We call it our “Glenview House” because it was on Glenview street in a very liberal neighborhood in midtown Tallahassee. Just in case I haven’t said it enough, Tallahassee was our home. Every time we came back to Sarasota (both our place’s of origin) it never felt like home – we both had a yearning to go back to our true home. We shared that feeling. This neighborhood, in particular, was called “Glenview-Pinegrove” and we had the best neighbors and in addition, the best cats. Jacob was a cat lover – he loved all animals, but cats over any animal, his number two was sea otters (which he always told me was his spirit animal – I actually have a great story when we first saw a river otter together but I will write a whole post on that later). He told me the reason he loved cats so much was because they were so dynamic – full of different personalities. Where dogs are kind of just – “I love you I love you,” etc. “You have to work to get a cat’s affection”, Jacob would say, and he liked that about them.
Most nights, or early in the morning no matter how tired Jacob was, we would take “Cat Walks”- it was a 30 minute walk around the back of our neighborhood (which was a circle of cute houses covered in flowers, full of neighborhood free book stands and tons of gardens), and every time we went on one of these walks we would see a cat. Every time. Most of the cats were outside cats with collars and we made it a fun game of who could point out the cats the quickest. Of course, Jacob always won. He was just so observant – like most artists, and especially writers.
We would talk about so many things on our walks – and hold hands under the moonlight. Jacob would say “Baby, I don’t think you realize how lucky we are to have found each other so young. So much had to go wrong in my life, to have found you.” I can still hear his voice in my head. I am scared for the day his voice fades. My therapist says that will never happen, but I still fear it. Constantly.
This house was amazing. It was the biggest house we had ever lived in and it was adorably modest. We had a back porch, a front porch, two bedrooms, a dining room an awesome kitchen – and because the house was built in the 1930s it had all kinds of random quirks that Jacob was the first to point out. We had old wild west ranch style doors that opened to our kitchen – random but incredibly cool. We had beautiful wooden floors and finally our own washer and dryer! We had spent six years saving quarters to do laundry in our apartments or even worse when we lived in Olympia, WA we had to go to a laundromat. We just wanted our own washer and dryer – and for once, we got it! We had to mow the lawn (which was new territory for me, but I was excited for Jacob to teach me how to do it!) He didn’t understand how it could be exciting for anyone, because he grew up having to do that kind of thing a lot. He taught me how to do it and would bring me lemonade on really hot days. I enjoyed mowing the lawn – it was fun for me. We were really entering our adult life together. I love this photo of Jacob because it captures so much. The love of my life, smoking a cigarette, with twinkle lights around sunset, and just utterly and completely in love. Some of the happiest memories I have in my entire life took place in this home. We loved this place more than any dwelling we EVER lived in. I remember he chased me from the kitchen to the bedroom to tackle me with hugs. I remember he made me dinner and left me with a gift and a surprise when he went to work. A huge bonus in this house was the location – it was literally two minutes from both our jobs. We watched movies together and Jacob would turn all the lights off, scare me and shut the door. He loved doing this and would make a menacing laugh to scare me. He would hate when I started to get tired because he wouldn’t want the day to end. He loved that when you entered our house, all you saw were records and books. He would often say “Aren’t we a cool couple? Look at this place, it is covered in books and records. That is all I need. Except you of course. I could never live without my coos! (nickname)” He said it in a really genuine way, not a pretentious hipster way, either. In other words, he read every single book he owned.
One day, we hadn’t really decided what the second room was going to be used for… we thought about a guest room (but honestly, no one visited us that often so it seemed like a waste of money) – Jacob really started writing a lot during this period on his Olympia vintage typewriter I got him. I decided one day while he was at work “I should set him up a writing room!” He had just finished reading “on writing” by Stephen King and King mentioned how important it was to have a separate place just for writing. So, I got a small desk (which I later promised him I would get him a bigger one) bought him a comfortable chair, set up his typewriter and loaded him up with tons of blank sheets of paper underneath the desk on a piece of wood that dropped down. I put all his little trinkets and toys on his desk. When he came home he did the cutest little dance. He was so excited. “YOU DID THIS ALL FOR ME? OH MY GOD, I LOVE IT! YOU ARE THE BEST GIRLFRIEND IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD”. It felt so good, that he felt so loved and excited about that room. I even made a sign out of cardboard that he could hang on the door “WRITING DO NOT DISTURB” and the other side said, “COME ON IN”. He thought that was one of the cutest and silliest things he had ever seen.
