsistent, moody, snappish, and hard to handle but, if you love me, you’ll put up with my lack of desire to control myself, lack of interest in seeing how my behavior affects you, and whatever nonsense I dish out.  How far would that get?

And a guy who puts up with that, no matter how much he loves a woman? And, to be fair, any woman who puts up with that from a man? We’d say they have a lack of self-respect. Maybe they don’t love themselves or respect themselves enough. Or perhaps they feel they can’t do better or don’t deserve to be treated better.

These posters perpetuate an idea that any feminist, female or male, should rail against. The idea that a woman isn’t responsible for her behavior and, if a man loves her, he’ll just deal with it. That men are, by duty, stable and consistent – the emotional anchor in a relationship – and that women are creatures of emotion only and may be absolved of responsibility for upheavals in a relationship. Upheavals that men must simply weather. It’s time for these posters to go and for women to stop posting them. They owe it to their daughters. They owe it to their sons. They owe it to their lovers. They owe it to those who fought for women to stand on equal footing.  They owe it to themselves.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2013 in Culture, psychology, Social

 

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Leaving

It is possible there is a perfect time to die. A time when the stories told of you would be of kind compassion and rambunctious joy. Those are the times. When you are filled with love.

Not when you are alone. Not when you are filled with despair. A time when people think of you and smile, not shake their heads and ask why. Not too late when you have been lingering. But when you are active and happy. Die dancing. Die walking the beach. Not in front of a TV.

But most people don’t get to pick their time, it seems to me. And those who do often pick the time of despair and loneliness, leaving more despair behind them.

The perfect time would not have been the time that I picked. And, realizing it in time, pulled back. No, that was two weeks too early. The prefect time would have been as I lay on my wife’s body, having just heard her last heartbeat and felt her chest fall with her last breath. That would have been the time. Hearts and minds. My broken heart for her broken brain.

That would have been understandable. That would have been beyond reproach. Something worthy of writing about.

When people ask me how I am doing, I say I am ”integrating.” I can’t take credit for that. Unena said that. Right after she beat me at a word game. She is one of the people who saw me disintegrate, fall apart, helped keep me alive, gave me reasons, motivations for staying, put me back together, kept me together. She knows. I know. There is no healing. No moving on. None of that. It is integration. Synthesis. She is correct.

Leaving. It causes such pain. Such emptiness as can be understood only by those who experience it. And then, each relationship, each love, feels different. Yet  we do reintegrate.

And so, now, there are moments of joy. Much of it, actually. There is laughter and love. So much love. So many reasons to be here. Yet, I can’t help but feel my reason for being has passed. Come and gone. And it is just now a game of waiting.

I haven’t written much since then. I try but there is nothing there. So there is that. I started writing about the last year, the discovery and treatment and loss, assistance, love, frustration and loss, but got bogged down, torn up. So I set it aside. I am not ready yet. I might never be.

I have lost so much of my drive. My get-it-done-yesterday-ness. I walk. I exercise. I ride my bike. Sing. Play my ukulele. I actually watch some TV which is new for me. I am contemplating fishing. I actually bought the lures and hooks and I got a pole at a garage sale. There are six-pound bass a hundred feet from my house, so, hey, why not? I am relaxing for the first time in, well, I am not sure. But it is new to me.

My ambition? Studying for the GRE seems silly. Maybe it was an ego thing. I can imagine myself with my PhD and still just wanting to find the time to write. So that must be what I should do. Which makes not being able to write at the moment feel particularly distressing.

My ambition? What to do? Why? The only reason to stay is for the joy one can create in our own lives and the lives of others.  To enjoy the ride. To see our loved ones happy. To love. To bring love. To be loved. Getting things done is secondary. Only as much as it allows time and energy to love the people around me.

It is cliché to say we could all be dead tomorrow. But it is also true. The idea that we live on is delusional. It is a functional delusion. One I no longer have. So I want to treat people like, when I see them, it could be the last time. Tell them I love them before they go because it might be the last time. Deny no impulse to charity, no matter how small or large, because why not give what I have. And why not sit and watch the fish?  And play with my granddaughter. Why not? I could not be here tomorrow.

And any time would do. Today. Tomorrow. A week from now. Ten or fifty years. One day or the next. Dying any day is still dying and I will still live up to that day. Because you never know.

Lee didn’t. I didn’t. And look now.

All is well with the people I love. Or at least all is static. Some have grown so they can move on without help. Some thrive. But all are getting along without Lee. Even me.  And so, what of the stories of the devastation left by a death.  Pain, suffering, sure. But devastation?

I was told how horrible it would be if I died. The suffering it would cause. The pain. The ongoing emotional trauma. But, if I left now, my book would still come out. My son would still buy his house. My daughter will still be in medical school. My friends will still work day to day, care for their children, plant their gardens. They will reintegrate.

Maybe they said that because suicide is different than an accident or disease. Truly, I am not sure. But the thoughts I go to bed with, the love and joy, that would be gone. But so too would the day-to-day cares. IRS, money owed, fixing the car, all those things. Rebuilding the business, eating right. All gone.  Personal needs and drives. Gone. Gone the joy and delight in their satisfaction but so too their frustration.

Loneliness. Gone.

And I know now people would reintegrate. And go on. The only thing missing is that perfect moment. It passed. It passed. And I am still here.

 

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Cleaning Up

A poem for Lee. This is how it was SUPPOSED to go.

So what was there to do?
He was gone, and so
there was the cleaning up.
The dispersal of goods,
sorting and separating,
matching
memories and mementos.

But he was meticulous and
everything was in its place.
So there was very little of him
over which my hands could grieve.
Nothing to keep my mind company

until it was time to do the laundry.
I could have put it into a bag,
placed it in the garbage,
left it at a thrift store
dropped it in a fire
sent it heavenward.

Instead, I washed it all,
hanging shirts that once
took his form, carefully folding
underwear, one pair of the dungarees stained from kneeling in the garden,
shorts that once showed his knees,
knees stained by Earth and Clay.
Each put away, and when that was done,
there was nothing left
but the sorting and pairing of his socks.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2011 in Family, Poetry

 

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