Holding on

“All that is worth cherishing begins in the heart.” ~Suzanne Chapin

     “Is she going to die?” I ask the firefighter. It’s been 20 minutes since I’ve dialed 911, my wife is lying collapsed on the living room floor of our rural ski cabin. Shortly after, the paramedics and firefighters showed up, lifted Dana’s shirt to attach her to a heart monitor, only to have it all disconnected in a flurry. The words “load and go” is all I had heard.
     It’s been 15 minutes since they carried her up the long steep driveway covered with three feet of freshly fallen snow and took off speeding with lights and sirens to meet a helicopter that would take her miles away.
     It’s been 10 minutes since the firemen shoveled my car out from a mountain of snow and followed me to the plowed freeway and yanked the snow chains off my tires. I find myself standing at a gas station. My little yellow Mini Cooper lodged between two gigantic fire trucks, me sandwiched between two solid firefighters. Shivering, my arms across my chest. Am I cold? Did I grab my jacket?
     Waiting. We are waiting. Waiting to find out what direction I need to start driving, which hospital? North or South? The walkie talkies that the firefighters are holding squawks suddenly with a flurry of activity. I hear the words helicopter, cardiac patient, stat. Then awkward silence. The rookie’s face gives it away. He really wants to talk about what he saw on the heart monitor and break down the atypical arrhythmia rhythms that he’s seen only on training videos. I can feel the unspoken conversation that will be held out loud later at the fire station, perhaps over dinner tonight. Chili or spaghetti? The senior paramedic will probably reveal that he’s never seen a heart attack this big, at least not in the 23 years he’s been doing this, reaching for another piece of garlic bread.
     All at once, garbled voices over the radio call for the engine company, “Go ahead,” the man to my left says into the radio. I can’t hear what the person on the other end is saying because my hearing has randomly left me. The two firemen step closer to me, to catch me perhaps. “They are taking her to Sutter Health Roseville,” the older of the two says to me. “Is she going to die?” I ask. “No,” he answers. I look into his eyes and pray to a god that I don’t talk to enough that this man is right. He took a deep breath and put his large, heavy hand on my shoulder. “They wouldn’t be putting her in a helicopter if she wasn’t going to survive,” he says. “She’s going to be alright.” If I was going to be able to drive for the next two and a half hours to the hospital, I had no choice but to believe this man. I hold onto his words.
     It’s been almost three hours. I’m at the hospital, but I can’t find parking. Screw it. I park in the space reserved for the emergency room only. Where is my wife? Is she here? The clerk at the cubicle tells me she’s out of surgery and in ICU Room 216. My brain ignores the word surgery and embraces the fact that Dana is alive. I walk through the maze of hallways. My socks are soggy inside my boots, and it takes me a moment to realize they are wet from the snow I trudged through earlier. Critical Care Unit. I lift the telephone to gain access to the locked ward, and I find her. I stand in the doorway. She is attached to monitors that are beeping incessantly. It’s so loud and endless, and I’m not sure if I’m allowed to enter the room. I go in anyway, and as soon as my wife sees me, she starts sobbing. I awkwardly bend down over her as she grabs my hands and nuzzles her face into my neck, her tears falling. “Shhh… you are okay, you are okay,” I repeat over and over to her until the sobs dissipate into whimpers and finally to sleep. I fight the lump in my throat. I can’t cry now. I’ll cry later.
     Six hours later, I work up the courage to ask the nurse what happened? I feel foolish that I don’t know why my wife collapsed with no warning at all. Everything was so normal. She explains that as soon as Dana landed at the hospital, she was immediately taken in for surgery, and a fully clogged artery was opened to feed the starving heart. Blood is now pumping through her heart, no problem. I watch my wife sleeping, her face pale.
     Five days later, we are back home. In our own bed, no beeping monitors, no blood pressure cuffs suddenly coming to life strangling Dana’s arm for information. No nurse to wake her up to feed her more pills or insert drugs into her iv’s. No one to check to see if she’s still breathing as I lean over her at midnight, and again at 2, 3:30, 5 o’clock. Is she breathing? I pretend to be asleep as she wakes up to go to the bathroom, then counts the minutes until she returns. As soon as she drifts back to sleep, I get up to turn the hallway light back on. I want to be able to grab my phone if I have to call 911.