We loved this house. We loved everything about it. I have a video (which is private, and Jacob wouldn’t approve of me sharing it, of the whole house and his voice is so adorable in it. I watch it every day). The bathrooms had black and white floors, the doors had strange knobs, none matching the others and we FINALLY had a ceiling fan in our room. One of the best memories of that house is that we finally got a pet together, our beautiful cat Abraham or “Abe” for short. One of the few days we had off together we went to the humane society in Tallahassee and we found out that it was free adoption day, how serendipitous? We found little Abe (formerly known as Leon) and when we saw him we knew immediately he was ours. The name tag above his cage said “I am very shy but if you rub my head I will purr.” Abe is anything but shy now! We decided to make his birthday October 31st since we got him in October, and one of the cruelest things is that Jacob never lived to celebrate Abe’s second birthday – even though we talked about getting one of those cat-friendly cakes. We were planning his party just a few days before he passed.
We were able to buy him a little Christmas sweater (see below) but Jacob took it off him in about two minutes – he just looked too pitiful with that thing on, and he kept trying to rub it off. It was adorable while it lasted. His two minutes in that sweater was a Christmas gift to ourselves. Also, Jacob pointed out that he thought it was for a dog, “Baby, this has dog bones all over it.” I looked and found them, “Well damn it!” We laughed about it, of course.
When I think of these memories I get bombarded with emotions. I am sad, I am angry, and I am unable to breathe. I miss him so much it hurts to type. I cry when I write every post, but this one- this one is hard. I am in a constant state of misery without him. Without my life partner. Without out our life. I have memories that belong only to me because we were the only two that existed with one another. I look at this house, and think of all those wonderful nights and mornings with our little cat Abe and think “If we only stayed in Tallahassee, he would be here right now. He would be alive. I know it.” “This is all my fault.” “How could I have failed him so much?” We loved our life, why did we leave? I go into a cycle of grief and horror. Which I know is unproductive – but you can’t help it.
There are some messages of wisdom from other widow’s I want to share with you, to hopefully make you feel less alone: “There is nothing wrong with grief. It’s a natural extension of love. It’s a healthy and sane response to love. That grief feels bad doesn’t make it bad; that you feel crazy doesn’t mean you are crazy” (I hate that the word crazy gets thrown so lax here…) “There are losses that rearrange the world. Deaths that change the way you see everything, grief that tears everything down. Pain that transports you to an entirely different universe, even while everyone else thinks nothing has really changed.” The second quote resonated with me really strongly. I feel as if my world has gone completely upside down, I am on another planet, and everyone else is just… existing fine. Buying clothes, putting Halloween decorations up and acting like… well, that Jacob didn’t die! Don’t you people understand? No. They never will. And again, I am glad for people who never have to experience this kind of pain. It is like a terminal illness inside your soul. It never ends.
I just want our little house, 502 Glenview Drive, back. It was our safe place, the fourth place we lived together (our best place) and we really felt like we were making it. We watched my parents dog (me and Jacob’s dog in many ways) for the two weeks while my parents were in Italy. Jacob said, “I think we got this parenting thing totally in the bag- this dog is easy!” She would die only two months later. But that doesn’t even feel like a loss to me – I cannot feel anything but the loss of Jacob – because he was mine, every single day. This was the house that I could tell Jacob was home when I heard him blasting music from down the street on Meridian Road. This was the house we were living in where he would wait for me on the front porch and run to my car door to kiss me hello. This is where Jacob gained confidence in his skill in writing. This was the most space we ever had and the most adult we ever felt. This is where we made plans for our future. He said to me often “You know what Kaitlin, I could not live without you, I really couldn’t.” And here I am- doing just that. Failing miserably. But also feeling guilty that I am living at all.
I am going to leave you with a photo Jacob took of me, his favorite flower was any kind of yellow sunflower (although he loved the purple ones as well) and I showed him a secret part of the Florida panhandle where fields of wildflowers grew. He said it was always one of his dreams to run through a huge field of sunflowers. I thought I think I can help you accomplish that dream! I was working as a botanist at the time so I knew all the local hidden spots. He was amazed. “Baby, this is unreal” emphasis on the Baby. We walked through the flowers in total harmony with the world. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Such ignorance I had, in less than a year, his life with be gone. Mine too.