When the Music Leaves
Over the past eighteen months, I’ve been super busy. My husband passed before our oldest entered her senior year of high school and before our youngest entered her sophomore year, it was before September 2020. He had taken our oldest to a few colleges the year before, when he appeared healthy. None of them did she like. After he passed, COVID was still in play with no vaccine introduced into society yet.
After his death I had to readjust my work life once again. Although this time, I knew I could no longer do my job safely. As well, my hands were so damaged, that over twenty years ago a doctor told me I wasn’t going to last four more years, at the rate in which I work. Too hard. Too many bodies. I got paid most of the time. Yet, I did charity work every week in my office. I had built a practice of which I ended up meeting and treating at least 4,000 people in my twenty-eight-year practice.
In 2021 I took our oldest to see six colleges, which involved more than just a car ride. But it was well worth all of it. Then getting our oldest into her first year of college life. Our youngest is right behind her. I’m soon to look at colleges with her.
As I battled the paperwork involving the passing of my husband. That process was unprecedented, with errors involving all the major institutions I had to deal with. Mostly financial, but not excluding our health insurance coverage. Sixteen months after my husband’s passing, I called up a trauma-specialist a month after I’d finished the paperwork of sixteen months past his death. I hadn’t seen her in fifteen years. I knew and asked her if all the mishaps of the bank, investment places, pensions, health insurance and so forth were normal for whatever would be normal for losing a spouse while your children are still teenagers. She told me, what I experienced was far beyond what she felt was normal. But she added, “You’re doing great.” She was making Friday night supper during our chat. As our youngest had marching band for a football game that night, and no one else was home.
I knew all I had experienced was over the top NOT normal. For a bank to request to see my deceased husband’s actual will, two months after they had in their hands, signed by a judge, the “Letter of Testamentary”. My lawyer had to drive about fifteen miles to the bank and show them the original will. That wasn’t normal.
The firm where we had our children’s 529 college funds denied ever receiving the new paperwork they insisted had to be done, after my husband’s death. When I had proof that they’d received near the end of the third week of February 2021. It seems they ignored having it. I kept asking what the problem was. I got some kind of an answer, but not enough of one to help me attain the college funds that my husband and I had saved up for our children’s college expenses.
Eventually, they found it, laying somewhere in their two man small office space in mid-August 2021. Meanwhile I had to pay for the first college bill to be on time for our oldest’s first set of classes, housing and meals, paying out of my savings.
Then our health insurance, which I began paying $1,854 per month within two months of his passing for health insurance. I in no way changed our plan. The plan we’d had as a family for over a decade or two. This was now for myself and two teenaged daughters. No one is on medication. Both children have cumulatively missed probably six days of school for illness over the past 13 years. Yes. The insurance company didn't cover a Covid test for my oldest (which she was advised to receive coming in from California, although vaccinated.). It was a $275 bill. I had to call the insurance company, because for some reason they expected us to have secondary insurance. After phone calls and an email, now they're going to pay this, they said.
Meanwhile after my husband passed from cancer in July 2020, they charged me $1854 per month in insurance for the first six months. Regular children’s annuals were denied two months in. Then they denied we had coverage (I found out) during those six months, yes the six months I'd been paying $1854 per month, with no regular pay coming in, and the insurance company apparently wasn’t covering us.
I was on Sabbatical due to his death, the high risk business I was in...dealing with people who are ilI compromised, dying... some who thought covid was a hoax. Yep, stay with me. So, I was supposed to receive my husband's teacher pension, seventeen phone calls and four death certificates and six months later after the state of NJ lied to me that they never received the death certificates (which I have recorded as the state receiving all four), then I got His pension six and a half months later.
Then came the government’s demand that we somehow were given stimulus checks, that I guess other households had received. Two payments they said, had come to us. One in May 2020 and one in October 2020. Well, I told my accountant, we never got them. She said they’re insisting you did. I acquiesced. Then after I started paying government quarterly income taxes, they started sending me money out of nowhere. My accountant said, “I guess they realized they were wrong.” I replied, “Yes after I paid them for something I didn’t owe.”
As well, the government actually owed my children funds for their dad’s disability. I had to fight for that, with a guy they (government) hired. Yes, our federal government hires civilians, who are ‘consultants’, to talk you out of receiving such funds. I found this out from a few ‘friends’ who have worked for and/or with the US government. These civilians make a commission, if they can get you to become ‘scared’ or ‘frustrated’ enough to not take the funds actually due to your children. This one battle was a sixty-six minute phone call, within two months after my husband’s death.