     Six days later, a visit to the cardiologist, a man we have never met before. A man who knows more about what happened than we do. “A widow maker” is what they call your heart attack. “A what?” I ask, my hearing falling back into an underwater sensation. Dana answers for him, putting a hand on my knee. “A widow maker,” she says. My body starts to tremble at the sound of the appalling words. “I’ve rarely seen anyone survive a heart attack this big,” the doctor says, as he continues to read the hospital notes. I swallow that ever-present lump in my throat and ask, “how does the rest of the heart look?” He smiles, his eyes bright. “Today, her heart is strong, and despite the attack, it’s recovering nicely.” He looks at both of us. “See you in a couple of months. Welcome to your second life.” I go home and google “widow maker” and instantly regret doing so.
     Ten days later, we are both sleeping through the night with no night light. We’ve figured out a system for her to take medications without getting confused with doses or when to take what. Hours will go by, and I find I’m not lurking behind the kitchen door to see what she’s doing. Our sons have flown in from out of state to go through our kitchen cabinets to throw away all the crap food and replenish it with organic, salt-free items. I’ve bought more produce in the last week than I have in the past two years. I’ve joined the gym. We both have followed the hospital’s dietitians plan laid out for us, and we have each lost 5 lbs. Dana can walk halfway around the block. She has healthy rosy cheeks, and her sky-blue eyes are sparkling. She is working from home, spending the days behind a computer with no need for a nap. I put up the Christmas tree and decorate the house. We start to look forward to celebrating Christmas with our sons, who decide we will have Christmas here at our home. They will fly in with their wives and our precious two-year-old grandson.
     Two weeks later and I have my moments. Fighting flashbacks that occur when I’m in the checkout line at the grocery store, standing in the kitchen, making a salad, or pouring a cup of coffee. Six firefighters carrying my wife in their arms up through three feet of snow, one of them holding her feet up so that her toes don’t touch the ice. The dog’s face as he’s looking out the front window of the closed bedroom, barking, but no one is hearing him. Driving the long winding road while continuously glancing at my phone, wondering when I am going to get cell service. The admitting clerk who takes too long to tell me what room my wife is in. It’s in these moments that I take myself back to the gas station on the corner. I sandwich myself between the two firemen and look again into that firefighter’s eyes. And I pray to a god that I still don’t talk to enough that this man is right. She is going to be alright. That keeps me from crying. I can’t cry now.
     It’s ten o’clock at night on Christmas Day. A perfect day complete with family, love, and laughter. Our grandson filled with the magical joy that only a two-year-old can possess on Christmas Day. A joy that is contagious as we opened gifts. We indulged ourselves with a fancy beef tenderloin dinner accompanied with healthy vegetable side dishes. Dana and I watch as the kids eat chocolate parfaits for dessert, finish their wine and then head off to the local hotel for the night. A sleeping toddler boy slung over my son’s shoulder. Exhausted, Dana immediately goes to bed, and I join her. The mess in the kitchen can wait until tomorrow. She has overdone it. But it’s Christmas, and we knew that was going to happen. She holds my hand and kisses me goodnight. Silence. Is she asleep already? I let go of her hand, but she grips it tight. “I almost missed Christmas. I almost lost all of this,” she whispers. I lean over and put my head on her chest. “But you didn’t. You are here right now,” I say. Moments later, she is sound asleep.
     I creep back downstairs and sit on the couch next to the Christmas tree. I wrap myself in the plush throw my daughter-in-law gave me, and I cry. And I cry, and I cry. We almost did miss all of this. I came too close to planning a funeral rather than a plan for Christmas. She came too close to dying. More tears. I wrap the blanket tighter around me. My wet eyes are blurring the soft glow of the tree into a kaleidoscope of colored lights. I hear the cardiologist voice, feel the firefighter’s hand on my shoulder, “Welcome to your second life. It’s going to be alright.” I hold onto these words as the lump in my throat melts, I can exhale. I go back to my warm bed, listen to my wife’s gentle breathing, and fall asleep, holding onto the Christmas magic of a precious two-year-old little boy.

(photo purchased via http://www.shutterstock.com)


Dead Name

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. ~Anatole France

     It’s hard to keep up with the lingo, and I’m always learning new words. Thank goodness for Urban Dictionary. Recently I heard the term “Dead Name.” According to the dictionary, Dead Name refers to a name that was used by a transgender person before transitioning. In reading other articles and blog posts regarding the use of a dead name, I understand why a trans person would feel a myriad of feelings when another person uses their dead name. The first time I heard the term “Dead Name” a transperson was explaining how hurtful it was to hear her old name. Her name that she went by before her transition.

     Dead Name. The words just shot through me like a bullet instantly making me want to cry. It bought back all the feelings I had watching my husband fade away not to come back as he gave way to the woman she is today. That dead name was the name I would doodle on the margins of my notebook in high school. Mary + Ricky with a scrolly heart around it. Weekly, sometimes even daily I would write his name on the envelopes stuffed with love letters inside as I sent them off to him while he was in college. After a couple of years of dating and then marriage we became a phrase-Mary and Rick.

     One of the hardest moments for me during the transition was accepting Dana’s joy over her new name while privately grieving over her old name. There was that exciting day when her driver’s license came. She ripped open the DMV envelope and proudly put her new driver’s license in her wallet, tossing her old one onto the kitchen table. Soon after it was the passport, ATM card, bank checks. Pulling mail out of the mailbox and seeing the new name was a strange sensation, especially when it mixed with the old name. Now it’s been a couple of years, and I no longer see her old name much. Months will go by, and I won’t see or hear her old name. In fact, I can tell what is junk mail when the addressee is her old name so in the trash that letter goes. That’s easy. It’s a heart-twinger though when I pull out our wedding album to show my new daughter-in-law and see “Rick and Mary” embossed in gold on the front cover. It’s a heart-twinger to run across an old love letter or birthday card signed by Rick.

     I get it though, I do. My partner has completely transitioned and has redefined who she is and with that comes the name change — her new identity. And I celebrate that as well.  Her old name is dead. Dead to her. But I think I’ll secretly hold onto the old name in my heart for a long time, maybe forever.


We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing them becomes too high… ~Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, 2011

One evening about two weeks after Dana’s gender reassignment surgery I had let the dog out before turning in for bed. He scampered out the front door and within seconds took off at top speed to the top of the hill at the edge of our property before stopping at the base of a tree. He then started barking out of control as he stood on his hind legs with his front paws on the trunk of a tree staring straight up to the raccoon he had chased up to the branches. Damn it I thought as I went in to get a flashlight and put sneakers on. “Benny, get back here. BENNY.” He was completely ignoring me. I hear the raccoon snarls and hisses as it tries to climb higher. My next thought was to go back to the house and get my sleeping husband. Next thought – oh that’s right, I don’t have one anymore. I could go inside and get her but somehow realize that’s a fruitless thought. This is for me to handle on my own. “Get over here” I yell through my gritted teeth as he keeps barking. I notice the neighbors upstairs light flicker on. Shit. Tears spring to my eyes. I swiped them away and take a deep breath. Pulling up the bottom of my nightgown I start to climb the hill staring only at the lit up path made by the flashlight. As soon as I get close to the dog, I grabbed him praying to God that the raccoon doesn’t slip from the branch and end up on top of my head. Benny is squirming to get out of my arms as I turn to head back down. I lose my footing and fall to my butt sliding down the hill with the dog in my lap. We get back inside and put the dog down, both of us panting and out of breath. I picked the leaves off the back of my nightgown, turned off the downstairs lights and headed upstairs.