Then the bank. It would take up to eight phone calls to get someone at my bank, for practically anything. Days after my husband passed, our bank branch had been closed due to COVID since mid-March 2020. Their branch hours were only for safety boxes and maybe another type of important appointment. They were open by appointment only, two days a week from about 10:15am -11:45am. Yes. I had to make an appointment to get into our safety boxes. When I did, they unlocked their doors for me. A huge security guard stood there, and there was a bank manager and a worker. They’d lock the doors behind me.
They went into their computer and told me, I had no clearance for access. I explained that I don’t forget anything. That I signed those safety box signature cards, twelve years ago. Then I said something comical the security guard laughed. I told him, “Now that I have time. If you think that’s funny. I have a story for you.” One minute into my story telling, the bank manager calls to me. She’s holding what appears to be like the old Dewey decimal library card holders. She found the signature cards from twelve years ago with my signature on it. They let me into the back room so I could get the materials out from the safety box for my lawyer. The Bank manager told me it would be corrected in the computer.
Fourteen months later, I went to put something back into the safety boxes. The bank was now at regular hours. They wouldn’t let me into the safety boxes, again. They stated I wasn’t cleared. I couldn’t believe it. I had just battled to rectify a sum of money, when they told me, there nothing was in my husband’s name now. That was over nine months ago. Then someone found this money in his name. They then fought me on my having access to those funds for a month, so I called my lawyer. After I told them I called my lawyer, three weeks later I got the funds transferred into my account.
It then took me to aggravate a Bank VP in person to get it done in an hour. Yes, an hour. At the same time, I had just received another refusal for the bank to allow me access to a CD that had become cash the month before, also in my husband’s name. Which they said, they had changed. They didn’t. That took about forty minutes.
Even getting the proper paperwork for his footstone and to have everything processed in a timely fashion was beyond believe. The company that was involved in the monument/footstone process added another layer of signing that I couldn’t do. And if not for my brother-in-law, I could have not ever given my husband a footstone to where he lay. Even though I paid over $3,800, and I owed nothing to the people who were to provide the footstone.
Practically every institution I've dealt with upon my husband's death has been inept. And this is not about Covid. It's about sheer laziness, and greed. This includes even ‘courtesy’ type cards for foodstores, I was told all of sudden I wasn’t registered. And it was in only my name originally. Then six months after I’d given up on the foodstore ‘courtesy’ card, a cashier says, “You’ve saved $7.39.” I respond, “Oh Yeah? How?” She told me it was this supposed ‘courtesy’ card. And that was not the end of that. I was denied the following week. They wanted to see my phone. I’d never used my phone for any cost savings at that food store or any other food store, before. I questioned it for a second. Then replied, “No, I’ll pay full price". I didn’t question it. Yet, the next week I was given a discount again. Then the next week I was denied once more. I decided, I no longer need that store on a weekly basis. Or to buy much of anything that’s never on sale anyway.
Aside from all that, I knew I was doing great. Yet, incredibly exhausted. I reasoned with that too. But that exhaustion was anemia, which was brought on by sudden dietary changes, and the incredible energy I had to use because some people didn’t do their jobs. Some people were abusive to me in the process, just days after I’d buried my husband. Don’t get me started on the title to buy my oldest a new used car, trading in our old mini-van. At the time, we’d just buried my husband. She needed a more reliable car, a safer car. She had three jobs before going into her senior year of high school.
With all this though now in my rear-view mirror. A long-awaited answer to a question presented itself. “When am I going to feel the vacancy? The void?” I wondered, if I ‘Was even going to feel it?’ How would it arrive? Maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe, I’m just so pragmatic as my ultra-running coach from years ago, now a friend, stated that’s just how I am. I just accept things. Because of what I’ve experienced in life. Or perhaps it was watching so many people suffer, pain, and pass, not just in my practice but as a child. And then I thought; the other excuse to not feeling the vacancy or void, would perhaps be that I was there for him when he needed me the most. That I did all I could. I did all he wished me to do for him. So, there is no bad baggage from his dying and ultimate death. It was as if it were natural. As if mother-nature just said, “Hey it’s time for you to go.” And I accepted his departure.
Eighteen months later came the last couple nights. It began Monday night, I just couldn't sleep. I figured it was because I’d finished another screenplay and started a new one, a first try at writing a comedy feature film. My mind buzzed. It was also such a physically active day with running longer than I had in over two months, through slush, snow and ice. Then shoveling slush, water, snow and chopping ice for over an hour. Then cleaning off our cars. So, I surmised I’d be tired Tuesday night, and go to bed early.
For some odd reason, I was too energetic on Tuesday night. And my sleep which is usually sound, seemed erratic. I couldn’t figure out why. But sometimes I think about people I’ve treated in the past. Now and then, I may call and check up on them. And sometimes I hit it off with medical personnel, perhaps their spouses. I get them on the phone and we chat. Tuesday night I couldn’t stop writing. The new idea was taking off. So, Wednesday day, I knew just how tired I was. After chores, errands, phone calls, and a light training run, I took a three-hour nap. I had dreams, tons during my nap and the other two nearly sleepless nights as well.