I got into bed beside Dana and listened to her softly snoring as I tried to slow down my breathing and wait for the heart rate to slow down. I’m wondering if I should feel victorious for grabbing the dog in the dark with a hissing raccoon staring down at us. Should I feel sad that I have consistently relied on my husband always to protect me and should I feel even sadder that I never felt like I could defend myself? I lay in the darkness staring up at the ceiling reminiscing about the early years of our marriage,

Every young bride that stands before her handsome groom has a dream as to what her future life would look like. Images of tropical vacations with umbrella drinks, babies that grow up to kids to shuttle to soccer practice and ballet lessons, and sitting together on a porch swing as grandparents dance before her eyes as she walks down the church aisle towards a new life while holding hands with her new husband. I know I carried these thoughts the day I said I do to my husband. When my husband told me early into our marriage that he has an obsession to wear women’s clothes, that fact fit into did not match the life-plan I had laid out for myself, for us. It was not part of my future dreams. As the years crept by the obsession turned into a need which eventually led to the realization that my husband could no longer live his life as a man. It was too painful for him to live a lie and exist in a body and a lifestyle that was not his own. I knew this. I had witnessed over the 25 years of marriage my once handsome young groom fight against his norm and tried as hard as he could to be the man I wanted him to be. He provided a beautiful life for our children and me one beyond the dreams that danced with me on my wedding day while fighting every single day the fact that he wasn’t who he really was. The double life was killing his spirit slowly, and it was too painful to stay in a world where he felt he didn’t belong. A change was necessary to save him and what I didn’t understand at the time, save us.

I let go of the grip I had on the future dreams of our marriage. The dreams turned out to be that of a fairy tale, not our reality. The reality was my husband transitioned to a woman, and I let go of what I thought we were supposed to be. I relinquished the images of husband and wife holding hands into the future. Instead, I have since fashioned a reality that I could claim as us. A reality where there is two Mother of the Grooms. And two Grandma’s. And when at times I can do what I have to do for ourselves, like breaking up a ruckus between Benny and the hissing raccoon.

My happily ever after is my reality, not a fairy tale — a reality where the love is real.

(Photo purchased by the author on http://www.shutterstock.com)

Ground Zero

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” 
 Martin Luther King Jr.

     I started writing about being the Transgentle Wife when my husband of many years decided to transition from male to female five years ago. I had no one to talk to, so I started a blog and wrote about my journey there. I wrote about everything from loss, change, and acceptance to leaky toilets, hormonal meltdowns and shopping for Mother of the Groom dresses. Unfortunately, my blog was lost in cyberspace thanks to Blogger and not being the tech whiz that I should be; I did not save any of my work. I was heartbroken and disappointed, yet at the same time, I knew deep down that all was not lost. My words had made an impact on myself and others. My words comforted me during the transition and helped me keep our marriage intact.

     The blog was lost a year ago, and after a few months, I decided to restart on WordPress and pick up where I left off. It wasn’t that easy which surprised me. It wasn’t hard to construct the blog, yet I found it very difficult to find the words, to find my voice. I lost my footing somehow.  At first, I felt lost and confused. What is happening? I’d ask myself. I just survived this massive change in our marriage, and we have been able to live as two women for a couple of years now. We have our new normal. Why do I not have the words?

     Recently because I missed writing I decided to focus on the lost and confused feeling. What is really going on? And after some time I realized that I’m not caught up to my wife. I am not at the level of comfort and ease that she finds herself. Logically I understand this. She has fought her whole life of not fitting in or feeling like she’s always in the wrong space. Today after a lot of changes, she exactly where she should be. Happy and peaceful with those around her as well as within herself. I’m at peace and content with my life with my spouse and our sons and their wives. I’m at peace and content with our close friends. The difference is that I do not have that inner peace as she does. Outside of the little bubble I have created, I am caught between two worlds, the world that accepts us and the world that doesn’t.

     I have women in my life who I socialize with, meet for coffee and yet their husbands won’t look me in the eye or acknowledge my wife’s presence. We don’t get invited to their homes for dinner. I have a brother who posts on Facebook about the “lavender mafia” and how it’s attacking the Catholic church knowing that me, his sister, is also on Facebook and will read that post leaving me very sad and hurt. Not all of the extended family members who are far and wide know about the transition, which isn’t a problem right now however what’s going to happen at the next family funeral. “Let’s not tell them now” I’m told when I bring it up. I have a hard time visiting my in-laws because the state that they live in does not permit my wife to use the women’s bathroom because it does not correspond with the sex listed on her birth certificate. It is difficult for me to hold hands with my partner in public or to say the word “wife” constantly worrying what others will think. I am in fear.

     So do I run and hide, or stay and become public? Do I fade into the woodwork and fade away to live my new normal. A place that is, for the most part, safe and comfortable. Or do I continue to do the work that I believe I was meant to do? To be that voice for those who are walking the same path I am, or better yet, for those who are afraid of taking the first steps when they hear their loved ones say the words, “I think I was born in the wrong body.” Do I continue to wander into a place that I’m resisting for fear of the unknown? That’s what I’ve been grappling with the last year or so since my blog has disappeared. Flight or fight.

     After much thought, it boils down to this… being caught between two worlds is not how I want to spend the rest of my life. It is impossible for me to keep one foot in each place as they both drift apart from each other. I have to plant both feet on the ground on one side of the line and speak my truth to risk being split apart and not being wholehearted. Today I choose to take the risk of living my life openly and be alive rather than being silent slowly dying.  I’m scared, but anything worthwhile is worth the risk. My voice is worth it.

34 Years Later…This is Us.



And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anais Nin


We said “I do” on a rainy Saturday morning in September and together we stepped into the future. Two young kids holding hands with no idea what that future looked like. It started off as a fairy tale, as most young marriages do. Good jobs, a new house, soon two beautiful sons. The fairy tale deepened into a romance novel as life got bigger. A cross-country move, a new start-up company and a career in emergency services. Mortgage payments, college tuitions and watching parents get sick and die turned pages into chapters and turned days into years.

The plot twisted and thickened a bit as most middle-aged marriages do. Ups and downs, hurts and disappointments, laughter and tears. Our family ebbed and flowed as sons grew up to be young men, leaving the state and starting their own lives, their own loves, a beautiful grandson. But something was missing, something was wrong, the script had to be rewritten….so we changed the storyline. We went with the truth.

Six years ago my husband started the process of transitioning to a woman. He no longer could survive in this world living a lie and today is a beautiful, caring, fun-loving, compassionate woman. Fear, angst, doubt weaved through the weeks and months as we together transformed our marriage. No guidebook, no direction and at times no support left us on our own to figure it out. And every night we laid in bed and held hands knowing that no matter what we loved each other as much as we did the day we said “I do” on that rainy September day when we were two young kids holding hands with no idea what that future looked like. Love won out.

Today this is us. Not a fairy tale, or a romance novel but a love story. A love story that will only stop when “til death do us part” but will continue to be held and cherished forever.

I love you.

Making Mistakes

Making mistakes
Making mistakes simply means you are learning faster. ~Weston H. Agor


I’ve learned many lessons over the last six years or so. Lessons that I’m still learning today. One of the trickiest things to navigate is the language. At first, it was what pronouns to use when. And of course I would slip up and feel like shit when I did, but I learned early on that with words the only way to determine what was appropriate was sometimes to be incorrect, take the foot out of my mouth, and move on. In doing so, I was able to be forgiving and lenient towards others when they would misuse a word. The language was new to them. We were all learning.

A big stumbling block for me and still is still today.. what to call Dana. Just using her name was a significant change and took some getting used to. I use the word ‘partner’ quite a bit, even though that has been misconstrued at times to be understood that she is my work partner like we run a law firm together. Intellectually I know that the proper language is to say ‘wife’ but inherently I have not been able to bring myself to do that. It is too odd for me. It feels the same way I would like at my dog and call him my cat. I have referred to Dana (Scott) as my husband for over 25 years and its impossible for me to say that simple four letter word, wife. And that’s okay. I also learned that during this journey, I must permit myself to accept what I can’t do. This is one of those free passes. What has worked well for me is to use the word ‘dear.’ That’s actually my favorite word to use because I used it before the change and it is nice to have still that endearment to use. It feels comfortable.

Words are so tricky, and I’m still learning the new language. A great example occurred just earlier this week. I published my first blog post in over a year earlier this week. The very next day was a moment that reminded me that I’m still learning to navigate and maneuver my way around the transgender world. In my blog post, I referenced my partners “sexual reassignment surgery.” In reading over some of the lovely comments from readers the term “gender confirmation surgery” was used to describe my partner’s medical procedure. Gender confirmation surgery? What? Being the queen of Google that I am, I typed in the above words into the search engine and immediately found a wonderful article on Huffington Post written by a plastic surgeon. In this article, he writes “Merriam-Webster’s defines “confirmation” as follows: “confirming proof; corroboration; the process of supporting a statement by evidence.” That said if such surgery helps confirm the way a person feels he or she was meant to be, shouldn’t the name reflect that truth?” Wow, I felt like an idiot. Of course “gender confirmation surgery” is such a better term to use than “sexual reassignment surgery.”