Wednesday afternoon I received a text from a client, who wants to talk. I’m game. I actually miss some clients. Especially the ones I knew would survive. I know that sounds terrible, but I love to see people succeed. So, she set a time for Wednesday evening. After I had dinner with our youngest, I worked on a project before the phone call. At the same time, I wondered about a person I had treated back in 1999 and then again around 2004. I wondered if he was still alive. The last phone conversation we’d had was in 2008. He had moved all the way across the US to California, and he was doing great at that time. He sounded so happy. I was grateful. He called in 2008 just to say ‘hi’. Wednesday early evening, his name popped into my head. And since his name is a common name, I couldn’t him find personally, anywhere. Usually, when I think about people they sometimes arrive back into my life. Like out of nowhere.
Before I knew it, I’d had dinner with our youngest. And was back on the computer, then on the piano practicing a new song. And a new lesson as well.
Soon, my client was calling me. She’d gotten her children to sleep, and we were on the phone for way over an hour, laughing, kidding around. It was wonderful. Again, I went to bed late after watching the first half hour of Stephen Colbert to unwind with a cup of chamomile tea. His first guest told a story of a dream she had many years before. And it was with Steven Sondheim in it. Whom she did know. It was a delight to hear about her dream. Along with a description of Sondheim’s reaction to when she told him about her dream with him in it. It was just months before he died that she’d gone out to lunch with him and finally told him the dream she had about him and her so many years before.
Wednesday night, I hunkered down under my covers for sleep after that portion of the show. I’d gotten in a few good laughs and some contemplation too. I seemed to sleep soundly, then knowing my youngest had a delayed opening due to the weather, I looked forward to an eight-hour sleep. She would get in nine hours or so. Much needed for her level of classes and activities too.
However, my sleep was disrupted at about seven hours in. I felt someone was present. Then I recognized something I hadn’t done, since my husband took ill. Which at this point was over two years ago. I awoke laying on my left side. I’d always slept on my left side or back since mid-April 1993. It was due to have spinal surgery, right hip graphing done along with nerve issues on my right side. As well, I digested better, so it seemed laying that way since the surgery back then was best. Here now, I’d only started feeling comfortable laying on my right side after a bout with shingles this past October into November and in December a broken and chipped rib, with torn cartilage on my right side was none too comfortable. I’d been sleeping only on my back.
I awoke again, a minute later after I’d turned over to my right side, I was asleep again for a minute and again it felt as if someone was there and I was talking to them. This happened three times as I now lay on my right side facing where he used to sleep. Once I woke up completely an hour later, I surmised that something had transpired. Yet, I wasn’t certain what it was. I figured, ‘maybe I’ll run and pray and it will come to me.’ Because it is with a sort of patience, yet continuing on whatever path I am on, is when I get answers.
For months, I wondered what I was looking for. Where was I at? Who was I now? The dreams of thoughts, are they the same? “Where to Now St. Peter?” A song I couldn’t stop listening to alone in my car for the past six months. I’d nod and know that was my question. As well with St. Michael in my pocket, wherever I went. The music in my mind was still there. “And what happens, when the music leaves?”
So here I was Thursday night, youngest having left to go to band. I suddenly felt something different. I looked at my phone bewildered by not finding the old client’s information, I checked two computers. He was no where to be found. I couldn’t even google him. Which he is definitely Google-able. That’s if he is still alive. Then I figured he along with others I think about, are probably okay for now.
It became very quiet. Quieter than I ever remember. Dead silence. I wondered, ‘Why was I so obsessed with knowing if this particular person was okay?’ Then it arrived. He was a talker. He nearly always smiled. And I have to say, he appeared quite the strong individual who’d witnessed much in life. I realized I wanted his opinion. Which if I’d gotten on the phone with him, he would have poured out his soul to me for an hour. Easily. My husband used to say, “You get guys to talk. All the time. It’s amazing.” I told my husband that, “Many times, I almost feel motherly, to those who didn’t have that. And for some crazy reason I understand that. I guess that’s the read they get, in my listening to them.”
So, last night the silence continued as I stared at my phone. Looking at names. Asking myself, because of going back to school, changing my career, putting me in a less of a social atmosphere than what had been before my husband’s terminal illness and then COVID. ‘There is no one I really want to talk to. I don’t think I need that. I do need this vacancy. I do need to feel this vacancy. I’d been asking for the feeling. I hoped it would arrive sooner than later.’ How it arrived and how it felt, seemed about right for who I am and who I have been. The music hadn’t completely left. When the music leaves… you get your answer. ---Jody-Lynn Reicher