It bothered me for a bit that I would actually publish a blog post and create such a blunder. After reflecting on it some more though I let it go. And I purposely didn’t go back to edit it either. No matter how long I’ve been in this new world, it will take time to learn the lingo. If you are new to this as well, no matter how long you’ve traveled this path, making mistakes are okay, it’s how we learn.



All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. ~Anatole France


Today marks the 6th anniversary of my partner’s sexual reassignment surgery. It’s hard to believe that it’s been six years already since my husband and I walked into the hospital at 5:30 am for the day-long surgery, and I took her home the next day to begin (or continue depending on how you look at it) our life. Each year since I’ve watched any evidence of my husband’s old life drift away as she becomes more comfortable and confident as a woman. She no longer has to wake up and start another day pretending to be someone she’s not.

As a couple, it has taken a while to find and adapt to our new normal. Any significant change in marriage requires a shift in relearning and redefining roles and structure. Small everyday questions such as who drives now and who fixes the broken toilet. Which one of us will do the grocery shopping and who will confront the car mechanic that just screwed us over. There are the big life moments we had to process and define. Events such as shopping for Mother-of-the-Groom dresses and who will give the toast at the wedding rehearsal dinner. Will our new grandbaby call both of us Grandma? These dilemmas whether big or small may not seem such a big deal to most people, but to us, especially me, it was and continues to be compelling because of the significance behind each decision. The ordinary everyday life isn’t quite ordinary and yet, day by day, it’s becoming a little bit more natural. Slowly.

As I reflect over the last six years, I am realizing more and more what a big deal my husband’s transition from male to female has been, and what a big deal it is that we are still happily married and about to celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary. It’s also a big deal that we laugh more, we don’t sweat the small stuff, and we have way more good days than not. The days of sadness and frustration are few and far between.

On this anniversary day, I’ve decided to end my writing hiatus and pick up my blog again. I had put it away a couple of years ago because I thought as a wife of a male to female partner that I had nothing left to say or share with others. Today I feel the need to stay connected with those in our community and to continue to share my experiences and hope for not only my partner and me, but also for all of the other couples sharing the same journey. I would love it if you joined me …every day is indeed an adventure!

I know the real truth

Umbrella Lady


I know the real truth about what it’s like to be married to a man for twenty-five years and then makes the decision to transition into a woman. I know the feeling of having my world shift off its axis and wondering if it would ever be upright again. The final truth is that I am still married but to a woman instead of a man. Today’s reality is is that I’m still working on uprighting my world.

I know the real truth when it comes to holding a secret so big you start to fall apart at the seams. I know the feeling of wondering if I was losing my mind, having a breakdown or if my hands would ever stop trembling. The final truth is that life was so overwhelming I needed professional help to cope with the transition and my life changes. Today’s reality is that I work hard on taking time to care for myself…physically, mentally and spiritually.

I know the real truth of sitting down with our two sons, young men in their early twenties and tell them that their dad is now their mom. I know the feeling of wondering if this was going to destroy them, ruin our family, or have them turn on us. Or will they be open-minded and nonjudgmental as we raised them to be The final truth is they told us that all they want for us is happiness? Today’s reality is that they call her Dad.

I know the real truth of what it’s like to lose friends and family because of the transition. I know the feeling of wondering if we did something wrong or hurt them or did they walk away because we don’t fin in their world. The final truth is there is no shame or fault in being who you are meant to be, regardless if we fit in your world or not. Today’s reality is that our lives are filled with friends and family who love us openly.

I know the real truth about unconditional love. The feeling of knowing that my love for the person I married and vowed to spend the rest of my life with runs intense, very strong and is unbreakable. The final truth is that it’s the person within that matters. Today’s truth is that I am very much in love.


(image purchased from Shutterstock)